Moving this site back to Wordpress.com

TL;DR – I am resurrecting my WordPress website, in fact if you are reading this, then good, you are seeing the correct website!

If you care for an explanation, here goes… If not then by all means have a read of my regular posts about more interesting things 😉

I started nicklewis.net about ten years ago and it has charted my progress through life as a contractor, freelancer, photographer, developer and as a kidney transplantee. Quite a lot happens in a decade!

So for the majority of this time the site was powered by the highly popular WordPress which I do love. However I switched to a different system, which is powered not by a database (like WordPress is) but static files and/or APIs. That system being Gatsby – it is brilliant no doubt but still quite young with many challenges to face before “coming of age”.

So what I did was to push back this site over to nicklewisweb.wordpress.com and to switch the domain of nicklewis.net to the Gatsby site hosted on Netlify. However I felt like it was missing some elemental things.

The question you may be asking, if you are still following me and haven’t nodded off yet…

Why?

Rubbish reason:

It seemed like a good idea? Everyone else has been doing it, which is partly true many people have.

Slightly better reason;

Better security, there is no database to worry about, since all content is produced in markdown format and then deployed to a CDN. Hackers, sorry, you are out of luck, there is nothing for you to get into.

A better reason:

Gatsby is based around ReactJS, which is fabulous and I’ve been using it a great deal for building front-ends. It is fast, lightning fast and when coupled with files served up by a CDN, the performance is Ferrari fast. It opens up a lot of possibilities not to mention, I am no fan of WordPress templates (prefer Drupal 8’s use of twig).

The problem:

This is a complex scenario to be honest and I hope to express my feelings of concern over the new approach we are taking and the rationale behind it all. The truth is that all of these new technologies are very new and they are far from perfect. What is after all? However there are many things that you can’t do with a static website, well not easily at least.

So here is a brief bullet-list overview of some of them:

  • Search doesn’t come out of the box as it does with WordPress or Drupal. Sure Algolia is great but let’s not forget you need to pay for that eventually. Ok for me if I have the spare funds but explain this to a client, especially a savvy client and you’ll have trouble justifying it. Some shrewd people may ask, well, this is a security hole is it not because this is database powered! Fair point and brownie points to you for spotting that one!
  • Maybe the first thing I should have mentioned is that editing content is not customer friendly, supposing you are a freelancer building sites for folk, either they will need to know how to create markdown files or you’ll need to resort to using Contentful (or similar). Guess what? Contentful costs money too and that would need to be factored into any quote. What was wrong with a simple $n per month per site all inclusive? Nope nothing at all, no nasty surprises and easier to quote for!
  • Keeping core software up-to-date hasn’t gone away either and different versions may require quite a lot of changes to get things to work because JS projects are notorious for over-innovating.

Let’s wrap this up here because I could go into more detail but I won’t.

GatsbyJS and other static engines such as Phenomic, Jekyll, Hugo and so on are all brilliant and work well for a lot of projects. However I do worry about the way people snap new ideas up these days without really thinking things through. It seems reckless to abandon the tools that have worked well for us for so long. Especially important when working with clients, you can sleep at night if you know the products you sell are pretty damn reliable and well tested.

I’m a fine one to talk but I’ve learnt a lesson here. I am not ruling static site generators out because CMS systems such as WordPress and Drupal will move more towards being “Headless” in the future and will utilise these tools…. that will be much better because we will then be seeing the emergence of hybrid systems that serve both our clients well and will open up a whole new realm of possibilities for developers the world over.

Finally I was missing the WordPress community tools and the joy that they bring in helping bring the bloggers together!

 

 

Posting to Wordpress from Lightroom CC

Today a few things starting with; posting directly to WordPress from Lightroom CC for mobile. It is simple, down right criminal almost and what’s more I can do this whilst on the train.

All you need is the WordPress app for your mobile and Lightroom for mobile. Choose your photo in LR and select share. It then prompts you to pick your size and then the app to share via using the standard methods. Done. All I needed to do after that, was write this bit of text!

I said there were a few things so watch out for posts on why thankfully I’ve rekindled this WordPress blog and some things around the corner. I shall come back to those!

New Email Newsletter

I am after a favour dear reader, as I am setting up a new email newsletter with Mailer Lite. I am doing this primarily to promote the new sites I am working on and since they are going to be of interest to the people who follow this site, I would like to invite you to sign up for it, just to help me try a few things out.

So first of all, please follow the link below which will take you to a form, insert your email adress, verify it via the email that follows and sometime soon, I will send out the first installment of my newsletter.

https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/i5g4n6

Thanks, you are a big help!

The Shard

Nick Lewis

Over the weekend Tina and I visited the Shard and it was utterly incredible. I swear we could see our house from up there if we looked hard enough some 35 miles to the South West!

The Shard is over 800 feet in height or at least the viewing point is that high up. So I could equate that to flying my drone twice its illegal altitude to the point I would lose sight of it. In fact I lose sight of it being 100 feet up, let alone 800!

The view was spectacular and you get four levels to explore between 69 and 72 though two of them are just the point at which you exit the lift and the last part is by a series of steps.

I had no idea that the uppermost level is open to the elements or at least parts of the ceiling are…

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Malta – Gnejna bay early morning seascape

Tim Lewis

9T2A1668

Over the years I’ve recorded many sounds in different locations around the world. This collection of recordings aims to highlight the unique ‘voices of a place’.

