For completeness, I present this brainstorming session about merging two other kinds of content streams in with blog content, an unfinished draft from somewhere during a Lost Time Period of 2020.
I haven’t written about The Quest in a long time. When last we left our intrepid hero, way back at the end of 2019, he was trying to learn how to use the static site generator Hugo. I never wrote a post about it, but I eventually figured out the issues I was experiencing and was able to generate the beginnings of a static site like I wanted to. Then I set aside the whole project, and now it’s over a year later.
But the other day (which was actually in October 2020, since this is an old draft) I thought about the Quest For The One Blog again, and the side quest of merging all my content into one place. It occurred to me that I create three different “streams” of content for the public these days. One is this blog, which was originally supposed to be a side project to house all the gaming stuff away from my real blog, but somehow now is my main blog. The second is my Twitter feed, which is honestly where I do most of my writing because it’s just easier to compose 288-character sentences than 1000-word blog posts. The third is my YouTube channel, which gets a whole lot more content updates than my blog lately.
While investigating Twitter digests, I discovered that I can make an RSS digest feed out of my tweets, which is pretty cool. It’s a really convenient way to look back over what I’ve written on Twitter, because Twitter itself has an abominable UI for that sort of thing. Twitter generally doesn’t want people to explore old content too much, just write new, easily-forgettable content.
YouTube generates RSS feeds of their channels too, but they keep it on the down-low, because they’d rather you go through their ecosystem the normal way. You can drop my YouTube channel into your favorite RSS reader and see all the videos I upload in a way that makes it look almost exactly like a blog. The exact link for my YouTube RSS feed is this extremely human-readable and friendly URL: http://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=UCS0bzW6KmGmiq0o2Xs8VwgQ.
Blogs, of course, have RSS feeds as well. So with these three content streams in mind, I wondered if I could somehow merge the three RSS feeds together into the mythical new-and-improved blog site that I’ve been thinking about for over a year now. (It’s probably been at least three or four years by this point.)
Back when I used WordPress, I used to have some widgets over on the left side of the page where I showed some of my latest YouTube videos, but it was pretty janky, if you ask me. I also had a widget over there that showed my latest tweets, but it was hard to see and it was just a random sampling anyway.
My general assumption is that nobody ever sees anything that’s in the “side” column of a blog–the archives, the “latest comments,” the blogrolls, those sorts of things–unless they specifically go to the site to look for them. I mainly put things there out of habit, not with any expectation that anyone would actually see them.
I looked for some WordPress themes that might feature imported RSS feeds on the front page, but I couldn’t find any. I couldn’t think of a combination of existing tools, themes, or plugins, that would accomplish what I wanted. So I’m back to the “create a whole new custom web site from scratch” plan: A web site that simply imported content data from existing RSS feeds, and plastered it onto a front page in a pleasing way. It sounds easy, but of course it’s not.
That was what I thought in October of 2020, at least. By the end of 2020, it turned out that I was able to wrestle Hugo into building a static web site that I liked, which is what you’re reading right now, the first step of the overhaul. Instead of waiting until I had everything exactly right, I just went ahead and demolished the old blog to start fresh for the new year. I intended to do that a year ago, but I lost my nerve. Now there’s no path backwards and I have no choice but to go forward.
Next time, I want to write more about the process of getting Hugo working, and the potential for hosting this new site on Azure for free.