This blog is an open startup. That means that pretty much everything is shared with you. Minus stuff like blog post ideas (I don't want competitors, okay 😉) ((but saying that, if you are a competitor and you have an ambitious plan that can help people let me know, I'll love to get involved)).
The 4 core principles of my blog are:
- Help people
I remember years ago wanting to learn about computer science and not finding anything friendly on it. This blog aims to fill the gaps in young me's life.
2. Free, for everyone
What good is a blog that aims to help people if the content isn't free? 40% of my readers come from third world countries. I don't want to make it even harder for them to learn something new, for them to improve their situation.
3. Open to everyone
When I write, I want everyone to be able to read it. Whether you're using screen readers or something else.
4. As close to the truth as possible
If other resources create white lies to try to explain something easier (saying all variables are buckets to store things in, for example) I would rather spend 50 hours working on making the complex knowledge understandable rather than create a white lie.
The apps I use do not track you. They do not give you any sort of cookie. On this website, your data is your own. I do not sell or use your data to advertise. All of the apps I use are GDPR compliant. Even more so, if there is a setting which is not necessary for GDPR but gives you (my reader) more privacy, I activate it. You came here to read blog posts, not to get an identification number and have your data sold.
Generally speaking, I prefer paying makers money rather than taking a free tool and having your data sold. Some of the tools you'll see here are indie and made by makers, rather than large companies.
This blog is using Ghost. I'm using the Casper theme (the default one) as it looks nice. I've made a few edits here and there. GitHub Gist's are edited (so they fit on the screen) and Amazon affiliate embeds also look nicer.
The most important thing for my blog is the reader experience. Ghost gets this perfectly. The editor is super nice too. Also, SEO is built right in - from day 1. My blog is automatically optimised for SEO, and I don't have to do anything.
It's also blazingly fast. My friends on Wordpress - their websites load in 3 / 4 seconds. Mine loads in less than a second.
Ghostboard is an analytics tool for Ghost blogs. It's not built in, and you have to pay £9 a month for it. Ghostboard doesn't track you (my reader), nor does it do anything with cookies. Google analytics may be free, but it tracks you and sells your data.
Ghostboard doesn't do any of that, as I pay to make sure it doesn't track you. It's a really beautiful app, the analytics are specific for Ghost so everything looks nice. I get my most popular tags, the average word count per article, refferals, monthly updates and more. Seriously, it's so nice!
I use Convertkit for my email. It's really, really good. Quite expensive. If you want to build an email list but don't want to pay, use Mailchimp. I use convertkit because it's more blogger friendly and lets me do content upgrades.
Campaign URL builder
Super simple tool. When I link to places, I can use this Google tool to let me know where people came from using UTM params. I can create a new link for my email and know when people have visited via email, for example.
Other than the blog you're reading this on, my blog basically lives on Airtable. Posts I want to write, statistics, expenditure / earnings. All the things I want to keep track of are in Airtable. I love Airtable. Each month is an object, and these objects persist throughout tables. So, I have a table for "email signups" and a table for "blog views". I can click on "March" and see how many people signed up to email in march and how many views my blog got. Airtable is truly cool.
Automates Ghost > Medium > Dev.to and some twitter stuff. I use the free version.
Super useful, like Grammarly but lets you know when you're writing in passive voice for example. I used to use this all the time, but eventually I trained myself to realise when I was talking passively.
Gotta go fast! Cloudflare is amazing and free. You should use it! Also does loads of security stuff. A lot of the stuff / infastructure I have in place is to make my website faster. Again, core principle #3. If you're in a country with bad WiFi loading some websites may take forever. I want loading this website to be so fast that it isn't that much of a problem for other people.
All equations you see on this website are powered by Mathjax. MathJax is amazing. Right click any equation and you get a host of accessibility options. Per core princple #3 of my blog, this helps me be more open to everyone.
My SEO tool of choice. Let's me know when ideas on my to write list aren't good ideas. Also let's me do a lot of SEO stuff. Super helpful!
If you're not familar with SEO, this is what I use it for:
- Finding backlinks. Who has linked to my blogposts? Where have they linked it? When did they link it?
- Where do each of my blog posts rank in Google? What do people search to find my blog posts?
- Keyword research. I have a list of blog post ideas, sorted by how popular their keywords are. As an example I have 2 posts. The pigeon hole principle and Tor. Tor gets 30k views a month, pigeon hole principle gets 200 views a month. Mangools shows me what blog posts are worth writing.
- Deciding on the title of blog posts - keyword research.
Side note: This tools costs a lot of money. You can use it for free. No, not through a refferal. Just go onto their website and use it for free. They have a free plan.
I gotta go fast. Like, really, really fast. On Chrome when you hover over one of my blog posts, it preemptively loads that blog post. Gives the impression of a super fast website.
With Disqus (free) I had 61 requests + 2.7MB served. With Commento ($3 / month) I have 30 requests and 700kb served. Made my website faster, with more privacy for users. You can now comment without an account / anonymously.
Google Search Console
Use this if you want to appear in Google. It tells Google your site exists, and indexes it. It shows you how many people click on your site from Google and some more stats about your post on Google.
It can show you errors that occur too. For example, there was an error on my Tor post that Google didn't like. You couldn't see this error on a web-browser but it stopped Google indexing it. Google doesn't tell you this unless you use its search console. Upon fixing this issue, Google indexed my blog post and put it onto the Google search results.
"Brandon, how do I a start blog? any tips?"
This is a notion.so of my entire blog writing process :)
Below are some statistics of my blog, such as views, costs and income. If you click on the below link, you'll see my Ghostboard insights.
Where does my traffic come from?
And that's it!