Why I Moved to WordPress

Digital program source code

I moved to WordPress for the same reasons why I rode a fixed-gear bike in college and handle 99% of the maintenance and repair work on my truck.

It’s because I enjoy understanding how things operate from the inside out.

Note: Throughout this post I use WordPress to mean “WordPress.org.”

The Fixed-gear Fix

My first bike in college was an black aluminum beach cruiser, which in hindsight seems like the kind of thing Bruce Wayne would have liked to ride around on while sipping frozen margaritas if he ever ditched Gotham City for a weekend vacation. It was decidedly uncool in comparison with the sleek steel-frame psuedo-track bikes that I saw parked outside my dorm. Like any college freshman at art school who yearns to be more cool and hip and original than everyone else, I succumbed to a strong case of FOMO, and I started researching fixed-gear bikes. Although I don’t remember their names now, I remember coming across a few blogs that were absolutely hideous in their design but beautiful in the way they waxed poetic about the sensation of riding a fixed gear. They talked about the “feel” of riding fixed and how you become “in-tune” with what the bike is doing at all times. The whole concept sounded quite romantic to me, and I took it hook, line, and sinker. I sold the beach cruiser, and rode off into a hipster future.

In short, a fixed gear bike is exactly what it sounds like: the sprocket on the rear wheel lacks a bearing, and so it is literally fixed on the hub. This means that you cannot coast on a fixed-gear in the same way that you can on any other bike. The pedals (and your feet) remain in constant motion. It’s a bit tricky to get the hang of riding fixed at first, but once it clicks, you really do become “one-with-the-machine” both literally and figuratively. Riding fixed gives you a very good feel for speed, which is great for riding in congested downtown areas with stoplights at every intersection (e.g. Savannah, Georgia). There’s also the benefit of being able to do a prolonged trackstand at those stoplights.

Then there’s the issue of maintenance. A fixed-gear bike is elegantly simple just like a French press. No mysteriously temperamental derailleurs or complex hydraulic disc brakes to futz with. Just keep the tires aired up. Change the brakes as necessary (I rode with a front brake). Oil and tighten the chain regularly. It’s that easy. You get to know your bike inside and out, both from a riding standpoint and a maintenance standpoint.

Once I got comfortable riding my fixed-gear bike, every other bike seemed to be overly complex like an airplane cockpit or a nuclear reactor control panel. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve been able to ride a bike that can coast, simply because my brain used to freak out at the perceived loss of control on a regular coasting bike. Riding fixed taught me that I love products that give me a sense of control both in use and upkeep.

Getting under the hood

For the the past year-and-a-half I’ve taken to doing all of the maintenance work on my truck myself. After I bought my truck, it developed a squeak in the front end, so I took it to the mechanic to get things checked out. The quote was far more than I was willing (and able) to pay, and after a few quick calculations I realized that I could buy all the tools and the parts for about 25 percent the quote. I decided that the risk was relatively low: If the repair went well, I’d save about $1,500, and I’d have the tools, which would save money in the long run. If it didn’t go well, then I’d be out a few hundred dollars and I’d have learned something in the process.

My wife’s uncle has been a mechanic for more than 30 years, so I picked his brain about what I needed to do, and he advised me to purchase a Haynes manual. He said, “Chilton manuals are pretty good…if you need to prop up a table or something.” That Haynes manual has been just about the best $25 I’ve ever spent.

Through lots of trial and error and lots of trips to the hardware store for additional tools, I’ve come to believe that I can tackle most of the maintenance and repair work that needs to be done on a vehicle. All it really takes is a lot of patience and a willingness to troubleshoot problems systematically. And while there are some jobs that are best left to the pros, like engine rebuilds and transmission work, the fact is that most mechanic work isn’t all that complicated. It just seems that way on the surface.

So what does this have to do with WordPress?

When I first built my website, I took the easy route and used Squarespace. It was a good choice at the time because it helped me focus on my content and goals without having to worry about aesthetic execution.

In time, my goals have changed. After thinking more about what I wanted my website to be, I realized I wanted a dedicated space to aggregate my thoughts and learn in public, so I needed a blog. WordPress supports that goal. But moving to WordPress is about much more than blogging.

Moving to WordPress is about actually rolling up my sleeves and and knocking out some of the things on my “To-learn” list, which include:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Javascript
  • Optimizing media for web display
  • Website administration and security
  • Content management
  • SEO

Squarespace takes care of pretty much all of these things, and although it’s possible to inject some custom CSS here and there, it doesn’t offer the same flexibility as WordPress.

It’s no surprise to my friends and family that I like working on projects, and moving to WordPress is my favorite type of project: multi-step, multi-phase, and full of opportunities to learn new technical skills. So far, setting up a WordPress has been more challenging than Squarespace, but it’s also been proportionally more rewarding.

It was about 11 years ago when I wanted to get a fixed-gear bike. What I see now is that my desire to ride fixed wasn’t so much about being “one-with-the-machine” as it was about being able to experience riding with less mediation. Today, I choose to work on my truck because I enjoy knowing how everything fits together, and I like the satisfaction that comes with solving technical problems.

Learning by doing is my favorite way to learn, and that is, above all, why I’ve moved to WordPress.

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