Tag: personal

Read. Patiently, slowly, uselessly.

I recently read a great essay by Michael Harris where he dwells into his present-day struggles to read patiently, the old way. With focus.

Paragraphs swirled; sentences snapped like twigs; and sentiments bled out. The usual, these days. I drag my vision across the page and process little. Half an hour later, I throw down the book and watch some Netflix.

I completely empathise with this. I had realised early last year how difficult it had become for me to read, surrounded by the all-time connected gadgets. A ping here. A notification there. And out I was from my reading flow. Into the swirl of unnecessary, untimely, inconsequential information” blurbs. What followed was a tap-swipe-scan-stare routine through the varied app icons scattered across the screen. Away from the book, the narrative.

That was also the time when I realised something had to change. First of all, the underserving notifications had to be purged.

Second, I had to start reading in a place where I am not surrounded by any connected device. So I take my kindle, walk to my balcony or to my terrace or to the garden and settle there. Without my phone. Or my iPad. Anyone needs my attention, they have to come fetch me. And I realised I was back to being more earnest while reading. Reading more regularly, speedily. Reading more. Period.

And it indeed is important that I read more for me. I realised the slackness in reading also affected my ability to pen words. I stopped writing. I knew the reason, but Michael puts it perfectly.

In Silicon Valley, they have a saying that explains why an algorithm starts producing unwanted results: Garbage in, garbage out. The idea is that an algorithm can only work with the information you feed it. Aren’t writers — all creators — algorithmic in that way? Our job is to process what we consume. Beauty in, beauty out. Garbage in, garbage out.

So maybe that change into a cynical writer can be forestalled — if I can first correct my reading diet, remember how to read the way I once did. Not scan, not share, not excerpt — but read. Patiently, slowly, uselessly.

I just couldn’t agree more. Fortunately or unfortunately, we are stuck in this information world. There is no steering clear of the frivolous interruptions we are assailed with from all sides. All I want is to pluck the opportunities I grant others to interrupt me.

Things are Changin’

It is August. I like to think I am a writer. Somewhere deep down, I also know, though, that I am first a developer. So every August, I happen to relook at the current setup for my presence on the web, go back to the drawing board and change things.

Simplicity vs Customisation

This domain has had its fair share of hops across multiple CMSes and hosting networks. It began its journey on wordpress.org as a self-hosted blog, then moved to wordpress.com for simplicity. Next year, I yearned for customisation again. I hated that I could control so little of my website.

And that’s when Ghost attracted me and it kept me happy for a long time. It wasn’t then surprising that I had to move on not willingly, but forcedly. I never documented this next hop, one where I moved out of Ghost. It was a panicky time and hope the reader will empathise with me by the time she is done with the next paragraph.

Although the experience was good, Ghost had a big upgrade problem. Upgrading the platform wasn’t easy. I managed to do it once, I had to do it again. I soon started getting itchy as I kept procrastinating and the things stayed stagnant. So I gave in and went through the standard procedure. I attempted the upgrade on dev, with success. I tested it and then tested it some more — I made all the notes, noting down the steps to perform the upgrade on production.

Things were on track. And then a crazy bout of standard dev brain-freeze fired an 'rm -rf *' on the prod environment. I was left with no website. I had a backup, but only of the content (thanks, fortunately, to the dev/test phase). All the minor styling and customizations were gone though. Reinstating the whole site would have been messy. I was done being a developer. I wanted the simplicity again.

And so I signed up for a trial version with Squarespace (anyone who listens to a lot of podcasts will realise that the podcast advertisements do work). It was simple. All I had to do was load the content again. Given my simple requirement of a place just for words and occasional pictures, my choice of themes was limited. So the decision was quicker. Some minor customizations with the assistance of extremely helpful customer care later, I had a site again.

I was relieved. But I wasn’t satisfied.

And the effect played out over the year. I felt the overall experience was too loaded for my liking. So, I did not write much here — most of the posts were rewrites from Medium. I felt chained by the simplicity. And I was yearning for customisation again.

So if you are still with me, you can see this is the tick phase of my tick-tock platform cycle. So it’s going to be something totally custom, something I control throughout. Simplicity is out, customisation is in.

I want to control how the website looks and how it is sectioned. I want an easier and uniform way to write offline – at my desk or while mobile – and publish.

Enter Hugo

I had already hit the ground running and was exploring multiple options. After a bit of reading, I realised a static website could take me closest to what I want. It started with Jekyll first, followed by some more (Cryogen, Hexo, Camel). But something was always amiss.

And that’s when Hugo caught my eye. A bit of playing around and the ease with which I could get a site running made me decide that Hugo worked best for my needs. I can never explain what Hugo is better than how the official docs do. So here it is.

Hugo is a general-purpose website framework. Technically speaking, Hugo is a static site generator. Unlike systems that dynamically build a page with each visitor request, Hugo builds pages when you create or update your content. Since websites are viewed far more often than they are edited, Hugo is designed to provide an optimal viewing experience for your website’s end users and an ideal writing experience for website authors.

And here’s the doc again, explaining for whom Hugo is for.

Hugo is for people that prefer writing in a text editor over a browser.

Hugo is for people who want to hand code their own website without worrying about setting up complicated runtimes, dependencies and databases.

Yep. That’s all me. So here’s to another beginning. A completely personalised presence of myself on the web.

Built with Hugo. Themed with Ghostwriter. Run with Netlify.

Every bit of feedback is welcome. Hit me publicly. Or do it the old way.