The seduction of maintenance

I like having my own website. There are a lot of systems humming away. And there’s even more involved in keeping up a local development environment. I use Homebrew on my Mac to operate an Apache server with PHP, mariaDB, and Composer. There’s a little frisson of satisfaction in running brew update and seeing a scroll of new software packages running by. All those systems require maintenance, and for a part of my brain, that is its own reward—keeping them humming.

Of course the purpose of running a website isn’t just to maintain extant material. I’m ostensibly running a website to write for that website. And the work I put in to maintaining servers, software packages, design updates, CMSes, the rest of it, that’s work I could be putting into writing new material.

The result of maintenance is sustenance. If I keep the website running, then the website keeps running. And that’s necessary if I want to justify hosting and domain name costs to myself (and my wife). But it’s easy to allow the tautological pleasure of maintaining usurp the deeper satisfaction of creating. I like making new things, but it’s harder than keeping these systems going. So the easy task that keeps me here becomes the focus, instead of the difficult task that makes progress.

The website is only the most forefront of examples for me. I’ve obviously switched designs in the past month, and I’ve also changed CMSes. The change was necessary: my old CMS, ExpressionEngine, was end-of-lifing the version I had operating the prior design. It was also a software package aimed at developers (more on that in a moment). Moving to a new CMS meant configuring a bunch of new systems, learning new pieces, testing new components. That’s fun!

But ultimately there’s no benefit to changing tools if you aren’t using the tools. That’s something I’m trying to keep in mind.

About the developer thing: I like poking into systems, I like configuration, I like exploring. But as much as I want to see myself as a web developer, I’m not. I’m not denigrating myself. It’s a statement devoid of judgment. And recognizing that I’m not a developer is part of what makes it easier to refocus from maintaining a website to writing for the website, which is what I profess to want to do in the first place.

This isn’t a New Year’s post, because it’s not a resolution. It’s realization. And that shouldn’t be blocked out on a calendar.

Read next
Yut ngee sahm, no.1

Read previous
A postmortem

Strangers are friends I haven’t met yet. Drop me a line.