Ghost, the blogging platform that this blog runs on, recently received a major update. So I decided that I would update the version of my instance. Mainly because the update's main focus was adding support for members and email newsletters, which previously have been part of their "labs" section.
I took the necessary precautions, exported the content, even made a complete backup of the base folder. However, I still assumed that it would go well since Ghost has a command-line tool that should take care of everything.
Unfortunately for me, this migration didn't work. The cause was a failing database migration, which seemed odd to me since this is not something that I have changed. And it turns out; the rollback feature doesn't support major versions.
The next step was installing a new version of Ghost v3, which is pretty easy if you use the CLI tool. Once that was installed, I restored the content, and it worked as usual.
I was still set on updating to v4, though. So I tried again. This time thinking it will work because I have a completely fresh install. Sadly, the same error occurred. Which meant my only option was to start with a new v4 instance.
Luckily, the import functionality worked with my data, even though it was exported with a previous version. All I had to do was verify that worked, migrated members, configured the email newsletter, and made sure the images were all available. Everything went perfectly this time.
I'll need to look into the changes more and see if I can make use of anything. One thing I did notice was the excellent new default theme. So maybe I can steal a few things.
While the blog hasn't visibly changed, this migration did cause one annoyance. As after you set up a Ghost instance, it starts you off with a few default blog posts. So every time I did this, these dummy posts were available in the RSS feed. I think this also meant that a few recent posts were triggered when I did the import. This means, if your RSS reader/service polled for changes during this period, you'll most likely have a few posts that you can ignore. Sorry about this!
Throughout the many years of having a blog, I’ve tackled the idea of growth in a few different ways. For example, reposting the same content to multiple places in order for it to be viewed more, or taking the one post and sharing on as many social networks as possible, and even attempting to change my content to what the analytics told me that people liked.
My theory behind all of these actions was to try and grow the number of visitors to my blog and to increase the number of people that would read my writing. And in a lot of cases, I wanted readership to go up, because then I would get a higher amount of money from advertising, possibly even end up with sponsorships, and be able to dedicate more time to my writing.
After a while of not exactly getting very far, I decided that it wasn’t worth the effort to try and “grow” my blog. But instead, I should just keep going, sharing a link to Twitter, and possibly one or two more places depending on the content. Because that way, if anyone liked my writing, there’s a chance they might share a link somewhere, and the growth would be more organic and sustainable.
I wrote recently about leaning into your own perspective when writing, and it comes from a similar thought process I had when thinking about growth, and deciding where I want to take this blog in the long term. I essentially took a step back and examined my situation. I wasn’t making any money really on the blog through advertising, not much more than paying for the hosting and domain name. I wasn’t particularly interested in running a blog dedicated to a certain topic or audience. And I started to not care if people liked what I was writing.
That made me think, if money isn’t going to be a significant factor in any decision, and I have no desire to write for a specific audience, then I may as well just write for myself. Then if people like what I write about, then great, and if not then it doesn’t particularly matter. Because if I decide that I want to write for this blog for another 10 years, and the idea of making a living from my blog isn’t realistic, then I think it’s a much better decision to focus on what I want to write about, and my own perspective that I can share. Rather than trying to fit in with everyone else, and create nonsense posts that don’t interest me or anyone else.
So to wrap up, I think my attitude towards growth has evolved from simply wanting a huge audience, to wanting an audience for the benefits of making a living, to just not caring about it at all. That’s not to say I don’t want people to read my writing, I’m just not writing with the goal of gaining more readers. That job is up to the quality of my work alone.
As of right now, this blog has been moved away from the previous subdomain blog.chrishannah.me and simply on chrishannah.me. I've wanted to make that switch for a while now, but it didn't seem worthwhile on its own.
However, along with the domain switch, I've migrated the blog from WordPress to Ghost. That won't matter to most people, and I don't expect it to either. But basically, it means the blog is much more lightweight, and I can provide a few extra things like estimated reading time, primary tags above the post to help contextualise, and a few other technical things that only I care about. I think WordPress could achieve everything that Ghost can do, but it comes with a lot of baggage.
Anyway, enough of that.
The only thing that has changed from a reader point of view is the new domain (Or lack of subdomain). I have set up 301 redirects, so if you do visit the old URL, you will be redirected to the new version. However, it's obviously not a permanent solution.
That also means that the old RSS feed will still work, while the redirects are still there. But just to make sure you don't have any issues, the new RSS feed is: chrishannah.me/feed.
While I'm pretty sure everything has migrated over, and it's all working fine. If you see anything odd, please let me know.
There are times where I want to write a quick post here on my blog, but either it can be a quick thought, small review, or something that just doesn’t fit within the typical content on this blog. Last year I used to write a lot of this stuff on Micro.blog, but recently I’ve been wanting to move it here, where I can truly say I own my content.