Recorded early morning as the sun rose. Not many people around, the small squat fishermen huts still boarded, a few fishing boats bobbed lightly at their moorings. There was simply the sound of the breeze playing through the rushes behind me, the chirruping of sparrows among the fields and eucalyptus, and the sea, gloriously flat calm and crystal clear as it lapped lightly against the sand. I sat there seemingly with the world to myself and as the light strengthened, promising another tremendously hot summers day, the Isle of Gozo began to shimmer on the horizon in an indistinct blur of colours, creamy pink cliffs, grey smudges of olive trees and yellow church steeples. Eventually an elderly man came and sat by the shore…

View original post 14 more words

New Contract & Working Remotely

This week I have started a new contract and this one is very different from previous gigs I have been on, because I am working from the office that we’ve been renting for the past two years – full-time! Woo hoo! It is about time and my commute is neglible because the office is just a smidgeon over a mile from the front-door of our house. I am here at about 8:30am and now have the chance to go to the gym (re-joined recently) first thing or cycle in, take a leisurely walk. Though in recent weeks I have cheated by taking the car, it’s cold, come on! Anyway this whole thing is a step towards a better work-life balance – I hope! It is scheduled to run until May 15th this year, so let’s see if extensions are forthcoming. If not then there are others that can follow on from this. I would love to work with clients further afield too, opening up the travel possibilities.

How did I get this role?

Most of the contracts I take, come in through agencies, I get paid a day rate and they take their cut. Admittedly LinkedIn is playing a bigger role for me now and as you become more established as a contractor/freelancer, it gets easier to source work. I started looking last Tuesday and by Friday, I was signing the contract but I did go for 3 different roles in the process. The remote role appealed a lot because I wanted it! I got it! Two telephone interviews and the process was done.

What is Remote working exactly?

In most cases we get up early, catch a train, drive for an hour or so (each way) and join a team who are all located in the same office. We all log on to client machines that are hooked up to an internal network, with the equipment we use mostly provided by the employing company. You can see, hear everyone around you, offices can be noisy places which for some people, especially if you are an introvert coder, can be a total nightmare. I am not entirely one of those people. In any case I am not alone, as my office is between two other companies who I chat with when given the chance. However I can shut my door, sit down, put some headphones on and focus.

Remote work is utterly different and this is the first time I have truly got involved with it. So perhaps I should journalise it?

I have my own office, my own equipment and in my case it is separate to our house, it is located in a gorgeous old Victorian building that was renovated a decade ago and now houses multiple small businesses. I chose this option because working from home is hard, at least it is for me and you end up never leaving the house. Here I don’t have that problem. I lock the door at the end of the day and go home! Some people are happy to stick at home or some even go out to cafes or co-working spaces that are more lively, more public. If you have a laptop these days, you can easily do that too. It is good to have options and for businesses (some at least) to be more visionary.

I am working with a team of 3 other developers, one of whom is the CEO for the business. We are outsourced by a third-party company who are developing a suite of web and mobile apps for a large American client. So it is truly global. We are all spread over the country and we collaborate using online tools. Slack being one of the main tools that we use. Our code is committed to BitBucket and we run Continuous Integration/Deployment. We can see what other team members have been working on and we can see the outcome when we hit a URL in the browser. So the client has measurable results the whole way.

I can remember reading the book “Remote: Office not required” by David Heinemeier Hansson (creator of Ruby-on-Rails) and Jason Fried (founder of Basecamp) and it opened my mind to the possibilities. I also think of Buffer who are very similar, in that their team are spread far and wide, from London to Melbourne via San Francisco.

Why not? The Internet surely makes this all possible – it does – but there are pitfalls, some say it is hard to tell whether their team are working effectively, reliably, efficiently and doing their core hours. You perhaps have to be twice as disciplined to make it work and you can run into the trap of working 24/7. I have been there, sitting watching a film and writing some code at the same time. Luckily my Wife gets it because for me this is a hobby that pays the bills. This week I have done something I don’t normally do, I leave my laptop in the office, so that we can watch the films and be socialable with other humans!

Back on WordPress?

I have been creating some other websites recently, you may wish to take a look if you’ve not yet seen them.

https://nicklewis.photo

https://www.headforcode.com

I am going to carry on with them all but will start writing here again, I have missed the community that I started to establish with this WordPress site. However I will be experimenting with turning WordPress into a “Headless CMS” at some point this year…. watch this space as they say!

 

Merry Christmas!

Seasons greetings from myself, my wife Tina and the rest of our family.

Next year I will be changing the way that I publish content online. I will move away from keeping all of my eggs in one basket where the blog is concerned and developing a series of smaller sites. The idea being that each one will be focussed on individual points of interest – Photography on one site, drones on another, music perhaps on another, technology and coding. I will be designing each site to look different but they will all be using a similar stack of technology to run them with.

This will tie in heavily with my professional work as a web developer and designer of web experiences. All of which will be shared across social media, so people won’t miss out on my scribblings, pictures and so on. I think that way I will reach a much wider audience than I do here.

So please bear with me whilst I bring this all together – I am working on it now.

So dear friend, what are you doing for Christmas? Please share 🙂

In any case, thanks for being who you are, keep blogging no matter how you go about it 😉