Writing

Do I want to write or do I want to fiddle with my blog?

Apparently, the answer is…fiddle with my blog. (Or maybe write about fiddling with my blog.)

I spent (aka wasted) many hours yesterday futzing with WordPress and Hugo. The day began with thinking about moving baty.net back to Hugo. I love writing in Emacs and using Org-mode files for publishing.

I feel like I’m a static website person. I want my site to be nothing more than a simple folder full of HTML files on a web server somewhere. Mmmm, fast, lightweight, future-proof, secure.

I also want to post by clicking a button, typing, and clicking another button. I want images to be managed for me. I want analytics, comments, and easy upgrades.

So, basically I want HugoPress. There is no such thing. None of the web front ends to Hugo are any good, so that’s out. I just want both sets of features and to pick and choose on the fly. I can’t have that, so historically I have kept two blogs, one static, one (usually) WordPress. Then I can use each set of features as needed. Except that splits my content and I don’t want that either.

Instead of writing, then, I continue to waffle about platforms. I recently made the “and that’s that!” decision to go all-in with WordPress. Once running, WordPress is the easiest way to get words published, and that’s why we’re here, right? So there!

And yet…

We’re back on WordPress

I need a break from using an SSG for this site. I don’t feel like fighting with go templates. I don’t feel like troubleshooting Hugo modules when they break. When I want to edit a post, I want to just click “Edit” and not have to go find the original Org-mode entry, then re-export to Markdown, then build and deploy the whole site every time. I’m in the mood to Click “Edit”->Type->Click “Publish”. I want to just drag a bunch of images into a post and have a nice gallery built for me. I want comments, stats, easy upgrades, and endless plugins for the picking.

WordPress, for all its many faults, satisfies all of the above.

Posting from iA Writer

This post, in iA Writer

Sometimes I feel like changing things up a little. I get bored writing the same way using the same app for everything. Today, for example, I’m typing this in iA Writer. Writer is a very nice, simple, lovely app for writing Markdown that can post directly to WordPress and is a nice change of pace.

An experiment using WordPress

First, I dislike using WordPress. Second, I’m using WordPress anyway.

Let’s call it an experiment in “simple” blogging. It’s an excuse to get away from the hassles and friction of using a static site generator. I just want to click “New post”, type some words, and click “Publish”.

UPDATE: We’re back on WordPress

Calm technology

I’m overwhelmed by social media right now. Visiting Twitter just makes me anxious because it’s become an even bigger shit-show and all anyone can talk about is how much of a shit-show it is.

And Mastodon is almost worse, since the only topics there right now seem to be the Twitter shit-show (but everyone calls it “birdsite” for whatever stupid reason) or how Mastodon is or isn’t confusing or is or isn’t racist or else over-explaining what the “fediverse” means to the future of the internet.

Everyone is just so breathy and I’m exhausted by all of it.

So, instead, I’ve been writing journal entries on my blog, updating my wiki, and sitting at my writing desk with a pen and a notebook. It’s the latter of these things that brings me a nice sort of calm. It’s not really even technology but it’s where I increasingly wish to spend my time.

Because I’m mad at Hugo

Most days I love using Hugo for my blog. It’s super fast, flexible, and runs as a single binary with no dependencies. It builds me a nice static website out of a bunch of Markdown files and I love everything about that. Except that sometimes it’s too much work. To post anything I have to create a new file, add the proper front matter, render the site, and push the changes to my server. And if I want any images in the post, I have to size them and copy them to the correct location, and then hand-write links to them. It’s not hard, but it’s still a lot of friction.

Over the past few days I’ve found myself trying to tweak Hugo to accommodate my daily post entries, and it has not been fun. I’ve been using Hugo for years and I still don’t understand the template hierarchy. And forget about doing anything difficult with Hugo’s Go templates and themes. It’s baffling to me. Yes, I understand that maybe I’m just a slow learner but I’m not convinced that’s the entire problem here.