I’ve had a category for “micro posts” on this blog for quite a while now, although it’s not always been very visible. As it stands it’s mostly a collection of Micro.blog posts, around 6 months of me keeping a journal, and some photos. But what I want it to turn into is a place where I write more informally, which is what I’m going to do! So if that sounds like something that interests you, check out the asides section. If you’re really like it, then feel free to subscribe via RSS.
This decision may change in the future, but as of right now, this new section will be separated from the main content on the blog. As in posts won’t appear in the main RSS feed or on the homepage. It certainly feels right to have them excluded from the RSS feed because I appreciate not everyone will want this extra level of commentary from me. But I’m open to the idea to eventually have them somehow fit on to the main section on the website. We’ll see how it goes.
If you read the last issue of my Weekly Links newsletter, you may of seen my comment about my desire to expand the content. With this weeks issue, I’m going to take a step in that direction.
The past issues have simple been a list of links from all over the internet that I find interesting, it’s pretty simple and very minimal. I’m not saying I want to rich newsletter full of embeds, and images, but I’m going to be separating content into sections, which will lead me into including more content in general. For the beginning at least, it will still be a basic email containing hardly any formatting, but loads of links.
The sections that will be included from this week forward are:
On the Blog
What I’m Up To
They’re pretty explanatory, but the basic idea behind the transition is that the simple list of links is a bit unorganised. And some weeks, it’s simply not very long. But I’ve got content that I post on the blog, there’s tons of great videos that I watch, and I’m always working on something random. So why not share it here?
In the future, I want to add a podcast section, because I sure do listen to a lot of those. But adding a list of everything I’ve listened to isn’t good for me or anyone reading it. So maybe this will be my favourite/recommended episodes, and probably will end up being a less regular section. I was thinking every month, but this is a weekly newsletter, so every 4 weeks is a good alternative.
Anyway, you can sign up for the newsletter right now, which means you’ll have access to the past (boring) issues, and one new one which goes out tonight. All issues are usually send out on the Friday evening, but occasionally I’m busy and it gets pushed to Saturday morning.
Also, for the sake of my sanity. I’ll be starting the new issues at #1.
I’ve been getting more obsessed with these two things recently, and you may have already noticed it with the recent “redesign”, if you can call it that. Basically, the design has been simplified even more, and a higher focus (like everyone always says) has been put on the content.
I’ve had this mindset towards website sizes, and how fast they should load for quite a while. But it’s only the past week or so that I’ve put effort into sorting out my website.
It started with optimising the images on the website, which consisted of resizing every image so that the width didn’t exceed 1400px and height didn’t exceed 1200px. They’re not exactly small sizes, but we live in a Retina world, and I have to put up with that. On top of that, all PNGs were put through the highest compression in Squash 2, and any image that was currently on the front page (I really couldn’t be bothered to do this for every post), was converted to JPG.
It was a decent start, and it certainly made a noticeable change in the size, with it taking my home page from 6MB to 1.2MB. It’s a relatively big difference, but I still felt that it wasn’t near enough what I was aiming for.
My desire is to have my website show off the content really nicely, be measured in mere kilobytes, and load so fast it’s not even recognisable.
Fast forward to today, where both the size and load speed metrics have improved a lot. I’ve been playing around with a few static site generators, and thinking about doing a more custom approach to the website, but I realised that Ghost (what this site runs on) can be manipulated itself. So for now, nothing major has changed with the underlying blog engine.
I have done a few things though:
Removed Prism – this was the already small library that I used to style any embedded code, but it’s not really relevant.
Cleaned up and minified my CSS file (yes, I write basic css).
Google Analytics was the hardest to remove, but I got down to a point a page showing a single text-only post, would be roughly 50KB. 29KB of that was Google Analytics. This was didn’t seem like nice ratio to me, so for now it is gone. Hopefully in the future, I can write something minimal myself to track basic page views, but I’m not worried about that just yet.
Here are a few examples of the website size and load speeds:
I’m really happy with the low page sizes, and it appears the only thing truly adding to the size now is the images, which I can deal with. I’ll just start to use them where the need to be used, and nowhere else. The load speeds varied across multiple attempts, so that’s why a range was given (caches were disabled).
My next step will be to try and further optimised the actual Ghost engine itself, to see if any speed improvements can be made there. And I guess maybe an improved cloud server would help also? Then there is the dream goal of custom web analytics.
So rest assured, for now, nothing is being tracked on this website.
I’d be very interested in hearing everyone else opinions on website sizes, and all the rubbish I’ve wrote here in this post. Because while I really want my blog to be under 10Kb in most scenarios, it probably doesn’t make a huge difference to the reader.