Tag: meta

Writing in Markdown is not always easy. If you are providing an interface, an editor of any form, you shouldn’t force your users to write in markdown. Especially if you are expecting them to use your application on a mobile device. It’s a complete mess on the smaller mobile screens.

Every time I’ve to write in Markdown on my smartphone, I shudder. Especially if I’ve to insert a link. Do not make me type all the markups. It is just not easy.

It is a lot simpler to select some text and tap a button, either to make it bold or insert a link. Sure, insert the markup in the background or in the editor, I don’t mind that. Just don’t make me type the whole damn stars and brackets sequence.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Markdown. It is the simplest markup format, a lot better than writing the posts as HTML. However, it’s not too intuitive to write on the smaller screens, without a physical keyboard.

So please don’t force me use that. Provide me an option of a toolbar.

I’m not going to write about…

  • Facebook and Zuckerberg. And I think even the big publications all round, the likes of Wired and NYTimes, need to stop writing about the issues inside Facebook. They call their edits “exclusive”, tag them as an inside look at what transpired behind the tall walls. But that hardly matters – nothing ever changes at the crazy place. Because the people who can bring the change, don’t want to. For some reason that is hard to fathom to outsiders, they all are conflicted within.
  • Apple and Google. Too much is said about everything big and small about these companies. It piques interests in readers and so every publication has something to report about them. I can’t add anything more to what has already been said, that too by minds a lot smarter than mine. I don’t want to add to the noise.
  • Politics. Talking about the doesn’t help my morale. It rather makes me a lot angrier than I need to be. And to no avail.
  • Meta rants about Blog. Not my writing workflow. Not the minor tweaks I keep making every now and then. Not the struggles I go through to get things exactly right. Just write and edit what I wrote. Keep the place the way I like to see it. Hear what others have to say about the place, the workflow, tweak it if needed and forget.
  • Things I need to do. Announce them when ready. Instead of writing about it, start doing it. Get started.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

Mark Twain

Own your blog: With Ghost and Digital Ocean

Image Credit: Dave

Ever since I decided to own and host my site, i.e. basically ever since this place has existed, I was planning to write down my reasons and choices for the engines that run this site. Couple of feedbacks finally made me jot down the thoughts.

One thing I was sure about was I did not want to not control any of the knobs of my blog. So I had to go all in.

  • Own the domain first
  • Run and customise the blogging engine
  • Host the engine

Domain

Deciding on domain name was simpler part; that is once I had given up on all the crazy pseudo-names I wished my blog would have. So I went ahead with my real name. Simple.

To register a domain, there were a lot of options out there. Some were way cheaper but were sucky and known to follow shady-practises. Then there few that were comparatively costly, but simple.

I had heard so much about one such simple, no-nonsense domain registration service, Hover. Few visits to Hover and I decided Hover was the one that fit my high-horse attitude the most. I usually tend to support the service providers with principles. And it always comes at a cost.

So I registered my domain via Hover. The experience was simple and positively uncluttered. I recommend the service. Give it a go. You will be impressed.

Blogging engine

I have been blogging for quite some time now and have owned the free blogs at WordPress.com, blogger, tumblr and even posterous. I even hosted a blog with WordPress.org. Each had their own benefits and shortcomings.

  • Posterous was simple. But it was way too simple.
  • Blogger allows heavy customisation, and even monetization via Google AdWords. But it is way too childish. It does not have a professional, or a ‘mature’ look to it.
  • Tumblr has nice social sharing features. But that is what it is. It is more of a social network for bloggers rather than a blogging engine. Plus majority of the themes are not good for text heavy posts, which mine always are. It’s perfect for images, especially gifs.
  • WordPress.com/.org is the biggie in the space. It has everything possible under the sun. Customisation, extensibility, theming. But it is way too heavy. And far too common. I never like common.

So I was on a look-out for an option that is simple, lite & powerful and gives me a lot of control with what I can do. Enter Ghost.

Ghost is a simple open source blogging platform that you can completely own. It provides simple writing tools. I have already detailed what I like about Ghost in the first post here. Even the community has accepted it, so there are a lot of customisation options available too.