And then this morning something just stopped working. A post wouldn’t render no matter what I tried. It was the last straw.

So here we are in Ghost. I often hate this too, but in a different way. Right now I prefer the way I hate Ghost.

Personal Knowledge Management is exhausting

I’ve been testing the hot new Tana app for the past week, and I’m exhausted.

First, I don’t need a Zettelkasten. If you’re being honest, you probably don’t either. And yet, we spend hours or days learning the “proper” way to build one. Then we set up our new system, using paper or digital or both, roll up our sleeves, and waste time putting stuff into it.

The worst part isn’t the putting of stuff into my PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) system. The worst part is all of the tinkering around where to put stuff and how to classify/tag/organize it.

I made the mistake of reading “How to Take Smart Notes” by Sönke Ahrens and browsing the forums and that sent me on a spiral of worrying about atomicity, what to do about “fleeting” notes, how big is a Zettel? and so on. In other words, I was more concerned with finding the proper method of managing my notes rather than focusing on what was actually in them and what they were for.

This week’s tinkering with Tana hasn’t helped. Tana is the next iteration of tools based on things like Roam Research, Notion, etc. I like it. It’s a bit like TiddlyWiki and Tinderbox in that it allows for additional attributes to be associated with each node and makes these ontologies easy to search, link, parse, summarize, etc. It makes some complicated workflows pretty easy to implement. I think a lot of people will dig it.

The problem is that this flexibility leads to a lot of hand-wringing over the best way to utilize all this power. The Tana Slack channels are teeming with questions about workflows and structure and attributes and on and on. It makes me tired just reading about it.

I’m not sure I need a system around, for example, the best way to surface the minutiae from interstitial journaling. In fact, just using the phrase “interstitial journaling” is a dead giveaway that I’ve already been overthinking it. Settle down, Jack!

Anyway, I’ll keep playing with Tana for fun, but I’m probably not going to continue using it for my notes. It’s not something I will benefit from, especially considering the amount of effort I’ll put into setting it up and getting everything “right”. I’m exhausted and I think I’ll go back to using paper. Or maybe Emacs.

Gettin’ with Gutenberg

Gutenberg is powerful and useful for enabling those of us who don’t feel like working too hard to create decent-looking, complex, media-rich layouts. But, most of my posts are just an image with a paragraph or three of text. I don’t need a fancy, complex, block-based editor for creating those.

So what to do? There are some great options for creating posts right on my Mac and publishing to WordPress. I’ve used MarsEdit on and off for years. It’s great at what it does. It allows me to write and publish to WordPress from a solid, well-developed macOS app.

I’ve tried publishing using other writing tools on my Mac. For example, Ulysses is a lovely app and enables posting directly to WordPress. Well, that’s not exactly true, since for many of us hosting our own WordPress installations, there are things that can prevent xmlrpc from working, rendering Ulysses incapable of properly connecting to WordPress. There are workarounds, but I don’t feel like dealing with workarounds.

I’ve even had Emacs configured to post directly to WordPress, but good lord look at that readme file. I’m not in the mood for all that these days.

None of these tools, as good as they are, address my favorite thing about managing a blog with WordPress, and that is WordPress is a Typewriter. As I wrote then, the problem is that…

…creating and editing content is too far removed from the actual rendered page.

This applies to static sites as well as local tools for publishing to WordPress. I prefer to edit in place. I want to read over a post, find something I want to change, click “Edit”, type, and click “Publish”. Using local tools like Ulysses or MarsEdit or even plain ol’ Markdown files forces me to work “over here” when I’d rather work “right there”, if you know what I mean.

So, I just ignore the things I don’t like about Gutenberg and use it anyway. There are ways around it, but not using Gutenberg feels like swimming upstream and I don’t have the energy.

I sometimes use the Iceberg plugin, which is basically a wrapper that makes Gutenberg look and feel more sane…more like just writing text in an editor. But it’s still Gutenberg, and that’s going to have to be OK.