The blogging hiatus, a person who runs, just forget the camera, and igloos in Glen Affric | The Pinnacle
I need to build a new website. Great.
You might have noticed that I'm in a bit of an online writing hiatus at the moment. I haven't been sending out newsletters as often as I'd like, and my blog is pretty much moribund. The main reason, and it's a frustrating one, is that my website has reached a crossroads – I need to rethink it, and probably build a new one from scratch.
I discovered the problem a couple of weekends ago. Every time I publish a new article or need to promote a talk, I go to my website and update the relevant page. This time, however, I immediately noticed that something was wrong. Back in December I'd done some housekeeping, removing the Pinnacle Editorial page entirely (reasoning here), updating many of the other pages, and changing the layout of the home page. All of that work was gone. I soon noticed that the most recent blog post listed was from the end of August 2021.
My website had somehow reverted to the state it had been in on the 31st of August. Perplexed, I rang technical support at GoDaddy, my hosting company. They told me that I'd been switched to a new server and the old server was now offline. A mirror of my website had been created during the transition process, and somehow I'd been editing the version on the old server ever since. That version was then deleted. There were no backups. I do backup my own site, of course, but not often enough – I still use a manual process via FTP and the most recent full site backup took place a few days before the incident. The net result is that every blog post between now and the end of August has been lost, plus additional content on the site's static pages. Lesson learned, I guess. Even archive.org hasn't saved the new content.
I was angry with my hosting company for allowing this to happen, and angry with myself for not being diligent enough with backups. But the anger didn't last long. I am choosing to see this as an opportunity.
I've been aware for some time that my website is more complicated than it needs to be these days. Maintaining a WordPress site can be a burden, and I sometimes wonder what it's all for – very few people even visit my site, and I now have other outlets for writing online that attract far more readers and see far more engagement (such as this newsletter). Although 'own your content and your platform' is one of those mantras that has been drummed into me since my days studying computing science at university, the GoDaddy incident has reinforced the fact that you never truly own your content or your platform. You're always dependent on someone else. Unless, that is, you maintain your own server at the hardware level, perhaps, but that places even more of a burden on the administrator – and I'm at the point now where I don't have the time or inclination to run it all myself. I just want something simple and easy that works. Ideally without someone in a call centre acting like a dick on the other end of the phone when it goes wrong.
So, I need a new website, and for this reason I'm reluctant to post anything new on the old one. It's a creaking mass of WordPress plugins running on a hosting platform that I don't trust. For as long as I've run this newsletter I have been asking myself which content belongs on here and which content belongs on the blog. Maybe the answer is that I don't even need a blog any more, just a small collection of static pages plus this newsletter.
Whatever I decide to do, I suspect that a radical rethink is on the cards, and it will probably involve throwing out almost everything on the old site. When I start again, it'll be simpler and leaner. I'm afraid that will probably mean broken links and lost resources. I may try to find some way to archive the old site but I'm predisposed to just let it go. Something in me relishes these clean breaks, these new starts. When I spring clean I tend to do it with gusto and throw everything out I no longer need. There's freedom in that.
There are other reasons behind my writing hiatus; I've been focusing a lot more on my running and training, and my work has changed since the New Year too. I'm not writing a book at the moment and it's been a few weeks since I have written any storytelling-style outdoor features. The less creative writing you do, the harder it is to do – this is a truth I learned very early. Use it or lose it. So I'm doing a bit more writing for myself, I have begun work on a blog post I've volunteered to do for the superb Encouragement Manifesto project, and I'm making a start on the stack of commissioned features on my back-burner.
Thank you, as always, for reading! And if you have any thoughts on what I should do regarding my website predicament then I'd be very keen to hear them.
Links of interest
This Year I am a Person Who Runs – Emily Woodhouse, sub-editor extraordinaire on our team at Sidetracked, writes about her relationship with running. 'Honestly, I still don’t want to be that person. I just want to go further faster.'
just forget the camera – I've been really enjoying Rachel Sarah's blog this winter from the Scottish mountains.
Premium Events - How they affect us, and our connection with wild places – Ross Brannigan writes about premium mountain events. 'I personally get conflicted on this, because we actually do want more six-and-seven-digit-salary individuals caring for our wild places so our environmental sector is properly supported, but that can only happen if they feel moved by it.'
Climb Hebrides aims to grab ‘untapped’ potential – a piece in the Stornoway Gazette about my friend Isi Oakley, the only qualified mountaineering and climbing instructor in the Western Isles.
Igloos in Glen Affric and a magical winter mountain day, again – Chris Townsend enjoys a wonderful igloo-camping trip in Glen Affric.
How to Prolong Your Phone's Battery Life Outdoors – a good skills guide here from Rachel Koktava, writing for UKH.
Until next time,
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