Blogging today isn’t the same as it was back when I was a grad student and aspired to write something, anything, every day. And yet, WordPress today powers more than 40% of all websites. That’s a mind-boggling statistic considering that a lot of huge websites use it as their CMS.
Because while blogs have transitioned from personal to hobby to professional to spam, the CMS powering them has also transformed itself a few times, and keeps doing so.
At the same time, the cost of maintaining your personal blog has oscillated from being free to cheap to relatively cheap to downright expensive, both in terms of money as well as time spent upon technical maintenance. Spam is a foregone issue as a lot of authors have shunned comments entirely, instead moving them to proprietary social media or discussion platforms, and also because spam detection and deletion is now a solved problem. Even this seldom updated website gets a few hundred spam comments a day that are efficiently detected and removed from the queue by WordPress.
Spammers have been trying to find new means of hijacking websites so that they could inject some kind of scammy content and drive SEO. As blog comments have died down, this means that the latest series of attacks center around authentication itself. Also, driven by complexity of underlying software, there are newer bugs every day that need to be promptly patched by updating the entire stack. If you’re self-hosting because you don’t have enough traffic and want to keep costs low, as I do, you now have to train to be a good sysadmin. All of this takes time and effort, which is one of the reasons that a lot of casual bloggers have moved to social networks where it’s far easier to drive conversations and gain a following.
Blogging is still a completely different experience where you get to say what you want with the amount of words that you’d prefer in. It’s just that the gates to enter your own garden are rickety, and yet, hard to push open.
A while ago I was seeing a lot of failed authentication attempts on my old setup. So much so that the database would often crash. Resetting the server required me to open a command prompt on a desktop computer. Sure, I could have written a script or made a little app to do it on my phone, or I could have simply spent time on hardening the setup so that it was up-to-date on security checklists. But, I didn’t have time for any of that. So, I did what was easiest. I simply blocked the login page from being served. And, voilà, no problems!
The downside to my easy ‘hack’ was that I could no longer log into my own server without first making some changes in the web server configuration. What was already a dying habit (writing here) was now facing a huge deterrent. I avoided writing anything at all for months, even as the pandemic almost fizzled out in the eyes of everyone.
Interestingly, I had been learning the basics of the Docker containerization system over the past few months to host the API of my new pet project. After I got it working, I started wondering if I could take some time to use it for this blog as well as my other portfolio websites/projects. And that’s what I did. This blog is now running on a Docker container and this means that it is much more manageable. I am still learning the technology and it’s vast!
While I still need to find motivation to write as often as I used to in the past, that’s one major hurdle passed.