Four Months of Having A Place For My Head
It’s been a while since I wrote about A Place For My Head rather than about Eleventy. The last time was in June. As I’ve noted before, I believe the site has attained a level of happy stability where improvements are mostly incremental. I’ll detail those below. Before that, however, I hope you’ll indulge me in a moment of reflection.
Thoughts & thoughts
The first lines of code may have materialized 16 months ago, but in my estimation, A Place For My Head only properly came to be a year after that: on the 22nd of April, 2021, the day I finished giving it a face and first shared my introductory entry with friends and family. I’ve been simultaneously writing for it and working on it for four months now. I declared at the outset that I was mainly writing for myself; this is still true. I can’t imagine anyone will ever enjoy this as much as I do. Writing organizes my thoughts. Transferring them to the page unburdens my mind.
This applies more than anything else to the Thoughts & Spoilers entries. After reading or watching something, I add my notes—more and more detailed now—to a special document which has become a chronological record of my media consumption. I try to convert one set of these notes into a published entry per day, usually with much rewriting. This first clarifies my thoughts and later allows me to forget them: instead of interrogating unreliable memories, I can simply look up the entry.
My biggest regret is having waited until now to start. I’ve been revisiting all my old favourites because of the pandemic, but that’s self-evidently a tiny portion of everything I’ve ever read or watched. Whatever I didn’t enjoy (or more precisely didn’t enjoy enough) I’ll probably never return to, and so will never have any record of.
On an unrelated note, there is unfortunately a long delay between when I make the notes and when I publish the corresponding entry. For example, I’ll be translating the next one from notes made five months ago. While I could spend more time on these to minimize the delay, I would rather my feed didn’t consist exclusively of rapid-fire media consumption, so I accept this limitation.
Wherein I display great humility
Now, I don’t profess to be a writer. I’ve always approached prose with care and I have a handful of small creative works to my name, but this is quite new. I’ve learnt a lot, including just how often I reach for certain phrases and constructions.
That said, I think I write well enough for my audience: myself. Really, this ought to be an embarrassing admission, but I have no qualms about saying that the experience of writing is only surpassed by the experience of reading my own work. The endless drafts, the hours spent tweaking the typography, the continual focus on fixing this edge case here and that margin there—all of it is worthwhile. I like reading what I’ve written. I enjoy watching the site evolve.
Could it be better? Yes; everything can. Should I have waited even longer before making a start, then? Absolutely not. As Sia Karamalegos recently exhorted her readers:
Just build and deploy a minimally-viable-blog (MVB). Like right now. Today. If you don't, you'll never be motivated enough to improve it.
The first step in making something good is making something. If it exists only in your head, it can’t be good or bad—it can’t be. But that’s not all. The second step in making something good is making something for yourself. If you don’t care about what you create, why should anyone else?
I’ve tried to put this into practice by making something that makes me happy, and in doing so, I hope I’m making something that interests you too. Thank you for visiting. Thank you for sticking with me so far. This is only the beginning.
Let us conclude by reviewing the important changes from the past two months:
I added a hand-drawn favicon! Well, it was drawn in Adobe Illustrator, whence the perfect curves. And this is the second version. And it may look like an ampersand at small sizes, but it’s a letter.
The sitemap now has the correct URIs, as do the main Atom feed and the new individual feeds for each stream. So does the metadata on every page. I hope. (Many thanks to my friend Thomas for spotting a significant but hidden issue with my permalinks very nearly the moment it first appeared.)
Articles now have a more newspaper-esque appearance.
There is much less wasted space on smaller screens.
For the sake of honesty, I’ll assume there are still undiscovered bugs in the way images are displayed in various configurations, but rest assured, I have dispatched at least two more of them.
Music posts are completely hidden now, although they still exist on the site.
Activating a link to a footnote will show it in a box. It was difficult to make the list’s natural markers behave correctly with both multi-paragraph and single-paragraph footnotes, so I replaced them with a large number at the top.
Articles now have image previews when shared on social media.
I added support for PlantUML diagrams so I could illustrate the use of pagination and collections in Eleventy. There are a few things I’d like to fix but have no idea how to, like the alignment of the text and the fonts used. I tried changing the monospace font to Recursive to match the site, but the effect was terrible. Maybe PlantUML doesn’t have a modern text rendering engine. (Time to rewrite it in Rust.)
For the sake of the same article, there’s now a page listing all tags as well.
I replaced remark-prism with rehype-prism because the former was creating strange artifacts in YAML snippets. rehype-prism simply works and doesn’t need any special treatment to improve performance.
Speaking of source code, thanks to the remark-sources plugin, I can directly include entire files as code snippets, which makes it easier to include examples from my code and also has the ‘benefit’ of forcing me to add useful comments.
I switched the anchor link icons in headings to a two-step transition on hover or focus, which I find more elegant.
Series pages no longer use Roman numerals. (Time has told.)
Hindi text was displayed incorrectly for a time because I used the filename from Adobe Fonts instead of the one on my server. I just wanted you to know.
Meanwhile, one important thing remains unchanged: I decided not to adopt more muted headings à la Practical Typography. I like the giant Garamond glyphs too much to part with them for the moment.
- Muddled somewhat by TV shows: I prefer to write about a season at a time, even if I make notes about each episode as it airs, so each season makes an entry in the list when I finish the first episode, but I might only finish the last episode long after many of the succeeding entries. This hasn’t yet been a problem in practice. Still, I think from now on I should move these entries to the correct point as soon as I finish the season.↩
- Incidentally, I highly recommend her hilariously accurate ‘How to build a website in 2021’.↩
- The first lasted about a month. You can still see it in old social media images.↩
Next in series: Removing the Automatically-Generated Social Media Images(#18 in Colophon: Finding A Place For My Head)