The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. WordPress
Hello! Welcome to a new look for asabharwal.com. It’s pages load fast (as low as 1.4 seconds) meets web standards, and is easy to read. Its simplified and doesnt have unnecessary code. Oh, and the site you are browsing now is not running on WordPress or any other CMS; but it is a statically generated site, built using Jekyll.
I have been writing and producing on this site since 2007 using WordPress. I have setup sites in WordPress for friends and customers, and have stable running sites. WordPress is a reliable and capable CMS. But over the last few months, as I tried to write more and more long form articles, I found that the features of CMS which make it powerful and an all-rounder, were coming in my way.
I ran WordPress with very few plugins - Jetpack, Vaultpress, Akismet, and WP Super Cache. The themes I stuck with were simple and gave emphasis to typography. I stayed away from page builders and complicated themes.
Despite all this - I found that the performance of the site was not acceptable to me. It was slow to load and start serving content. (And yes, I’m talking after considering the server, which was a SSD based VPS).
As I tried to optimise my site for load times, I found that WordPress more often than not made things more difficult.
With Jekyll - I’m working with static files. Quick loading and easy optimisation.
Templates and Customisation
I have tried customising templates, and building them from scratch in WordPress as well, however despite the fact that I am not technically challenged, it was complex for me to customise as per my desires. With Jekyll, I have been able to get my template customised, and ready for use in the space of a weekend.
##Text Editor One of the most powerful feautures of WordPress is its editor. However I always used to struggle writing long form with the editor, and I was forced to write my text offline using BBEdit or Byword. Pasting back into WordPress did not always work. Neither Markdown, nor HTML pasted back perfectly and I had to fight with WordPress again to perfect my pages. So much that I dreaded publishing.
With the new page builder like Gutenberg features to be introduced in WordPress 5, I expect this to start getting worse.
#Hidden Costs Using WordPress, I also found a lot of hidden costs in the form of Akismet, Vaultpress and the big hog - Jetpack. Jetpack’s premium plans were not cheap. When I started paying for these services, I was happy, the service was good and did what it promised, over the past 6-8 months, though - Jetpack started becoming a complete hog, hiding more and more features and moving you to WordPress.com to manage aspects of a self hosted blog. This for me defied the purpose of self hosting.
With Jekyll, I use Git repositories (I use Azure DevOps as a remote) to save backups and keep versioning my site. I have also setup Pipelines to automatically generate and push my site to my server.
##Simplicity - Why Jekyll won Jekyll allowed me to get simple. I’m now writing my articles in Markdown, pushing my changes into a git repository and having them automatically pushed to the site. I’m not struggiling with my words, and concentrate on what I’m writing rather than worrying about how something will be published.
A new year
Tonight 2016 ends. I don't know if it was a good year or a bad year. I do believe it was a year with a lot of change. Change brought about for good (or for bad) as some may believe. I lost my last grandparent, I lost a dog, I spent 10 days in New York, and I read a few good books. I found a place for myself in my own eyes and in the work I do. I don't believe change is about resolutions. A new year is an arbitrary deadline. How will I decide something without understanding how it will affect the rest of my year.
Stranger in a strange land
An unusual set of circumstances had me making some additions to my technology surroundings the last couple of days. My OS X computing serenity was disturbed by the need of running a Windows version of an app (looking at you Powerpoint Mac and your inability to embed fonts) caused me to run Windows 10 in bootcamp. To compound that horror, today I went out and bought an Android phone.
The dawn of the very vertical app
A friend of mine on Facebook invited me to a FB page today and introduced me to a new app- GottaGo. An Android app that lets you find the nearest restroom in Delhi, Mumbai, and Pune. This got me thinking about how some product ideas are becoming more niche and focusing on doing one thing and only one thing, while trying to do it well.
A different story
I had an idea for a different kind of storytelling the other day. Maybe I was inspired by the buzzword of co-creation I keep throwing out in my day job. I wanted to try my hand at telling a story through pictures and words. And for new words I reached out to friends on Facebook.
I think I have had a decent first attempt. What do you think?
There’s intent for that
Last week was an interesting week in the world of technology and gadgets. Google’s Android 5.1 started rolling out, bringing fixes and some new features to the popular mobile os. Google calendar is finally available as a native app on the iPhone. And Apple gave us a spring forward event to begin the season… While the event was ostensibly to give more details about the Watch, but they pulled out a surprising one more thing in the form of the new Macbook.
The two products are a technical marvel and are a testament to the engineering and design prowess that have made Apple’s devices some of the best in the world. A laptop that is so thin and — if the display is anything like the display in my retina MacBook Pro – has one of the finest displays out there for a consumer grade device. Or a smart watch which may not have been the first in its category, but with its concepts will likely reinvent the category.
Take a step back from all thats shiny in these new devices however; look under the sapphire glass screens and the aluminium unibodies, there are changes, subtle and not so subtle. Changes in how you use devices and how they work. And that… that is what is really exciting.
What’s your resolution for 2015?
As another year comes to a close, and the time for resolutions comes around, I thought of something which stayed with me from a movie I watched a while ago.
Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator – is both an amusing and a thought provoking movie. The caricature of Hitler in the form of the _Romanian _dictator and the Jewish barber who is so similar to him, that the Dictator’s own soldiers mix up the two of them. The comedy in the movie highlights the absurdity of Hitler or in this case Henkel’s rise to power culminating in one very powerful speech where the barber impersonates the dictator, to denounce him in front of his people.
With that thought I leave you with some words from Charlie Chaplin’s speech in the Great Dictator.
Accessibility and the digital arts
Accessibility is the science of developing technologies and interfaces in such a way that users with limited abilities (visual, auditory or control impairments) can use tools and channels to achieve parity with those whose abilities are not. Web pages separate text from the interface and the design, so that screen readers can read out text to those who cannot read. Assistive input devices like sip & puff devices and wands allow input without keyboards.
You would ask me, why go to such extremes of building assistive technology and capabilities into what is ultimately a short lived campaign? Our budgets and timelines would never allow for it.
In cricket I think this is a ton…
And just like that with my last post – I have made 100 posts on this experiment of mine.
On 13th August 2008 – I made my first post – Questioning Google. Google bashing continues to be one of my favourite topics. What with questioning the abilities of Google Translate, or when Google decided to lock me out of my account (my most popular post to date BTW).
Newer and newer experiments, with my posts on Exploring Hinduism; have me writing long format posts on an intriguing topic, examining the history of my faith. While my identifiable love for all things technological can be found scattered all over.
What started out as an experiment for me has grown into a regular part of my daily life. Whether I am just tracking visitors, researching topics or playing around with themes (oh god do I play around with themes :))
It is fun – and I do want to thank you, dear readers, for coming back and reading, making me want to do this more and more.
Its been great so far and can only get better 🙂
Varuna - the Elder God
Varuna is one of the elder gods, sovereign of the water. He is the first god of the Hindu pantheon accredited with the creation of the world. He was the first king and law giver. The prime mover of the universe, he was mostly concerned with moral and societal affairs than being a deification of nature.