A couple of years back, frustrated by the challenges of running my own Wordpress site, I decided to give Pelican a try.
It’s what is know as a “static blogging” tool. This means that you treat your blog just like any other code - you write your articles using a text editor, run a command and the article is produced in its final form ready for consumption by web browsers. Maybe run another command, and your article gets uploaded to wherever your blog is actually served.
There are lots of advantages to this model. For one thing, it’s simple “static” HTML. That means that the only thing your site has to do is server that content. Unlike tools like Wordpress, which require a fair bit of supporting infrastructure like a database.
Another huge benefit is that you have the ultimate in control. You can modify the results to your heart’s content, unconstrained by anyone else’s idea of how it should look or work.
However, I’m not a web developer. I can create web pages, but they’re ugly, and while I possess more than enough know how to run all of the needed infrastructure and keep it safely locked down, that’s not how I choose to spend my very limited free time.
So, I’ve switched my blog back to Wordpress, but this time I’m letting someone else do the hard work of keeping my site happy and secure. There is this tendency in my industry to build everything we use just because we can. There was a time I felt the same way, but not any more.
These days I’m married and have a social life. My burning enthusiasm for technology hasn’t waned a single iota, but now I realize that there’s more to living than technology.
Balance is a good thing, as is knowing what’s actually important and where to spend your time and energy in the service of adding the most value.
Avdi Grimm, a technologist whose work I admire, wrote a great piece about the buy versus build dilemma recently. After substantial time and effort, he ended up using the same package I’m using to host this blog.
There are other aspects to my choice that feed into my personal situation. I don’t have a lot of time to blog these days. I’m not complaining, I have a job I love, a Masonic lodge I’m proud to be a member of, and a marriage that leaves me happier and more fulfilled than I have been my entire life.
So when I post, it’s in the “in between” times. I started this post on the subway on my phone, picked it up later on my iPad, and am now finishing it relaxing in our living room with my lovely wife on our Macbook Pro while she reads. Wordpress makes this a breeze. It has a super slick authoring interface that lets me compose right in the browser. It does grammar and spell checking by default, and automatically saves drafts so I don’t have to worry about losing my work if my laptop dies or I have to stop for a real life intrusion.
This is not in any way an indictment of Pelican. As a matter of fact, Pelican was a real delight. From a software perspective, its code is clean, readable, and incredibly easy to bend to my own nefarious purposes. When I’d decided it was time to admit that it wasn’t working for me, I decided I wanted to build a converter to mirror the posts from my old blog over here on wordpress.com. It was a great side project and I enjoyed building it quite a bit. In addition to the stellar code base, the Pelican community was incredibly helpful, answering all my questions and taking an interest in why their tool wasn’t working for me.
Ultimately, my decision came down to recognizing the way I like to work, and where I wanted to put my effort. It’s not about Pelican, it’s about me.
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