So, yesterday I wrote about how I was overwhelmed and had, by default, chosen to break instead of bend (Today I choose to break rather than bend (TIC00048d)). A bunch of things were piling up, and when they overwhelmed me, I dropped.
Today, I’m trying to find a bit healthier way to adjust, but I have to start with a negative. For those who have dipped their toe into my posts about “today I choose”, you know that I’m numbering them, and while the numbers go in regular order, I’ve been adding a “series” letter to the end. Those basically are my Seinfeld tracking for the choices — how many days in a row I can go without breaking the chain. Well, although I did indeed make a choice yesterday, even if by default, it was not a positive choice about how I want to live my life. Which means I have to reset again, going from series “d” to series “e”. Not a big deal for anyone but me, but so far I have:
I’m happy to see the chains getting longer, but whether it is making a difference or not, I haven’t been able to assess yet. Soon, I will.
Anyway, the point is that yesterday was a break, as I said, in more ways than one and today I have to restart the chain with series “e”. And with the restart, my choice fell to looking at something that was not really the cause of my break but rather what failed to mitigate it. Namely, my approach to my website.
So, if it isn’t obvious, I love having my own blog. With 1.5M words and almost 1500 posts, I also know that I’m probably in the top 10% of all blogs anywhere for production and unique contributions by a single author: me!
I like wrestling with the words of a given topic, figuring out what I want to say, how I want to say it. Putting my stamp on things. I like the fact that I’m up to about 150-200 hits a day even if most of them are here for my HR guide or astronomy help when I’m blogging about lots of other things. I have almost 200 book reviews on the site, ones that I put time and effort into writing and nuancing. Do they get many hits? Hardly. But I love the process.
But managing the website creates some challenges. I never want to commercialize or monetize my site. It will never have advertising nor likely to have affiliate links (tried that for Amazon for a bit, but I didn’t really like it). I am not trying to turn it into a side hustle for money, I don’t want to offer training courses. Maybe, at some point, I’ll turn my writing into sales products, but that is as far as I want to go. So then the question becomes, “What am I willing to invest in the site to keep it personal?”.
I tried other blogging platforms, I like WordPress. But right now there are three things that would improve my website dramatically, and I’m not doing them. First and foremost, I can improve my search engine optimization. I played with that on the weekend, along with the next two items, and it is part of what messed up my site. I used to use YOAST SEO and forget now why I removed it, I think it was conflicting with something I wanted more, and I tried Rank Math over the last few days. Essentially it prompts you on how to structure your pages, and gives you a score for the page. For example, if one of my key words for the site is book review, then it should appear in the title of my post, I should make sure I use the verb review repeatedly including in the title, I should add it as ALT text to any pictures on the page. A lot of stuff that I have ZERO interest in doing.
Because I realized that while I don’t want Google to block me or anything, I really don’t particularly care where I rank on most things. Most people using my site come to my site for MY site, not because of a google search. I’m not serving the world, a page at a time, most people who find my site are doing so because they are looking for something VERY specific to my site, and on those searches, I rank in the top 10. So why am I trying to kill myself on SEO? It’s an enormous amount of work to switch formats over to match what they want, and some things I tweaked and the system still said “0 points” for my tweak. In short, I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m not willing to invest the time and energy for something that is merely a “nice to have”. It’s not what my site is about.
A second thing that is problematic is my use of tables in a few places. They are NOT, as they say, “mobile-friendly”. But equally, some of my other design choices are not mobile-friendly either. I should be running CDN caching, not local caching, so that a fast site like Amazon AWS can serve my graphics and videos much faster than I, all behind the scenes. But I kind of like having my site keep it local. It’s silly, it’s not efficient, the tweaks are easy to make, and I just don’t want to do it because it goes hand in hand with the third element.
