Cutting out the Middleman, with WordPress

For the past few years, the only posts I’ve written in this blog have been about this blog, and this post is no different. I make up for it in lack of volume: I’m averaging about one post a year.

Two years ago, I wrote about how I’d finally (almost) gotten my static blog all set up the way I wanted it, complete with self-hosted, open-source commenting functionality. Yay!

One year ago, I dumped some quick notes about how I’d re-homed my blog to Github Pages and wired it up to Github’s Travis CI service such that pushing posts or updates to my blog’s git repo would trigger a build and refresh of my site. Yay!

Of course, I still had some things to figure out, and while I eventually figured out most of it, I wasn’t blogging — I’d think about my blog, and my thoughts would immediately turn to distraction over hosting and customization and maintenance. If I’m actually going to write here, I should try to make the experience as smooth as possible, with fewer non-writing avenues around to distract me.

Middleman Retrospective

A few weeks ago, I was reflecting on my too-static blog, and on my general blog desires, which haven’t really changed since I switched away from WordPress:

(listed in order)

  1. I don’t want to admin a dynamic web app
  2. I don’t want to write/edit post in HTML
  3. I want to use open source software
  4. I want to be able to customize my blog
  5. I want an easy editing/publishing experience
  6. I want to maintain commenting support

With my Middleman-based setup, I had point one nailed. Static HTML FTW. Point two, also nailed. I wrote in either AsciiDoc or Markdown. Point three, nailed.

Point four… not really nailed. Maybe… stapled? Basic customization chores, like figuring out how to add a simple sidebar, took a long time for me to figure out, and each question I answered led to other questions. As I Googled around for answers and fiddled endlessly with CSS, my thoughts often turned to a “retreat” back to WordPress, with all its point-and-clickitude.

Point five, the easy publishing experience, also nailed. The git repo to CI to github pages process I set up worked really well, and the middleman blog-writing UI that Garrett wrote is really awesome.

Point six I had working, using Juvia comments, which, being open source software, kept me in line with point three, but took me out of compliance with point one — I didn’t want to maintain some dynamic, mysql-backed web application just for my blog, and yet, my Juvia comments instance was just that. And, as a bonus, since I first deployed it, the Juvia project has been orphaned.

WordPress: A New Hope

I mentioned above that in dark moments, I felt tempted by a return/retreat to WordPress. I figured I could use the wordpress.com service, which would satisfy my nothing-to-admin, open source, commenting, and publishing ease requirements. A combination of the many nice-looking, built-in WordPress themes and widgets, along with the (paid) option of tweaking theme CSS and whatnot, promised to satisfy my customization needs, as well.

Still, I really didn’t want to write posts in HTML, or have to hand-edit the HTML of the WordPress WYSIWYG editor. I love how markdown can be pasted straight into a email, as plain text, and remain totally readable.

It turns out that about two weeks after I quit using WordPress, the project added a “write in markdown” option to the software. You check a box somewhere, and the write-in-HTML tab in the UI becomes a write-in-markdown tab. So, that’s point two, nailed.

I signed myself up for the $99 premium WordPress subscription, which seems like a lot of money, but comes out to less than my WWE Network and Marvel Unlimited subscriptions, and goes to a company that creates and supports open source software, so… I’ll give it a year.

Getting rolling again with WordPress was easy. I pointed my domain in the right direction, picked out a theme I liked, sucked in most of my old posts from WP backups, converted the very few new ones, and modified my static posts sitting on github pages to redirect permanently over here.

We’ll see how this return to WordPress, now with markdown support and full SaaSification, affects or does not affect my personal blogging. There’s a non-zero chance I’ll be back in November 2016 to tell you all about my new LiveJournal odyssey.

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