I Am Blog and You Can Too

May 06, 2019

Web development is hard. Web development is a lot of memorization, along with pattern recognition, and the ability to speak in a particular way. Jacques Derrida talked about langue, and parle, and how one is a subset of the other or something, but what I’m about to describe sounds incredibly easy, and it was only really easy for me after years of practice. Coding is hard as hell.

With that said:

How I made this site in like two hours while my kid napped

  1. I spun up a Gatsby starter on my local.
  2. I made a few edits to the configuration files.
  3. I used Netlify to launch it to the web.

Okay, here’s how I actually made it happen

A long time ago, I made a Jekyll webpage using GitHub Pages. Before that, I had a Squarespace site for about a week, which I found wasn’t really scratching my itch. I didn’t want to put a whole lot of effort into an online presence, because I basically needed to show that ‘yes I am a person that is on the Internet’, and little more.

Jekyll was the first static site generator I ever used, and after putting in some hard time learning it and my way around Liquid (Jekyll’s templating language), I ‘spun up’ (made) a site that was pretty much themed after the default starter, and a bit of Bootstrap.

I’d go a bit more into those in detail, but that’s a really long explanation. I can tell you that I learned how to use Jekyll pretty effectively because of some background knowledge I had (like the command line, HTML, CSS, some basic Ruby I learned at work) and their really good documentation.

Moving ahead a few years, I finally learned JavaScript around the time ES6 came out, and heard about React, but more importantly got hired by a place that was using React, which meant that I should probably Learn React so that I wasn’t seen as some weirdo who uses Ruby.

Rubyists beware: Though Ruby is an effective programming language, we tend to get a bit biased towards it. Shops that have tried and failed to use Ruby, or gone a different direction tend to think Ruby is not a great language. I personally have no problem with Ruby, and I use it, it’s a fine language, but it is not the only language.

Anyway, I heard about Gatsby, which is a static site generator, and I started to use it as a replacement for the documentation site at work that was on a Content Management System that was going to go to end-of-life.

I admit that React has a steep learning curve, but if you want to learn it, it’s a pretty useful skill to have in 2019.

The situation I had on the Internet until very recently, was a 404 page on GitHub, because my GitHub Pages site was on a private repo, and since Microsoft bought GitHub, there was a change where you couldn’t use Private Repos to host your pages, and I didn’t super want my CNAME file hanging out.

Also, I’d had an experience where someone exploited a GitHub Pages account to bootleg a bunch of PDF ebooks.

Not good.

Netlify is a tool I heard about at Write The Docs, which is a conference I attend, and decided to start using it as a solution to deploy my work project because we were having some trouble with hosting it on AWS at the time. I forget what the issue was, exactly.

Anyway, with my positive experiences there and the knowledge I had accrued over years of working in tech, I was able to, essentially, do the three steps I outlined above, and that’s really about it.

Matthew Buttler

Matthew Buttler lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He seeks skill advancement and thrill enhancement. You can find him on Twitter