I hatched the idea for this journal the other day while pondering ways to keep engaged with folks as I spend many long days slinging code (#showerideas).
On a whim, I decided to poll the audience to see if folks would be interested in these updates and the results were affirming:
Since I’m heavy in build mode with @PoweredByLevel, I’m considering starting a frequent (daily?) blog where I jot down notes about what I worked on the past day so folks can follow along. Wins, challenges, etc.— Derrick Reimer (@derrickreimer) August 17, 2018
Does that sound interesting?
The next step was to choose where to publish these posts. If you know me personally, this will come as no surprise: I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to design. Combine that with the typical software developer hazard of wanting to implement stuff by hand, this little project could have easily absorbed much more of my time than it really deserved.
Initially, I entertained a few options: a static site generator like Middleman or Hugo, Wordpress, Ghost, and Medium. All those options (except Medium) are 100% customizable, which is their biggest drawback for me (due to the perfectionism mentioned above). Medium is a platform with limited customizability, but there you get what you pay for. I cannot, in good faith, subject readers to Medium “pardoning their interruption” to ask for an upgrade.
So I returned to the drawing board and began searching for an alternative, with some criteria.
Limited customizability. I want the design to be minimal, optimized for the reader experience, and uniform with the rest of the platform (so that I’m not tempted to try to morph it to match my marketing site).
Not free. Yes, not free. The reason why the Medium experience is beginning to suffer is that they need to monetize. I don’t blame them for pursuing revenue (you kind of need that if you are a business), but I don’t want to become the product.
Hosted. Yes, I know how to stand up servers and deploy sites. I’m aware of GitHub pages (where my personal blog is hosted) and Netlify and the like. However, just because I can doesn’t mean I should. Software developers have a strong propensity to waste precious time on things they know how to do but sit outside the core mission of what they are working on. Any time spent fiddling with deploying this journal is time robbed from getting my MVP built faster, writing actual words on this journal, or hanging out with my wife and recharging.
Not a contributor to the “bullshit web”. I’m fed up with bloat on the internet. Tune in to the Art of Product podcast this week to hear Ben and me rage even more against that nonsense (well, mostly Ben, he was especially on fire!).
The right amount of reader engagement. Like Twitter and other places where people talk on the internet, comments could quickly turn into yet another thing I frequently check to get a little hit of endorphins. But it would be nice if there was something to signify that people are enjoying what I’m publishing…
Enter, Svtble #
This platform meets all the criteria, has been around for years, and even has this promise that aligns with my priorities – they get it.
I only have two days of experience with the platform, but so far it feels quite simple and elegant. They haven’t crammed it full of features or tried to become Wordpress. You can only customize a few things (primary color, name and tagline, some links). Their “kudos” feature lets me know I’m not speaking to an empty room but doesn’t distract me too much. Frankly, these are the kinds of product nuances I’m aiming to achieve in Level.
So bravo, Svbtle!
P.S. My only gripe is that I don’t know how to pronounce the name correctly and my brain always questions its own intelligence when I go to hit that “v” keystroke ;).