Vikshepa Blog

Mental Distractions

12 Feb 2022

2022-02-12: Revenge of the non-nerds

The fediverse and blogosphere are full of super-intelligent people who write code using JavaScript runtimes and web application frameworks in trying to find alternatives to the proprietary platforms of surveillance capitalism. I'm not a programmer or a developer, but I have sometimes tried to implement their solutions, which invariably claim to be even faster than WordPress's famous 5-minute install, and have mostly failed miserably. There are static blogs like Jekyll and Hugo and Pelican, and there are a bunch of alternative social media platforms out there. There are others who are attempting to ease the process of setting up home servers. With the latter, I tried to install YunoHost and FreedomBone (which now has a new name), but eventually found it easier to install a server "the hard way".

The truth is, WordPress and Hubzilla were not too difficult to set up. But there is so much happening in the background with elaborate systems like these that I know that without the help of experts, when something goes wrong I'm at the mercy of the nerds. So I keep looking for the simplest possible solutions that even I can get my head around. HTML and simple CSS are within the range of my comprehension, and when I can't solve a problem, there are others who have had the same problem and found a solution.

The static platforms that have worked for me have been the fairly simple ones, like Blazeblogger and org-static-blog. The other day I discovered the html collapsible text element and remembered that I had previously used a slightly more complicated CSS feature to produce a one-page blog: a single webpage that contains all the code and the blog itself, without JavaScript or anything complicated. Adding a new post can be as simple as using the html tags for details and summary. I've added an anchor link too, though that isn't strictly necessary.

As for uploading the blog, I can edit the file via WebDav, so that by saving, it's instantly online.

The result is an installation-free simple blogging system that doesn't require any programming skills and is easy to maintain. It can be hosted at home or on my Fastmail file storage. To make it a bit prettier I have also stored a couple of fonts on the server, so it isn't necessary to send people to a remote font server.

The elements that are missing from a traditional blog are an RSS/atom feed (I haven't looked for a solution so far) and a discussion forum. I could use something like Discus for that, but don't want to.

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