Enoshima Sunset

Enoshima is always crowded on the weekends, but at least the sunsets are pretty. Joking aside, it was nice to stop by before the end of the summer. There were a bunch of restaurants and bars on the beach, and it was great to see people socializing and having fun again.

The Leica M10 Monochrom is Mindblowingly Good

I’ve owned many cameras over the years.

To name a few:

  1. Fujifilm X-Pro1
  2. Fujifilm X-Pro2
  3. Fujifilm X-Pro3
  4. Fujifilm X100S
  5. Fujifilm X100T
  6. Leica M10-R
  7. Leica M10 Monochrom

The Leica M10 Monochrom is the only camera that’s ever truly exceeded expectations. Don’t get me wrong, all of the cameras I’ve owned were fantastic, but they all fell within the realm of my expectations.

A black and white shot of vending machines in Japan.

The M10 Monochrom is different. It sees in the dark, and it’s just mindblowingly good. When shooting with my color cameras, I rarely ventured beyond ISO 6400, which seems to be most people’s “point of no return”. With the M10 Monochrom, I routinely shoot between ISO 16,000-25,000 and still get VERY usable images, which is just absurd.

I shot the image below a few nights ago – ISO 16,000, +1.5 stops in Lightroom, and no noise reduction.

Walking down a street somewhere in Shonan.

I only picked up the M10 Monochrom a month ago. Now that I’m back in Japan, I’m looking forward to shooting more with this incredible camera. Hopefully I can sneak up to Tokyo for a weekend stay and some late-night shooting in the next few weeks.

The Downfall of WordPress

Alright, “downfall” might be an exaggeration. Or is it?

It’s the end of August, which means summer vacation is winding down and the kids are getting ready to go back to school. This time of year, every year, is usually when I have enough free time to have an existential crisis about whether the current CMS I’m using for this blog is the best one.

WordPress, before the Block Editor fiasco, was my first CMS. I then moved on to Medium and then Ghost before joining the SSG scene with Hugo.

Anyway, I spent a bit of time reviewing the current CMS landscape this past week. I don’t really have an official process or framework for evaluating blogging platforms – it’s more of a gut feeling kind of thing.

Long story short, Ghost is now at v5.0 and has grown up a lot over the past year. I’d even go as far as to say that the current iteration of Ghost is the best CMS for most bloggers. That said, I’m going to stick with Hugo for another year. While Ghost can do a lot of things, it’s still missing a few key features that I rely on. For example, Ghost doesn’t have any way to specify additional key-value parameters on a post-by-post basis. Also, I really enjoy the data portability of SSGs, where all my content is stored on-disk and directly accessible as Markdown files instead of locked inside a database.

But what about WordPress?

My gut feeling about WordPress is that it’s completely lost the plot. To me, blogging and content creation in general is an art, and the best tools for artists are always purpose-specific. Artistically-driven photographers prefer purpose-specific prime lenses over multipurpose zoom lenses. Similarly, painters paint with multiple purpose-specific brushes. In 2022, I think WordPress is the multipurpose zoom of blogging – decent at many things, excellent at nothing.

Optics and brand recognition are important.

When I think of Ghost, adjectives like “fast”, “slick”, “efficient”, and “functional” come to mind. SSGs conjure up different adjectives like “raw”, “utilitarian”, “flexible”, and “portable”. WordPress, on the other hand, puts adjectives like “bloated”, “confused”, and “heavy” in my mind.

This is just me though. My views are influenced by my specific use case for a CMS (strictly blogging, no ecommerce) and a strong enough technical background that allows me to make judgements on the various contenders from a technical perspective.

A few closing thoughts on the downfall of WordPress:

I think the downfall of WordPress as a concept can exist in multiple dimensions. From an adoption standpoint, I don’t think WordPress is going to fall anytime soon. However, I think the quality of WordPress as a blog-focused publishing product has peaked, and is now on the decline. It’s just trying to do too many things, and none of those things optimize for people who write words – remember the brand name is literally WORD + PRESS.

With that said, WordPress is probably going to continue making all-time highs in terms of user adoption. However, it’s hard to say whether the adoption is due to actual technical innovation, or the fact that WordPress has cemented itself as a legacy player in the space. I suspect it’s the latter, and this does not bode well for WordPress.

