P&B: Ana Rodrigues
This is the 7th edition of People and Blogs, the series where I ask interesting people to talk about themselves and their blogs. Today we have Ana Rodrigues and her blog, ohhelloana.blog.
Ana is a Portuguese front-end developer living and working in London.
To follow this series subscribe to the newsletter. A new interview will land in your inbox every Friday. Not a fan of newsletters? No problem! You can read the interviews here on the blog or you can subscribe to the RSS feed.
Let's start from the basics: can you introduce yourself?
My name is Ana, and I work as a front-end developer. I've been living in London for nearly a decade, and I am originally from Portugal, from a small town near Porto city.
I've been building websites ever since I was a teenager. I got access to the internet through my school's computers when I was 10 years old. It's ridiculous, but at the time, my friends and I would spend a lot of time looking for ghost pictures, scary stories and fan sites of the things we loved. I didn't have internet at home (it was expensive then), but I did have a computer. One day, after playing games and poking Microsoft Paint, I went through all the other "boring" software programs installed by default. And that's how I stumbled upon Microsoft FrontPage. I remember the excitement I felt when I read the description saying I could build a website. I was hooked! Many of those websites never went online, but the thrill of building and seeing what you're doing being output in the browser was incredible.
It became my hobby and basically the only skill I ever developed. I've been doing this professionally since I was 21 years old.
Only in recent years have I decided to find new hobbies. I felt extremely burned out and needed to stop using my computer after work. Nowadays, I spend a lot of free time tending to my plants, looking up sewing patterns, watching TV shows and films, listening to music and audiobooks and doing DIY projects around the house. I also am the mother to a toddler, so my hobbies have been neglected for a bit.
What's the story behind your blog?
I started my current blog nearly ten years ago. It was initially a blog to capture my travels and events I attended, but slowly, it morphed into a mixture of personal and tech. Initially, the domain for it was my first and last name, but I had some upsetting experiences in real life, and as a way to cope, I shifted my online presence to something that wouldn't use my last name. I obviously regret it now. I didn't know what to rename it, but if I remember correctly, I saw an image on Pinterest of something DIY-related saying, "Oh, hello!" and settled on that. I created it one year before moving to the UK, and it was a small and simple WordPress website.
At the time, I was disheartened by the tech industry and terrified of doing a tech post. I thought those things were for everyone else but me.
Only at the end of 2017 did something shift inside me, thanks to Jeremy Keith's talk at the ViewSource conference. I discovered the IndieWeb community, and with that came the reassurance that my "nicheless" blog was absolutely okay.
Thanks to that feeling of acceptance, from 2018 onwards, my confidence really picked up, and I was blogging frequently, including web development things!
It's hard to define what versions it had. I change and experiment with layouts on the go and don't launch a "version". However, it had its defining moments for me. I visualise my blog timelines as pre-2018, pre-COVID, COVID and after my daughter's birth. When looking at the posts, their frequency, their themes, etc., I see different eras of me and current events.
In the background, it has used different technologies, has scraps and leftover code from different "layout versions", and can be a bit unorganised but has a vision and lots of love.
What does your creative process look like when it comes to blogging?
I really wish I could say that I am one of those people who gets up in the morning, pour a cup of coffee, look out the window and begin their day by journaling. But I am not. Most of my post ideas came from the most mundane thoughts that popped into my head while doing the most uninspiring things. They usually come by when I am doing the dishes or folding clothes. That's when I am alone with my thoughts.
Sometimes, they happen because I saw something on TV or social media, and my brain wouldn't let go of it.
That's when I scribble something down on my phone notes. If it still lingers, I move on to a Word doc and start typing away. I try to sleep on it, but if I am excited, I ask my husband to proofread it and immediately publish it.
I delete drafts quite often. In fact, drafts are something that I want to start publishing. Sometimes, I have a thought that is only one sentence long, and I need more energy to work on it. A lot of people use notes for this. But to me, a note feels finished. There's something inside me that thinks a draft is more appropriate. I spend a lot of time thinking about where my unfinished thoughts live instead of just publishing them, which is frustrating.
