Content is king, I'm still Mike - blog revamp

#announcements Aug 16, 2023 4 min Mike Kowalski

I launched my own brand “Mike my bytes” in November 2020 as an experiment. Rebooting my existing blog (dated back to 2015!) along with becoming active on Twitter really paid off. Apart from joy, it also brought thousands of people interacting with my content every month. Today, it’s high time to make some adjustments. Refreshed design is just the beginning.

Content is king

The Twitter I discovered in 2020 is no longer there. X feels like a never-ending experiment with a rather uncertain future. Its competition is segmented more than Android versions, without any clear successor (at least in the EU). Yet, some tech people already gave up and moved somewhere else. It’s hard to blame them - the overall experience is much worse now. At least without a paid subscription…

More and more social platforms want to charge the creators, despite they’re the source of their traffic & revenue. I’m not going to bark at the moon here - we all have bills to pay… However, this puts small creators in an uncomfortable situation. I don’t charge for the content I create. There are no ads on my blog. Why should I start paying for publishing on socials?

In the meantime, various AI models are being trained on data they don’t even have rights to. Of course, the companies behind them are not eager to share their profits with content authors. What’s even worse, they rarely cite the source. When publishing on external platforms, we don’t have any control over what happens with our content. When hosting on our own, we can at least try.

One thing I realized recently is: it’s not your content unless you own (host) it. In the current circumstances, prioritizing blog over socials feels like the right move. Yet, writing on Twitter/X doesn’t require the same effort as blogging. It doesn’t offer the same reading experience either.

I really liked the minimalism behind blogs (like the one from DHH). Such a simple form puts content in the first place. It seems to work well for both longer and much shorter posts. This is what inspired me to rethink what my own blog looks like.

I’m still Mike

I really liked the previous design of this site (based on the fantastic Liebling Ghost theme). One thing that bothered me though was the lack of personal character. It felt a bit faceless, maybe even corporate. Mike my bytes starts with “Mike” for a reason, no more hiding!

The screenshot of the redesigned home page
The redesigned home page leaves no doubts - this is a personal blog!

I decided to stop using post cover images. Although they added some nice visual touch, most of them had little in common with the actual content. On some screens, they might have been even covering it! Overall, I find them too distracting. Also, with the growing number of post, finding a new matching image become a challenge. Encouraging myself to write is also about reducing the “writing fatigue”.

After several years of using Ghost, I decided to move to Hugo, a popular static site generator. Running a Node.js app with a dedicated database 24/7 just to present static content takes money and requires maintenance effort. It’s also an extreme waste of resources increasing my carbon footprint. Also, it’s not a surprise, that static pages load significantly faster than dynamic ones.

My blog is now hosted on Cloudflare Pages. I’ve been using Cloudflare for 3 years to improve site performance. I’m still impressed with what they offer. Under the hood, I’m using their privacy-focused Web Analytics to track the site traffic without tracking you 😉

Speaking of privacy, I got rid of Disqus. Despite still being a go-to comment platform, I really can’t ignore their user-tracking policy. As for now, I moved all the comments to the open-source, GitHub-backed giscus.

Apart from the migration, I’ve spent some extra time on improving the page load time. There’s now significantly less JS & CSS code to load. The site uses responsive WebP images whenever possible. Code snippets are no longer highlighted using Javascript… And many more. The results are pretty satisfactory to me (although there’s still room for improvement):

The screenshot of PageSpeed Insights
Source: PageSpeed Insights


I have no plans to leave Twitter/X and other social media platforms anytime soon. I still see the value they add - not only from a publishing point of view. I hope the revamped, more lightweight blog will help me adapt to the new internet reality.

It took me almost 6 months to complete this migration. Not terrible for a backend-mostly engineer, but also not particularly impressive. Today, I’m truly relieved to consider it complete. There are still some rough edges here and there, but it’s all about incremental delivery, right?

Let me know what you think!

Mike Kowalski

Software engineer believing in craftsmanship and the power of fresh espresso. Writing in & about Java, distributed systems, and beyond. Mikes his own opinions and bytes.