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New Website (January 2024)

I've been contemplating this move for a while and as is my want I've procrastinated... alot... but the time is finally here.

It's time to bid farewell to a trusty stead and all the baggage it carries with it and welcome in a new era of content creation.

So in case you were wondering, the trusty stead was WordPress. I've been using it since version 2.7 maybe or something around that mark and for the most part I like it... alot. Well, I did until they introduced the block editor... Gutenburg or whatever the heck it's called. Another product ruined, or made more time consuming to use, in the name of making these things more accessible for less technical users.

For me though it's all a bit odd... as a technical user I was more than happy to learn and remember all the formatting I had to use to create posts using the classic editor but for some reason I always struggle with keyboard shortcuts, so I've never had the patience to sit down and learn the short cuts that would probably enable me to optimise my block editing experience (at the moment it's very much type a bit, mouse a bit, type a bit, mouse a bit etc. etc.). I could use the classic editor, but even that seems somehow strained, it just doesn't feel as clean and simple as it did before this new editor was introduced. As a result, I've found creating new content an increasingly frustrating experience, to the point where I've just not had the will to sit there and write, which is quite sad because I've got quite a few things to say of late.

Life Update

So lets start with a bit of an update.

I'm actually back in the software game after a break of around 7 years. I landed myself a job with a big company working with a great bunch of guys at the start of last year (2023). Long story short, we make the software used by one of the UK's television broadcasters to manage their operations. It's mainly Delphi on an Oracle back end so there is a bunch of PL/SQL involved and we have the odd web based application and I'm loving it.

I work from home 3-4 days a week, so I got a room setup as an office/streaming space. Decorated, tidied, got all my books out and sorted myself out with a sit/stand desk, including a yoga ball for parking my ass and an anti-fatigue mat for standing. Loving it.

As part of my introduction to the product I got stuck into one of the web based applications and gave it some much needed TLC to bring it as up to date as I could without completely rewriting it (it's barely been touched since it was checked in to Subversion around 2008). One of the things I did was to create a new on-line help site for it. In the process of doing this I went looking for static site generators and I found MkDocs.

Why MkDocs?

Firstly, my employers have some fairly restrictive IT policies that include an approved software list, so my choices have to align with that list. Python is on that list. Is MkDocs 'software' or a module for Python? As a developer I'm afforded some latitude but not much, so this is a fine line I'm walking, but it's installed as a Python module so it's all good ;)

Other issues for me when it comes to things like this are ease of use and ease of extension/adaptation. I always seem to find something I want to do that isn't catered for with the off-the-shelf elements or extensions provided by third parties so I like the tools I use to be easy to extend and adapt. MkDocs is certainly that (as evidenced by all the plug-ins), but if you add the MkDocs Macros Plugin you gain access to a whole world of customisation using easy to write Python functions. Love it :)

The final requirement I had was for multi-language support (the work project needed to be capable of providing content in English and Welsh), enter MkDocs Static i18n Plugin. Whilst this may seem restrictive, this plug-in only supported certain themes, one of which was Material for MkDocs and what an amazing project it is. There's so much in it out of the box, and yes it's geared towards technical documentation but a lot of what I write is technically oriented so it's a pretty good match.

The Outcome

What this means for me is I don't have to worry about upgrading WordPress, MySQL or PHP anymore... I don't have to use that god awful block editor and I can write and update content from pretty much anywhere I can access my Github account and best of all... I don't have to worry about some miscreant hacking this site because it's static.

This article was first written in July 2023 when I started moving over to Mkdocs. The move itself has taken longer than I expected, largely because of some unforseen health issues that have consumed a lot of my time (spare and otherwise), but we're nearing the end of the move. All the articles I want to move are now in Markdown and for the most part I think they are all appropriately tagged and categorised. The static pages of WordPress have also been moved over, so as we're nearly there. One last check and I should be ready to switch off WordPress and say good bye to the trusty stead for good. I feel quite sad that I'm ditching WordPress after all this time, but since they changed the editor it's just not worked for me, so it's time. I'm sure there will be things I'll be tweaking, like article categories, tags etc. because I've never really thought about them too much before, but the key thing for me is that I can quickly write and publish things just by committing to Github 😄