Hello World, again
Once again, I am trying to do a blog. Hopefully this becomes more than just the one blog post... My previous blogging record was 5 posts, and then I silently forgot about the whole thing for over a year. I am full of optimism that this attempt might make it a bit further than last time... either way, it's a good excuse to build a new blog, which is always fun. Maybe someone other than myself might even read something on here, one day...
Why I am putting myself through the ordeal of trying to blog (again)
1. Get better at writing things down and talking to a text file
One of the reasons why I want to maintain and regularly keep a public blog is to improve my ability to communicate concepts and ideas through text. Being able to distil grand concepts, their caveats, and how you feel about them into a text file (especially one that starts off blank) is a highly underrated soft-skill that is invaluable not just for winning the hearts and minds of others when working collaboratively, but to make your own life easier by learning to compose and store your thoughts in a refined, articulated form for future-you to conveniently refer back to as needed.
According to a survey report by the APQC, the average knowledge worker spends 8.2 hours per week (or 23% of the average UK work-week) looking for, recreating or duplicating information and expertise. Despite the vast majority of knowledge workers having a reasonable understanding of the weaknesses of human memory, we seem to fail to appreciate the implications of that, and thus spending an ungodly amount of time on redundant/repeated work... instead of just taking notes and writing things down the first time round...
Whilst some may view writing things down as a simple action people do, rather than a skill that can be developed with practice, I suspect that maintaining a blog (should I manage to establish the habit) would gradually improve my ability to communicate via text, to the benefit of myself and anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves reading my ramblings.
2. Sharing my unparalleled genius with the world
A lot of work done in the modern age is, in one way or another, reinventing someone else's wheel. Naturally, I generally think my wheels are cooler than those of others, and writing a blog post about them is one way of offering my wheel design to the world - which someone else, some day, may view as a useful contribution in the course of producing their own wheel.
If we can generously consider a blog post to be a 'teaching opportunity' - and we can accept that teaching is one of the best ways of learning something new - then writing a blog post about something you're working on is one way of pushing yourself to expand your perspective and identify any quirks of a given topic, picking up on the finer nuances. Putting your thoughts into the world also invites the daunting opportunity of constructive criticism from people who know more than you do. Which again, should be welcomed as a learning opportunity. With that in mind, maybe one day I'll get around to adding comment functionality to this blog.
3. Create a lil' memory book of all the cool stuff I'm doing
When you're busy moving fast and breaking things, going from one project to the next; you can easily miss the opportunity to reflect on what you have learned and construct a timeline of how you got from A to B, overcoming the challenges along the way. Before you know it, you'll be retired, complaining about all the new fangled technology that's ruining society. Reflection creates space for introspection of your own experiences and the ability to retrospectively identify patterns, strengths, or areas for improvement - essential information, if you want to properly channel the struggles of past endeavours towards making better choices in future.
Disco inferno might be a rapid learning path, but you have to make sure you actually do the learning part, otherwise you're just suffering.
Less professionally concerned, it's also easy to forget about things overtime and lose sight of what mattered to you in the moment. I regret that some of my older projects and experiences have become lost from me with time, and that if I was to suddenly recover such a relic of my past, it would likely have lost the sentimental context that would give the memory meaning to me. I have vague sentimental memories of the first time I managed to get some Raspberry Pi connected LEDs to turn on and off on a timer using a very basic python script, and I wish I had the foresight to write up what was going through my head at the time. Pretty sure it would've been a terrible blog post, but it would've been my terrible blog post.
Sometimes, it's just nice to look back through trinkets from your past, and I feel like a gaggle of blog posts would be a way of safely stashing some of those 'trinkets' for the future.
What does the blog look like on day zero?
One of the things I can't seem to do is leave things alone after I've built them - this blog won't be any exception. So what does it look like at the time of writing my first blog post?
Description: A screenshot of the homepage of this website, showing the preview of this blog post alongside my first design of a header; containing my name and job title, as well as links to my twitter and linkedin profiles. Also shows the footer, stating 'Created with ❤️ by Hack-Tom' - where 'hack-tom' is a link to my GitHub profile under the same name.
Description: A screenshot of this blog post, showing the same header as this index page, and the formatting of the blog post metadata such as the title and date.
What are my plans for the blog?
In terms of the functionality this blog could or should have in future, there are a number of avenues to explore:
- Categories and tagging; to organise posts into relevant groups and provide an indication of what a post contains.
- Search functionality; to allow readers to hunt down specific topics or posts they want to read.
- Related posts and quick-navigation between posts; so that readers can easily find more posts on similar topics if they're looking for more information.
- Social sharing and email subscriptions, so that posts can be brought to readers, rather than readers having to come to the blog.
- More 'about' content; this is a personal blog after all - it would make sense to include more information about myself than a link to my neglected Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.
- Polls and surveys; it might be nice to be able to get other peoples thoughts on things and a quick poll or survey every now and again might be a fun way to do that without removing the passivity of reading blog posts.
- Accessibility features; clearly that needs no clarification - every website should have them. Readability scoring, text to speech, lighthouse scores - all good fun.
- Comment functionality; giving readers the opportunity to contribute to the narrative perhaps? Nobody ever said that a blog had to be a one-way conversation.
- Less-managed hosting; I am a platform engineer and whilst I can see the obvious value in a very managed service, using Netlify to host this blog feels like a cop-out when I'm perfectly capable of spinning it up on AWS or Azure myself.
- An actual CMS; markdown files are lovely, but I shouldn't have to rebuild & deploy this website every time I want to change a sentence (even if that process is automated). Might be worth seeing if there's a better option for this.
Rather kindly, each of those ideas also lends itself towards being a good topic for a blog post, so continuing to iterate on this blog from a feature perspective is one way of coming up with ideas of things to blog about.
Regardless of the uncertain future of this blog, the first step is to publish my first post - which, if you are reading this, I have achieved. Go me! Fingers crossed that by the time you're reading this, there are a couple other posts alongside this one too (and maybe even a few of those features I was just talking about).
This isn't my first 'Hello World' blog post, and probably won't be the last. I view blogging as a way to improve my ability to communicate through long-form text, which I consider to be a valuable and often neglected skill (especially for those working in tech). I also view this as an outlet for me to write-up things I've learned and share them with others in an informal, asynchronous format - serving as both a soft-portfolio and knowledge store for future reference. I'd also like to think of this as something of an opportunity to build up a little timeline for me to look back in future.
I intend to make further changes to the structure and add additional functionality of this blog as I go, and have documented the state as it is on day zero (with screenshots) in the What does the blog look like on day zero? section. My plans for the future of this blog post are mapped out in the section What are my plans for this blog? section. Some of my early ideas for additional functionality/features could also be suitable topics for future blog posts, should I find time to explore and develop them properly.
If you're reading this, then I've posted my first blog :) maybe there will even be more posts in future!
Until the next time ✨