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Blogging About Blogging, Part 1

New Website Design, New Host

As you may have noticed, this site just received a much-needed facelift. I genuinely liked my previous design because it was minimal and put the content first. With this new design, I have been able to focus on something a little more important than the code of the design itself, however: the mechanics of the hosting. I am no longer posting this on a Tumblr-hosted blog because Engineered Eloquence is now hosted on GitHub Pages. I intend to get into the specifics of the decision to move to GitHub Pages in a post I have dubbed, "Blogging About Blogging, Part 2", but I thought it more important to introduce the newest iteration (version 3, to be exact) of my site before getting into the details of my last month spent in the hell that is blogging platforms. In addition, I wanted to share a few things that led me to start looking for an alternative.

More than a year and half ago, I wrote about the Yahoo! acquisition of Tumblr in a post called Tumblr As A Blogging Platform. I always dealt with Tumblr as a necessary evil because of its success (and therefore large built-in audience) and the fact that my blogging history was locked away in a vault that was impenetrable to all but those competitors who were willing to scrape Tumblr blog contents to make it easier for people to switch. Since I was not planning to pay for the hosting of my website, it was always harder for me to justify using one of these competitors, especially given the fact that I would have to take the time to move (and reconstitute) all of my content.

Tumblr did have its charms that always kept me coming back, such as its javascript-based bookmarklet that allowed for quick-posting of content and a broad range of applications the web over that would hook into Tumblr because of its audience. At its heart, however, Tumblr has always been a social network, and no matter what you think about that fact, there is simply no way to change it. The first time I had a person like one of my posts with an expletive as a username and nudity in their icon, I started to question the importance of these social metrics. How important can a network be if you are participating in it only cursorily and out of the mere fact of it being a part of the platform? Either way, I ran my website like a blog, not like a Tumblr site. I ran longform posts with truly important(-to-me) content. I also tried as I might to scrub the site of all social aspects and even mentions of Tumblr itself.

All of that work brought me to the point where I was last month when I was trying to add a title to a video post and couldn't by design. I was always annoyed by these little idiosyncracies of the platform; the design decisions that made sense if you ran your site like a social network and not a blog. In addition, other things annoyed me, things that only us nerds care about: the use of a custom 404 pages, the ability to easily add personalized favicons and iPhone specific homescreen icons, the ability to get at your content quickly and easily from a local copy. With regard to the latter, I began to realize that I did not own my content as much as I once thought I did. If the only way to get at my content was to go through Tumblr's website itself, I had already lost all right to it truly being mine.

For these reasons and others, I had kept my eyes open for interesting alternatives that provided the same platform support and built-in audience that Tumblr promised without the added "benefits" of being a social network that made its money from advertising and lock-in. As I said at the outset, Part 2 will be for the specifics of the search process, but the conclusion is this site, hosted on GitHub Pages, which uses Jekyll, a simple, blog-aware static file website platform. I decided on GitHub for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to those gripes listed above, but not the least of which was a general feeling of ownership that simply did not exist with Tumblr. GitHub also has a community that is awesome; a proven, sustainable business model (that doesn't depend on ads and social networking lock-in); and the ability to run my site any way I want to.

Once I made the decisions to move off of Tumblr and onto GitHub, I worked tirelessly to find a base design with a code base that I understood and felt comfortable tweaking (and overhauling, if necessary) and get my content ported over, which is a blog post in and of itself. The whole process took about two weeks and you are reading this post on the product, which admittedly still has some work that needs to be done. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed the time spent so far learning what I could do with my new platform of choice and I am looking forward to growing my skills as a programmer and GitHub community member, as I finalize the design and continue my journey as a writer.