Namely page optimization. In other words, my site is slow to load. The infamous “they” recommend that a load times should be under a second. Some of mine go to 3-4 seconds to load the whole page. That’s NOT because I’m wordy, it’s not about the content, not really. Some of it is the local full size images, sure, but most of it is that I’m running a lot of plugins, a lot of things load every page run, I have a lot of style sheets that are getting called, and my HTML file ends up being quite long. None of them are dreadful, but each one slows the overall page a little bit. I tried running some minify scripts over the last couple of days, combined with better remote caching, and a few other tweaks here and there. I was basically following tips / best practices on how to speed up the front end and back end of the site.
I did accomplish it, things sped up. And I hated the way it looked on the front end. Every time the page loaded, for a quarter second, it looked like some stupid DOS based HTML link page with no formatting. Ugly as sh**. And I would really love to not have it be slow, but I don’t know how to fix that, and honestly, I don’t have the time or energy right now to learn.
Let it go, let it goooooo?
So I took a bit of time today during a break from work to undo all the stuff I had done in the last couple of days to try to improve the load times. I didn’t even really remember them all, so I had to go to the tip list and work my way backward undoing certain things. I hadn’t uninstalled the OLD way of doing things, but I had installed a bunch of new stuff that I had to remove. And then reactivate the old stuff.
Hell, I even considered some nuclear options in there first, like blowing everything off and uploading the content fresh again (more like an export / import situation), and I even was considering switching photo galleries or moving everything to Flickr. It sure would make my life easier in many ways, and Flickr will now let me have videos if I want. Tempting. If Mylio’s direct upload to Flickr was working, I’d be seriously tempted to go that route. But in the end, I reset back to the way it was, no need to go nuclear.
It’s a personal site, it’s mainly for me, and if it runs a bit slow, well, f*** it. At least for now. Maybe in a year or two if I feel like it, I’ll hire someone local to upgrade and optimize the site, basically to clean out a lot of crap that is probably clogging the setup. Which sounds simple, just letting it go, but it really isn’t for me.
Is the issue significant to the site? Yes.
Do I care about the site? Absolutely. It’s my in virtual form.
Do I care enough about this issue RIGHT NOW enough to be screwing up my site? No.
If I had a magic wand, I’d do it. But I don’t, and I have to accept I’m not good enough in WP to figure it out, at least not anytime soon, maybe not ever. I could probably renovate the behind the scenes system, strip the walls back to the studs so to speak, but I’m barely keeping my head up. I can’t let it add to my stress nor can I have it failing to mitigate it. I need the f***ing thing working well enough to use, even if it gives me lousy rankings on speed or search engine optimization. I know generally WHAT needs to be done, but not enough about how.
And I just have to let it go. I want it, sure, but I can’t really have it. Kind of like my observatory problem.
The part that is hard to explain is that to accept it, and to let it go, I have to accept that it is beyond my mental abilities to figure out. I can accept that I’ll never do 4D mathematical modelling, sure, nor calculate rocket trajectories into space, but basic setup of a website with WordPress? That SHOULD be something I can figure out, and it’s just not coming together for me. So I’m setting an upper limit on what I can do. I’m setting an artificial cap on my site that it will be “this good” and no better.
I rarely do that. Maybe it’s arrogance, maybe it’s confidence, maybe it’s naivete, but I like to believe the hype that you can do almost anything you put your mind to, outside of physical realities. But this ain’t one of those situations where I can live that belief. My site is about as good as it is going to get unless I pay someone to fix it.
Which leaves me back where I always am, focusing on the content. I can DO that, at least for now. Long term? If my brain starts to deteriorate to the point I can’t even write, I will likely not be the type to rage against the dying of the light but rather more likely to find a nice hospice in Vermont to end things. That’s the true nuclear option I guess.
For now, I’m in the world of being flexible on my standards and accepting a lower quality outcome than I would like for my website. I don’t really have a choice, but I’ll pretend I’m choosing to accept it.
Today I choose to bend rather than break, and I’ve put my site back to the way it was, even fixing a stupid problem with commenting that I caused on the weekend, thanks to Matt pointing out it wasn’t working. Yay, I fixed a small problem at least!
What choices are you making today?