Now that I feel firmly established within my new domain, caitisgreat.com, I thought it might be appropriate to talk about it a little bit. Some of this might be technical though, mostly because I'm pretty nerdy. I'll try my best separate the technical bits from the more interesting social aspects down below. So, let's begin.
Why a blog?
You might be wondering why I bothered go to through all the hassle and spend money on setting up a blog when so many blogs fail. Well, for me, I really want to get away from Facebook. I feel like I lost control of some of the aspects of my life. In that respect, I felt a blog under my own domain name might allow me to express myself to friends and family without having to jump through Facebook's "terms of service" hoops - not to mention dealing with the news feed. There's more to it than that though. I also wanted a space to share more about my adventures and experiences, prominently those adventures from my forthcoming 30's.
Honestly, I have been trying to step away from these activities for awhile. I just don't really know how to do it. For me those activities include video games, television, social media, and the like. I find that a large portion of my life has now been invested in those things without any actual benefit. While some people accept those activities as part of their identity, I don't really feel that way. In fact, I feel I've practiced those activities as a means to escape problems. Now I never really owned a blog before, but I do understand that having a journal of any kind requires you to sit down and think about it now and then. Therefore, it's my hope that in maintaining a personal blog I can find a way to get what I want from life.
Adding into that, it'll give me a darn good reason to organize my photos. I really like taking photos. I have a bunch already that I'd like to organize. I figure having a blog would be a nice way to help me present them.
Now for the more technical bits. You've been warned.
This blog was also a challenge to create a cheap internet presence for myself. One where I could host many different things, not just a blog website. In order to do that I decided to use the following tools:
- Digital Ocean - Cloud Computing, designed for developers
- Ghost, just a blogging platform
- Google Domains (eventually, December?)
- Let's Encrypt - Free SSL/TLS Certificates
- Disqus - The 1# way to build an audience
It took me a while to reach this point where I knew what tools I wanted to use. Mainly because I really didn't know what was available to me, which might be funny to those of you who know what my profession is (I'm a web developer). The fact is, there's so many different solutions to blogging.
Before I could begin, I needed a platform to host everything from. I originally chose SiteGround.com based solely on the price. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a mistake on my part after I found out how easy it is to organize and publish content through Ghost. Ghost uses Ruby and Node.JS and unfortunately SiteGround.com wasn't able to provide those features from their basic hosting solution. So, I unsubscribed the same day and found Digital Ocean instead.
Digital Ocean is pretty darn awesome. It's a cloud computing platform where you can host a variety of different projects. In my case, it was this blog. They had easy methods for setting up Ghost and were able to create the blog in one minute as advertised. I'm very pleased and plan to use the service in the future for this and other projects.
As I mentioned, Ghost is pretty great too. The admin interface is reminiscent of WordPress without all the extra bloat. I really like the post window too, as it presents two views for you.
One view contains the content you're writing (in Markdown) and the other view renders the Markdown as a preview of your post. It's been a good way of teaching myself more about Markdown. There's tagging features too - so you can organize everything. I like the team features as well, but I probably won't use them much. You can add different user roles and allow those users to post or manage the site. In general, I knew I needed Ghost as soon as I saw it.
I'll throw in a special mention the various theme developers there are out there for Ghost as well. Thanks for providing free themes!
Regarding Google Domains, I suppose it didn't matter whether I continued to use DynDNS for my DNS services or not, but seeing as Google Domains opened up recently I thought I'd give it a try. They have the same ICANN registration costs as most others ($12) so it didn't really matter. The only problem is that I originally registered the domain with SiteGround.com so now I have to wait 60 days to transfer it. Ah well.
Let's Encrypt turned out be an interesting challenge. One that might be completely unnecessary, but c'est la vie. Setting up SSL encryption had me getting my hands dirty with the Linux backend on my Digital Ocean droplet. As someone who isn't very familiar with how nginx works, this turned out to be complicated. Eventually, I figured it out though. I'm very pleased with myself for setting up and being able to say that your connection to my website is secure and private.
Finally, Disqus. Disqus is practically on every blog in existence. Considering I want to have a social presence here, I needed a way to have folks comment on my content. Fortunately, the theme I chose has some built in hooks for Disqus so all I had to do was activate them and create an account. Lovely.
If you're still curious about any of the the technical details at this point. Hit me up in the comments!
I really hope I'm able to accomplish what I want to do here. I think I will, but I've failed a number of projects before. Hold me to it dear reader! That said, if you managed to make it this far, I hope you find a reason to stay here too. I look forward to sharing more with you.