How This Blog Works

I have had this blog for quite a while in one form or another. It started with hand-written HTML postings uploaded through FTP. I switched to Google’s Blogger (aka Blogspot) for some separate blogging about poker and then made that the main blog for a while. Those posts still exist and some of them have been migrated forward1 . After a few years of that, I switched to a Wordpress site hosted on a server shared with other family. All of the posts fom that era have been brought forward to the current system. Now the blog is being published though a static-site generator call Hugo.

All in all I have been pecking at it since 2001 1a . I am not very good or very consistent, but it keeps coming in dribs and drabs.

Given recent events in the micro-blogging world and with the advent of several new publishing sites, I figure some folks might find it useful to learn how I manage the site and what tools I use to publish what little I do write.C

Content Control

Being able to keep all of the documents that form the blog in something that is easy to version and easy to backup is extremely important. It is important that you have direct control over the existence of the documents that form the blog. This is your writing; your work. Losing some or all of it because you entrusted it to some company that could shut down is just to great a risk to take. It does not matter how big they are or how long they have been around, there are just too many ways organizations and products can go away to leave you stranded.

Even when I was using tools that contained the content of the posts in a form that was mostly out of my control, I made sure to have ways to backup or export that content regularly. Being able to do this and having done it somewhat regularly is the only reason I was able to move all of those old posts forward to the current system. Many folks get started on a system and neglect this aspect until they find themselves without their content because the tools they were using went away.

I currently use plain-text tools and a git archive to store the sources for this blog. I do use Github and use its tools to do the automated publishing; however, were they to close up shop I would still have my local copy (and the backups) as the primary source for the content.

It is very important that you maintain ultimate control of the sources of your content even if you do not think this is something important or that you will be doing it seriously. I’ve been very happy these past few days of putting this together to re-read some of the tidbits of family history from the past 20 years. I would not have been able to have that joy were I not keeping track of those sources.


To put something on the web, it has to be hosted somewhere. While you can set up a machine and host it yourself, that is fraught with effort and complexities that most of us do not want to deal with. It is far simpler, and more reliable, to rent some hosting ‘in the cloud’ (i.e. Other People’s Computers).

I have used Dreamhost§ as a provider for that service for a couple of years and am very happy with them2 . There are many companies that provide hosting of one sort or another. You are best to try to choose one that you expect to be around for a while over the cheapest you find3 .

I know several folks who use Github Pages for their site hosting and some who use AWS Storage. Use whatever you are comfortable with and fits within your preferred level of techy zone (or which you have support for from you favorite techy folks).

Blog Publishing

There are many platforms for publishing information on the internet these days. Raw websites, hosted platforms such as Substack, Ghost, Medium, Patreon, Wordpress, etc.

I opted for a fairly simple static web site in this currrent form for my blog. However, instead of hand-coding the HTML, CSS, etc. I have chosen to use a site generator that reads documents in a form that is easier to write in and generates all of that. The tool I am using is Hugo. There are many other static site generators out that that do much the same work. The three main reasons I chose it are that:

  • It was recommended by a trusted colleague
  • It takes Markdown as the main document format
  • It allows me to keep the entire site in version control both for backup and for the usual version-control benefits.

Having someone who already uses the tool speak well of it cannot be understated. Before you commit much time to using a website tool of any form, you should ask around to see how it works for folks who have already committed. After a good reference, some time spent experimenting with the tool before fully committing is important. I spent a couple of weeks exercise the templating, publishing, and importing tools provided with Hugo before fully commiting to using it.

Using Markdown (a simple document markup format) as the main input is helpful for me because I tend to spend a considerable amount of time writing Markdown-formatted documents for my day job (sofware development). Hugo makes extensive use of Markdown and adds some things to the format that make it flexible enough to create a decent looking and functional web site. Most other blog publishing systems provide provide similar tools in one form or another.

It is also important to find a tool that fits your techy comfort level. Most of the main tools have some form of the experience which is basically Type It and Post It. This is good for folks who do not want to mess about with moving past stock design templates. If you want to have a hand in designing the layout and look of your site you have to be ready to either learn a bit about the tool’s mechanisms for design or be ready to pony up some to pay someone to do it for you. Either is fine, you just have to be ready for that.


All that remains once you have the tooling set up is to write it and publish it. Which I suck at.

Enjoy your blogging.

  •   Some links are referrals that might send some coins my way. In no way is anything here sponsored. Links like this are to products I use and recommend.
  •   Which is a reminder that I need to migrate them i.e. convert from the XML backup to Markdown in Hugo files in the blog content folders. Sigh. (During the time while writing this post I decided to do that migration. Now I have 203 more old posts added to the blog)
  •   I have actually found an old archive of my hand-coded-html blog with posts going back to 2001. Now I have to re-learn how to use CVS (on a Mac) to get those files into a form I can import the posts. (And Solved. Separate post for that coming.)
  •   Thanks to Clay Dowling for his posting on this topic which poddded me to write this. You should also see his beautiful photograhs.
  •   In addition to hosting the site that serves up the webpage for the blog, a host like Dreamhost can provide a Mail Server; which they do, and that I use. Schmonz might be comfortable running a mail server, but that is also another techy rabbit hole that I am happy to stay out of.
  •   Speaking from personal experience and shuddering at the memory of the hassle caused when a provider went away without any warning.