An excerpt from my blogpost

Putting Technology in its Place

or Why We Don’t Always Need Computers to Layout Our Thoughts

Background

Recently, I started my own Jekyll blog. I figured being a developer and studying Computer Science, I needed to create a repository online to post my ideas and host some of my personal projects.

Getting started with Github Pages is a breeze. All you need to do is create a repo named: USERNAME.github.io, and it takes care of the work of updating your website each time you push to the master branch (here’s a better tutorial, if that didn’t really make sense). I also forked a copy of Mark Otto’s Lanyon, which is a theme for his Jekyll layout Poole. It’s all setup and ready to go.

My problem is that I am prone to being indecisive. A few months back, I had started writing in a different Jekyll template, hikari, which I found from a popular themes for Jekyll website. Ultimately, I wanted to have an about me page that wasn’t hosted on about.me or LinkedIn, but for some reason, nothing was cutting it.

My indecision in the last few weeks, shrunk down to fit in the page width

Today, I was looking for some design inspiration. Last summer, I found out about Meng To’s Design+Code book, and it completely changed my life. I usually navigate back to his book to learn some new insight whenever I’m feeling uninspired, so I started reading his story. On there, I came across something that I had already read several times before, Dieter Rams’ 10 principles of good design, but this time, something clicked.

Just so that you don’t have to go looking for them, here are the 10 principles, summarized.

Good Design is …

  • innovative
  • what makes a product useful
  • aesthetic
  • unobtrusive
  • honest
  • long-lasting
  • thorough
  • environmentally-friendly
  • as little design as possible

The last one really sung out to me, because here I was, figuring out how to use this yeoman generator and that Jekyll plugin, when all I really wanted to do was sit down and collect my thoughts semi-frequently and be able to share them online. The second part needed some kind of blogging framework, but the first one could be done entirely without technology.

These are the tools you need to create your own basic blog:


  • notebook/paper
  • pencil/pen
  • eraser (optional)

Pros and Cons of Handwriting Your Blog:

Pros:

  • more natural flow of thoughts
  • being able to write down ideas as they come up
  • before blogging/online journals, there were just journals
  • get to work on my handwriting
  • formatting/syntax: don’t need hashtags and carrots for 15 kinds of text styles
  • font — (almost) exactly the way I want it
  • put technology in its place
  • distraction-free environment: actually tho

Cons (or why typing is better):

  • write, delete, and rewrite quickly
  • ease of drafting
  • upload directly to blog
  • handwriting kinda sucks
  • people are less likely to read text that isn’t formatted and packaged for them

So here goes my new blogging workflow ~ let’s see how it goes.

Workflow

Step 1: I use Scannable by Evernote to take photos of pages from my Journals and upload them to my blog (I cloned my Github Pages repo to a Dropbox folder)

Step 2: I use the Jekyll plugin jekyll_figure to embed the PDFs in my posts. (Instructions to use the plugin here)

  • Create a journal directory in your Dropbox folder, save your scanned journal entries here
  • run jekyll build
  • Move your ‘.git’ file (which determines which folder is the base for your Github Repo) to ‘_site/’. You will need to push the static pages generated by Jekyll to your Github Page. This is important because Github doesn’t allow most Jekyll plugins (including jekyll_figure)
  • I need to add the ‘journal/’ directory to my config file so I can include my scanned journal entries to my post files. Add the following to _config.yml:
gems: [jekyll_figure]
figures:
dir: /journal

Step 3: I use the gem Mr. Poole to auto-gen my blog posts.

Step 4: I add a Liquid tag in my post markdown to include my scanned journal entries

{% figure filename svg,png,pdf 'Your caption here' %}

Step 5: Push the files generated by jekyll build to your Github Repo, and presto.

Final Thoughts

The process of changing my workflow really got me thinking about what design means to me. My conclusion was this: design is applying some interpretation of the world in your work. It is projecting your vision into the real world, and innovating to improve the status quo. Not just innovating for the sake of innovating.

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