About me: My name is Solène Rapenne, pronouns she/her. I like learning and sharing knowledge. Hobbies: '(NixOS BSD OpenBSD Lisp cmdline gaming internet-stuff). I love percent and lambda characters. OpenBSD developer solene@.

Contact me: solene on libera.chat, solene+www at dataswamp dot org or @solene@bsd.network (mastodon). If for some reason you want to support my work, this is my paypal address: donate@perso.pw.

My blog workflow

Written by Solène, on 28 August 2022.
Tags: #blog #life

Comments on Fediverse/Mastodon

Introduction §

I occasionally get feedback about my blog, most of the time people are impressed with the rate of publication when they see the index page. I'm surprised it appears to be huge efforts, so I'll explain how I work on my blog.

Make it simple §

I rarely spend more than 40 minutes for a blog post, the average blog post takes 20 minutes. Most of them are sharing something I fiddled with in the day or week, so the topic is still fresh for me. The content of the short articles often consists of dumping a few commands / configuration I used, and write a bit of text around so the reader knows what to expect from the article, how to use the content and what's the point of the topic.

It's important to keep track of commands/configuration beforehand, so when I'm trying something new, and I think I could write about it, I keep a simple text file somewhere with the few commands I typed or traps I encountered.

Write ideas down §

My fear with regard to the blog is to be out of ideas, this would mean I would have boring days and I would have nothing to write about. Sometimes I look at packages repository updates in different Linux distribution, and look at the projects homepages for which the name is unknown to me. This is a fun way to discover new programs / tools and ideas. When something looks interesting, I write its name down somewhere and may come later to it. I also write down any idea that I could get in my mind about some unusual setup I would like to try, if I come to try it, it will certainly end up as a new blog entry to share my experience.

Don't think too much §

There are two rules for the blog: having fun and not lie/be accurate. Having fun? Yes, writing can be fun, organizing ideas and sharing them is a cool exercise. Watching the result is fun. Thinking too much about perfection is not fun.

I prefer to write most of the blog posts in one shot, quickly proofread and publish, and be done with it. If I save a blog post as a draft, I may not pick it up quickly, and it's not fun to get into the context to continue it. I occasionally abandon some posts because of that, or simply delete the file and start over.

Sometimes it happens I'm wrong when writing, in the case I prefer to remove the blog post than keeping it online at all cost. When I know a text is terribly outdated, I either remove it from the index or update it.

I don't use any analytics services and I do the blog for free, the only incentive is to have fun and to know it will certainly help someone to look for information.

The blog software §

This website is generated with a custom blog generator I wrote a few years ago (cl-yag), the workflow to use it is very simple it never fails to me:

  • write the blog file in the format I want, I currently use GemText but in the past some blog posts were written in org-mode, man page or markdown
  • add an entry in the list of articles, this contains all the metadata such as the title, date, tags and description for the open graph protocol (optional)
  • run "make"
  • wait 30s, it's online on HTTP / gopher / Gemini

The program is really fast despite it's generating all the files every time, the "raw text to HTML" content is cached and reused when wrapping the HTML in the blog layout, the Gemini version is published as-this, and the gopher files are processed by a Perl script rewriting all the links and wrapping the text (takes a while).

Quick proofreading §

Before publishing, I read my text and run a spellcheck program on it, my favorite is LanguageTool because it finds so many mistake versus aspell which only finds obvious typos.

More advanced blog posts §

It happens for some blog posts to be more elaborated, they often describe a complex setup and I need to ensure readers can reproduce all the steps and get the same results as me. This kind of blog post takes a day to write, they often require using a spare computer for experimentation, formatting, installing, downloading things, adjusting the text, starting over because I changed the text...

Conclusion §

If you want to publish a blog, my advices would be to have fun, to use a blog/website generator that doesn't get in your way, and to not be afraid to get started. It could be scary at first to publish texts on the wild Internet, and fear to be wrong, but it happens, accept it, learn from your mistakes and improve for the next time.