In some ways, WordPress reminds me of America. Externally, especially in Japan, America is still viewed as the model nation for the world. Internally, and I feel like I can say this as an American citizen who recently visited the US for a few months, America feels bloated (physically and figuratively, I suppose), its public infrastructure is crumbling, its transportation options are horrendously outdated, and social unrest is trending up. Yet, people still love America because it hasn’t yet used up its PR juice as a legacy brand.

I think WordPress is approaching a fork in the road.

  1. WordPress should go back to its roots. Freshen up the site management experience, and pour resources into making the best possible experience for writers, and writers only. WooCommerce already sucks compared to purpose-built ecommerce solutions like Shopify, so why continue wasting manpower on it while relying on the brand recognition as an attention subsidy?
  2. WordPress should rebrand into a more generic name. When the word “word” is part of the brand name, it’s reasonable to expect a product that’s tailored towards the needs of people who work with words (writers). WordPress doing what its doing now is like a toaster that doesn’t optimize for toast. If WordPress wants to focus on blogging, ecommerce, forums, and a million other things, it should find a better brand name that isn’t at odds with the vision.

Realistically, WordPress will continue ignoring the signs of the fork in the road and continue to pave its own way.

Hopefully this road doesn’t lead to a cliff.

Starting a New YouTube Channel

Recently, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a new YouTube channel with my wife. We haven’t pinpointed exactly what kind of video content to create yet, but it’ll probably be a mixture of family travel vlogs, street photography walks, reaction videos, and sharing perspectives on parenting.

I haven’t really taken YouTube seriously before because I’ve always been more of a blogger, but I think it’s difficult to build an audience nowadays without a video strategy. Whenever I dive into a new hobby, I have a tendency to get obsessed with what tools and gear to invest in. In the past, this personality trait of mine led to me spending way too much money on high-end cameras, headphones, and bicycles. Luckily, I still love photography, listening to music, and cycling, so it’s not such a big deal.

This time around, I wanted to take the opposite approach. Instead of buying the latest and greatest camera and lens combo, I decided to use my existing iPhone 13 Pro. On the accessories front, I picked up a Zhiyun Crane M2S gimbal, a few Moment lenses, and a DJI wireless microphone kit. In total, I spent around $800, which isn’t too bad for a decent video rig.

The camera system on the iPhone 13 Pro – decent hardware plus excellent computational augmentation – is pretty great, so I don’t feel like I’m missing too much. It’s definitely more than enough to get started with.

I’m going to start filming some stuff once I get back to Japan in a few weeks, so stay tuned for more information!

Fetching Blockchain Data With Hyperscript

I’ve been getting more and more into web development lately. It didn’t interest me too much in the past because I could never wrap my head around JavaScript despite having finished multiple Udemy courses on JavaScript and React. I feel like my personality is just at odds with how the JavaScript web development ecosystem is structured – it’s just too complex and chaotic, and it doesn’t have to be.

Anyway, I do most of my software development (if you can call it that) in Python. Until recently, most of the stuff I was developing was backend only – APIs, trading bots, etc. At some point, I heard about HTMX and hyperscript on a podcast, where it was being pitched as a way to do modern frontend development without having to write a single line of JavaScript.

As a chronic avoider of JavaScript, HTMX and hyperscript instantly caught my attention. In a nutshell, HTMX lets you send swappable HTML fragements from a backend server to a frontend, while hyperscript lets you create client-side interactivity with a natural language syntax.

To get a sense of what HTMX can do, check out this ICON blockchain tracker I’ve been working on. It’s still in active development, so some pages may look funny or break completely. The stack I’m using for the tracker is FastAPI, HTMX, TailwindCSS, and a little bit of hyperscript here and there. It’s pretty amazing to me that in 2022, it’s possible to develop something like this without writing any JavaScript. I know this way of doing things is fringe and contrarian, but it really brings me joy.

Before you go, click the hyperscript-enabled button below. It makes a request to a blockchain API and fetches a few block hashes – no JS required. Open up your web inspector if you’re curious as to how it works.