A Place on the Internet

2023 saw many changes in the social media space. Twitter morphed into X. Mastodon rose in popularity. Bluesky took off. More Substacks were published. Threads became an overnight success.

How we share on the Internet has become increasingly fragmented as a result.

Stepping back, this could be seen as history repeating itself; not dissimilar from the early 2000s when blogs reigned as the default for sharing what’s on your mind. Looking back on the changing landscape in the past year, perhaps there’s something timeless there. After all, when using these social and publishing platforms, we don’t own, or at least control, our content. As we saw throughout last year, these platforms are shaky ground for where we invest our time.

With limited time myself, this led me to a decision paralysis throughout last year. What platforms are worth engaging in if everything is increasingly fragmented and unstable? Early last year it was Twitter. Then Mastodon. Bluesky had a moment. Threads bubbled up overnight. Communities that were previously easy to find on one platform were now spread across many.

So what platform to invest in? Drawing on the past, my answer is both none of them and all of them. Having your place on the Internet, owned and curated by you, is notably valuable again.

That’s why I’ve ramped up this personal blog as a place for me to share and connect. This doesn’t mean I won’t continue to use the various social platforms available today. Rather, I see those as spokes on a wheel of my content. As trends and platforms continue to change, it becomes less about the platforms and more about my content.

What can you expect here? Connected to these diverse spokes, perhaps a bit of everything: tech, product, photography, fatherhood, and everything in between. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey with me.

Now on to the fun bits.

This site is built on WordPress. To be honest, I started with this as my last choice, although it ended up being the best for my use case. At this point in life, I need a reliable setup, that doesn’t require much maintenance and can integrate into my workflow.

I started with a self-hosted trial of Ghost. I’ve always been a fan of the platform since its early days, naturally, this felt like a great starting place. DigitalOcean makes it simple to spin up a VM with Ghost. Yet there began the challenges: Ghost is heavy on its RAM requirements, so after running initial updates, I went into the rabbit hole of troubleshooting. Along the way, I saw numerous other related challenges with upkeep. Solvable, but not something I want to prioritize the time for at the moment. With the increasing server costs to get started, I gave Ghost Pro a shot, where I experienced firsthand how Ghost has been evolving to be less of a blogging platform provider and more of a newsletter platform; not exactly what I want.

Micro.blog almost made the cut for me after this. It was simple, customizable, and low management. However, the more I got into it, the more it felt like a blogging service built around a niche (although fantastic) community. This didn’t resonate with my wheel and spokes model for this blog.

Blot was almost a winner. It has a lot to appreciate: setup is simple and publishing is file-based, it can integrate into pretty much any workflow without additional tooling. Spinning up a trial, I realized getting it just right would take time. While I hope the project makes it, it’s run by one person at the moment.

My first three choices out, I gave WordPress a shot. It’d been some years since I used it. I’ve been well aware of the challenges, notably the slow performance and UX.

However, in setting it up, I was able to strike a balance that should hold up over time. I’m running a modified setup of the lightweight Hey theme. WordPress integrates with my long-form text editor of choice, iA Writer, so I don’t have to spend much time in the WordPress editor (which admittedly has seen a revamped UX that’s pretty solid). I’m also running a minimal amount of plugins, including one that auto-publishes to select socials with Buffer. I’ve integrated tinylytics for privacy-first analytics.

Choosing a hosting provider was an adventure. I knew I wanted to self-host with managed WordPress hosting to keep my maintenance time low. Despite there being many options for hosting, many of the long-time providers well known for great service have gone downhill over the years. I eventually stumbled upon and am using Hustly, which has been fantastic. It’s run by ex-Flywheel employees, which I trust as I worked with Flywheel back in my early agency days.

All set up, I have a solid workflow that I’m happy with now:

  • Write in iA Writer.
  • Publish to WordPress drafts.
  • Review formatting, and publish to live.
  • Buffer auto-shares to select socials.

I’m sure I won’t be able to resist tweaking this setup over time, but this feels like a great starting point.