v4: embracing the personal site renaissance

Thu Dec 22 2022

Welcome to the fourth iteration of my Very Cool And Cozy Personal On Line Web Presence™. This is the biggest overhaul I’ve done to my shit in a long time. Especially seeing as the last version was literally me shutting everything down.

I’m going to talk a little about the motiviations for this build and the technology powering the site – especially because it’s the first time in almost 15 years that I’ve built a site without the express purpose of using it as a means to attract clients and find work.

Personal sites are a playground

Like, you have this thing – and it’s yours! You don’t have KPIs to hit (unless you set them yourself in which case fucking hell get a grip). You don’t have an overbearing boss pushing you in a direction you disagree with. You don’t have to work to a ‘stack’ you hate or use words you don’t agree with. You can just fuckin shout at your computer and nice shit comes out the other side.

I’m using this site (which I guess is technically a server-side rendered web app) to experiment with all kinds of things. Because I’m using Svelte & SvelteKit, it’s so fucking easy for me to just build something.

A microblog

I built a microblog in a few hours. It’s fun as fuck and I think you should build one too. If I want to add webmentions to blog posts it’ll probably take me an hour or two. If I wanted to make some freakish fucking members area where you pay $11.42 and get access to me narrating my favourite Shrek scenes I could probably do that too.

It’s empowering as fuck to know you have somewhere to just fuck around and build weird shit.

Scott Riley

I even have this absolutely fucking stupid FaceHint component that I can throw into any blog post. Do I have this on Twitter? On Medium? I think the fuck not.

Own your shit

A huge motivation for going all-in on a rebuild is that I want to be prepared for the big backlash that I expect will happen against centralised social media platforms. There‘s absolutely already a clamour to move away from Twitter now that Apartheid Jetson and his insufferable reply guys have stomped it into the ground. I don’t expect many more Web 2.0 social/social-adjacent platforms will survive the tides changing.

I want this version of my site to be more of a cozy corner of the web that I own, control, and have as much agency as possible over.

Write your way out

I fucking love blogs. I love making them, I love reading them, I love everything from the most basic “I’m blogging cause I think I have to” gaffs, to the weird fanfiction shit, to the huge Smashing Magazine-style monoliths, and everything in between.

I also love writing, and I’m now almost fully recovered from the absolute brain melt that was writing a book. I want to get back to sharing knowledge, ideas, and 1,800-word shitposts.

Speak for yourself

Homogenous social media designs and hyper-popular play-it-safe web templates have made the web feel stagnant and repetitive. I want my stuff to live somewhere that speaks for me. I want to design and build shit from scratch, without using egregious templates or other peoples’ work. I don’t think you’re a dopey gobshite if you do like homogeneity and templates, but nah, not for me pal.

You’ll notice parts of this site that are jank as fuck. You’ll probs be able to spot the stuff I didn’t give as much of a fuck about. There’ll be spacing issues and weird typography and other little details that aren’t quite right. I’m totally fine with that. My place needs tidying but I’d rather have a bit of clutter in a room that I love.

Powered by…

If you give a fuck, here’s a bunch of the stuff that’s powering this site.

Frontend: Svelte & SvelteKit

This site is built in Svelte, and uses the Skeleton SvelteKit starter project. When you read a post in my blog, you’re reading a markdown file that’s been parsed at build time by mdsvex.

(Okay so technically you’re reading a markdown file that also includes some Svelte components when needed. Because mdsvex is cool like that and my whole site can just be a clusterfuck of mixed content.)

I adore Svelte. It’s equal parts throwback and revolutionary. If you’re sick of idiosyncratic React shite, give it a whirl.

Backend: PlanetScale & Prisma

Tiny Words – my microblog – uses PlanetScale for the database and Prisma for the ORM. Any future dynamic content that isn’t being pulled from markdown files will also use this.

I’ve heard this combination described as ‘database as code’ – with the amazing Taylor Barnett giving one of the best breakdowns of this approach in a Next.js Conf talk that’s up on YouTube. I’m not exaggerating when I say learning the basics of these two platforms is one of the most empowering breakthroughs I’ve made in recent time.

Design: Figma & Rogie’s Noise & Texture plug-in

As a ‘design in the browser’ person, if you saw how I use Figma you’d probably have a fucking aneurysm. It’s a shambles and I love it. One thing that is not a shambles is Rogie King’s amazing Noise & Texture plugin, which, as you can probably tell, has been given an extensive run-out across this site.

Noise is back fuckers. Embrace it.

Scott Riley

Hi! Scott’s face again. If you want to poke around, the source code for this site is up on GitLab.

Go forth and build weird shit

We’re in a pretty exciting time where there’s a genuine and concerted push away from mainstream social media and hypercapitalist eyes-on-pixel models. More people are going to be moved by weird shit that’s built with passion and craft.

Your personal site doesn’t have to be a dusty, boring old thing. It doesn’t have to be a glorified CV. It can be a fun as fuck playground, a place where you can express yourself more completely, and something that inspires curiosity in others.

If you need any help, giz a shout xxx

Tiny Words: a microblog

Scott Riley

Tiny Words is my microblog. A self-hosted, short-form list of posts similar to what you'd see on Mastodon or Twitter.