By nature, I’m pretty restless to learn new things, especially in the nerd realm. This can be a huge asset: the pace of change within the world of technology, especially software, is lightning quick and driven by countless people constantly working to release interesting things to experiment with.
The balance I always struggle to strike is between chasing a moderate number of new shiny things while still spending enough time sharpening my current skills to the level I want to achieve. I admire people with the passion to immerse nearly their entire waking lives into doing both, but while software is more than just my job, I also have other interests I like to pursue. So, something always suffers.
Of course in many ways that’s a false dilemma. Most things in the software world are just tools that any skilled practitioner can learn and use to build on their more general knowledge. But, more recently there have been two major areas where I felt like I’d fallen behind many of my peers1: the proliferation of Markdown, and the use of distributed version control systems like Git and Mercurial.
With Markdown, it seems like services I use every day have either added support, or had it baked in from the start. 50 Million Elvis fans can’t be wrong. And while my job as of this post still primarily uses svn for source control, it seems like the rest of the development world has moved on to Git or Mercurial2. Now, I enjoy reading a technical book here and there, but what really helps me is applied learning, so I devised a new plan and decided on…you guessed it…yet another website migration!
I host and manage two low traffic websites where I am the only (semi-)regular creator of content. Wordpress was super easy to install on my shared hosting provider when I launched those sites, but it was not only overkill, it had plenty of hidden pitfalls and internet janitorial work associated. After seeing it mentioned around the web and doing some research, I decided to give Octopress a shot. There are other great low maintenance blog hosting options now like Squarespace and the soon to be launched Ghost looks incredible, but I really wanted to dive into the details and force myself to learn to use what has so far impressed me as a really simple3 but still really powerful publishing tool that produces a completely baked4 website.
Now that the initial oddyssey of setup, previous site content conversion, footnoting of all my old posts, theme tweaking, and completely unnecessary hosting changes has been taken care of, I can now write Markdown content in my favorite text editor or live preview tool, manage it all in a git repository on my various computers and on bitbucket / github, and deploy it all with a few command line tasks.
Once again I have no good excuses not to do all the writing I’ve been thinking about doing for months! Oh crap.
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I refuse to say things like “the cool kids™.” It smacks of insecurity and nerd on nerd violence.↩
Git by and large seems to have “won” between the two, due to its ubiquity in the open source community and the incredible platform available on Github.↩
For those of us comfortable in a terminal.↩
Yeah I hear your Beavis and Butthead laughing. That’s not near as bad a tech term as sharding.↩