Programmer's blogging platform
If you are a programmer, like myself, a big part of your work is to program of course! Another big portion of it would be having meeting, random coffee break, pasting cat memes in Slack. ಠ_ಠ
Another big task is hard. That is keeping up-to-date with the latest technology, and learn new things about programming. The only good thing is as you learn a new programming concept, it's usually transferrable to another technology. Anyhow, we still need to read a lot to learn things.
Before the age of computer and the internet, we have newspapers and books. Now with the internet, we can get connected with people in another side of the world in the matters of seconds. As such, we need more and more programmers to build software. Hardware becomes more and more powerful, and ultimately we need software sitting on top of it to utilize it. In this short period of the recent 20 years, our technology and quality of live improved in such a great magnitude.
My main point here is, we need more software engineers than ever before, and we need a channel for software engineers to communicate. We have Wordpress, Ghost, Github pages, to help create a blog, but it is not easy to setup. Besides, they are not connected in anyway. Blog A and Blog X are completely separated blogs, and it's hard to exchange information. The only think that connect them together is search engine. At the end, people spend more time building the blog itself, than writing great content. In Japan, we have service like Qiita, which is exactly as what I wanted, but it's not English friendly, and most of the posts are in Japanese.
If we are talking about non-technical blogging platform, I am able to find exactly what I'm looking for. Medium.com, founded in 2012, is a way for us to exchange information, our thoughts, knowledge with each other. As the time of this writing, 2017, it's very popular in the US.
It's focus on simplicity has been proven to be the way to go with for people to focus on writing great content. Many interesting features can be found at Medium.com, like the intuitive in place editor, their well implemented statistic page which gives great feedback to authors. It's pretty easy to create your own organization page as well, and it provides a restricted way to put a theme on the page, which in turn giving it a flavor to your organization page and at the same time keeping it clean and simple.
This year they are experimenting with the partner program along with the prolonged-hold-to-clap-more feature as a way to monetize and reward authors. Here's the founder explaining it.
The strength of medium.com's editor is exactly the reason I find insufficient for being a programmer's blogging platform. At work, I need to have technical discussion with my colleagues on a daily basis. Working in a highly distributed team, many of my colleagues are from other countries and timezone. It is really hard to communicate ideas to them. I believe that with our technology, we have much better way of communicating and exchanging ideas. However, it's just not implemented yet.
The thing I miss the most is the easy support for code block, and syntax highlighting. After we got this, there are much more that we can achieve targeted at programmers.
Here's a quick list:
- export posts into git repo (you own the post)
- Auto scrolling Table of Content
- Emoji (fun)
- funny ascii smiley (fun)
- giphy or other service (fun)
- easy embedding of video
- new format to support file browsing, we often need to show multiple file structure, and what each file looks like in each version
- collection, we often need to write multiple post, for now, what people do is to have the first post linking to the 2nd, and so on, like a link list T_T
- screencast with notes, and have several tabs.
I think from here, we can have more and more features. The idea is that to explain complicated ideas, we need a more complicated platform.
Markdown as the beginning
I use Github a lot, a platform for programmers to host, exchange, and manages issues, I often type in the markdown language. Github in fact provides many types of format when it comes to Readme, but more often than not, people use markdown because it's easy. Markdown does have it's own issue, like described in this post. It lacks of standard and extensibility. However, it's still widely used since it's easy and it is good enough.
So I always thought of creating a blog platform like medium.com, but prioritizes programmers with markdown support (as a start).
If this gain traction one day, we can expand the site and provide much more methods to exchange idea. Perhaps through video, screencast, or augmented reality, etc.
How we started
I've been having an idea for a programmer's blog platform since a long time ago. Once in a while, I would tell my friends about it, but I never really sat down, brainstorm, and make concrete plans about making it into a product.
While having a coffee break with one of my co-worker P, I told him about this idea. He likes it. Again nothing happens, since pulling off a project for real isn't that easy. Well starting a project is easy, but consistently working on it like you actually believe in it isn't.
At work, we are working on a recipe service. It's in fact the largest recipe service in Japan. However, it's only the largest in Japan. There's what our job is about, we're in the team to build the product for oversea's market.
On November 25, 2017, we finally set a time and location to meetup and talk about this idea.
Picture of yahoo lodge in Japan.
Yahoo is kind enough to provide a free co-working space for us in hope of cultivating new ideas.
Today it's christmas, exactly one month after we meet and kick-off the project. I can finally put my winter line stickers to use.
Here's a list of things we accomplished.
- ✓ sign in with twitter
- ✓ side-by-side markdown editor
- ✓ syntax highlighting
- ✓ drag-and-drop image uploading (incomplete)
- ✓ simple following
- ✓ simple tagging
- ✓ decided on a style of how our site should look like
- ✓ draft and publish
- ✓ @someone_name type url
- ✓ 1 level comment
- ✓ nav bar styling
- ✓ post page styling
Here's some screenshot:
Post page desktop:
Post page mobile:
This is the summary of month #1!