Many, Many New Things

posted


Note: This site is currently a work in progress and will remain so for some time. You are invited to watch it grow and follow along with, and maybe even participate in, the process.

This is the first post in a series detailing the complete revamp of my online presence.

The Times They Are a-Changin'

The changing of the year brought many other changes with it in regards to my life.

Like a genius, I managed to compound several life changes into a few consecutive weeks where things got pretty stressful.

  1. I moved from a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment to a 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartment in the NoDa area in Charlotte, NC with my girlfriend and dog
  2. I bought my first real (i.e., purchased by me and in my name) car
  3. I celebrated the end of my time as Lead Developer at Social Design House after nearly 5 years (this was also my first job in the industry)
  4. I started my new job as a Front-End Consultant for the Experience Design Practice with Cardinal Solutions

After the dust settled and most of the boxes were unpacked, I realized something: Change is really good, and stressful change might be even better.

Change brings novelty.

It brings learning, and learning is one of the things that gets me excited.

Lesson Two: Change is good. (I promise there is a reason this is Lesson Two and not One, read on and all will be revealed)

In light of this newfound insight on change, I've decided to rework my web presence from the ground up using technologies, frameworks, libraries, and software that I don't generally use and, in many cases, have never used.

Because of the many, many learning experiences that I'm sure to encounter, I've also decided to blog about the many iterations, challenges, and decisions as I make them, and also to have the website evolve in production as I deploy code in bits and pieces instead of waiting for a "final product" or "release version" of things.

Decisions, Decisions

Platform
Coming from a predominantly WordPress background, I really wanted to change things up. I have no direct issues with WordPress and have built that sites that use it to do many, many things, so don't take this as some anti-WordPress agenda. I just wanted to try something new.

I've played with some other PHP-based CMS systems in the past, specifically Drupal and Anchor CMS (which I mostly use for micro-sites for classes I teach).

I wanted to step out of the PHP realm for this one.

After a deal of searching and consideration, I decided to give Ghost a try. At the time I made this decision, I hadn't used Node at all, but now I've built a few internal projects at my new job using the MEAN stack, so it isn't completely unfamiliar to me, but it's still new-ish territory.

Hosting
Using Ghost necessitated the first change in website hosting I've made in about five years because my old host only had support for LAMP stacks in the tier of hosting I could afford.

After much research and debate, I'm now a happy customer of WebFaction.

I did find a few things here and there that seemed confusing or overly complex when trying to configure some external systems with my new Ghost blog, but, I'll get into that in the next post.

URL
There's a story to be told here, but if you aren't one for stories, skip down to the next bold heading.

Story Time: Years ago, I had this idea of branding myself as an Internet Alchemist and felt like it was a really great concept and had this whole long explanatory text drafted up about integrating disparate parts and systems into a cohesive whole, how it was a somewhat mystical and mysterious process, the intersection of magic and science, et cetera, et cetera.

After thousands of words and dozens of identity sketches, I decided I should go ahead and get that domain name. You know, the one that was definitely not going to be already taken because no one had ever registered it because of how original and new my name and idea were...

Lesson One: Always check for available domains before you get attached to a name. If you think you might get attached to a name at some future date, go ahead and register the domain if you can. (See, I told you there was a reason the other one was Lesson Two, chronologically, I learned this Lesson way before the other one)

I settled for a .me domain: http://internetalche.me/ (which will now redirect you here) thinking I was very clever.

As it turns out using a .me TLD to replace a mee sound at the end of a word really isn't that great. Did that domain name make immediate sense to you? Probably not, right?

Hardly anyone ever got what the domain was supposed to be unless I verbally explained it, which then necessitated explaining why I didn't have the actual domain.

I posted at that URL infrequently for a few years. The post archive, such as it was, has been migrated from the old site's WordPress database to this site's Ghost database for continuity's sake.

I'm undecided if the posts will remain in the normal flow of the site or live on in some sort of archive section.

When rebuilding everything became the plan, a new domain seemed approriate. Something less confusing. Something with a .com.

To poke a little fun at myself, to acknowledge that I'm still somewhat attached to my idea of Internet Alchemy (which I will post my manifesto about at some point), and, mostly, because it wasn't registered yet I decided to go with http://www.interwebalchemy.com/.

Interweb Alchemy is basically just the less-serious cousin of Internet Alchemy.

It was a real win, win, win situation.

Design Software
I'm no designer by trade.

I'm not even a designer by whatever the opposite of trade happens to be.

I do know my way around an Adobe program, though, and I'm armed with a basic understanding of the principles of design and a very keen talent for almost implementing those principles and almost properly kerning things.

I've never really been in a situation where I was made to flex what little design muscles I may have built up over the years of working directly with some really talented designers, so this will be the first real workout for them.

I'm going to take the plunge and pick up Sketch to design the new blog. I figured in the spirit of change, I might as well go all in.

I'm sure this process will provide humorous and possibly cringe-worthy moments for the real designers out there as I prove that I am most certainly not one of the mythical "unicorns" that wander about our industry.

The New "Stack"

For the pedantics among us, I'm using the term stack loosely here to just mean the things that I'll be using in general, not the specific technologies power the back-end of the blog.

As much as I appreciate some good, old-fashioned pedantry, let's check it at the door for the time being folks.

  • WebFaction hosting
  • NodeJS
  • Ghost Blogging Platform (I'll be building a new theme for this from scratch, but right now the site is running on the N-Coded theme)
  • Sketch

I'm also considering really mixing it up and stepping outside my comfort zone in several other areas for this project, too:

  • Editor - I've been pretty partial to Sublime Text for a number of years now, but maybe I'll give something else a real try: Atom, Brackets, LightTable (or maybe I'll finally learn vim)
  • CoffeScript - I've never really seen the point in it, but maybe it's time to do more than hack on a hubot instance with it
  • Sass Plugins - I've been using Compass, Susy, and Breakpoint with my Sass for a long time now so maybe I should check out some other options like Bourbon (not the drink, though I'll likely have a good bit of that, too, before this project is done)
  • Grid System - Instead of Susy, I'll likely use something like Profound Grid or maybe Neat if I end up going with Bourbon
  • Gulp - I like Grunt, but it can't hurt to check out this Gulp business that everyone seems pretty smitten with, I'm not sure if Ghost has some things built into starter themes based around Grunt or not, so I need to research this one further
  • HAML - I've also never really seen the need for something like HAML, but at this point I might as well try it out if I'm going to try all these other new things, too

I'm open to suggestions for other areas of interest to inject new technologies or processes into the workflow.

Where it Goes From Here

If the idea of reading about my adventures into the world of trying new things and learning by doing interests you, please feel encouraged to reach out and let me know if there are any specific parts of the process you'd like to hear more about.

If you think this is a stupid idea, feel free, but less encouraged, to reach out, as well.

I'll be going over the process up to this point (setting up hosting, getting Ghost ready, configuration, installing a basic theme, importing posts, writing posts, redirecting old domain, etc.) in the next installment.

After that, I'll probably just feel my way through the process and document as I find time to work on different pieces.

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