Rejiggering meets build versus buy

You’re here! That means I’ve managed to convert my site (back) over to WordPress. In the interest of making progress, I had to cut some corners. Currently, that manifests itself as taking my old weblogs Man vs. Machine and Punchline Labs offline while I figure out how to rejigger the content into WordPress. But if I’ve broken something, please tell me!

Wait, don’t stop reading! This isn’t “Yet Another Boy-Have-I-Been-Busy But Now I Promise To Post More” post!

The decision to switch (back) to WordPress is a somewhat bittersweet one. I’d originally switched away to Typo, but that didn’t work out too well. On the one hand, Typo went a little sideways on me, requiring me to poke the database a little before I could post. On the other hand, running a big Rails app like Typo on shared hosting like TextDrive isn’t a recipe for reliability. So a change was necessary.

Point: you’re cooler if you write your own weblog software. Its been pointed out that Jedi build their own lightsabers and thus, so should programmers. I think its a wonderful idea and I subscribe to it where I can. However, its an idea at one end of a spectrum of pragmatism and I need to live at the other end.

  • On one end, you've got building your own software, all the time, because you're that cool or because you've got an insanely weird domain. So you build your own software. See also, Not Invented Here. Usually, this is the wrong choice.
  • Then you've got building your own lightsaber. You do this because learning is more important than implementing something quickly. This is usually the wrong choice for "production" code.
  • If you need to go quickly but still need to get involved in the domain you're working on, hacking something is a great choice. You don't have to start from scratch and you don't have to learn everything by making mistakes.
  • Finally, you could just buy or download something and tweak it in the ways the creator predicted you would. Adopting hosted web apps is one in the same. This is ideal for times when you just don't care about the domain the app caters to. Bug trackers and mail clients fall into this category for most people.

Counter-point: the writing is more important than the gizmos. To a point, writing my own weblog software is just yak shaving. In fact, I’ve been contemplating switching weblogs, hosts and a myriad of other choices for month. Thus, with a cleanly shorn yak and nothing to show for it, I finally jumped in the pool and switched. And now, I can write. Awesome!

The writing here is the most important thing. Not so much whether I’ve got Ruby cred because I run a Ruby-powered weblog, web cred because I skipped using widgets to pull in some content rather than hacking it in (I went with widgets) or design cred because I built my own theme. Very few people will come back on those strengths alone. Its the writing stupid! And thus, I’m re-aligning to make development choices based on removing friction from writing.

I think I made a reasonable choice going with WordPress and hacking DePo Clean. In the end, I just want something that lets me write whatever and whenever I want with as little friction as possible. WordPress fits that maxim. Plus I think Matt Mullenweg and the rest of the Automattic team have pretty good taste, and I can get behind that.

So, what have we learned?

  • Adam is using this post to justify his decisions to himself.
  • Adam changed some software around and hopes you like it.
  • Don't spend too much time waffling on software choices. Just take a shot in the middle.
  • Making an educated choice somewhere in the middle of build vs. buy is important

See, I told you this wasn’t one of those posts where I apologize for not posting for many months and then promise to post more frequently. Though with my luck, I won’t post again for three weeks ;)

Adam Keys @therealadam