January 9, 2014

First post from a new home

This domain has lain unused for quite a while (about eight years, to be exact). I have always intended it to host a personal site, unlike the business-oriented maxvt.com, but life constantly got in the way. Two events had to happen in order to overcome the inertia and break ground on this project.

Your data is not safe with us

The first one happened way back in 2012, when a site called blippr had suddenly disappeared. blippr was a site for tweet-sized reviews of media: books, games, movies, music and apps. Mashable had acquired blippr in 2009, and after three years quietly shut the site down, taking all of user-generated reviews away with it. To the best of my knowledge, the disappearance of the service was sudden and complete, without any notice to users or a chance for them to export their contributions.

The story of blippr is a common one: new services launch, wither and die all the time. However, it was the first time I experienced a loss of data contributed to an Internet service that I intended to refer to in the future firsthand. Using a more popular service is not future-proof either: big and popular services get bought out, and any site can ban a user (and make all of their content inaccessible) for real or imaginary violation of the terms of service rules with no recourse.

The disappearance of my reviews with blippr made me realize that the only way I can guarantee my data will remain accessible is for me to own the storage and distribution, which means running my own site. I am not opposed to using other services to disseminate my content and make some of it available for reuse; but either the primary source has to be under my control, or there must be an API I can use to automatically and regularly export and back up my content stored elsewhere.

Every web developer wants to write a CMS

The second event is fairly recent. I have (finally) listened to episode 54 of The Web Ahead covering Jekyll, a CMS-less static website generation system. My vision of this site is far more than a simple blog, so a proper CMS would be useful; but I got very little enjoyment out of working with Drupal 6, and in my experience WordPress needs a regular “oil change” in the form of core and plugin updates, and has a default configuration that required extensive tweaking to boot. The problem with a choice of CMS is that I am not delighted by any of the popular content management systems out there.

Some say that writing one’s own CMS is a web developer’s rite of passage. Given other priorities, I would probably not get to do it in the foreseeable future. But a static site generator could be good enough for now: no dynamic code means there are very few things that require maintenance, performance is likely to be good, and importing of file-based, fairly simply formatted content into another CMS is an eminently feasible task.

Thus, a suitable platform has showed up. I am excited to dip my toe into web design and development once again, and I hope to have enough free time to make this “home on the Net” cozy for myself and useful to others. I invite you to subscribe to the project’s feed and to watch it grow.