Hello!

Hello!

By Brian ToJanuary 1st, 2020

Congratulations, you've discovered my blog. This is my professional/personal-ish blog where I'll share my learnings, thoughts, projects, passions, pursuits, or whatever I want. I intend to publish at least one article a year until 2030.

The lost art of blogging

I started my journey in software engineering with web design, around 2007. It was an exciting time: MySpace was still ascendant, with many amateurs designing very... unique profiles, and no competitor in sight except for a niche site by some Harvard dropout. The iPhone had just been announced and many were skeptical that it would even catch on. And the web design world was abuzz with the winds of change. "Web 2.0" was in motion, with industry web developers and designers pushing out innovations that nowadays seem banal: being able to include your own fonts; a JavaScript framework that allowed you to create sophisticated front-ends; and only one year ago, we had found out how to implement fluid-width layouts reliably across browsers. We desperately wanted users to adopt Mozilla Firefox, because it was much easier to work with these technologies compared to Internet Explorer. Oh yeah, and Google Chrome hadn't even been released yet.

And the primary method of disseminating knowledge in this rapidly shifting time was the blog. I remember spending hours reading blogs, reading about designers' discoveries, observations, and hopes for this exciting era of web design. Every blog stood out, its design tailored to every author's needs (even if it was just lightly customized from a template), and although it was relatively costly to set up a website those days (nowadays, it's quite literally free), everyone found the need and the compulsion to create one and read one. Although each blog stood on its own, one could subscribe to the RSS feed provided by each blog for updates. And every blog was accessible in the open through a web browser, since it was all just the same HTML. Everyone could curate a constellation of content that was unique to one's interests and needs

Nowadays, our constellation is a lot more grown up, a lot more mundane, and–sadly–very controlled. It's now easier to set up your own website, for free, without any ads, than ever before. Yet we publish our content to one of only a dozen of large services or apps.

The biggest casualty of this? You guessed it – the personal website. Nowadays, in my field of software engineering, one makes a personal website and immediately neglects it the moment they get a job. Worse, they might even take it down. After all, why bother if it's not going to get any views or likes, even though it literally costs you nothing to share your ideas?

This blog is a tiny attempt to reverse the tide, and fight against the notion shared by many of my peers that it's useless to start a personal website. The World Wide Web was started so that anyone who had something to say could do so. And I think it's something to embrace, especially as this decade starts anew.

There's no ads or tracking. I timed the page load using Chrome's profiler with network throttling on a phone viewport and the text showed up in 600 milliseconds. By contrast, I tried loading a post off of a popular blogging platform with the same throttling, and it took almost 6 seconds for the text to show up at all. If I do my work right, page loads should be instantaneous on an LTE connection.

How it all works

This blog is powered by Gatsby, so it's 100% static, there's no server-side rendering, and all pages are optimized by default. JavaScript is used in the background as progressive enhancement; it's certainly not necessary. I wouldn't be able to get this blog up and running so fast without a starter site called Brevifolia by Kendall Strautman, so go check out her work.

The design and contents are hosted on GitHub, and lovingly built through continuous integration on Netlify, which also hosts the published blog. I use Forestry to edit the content.

Fonts used are Objektiv by Dalton Maag and IBM Plex Mono by, well, IBM. Both are served by Typekit.

It's trendy to distill things to a collection of axioms or principles, especially in Seattle. So here are my core philosophies for the blog:

  1. The perfect is the enemy of the good.
  2. There's always room for improvement.
  3. No ads or tracking, ever.
  4. No clutter, and a snappy, reader-focused design.

How do I follow you?

Okay. To be honest I didn't think anyone was going to make it this far... but you can follow me the same way that people followed websites before – just visiting them every once in a while. Or use my RSS feed!

In the meantime, stay tuned for my first post, about my take on the standard todo list app.