Ten years in a hundred posts

Ten years in a hundred posts
Ghost's post-publish info screen.

The previous post was the hundredth I've posted to this blog. They took ten years to write.

That might sound like "not a lot" to put it mildly, but that's okay - I've started this blog as a scratchpad, a place where I can put things when I feel like it, a place where I can try to get better at formulating coherent thoughts in English. I think some reminiscing and some introspection are in order.

That approach to the blog hasn't changed much, but my ideas about blogging in general have changed quite a bit. Recently, I've started putting even more emphasis on blogs as a replacement for social networks. That is, I tend to prefer following blogs representing people rather than companies or even topics. While that does mean I sometimes (or, in a few prolific cases, often) see posts I'm not interested in, they're easy to skip; but I get the sense of seeing what a specific person is thinking about, what they might be like. The posts on blogs tend to be more thought out than the throwaway ones on facebook or twitter, but they're not as cold and impersonal as on most blogs with an agenda to push (e.g. company blogs). Frankly, some people's blogs make me want to buy them a beer. 😀

There's a caveat: if you're looking at the blog in a browser (as opposed to an RSS reader, or whatever custom system you might have cooked up 😄), you might have noticed the link to the Slovak part of the blog. That, for all intents and purposes, is a separate blog. More on that below, but just so you know those posts -  about 30 of them - are not counted here.

The numbers

This is the number of posts per year.

I've written at least something every year, it seems. 2018 saw the fewest - only 3. The current one (2022) comes in with by far the most - 20, and it's only July. In 2016 and 2017 I set a goal for myself to write at least 12 posts - one per month on average. It really surprised me just now when I found out my most prolific year (14 posts) actually was 2012, i.e. the first one. I don't currently have any specific goals; I just get around to it more often than I did before.

I also track usage analytics with Matomo. I have started with Google Analytics, then used it concurrently with my self-hosted Matomo instance, then recently ditched GA entirely. My experience with Matomo wasn't great, but it doesn't matter:

I only ever use the analytics once in a few months to see how many people looked at the blog, and nothing else. It's better than visitor counters, right? 😂

Matomo claims to be privacy friendly; I don't worry, because I know only I have access to the data, and I do nothing with them. I have also lost them multiple times - once when I moved over from WordPress and a few times when I didn't notice for months that Matomo broke down. 😅

So that's how I know that over the years, about 30% of the traffic to this blog was to a single technical blog post. All I can say is that I'm glad it helped people, and I'm even more glad that I don't have to work with that tech anymore. Good riddance! You see, I'm even kind of hesitant to link to it here.😅 Since it was written, it was displayed ~90 000 times. That, to me, is a lot, and it's head and shoulders above all the rest.

There have been about ~1000 unique visitors to the blog per month, though today I've noticed it's been declining for months. Probably because the most popular tech posts are aging. Most don't stick around and bounce after reading what they needed.

I don't really mind. I guess considering I post irregularly, never optimized for reach or SEO, don't write about currently popular topics, and don't even cross-post my blogposts to my social networks - because what if people read them and think they suck‽‽ -  it's kind of surprising I got even that much traffic.

I also find that knowing for a fact that not many people will come here, I am much less worried/stressed about publishing imperfect posts.

The posts

Funny thing: the very first post on the blog was me being salty about Diablo 3. The hundredth post was about Diablo Immortal, the next (fourth) game in the series. (Not to be confused with the upcoming Diablo 4.) There have been no other Diablo-related posts, by the way.

Most of the posts were technical, in one way or another: how-tos, my side-projects (most recently the book club app Obskurnee), self-hosting. Other than that, there were opinions on books, games, note-taking and my personal stack, and a few more. I guess that's also pretty much what will be coming up in the future.

There are 40 tags currently in use on the blog. That's down from ~65, and I plan to trim them down even further. I want them to serve as broader categories; no point in having additional ones with just a couple posts each.

My greatest achievement? I think it was that one time when I got stumped with a problem "I never encountered before" at work and when I started googling, one of my old blog posts came up and solved the issue. I really had no memory of writing it, but it felt great. 😀

I do sometimes re-read my older posts; this time I went over the entire archive to reminisce and pick some favorites, reading a few here and there. It's an interesting experience. I remind myself of events I'd forgotten, or I see where my opinions changed and how... In some posts as I'm reading, I think to myself - hey, past-me, I have follow-up questions. Then at the end of the post, I see an update, when a different past-me apparently came back 5 years later and answered them. Thanks, guys! 🙏🏻

In one of life's delightful coincidences, the topic of asynchronous conversation with one's past self via one's own blog popped up twice in my feed recently: Ton Zijlstra wrote about it here, and there was at least one post linking to it.

Some of my faves from the past decade include:

  • Elemental words. It started with a silly joke, ended with me finding out how many words in English, Slovak and one fictional language can be expressed using symbols of chemical elements.
  • "Best of" book posts, because on re-reading them, I always re-discovered something great I forgot about. I've always wanted to write more of these, but never got around to it.
  • Introducing Obskurnee: A Companion for your Book Club. It took a lot of time to get to an MVP state with this, but I like how it turned out. Our book club has been using it for over a year and people seem to like it, which is flattering.
  • Čo je to ten "Dwarf Fortress"? (Slovak: ~"What's the Dwarf Fortress thing about?") Yes, this is from the other blog this post is not about. Sue me. 😋 I've been intending to write that post for a few years before actually getting around to it, and I had to make fixes to my blog theme because of it. It deserves this spot. 😋

Two blogs, actually

When I started, I knew I wanted to write in both English and Slovak. I also didn't want to have them mixed in a single feed. It seemed like a mess to me, and potentially off-putting for someone just coming in for the technical stuff and then backing out at foreign language posts.

In retrospect, I needn't have worried. Nobody comes to look around the blog. As mentioned in the numbers section, people mostly come in from google and bounce.

And the very few that do stay - I no longer think they'd mind the mix. I have never really minded mixed language in people's posts, regardless of whether I understand them or not. And I assume if someone got far enough to actually check out the rest of the blog, chances are they wouldn't mind, either.

But still, I don't mind the separation, I don't think it's hurting anything. I'm keeping it for now.

Future improvements

The theme is long overdue for an overhaul; it doesn't look great, and some features are missing. I also want to add a search and an archive that's more than just a list of posts and dates. One of these days, hopefully...

I would also like to make some changes to RSS feeds - maybe bring additional ones to the main page. Right now when you click the RSS button in your browser to see the site's feeds, you only get the one for the current blog. I'm considering adding feeds from both languages to both blogs, maybe even additional feeds from different sources that are currently public, just not obviously linked. I have already made some changes to the About page but will update it further and add a 'privacy policy' or something along those lines.

I dropped comments when I moved from Wordpress to Ghost in 2016. Ghost didn't support them, and despite there being a few really nice ones, they weren't critical. I've been considering adding them back with some self-hosted solution, but I'm not decided yet.

Last but not least, as mentioned in a previous post, I sync all of my blog posts into Joplin, which ensures they will pop up for relevant searches, and that I can easily link to them from notes. There are a few features I'd like to add - most importantly, I think I want to replace all of the links to my blog posts with links to the same posts within Joplin. As it is now, I can open a post in my notes, but when following links from there I go to the browser, losing all the contextual info (like backlinks) I'd see in Joplin. That should be easy enough.

Well, that's about it. Here's to another ten years.