I recently migrated a couple of well-written blogs from my personal "side-project" blog onto dev.to. My previous solution wasn't the wrong choice, but it became a massive pain point that actively stopped me from writing. If you're thinking of creating your own side blog, here's a brief reflection on what made my blog hurt to use, and how I think sticking to Dev.to will make it better.
As an EIT still very early in their career, I emphasised building as much as I could from scratch. This was/is an attempt to keep learning everything, especially post-graduation. I wanted to:
1) Learn Jeykll templating
2) Abide the "sharing is caring" philosophy
3) Publish a tutorial-style post least once every four months
My blog was a single static page, hosted free on GitHub pages. I used a free Jeykll template I found online to reduce the time I spent on looks - I wanted to jump into writing the content. Relatively low maintenance, anything pushed to master would be live within 1-2 minutes. No tests, no fancy branching strategies.
Drafts: GitHub pages require your repo to be public. This is fine, but I hated having my rough work - scratch notes of incomplete or wrong ideas - easily accessible in a second branch. Ideas come up faster than I can finish them, and storing the drafts in a different place like Google Drive defeats the purpose of Git version control. This meant I never wrote anything unless I could finish it in one sitting. In turn, this meant I never met my goal of posting at least every once in awhile. Finally, this meant I never bothered to start because I missed the previous goal too.
Comments: I was discouraged from posting because I knew I wouldn't get any feedback or start any conversations. Sometimes that's nice but it ultimately felt like I was contributing to a void.
Analytics: Especially without comments, I had no way to view or measure activity of the blog itself or specific posts. I could have set up Google Analytics for free, but I was more interested in generating content than doing a deep-dive into SEO or learning how to analyse and drive traffic to my low-frequency site in my spare time.
Trying to Learn it all: While admirable, trying to learn as much as I can in a single project isn't sustainable. Like spreading myself too thin, it's easy to get discouraged when everything on a hobby project is brand new. I'm lucky that I'm constantly learning new tech at my work on a daily basis, but I've learnt for my personal projects I really need to focus on a single thing.
Since migrating 4 blog posts to dev.to, I'm already seeing a surge of activity I never had before, including comments. Finally, some positive feedback! Dev.to has done an incredible job of creating an active, diverse, and knowledgeable community with regular readers. With any luck, we can have some back-and-forth.
More importantly, using Dev.to to manage my writing is my way of changing each of my projects' focus into "one thing at at time." Here, I'll focus on research and good writing. My next project will probably be focused on Haskell. Instead of trying to create something useful for myself or the world, this time around I'll stick to just the language and simple problems like a CRUD app with deployment tech I already know, or even just simple math problems.