Life Log

Whole New Site, Whole New Look

For about four years now I have wanted to take a few weeks aside and redo my site. Or pay someone good money to do it.

Problem is, I haven’t had either the money or the time. So each year I have made a promise to myself to blog more, or use this site as a better center of all my activities. And each year I failed.

The heroin that is Twitter always let me post quick, fast updates on the fly. And the list of things I needed to do on the site was always daunting. To add to it, using an app on my phone, as I do for Twitter, was snappier for posting short updates. I also felt that my site was slow to load and cumbersome to navigate. But trying to find a snappier template didn’t yield much that beat out my five year old theme.

But I am starting to notice that Twitter was using an algorithm to figure out what to show people. Engagement was getting random…ish. The noise has increased. I left FaceBook as an author tool a long time ago when they demanded payment to boost the page signals. I played around a bit with Instagram. And my time as an SEO consultant meant that I knew Pinterest has really high engagement with its users.

But really, I liked the blog.

I missed the blog.

I missed having a good site. A hub. A nexus.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about the need to reinvest in TobiasBuckell.com and to stop being a digital serf in a walled garden. But it was a conversation with Pablo Defendini recently when I was last in New York that clarified in me a desire to take a step back and really think about what businesses I was partnering with for my digital future. Pablo pointed me to an essay by Sahil Lavingia, the creator of Gumroad, that exposed a lot of the growth at all costs mentality in so many technology companies. In it, Sahil reveals how creating Gumroad looked like a failure from the venture capital growth demands frame, merely because it wasn’t a billion dollar company.

I have a Gumroad store with some eBooks available for direct sale there, by the way, so I was familiar with it. It’s gotten better, particularly with back-end stuff for keeping in touch with past buyers. I used it when redesigning the book pages this time so that people can buy a few things directly from me using a simple button, like this one for my novel The Trove:

Click Here to Buy Direct

 

But now Gumroad is a sustainable company. Sustainable in that it makes enough money to pay the employees it has and grows within the bounds of its business environs. It likely won’t be snapped up in some corporate maw while payroll is blasting through ‘runway.’ And Sahil is doing some interesting things in regard to thinking about company culture.

I decided that I needed to examine my site’s infrastructure. I examined Craft, Ghost.org, and then dug into Automattic. I realized that they’d really beefed up their mid range offerings for WordPress.com’s hosting plans. They also had an interesting company culture, commitment to transparency, and a commitment to being open.

Long story short, I decided to get a business hosting plan on WordPress.com and throw myself into rebuilding the site. I am trying to use Gumroad for as much of the billing stuff as I can, with an eye toward some day maybe leaving Patreon, even. But not yet. The hosting speed, and plugin hosting at WordPress.com is blazing fast. My site loads faster, is a joy to use, and it’s fast to use on the backend as well when I am making changes. WordPress will be automatically updated, and the plugins as well. No longer will I be fiddling to keep things going.

Additionally, I can now blog from my phone, posting media and posts on the go. I hope this will help blunt the Twitter addiction and bring me home.

You’ll notice the new front page guides people through on how to start reading my books, one of my more frequent questions (where do I start?). The latest book is featured there. Ways to support the site as well. Most of the old content is back, just with a faster, nicer theme. The blog has excerpts, instead of the old full length posts. This loads faster. I’ve featured what I am doing on Patreon more as well.

I will do a ‘books’ menu with a super menu down the road. There is some other small tweaking to be done. I have almost 20 years of posts archived on my old server, and I haven’t carried them over yet, and I’m not sure I will. It may be time to grab the top 20 and bring them over.

So for now, after 48 hours straight with very little sleep, I feel I can collapse with the feeling that we can turn a new corner.

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