I'm building a new blog. It's been 3 months since the start of quarantine. Neighbors are in the streets protesting police brutality against Black people. And I'm building a blog.
(I would be remiss not to say this: Black lives matter. Defund the police. Dismantle white supremacy.)
Why am I doing this? Why now?
Partly to self soothe, partly because I want to build a habit I can be proud of a few years down the line. I want to practice the crafts of journaling, technical writing, digital scrapbooking, and self-editing. To some degree this is an exercise in nostalgia: when I started out as a programmer, I really loved reading the PLAN files of developers of game devs like John Carmack and the Dynamix team. I miss the internet of that era: carving out a corner of the web and, yanno, just talking about your interests and being a person.
Social media feels a bit like being I'm being rented a birdhouse for a bit of my soul (HT TMBG, sic). I don't really own my twitter account, my Facebook account, or my instagram account. I pay for it with my attention. I pay for it by contorting myself to fit the platform. I feel constrained by the medium.
I want to be careful about that point, because it treads dangerously close to the gross, entitled white guy mode. I mean "constrained" in the sense that I unconsciously consider the audience when I post on social media. It is a performative feedback loop and the act of participating changes me. The tiny endorphin hit of posting something popular on Twitter and seeing notifications roll in shapes what I'm likely to post in the future. I become lopsided. I have been lopsided.
The other problem with this rented birdhouse is that by using it, I take up space that others might use more effectively. I'm thinking of the #blackout Tuesday Instagram tag in particular. In the middle of the protests, in an attempt to show solidarity with protesters, folks started posting black rectangles. Contrary to their intent, this had the effect of pushing useful information about the protests out of Instagram feeds.
Posting about tech on Twitter right now feels like taking the bullhorn out of the hands of people who need it to yell something inane about my hobbies. I don't want to do that, but I do want to write about my hobbies (Especially right now as a desperately-needed form of self-soothing.) The internet doesn't have to be a zero-sum game this way, but that's how social media works.
So, I'm going to write about my hobbies here. In the interest of becoming a less lopsided person, I'm going to write about all of my hobbies here, so tech stuff will be mixed in with art stuff, and that'll get mixed in with links to songs I'm listening to or videos I'm watching or articles I'm reading. If it goes well it'll make someone happy, even if it's just me. Watch this space.
How does it work?
Okay, you asked for it -- let's navel-gaze.
This blog is HTML and assets served by Cloudflare from a public AWS S3 bucket. GitHub actions are responsible for downloading a zip file full of MarkDown from Dropbox using their API, then rendering them with Zola.
Elsewhere, I've registered a Dropbox app and provided a webhook that
calls an AWS Lambda function via their API Gateway system. The Lambda
dispatches GitHub repository dispatch events whenever a file in my
Dropbox changes. I have a locally symlinked
~/blog directory, in which
I write files using NeoVim.
To the extent possible, all of the infrastructure involved is managed through Terraform via my personal infrastructure project.
Notably, my use of these services is not an endorsement. In particular, GitHub is problematic for its support of ICE; AWS for its treatment of workers. Tech is complicit in white supremacy. I use these services because they are where my expertise lay and I want to start this practice today. I will work to move off of problematic platforms where I am able to, and will agitate for them to do better where I am not. (It's not a lot, admittedly, but.)