2 days on Hashnode – early impressions
12 min read
So, I’ve been using Hashnode for just under 48 hours. Who better to review it so far then? (Ummmm, pretty much EVERYONE else on the platform, perhaps?)
I’m keen to capture my thoughts on what I’ve found to be the case now, and then revisit it again in a year. (TL;DR? This sentence pretty much covers it – I have every intention of still being here in a year).
I’ve had a few blogs over the last decade or so. I started out on Blogger way back in 2009, before moving over to self-hosted WordPress. But, I eventually tired of writing about nothing in particular, so packed that in five or six years ago. Every now and then I’d set up another, which promptly fizzled out after a few months of random posts about whatever I felt like writing about. In fact, that was literally the tagline of my first blog: “My take on whatever I feel like writing about today” (The Pulitzer’s on it way, right?). Turns out a blog needs a purpose. Who knew?
Cue the last few weeks: I decided it’s time to launch the climate tech blog I mentioned in my first post on this platform. Of course, I went straight to what I know: WordPress. And I’m happy with that for that site. It does what I need. Everything looks nice and sleek, in my opinion at least. It has all the toys: widgets, sticky posts, drop down navbars and whatnot.
There are even plenty of options for all sorts of monetisation options (lots of banner ads all over the place being something I’m really not a fan of, but I’ll save that little whine for a later post about monetising blogs in general. Hence the slightly-cheeky-for-a-new-blog ‘Support me on Ko-Fi’ button at the end of my posts here instead.)
It took a while to set up. I had to work through lots of options and customisations. It’s big. I like it. It’s not really the fastest… but it does its job. (No, I haven’t yet gone through all the steps to cache, use a CDN, etc.). I must admit I like WordPress – it does what it claims to do and there’s surely a reason it’s as popular as it is.
So, when I decided to start a separate blog about my dev journey, a far more focused topic than the plethora of climate tech options out there, I obviously did the same. I installed WordPress. I picked a theme. I went to work on all the customisations and integrations. All ready to go. Create New Post… flashing cursor.
Why I’m here on Hashnode
Then I saw a Tweet about Hashnode. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Sounds interesting.” Well, I checked it out… and barely one hour later I was set up and typing my first post on this platform: that fascinating diatribe about why I’m here that a surprising number of you were kind enough to read, judging by the analytics tab. Thanks for the support!
A clean and simple blog platform for devs, by devs? Sold. I loved the ease of setting it all up. I liked the simplicity in describing how to easily use my own domain without needing to first reach for a credit card. I like the clean interface and the lack of bloat. I love how fast it all is. There’s no need for a million extras from day one (though there’s no shortage of important features – everything you actually need is there from the start).
I realise it’s not trying to be another WordPress. It’s for devs. It’s geared for tech posts about coding. And once I’m done boring you all with my long-winded opinions, I have every intention of really focusing on the code here on this blog.
Out of the box, it’s pretty much good to go. I think that is what sold me on the concept: no need to spend hours setting up customisations and plugins to do anything extra – analytics, specifying OG Images, that sort of thing – it’s all either there or a couple of clicks away.
Granted, I’ve yet to figure out how to specify a Twitter card image for use when sharing posts there, but I’m sure I will in time (or one of you nice people will let me know in the comments… hint hint 😉). Sharing on Facebook uses the cover image, as I'd like, but Twitter is still arguing with me image-wise.
- Update: 15 March: I shared a new post on Twitter today... and the Twitter card image was perfect - it used the cover image from the post, as I was hoping it would. False alarm then. All is well.
I’d never used markdown before, but there’s a handy little cheat sheet available in the Write window, so I figured that out pretty quickly. Turns out, it’s not difficult.
Of course, no sooner had I set up one platform than I was reminded of another: DEV Community… As soon as I set up this blog here on Hashnode I came across lots of articles comparing the two platforms, with users recommending their preferred option. So, I read a few. Both seem good. Like with all platforms, there are passionate users on both sides of the fence.
Honestly, I’m not going to get into a platform war: I’ll post here, cross-post there when appropriate, and see what happens. So far, it seems, my first post got WAY more views here than it did on that other site. Hashnode 1, DEV 0. Still, it’s early days, so we’ll just see how it pans out.
One thing I have to mention: the fact that right at the start Hashnode clarifies that we, the authors, retain ownership of our writings here. AND they’re quick to let us know that it’s easy to export all our posts and retain them should we decide to defect to another platform. I appreciate the openness and the honesty. Nicely done.
Of course, it can’t be ALL rainbows, flowers and puppies – that makes for a very one-sided review, so let me think of a few negatives…
I do find it somewhat tricky to find the correct link to get back to my blog dashboard from time to time – it’s not always 100% intuitive what to click to get there, both on desktop and mobile.
I'm also not 100% convinced by the estimated reading time for posts. This one claims eleven minutes (at the time of writing this post. With edits and notes, we're now on twelve minutes), but by using a traditional formula I calculate six to seven minutes. Not too serious, but it may put some people off reading allegedly longer posts if they're in a hurry.
Also, I noticed that on mobile the blog navbars don’t collapse. They run behind the social icons and disappear. I screenshotted one to ask about that… and then discovered that they can be scrolled side to side. That wasn’t overly clear and looks a little odd if you have more than two navbar items. On the flip side, I believe that navbars on Hashnode are a new feature, so I assume it’s early days and will get sorted out in time.
However, rumour has it that one can heavily customise the blogs via their own code. Whether I can change the navbar functionality in this manner is something I haven’t yet looked into – hey, I’ve been here barely two days…
- UPDATE: 16 March: Please see the first comment below, where Sandeep Panda, a co-founder of Hashnode, addresses each of these items individually. And I would just like to add that within one hour of me Tweeting the link to this review, I received feedback from a co-founder. I'm impressed!
See how I’m clutching at straws to try balance the praise with some gripes? That should summarise my overall view of Hashnode: it’s good. You should use it.
Then, once you've done that, please stop by on Twitter to say Hi!
Until the next time!
Sidenote 1: P.S. If it seems a little odd to have a positive review of a platform written and hosted on that very same platform... well, I hear you. The point is that it's meant to be shared on social media for the benefit of others still weighing their options.
Sidenote 2: Any glaring errors and omissions? It’s highly possible given my lack of experience to date on Hashnode. Feel free to comment / advise / correct / praise / troll accordingly, as appropriate, and I’ll update this post as required.