Has the blog had it’s day?

I enjoy blogging don’t get me wrong because it encourages me to write and that’s the reason – I love to write and many years ago, for awhile I wrote articles for a couple of magazines. I went for a job with Future Publishing (Technical Editor) back in the Commodore Amiga days. I had to write an article before going for the interview and that was their way of shortlisting candidates. I got through the first stage and was shown around their offices in the beautiful city of Bath. It was exciting and I was only in my early 20’s at the time. It was also the early days of the web, blogging hadn’t been invented, yet alone Facebook and the social media phenomomen. I can’t help but feel it could have ended up a little bit like the film “Sliding Doors” albeit without the romance and about a young geek who would later discover that whichever path he took he would end up….

Here!

The web has democratised writing, journalism, photography and many other industries. The 20 year old Nick wouldn’t have dreamt any of this stuff up back in the day. Yet I feel we are approaching another turning point again (if we haven’t already and I missed it). Blogging has reached maturity and I can’t help but feel that it needs something, more, not sure what exactly, in order to keep it alive. Read on and I shall share some industry inside info!

A whole industry has evolved around CMS systems which is what I ended up working with pretty much exclusively for a long time as a web developer and have worked with some big organisations. Now I am torn as once upon a time I enjoyed working with PHP and MySQL the essence of WordPress (upon which this site runs and many millions of others). The problem is my work has led me off on a tangent, a good one but a confusing one. I now specialise in Javascript and don’t panic this post is not going to get all geeky and techie for those readers of mine who aren’t Developers. We can do a great deal more in the browser now and the architecture of web applications has taken a seismic shift in a whole new direction. I feel like at times, I am sat on the top deck of a fast ferry whisking me away and I am watching one phase of my career rapidly vanish in the sea of technology….

If I had taken that job back in 1992, I would have been putting together a floppy disk for the cover of the issue each month with some tips on how to use your new shareware or public domain apps! Yes apps! We didn’t call them that then but that’s what they were. Ok, they took 5 minutes to load before you could use them and you couldn’t carry them around in your pocket either.

So back to the theme of this article, what next for blogging? What next for this individual site?

Well I am a web developer after all and as Director/Founder/CEO/Etc of HeadForCode.com it is time to give you an insight into my vision for what could come next. My mind is full of ideas, visions and other junk (added that to see if my Wife is reading this).

Let’s bear in mind some other people have in the past challenged WordPress, Drupal etc with new ideas. I think some of the best alternatives out there are Medium, Tumblr and a few others. Now there are some other new ways of building sites, that I’d like to introduce you to and to share some actual examples of such.

Static Site Generators and the JamStack

Just now I hinted at one of our other websites, our company site http://www.headforcode.com and it is a good example of a whole new way of building sites that in some ways aren’t actually new. Ok, a big contradiction I know! The HeadForCode site has no database, it is based entirely on Markdown files. Markdown being a file format that is easy to write and is later “compiled” to HTML, there are plenty of examples out there to explain it in more depth, should it be of interest.

We then “deploy” the site once it is “built” to a server that features a fast CDN network, so that visitors get to see a very fast site indeed. It is also less prone to hacks because it is based on static files and no database at all. Just like back in 1991, see another link back to the start of my story.

Some people call this the JAMStack which stands for Javascript, APIs and MarkUp. This is significant as I hope to explain this better in some future articles that I am going to write which explain the benefits of this to both developers and non-developers. We still need to maintain the well established relationship of Developer/Consultant with that of the customer who will be given control of their content. In the future that content could be pulled in from a variety of sources. The aim being to create far more spontaneous web content for the consumer.

I have often thought about Photographers (being one myself) and how WordPress works as a solution. It can get very messy when implementing your site, you end up adding tonnes of plugins and if you get involved with template design and editing, that too can become a mess. Well at least that is my experience with WordPress when I’ve worked with clients.

Some people may use external services for dealing with their photography, such as Instagram and here is another example of something I created…¬†https://nickogram.netlify.com/ which is another one of these new SSG things. I just re-build it to import the latest photos already hosted on Instagram. Ok this is all very well for me being a developer and if you are not, it’s not much cop. However what if a company took this idea and built something they could offer Joe Public, where you sign up, pay your money and voila.

Just some ideas guys, the marketplace is set to become busier and I’d like to see less of Facebook and the big companies trying to muddy the waters of what was originally Sir Tim Berners-Lee great idea.

Tales from the Island – The Salt Farmers

Tim Lewis

The Cini family of Zebbug in northern Gozo traditionally harvest salt on salt pans which have been in continuous use since Phoenician times. The pans have been owned by the family for hundreds of years. Now a new generation are taking over responsibility for salt production and as they look to the future they explore the challenges, such as climate change, and the new possibilities, such as renewed interest in old traditional techniques and tourism.

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