Thoughts on My Blog
Jun 2023 - Alex Alejandre

Making a blog carries a lot of decisions. There are many layouts, article lengths etc. around. I overthink about all of them.

Design

I dislike modern web design (since ~2005, with minor exceptions like https://tenorbiel.com/) but I’m yet not transcendent enough to forego CSS like the greybeards nor cyberpunk enough for: https://sive.rs/ I considered these approaches:

My current writing is unsuitable for greybeard style. These days, I aim for succinctness, though oft tempted by rhetorical flourishes. I struggle to chain thoughts perfectly, while also skipping transitional phrases. this is why, as a result, indeed… Without enough text to fill up paragraphs, that style’d appear barren. But with my text size increased and the text field set in a narrow column, I’m forced to use even shorter paragraphs. A scaling down the font (particularly with justified text) results in a claustrophobic and blocky view, like a newspaper.

Navigation is clearly an issue - some tell me the sidebar looks hideous. Considering aesthetics alone, moving the bar further to the left and omitting everything under the social media tags, might look nice, but how would articles be discoverable? The landing page could be a list of all article titles https://vfoley.xyz/ with topic pages following the same mold. This feels dirty to me (at least for non-tech topics. Alas, a background of foxed, wilted paper wouldn’t match chunks of code other.) I worry about this because I always veer into exploratory writing, where collecting thoughts and evidence, coming up with a narrative which I write towards, before the writing process settles on something else, with me left unsure how to present the tangential insights along the way. I’ve not yet mastered building the final mosaic out of the gold nuggets I found on the way. I fear limiting myself to a certain form of displaying content creates another hurdle Good primitives and abstractions free you from accidental concerns. (instead of freeing me from worry.)

For the landing page, I originally described myself before moving it to an about page. https://www.noyardstick.com/ inspired me to forego anything but an article listing.

I used hugo made my own theme, based on Tufte css, with partials for various features. CSS was a struggle, especially for presenting poetry. I should probably mark poetry pages separately to use their own CSS! (the functionality already exists for language). I totally disregarded mobile but since I like to have 4 windows (narrow columns) on my laptop, I did design for small screens.

I attempted to use descriptive html/css but used aside for the sidebar with logo inside it, a violation. I also don’t use h# elements correctly, mostly defaulting to 3 because of how my Obsidian and vscode are configured. I actually did not utilize hugo’s language feature but implemented my own, because hugo seems to expect folders or content file names to define the language. At the moment, I only believe I’ll have poetry in other languages (for myself, so discoverability’s no issue.)

I’ve used Astro and Gatsby at work and have made my own SSG toys, but opted for Hugo because I’m uncomfortable with the JS and Python ecosystems. Haskyll, Haunt, Coleslaw etc. are too fun, I kept it simple. Jamstack is both interesting and horrifying.

General

I am not writing towards a specific audience, and have 3/4 main topics which will split them. This is fine. (I reject choosing topics based on current trends, market research etc. as recomended here and there)

I am intentionally not including pictures, not SEO optimizing etc. I am a proponent of the small web.

No analytics.

I’m not sure how to deal with links/sources in case of them dying. Gwern clones everything and rehosts himself, which is a bit much. In most cases I just drop links, but a source section on the bottom could be nice. Perhaps it’s worth finding a way to add link descriptions with the title from markdown.

I’m not sure how to balance different topics e.g. in the about page of book lists. (About poetic Alex. About software Alex…?) The list of software books is already huge, let alone chemistry and math….

Now a member of:

Performance

A friend hooked me up. Before any modification/optimization:

I did some minimal optimizations but will not do the following:

  • logo element will stay in aside, due to css structure, which hurts accessibility. I won’t use divs.
  • I will not make tap targets bigger for mobile friendly, used for SEO

This gives me:

  • 100% performance, 97% accessibility, 100% best practices, 87% SEO
  • 1 error, 2 warnings

A week later, I am now at 100% everything: https://pagespeed.web.dev/analysis/https-alexalejandre-com-about/f5r4o19eq6?form_factor=desktop

I found more:

Future Goals

In the future I should:

  • add keywords (use front matter tags to baseof.html’s meta keywords?)
  • try something like: https://volutico.eu/
  • ci/cd - atm i manually zip etc.
  • use h1-3 instead of only h3 for sections?
    • made them the same in css