Expressing Yourself On the Web: Jekyll & Github Pages

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Expressing Yourself on the Web

Yesterday, in my series about expressing yourself on the web, I talked about Neocities and the expressing yourself in an old web way. Today, I’m going to write about using Jekyll & Github Pages to build a website.

What is Github Pages?

Github Pages is a service run by Github that allows users to launch web pages for free. It was launched to help open source projects have a place to communicate information about their projects.

Github has limited preprocessing. Namely, processing Markdown and Jekyll projects. Hence why I’m recommending Jekyll to go along with Github Pages.

What is Jekyll?

A screenshot of the homepage of Jekyll.

Jekyll is a ruby-based system to facilitate pre-processing static content written in Markdown. It allows you to use a command-line interface to compile a site into static content. Alternatively, you can use Github Pages to avoid the command-line interface and have Github compile the site for you.

If you have a Mac, you can install Jekyll pretty easily using the Terminal. And I’ll explain how.

What you’ll need to know to use Jekyll & GitHub Pages

Honestly, you’ll need the HTML & CSS knowledge I mentioned in the Neocities review, but with this, you’ll also need to understand concepts related to Git and some Ruby knowledge wouldn’t hurt. So, if Neocities seemed a bit challenging for you, I wouldn’t recommend this approach either.

How to install Jekyll on Mac and set up a website

First, go into the Applications folder. Then, go into the Utilities folder. There should be an app labelled “Terminal”. Open it. You’ll need to copy and paste the following command into your terminal:

gem install bundler jekyll

Then, once that command has finished running, you’ll need to navigate to where you want to install the Jekyll site. For example, if you want to put the folder in your Documents folder, you’ll need to run this command.

cd ~/Documents

Then, run the following command, changing the text in bold into the name you want to choose for a site. No, you can’t use spaces in this version of the name so don’t ask.

jekyll new my-awesome-site

There you go! You’ll have a new Jekyll site on your computer. All you’ll have to do is commit it to GitHub with every change. You could do so through the command line, but you can also use the GitHub Desktop app.

If you found this a bit too involved, the next option will probably be more your speed. If you found it too easy, then Thursday’s entry would probably make you happy.


Expressing Yourself on the Web: Neocities

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Expressing Yourself on the Web

In this week-long series on expressing yourself on the web, I want to talk about five separate services that allow you a platform you can use to express yourself on the web. Today, we’ll be talking about Neocities, a host of static HTML pages and popular with sites that use old-web tech.

What can you build on Neocities?

Honestly, if everything your website can do is done in the browser with no server processing, Neocities is okay for you. Though, you probably would need some knowledge of HTML and CSS. You can find free learning guides on Sadgrl’s website and Codeacademy. However, if you want a guided learning path, I’d recommend this track from Treehouse.

Put simply, if you used something like Geocities back in the day (think 1990s to early 2000s), this is the service for you.

If running WordPress is crossing your mind, Neocities is probably not for you. If you plan to use this to build a blog, don’t. Honestly, this service isn’t great for that. Also, any preprocessing is going to be out the door, so things like Markdown are not going to be interpreted into HTML for you.

Having said that, though, the wide variety of sites that exists on Neocities is something to behold. As someone who actually used the old web, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic. Seeing all these websites use old web tech makes me irrationally happy. I, for one, would love to see more people building websites using this tech.

What would I recommend this service for?

Honestly, pages that you don’t intend to update often. Also, if you’re not uncomfortable with a text editor like Nova or VS Code. Alternatively, you can use some sort of WYSIWYG HTML generator.

On the one hand, it is a free service. However, on the other hand, you’ll have to work to publish anything here. So, this service is perfect for smaller websites where you don’t mind updating things manually.


Mastodon, ActivityPub, the Fediverse, the Fall of Twitter, and Free Speech

Elon Musk finally bought Twitter and as anyone with eyes has predicted, the site is going to hell in a handbasket. Despite claiming to be a “free speech absolutist”, he has blocked several journalists, people who parodied him, rival social media platforms like Mastodon, and anyone who he simply doesn’t like. Meanwhile, he’s decided to unblock and protect transphobes, white supremacists, and other such monsters. And while I don’t approve of his completely reckless and irresponsible behaviour, it is his platform.

And now, it’s our choice as to whether or not we want to be on it or not.

Not your server, not your platform

Here’s the thing people don’t get. Twitter is a privately-owned proprietary platform, so nothing that they do could be considered an infringement on free speech. Not before Elon’s takeover and certainly not afterwards. Twitter owes no obligation to you. Twitter, as a private business, can do business with anyone they wish. This is the crux of the problem with all the big social media platforms. At whim or will, they can ban a person’s account and, barring certain exceptions, you just have to deal with it.

This is why open social media networks, like Mastodon, have been gaining traction. Mastodon is different as it’s not just one network nor does it use a proprietary standard. Anyone can join a Mastodon instance and if they don’t like their instances, they can move their content from one instance to another. Or, in other words:

And even better, sites like Mastodon use a standardized framework known as ActivityPub.

What is ActivityPub?

ActivityPub is a standard. And this is what makes it freer than any network like Facebook. Whereas Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are walled gardens, ActivityPub is an open standard. Combined with federation, you can post a wide variety of content that can be viewed on a wide variety of platforms. This site is now using ActivityPub through a WordPress plugin which broadcasts an ActivityPub stream. Now, you can follow this blog on Mastodon, CalcKey, or any other ActivityPub-enabled platform. Just follow me at on your preferred instance of choice and you’ll get my blog. Just as if you follow me at @daria, you’ll get my social posts. And that’s because these sites “federate” with each other.

And it is my hope that soon-ish, I can create better federation between this site and other ActivityPub platforms like Pixelfed, Peertube, and BookWyrm and move off of (or reduce my dependency on) sites such as Instagram, YouTube, and GoodReads.

What the hell is federation?

Federation is interconnectivity between services. Just like how e-mail services “federate”, ActivityPub “federates” in a similar way. You put the user’s username first (in my case for Mastodon, it’s daria), then an “@” symbol, and then the server name (in my case, it’s “”), so it’s @daria.

Why the hell should I care?

Put simply, you should care because this is the way you get your free speech. Private companies like Twitter and Meta have no obligation to you. And with the walls closing in, you should get out now.

Marketing WordPress

Bringing the Get Noticed Theme Back to Life

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Building My Author Website

As I mentioned in my previous post, I talked about building my author brand. Needless to say, I need a website to communicate with any potential fans I might (hopefully) get. And, ideally, it wouldn’t be some cookie cutter WordPress theme used by every other site. I have a few ideas and points of inspiration to draw from. Currently, I’m working on bringing back the Get Noticed Theme, but modernizing it a bit for the modern world and WordPress. In this post, I will explain why I’m using the Get Noticed theme as a base for my new author website. Then, I reveal my inspiration and give you some ideas about what I’m going to change with the theme.