In the middle of the COVID19 pandemic, I started www.merecivilian.com and I wasn’t sure why. I still do not know. All I knew is that I wanted to write. I was mindful not to spend too much money on this project. During the pandemic, I may not have had too much money, but I had lot of time and I used this wisely to learn the basics of setting up and running a website.

This post is my reference point documenting the setup:

  • Website is hosted on a Digital Ocean droplet costing $5 for the droplet and $1 for backup (I am cheap but not stupid - everyone needs a backup) = $6 monthly
  • Blogging platform: Ghost FREE 😀
  • Cloudflare - apparently protects (SSL) and accelerates my website for FREE. With time I will explore exactly how it does that 🤷 or not. According an email from Cloudflare, between 1 May to 30 June 2020, 4 threats were blocked on my website. I am cool with that😎.
  • Domain registrar: Namecheap - I like the name, included Who IS privacy and it was cheap - $10 per year

Dilemma: Ghost or Blot

There are countless blogging platforms and prior to this website, I was not aware of any of them. The obvious ones that most people were recommending were Squarespace (regularly advertised on Podcasts and YouTube) and WordPress. They were either too expensive or lacking features I was seeking or a combination of both. A small part of me felt that these guys are spending profusely on advertising and it is my view that an excellent product sells itself.

Blot.im - this one is unique and its easy and its simple! It ticked all the boxes. Except that it only worked with Dropbox or GitHub. I have no clue how GitHub works but I knew I did not want to deal with Dropbox. This is the only reason I gave up on blot.im. Because for $4 a month, it provides a blogging and hosting platform and it is the easiest to setup.

Believe me, setting up Ghost on Digital Ocean was not all that straight forward, and every step was scary (Especially when you have no clue what you are doing). This step by step guide by Steph Smith was my saving grace.

One huge benefit of starting a new website is that there is no transfer required from a previous website. I did not have any baggage, and this made the process simple. This is a good reason for me to not switch ever. I am stuck with Digital Ocean and Ghost. For now, it’s comforting 🧸.

Why Ghost:

  • It is quick and beautiful 🥰
  • I can publish from my iPad using Ulysses or IA Writer: most text editors have built in Ghost support
  • I fell in love with the free Attila Ghost theme
  • Dark theme and read progress support
  • Built in Unsplash support
  • RSS support with full content
  • Smart integrations: Zapier, Twitter, Facebook, IFTTT, Spotify etc.
  • Open source - Stewarded by a non-profit organisation
  • FINALLY - It is FREE 🆓 🈚

What about email?

Now that I had my own domain, MereCivilian.com, I did not want to give out Gmail address when I have a perfectly good domain.

I wanted:

  • to use my domain to create a personalised email address - [email protected]
  • email service must use open standards and have great support for IMAP.
  • Email host provider with good privacy policy and a good sustainable business model
  • Its FREE and as such no cost to me

Now looking at the above, you may think I am asking for too much especially if I do not want to pay anything for it.

Well, you know the saying, “you seek, and you shall find”.

I came across a delightful company called Postale.io and the first 5 email addresses for your domain are completely free. There are other limitations, the big one being 1gb storage. This is sufficient for me. Alternatively, you can forward emails to Gmail etc.

I have been using them since May 2020 and so far, no issues. They have all the features you would expect from a good email host and more. More importantly, its simple and a breeze to setup.

Thank you: Ghost and Postale

MereCivilian costs me USD82 a year

I am glad technology has come to a point where anyone can have a presence online without making a bunch of scarifies. Most importantly, it allows me to maintain my privacy and share my thoughts freely.

This is my home on the internet, and I am proud to say it's mine and I have full control over it 💪✌️.