Go Start a Blog

It sure feels like the big tech platforms that people have relied on for years are starting to rot away. There’s lots to be said about X adding rate limiting, Y getting put behind a login, Z killing their API, and one of those things I’ve often seen said is that it feels like the internet is dying.

I’m sure it does feel that way if platforms are the main way you interact with the internet, even more so if the companies behind those platforms’ driving force is only valuation. I believe the truth is that in some ways the internet has in fact never been healthier than now. The reason for that is how stupid easy and cheap it is for someone to set up their own space on the internet to do and say whatever they want. And there’s no need to worry about some random executive messing everything up because of their obsession with infinite growth.

Hosting options

There’s plenty of good free or cheap solutions out there for setting up your own space on the internet. Neocities and Bearblog are two that I’m aware of (I’ve used Neocities in the past and my website theme is loosely based on Bearblog). My website is hosted on Vercel’s free tier which is extremely generous and more than enough for a personal blog.

Own your source files

Whatever you do, make sure you have some sort of copy of your site content under your control. Make sure that whatever platform or hosting provider you’re using allows you to use a widely used format such as markdown or HTML, or that they at least make it easy to export to such a format. Backup your site content somewhere in such a way that it would be easy for you to redeploy it from that backup if you needed to.

In my case, I write all my posts in markdown on my laptop. I track these files with git, and when I push to GitHub then Vercel automatically pulls the changes and converts the markdown to HTML using a static site generator called Hugo. My changes are usually live within 10 seconds of doing a git push. It sounds complicated but it was surprisingly easy to setup and is even easier to use day to day.

Consider getting your own domain name

Pick a solution that lets you bring your own custom domain. Bearblog and Vercel for instance let you use your own domain for free. Neocities also lets paying subscribers use their own domain.

With ownership of your site’s source files and a domain name, you’re not locked into any one platform or provider. If Vercel decided to randomly nuke my account with no warning tomorrow, I could redeploy my website somewhere else and it would be like nothing ever happened. It would only be a matter of finding another hosting provider to host my site’s content and setting my domain name to point to that new provider. I’d be completely out of luck if I didn’t have a copy of my site’s source files, and if I didn’t have my own domain I would need some way to let readers know of my site’s new address.

Domain names aren’t free so they’re a tradeoff. But I believe they’re cheap enough to be well worth it for most people. Still, don’t let not having a domain name get in the way of starting a blog.

Just write

My final tip is to not think too hard about any of the previous tips. I’ve switched up my blogging setup multiple times before eventually settling on my current solution. The details don’t really matter as much as writing in the first place.