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Purging My Old Blog and Starting Fresh with Gatsby v2

It wasn’t an easy choice but I’ve decided to take a step back and clear out all of the old posts from this blog and start over, there’s something very therapeutic about a digital clean slate…

I’ve deleted my articles and started anew

I’ve done this for a few reasons, first of all, I’m just not that happy with some of the content I’ve previously put out. For some reason, I felt like I had to consistently write a new article every few weeks, and started writing just for the sake of it. I’ve since realized that quality is more important than quantity, and from now on I’m going to strive to only write when I feel I actually have something interesting to say.

I’ve uncluttered the site

I wanted a new, minimalistic feel for my blog. My existing site was already running v1 of Gatsby (which I love, there’s a reason I’m still using Gatsby), but there were a lot of features I’d built that I’ve since come to find I do not need. When you’re building a blog about web development it’s easy to think that you have to make it all snazzy and exciting to showcase your skills, but in reality, the most important thing is the text on the page.

That’s why on this new blog the content is going to be the star of the show, and as it turns out, that means you hardly have to make any changes from the default Gatsby blog template.

I’ve also ditched the boring portfolio page listing all of my GitHub repositories. People come to my site through Google search or by following links to my posts on social media, they’re hoping that the article is going to be useful to them and the majority don’t care about my half-baked side projects. If in the future I’m ever trying to showcase my code to a client or employer then they can simply follow the link to GitHub in my bio.

I’ve thrown out the CMS

I was originally using Netlify CMS to manage all of my content but guess what? It turns out that as a developer I really don’t need a CMS for my static site, I found myself nearly always writing articles straight in my text editor. Gatsby’s hot reloading makes its development mode as good as any CMS for seeing real-time updates to your post as you write, and as everything is done through git anyway a simple git push is all I need as far as publishing goes.

Getting rid of the CMS means I have fewer config files cluttering my project and just generally improves the developer experience of working on the site. I’m sure Netlify CMS is a great option if you’re building for a less technical client, and even though I’m ditching Netlify’s CMS I’ll still be using their hosting service… it’s so, so good 🔥

I’ve simplified the comments system

Dynamic functionality like comments is the hardest thing to get right on a static site. Previously I was using Staticman, and while it’s really great at what it does, I found myself not satisfied with the way it works.

For those of you that don’t know how Staticman works, it’s a service that responds to form submissions on your site by making pull requests to your GitHub repository. This allows you to have dynamic user-generated content on your completely static site, I was using it for comments. The problem is that after submitting the comment form your users will have wait for your entire site to rebuild for their comment to show, and even after that, there’s no good way to notify them about things like replies.

A cleaner solution that I’ve found is using GitHub Issues as a comment system. It sounds mad, but it’s genius, and there are a number open source projects to help you out (Gitment, Gitalk & Utterances to name just 3), I’ve settled on Utterances. I’ll probably write a separate article about setting up Utterances on a Gatsby blog in the future, for now, I’ll tell you why I think this system is perfect for a development blog:

  • All your users already have a GitHub account so they don’t need to sign up for yet another 3rd party service like Disqus (which will also track their every move through the web 😈)
  • Unlike Staticman GitHub Issues are truly dynamic so new comments will show without having to wait for your site to rebuild and deploy
  • You get access to all the features of GitHub Issues out of the box (notifications, moderation, reactions, etc.)
  • Developers care about the appearance of their GitHub accounts, which is likely to result in better (or at least civil) discussion.
  • It’s free and open source!

My old site may have come to its end, but this one is just beginning…

I’m excited to get started shaping this clean slate into what I really want it to be, and hopefully, put out some great web-dev content!

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Ben Honeywill

Written by Ben Honeywill 👨‍💻 who lives in Bournemouth 🏖️ building cool web software for Lush 🧼

You should follow me on Twitter 🐦 and GitHub 💻

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