Words on a Page Writings about writing

How I blog, 2016 edition

A notebook and a pen on the left, a laptop computer on the right

If there’s one word to sum up my development as a blogger over the last 10+ years, that word is change. Change in focus, change in writing style, change in blogging platforms, change in what I consider to be important when blogging.

Since 2015, a lot has changed in the way I blog. Those changes mainly had to do with the technologies I use to write and publish my blog, rather than what I write about and how.

Here’s a peek at how I’ve been blogging in 2016.

What’s changed

Earlier this year, I ditched WordPress for good. Not because I think WordPress is a bad tool. It’s a good one, but a tool that’s n longer right for me.

WordPress has become something more than what I need it to be. I’m not interested in using it as a content management system or for building websites. I just want to publish blog posts. WordPress started to seem like overkill for that.

On top of that, I wanted to free myself from the shackles of traditional web hosting. There were a lot of things I was paying for that I never used, so why not look for something less expensive and easier to maintain?

To be honest, I just wanted to simplify and streamline the way I do things. On top of that, I wanted to work in plain text as much as possible.

Throughout 2015, I started writing and publishing my blog covering productivity and a couple of websites using Jekyll. What’s Jekyll? It’s a tool for building static blogs and websites. By static, I mean the pages and post are a set of HTML files. You aren’t pulling information from a database or a set of files. You can read more about my adventures with Jekyll in this blog post.

So, it was time to move this blog to Jekyll, too. I duly backed up the old version of this blog, archived it a WordPress.com, and started fresh.

Where I am now

While my other blogs and websites have a home at Amazon S3, I felt like embracing my inner geek a bit and publishing this blog through GitHub Pages. It’s a service offered by GitHub, a code repository popular among software development shops and open source projects.

I just need to write a post and, with a few typed commands, send that post to GitHub. The blog updates almost immediately. Best of all, I can write and publish from my Chromebook which is always a bonus in my eyes.

Tools of the trade

As has been the case for a number of years now, I do all of my blogging (and much of my writing) in Markdown. And, yes, I’m going to plug my book Learning Markdown. Jekyll speaks Markdown natively and I haven’t had to make too many adjustments to the way in which I work.

As for what I write with, it depends on what computer I’m using. If I’m working on my Chromebook, I write using either:

  • Prose.io, a Markdown editor that hooks into GitHub
  • StackEdit, a Markdown editor that lets me save files to GitHub and which works offline

When working on my laptop, I use a desktop editor called Atom. It does a great job working with Markdown, and I can send my completed articles to GitHub with a few keystrokes.

That all sounds a bit geeky

And, to a degree, it is. But I like to embrace my inner geek sometimes.

Having said that, I definitely don’t use Jekyll to its full potential. I haven’t, and probably won’t, get my hands dirty with heavily customizing my blogs and websites. That’s not something that interests me.

It just goes to show you that even a lowly writer can get a handle on this technology stuff.

Blogging this way suits me for the moment. Things can change. I might find a newer, simpler, more minimal way to blog. Or, I might go back to using a platform like Ghost. Working in Markdown will make that easier should the time come.

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