NOTICE: Please pardon our dust while we remodel Thank you for your patience

Pardon our dust: revamping a website

First, let me say that it was my fault. I am impatient and impulsive, and I thought I had pulled a backup of the website before I transferred hosting. But you know what they say about a backup you haven’t tested.

Second, let me say that WordPress does everything I need it to do. I say this as someone whose first website was written in a combination of Netscape Navigator and HotDogPro and edited on the fly with FTP. I could figure out how to self-host with Hugo, etc and so on. It is not how I, personally, choose to spend my leisure time.

Third, it’s important for a consultant to have a home that people can find you at. LinkedIn is useful, but it’s not mine in the same way that this is. So I really do need a website to get work.

So, there I was, with a backup, an incomplete understanding of SQL, and a mess. Fortunately, my entire professional career is untangling messes. As a technical writer, I would be the first writer a startup hired, I would set up their systems and processes, write the first round of documentation, and then head off to the next place they should have hired a writer 6-12 months sooner. You’d think devrel would be different, but no, it’s just being a mess-untangler at a different level, and can include community management, social media, events planning, sales enablement, and product advocacy, and that’s just a Tuesday.

I won’t take you through the whole process of restoration, because it involved locking myself out of my hosting, my instance, and my database at different times. I had to call tech support four times. It is …. not my favorite thing to do. But I really didn’t want to lose blog posts going back to 2016. I had to reinstall everything, then get the right database talking to the right config file, and I nuked the config file at least twice in an attempt to make it work.

At last, I got it back up, but in the process I lost all the lovely formatting that Sofia Man set up for me. So I toiled through fixing that and making the site usable and not broken again. Now instead of config files and databases, I was deep in the weeds of Gutenberg and templates. Excitingly, depending on which way you chose to preview the page, different things would look broken. That was certainly a thing I experienced.

Finally, because of all the flailing and initial bad backup, almost (but not all) of the image links in my posts were broken, so I had to step through 200+ posts and relink the images, and read the posts while I was at it. I watched my focus and interests change, but the core of what I care about remains through it all.

I am both intensely curious and a little lazy, and I am passionate about effective communication.

It’s not such a bad thing to know about myself.

Learning something new in a context that wasn’t exactly work gave me a chance to watch how I learn things and make meaning. I take a lot of frustration breaks when I need them, but I keep coming back to try to understand what I call “the theory of mind” of the software. All software is written with an ideal user in mind, whether we intend that or not. The less time we spend thinking about this, the more likely it is that our ideal user is just ourself. When I’m struggling with software, it’s only slightly helpful to me to do tasks. What I really want to understand is what the software thinks it was built to do and how I can map that to the kinds of software I already understand. I feel much more confident grasping the  goal and working down to tasks and implementation.

One drawback of that is that if I don’t get it, it’s really hard to get untangled. I didn’t need to be messing with my database tables, I needed to install and execute a plugin correctly.

Another drawback is that it takes a long time to get gratification. ‘Hello, World’ is a coding standard for a reason. You know you did a thing, and you get that little hit of dopamine and it gives you the motivation to keep going. “Time to first value” is a hugely indicative metric. It’s just not applicable to everyone or every product.

I did finally get through the whole website revamp. There are still some tweaks that I want to make, but I also want to start writing again. Everything I wanted to post for almost 3 months got jotted down in a notebook, but all my website energy was devoted to reconstruction. I didn’t get an off-the-shelf site because that’s the part I enjoy.