Why I Switched to WordPress.com

(Insert generic inspirational quote here)

I spent the entire weekend trying to sort out why changing my WordPress theme brought down my site. There was this error and I just couldn’t figure out what was happening. I exported my data, moved to a temporary free WordPress.com account as a backup, and re-installed WordPress on my self hosted site.

Before we get to far into it, to clarify, WordPress is a technology that lets you create blogs. You can either run WordPress on your own server (in the cloud) or let a company manage your installation. WordPress.com is a company that manages WordPress installations, so you can blog away and let WordPress.com handle the technical details of running the site.

Getting back to it, I reinstalled three more times because each time I ran into a different problem. I think the issue came down to a database incompatibility, but it was just one in a series of problems I’ve encountered over the last few years while running my own site. My site was “defaced” via an exploit in an out of date version of WordPress, was unable to connect to Jetpack services, and needed to be re-installed one too many times. This iteration was the last straw. I needed to switch from site maintenance mode and get back to blogging.

Self Hosting

There’s a lot you need to keep up with when running your own WordPress install. I enjoyed learning all the details over the years of running my site. Finding the pieces and putting them all together was fun and made for fulfilling work when the site decided to play along. Although, when something went wrong, managing this workflow and disjoint accounts brought my progress writing posts to a complete halt.

Here are many of the pieces required to run a WordPress site (all of which WordPress.com will handle for you):

Hosting

Your site needs to live somewhere (search for “WordPress hosting” to find a few options)

Domain Name

A site needs a url, so you have to ensure your domain name registration is up to date every year, AND linked to the WordPress install. The latter is a constant source of struggle. (Namecheap, Google, GoDaddy, Hover, etc)

Certs

Want that green lock on your site? You’ll need an SSL certificate. Site certificates let people connect securely and communicate privately with your blog, so it’s important that your has the correct certs. (Let’s Encrypt, Comodo, Namecheap, etc)

Backup

Site backups are crucial in case anything every goes wrong (which through my experience seems common), but they are costly, unintuitive, and require manual configuration.

Updates

WordPress must be kept up to date, with a self-hosted site, you need check for updates. It requires active engagement. I try to write posts on a weekly cadence, but sometimes there would be long stretches of time I didn’t go on the site. You can configure auto-updates to the WordPress core, but there are many caveats. In either case, it’s another task you need to keep in the back of your mind, using up resources I could allocate elsewhere.

Customization

Do you spend way too much time setting up your video game character, even before starting the game? You’ll do the same with WordPress site customization. While seemingly a differentiator, a site’s look is not nearly as important as it’s content. (Ironically, switching from a highly customized theme to the default Twenty Seventeen theme kicked off this whole ordeal)

In then end, all this mental overhead was cutting into my time and creativity. Running the technology distracted from what I wanted to do with my site. And with that, I handed over the keys to WordPress.com.

Going Forward with WordPress.com

Note, this is not a review of WordPress.com. I’ve only used the service a couple days, so I’m still deciding if it’s the right fit. However, I had five accounts to manage everything related to my website, and now I have one.

Blog spectrum of User customization and control to One experience fits all (Doing my best Stratechery impression)

WordPress.com sits in the middle of the blogging platform spectrum of user control and one experience fits all. I can still modify my the site to make it feel like my own, but I don’t have the same level of configuration as a self-hosted site. It’s a good first step to building a focus on writing, because I don’t want bells and whistles anymore. I want to write and develop something new.

Technology works best when it’s invisible. I am optimistic that getting the site administration work out of the way will free up headspace to think and give me time to create more.

My site has a history on WordPress, so there is some lock in to the technology. As I searched for a platform that just lets me write, switching to WordPress.com was an easy first option to explore. Since it’s easy to transfer WordPress data from one hosting service to the next, I brought all my posts with me to WordPress.com.

With that said, I am going to keep iterating, with new formats, platforms, and mediums. I am now a customer of WordPress.com. If I decide their services improve my ability to create, I will stick with them. Otherwise, as WordPress.com says in their own words “You own your data – take it anywhere”.

