Posts from 14 January 2018
I don't think aimless journaling is necessarily the best thing for me; it will never be interesting to read except by my biographer. In time (= once I have more material to occupy the rest of this site) I will probably move journaling to a less visible place on the site. The nature of this digital journal is not meaningfully different than the stuff I used to write in paper journals, but I'm definitely more self-conscious about what I put up because it will be publicly viewable.
Not about the content, necessarily—I can't fathom there being anything here that's, let's say, incriminating—but the sheer inanity is just … intense. Where am I today? What am I doing? In the past, I would journal for the handwriting exercise, or as a spiritual house-clearing; this digital version is a lot more like just obligation. I can't tell if it's what I should be writing, if it's meaningful or whatever, but I know I have a long list of "more important" topics that I could reach for if I truly wanted to bust out something else.
I think there is a different kind of output I'm going to attempt: mini projects. The current one that's been on the tip of my tongue is "100 interview questions, and their answers." The concept would be more or less, find (or recollect) common interview questions, and answer them. These could then be collected on the site under an appropriate header, like my AppAcademy stuff. I've known that once I have two or more significant categories, I will be adding a navigation page to those items, and perhaps styling them to give readers a sense of locality; this is a definite example of a good one.
Another thing that I've been self-conscious about is the lack of clear technical content. Where I do talk about and allude to design, I feel that the kind of cursory reading this site will gather from (say) potential employers won't really show a that I know my shit, unless there's a clear corner for "here be code blocks." Case in point: there's a multi-line ruby code block, but it's only in maybe the second week of the AA posts? In the ensuing 80+ posts, there's no more than inline code. Does that make me a worse person? Or do I simply need to mark out a specific corner where that stuff can life now?
Regardless, writing about that stuff doesn't come naturally to me—I find that the same energies that drive my writing drive my coding, and so when I code I'm too drained/satisfied to write extensively about it, and vice versa. Furthermore, none of the stuff I "discover" while working on personal code seems particularly clever, but I know that I've benefitted from other coders' forehead slappers in the past, so I should probably get off my high horse and try to give back to the community, so to speak.
Finally, between Bear, Notes, and random and sundry other text sources, I have more than enough fodder to provide for all sort of Hot Takes™ for the indefinite future, but given how my last politics post went (mentally, not what's on the page necessarily) I worry that unless I find a way to set boundaries I'm going to get more constipated with ideas. There aren't that many truly new ideas I've had in some time, but if I don't find a way to get them out, they tend to build up in unproductive ways. One solution is wikifying, but I think I might start trying instead to view them as mini writing exercises: how can I explain the kernel of this thought in 100 (meaningful) words?
Writing long is easy; writing short and good is so hard.
So. I have a local version of my rails re-write of this middleman blog working. For various reasons I decided that going for full control made the most sense1, and thus I ended up with something that's mostly okay. It's clear that certain doors are open now that weren't before, but it's taken a lot of effort to get here.
One of the habits I wanted to train myself in is in learning to accept external code more readily. I think I'm mostly won on that front, but it's still not perfect. The time it takes to learn an API is not always trivial, and it's not clear when my own assumptions differ from those of the authors' whether I'm correct, or they are. Case in point: I wanted some way to slugify categories and tags, and so went looking for ruby libraries that enable that, and found
friendly_id. It's pretty capable, but one thing I wanted to do was
first_or_create_by_slug. After looking through the docs, then the code, for a solution that would make this possible, I started to open a new issue asking for a way to do this. I quickly realized that my request would be meaningless, and I was better off putting together a hack that addressed my own needs, rather than asking for a general purpose solution that wouldn't be a positive addition to the gem.
Would I have realized this if I had elected to write my own code, or would I have made some hack that got me halfway only for me to realize that it's completely infeasible?
I am certain that using someone's CSS library (in this case, Zurb's Foundation) was a step forward. I hate worrying about browser compatibility, and at the end of the day I simply want a vocabulary that allows me to express visual ideas in a flexible way. CSS is a nightmare to figure out from source; thus, front-end frameworks offer advantages through documentation, examples, and actually being tested by people who care.
Back to the main thread: I've sort of paused out. This is being written via a web page on my local computer, and… I added two-way data pathways (import/export) from rails so that I can import test data (== my old blog posts) and compose new posts that can then be slurped up by middleman. It's not ideal—it's not the hosted solution I alluded to in an earlier post—but it's quite similar to the "admin app for composing static pages" half-solution I sketched out. The interface, and codebase, are both things I feel comfortable working on, and some of the ancillary effects I was hoping to see have panned out.
That is to say, I'm seeing how I can better (solo) handle problems I haven't seen before (like, finding and using Foundation in the first place), and getting better at judging what is and is not worth my time, even when I don't always close the loop on this knowledge. And adding weird features for personal use—like a button to output a post to markdown—doesn't feel as off-putting to me now as it might have in the past.
On the other hand, I did spend too long getting this site's CSS re-written so I could get the form classes for free, so it might be that the biggest gain I've gotten is clarity. I can see clearly now in all the ways I'm doing things that aren't in my best interests.
But it's all so pretttttty, and flexible!
The wall, now, is that getting the proof-of-concept code/configuration for external hosting and e.g. blue/green is … not a priority anymore? I can output whenever I want, and I've found stopgap ways to track the things I want to say, and while they're not all going up on the web yet, I can see a path that will make that happen in due time.
Namely, I want to extend the blog model in ways that aren't easily enabled by most blog platforms/static site generators, and the convolutions I could see happening in the near future were getting extreme. ↩