This Website is Always Under Construction

The only thing that won't change is that this website will keep changing.

This Website is Always Under Construction
Photo by Danist Soh / Unsplash

Alright, I'll keep it brief - my personal website has once again gone under a redesign, this time migrating from WordPress to Ghost.

Fuck WordPress

There are a lot of reasons for this change, but the root of it is fairly simple: the experience of using WordPress is beyond awful. For years, the venerable platform has awkwardly teetered along, with long-standing design problems failing to be addressed.

I was hopeful that the new Gutenberg editor would be a step in the right direction, giving rise to a publishing experience similar to Medium, but I was dead wrong. It's a cluttered mess that somehow fails basic accessibility standards while chasing an engineer's wet dream of organizing templates for content into blocks and groups of blocks.

In the words of Bokonon: "Busy, Busy, Busy"

The biggest problem with WordPress is that the core team is trying to chase the high from creating a seemingly shiny user experience, but heavily relying on a plugin ecosystem that largely relies on junkware to fix glaring problems. Seriously, if you're trying to do your own theme development and need to figure out a basic solution, like how to show related posts on a page, the top results will point to some bullshit plugin, instead of useful documentation on how you might build something yourself.

I originally built the last version of my site with WP because some plugins can now render it compatible with ActivityPub. I really liked the idea of my articles trickling into the fediverse, and my comments section being threaded social responses from around the web. Sadly, these kind of integrations almost always feel like an afterthought, given that you really have to duct tape everything together and then rely on extensive modifications to make the whole thing less ugly - the backend literally just converts replies into WordPress comments, with little concern to how they should be formatted or displayed.

Enter Ghost

I've always enjoyed the Ghost blogging platform - it's simple, unified, and clean. The admin UI is uncluttered, and the writing experience more carefully reflects what Gutenberg is trying to do, with a "less is more" mindset.

Ah! Much better!

There are certain design decisions I don't like, for example: the project seems to be hesitant towards extending too much of the core in any particular direction. Instead of adding more social network fields to the platform for theme developers, for example, the official advice is to just hack together a secondary menu yourself, and then apply some template and CSS magic to render those icons yourself. It's...not great to see project leads take that kind of position, but at least the community consensus on how to do things isn't "Oh! Just use a plugin for that!"

That being said, all of this is preferable to WordPress. The Ghost theme documentation is extremely simple and accessible, and Handlebarse templates are easy as hell to extend as needed. I'm slowly tweaking out a theme I've been building from the ground up, called Saturn, which I may or may not release once it's at a flexible enough state to be used.

Future Plans

The biggest thing right now that I want to do is just write. My blog in the past felt unwieldy to the point that I never had the energy to deal with all of WordPress's bullshit, leaving a massive pile of drafts everywhere.

At the time being, I'm cleaning up a lot of old data from legacy posts to make them better fit the existing theme. That involves adding metadata and image thumbnails, sorting into better tag categories, and deciding what to leave and what to keep. An ongoing project of mine involves attempting to harvest old content floating around different sites and social networks, in an effort to form a more "complete" depiction of myself and my thoughts in one place. It might be a futile effort, especially as some of my early stuff isn't even on Archive.org, but it's an interesting passtime and slowly fills this place up with content.

I'm going to try to publish every few days, and clear out my massive backlog. In the meantime, the layout and feel of this site is probably going to keep getting tweaked. A website is never truly finished.