April 27, 2020

Happy birthday to me

Let's celebrate!

Happy birthday to me

This is not the typical security awareness post most people expect on this website.  

I hear some of you think:

"Wait, you are the guy who always tells others not to share their birthday and now you're sharing yours?"

No I'm not exposing my own birthday here because I still think that disclosing your birthday, your date of birth or how old you became on social media is not a good idea.

I'm also not so vain that I want to wish myself a happy birthday, but on this day one year ago I launched my personal website. So I think the title of this blog is appropriate ;).

Why is this worth a blogpost?

For me to read back later, but also because I think it might help some people who - like me until last year - are unsure whether to create their own website.

A bit of history - my first blogpost

Back in 2016 I decided to start blogging about Information Security. I wanted a public platform that was easy to use and didn't need any additional setup. Because some people recommended it, I chose Medium and I posted my first blog titled "The (non)sense of password rotation". This post is now only available on my own website, at the end of last year I moved all my Medium blogposts to my website.

Back to that first blogpost... I remember that it was an exciting and nerve wracking experience, which it shouldn't be to be honest. For people that are still hesitating to start blogging, do read this blogpost titled "Dare to share".

I didn't know whether someone would read it and my expectations were not high given the amount of followers I had on Medium self - almost none - and on Twitter - less than 100. I think my first article maybe got 50 views at that moment, but hey you got to start somewhere. Right?

After all it's only by sharing more content that you'll eventually read a bigger audience, which helps to get more feedback and become better at writing and learning about the topics that you write.

Fast forward to 2019

I was still blogging on Medium but I still didn't have a lot of following there neither did my articles - except a few exceptions - get a lot of views.

Of course there was a slight increase in views (a few hundreds maximum for most posts), but this was certainly not thanks to Medium but more likely to the growing amount of followers on Twitter, my main medium for sharing my content, and a few of my articles that got indexed by Google.

Medium also got more and more commercial with the paywall they introduced and there is certainly no incentive for them to promote content of non paying users. And alledgedly the money users with a premium account get for their articles is ridiculously low.

When I was already doubting whether I would continu using Medium someone contacted me with the question to add one of my blogs to their Medium publication because it would get more views then. But this also implied that they could silently change my posts, which is definitely a no go.

https://help.medium.com/hc/en-us/articles/213904978-Add-a-draft-or-post-to-publication

As a little side note, I wont react to people that approach me to (ab)use my blogposts for their own/company's benefit or ask me to link their <insert commercial product here> in one of my blogs.

It was a few days later Daniel Miessler who pulled me over the line to create my own website.

My own website

When I want advice about something I often just ask it on Twitter. It's a great way to get feedback from experienced people.  

My blogging platform of choice was Ghost, because I heard good feedback from several people I know. Before I asked this question on Twitter I had been looking into Ghost's hosted plan, but this was too expensive for me at that moment, and it still is frankly.

The benefits you have from a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution is that you don't have to care about things like patching or uptime. But it comes at a price of course. I got several replies, but when my mate Sean suggested to run Ghost on a Digital Ocean droplet and wrap Cloudflare around it, I thought let's do this. I registered my domain name and then I setup my website (with some great guidance and help from Sean!).

A bit later on April 27 I launched my new website.

A year later I can conclude that self-hosting Ghost was a good choice. I almost had no downtime. I regularly patch my site, which only resulted one time in an error which took me about an hour to fix. The amount of work I have to put in maintenance is very low. Cloudflare also makes a lot of things very easy and caches a lot of requests.

The traffic to my website has also been good and more of my posts - maybe coincidentally - seem to end up higher in the search rankings.

I blogged more than ever before since I created my own website last year, so getting more traffic on my own website was kind of logic. But even when I didn't blog a lot for the last half year I still have steady traffic like this, which is a lot more than I would ever get on Medium.

Conclusion

If you want to blog, I would certainly recommend you to register your own domain and create your own blog.

For me the most serious benefits are:

  • Having your own content hosted on your own domain means the content will be yours. There's no small print (that can change over time).
  • You have full control and flexibility over your content.
  • Your own domain looks more professional and helps to further build your online identity.

Good content will get organic traffic anyway when it gets shared by people and indexed by search engines. In my case Medium wasn't helpful to get more traffic.

There are different options according to your needs and budget. You can go for a hosted blogging platform, which has the benefit that you don't need to take care about things like patching, but it can be quite expensive. A cheaper alternative is self-hosting a blog, but this implies you're responsible for patching and making sure your site stays online.

I hope this post may help some people to take that next step. Happy blogging, I'm going to have a beer to celebrate my website's first birthday!