This past March, I had the inkling to start writing again. It’s taken me this long to relaunch the blog, but not for the reasons you might think.
Running a Website, the Jeremy Fuksa Way
Since my career has largely been focused on user experience design, I’ve always felt obligated to ensure my website reflects my desired level of professionalism. This has meant that every version of my blog has featured hand-coded templates, leveraging the latest in whatever new web features were available.
Like many web designers and bloggers of the past 20 years, I started with WordPress. Luckily, I had done enough back-end development in PHP that I felt pretty comfortable developing my custom templates. And, for quite a while, WordPress was a blogger’s only choice for a stable, well-supported publishing system. But, as WordPress offered more capabilities, I eventually had a beef: If a developer wants to take advantage of the growing list of features, they have to allow the WordPress system to generate parts of each page’s final code. So, anyone who inspects the site’s code would see these tell-tale signs that this was a WordPress site. But, of course, I didn’t want that. Instead, I wanted my site to appear hand-coded.
Hubris Chooses a New Publishing System
So, I ditched WordPress in search of an alternative. I did hand-code every page on my site for a while, using the CodeIgniter PHP framework to handle templating. It didn’t take too long until I realized the futility of this endeavor and started looking at publishing system alternatives. I spent a decent amount of time using ExpressionEngine before settling on Craft CMS. These two systems have a little more work involved in the setup process, but in the end, you get a completely customized publishing system that generates code that looks handmade1.
First Principles, Clarice.
Knowing that I wanted to start writing again, I didn’t start… you know, writing. I started, instead, by thinking about the design and coding. I needed a new design because every time I relaunch this blog, it’s under a new design. My publishing system required updates. The virtual server I was running was outdated and needed to be replaced. So I got to work designing new templates, but a couple of months into the site coding, I asked questions I rarely ask myself:
- “Why are you doing this?”
- “What are you trying to prove?”
- “Who are you trying to impress?”
- “How does any of (waves vaguely)… this… make it easier for you to write?”
I wanted to be able to answer every question before I moved forward. So I stepped back from my project.
The most straightforward question to answer was about who I was trying to impress. Early on, my code quality and design chops on the blog were an essential part of my portfolio and the next step in my career. So, I was trying to impress colleagues and prospective employers. Still, I was mainly trying to impress the larger Twitter design community of the late 00s, and this was my statement that showed I belonged in the conversation.
Alright. I was trying to prove to my peers that I was just as good as they were while leveraging my hobby to showcase my work skills. That’s two questions down. We’re starting to get somewhere.
I reframed the “why” question to ask why I’m doing this now. The “what” and “who” of old were easy to justify as my raison d’être then but make little sense now. All of us in that Twitter community grew into the mature portions of our careers. I have nothing to prove (if I ever did in the first place). Regarding new job opportunities, you’d have to offer me $1MM/year to motivate me.
All that made it evident that none of this was making it easier to do the one thing I wanted to do… write. So, rather than continue, I scrapped all the work because it represented a promise of future technical debt. I wanted a system that would just let me write. But I also wouldn’t mind tinkering around a bit if I was in the mood.
All That, Only to Say…
Hi! Welcome to my rebooted blog on WordPress using an off-the-shelf theme I bought. I don’t care if the code under the hood is messy. I can publish my thoughts on a website that looks good enough2.
One aspect of my old way of thinking that I felt worthy of carrying forward was the opportunity to learn something new. So, aside from getting used to WordPress again, I set up my virtual server on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). It was an excellent way to learn more about Oracle’s offerings as I continue to acclimate to working there.