Plus if you like coding even a bit, there is nothing better. I had my Ghost blog running on my local machine and I was satisfied, only after some customisation i.e. I adopted and adapted the Vapor theme from Seth Lilly.

All that remained was to make it available on the internet.

Hosting

Final call I had to make was about how to host the blog I had running on my local machine. One thing I did not want to do was go with a PaaS solution; basically the solutions that provide you just the platform where you can upload the blog and you are up.

In a way, Ghost made my decision to go against PaaS easier. There are hardly such services that support node.js, javascript based platform, on which Ghost is built.

I had decided to either go all in, i.e. get a virtual server (VPS) or simply not worry about hosting myself.

Ghost allows you both the options. You can either go pro with Ghost and let the team handle the hosting for you, like wordpress.com. Second options is to go free and host it yourself. I knew I wanted to go with the second option. And I did.

For getting VPS, I just had two options shortlisted, Linode or Digital Ocean. Linode was costlier. A more pro-dev friendly. Not something I was ready to sign up for with such simple requirements as mine.

On the other hand I had earlier experience, mostly positive, with Digital Ocean. Plus it had Ghost application pre-built.

So it was really as simple as creating a droplet and I had my blog up. Finally, I also wanted to secure up the Linux node, and an amazing article from Feross Aboukhadijeh got me rolling. It is written for a Linode node; but it can very well work for any Linux server out there. Do not forget to follow these steps. They are must if you are to keep the node running even for short time.


So a day in and I had a secure Linux VPS node running my blog which was completely customised by me, as per my needs. And it was satisfactory experience and a fruitful journey.

Here’s to another start!

This site is a result of in-numerous attempts at pushing myself to own my blog, again.

My last attempt was significant for me because it allowed me to fully host and own a wordpress blog. It had a good run through my bachelor life, got neglected later and finally shuttered, post marriage. Posts still reside, though, at a wordpress.com blog, which, deep inside I knew, was nothing but a placeholder.

So my wait continued for the inspiration that would push me to create and own, again, a simpler place for my thoughts. And that inspiration came from Camel, the blogging engine from Casey Liss of atp fame.

The inspiration, though, was not because I liked Camel, which even now I haven’t made my mind about. But it was because I wanted to have something as simple as what Casey had, and get that done in an equally simpler way. At the same time, I also wanted to learn and try something new.

I knew my requirements were not complex, neither did I expect my audience to be huge. So I needed something simpler than a full fledged, php-rich, wordpress blog hosted on a dedicated host, which I also realised is too costly for my needs. Enter Ghost!

New Beginning

So this is where my quest led me to, a simple Ghost based blog to jot my thoughts down. The reasons, I had my own.

Simple I had heard so much about Markdown before. I felt everybody, almost everyone who writes for himself, was using Markdown. And every one of them had all the nice things to say about it. Even I tried learning it numerous times. But, I realised now that it is only when you use it that you appreciate the simplicity of it. It really makes writing, just about writing. Something I really needed.

New I wanted to change everything, the way I write my posts, the way it looks, the way it works and the way I would host. I was bored of all that wordpress or even tumblr, something I played with for sometime, provided. It all felt the same. For some time, I even thought about just using Camel. But then I would have had to work even on the engine along with writing, which I didn’t want to sign up for just yet.

Not costly For hosting, I wanted to meet the above 2 points first, at the same time consider the cost factor. A free option existed with Heroko as suggested by Casey and Greg Bergé. However, I either wanted to go all in, with hosting on VPS or just stick to the simplest option from the creators of Ghost. Anything I chose, would have turned out to be a lot cheaper than what I paid for hosting the unnecessarily complex wordpress blog.


What I, thus, have is a simple, minimalist place for me to just write. I own, again, a self-built, self-hosted blog. Here’s to another start!

[Postscript] There would a temporary phase when I focus more on the place than on writing. However, I intend to cross that phase pretty soon. Whatever that results in, I feel, should, more or less, look pretty similar to this.

[Postscript 2] I have writen a followup post that explains the whys and how-tos of this complete process.