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Published on 4 January 2024 by Andrew Owen (5 minutes)

It’s been two years since I relaunched my website as a personal portfolio and developer relations blog. Having been a journalist, a marlinspike sailor and a technical writer, I’m finally comfortable describing myself as software engineer (on the basis that my last two roles both included writing code). This seems like a good point for some reflection.

The biggest change I had to make on becoming a developer advocate was to give up a certain amount of privacy. I’m a public figure now (albeit an incredibly minor one). This means I have to take personal brand management into consideration whenever I create any public-facing content. But my opinions develop and change over time. This reminds me of the Beaverbrook sketch from “Beyond the Fringe”.

“Just because I wrote it, just because it’s got my name on it, you mustn’t think I actually believe a word of it.” —Peter Cook

My views have changed considerably since my first post to Usenet in the late 1990s. But until the Earth is consumed by the dying Sun, that post will probably still be kicking around on some Google server somewhere, even if there’s no-one left alive to read it. And yes, in my callow youth I participated in the flame wars. I may be grown up now, but I reserve the right to contradict myself, to misquote, to offend, to be wrong. Without the benefit of a fact-checker, I may at times bend, spindle and mutilate the truth. I may try too hard to channel the spirits of Hemingway and Thompson. And some of my reminiscences probably come over as self aggrandizement.

Felix Dennis said: “In life, it is easier to apologize afterwards than to ask permission first.” I used to agree with Wayne Dyer’s mantra of “never defend, never explain,” but I’ve come to appreciate the value of a sincere apology. If factual errors come to light, I’ll fix them. I try to keep content up to date, even in older articles. But I will leave opinion in place. Like this one: Kevin Hart should not have stepped down from hosting the Academy Awards. People grow over time. We are not our old Twitter posts (fortunately for me, I’ve only ever used the platform for developer relations purposes).

As a rule, I don’t believe in doing anything for free that you’ve been paid to do, unless it’s for charity. When the BBC offered me the “chance to be on television”, I told them if they weren’t paying Equity day rates, they could get lost. I don’t pay to go sailing. But, when I became a developer advocate, writing stopped being the largest part of my job. And writing is like a muscle that withers without regular exercise. So I gave myself a weekly deadline. And aside from the occasional glitch, I have published a new article at the same time, every Thursday for more than 100 weeks in a row.

I’ve owned my domain name for over 20 years now. I missed out on the dotcom version to a Scottish preacher by half an hour. But I think dotnet is a pretty good fit for what I’m doing with the site right now. I evaluated a range of solutions including iWeb (too bandwidth heavy) and Google Sites (utterly inaccessible at the time). I used Blogger for a while, but I switched to WordPress in February 2011 as part of an experiment to see if I could live without using any Google services (this was before Chrome became ubiquitous).

In September 2023, I finally finished the engineering work on the site. I updated Bootstrap 4, jQuery, mermaid.js, shuffle, slick and themify-icons to the latest versions. I replaced the logo with a home icon. I fixed accessibility issues using Lighthouse. Then I added dark mode, broke accessibility and had to overhaul the style sheets again. I got rid of the broken image icons on the tags page (which you can get to by truncating a tag listing). I got the search icon to stick with the search box. There are still some improvements that could be made, mainly to the JavaScript, but nothing critical.

In the WordPress days, I took inspiration from 10 Zen Monkeys, but the posts were just drafts of things that could be turned into full length magazine articles. For this iteration, I took inspiration from I, Cringely, by the author of “Accidental Empires” (although I have raided the old version for ideas on more than one occasion). What both these blogs have in common is that the frequency of new content has dwindled over time. And they weren’t weekly to begin with.

This year I’ll be marking another birthday with a zero in it. And I think it’s time to do some other kinds of writing. A year ago I gave up writing a private daily journal, and I’d like to get back to that. I also have some creative ideas that I want to pursue. I think two years is a good run for a weekly blog on a single topic (with the occasional digression) with one author. But eventually the well of ideas dries up.

So I’m changing things up. Part of the purpose of this site is as a brain dump for solutions that I need to write down, and so you can still expect plenty of technical content. But I also want to showcase some of my other writing, including essays, features, profiles and reviews. For the time being, I’m still planning to publish weekly, but I may revisit that decision. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll enjoy the new content.