HWC: Reflection on Year One
One year ago, to (almost) this day, Marty McGuire and I hosted the first Homebrew Website Club Baltimore meetup. I remember Marty telling me about Indieweb and the idea for the meetup. At this point last year, I was wanting to devote a dedicated chunk of time to my personal website. Looking back via timehops and other social media reminders, I saw that at that first meetup I was excited that I was able to get Jekyll up and running! I originally decided to use Jekyll because I’d heard about the benefits of using Static Site Generators and Marty was using Jekyll, so I figured the best way to learn was to jump in and try it!
Being someone who will deliberate endlessly about approaches and tools before committing to a project, I wanted to at least jump right in. That first meeting was spent getting Jekyll to push some static HTML to a Github Pages. I felt a pretty big sense of accomplishment from that, but still hadn’t registered a domain or started contributing to owning my presence on the web.
Initial Site Setup
The next meetup was spent registering my domain and getting it up and running on Digital Ocean, and then shortly after that I decided that one of my main goals was to learn Hugo, an exceptionally fast static site generator powered by Golang. I decided that this would be what I’d spend my time on, and I was excitedly learning new things both about Indieweb Principles and how to integrate them into my site. I spent a lot of those early meetups adding things like my rel=me and my h-card markup. Each one that I added to my Hugo site template, I felt a sense of accomplishment.
Hitting a Wall
However, I started to eventually hit a bit of a wall. When I was faced with limited time I was constantly needing to evaluate whether to spend my time learning the tool (Hugo/Golang) and wanting to create content. I had the ideas and knew what I wanted to create, and even started several series of articles on my previous site, but when I would start pushing out blog posts I wouldn’t be working on implementing necessary features to my site.
Revisiting My Decision
Around June 2017 I reevaluated my initial decision to use a SSG instead of WordPress. My initial reasoning (and perhaps I’ll archive some of my posts deliberating on the pros/cons of this decision) was that I use WordPress in the work that I do at Digital Harbor Foundation so I elected to broaden my perspective and use a new tool. However, upon hearing about all the interesting and powerful things that the WordPress REST API could do I reconsidered this initial decision as I realized that I had a lot of personal exploration I could do within WordPress! I started to consider moving back to WordPress but spent most of the summer constantly second guessing myself as I felt as if I was abandoning everything that I did with Hugo and was giving up on it. Last meetup (9/6/17) I decided to set up WordPress on Digital Ocean and jump in. As a result, my site is currently barebones since it lacks the last year worth of content but due to the incredible (and growing!) WordPress Indieweb community I was able to “Indieweb-ify” my site very quickly.
The goal is that since I’m already familiar and comfortable with WordPress content development, I won’t have any barriers to publishing other than time.I’m currently using the Indieweb Publisher theme by Raam Dev. This theme enables lots of Indieweb functionality upon installation. Once familiar with the excellent Indiewebify getting started guide and basic WordPress features you’re able to get started very quickly.
WordPress and Indieweb
One common thread that Marty and I discussed over the last year was about whether or not there is benefit to us learning the growing set of Indieweb tools available for WordPress, and if becoming knowledgable about the setup process would open the doors for us for more outreach. I think that since WordPress already has a massive community, and since Indieweb has an ever-growing community of WordPress users, becoming familiar with the intersection of both makes sense and will help us get others started. I want to bolster my understanding and complete my implementation of the core principles of Indieweb and then help others understand the why behind this. My goal is to really accomplish the following core principles:
- Own my data and information
I want to then take my knowledge and experience and share it with the broader community.
Updated Goals and Purpose
There’s some amazing themes and plugins being developed for WordPress that handle some of the more complex technical requirements for implementing Indieweb principles. I now want to focus on helping others through two methods of outreach. First, to help any current WordPress users understand and integrate Indieweb principles into their site. Second, to help anyone who is interested in starting from scratch and building an Indieweb web presence through WordPress.
This will remain the core thrust of my Indieweb exploration from now on, but I want to also deepen my knowledge of what can be done with WordPress. There’s lots of exciting things on the horizon, and I want to give back to both the WordPress and Indieweb communities through sharing my experiences and lessons learned from the last year.