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What's the most easy, fast, efficient way to create and maintain a personal Blog?

by Ferdinand Cachoeira1 min read1st Jul 20205 comments

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Personal Blog

I have seen a lot of members here have personal blogs and encourage creating anti-Ra content. Although I have some experience on creating python programs/android apps, I don't know much about web development. I started watching some html/css/javascript tutorials, but there are so many tutorials and so much babble on the way, I wouldn't like to waste too much time to start.

If your past-self was looking to create a very simple text blog, what material would you send him to learn from? If there's anything you can recommend me, feel free to do it

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4 Answers

As far as I know, many people just create a wordpress account, which enables you to just start quickly. I don't like wordpress, so here my experience:

[epistemic status: personal experience]

My own website is dead simple: using CSS from this site, converting Markdown into HTML, hosted on github.io.

So, concrete steps I took:

  • Make a github profile
  • Learn Markdown
  • Download this CSS file
  • Start a git repository named "$YOURPAGE.github.io"
  • Write Markdown content
  • Convert content to HTML (via a build script using one of these, maybe google "Markdown to HTML $MYPLATFORM")
  • Git push

If you want more inspiration, you could try to understand the build system of my site, but it's perhaps a bit cluttered.

I'm a web developer and I actually did this a few years ago. The steps were, roughly, as follows:

Decided on bespoke vs CMS. CMS is Wordpress/Wix/whatever and is so dead-simple that even a noob with zero coding experience can do it. I went for bespoke because, well, I'm a developer and I wanted the experience. I also didn't want a .wordpress.com sub domain, and I wanted full control over the website.

Decided on a hosting solution. I went with AWS EC2, mostly because I hadn't heard of the concept of explore/exploit back then. But in retrospect I think AWS was a perfectly reasonable choice, and my heuristic of "pick the big one" worked out. The really nice thing about AWS is that there's no CMS-like stuff -- it's just a cloud server that you can do anything on. The cheapest option will cost you ~$30/year.

Buy a domain. AWS sells domains (the keyword to google is "route53") for about $12/year for a .com (unless you want a high-demand one). There are other sites, but the benefit of doing it through AWS is simplicity (assuming you decided on AWS hosting). If you buy from a different provider, you'll have to transfer it.

Decide on server vs client rendering vs static HTML. Client rendering is a Javascript framework like React, and it's meant for highly interactive apps. It's cool and awesome to code in, but it's terrible for blogs because it has a high overhead cost and the awesome features are wasted on static content. That leaves server rendering or static HTML. I picked static HTML because it's easy to start with, but in retrospect I'd probably go with server rendering instead because it's easier in the long run.

Actual coding. HTML is a programming language that describes the structure of your webpage. CSS describes the the appearance. Javascript is for interactivity and you probably won't need much, if any. For example, the "add a comment" button beneath my comment is an <a> tag in HTML, the color of the text inside it is CSS, and the appearance of a box to type your reply in is Javascript.

If you don't already have good design skills, you'll need to spend a lot of time googling the basics of light vs dark themes (no it's not as simple as color inversion), saturation, contrast, whitespace, gestalt, typography, and a whole bunch of stuff I'm probably forgetting. The most important part is not to rely entirely on your own sense of aesthetics. If it was that simple, the field of graphic design wouldn't exist -- the meme "engineers are bad at art" survives because it's often true.

I also highly recommend using Markdown for the text. I wrote my posts in Google Docs and pandoced it into html, but Markdown is way easier and you can more easily mess with the styling.

Of course, after reading all this, you may be feeling lost and overwhelmed and wondering if it's all worth it. If that's the case, I strongly recommend that you consider the CMS option. No, it's not as glamorous or high quality as a bespoke site but it'll get the job done.

A github repo with posts as markdown or org-mode files. https://github.com/ChALkeR/notes as an example. Post links to your posts to lesswrong/reddit/wherever if you want people to discuss them.

Brick.do without a doubt.

Blot.im also seems really cool, as it auto uploads whatever you put into a dropbox folder. It's $4 a month.