Medium.com leans further towards the one experience fits all side of the blogging platform spectrum. On Medium, you get a title, and a story. That’s it, but it’s amazing. The focus is on the content of the words on the page, not the theme of the website.

I have a Medium account with zero posts (until know). Starting today I will be cross posting longer form thoughts like this under the Medium Partner Program (and I checked, this is allowed by the Medium Content Guidelines). All my posts will still be on my site, but I want to experiment with Medium to learn how the different communities interact.

So let’s see how this goes. The content of my blog has changed over the years from small ideas (Seth Godin-style), to connecting things I read/hear/watch, weekly reviews, back to connections, and now a news feed. I can already tell this latest iteration is working well. It’s easier to get back to writing and integration with email updates, social media, and reader feedback is better overall. There’s less in the way of getting things done, and I’m hopeful this new format will keep my momentum going strong.

Be on the lookout for a future post explaining “Why I’m Staying with WordPress.com” or perhaps “Why I Switched to Medium”.

Cosmic Brain

Stars in the sky

Remember this video? In it you start with a person lying on the ground looking up at the sky. The camera zooms out exponentially into space showing the immense scale of the galaxies. Then, we quickly zoom back in to molecular scale

Notice the similarity of the Cosmic Web at 1 billion light years and Quarks at 1 femtometer

I immediately recalled the Cosmic eye video when I read this headline:

The Strange Similarity of Neuron and Galaxy Networks

The article is written by an astrophysicist and a neuroscientist on the similar complexities and structures of the brain and the cosmic web.

The task of comparing brains and clusters of galaxies is a difficult one. For one thing it requires dealing with data obtained in drastically different ways: telescopes and numerical simulations on the one hand, electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and functional magnetic resonance on the other.

It also requires us to consider enormously different scales: The entirety of the cosmic web—the large-scale structure traced out by all of the universe’s galaxies—extends over at least a few tens of billions of light-years. This is 27 orders of magnitude larger than the human brain. Plus, one of these galaxies is home to billions of actual brains. If the cosmic web is at least as complex as any of its constituent parts, we might naively conclude that it must be at least as complex as the brain.

Complexity of the brain and cosmos “can be quantified by counting how many bits of information are necessary for building the smallest possible computer program that can … predict its behavior.” We do this using an equally fascinating measurement tool: Computers. “independent studies have concluded that the total memory capacity of the adult human brain should be around 2.5 petabytes, not far from the 1-10 petabyte range estimated for the cosmic web!” Petabytes are huge.  This means the amount of information needed to predict the behavior of a human brain is roughly equivalent to the amount of data required to stream the first two seasons of Stranger Things 50 thousand times.

Does this fact tell us something profound about the physics of emergent phenomena in the two systems? Maybe. But we must take these findings with a grain of salt. Our analysis has been limited to small samples taken with very different measurement techniques.

But it’s fun to think about.

Two Weeks in Review – November 5, 2017

Sunset over mountains from black to blue to orange

4:45 and its dark outside

Podcasts

The Finnish (UBI) Experiment – 99 Percent Invisible

The Psychology of Self-Righteousness – Jonathan Haidt – On Being
An interesting psychological take on political leanings

Readings

Bitcoin uses a lot of energy. Why not a solar powered rig?

The World’s Happiest Places – National Geographic

Tech

Xbox One X

iPhone X

A raspi cluster looks fun, and so does gaming on a plane.

And so many video games: BF1, Fortnite and TF2.

Food

Challah French toast

Donut or doughnut?

Week in Review – October 1, 2017

An old bike and a sleeping dog next to a wooden fence

Read

The Handmaid’s Tale (no, don’t just watch the show)

Write

Book or blog? Unfinished and developing thoughts fit best in a blog. Plus one can use WordPress and Stripe for subscriber payments.

https://stratechery.com/2017/books-and-blogs/

Because aggregators deal with digital goods, there is an abundance of supply; that means users reap value through discovery and curation, and most aggregators get started by delivering superior discovery.

