A Fresh Start with Gatsby

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A Fresh Start with Gatsby

16 Sep 2020

I have had multiple iterations of blogs throughout my career using various technologies including Wordpress, Jekyll, and several versions of a homebrewed blog engine (classic...). I've always struggled with creating regular posts and my blog has often been neglected however I'm now feeling motivated to begin again with a completely empty blog built using Gatsby.

Why a fresh start?

I've always tried to migrate my posts across the different versions of my blogs. I wanted to try to keep the existing traffic coming to my blog from search engines and inbound links and over time maintaining redirects became too much effort.

Given how I neglected my blog and the rate of progression within the industry, nearly all of my content was out of date and irrelevant to the state of the industry in 2020. On top of this some of my most popular articles expressed opinions from when I had much less experience and which I no longer agree with. My efforts to maintain the inbound traffic to my blog made this particularly frustrating as I wanted to keep the content on my blog but to draw readers attention to more recent posts which explained my updated opinions. Naturally no one read the new posts.

Beginning again gives me an opportunity to share my up-to-date opinions (which will obviously change) without worrying about conflicting messages from my posts.

What is the value in maintaining a blog?

For me the most valuable aspect of writing blog posts is that the act of writing something down publicly forces me to have clarity of opinion. Written communication is important within the industry which we don't practice often enough as developers. I haven't always managed to produce quality writing, communicate well, or present clear opinions in my past posts but the act of practicing writing is useful.

Throughout my career I have always enjoyed teaching and mentoring within the teams I've worked on; maintaining a blog gives me another way to do this.

 What is different this time?

I want to approach the posts on this new blog with a different style than on my previous blog. Those posts were often in the style of a tutorial on some really specific technology or implementation detail which quickly became dated. With this blog I want more of the content to be about higher level concepts and principles which I think will maintain their relevance better as technologies come and go. I'd expect there will be some tutorial-style posts on this new blog too but I don't want them to make up a large percentage of the content.

These tutorial-style posts also created another problem for me; they took a huge amount of effort to create. The time investment to create and validate the code samples, produce the text for the blog post, and endless proofreading to ensure it could be followed became off-putting. Every post took many hours to write and publish. Eventually this became difficult to sustain alongside my full-time job and I became gradually less active.

With this new blog I want to find a style of posts which are easier for me to write with less time investment in an attempt to help me maintain a sustained interest in writing new posts.

 Why Gatsby?

Lastly I want to share why I chose to use Gatsby for my blog. My previous blog was built with Jekyll and the initial version of this new blog was built with Hugo. Both are great options and they helped me realise that I wanted to write my posts in markdown and statically generate my website however I didn't really enjoy the experience of building the UI and creating templates with either of them.

In the end I settled on Gatsby for the following reasons:

  • Posts can be written in markdown
  • Good out-of-the-box support for embedding code in posts
  • UI is build with React (which I enjoy working with)
  • The GraphQL API provided by Gatsby provides a clear way to access site data
  • Netlify can automatically build and deploy my site

Gatsby has enabled me to get this site up and running very quickly using tools I enjoy working with.

What next?

I have created a Trello board which I have already filled with ideas for blog posts now all I have to do is write them up!

© 2020 Jason Mitchell, RSS