astrid.tech v2

This very website

NOTE: This section is under construction!

A 90s-looking "under construction" banner

The contents of this page are incomplete and subject to change. Check back later for a more complete version!


After having made a lot of personal projects, I realized that I had forgotten a ton of them, and there wasn’t really a place to show them off. This website was made to solve that issue.

Feature List

  • Tagging system
    • Relatedness measures between tagged items
  • List of projects
  • Blog, translated from Markdown
  • Comments on blog and project pages
  • Pie chart of open source licenses
  • A resume

Design Details

Tech stack summary

Frontend

I use Next.js to statically generate the website.

The static site is hosted via Github Pages to statically host the website.

There is a Github Actions workflow that automatically builds on every push to verify that my code compiles. Additionally, if there was a push to the main branch, it will publish the build output to the astralbijection.github.io repo.

UX design methodology

I’ve tried to make the browsing experience as user-friendly and inclusive as possible by:

  • Adopting a mobile-first methodology for designing views, and responsively sizing elements in CSS
  • Statically generating the site to reduce bandwidth consumption for users
  • Utilizing semantic tags and designing the site to be accessible for screen readers

Backend

Currently, the backend’s only functionality is to serve and receive possibly anonymous comments.

I have pointed Docker Hub at my repo to build, test, and release a new :latest image on every push to main. It is manually deployed as a Docker container on a free Oracle Cloud Infrastructure VPS.

Content

The content is in its own Git submodule as a set of raw files that get aggregated and compiled on each frontend build. It is written in the following file formats:

  • Markdown
  • YAML

There used to be (relatively buggy) Jupyter notebook support for a few blog posts during v1, but that has been suspended. Instead, I used Pandoc to convert those notebooks into Markdown and raw images.

History

Development Hell

I had always wanted to build my own website. I had a friend in 5th grade who had his own website, made in Google Sites (though he clearly hasn’t updated it since then), and I wanted to be like him. So, there were multiple attempts over the years with Google Sites websites but they never worked. I also tried making personal websites on Weebly and Wordpress.com, but I made the site… and realized that I actually didn’t have anything to publish

Fast-forward to 2017, I had gotten several interesting projects under my belt, I was a seasoned Python and Java dev. I decided, “I’m gonna make my own website! I’m gonna finally do it!” I bought the domain names to force myself to do it, otherwise I’d be wasting money, and if you know me, I hate wasting money. And guess what happened? I didn’t do it. Too many other projects, plus I didn’t really like frontend development. I sat on the domain names for a few years, before I ended up just tossing them out because I no longer used those usernames.

Initial create-react-app design

In January 2020, I was taking CPE 133, and I met Monty Choy. He showed me his website, made using React and hosted on Github Pages, and I thought it was super cool! I wanted to make one myself. However, I was super busy with work and everything, so I put it off for a while.

Then, it was late March 2020, spring break. The pandemic had just started, and I was depressed because all my friends had left for home until I was the only one remaining. So I thought, why not finally learn React and build that website? As much as I wanted to, I didn’t get it done during spring break, and spring quarter was really busy because of the online learning plus the job I had.

At the very end of spring quarter, I realized there were a set of deadly flaws with create-react-app that would severely impact my website’s performance:

  • It was not statically generated. You need JavaScript to use it.
  • If a user wanted to read my Markdown posts, what would happen is:
    1. On connecting to the site, they download every single markdown post file
    2. On reading the post, their browser takes the markdown post, parses it, and converts it to HTML
    3. Finally, the HTML gets embedded inside React. This is very poor in terms of perforamnce.

I had a very short foray into React-Static to hopefully fix this problen, but that never panned out. Instead, I wanted to try something different.

v0 and v1 - Gatsby Site

I broke ground on this website during the summer of 2020. I took the Gatsby Starter Blog template template and heavily modified it to suit my needs until it was no longer recognizable from the original.

  • v0.1.0 was the first published version of the site. It just had a blog, an about page, and not too much else.
  • v1.0.0 was the first version of the site that had most of the features you see today - resume and portfolio.

I released v1 at the end of the summer, after days of full-time internship work followed by nighttime website work.

I had a few blog posts written as Jupyter notebooks, and wrote a plugin that transformed those notebooks to Markdown.

CI/CD Pipeline

There was a Github Actions workflow that automatically built my website on every push to verify that my code compiles. If the push went to the main branch, it would additionally publish the build output to the astralbijection.github.io repo, so that Github Pages could statically host it. astralbijection.github.io used to take you to astrid.tech in this way! However, now it does not.

Personal Branding

I met Alex Solis in the Out in Tech Slack. He’s a frontend software engineer with a lot of knowledge about branding, helped me set up my own branding guidelines. That’s how I decided on my dark blue primary color and orange accents, and pushed my newly rebranded website by the end of December.

The Commenting Backend

I discovered the IndieWeb at some point. I don’t remember how I discovered it, but I joined some Homebrew Website Club meetings and met others who also run their own websites. Some discussion at a Homebrew Website Club meeting led me to think about how I want people to interact with my website. So, in hopes that people would comment on my site, I wrote a backend in Django whose sole purpose is to host comments. Those

v2 - Next.js

In January, I decided to move it to Next.js for a couple of reasons:

  • I might want to have SSR rather than SSG at some point, to make it more flexible.
  • I wanted to try a new frontend framework.
  • The company behind Gatsby seems to have done some less-than-ethical things.

So, I spent a chunk of time porting everything to Next.js.

Comments

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