2 days on Hashnode – early impressions

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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).

Pre-Hashnode

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.

CodingClimate1.jpg

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.

Cheat Sheet 1.jpg

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.

Clarity

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.

Balance

Puppies.jpg 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.

Screenshot - navbar2.jpg

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!

Conclusion

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!

Bye.

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.

Sandeep Panda's photo

Hey, thanks for the nice words. Really appreciate it. :) Here are my comments:

I do find it somewhat tricky to find the correct link to get back to my blog dashboard from time to time.

You can quickly access your dashboard by typing blog-url/dashboard.

You can also access it from your blog -

Screenshot 2021-03-16 at 12.27.04 PM.png

If you are on Hashnode, you can click on Profile Dropdown at the bottom to navigate to your blog dashboard.

Screenshot 2021-03-16 at 12.27.58 PM.png

I'm also not 100% convinced by the estimated reading time for posts. This one claims eleven minutes, but by using a traditional formula I calculate six to seven minutes.

It depends on the average reading speed. We consider the average to be 160 word per minute while other platforms have a different average that goes up to 200-225 wpm. We are thinking through this, and will update the read time soon!

Also, I noticed that on mobile the blog navbars don’t collapse. They run behind the social icons and disappear

Yes, this is a known issue and will be fixed shortly. :)

However, rumour has it that one can heavily customise the blogs via their own code.

It's an ambassador-only feature. Once unlocked, you can customize your blog further by writing custom CSS.


Again thanks so much for the nice words. We are trying our best to help developers own their content and build their personal brand. There is no point in giving away your content to platforms that put it on their own domain. One can get started with Hashnode in minutes, and start building their own SEO and authority. As a creator, you can always republish your articles on other platforms for extra reach by setting canonical properly. But you should never give away your original content for free.

Stuart's photo

Thanks for the feedback, Sandeep. I added an update in the post above to draw readers' attention to your feedback provided here in the comment section. Thanks again!

Amelia Vieira Rosado's photo

Well, I'm also awfully new in town. Lots of work left to do. However, I did post something here AND on DEV.to yesterday. Post is getting much more attention on the other side. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I'll just continue my experiment and see where it takes me. Too soon for me to say anything. Oh, and I hate wars about x being better than y. That's exactly what I wrote about in my latest post (not self-promo whatsoever, just saying 😂). Great article by the way, keep it up!

Stuart's photo

Thanks for the feedback. Yeah, I'm still to write a proper "tech" post per se, so it will be interesting the results here vs over on Dev.

Thanks for the nice feedback!

Serhii Ostapchuk's photo

I'm also exited about Hashnode and its features! Hashnode is quite unique. But there are some drawbacks, i wasn't long on platform too but did some observation on its SEO, maybe you'll find beneficial to check it out dev.lifl.space/blog-seo-how-to-rank-my-blog..