Do you have an ideal creative environment? Also do you believe the physical space influences your creativity?
No. Not to me, at least. If I went to the perfect cabin by a lake to find the ideal environment to write down something, I would spend the whole time outside looking at nature instead of actually writing.
It's no coincidence that I consider my "peak" years of writing the ones just before COVID. To me, my creativity comes when I am in a place where I am safe, rested, accepted and loved. Everything else follows.
A question for the techie readers: can you run us through your tech stack?
My blog is currently built with 11ty and hosted for free on Netlify. My domain was bought on 1-2-3-reg because it was the cheapest place at the time to get a .blog domain. I was using Netlify CMS, but something happened, and it stopped working, and I just never bothered to look up how to fix it. One day, I will get to it! Since it is also on GitHub and connected to Netlify, whenever I push things, it automatically deploys.
I am content with creating my .md files manually. So yeah, it isn't a super sophisticated process, but I will change it once and if it bothers me. Life's too short.
Given your experience, if you were to start a blog today, would you do anything differently?
I would 100% choose a completely different name. I have considered doing that and changing my handles on social media everywhere. The issue is that my name is very, very common. I would never be able to have a username that says "ana rodrigues" and I am out of ideas right now.
I would have done my media and assets folder organisation differently and added tags and more metadata to all the posts. These are just improvements that can be done another time.
Financial question since the web is obsessed with money: how much does it cost to run your blog? Is it just a cost or does it generate some revenue? And what's your position on people monetising personal blogs?
Technically, I only have to pay for my domain, which is close to £25 a year if I remember correctly. My blog doesn't generate revenue unless you count on the opportunities it has brought me, thanks to its existence.
I have yet to come across a personal blog with a loud and annoying way of monetising. I've seen people having small ads on the side, and I think that's fair game (assuming these aren't awful trackers).
Many people, especially freelancers, need to put in a lot of work to show their knowledge, so it is understandable that extra income, especially nowadays, is appreciated.
I have bought "coffees" here and there. I wish I could do it more, but it is hard to afford it sometimes. If I can afford it, I support their projects.
Time for some recommendations: any blog you think is worth checking out? And also, who do you think I should be interviewing next?
This is the hardest question because I know I will miss someone. Recently, I've been in awe of Phil's project, ooh directory and his blog is such a joy. I also find James's energy and enthusiasm incredibly inspiring, and I love his personal website so much.
Besides Jeremy's talk, the other person who I stumbled upon around that time was Georgie. Their call to be unapologetic yourself was precisely what I needed to hear at the time. Also, I've been interacting with Sara Joy's and Rach Smith's posts recently because I related to them a lot. Especially now that I have to juggle participating in this online community while having less time due to being a mum.
Final question: is there anything you want to share with us?
In the past, I gave a talk where I tried to encourage people to have their own blog, but I always tried to underline that this encouragement is for people who already want to do it but need an extra push.
Our industry is already quite stressful, and if having a blog isn't your cup of tea, don't force it. It's okay!
I still haven't been able to answer that question, but I recently stopped saying, "Hi, I'm Ana, and I'm a front-end developer" and started saying, "Hi, I'm Ana, and I work as a front-end developer". I don't know where this is going, but the vibe I want to go with my blog is that it is a place on the internet where I just am. Where I am for myself and not to serve others.
This was the 7th edition of People and Blogs. Hope you enjoyed this interview with And. Make sure to follow her blog (RSS) and get in touch with her if you have any questions.
You can support this series on Ko-Fi and top supporters will be listed here as well as on the official site of the newsletter.
Want to support P&B?
If you like this series and want to help it grow, you can:
- donate or subscribe on Ko-Fi;
- post about it on your own blog and let your readers know about its existence;
- email me comments and feedback on the series;
- suggest a person to interview next. I'm especially interested in people and blogs outside the tech/web bubble.