Seems like it has been already one full year since I started this blog. I just revisited my first post1 and am really happy that I stuck with it. I learned and understood a lot of technical things that I would have long forgotten without writing about it. And more importantly: Deep diving into topics and writing about them helped me understand better what topics and problems really interest me. This is not concrete yet, but I feel like I am in a much better place to pick a field to work in because of writing all these posts. That has been the biggest payoff from writing for me so far, as I generally have a hard time telling what interests me. So I want to continue to write in 2018 and hopefully be able to further chase down my interests.
I definitely want to continue my efforts in open source and I think future posts will reflect that. My contributions to the Babel project were a big milestone for me, even though most of them were minor and will not affect a lot of users. I wrote a post when the pull request that I considered my first real code and creative contribution2 got merged into master. I am super proud of it.
Insights on writing itself
When starting out I decided to focus on writing posts instead of figuring out the best setup for doing so. Writing takes a lot of time, so I want to use the little time I spend on this blog as efficiently as possible. However, I think one year of writing 51 posts is a good data set to do some evaluation on. Currently, this blog is a WordPress site with a custom theme I threw together. I wrote a small plugin to make the footnotes3 and created all posts. However, I have a couple of issues with this setup:
Text processing: I wrote all posts in the WordPress editor in HTML. I don’t mind typing “verbose” HTML tags at all. My belief is that if speed of typing is the bottleneck in writing or programming then the article or program is not interesting enough and not worth optimizing for. But I have come to enjoy working with markdown a lot more. It feels closer to the raw content of the text for me.
Vim: I started learning Vim and need any practice I can get. Writing posts is a different kind of text editing than programming, so I want to be able to write posts directly in Vim.
Longevity of content: The posts I am writing here are an insightful track record that I want to keep and extend as long as possible in one form or another. That means that the text should be stored in its rawest form possible without loosing value. If WordPress, the web, HTML and UTF-8 all die I want to be able to convert and recover my work into the next representation.
Version control: I love Git. I use it for every line of code that I keep for longer than a day, all university assignments (code and non-code) and all lecture notes I take in digital form. I need it for my writings too, period. WordPress puts my post into a MySQL database which is not very compatible with Git.
So these are issues I have with my current blog setup. I played around with the static site generator Jekyll for a bit and I think it can fix most of these issues. I hope to convert everything to a Jekyll blog this month, so let’s see how that goes.
Other cool things that happened
This blog got mentioned in a GitHub article on getting started in open source4[mnml_footnote]. They linked my article on my Babel PR I mentioned above, so this article was not only the most important for me but also the one who got the most traffic this year.
I got feedback on how to improve one of my bash scripts which was pretty cool5.
I got an interesting response on my post on Euclid’s proof of infinitely many primes that ended in disagreement6.
2018, year two!
So let’s 2018!