What I aim to experience by publishing, publicly on this blog.
Why start a blog?
Let’s begin by confronting the obvious white elephant in the room, behind every creative pursuit or attempt lingers a half-cocked suspicion: Hey, kid, what gives? Why do you need do this anyway?
Against the prevailing winds of a pandemic and a political / social bubble bursting across many a sea, amidst a thick fog of impostor syndrome and a ever-present anxiety (let’s call it life) that threatens to snuff me out, the past 13 moons (otherwise known as 2020) offered a slew of unexpected creative, spiritual, financial freedoms and well intentioned successes. However, I am sad to report: I cannot yet retire (to the mountains) or purchase a yacht.
Despite, all of these relative successes there was something lacking. A public place to sit at the riverside of thoughts, ideas and ideals to contemplate and facilitate a deeper embodiment (if you will), that was sans “gatekeeper” to grant permission.
Now this path, does not suit all comers. I can’t explicitly recommend everyone start their own blog. What I can do is tell you about this ver present starting point, and hope that it’s instructive to those of you out there who might, too, be blog-curious. I’ll try to relay this from my own compass with the hope of demystifying the work and stresses of setting off on your own through the wilds of the digitally written word
Starting an independent website is an easier enterprise than ever to achieve with our technologically enabled brethren. Yet, knowing what to put on said website can be an eternally damning proposition.
Hence, arming yourself with a clearing question, can be a helpful practise. It allows you to open up the doors to curiosity and consideration without needing to know an answer. It allows for a caring confrontation to happen in the one-foot-in-one-foot-out fragments of time.
How can I get (a little) better today than I was yesterday?
Framing it this way allowed me to underpin this whole enterprise with three very key intentions. Since, having an intention to do something can add a powerful elemental force from within that offers focus in moments of uncertainty.
Embodiment - I want to write deeply about subjects, to look at them from multiple angles, so I may hopefully be able to see them almost for the first time. In the process of embodying these words and vantage point there is a high likelihood that it will result in an artefact worthy of the time or attention of another soul.
Accountability - By publishing regularly it creates a positive feedback loop. Much like physically training a muscle, doing the training result in an ability to do more training. Hence, there is a good chance the cycle will continue.
Leverage - Lastly, writing for oneself is a noble pursuit, yet there is little compounding effect out in the real world whilst writing for oneself outside of the art of writing.
In my heart or hearts I enjoy geeking out on things, and have spent vast sums of my time on this planet looking at the underlying structures at play.
So — caveats! My technological choices may not be a good fit for you. Still, in the spirit of sharing and learning, here are the technical underpinnings of this here webpage.
The only thing that I became quickly sure of was that I wanted to host the blog on my own turf (sammyhaywood.com). I started off by looking for headless CMS tools, but quickly came to the determination that it wasn’t an optimal use of my time to create something from scratch.
So the search began and the name Ghost kept coming up. It’s an intriguing “full-stack” publishing platform that allows you to set-up the front-end and back-end of your blog and not only is the pricing model reasonable, but the company ethos is admirable. Open source, focused on sustainability. Stratechery published a worthwhile and extensive interview with CEO John O’Nolan.
Digital Ocean (Hosting)
Originally my intent had been to find a green hosting provider like Greenhost or due to my geographic circumstances Serversaurus. However both involved plenty of hurdles in terms of installation of Ghost.
Until, I discovered hosting with Digital Ocean and a reasonably priced droplet to serve it up. This is also a preferred method for self hosting Ghost and if you sign up with this link you get $100 in free credit (and I get a sweet $25, too)).
Knowing what is happening with the website can be a tiresome, yet important affair. Hence, there are many players in this arena with Google Analytics being amongst the largest. Yet, looking at a GA chart makes me want to bring a gun to my temple. So I decided on going with Fathom as a simplified and privacy-focused, indie alternative.
Button Down (Email)
Since my aim is to interact with readers is a focussed one, a minimal platform like Buttondown that only really needs to send emails is the best option with a free / paid subscription functionality. It’s also one of those one man band type of things that makes it feel like the old web of days past, as opposed to the VC funded existence that we get to experience now.
Green Fleet (Carbon Offsetting)
Creating a website, whilst being primarily a digital affair does have an onset carbon effect in the real offline world. This consideration was heightened, after reading the thorough expose from Low Tech Magazine on their more recent website redesign. So this posed the question - what could be done? As the smallest starting point, I chose to offset a portion of the footprint from this website with an offset provider in Green Fleet.
Still: The cost of running all of these items is not inconsiderable!
As of February 2021, here are my base costs:
Structure - Cost/mo (AUD) / Notes
- Digital Ocean (Hosting) - $6.50 - Hosting for sammyhaywood.com
- Cloudflare Domain caching, protection, CDN 26.2
- Fathom (Analytics) - $18.30
- Button-down (Email) - 29
- Protonmail - (Email) - 7.90 sammyhaywood.com email
- Green Fleet (Carbon Offsetting) - $30.42
Which is about $120/mo, or $1440/year in recurring costs.
This does seems quite high for a personal project, yet it’s all quite reasonable in the longer view. Especially considering paying for these services allows me to insure details aren’t being siphoned, there’s no dark-pattern of business model judo(fn), swapping an easily understandable contract for something opaque and ethically dubious.
Paying fairly for something is, as they say, is why we can have nice things in this world.
As this is the starting point, there is no true tangible finalities. Only the promise of what this unfolding moment has the potential to offer.
If you are contemplating starting a thing, It could be a website like this or something much, much larger in the digital realm then may this clear the path is a little for you.
Should you still be on the fence and need or want a permission slip, then please download this humble offering from one wonder-er to another and fill it out.
As for that Hey kid, voice mentioned up at the top?
That’s from inside your own head. Use it as an engine, prove it wrong starting right now, use the force of its transmission and the general suspicion it holds into the creating something worthy of your time.
If you have made it this far by offering the good graces of your time and presence then that is a blessing on my soul.
And if you do fill out a permission slip, I would very much like to see it, please send it to [email protected] by whichever medium works on your end.