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Preserving Blog History

2020-03-23 | ~2 minute(s) | ~476 words
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Old Rusty Cars

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve transitioned my blog away from using Squarespace in favor of Gatsby. Gatsby is an open-source static site generator I’ve set up using a combination of GitHub and Amazon’s Amplify web service. There’s nothing wrong with Squarespace, and I still think it’s a great CMS platform. I made the switch primarily in the interest of long-term cost savings. I also enjoy tinkering with the underlying technologies Gatsby uses (e.g., Reactjs, Graphql, JavaScript, Markdown). One immediate benefit I’ve noticed from the switch is speed. My site not only feels snappier, but it’s scoring much higher with benchmark tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix.

One of my favorite features of this new blogging platform is the ability to create blog posts solely in Markdown. I’ve used a few blog platforms/services over the last decade or so, including Microsoft’s discontinued Windows Live Spaces, Wordpress, and Google’s Blogspot (a.k.a. Blogger). If you’ve ever tried to move all your content from one platform to another, then you’re familiar with some of the challenges (e.g., proprietary data, incompatible features). Markdown solves for many of those frustrations by rendering simple text files as HTML, PDF, and other commonly-used formats. In a subsequent post, I’ll describe some of the desktop/mobile apps I use to create, validate, and export Markdown files.

I’ve already put this to use by extracting all the entries from my old “Beazst Board” gamer blog (circa 2009-2010) from the XML file they were hiding in. If you use the search bar for my site and look for blog posts with the word “Beazst” in them, you’ll see them. By the way, “Beazst” is just something I made up since the usual spelling of that character/account name was often taken. “Beazst” is not intended as a reference to Christian eschatology; if anything the choice of name was inspired by an X-Men character. In addition to those old blog posts, I quit Facebook at the beginning of 2019 (it’s been great!). Before I deleted my account, I exported all of my content from that service using their archive format. I’m planning to (selectively) replicate some of my most meaningful “blog posts” from Facebook here, using Markdown. =)

This post touches on a more significant theme when we think about the way technology has permeated society. Preservation is a real challenge, especially when you have digital content that outlives the technologies (e.g., operating systems, applications) needed to view it. Just as ancient books must by physically preserved to retain their content long-term, we should give some thought to digital preservation if we want our text, images, audio, video and other content to last.

I’d recommend thinking about (selectively) preserving your digital content. How will you share your digital content with others in a way that’s accessible a decade (or more) from now?



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