It was the
2020-07-28 (yyyy-mm-dd), that is, yesterday of one year
ago, when I published my first blog-post ever. From now on this
date will officially represent the birth of this blog/site.
The actual content of my first blog-post was pretty specific and
technical. It detailed how I configured
mu4e, an Emacs package for
reading and sending emails (link). To be honest I had no intention
of publishing it, I just did it because a friend of mine asked
about my mu4e setup, and to explain it to him it took longer than I
thought. Since I’m a bit lazy, I didn’t want to invest all that
energy the next time someone asked me about the same
setup. Therefore I thought: “I’ll just write it up, publish it
somewhere, and the next time I have to explain it I can just link
the article instead.”
I’m very happy I started to publish what I write, because it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Even if my friend hadn’t asked me about my email setup, I probably would’ve found another excuse to start publishing my writings. Writing It’s a somewhat recent discovery for me, considering I never really did write in my childhood and teen years. It’s a long story, but in my early 20s I realized that I love writing, because it allows me to express the uniqueness of my existence like nothing else manages to.
Getting to the point of this blog-post: since today is the
2021-07-29, yesterday my blog became officially a small one-year
old blog. I’m very proud of the work I’ve put in my blog throughout
this year, especially because I had other stuff, emotional stuff,
to deal with, and you probably already know, or can guess, that
emotions are always messy to manage.
I strongly believe that working on this blog definitely helped me a lot in those areas as well, because it gave me a sense of direction to my life. It gave me the feeling that I was working towards something bigger, and each and every day I did something for my blog, be it some technical improvements, style changes, or just the act of writing something new, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of meaning growing on me.
This sense of meaning did not stop, and everyday it slowly continues to do its magic. And that’s why I want to start writing yearly-reviews regarding my blog: to document how it changes year to year, and, most importantly, to show that most things (if not all) start small and messy, and only through small improvements they can become truly unique and beautiful.
Indeed, working for my blog project for over a year, I now appreciate much more the concept which I roughly call “the power of cumulative small efforts”. That is, the idea that by putting a bit of work everyday, or every week, towards a single project, you can grow and refine it and slowly move it ever-closer to your vision.
Being a computer scientist I obviously used versioning-control
git) to manage my blog. This means I have access to every
version of the blog I have commited in the past. Something very
useful for these yearly reviews.
There are various aspects of a blog, all of which do deserve some kind of attention. The most important ones are: where it is hosted; how it is managed; how it looks like. These aspects will be discussed separately.
As far as the hosting goes, I’ve used throughout the year vultr, and I have to say I’m pretty satisfied with both the price and the service (I do not get any money from them, btw).
So, there’s not much to say here, since I plan to keep using their VPS.
As I said previously, I’m a bit lazy, so if I have to work on producing content I need to automate everything as much as possible so that the only thing I need to worry about is, well, the act of creation.
I’m happy to say that I have found the perfect combination for automating the process of managing a blog. A part from the basic software stack needed to run a server (like, for example, the server itself, which in my case is nginx), this achievement is only due to the following software packages:
Hugo, a static site generator which takes
.mdfiles and uses them to generate the
.jsfiles needed to have a static site such as this one.
Ox-hugo, an Emacs package which allows you to export
.orgfiles into the
.mdfiles which are then used by Hugo as previously mentioned.
With this setup I can manage an entire blog with only a single
.org file which contains every post and every page of interest.
I won’t go into the technical details of this setup right now, but I can’t stress enough just how good this setup is for someone who already likes Emacs a lot (such as myself). With this setup I’m able to focus exactly on the only thing that matters: writing.
The cool thing about the way I have managed my blog throughout the year it is that I always used the same setup since the start, and it has worked so amazingly that I see no valid reasons to change any of it.
Finding a good technological combination that allowed me to focus only on writing was probably the most important thing that pushed me to write more and more.
Let us now consider how my blog has changed in terms of appearance over the year. This is probably the area that saw most changes.
By going backwards with
git checkout to the first interesting
commit we see the following introduction page
As you can see, its pretty empty: there are only the blog posts and nothing else.
I didn’t like this emptiness, and so over the months I tried to add something to it to make it more “mine”. Initially, it wasn’t much.
It took a bit of trial and error to find the introduction that felt right, but I had an idea of how I wanted to do it, and so I started to converge to it.
I really liked the idea of showing the various topics I was interested in as soon as you loaded the first page. But I was not satisfied like this. I wanted to make it more vivid, and you know what they say: a picture is worth a thousand words
And that’s pretty much it. The final version, the one currently live, is the following one.
I still have so much work that I want to do on this blog in regards to style and appearance. I hope the next year it will look a bit different, and I hope it will be ever-closer to the way I want it to look like.
Other than the main blog section of my site, over the year I’ve
also improved what I call my
ppa, which stands for
personal public archive and which is a sort of, well, archive of all my notes, and
of the code I write.
Right now it’s main contents are all related to university (computer science), but in the future it will also contain a lot of stuff which are simply interesting to me and that have nothing to do with university. If you are interested in it you should read the related README.
I will have a seperate blog post describing what it is and why you might care about its contents, but here I just wanted to mention that yesterday I computed some statistics to understand how many files I have added over the past year to my archive, and well, the results are shown below
-------------------- 29-Jul-2021 (05:05) TOTAL FILES: 1813 FILES PER EXTENSION: png,1145 html,316 jpg,114 pdf,107 py,32 c,13 txt,11 css,10 org,9 gif,9 None,7 h,6 jpeg,4 dot,4 mp4,3 img,3 js,2 svg,2 r,2 ipynb,2 pickle,2 el,2 scm,2 cpp,2 htm,1 mp3,1 csv,1 sh,1
Numbers like this don’t necessarily mean much, but I know that I have spent quite a lot of time trying to write good notes, so I’m pretty proud of the overall volume.
In general, I’m very happy of what I managed to accomplish this year.
The coolest thing is that this was the first year where I truly configured and, in some cases, developed my own simple technology (such as some python/bash scripting) to aid in the creation and management of my work.
That’s what software should be all about: helping people realize their vision.