Subject: what to do about the blog
Date: 11/18/2017 04:25:00 PM To: myself Bcc:

Initially, I thought, I needed to get to load over HTTPS. Previously I had been using TLS transit part of the way using Cloudflare, but I've moved away from that, I'd rather not have the additional service, it was only a partial solution, and I'm tired of seeing Certificate Transparency alerts from Facebook when CloudFlare creates a new cert every week for my domain name and a thousand others, but now I've heard that Google has announced good HTTPS support for custom domain names when using Google App Engine and so I should be good to go. HTTPS is important, and I should fix that before I post more on this blog.

I was plagued for weeks trying to use Google's new developer console, reading through various documentation that was out of date, confronted by the vaguest possible error messages. Eventually, I discover that there's just a bug for most or all long-time App Engine users who created custom domains on applications years ago using a different system; the issue is acknowledged; no timeline for a fix; no documentation; no workaround.* Just a penalty for being a particularly long-time customer. Meanwhile, Google is charging me for server time on the blog that sees no usage, for some other reason I haven't been able to nail down.

I start to investigate other blogging software: is Ghost the preferred customizable blogging platform these days? What about static-site generation, from Jekyll, or Hugo? Can I find something written in a language where I could comfortably customize it (JavaScript, Python) and still have a well-supported and simple infrastructure for creating static pages that I can easily host on my existing simple infrastructure? I go through enough of the process to actually set up a sample Ghost installation on WebFaction, before realizing (and I really credit the candor of their documentation here) that this is way too heavyweight for what I'm trying to do.

Ah, I fell into that classic trap! This isn't blogging. This isn't even working on building a new and better blogging infrastructure or social media system. This isn't writing prose, this isn't writing code. This is meta-crap, this is clicking around, comparing feature lists, being annoyed about technology. So, to answer the original small question to myself "what to do about the blog", how about, for now, "just fucking post on whatever infrastructure you've got".


* I see that at least one of the bugs has some updates now, and maybe using a different (command-line) tool I could unblock myself with that particular sub-issue.
Maybe. Or maybe I would hit their next undocumented error message and get stuck again, having invested several more hours in it. And it does actually seem important to move away from this infrastructure; I'm not really sure to what extent Google is supporting it, but I do know that when I run into completely blocking issues that there is no way for me to contact Google's support team or get updates on issues (beyond, search various support forums for hours to reverse-engineer your problem, see if there's an open bug on their issue tracker, click Star), and that in the meantime they are charging me what I consider a significant amount of money.

Subject: Re: programmatic typesetting
Date: 1/22/2009 02:26:00 AM To: Sam Maurer, Timothy Paige Bcc:

Well, I guess the idea was that it wouldn't need any editing (or only to fix programmatic problems). That raises the question about what the true purpose of the project would be, but at least partially for me it's a statement about our communications -- that they can often be trivial, that the amount is huge, that the pieces are intermixed and formatted identically in my email client despite having such different characters or topics.

This distinction about how email has such a wide variety of topics and styles actually got me started thinking about another idea. What if I wrote a blog that was done in the format of emails that I sent to various people? So each post would be an email (like some of the more significant ones I send to you, or Tim O'Reilly, or friends at Microsoft, or whoever), complete with headers. I really like the idea of blog entries that have more metadata than just a title (who I chose to send to and CC and so on; the content of the email I'm responding to, etc.). Also, it harkens back to publishing an important person's letters as a journal of his life. (, say.)

On Jan 20, 2009, at 11:52 AM, Sam Maurer wrote:

Won't you need to edit the content quite a bit, as well as formatting it? I don't mean that you'll change what you wrote, but you'll need to pick which emails and plans to include, and in what order. Even if you want nearly everything, and you want it chronologically, maybe different themes of writing should be formatted differently, so that personal correspondence stands out from the ideas about information management or about liberal arts education. This part would take even longer than the formatting, right? But you could probably combine the editing with the difficult-to-automate parts of the typesetting, and do both at the same time without much added cost. (Also, this editing process may well be even more enjoyable than reading the finished product, since you'll have to engage with your old ideas in order to organize them.) As long as you do some simple pre-processing to separate entries clearly, format email headers properly, and so on, manual typesetting won't be that hard. You can just define some style sheets and then hit F-keys in BBEdit or InDesign as you go through the content.

I know that I'm subverting your intention to automate the process, but I think this would be a more pragmatic solution!