August 2020

Cogs Web Serial launched with its first episode on July 27 this year.

These stories are something I’ve been working on for over a decade now, and whether this site is successful or not, I plan to continue writing and publishing them for a long time to come. Posting monthly updates feels like a nice way to track my progress and keep a record of how I’m thinking about this project over time.

I originally planned to launch the serial in January 2020, but life took a slight left turn in October 2019 (nothing serious, just a bunch of busy work that put me behind schedule) and then 2020 happened, and while I’m fortunate that the pandemic has barely touched Queensland where I live, my attention wasn’t on writing or publishing fiction.

Part of the delay was figuring out how I’d deliver the stories to subscribers. I’ve looked at membership sites in the past, and the kind of self-service options I typically like involve setting up a Wordpress site with a membership plugin combined with a payment service and an email service provider with something like Zapier acting as the automation glue between the various services.

On top of that, I like to publish directly from which ever device I’m currently working on, whether that’s my phone, an iPad, or my desktop. I typically use a version control system and a static site generator that converts my text files into a website.

All in all, I was looking at about a dozen systems kinda talking to each other so that I can write and publish the stories and share them with readers on the site and through email.

I know enough to be able to connect all of those services and mostly get the results I was hoping for, but not with much confidence that I could easily fix anything that went wrong. Also, as I worked on this, I was starting to feel more like a solutions architect than a writer, and that was never my goal.

Tech is fun, and it’s gratifying when I can code something to do a thing I need, but ultimately, it’s also a productive kind of procrastination. Can’t figure out why character X did Y? No worries, spend a couple of hours, which might become days, writing code to solve some tangential business problem. It feels productive, but the thing that really matters, the thing where I add value, the story, doesn’t progress.

In July I decided to wire everything up and launch the site, future stability issues were a problem for another time, but in setting all the pieces up, I discovered Ghost.org. I’d seen the platform before and never really paid it any attention, but it had recently been updated and included everything I need (specifically the membership functionality) in one simple solution at a fair monthly price (and they don’t try to gouge you more and more as you grow, which is a refreshing alternative to how these services normally operate).

Within a week of discovering Ghost met all of my needs, the site was up and running and the first episode was published.

Being a new system (to me), it still took some time to figure out all the pieces, but now I can write the episodes on my iPad or desktop and publish (or schedule) direct from the editor, and if something goes wrong with the service, it’ll still be a pain in the arse, but at least I won’t be on the hook to fix it, and I can focus on just writing.

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