Why I Started a Website

And why you should too.

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So I didn't want to advertize that I launched this site until I had this particular post written. I knew that when I did I'd get questions about it and having my explination ready would be easier than having to come up with one every time I get asked.

If you look around on the internet for reasons to start your own personal website you can find many people using arguments based on giving yourself pirivacy and protection from censorship (this video is a great example of that), but I don't feel like going into that too much here. I've been writing to this blog using this site for a few months now without telling too many people about it and I can tell that making a habit to occasionally put something up there has been a positive thing in my life.

As I mentioned in my homepage, I enjoy writing. In high school I probably only ever had to write a dozen or so "substantial" essays, most all of those were about books we had been assined to read, I liked doing those. Getting into college I knew that the type of writing I'd be doing would be different, but I didn't think that I'd find myself doing what felt like less writing, (remember I'm a Computer Science major) I soon found that I had no sort of creative outlet, all my thoughts and learnings outside of schoolwork were going to waste. Sure I could have better kept a journal but all my teachers have said that my handwriting is substantially worse than the guy in my high school who claimed to have the worst handwriting, when I write I want there to be an audience of some sort.

Another thing that I enjoy doing that I found myself doing less of was reading. Growing up I was always reading a book, it was a productive thing for me to do and it of course helped me learn and think about lots of different things and of course the books that you read become a part of who you are. After a while of having this site I decided that I wanted to make a point to have ideas from the things that I read materialize in my writing and connect great concepts in fiction to the real world. In order to do that I of course have to find time to read more, so I have.

Yet another thing that doing this has given me a chance to do is write programs for myself. People at all levels of the computer science industry are encouraged to have personal projects, but I never figured out what sort of things I needed to write before having this site. Now I'm finding joy in automating parts of this site to help me put more things up here. For example I wrote a program that let me easily track all the books I own and list them here. Now I'm planning on writing a program to auomate the creation of RSS entries, and another to convert markdown into the sort of HTML format I'm using here. I've given myself a reason to practice my skills and to learn about things I wouldn't have otherwise.

In short, maintaining this site has given me someting productive to fill my free time with. These days it is so easy to become a consoomer and spend all your time on YouTube, Netflix, or social media consuming content giving your brain enough doses of dopamine to make you feel like you are being productive while at the same time accomplishing nothing. Now instad of wasing time I find myself actively learning about more things and seeking to apply them in a productive way. Not to long ago I didn't know a thing about HTML and CSS, but now with only very basic skills I have my own personal website. A few months ago I had no idea what RSS was, but now I've written an article about why everyone should use it. I've achived growing levels of satisfactoin and accomplishment as I've continued with this blog, you can't get that by scrolling through social media. I encourage you to do someting similar, and gain that satisfaction for yourself.

How I did it

I figured that along with why you might want to know how I set this all up, since it has never been easier to have your own personal website. As stated above this blog began its life here. Hosting a site on Github is free, but it comes with some challenges, most frustrating being getting it set up, I couldn't find any up to date tutorials or documentation on how to do it so I probably spent about three hours working out what bits of conflicting information to follow and figuing out on my own how to get it all together. Then of course repositories don't update instantaneously on Github, so I'd have to wait for it to update in order to make sure I didn't break anything. And of course since it was free, I obviously didn't own the server, so there was a limited number of things I could really do with jacobsblog.github.io (jacobwsmith.xyz is so much cooler). Despite that I would reccomend starting out one of these on Github (but I wouldn't use your main account if you had one) becasue it is of course free and you can see if this is something you really want to do.

So jacobsblog.github.io is no more and I'm so glad that I set up jacobwsmith.xyz it really only took about an hour, and half of that time was spent puting in payment information to buy the domain name and rent a server. Registering a .xyz domain name costs less than $10 a year, and you can rent a small server for like five bucks a month. I followed this tutorial to get my server and things configured and then just copied over my files from before, that was all it took to migrate my site over. Plus now that I own a domain name and have a server to host it on I can set up my own private email server and be able to say that my email is jacob@jacobwsmith.xyz (I haven't set that up yet), and I can host my own private search engine and do whatever else I feel like doing.

The internet is not what it used to be, every day (no matter what opinions you have) you can find more and more reasons not to trust the biggest sites on the planet. Free yourself from them, both by finding better things to do, and by reducing your dependence on them, get your own website.