I was talking with a friend this week who mentioned that he’d like to subscribe to the Void by email. I used to have a page for just such a thing but apparently it didn’t make the jump when I switched to Jekyll. So I’ve created a Subscribe page and changed the link in the header and added one in the footer for those who come in the future. In the meantime, enjoy a couple different ways to get the Void delivered to you, free of charge.
RSS If you wonder what RSS means, then read the basics or watch a short video explanation. It may just change your life. To subscribe to my feed, right-click the link below, copy the link address, then paste address into your RSS reader of choice. Here it is in all it’s glory:
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Subscribers to my blog are now seeing some of my most recent posts for the third time in less than three weeks. I write this post to apologize for that and to explain what’s happened. From this post on things should be back to normal in the RSS feed. If you care to know more, here goes.
The reason for the disruption is that I’ve moved to the Jekyll blogging engine. I started with Blogger six years ago this month. I switched to WordPress in 2006 and have developed at least six other sites with WordPress since. I’ve also used Tumblr and Chyrp. Each of those platforms work but none of them were what I’ve grown to want for working well.
Jekyll is “a blog-aware, static site generator.” I’d read about it a couple times and I thought it could be a great solution, but I also knew that I didn’t own the right tires to navigate the terminal and Ruby learning curve. Of all the changes to the Void, this is by far the most drastic, the most challenging, and the most nerdy. I also believe it is, or will be, the best change.
Jekyll Is Good
These are some of the reasons I’m excited about Jekyll.
Everything (I interact with) is a text file. I write posts and pages in Markdown using TextMate. I code the layout in HTML and CSS (and some Liquid), but no php. Every file is saved on my local drive under a “mother” folder and I keep that folder in my Dropbox. That means I only edit in one place, that means I have an always current “backup” of my site on my computer, and that means Dropbox keeps all my machines in sync.
The local file directory becomes the site directory. For example, when I save (a properly formatted) file to
/folder/_posts/articles, Jekyll turns that file into a post in the articles category. I was dissatisfied with the simple timeline approach to navigation that, almost by default, weighted relevance by newness. Specific dates are helpful, even necessary, to make sense of more time-aware posts, but [series] articles are better organized in other ways. The directory structure shines even more brightly for pages.
My previous workflow annoyed me. I used to write the post in TextMate, select all, copy, open a browser tab, navigate to my blog’s web backend, create a new post, paste the content, add meta information, then hit publish. If I saw that an edit was needed, I had to repeat the process or risk not having the corrected version on my computer. The process for updating a page was even more tedious, especially if the page was buried in a sub or sub/sub/subdirectory. MarsEdit is a great program but recommends only keeping a copy of the 30 most recent posts due to server load. It doesn’t support pages at all.
Jekyll also includes a built-in server for local development and testing. That means I can add or edit and see the changes in my browser before updating the online site. Jekyll also makes deployment (possibilities) simple. After I learned enough, now I can push the changes in under 10 keystrokes (with the help of TextExpander).
The site is a simple directory of html files hosted by an online server, in my case Media Temple. Because the site is static, not dynamic, there are no worries about cache or security. That also means comments are not possible. Many Jekyll sites solve the “problem” with a third party service such as Disqus. I don’t want comments anyway. Maybe someday I’ll want to bring comments back; I doubt it. In the meantime, after each post I’ve extended an invitation to respond by tweeting @tohuvabohu. Plus, most people who read my blog (or who understand how to find information about a web site’s author) know my email address.
There are no plugins to manage or WordPress security updates which may or may not break said plugins. Also, now I’m not forced to view a thousand things I don’t need from ever swelling software bloat.
In Hyde Sight
I have only two concerns with the new system at this point.
There isn’t yet a way, or at least one that I know about, to add or edit things from my iPhone, iPad, or even from any public computer. Both WordPress and Tumblr have apps and web apps. That said, in almost three years of iPhone use, maybe I blogged from it twice. More important to me, if my iPad hopes to succeed my laptop with joy, I’ll need to figure out a solution.
The other negative is that, during this remodeling process, those who are subscribed to the site received some old posts in their Readers up to three times. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m sorry about that. Please hit “Mark all as read” and forgive me. I’ve now made my final decision about the permalink structure and back-added enough posts that I think all additional back-adding will fly under the RSS feed.
I’ve enjoyed the process, learned some new things, and been the right amount of distracted by the project. Now it’s time to move beyond the meta.
Today is the first snow day of the school year. Since I’m not teaching at a school anymore, a snow day isn’t the novelty it used to be. But the church office is a virtual ghost town when the Academy is closed, and it’s always fun to stay home anyway. In a while, the kids and I will bundle up, throw snow at each other, build a snowman or two, shovel off the driveway, and spend a couple hours looking forward to hot chocolate.
Because the day’s schedule is different than usual, I committed to myself that I would write something for the Void. I miss it. Though I have been working on various other projects–one of which I’ll be free to publicize here in a couple days–I like writing and posting more than pithy quotes from dead theologians and amusing anecdotes from home.
So what’s the problem? Where are the gold bars of new posts? It appears sitting my rear in the chair and turning away from distractions are still the most difficult parts. I am fearful of becoming another armchair pundit who acts like he knows everything about everything, but the primary blame falls on my mental laziness.
There are reasons for me to write.
First, I am a pastor, and this blog is one platform for fulfilling the teaching part of my responsibility. Having a blog doesn’t mean I’m the best teacher or only teacher. But for my sheep, this site ought to be a resource connected to our larger ministry context.
Second, being a shepherd is a personal thing. This site ought to be a place for the sheep who normally don’t get to hang out with me to get to know me a bit better. The blog format also preserves my holdout from Facebook for at least a while longer, and hopefully provides more substance than updating my status or notifying followers when I’ve been tagged in a photo.
Third, the blog helps me stay connected with far away friends and family. Undoubtedly some of my posts are tangential to their lives and interests, but they can read if they want.
Fourth, it lets me practice writing. Most writers I’ve read have written that if a person wants to become a better writer, they should write more. Fancy that.
Fifth, composing a post often helps me think through a given issue more clearly.
Sixth, the blog provides a place to communicate things that didn’t fit the flow of a sermon or that I ran out of time to say.
Seventh, the blog is a better platform for sharing things I think are silly rather than turning my preaching into a comedy bit.
Eighth, I just like it.
As I look to the end of this year and a review of my 2008 resolutions, and as I consider opportunities for spiritual progress in the new year, I’m ready to include more writing and posting to the Void in the process. So there it is; I finally wrote something. For me, that’s better than nothing.
Well, my first post was more than a few days ago, and I really do have a lot of things that are going through my mind that I want to write about. It just seems like there are other things which always take priority…like preparing and preaching sermons, preparing for and teaching Bible class, preparing for and teaching Greek II, etc., etc. But rest assured that the wheels are turning and soon there must needs be things written!
Well, it seems like everyone who is anyone on the internet has their own weblog, so I thought it might be fun to include some of my own rantings and ravings every once in a while. I guess we’ll have to see how it goes, but for now, enjoy them while they last!