E Personal Experience

I started blogging at blogchina.com in 2005, moved to blog.com.cn, then MSN Space, and finally purchased my own domain yihui.org and a virtual host. I first used a PHP application named Bo-Blog, then switched to WordPress, and then Jekyll. Finally I moved to Hugo. Although I have moved several times, all my posts have been preserved, and you can still see my first post in Chinese in 2005. I often try my best not to introduce broken links (which lead to the 404 page) every time I change the backend of my website. When it is too hard to preserve the original links of certain pages, I will redirect the broken URLs to the new URLs. That is why it is important for your system to support redirections, and in particular, 301 redirections (Netlify does a nice job here). Here are some of my redirection rules: https://github.com/rbind/yihui/blob/master/static/_redirects. For example, http://yihui.org/en/feed/ was the RSS feed of my old WordPress and Jekyll blogs in English, and Hugo generates the RSS feed to /en/index.xml instead, so I need to redirect /en/feed/ to /en/index.xml.

Google has provided several tools to help you know more information about your website. For example, Google Analytics can collect visitor statistics and give speed suggestions for your website. Google Webmasters can show you the broken links it finds. I use these tools frequently by myself.

I firmly believe in the value of writing. Over the years, I have written more than 1000 posts in Chinese and English. Some are long, and most are short. The total size of these text files is about 5 Mb. In retrospect, most posts are probably not valuable to general readers (some are random thoughts, and some are my rants), but I feel I benefitted a lot from writing in two aspects:

  1. If I sit down and focus on writing a small topic for a while, I often feel my thoughts will become clearer. A major difference between writing and talking is that you can always reorganize things and revise them when writing. I do not think writing on social media counts. 140 characters may well be thoughtful, but I feel there is so much chaos there. It is hard to lay out systematic thoughts only through short messages, and these quick messages are often quickly forgotten.

  2. I know some bloggers are very much against comments, so they do not open comments to the public. I have not had a very negative experience with comments yet. On the contrary, I constantly find inspirations from comments. For example, I was thinking if it was possible to automatically check R packages on the cloud through Travis CI. At that time (April 2013), I believe not many people in the R community had started using Travis CI, although I’m not sure if I was the first person experimenting with this idea. I felt Travis CI could be promising, but it did not support R back then. Someone named Vincent Arel-Bundock (I still do not know him) told me a hack in a comment, which suddenly lit up my mind and I quickly figured out a solution. In October 2013, Craig Citro started more solid work on the R support on Travis CI. I do not know if he saw my blog post. Anyway, I think Travis CI has made substantial impact on R package developers, which is a great thing for the R community.

Yet another relatively small benefit is that I often go to my own posts to learn some technical stuff that I have forgotten. For example, I find it difficult to remember the syntax of different types of zero-width assertions in Perl-like regular expressions: (?=...), (?!...), (?<=...), and (?<!...). So I wrote a short blog post and gave myself a few minimal examples. After going back to that post a few times, finally I can remember how to use these regular expressions.