I believe it was in 2002 or 2003 when I was introduced to the concept of weblogs or, simply, blogs. I was instantly taken with the idea. It was a diary, but cocooned in a respectable layer of technical competence and importance. Soon, I was eagerly following not just one but a welter of blogs, primarily dealing with the burgeoning Web Standards Project (both the organization specifically and the movement generally). Establishing a blog of my own seemed inevitable.
As was my habit, I began maintaining a list of ideas in a plain text file. These ranged from clever titles that I hoped would stand out to detailed descriptions of the (XHTML, naturellement) markup the comments field would accept and transform. Over the next two years, this list grew endlessly, but the website itself failed to materialize. Many practical problems stood in my way. Where would I host it? How would I, a high school student, pay for the domain name? How would I find the time and courage to build The Perfect CMS™ in Perl, the language I had been enamoured with since before I entered the double digits? Yet I could not swallow my pride and sign up on LiveJournal, create a Blogger account, or hitch my wagon to the WordPress juggernaut. Those were all far too common for me. I simply would not set words down until I had the right environment to share them in.
And so I nurtured my file, which meanwhile sprouted headings, list items, subitems, sub-subitems, and links, watching it mature and stabilize. I made only small refinements to it for months and then years. I never stopped promising myself that I would one day have my own blog. It would be a work of art: a true masterpiece that combined every last bit of received wisdom I could remember with all the genius that only I could bring to bear on such a project.
Eventually, in 2009, I suffered a catastrophic hard drive failure which consigned to oblivion all my carefully maintained lists, among many, many other things.
With time and effort, I was fortunate enough to recover without losing much more than the password to an old e-mail address I was very attached to. The blog that never was lost its importance. I had college and an endless series of moves to contend with. I regretfully left Perl behind as I succumbed to the siren song of languages like Python and TypeScript and embraced a less idiosyncratic, more ordered method of programming. Indeed, it was perhaps only five years ago today that I started toying with the idea of a blog again. This was an idle thought and not an imperative, because I still couldn’t answer the central question: what did I have to say, that it warranted a blog?
Well, I slowly recognized that I had a lot to say. It didn’t matter whether it was important or not. In fact, there was no such thing as ‘important enough’. I formulated elaborate opinions on everything, opinions that were important to me. I had never lost the habit of chronicling certain, specific aspects of my life for myself, and I strongly believed in writing things down so as to lighten the load of an overburdened mind. But I had no single outlet for these thoughts. No journal. No diary. No… blog.
Even so, it was another two years before I took action, during which time I learnt the ropes of several new static site generators and found one (Eleventy) that I was almost fond of. I registered a domain name for myself which I never published any content to. Only when the coronavirus pandemic made prisoners of us all inside our own homes did I decide it was time to write—and then only after a month of the (ever-extending) lockdown.
One of the benefits of having waited nearly two decades after my first encounter with weblogs is how many choices are clear and simple. I don’t need to build a CMS or use one I don’t like: Eleventy will do. I don’t need to figure out a complicated subset or superset of HTML for my syntax: Markdown is the lingua franca of the modern web, and the parsers extensible enough for anything I might need. I don’t need to shop around for domain registrars or hosts: Domain.com has been my go-to registrar for years, thanks to their yearslong sponsorship of Film Riot, and I’ve been happy using Netlify with all their automation & amenities on other projects. The only element I don’t have an obvious approach to is commenting. So here I am and here we are. I can’t help hoping this blog becomes a runaway success, but I’m mainly writing for myself. I’m going to write the way I like to read and I’m going to treat this blog as a much more reliable memory than the one in my mind.
It’s not easy letting go. The perfectionist in me balks at the idea of ever allowing human eyes to see anything I create; nothing is ever finished. Therefore, rather than war with myself for another five years, I’m evading the entire argument by sending my blog forth bare: no CSS (save for PrismJS’s themes), no RSS feed, no table of contents or homepage. There is only this HTML file and others like it, along with a sitemap for search engines. Now, I couldn’t stop myself from setting up an entire toolchain to convert Sass into CSS and optimize images, but none of that is being used yet. Where Frank Chimero is redesigning his blog in the open, I intend to build mine in the open: slowly, steadily, incrementally. I must write without thinking (nevermind that this is my sixth draft), design without second-guessing myself, and publish without fear. It’s the only way I’ll ever have a place for my head.
स्वागत ! Welcome!
- If I recall correctly, I was using Notepad++ at the time.↩
- An oversimplification, but one that should suffice for the moment.↩
- Perhaps eight years after the blogosphere lost its power. Alternatively: 17 years after Google bought Blogger, 14 years after the birth of Twitter, and 12 years after Facebook was opened to the public.↩
- In which regard I am decidedly confused. It would undoubtedly be easiest to omit the feature entirely, considering how much effort it would require and how unlikely that effort would be to be rewarded, but I cannot forget the countless times I’ve mentally composed a reply to an article online only to discover the lack of any sort of comments. Pull requests and Discourse threads, I should add, are no substitute.↩
Next in series: How to Include PrismJS CSS Only When Required In Eleventy(#2 in Colophon: Finding A Place For My Head)