March 13, 2015

I'm using Jekyll to develop good habits


I just finished converting this website to Jekyll. My last personal website was a javascript-powered site that was totally hacked together. I made it on a long plane ride. At the time, I had the idea to keep all my project info in json and build a frontend that makes a project portfolio site from the json file. It was experimental and I found that maintaining the project got in the way of adding projects and content. I’d like to get in the habit of writing more often and I want to share more projects online, so here I am recreating this website with Jekyll.

Why am I using Jekyll? I think it’ll help me develop two new habits:

Sorta indieweb, but not too indieweb

The indieweb group is an inspiring and thoughtful bunch. Switching to jekyll and publishing more content here is partly inspired by them. Right now I put content in a lot of different places on the web. Twitter, instagram, instructables, etc, etc. I’ll continue doing that because that’s where there are already a lot of people, but I do want to get more in the habit of publishing in a place where I retain control of my data. So I’ll be putting more content here.

What is indieweb? “The IndieWeb is a people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web’.” The idea behind it remind me about what first got me excited about the internet in the 90s. It’s about democracy and everybody. Nowadays data & power is becoming more concentrated in the hands of a few for-profit internet companies and indieweb is a refreshing counter point to that. It’s a little light pointing out another possible future for the web and for how we communicate. Indieweb is about controlling and owning your own data, it’s about decentralized designs, it’s about claiming & sharing power.

So why Jekyll? If I made a blog on tumblr or blogger, I wouldn’t have much control over my data or over my site. Sure, I would likely have greater access to their network of users, but it would come at a cost of not having a lot of ability to move my data to other platforms. So by doing this as a jekyll site, I can chose how my data is presented do retain control of it. But not total control. I don’t run a web server, I don’t run a DNS. I host this on github, a big for-profit company that stores, hosts and manages my data.

Right now, I don’t want total control. I want more control and also some convenience that github provides. It takes time and resources to maintain a server and that’s not where I want to spend my time right now. By hosting on github, I can benefit from the economies of scale that github can provide by hosting code repos for millions of people. By using Jekyll and git, it makes it easier for me to move my data in the future. It leaves the door open for me to run my own server in the future or come up with a way to covert this content to another platform. It’s not totally diy, but I’m hoping I find it to be a good balance between diy/open/free and hosted/closed/for-profit.

Ok, now I need to go read some more about custom post types in Jekyll…