Then, once an aggregator has gained some number of end users, suppliers will come onto the aggregator’s platform on the aggregator’s terms, effectively commoditizing and modularizing themselves. Those additional suppliers then make the aggregator more attractive to more users, which in turn draws more suppliers, in a virtuous cycle.

This means that for aggregators, customer acquisition costs decrease over time; marginal customers are attracted to the platform by virtue of the increasing number of suppliers. This further means that aggregators enjoy winner-take-all effects: since the value of an aggregator to end users is continually increasing it is exceedingly difficult for competitors to take away users or win new ones.

https://stratechery.com/2017/defining-aggregators/

Sleep

This article was popular this week: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Why do we sleep less?

We electrified the night, and light is a profound degrader of our sleep.

There is the issue of work: not only the porous borders between when you start and finish, but longer commuter times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead.

We have stigmatized sleep with the label of laziness. We want to seem busy, and one way we express that is by proclaiming how little sleep we’re getting. It’s a badge of honor.

You should sleep more

I give myself a non-negotiable eight-hour sleep opportunity every night, and I keep very regular hours: if there is one thing I tell people, it’s to go to bed and to wake up at the same time every day, no matter what.

Hey, you know who else says that? Ray Dalio. He says it helps keep an even keel.

Take away?

Need to wake up at 7. Go to sleep at 11 sharp. Recently, 11 PM turns to 11:45, so 7 AM becomes 7:30.

Speak

Here be Sermons from Melting Asphalt

Thoughts

Is a blog a sermon or a lecture? Does the faceless audience denote a congregation or group of individuals?

Suppose Feynman’s physics lectures were never recorded, and you were (somehow) the only person in attendance as he was delivering them. In other words, he’s lecturing to an audience of one. Well, you might feel sad for everyone else who’s missing out — but at least you’ll learn some things, and Feynman is probably happy to teach you. (It might even be a competitive advantage for you to learn directly from the master

How does aggregation theory apply to sermons?

Moral communities often benefit from upholding a so-called meta-norm: an injunction to punish anyone who doesn’t punish others for their transgressions. As you can imagine, this kind of recursive rule requires commensurately recursive knowledge in order to get off the ground.

Ride

Best Electric Bikes 2017
Copenhagen Wheel on The Verge
Rad Power Bikes

Week in Review – August 27, 2017

Eclipse 2K17!

Tech & Programming

Books & Reading

Disney’s Choice

Stratechery

Vertical companies like Apple achieve profits by selling differentiated goods at high margins. Horizontal companies like Google, on the other hand, achieve profits through scale, which by extension means being free (or as low cost as possible) is more important than being the “best”; the brilliance of Google’s model, of course, is that having more users, and thus more data, means it is the best as well.

Epic of Gilgamesh

Wikipedia page

This story is over 4000 years old but was only discovered in 1853. Time deteriorated the tablets and filtered the text to what we have today. The story is about King Gilgamesh of Uruk and his quest to beat death, but what amazed me was the insight it gave to the scale of humanity at the time the story was written (my thoughts were influenced from just reading Sapiens). If all stories were kept on multiple tablets of similar size, where are all the others? What happened in the 4000 years that we never decided to make another copy? Today, it seems the internet will preserve all we create for the foreseeable future, so Gilgamesh will live on.

Everything Else

CinemaSins

CinemaSins is great for screening movies of questionable quality without investing the entire 2 hours on a rotten tomato (but the Kong director doesn’t think so). For example, Power Rangers. Now I know I only need to watch the end to see Megazord. Granted this is not a replacement for watching the movie, just a way to rearrange your list of what to watch next. Still, such nostalgia.

Don’t forget the second step

Seth Godin

Showing up and doing it again and again until you’re good at it, and until it’s part of who you are and what you do.

