Leon Mika

Leon Mika

Why I'm Considering Building A Blogging CMS

I’m planning to start a new blog about Go development and one of the things that I’m currently torn on is how to host it. The choice look to be either using a service like blot.im or micro.blog or some other hosting service, using a static site generation tool like Hugo, or building my own CMS for it. I know that one of the things people tell you about blogging is that building your CMS is not worth your time: I myself even described it as “second cardinal sin of programming” on my first post to micro.blog.

Nevertheless, I think at this stage I will actually do just that. Despite the effort that comes from building a CMS I see some advantages in doing so:

  1. The (theoretical) ability to blog from anywhere: This is one of the weaknesses of static site hosting that I’ve run into when trying this approach before. I tend to work on different machines throughout the week, which generally means that when I find inspiration, I don’t have the source files on hand to work on them. The source files are kept in source control and are hosted on GitHub, but I’ve find that I tend to be quite lax with making sure I have the correct version checked out and that any committed changes are pushed. This is one of the reasons why I like micro.blog: having a service with a web interface that I can just log into, and that will have all the posts there, means that I can work on them as long as I have an internet connection.
  2. Full control over the appearance and workflow: Many of the other services provide the means for adjusting the appearance of the web-page, so this is only a minor reason for taking on this effort. But one thing that I would find useful is to have some control over is the blogging workflow itself. There are some ideas that I might like to include, like displaying summaries in the main page, or sharing review links for posts prior to publishing them. Being able to easily do that in a codebase that I’m familiar with would help.
  3. Good practice of my skills: As someone who tends to work on backend systems for his day-to-day job, some of my development and operational experience are a little rusty. Building, hosting and operating a site would provide an opportunity to exercise these muscles, and may also come in handy if I were to choose to build something for others to use (something that I’ve been contemplating for a while).

Note that price is not one of these reasons. In fact it might actually cost me a little more to put together a site like this. But I think the experience and control that I hope to get out of this endeavour might be worth it.

I am also aware of some of the risks of this approach. Here is how I plan to mitigate them:

  1. Security and stability: This is something that comes for free from a blogging platform that I’ll need to take on myself. There’s always a risk with putting a new system onto the internet, and having a web site with remote administration is an invitation for others to abuse it. To me this is another area of development I believe I need to work on. Although I don’t intend to store any personal information but my own, I do have to be mindful of the risks of putting anything online, and making sure that the appropriate mitigations are in place to prevent that. I’ll also have to make sure that I’m maintaining proper backups of the content, and periodically exercising them to make sure they work. The fact that my work is at stake is a good incentive to keep on top of this.
  2. Distractions: Yeah, this is a classic problem with me: I use something that I build, I find a small problem or something that can be improved, then instead of actually finishing the task, I actually work on the code for the service. This may have to be something that only gets addressed with discipline. It may help using the CMS on a machine that doesn’t have the source code.

I will also have to be aware of the amount of time I put into this. I actually started working on a CMS several months ago so I’m not starting completely from scratch, but I’ve learnt with too many other of my personal projects that maintaining something like this is for the long term. It might be fine to occasionally tinker with it, but I cannot spend too much effort working on the system at the expense of actually writing content.

So this is what I might do. I might give myself the rest of the month to do what I need to do to get it up to scratch, then I will start measuring how much time I spend working on it, vs. the amount of time I actually use it to write content. If the time I spend working on the code base is more than 50% of time I use it to write content, then it will indicate to me that it’s a distraction and I will abandon it for an alternative setup. To keep myself honest, I’ll post the outcomes of this on my micro blog (if I remember).

A few other minor points:

  • Will this delay publishing of the blog? No. The CMS is functionally complete but there are some rough edges that I’d like to smooth out. I hope to actually start publishing this new blog very shortly.
  • Will I be moving the hosting of this blog onto the new CMS? No, far from it. The services here works great for how I want to maintain this blog, and the community aspects are fantastic. The CMS also lacks the IndiWeb features that micro.blog offers and it may be some time before they get built.

I’ll be interested if anyone has any thoughts on this so feel free to reply to this post on micro.blog.