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Getting Started was a session at IndieWebCamp NYC 2019.

Video: ▶️43:46s

Notes archived from: https://etherpad.indieweb.org/gettingstarted

IndieWebCamp NYC 2019
Session: Getting Started (what are the considerations)
When: 2019-10-05 13:00



Josephine: what is the checklist you might make to get started?

  • for each item on the checklist, what options might I consider, how do i weigh the options?

dmitshur: short-term vs long-term, how much time do you want to invest? you can pick something and use it for a month, or choose something more long-term. need to choose how much to focus on content vs technology.

  • do you want to pay money?
  • do you want to have a domain name? .com? or a sub-domain (e.g. yourname.tumblr.com)?
    • David Shanske: in the community we advocate for having your own domain
    • Greg McVerry: domain name often comes w/ your hosting. hosting is another thing to choose.
    • josephine: i have a domain for a portfolio for professional stuff. do i want a different one for personal stuff? i want to post things that only my friends want to see, for example.
    • David Shanske: you can use a subdomain for that.

Greg McVerry: should start w/ (maybe 3) specific goals. going over the Qs he heard from the room. Looks like about 5.

Helen: could start w/ a GitHub account and make a GitHub Pages site for free, write content there before trying to host it elsewhere.

  • josephine: what does it mean to have a "GitHub Page"?
  • Greg McVerry: github is a code repository. github pages lets you turn a repository into a website. might be easier to start w/ a CMS.

Marty McGuire: what's a CMS?

  • Greg McVerry: user interface for managing your content. wordpress is v popular. wordpress.com is free to start. wordpress.org is software you can host elsewhere.

Greg McVerry: favorite place to recommend right now is micro.blog. $5/mo. you can touch zero code and start putting up photos, make portfolio pages, have a social stream, connect to tumblr/mastodon/twitter. "just works", but you can also dig in when you want to customize or learn code.

josephine: how can i keep my content if i want to try one thing and decide to change?

  • David Shanske: with your own domain, you can change where your site is hosted and keep your URLs
  • Greg McVerry: many CMS or services have good export features that can help you move to a new site.

dmitshur: thinking of 3 high level things

  • domain name
  • how do you get things into your site? software you run or a hosting service.
  • the actual content. what do you want to post? HTML/CSS? or just text?

mfgriffin: indieweb has been around and had events for a while. are there trends for getting-started routes that have led to long-term adoption? Tantek Çelik: there have! the best tends to be the route that provides the least work. someone might adopt a CMS based on a friend liking it or coming to an IndieWebCamp and then find that they can't maintain it. the sites that persist are the ones that involve the least work for themselves, unless coding is your hobby! i don't think that's most people's personal hobby. it's a bad assumption that coding is a personal hobby.

  • dmitshur: tension btw doing the work yourself (programming hobby) which gives you lots of freedom in exchange for time and can give a way to start small and build up. picking a pre-made solution requires understanding what's available and comparing options to see which might best meet your needs.

helen: how many people use an existing CMS for their site? ( David Shanske, Greg McVerry raise hands for WordPress). i thought everyone coded their own website.

  • David Shanske: it's a balance between e.g. spending time driving a car vs fixing a car.

tantek: is there a difference between a static site generator and a CMS?

  • Marty McGuire: yes! static site generators don't have an interface and are more like a compiler where the source code is your own content.

Greg McVerry: i use a hybrid. handwritten HTML pages for some things, a site based on Known CMS for some things. i build lots of websites for clubs and projects.

Marty McGuire: What do I want to put online, and why? you mentioned wanting to share photos, wanting to share things with friends

josephine: I want to post on Instagram, but I want to post once and syndicate everywhere else

Is there something else you need to consider before choosing a CMS?

  • Greg McVerry: i teach people to make their first websites by hand. ( Tantek Çelik: how many keep up their websites? jgmac1106: not many.) i have tried lots of CMSes. i think it's important to start w/ a passion, it gives you the energy to keep driving towards the goal.

mfgriffin: have you started drawing yet? you can start making the content before you know how/where you want to keep it online. and also keep changing all of your attempts to serve it, forever, but not miss out participating in inktober while you test!

David Shanske: how important is audience? (very). prioritizing your ability to get your content in front of people and have them respond brings up questions about how to support that.

helen: start with content. once you know what you want to put in the website, everything is solved.

josephine: so if i start w/ inktober and posting drawings, how do i make sure my site will support adding blogs if i want to blog later? organizing things into categories?

dmitshur: another consideration is making sure you keep control of your data. if you use a third-party service like instagram, do they have an export? if so, you can use that service without building it for your website first, just make sure you keep up with your exports. then when you want to add it to your website (or the service goes away) you have your data.

  • David Shanske: some people do both! post to instagram and to their own site, for example. some automate it. some do it by hand. "manual until it hurts"

mfgriffin: are there people who have done that path with instagram? starting participating now for inktober feels like the urgent first thing, and figuring out how to put that on your website is the second step.

helen: you don't really need javascript for your personal website (general mutters of agreement)

jgmac1106: recap. your goals and audience, domain, trade-offs of time/energy.


  • I don't want to post to Instagram first because you can't link to things
  • I want to write something about my drawings

dmitshur: maintenance work and time is also an issue. some choices.

  • David Shanske: we try new things and learn and fail. it can be frustrating but it can be fun.
  • Tantek Çelik: only if someone really has maintaining their website as a hobby. most people do not.

josephine: having a goal for the next month and a goal for a year will help figure out how to progress. thinking about audience also helps to get started.

See Also