Gothic Basin

A preview of what’s to come…

At the top of Gothic Basin

Earworm

Cryptocurrency

Man facing away standing on a Brazilian street

Here’s an unformed thought for the day

What is the value of a cryptocurrency? If something like Ripple makes sense from an application perspective, but the blockchain is not as useful, does it adhere to the crypto manta of fat protocols and lean application layer? Not sure exactly what that means yet, but if the application is the selling point, it seems like blockchain is not the most well suited to the problem.

When we look at Bitcoin, the value of the blockchain is defined by its ability to record financial transactions, and rewarded in the verification, or Ethereum, where the value is the smart contracts and again rewarded in verification, the inherent the value of the coin is in the blockchain, the fat protocols that give life to the thin task layer above.

Does bitcoin, the currency, have financial value because of the Bitcoin blockchain? I am not quite sure. Where does the $2.5k+ price point come from? I sort of understand the opportunity of blockchain as a technology, but the value in the currency still alludes me.

Here’s another coin that makes some sense. Filecoin. This is a cryptocurrency that is paid to users who lend unused hard drive space. File transactions are stored in blockchain and contracts are paid out via a filecoin drop (how to upper and lower case coins differ? Bitcoin vs bitcoin?). With Filecoin is a tangible contract. A seller who has unused hard drive space in s server somewhere. A buyer who needs hard drives to store data. And a currency, filecoin, as a means for the transaction to take place. The Filecoin blockchain (I’m sticking with upper case for the blockchain itself, and lowercase for the coin, maybe that’s right), records all the transactions keeping a history of what went where (again, maybe this is just for Bitcoin). I kinda had it: http://filecoin.io/

What else is out there?

Steemit, Synereo, Akasha? I like the tag line of mining your mind. One could see this becoming the way of the future on the internet. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies solve the problem of advertisers. From the get go, there are blockchains set up to pay people for their creations. I’m still unsure this is the best use of the tech, but it is great to see a new way of funding artists, creators, and makers.

“Within each Bitcoin transaction is the ability to write a little program. For example, you can write a little program in a Bitcoin transaction that says “this transaction isn’t valid unless it’s June 15th, 2016 or later”. This is very powerful because you can move money automatically with computer code and everyone can see the rules by which that money moves and know those rules will be followed.” (From Ethereum is the Forefront of the Digital Economy)

More fascination

We needed to invent something completely different to get people to crowd fund projects. How do we have headlines like “the easiest way to monetize your open source work” that work in currency most people don’t even know about, but we cant’t do the same with fiat currency? It is similar to government efforts to fix hyperinflation. Where was it that changed the currency and tried to replace people’s perception of the money? I think I heard about it in a Planet Money podcast. Ah Brazil: How Fake Money Saved Brazil and How Four Drinking Buddies Saved Brazil (Podcast)

Replace URV with BTC and hyperinflation with spammy internet ads, and you nearly have the same story.

Fact check – URV or BTC?

Create a currency that doesn’t exist. No coins, no bills
URV (its called BitCOIN, duh)

He and three friends had been studying X since they were graduate students — four guys at the campus bar complaining to each other about how no one else knew how to fix this.  And now they were being told “Fine, do it your way.”

Find X: Brazilian Inflation or Spammy Internet Ads
Brazilian Inflation

Enough of that. People will catch on.

Lightening round

DAO sounds fun, but I don’t get it (and neither does coindesk)
(The DAO Just Raised 50 Million, But What is It?)

Only the dull mine Ethereum. Go create!
(An Idiots Guide to Building an Ethereum Mining Rig)

More questions

What do Ethereum miners verify on the blockchain? Completion of all the contracts? What is the Bitcoin verification process for that matter? I think i conflated cryptocurrency and blockchain, what is the distinction?

Getting tired. Taking a break for a few.

Next time on internet ramblings with Ryan: How to prepare a balanced meal of energy usage, water consumption, and animal ethics.

Edit

(this post didn’t publish correctly a few weeks ago)

Now this is happening: Bitcoin is forking to BTC and BCC. Coinbase is only supporting BTC. People are concerned. This seems like a stock split. Speculation abound.

(didn’t post again…)

Some analysis on the fork Bitcoin Exchange Had Too Many Bitcoins