Frustration, writing and the Corporate Sellout (TM)
Why does this site now look like every boring corporate blog you find on HackerNews? In this post I talk about how I sold out my principles and learned to love conformity and complacency.
I didn't get three posts into this blog until I completely sold out and began using the widely used CMS called Ghost. If you have followed my main site, you will know that at first I used to edit my main webpage by downloading the whole .html file via FTP and adding a post to it in markup using Notepad and uploading it back to the server. A few years ago a reader asked for the ability to comment on posts and as an exercise I created my own toy CMS. It's nothing fancy, just a simple CRUD app in PHP I wrote in an afternoon. For a long time I took pride in setting up my entire site from scratch: it ran on my own metal (a Raspberry Pi 4, but still...) and the whole thing was written completely by me. A lot of it was based on idealism, I want to see more people taking back control of technology and running their own servers and websites. The internet returning to it's distributed roots.
Some years have gone by. The Raspberry Pi under my bed has now been retired and this site is being served to you by a VPS service. Instead of a 14k site with simple white text and a black background, you are reading these words from a slick, corporate-friendly, cookie-cutter blog template. I sold out my principles for convenience. The VPS handles my backups and allows me to scale my site at will. Ghost blog templates allow me to easily write, format and edit posts from both my desktop and my phone. The aforementioned reasons alone are why most technical people do not self-host or create their own websites from scratch. Forget about your average netizen in this regard, most people are happy being the user rather than the admin and never even think of setting up anything at all.
Why am I even justifying my sudden shift in direction regarding this site? It has to do with a few things I've been thinking about recently...
For a long time, I've had a real problem getting projects done. I have a lot of interests and I sometime disappear into rabbit-holes when I learn about something for the first time. Unfortunately, for the most part, I'm never really left with anything after these blackout infodump sessions. I'll start some books, or some courses, or some projects, and at the 20-45% mark, it feels like a switch in my head gets flipped and I suddenly snap out of my haze and wonder why the hell I was so invested in whatever I was obsessing over at the time. I step back and feel pangs of dread, as if I am wasting my time and I should be looking into something completely different, some other subject that might actually have some kind of positive impact on my life and allow me to achieve something. I know I am not alone in feelings this. There must be tens of thousands of people in every town that can relate to this behavior.
What I have wanted to do over the past few years is to try to create some kind of record of these "infodump blackouts" that I have once in a while. I won't be able or even willing to write something about every rabbit-hole I wonder down, but maybe writing something about it will either get me to snap out of whatever funk I'm or maybe sharpen my focus and allow me to actually learn something valuable.
I recently came across a blog post on HackerNews called Don't Think to Write, Write to Think that talks about how writing is, in fact, the process of thinking. I think that I've known this on some level for a while now. When I force myself to write anything, I can see how the jumbled clusters of related topics that swim everyday in my wet and soupy brain turn into set-out ideas and opinions. It's way easier for me to just stay in this information mist where no idea is clearly pinned down. In a way, I allow myself to just enjoy feeling like I'm learning something instead of getting serious and putting in the effort, and in many cases living through the boredom and frustration, of actually knowing something well enough that I can develope well-informed opinions on what I'm learning about.
There's a power that a well-structured written document has that might not be immeadiately obvious, at least it wasn't for me. There can be all this information that is freely available to everyone but it takes someone to structure it and put the right pieces of info together to get something that actually matters and gives the reader something to act on. I've been thinking that it's time for me to create more of this kind of documentation regarding the things I'm interested in. Maybe someone might get some value from all of the reading and watching I do. Hopefully I can help myself as well and create something from this information that actually feels usful for a change. If I get nothing else out of all of the half-finished books and courses I have littered throughout my life, at least there will be a blog documenting some of it.
It's with this in mind that I moved to this blog to Ghost, as it allows me to write easily and pretty much anywhere. The easier it is to write, the more likely this blog will stay alive and not turn into a tombstone for another failed project in my graveyard of accomplishments. The backups the VPS services provides also means a freak power spike can't blow this blog up, something I ended up worrying about all the time with my own metal server. This was a very long and boring discussion on why I sold out my principles but I really liked getting this off my chest. For the first time in a while, I'm feeling a little more hopeful about all of this.