Seven Things Learned from Launching my Website

things I learned from starting my blog website

Launching my website gave me an incredible opportunity to learn new things and branch out. Here is what I’ve learned and how far I’ve come so far. To be honest, I didn’t really understand much about building and launching a website, and to be fair, there is still a lot I don’t know. It is kind of incredible when you consider how far the internet has come and what it is capable of. However, I can honestly say there is a lot I have learned as well. Not everything applies to my job, or the IT career field but some of it does. These days the rate of change is so fast it is hard to keep up. One of the reasons I launched this blog was to have an outlet for my learning, and a place to express some of my thoughts. I didn’t expect to learn this much this year, and so I am definitely grateful for the experience.

In case you happen across this, and you are wondering if you should start a blog, the answer is you should. Whether you are self-hosting, posting on a free site, or paying for a hosting provider, you should start a blog. Or a website. Anything like one of those to start getting experience with a new range of technology. Not convinced? Let me tell you what I have learned since I started this blog, in February 2022, and then we’ll see if I’ve changed your mind.

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Table of Contents

Things Related to My Career
Things Not Related to My Career
Things About Myself
Conclusion

Things Related to My Career

DNS (Of Course…)

When it comes to the world of IT, things are constantly changing and there is a constant requirement of effort for staying up to date by anyone working in that field. However, there are also certain things that never change, that everyone should know. One of those things is DNS. DNS (Domain Name System) is a system for tracking and reporting the IP addresses for every website, server and application connected to the Internet. It is what allows every one of us to find the websites we want without having to remember IP addresses or address ranges. It is an absolutely critical part of the modern Internet, and something every IT person should understand.

I didn’t have a strong understanding beyond that overly basic explanation I gave above before launching this site. I have never taken the time, because it wasn’t a part of my daily life. Launching this site forced me to get familiar with GoDaddy, and other domain name providers. It forced me to learn the proper way to input DNS entries. It also meant that I needed to understand how the name servers on the internet replicated and validated information. It is incredible to think about how all these things talk to each other, and DNS is at the core. While I’m no expert on the subject, it has been excellent to learn more about it through this blog.

SPF/DKIM/DMARC

DMARC Results for SeeSmitty.com
DMARC Results for SeeSmitty.com – Go see for yourself!

SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) and DMARC (Domain-based Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) are all related to sending email securely. I was familiar enough with these things from work before starting this blog, but I hadn’t configured anything. It was all done prior to my getting hands on anything. Part of launching this site meant that I now owned a domain, and could have email related to that domain, and such. I never knew what all went into protecting it. Learning is a different experience when you are the one performing the actions. Is it difficult, no. Are there plenty of tutorials to make sure you don’t mess things up? Of course. However, getting into the nitty gritty details and configuring DNS to match was a great learning experience, that I highly recommend everyone learns (ideally outside of a production environment).

One outcome of learning more about this was to develop a curiosity about other organizations and how they manage their email security. These days DMARC is a minimum recommended level of secure email send, but some organizations still don’t have it configured. Looking at DNS records and reading the different configurations is interesting and eye opening. It also opened my eyes to new tools that I hadn’t used for work before. MX Toolbox is an outstanding tool for investigating all things related to DMARC, DNS and even email header analysis. I know I am late to the party on this one (and probably others) but I’m just glad to be here.

Website Security

wordpress helped when launching my website
Wordfence – Fantastic WordPress Website Security

These days it is basically impossible to have a website and not need to know something about Website Security. You can’t even surf the internet without needing think about these things. Securing your website requires basic things like strong passwords and updating plugins and themes. However, that is about all that you can do out of the box with WordPress. It doesn’t include things like a web firewall, MFA or security scans. I had no idea what all was required prior to launching this site, and I’m better off for it. Things like Wordfence, Cloudflare and others are doing their part to keep everyone secure on the internet, from Hobbyists like myself to large companies.

The wide variety of paid and free versions of these tools makes it so everyone can secure to their budget and risk level. Installing, configuring and managing these tools has been an excellent experience. I’m still no expert, but I can generally feel confident that my site isn’t the most vulnerable one out there.

Things Not Related to My Career

Backlinks

Never once before I started this blog, had I ever known that backlinks were a thing. Essentially, Backlinks are the reputation system of the internet. The more sites that link to your site, the higher your reputation goes. If the sites that are linking you, also have a high reputation, then their influence can help drive yours higher as well. It essentially a system for websites to vouch for each other as a means of validation. Now obviously, this isn’t a perfect system; it can definitely be abused and is abused in some cases. I just never knew about it. It’s a cool concept when you think about the Internet as a whole despite its obvious flaws. Regardless, it gave me an opportunity to get familiar with tools like Semrush to learn and understand how the internet works on a deeper level.

semrush helped when launching my website
Semrush Backlinks Analysis

I think it will be interesting to watch the Internet adapt to AI writers, and entire websites being launched and filled full of AI generated content to try and boost the reputation of other sites. Tangled webs or backlinks could easier be weaved when you are harnessing the power of automation and machine learning.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Look I knew that people made entire careers around SEO, but wow, I really had no idea how in depth it got. The level of detail that goes into every single web page for some of these larger organizations is astounding. There are tools that analyze the tone of your message, and let you know if you need to rewrite sections of it to give it a better search score. The depth that SEO professionals go to get a site to the top of the search list is incredible. Kudos to those folks. It definitely isn’t my strength, and I’ve learned that it is far better on making sure your content is strong than to worry about keywords and such.

Having access to things like the Google Search Console and Bing SEO tools are very cool. It’s fun to see proof that people are viewing your site (even if it is only a couple). It makes having a website feel more real somehow. However, I’m definitely not interested in a career switch, and SEO is not my strength. Learning about it though has been awesome, and I have a greater appreciation for those companies that do this full time.


Things About Myself

Writing In General

I’ve always known I was long winded. I’ve also kind of thought I had a knack for writing. What I never really understood was how much I ENJOY writing. Writing gives me something to look forward too and makes me get clarity on things. I’ve always heard that if you want to truly understand something, you need to teach it to someone else. That has been true for me on this journey. However, I’ve had the most joy when I’m writing about the experience and what I am learning. I’ll admit, in a niche like enterprise technology, specifically aimed towards system admins, most of us aren’t looking for a long read to a solution. For me though, I think the learning comes from the details.

PowerShell articles are probably the best example here; they are my favorite to write.

As I’ve spent more time writing PowerShell scripts, and then sharing those scripts, it has forced me to get better at commenting and documentation. I see such strong value in explaining why things are the way they are. Why add a loop here right before a bigger loop, or why use a data table instead of a hash table. Things like this have dominated my script writing this year. The worst is when you are going back to update an older script to not have any idea what you were doing back then. You end up re-writing it and find the same potholes you did the first time. It’s frustrating and a waste of time.

Writing on this site is the same for me. If an article is longer, it’s because I enjoyed writing it. I had things I wanted to make sure were clear and extra details that needed communicated and documented. I find that those are the ones I enjoy the most, because I probably got a deeper understanding of something, and I want to make sure I get it right. Writing it out forces you to think through it, and make sure you really understand it. It becomes an opportunity to learn it again. I think that is where my enjoyment of writing comes from. Only time will tell.

A Love of Learning

I’ve always loved learning new things. I’m a bit of a sponge that way. This site is evidence as I have jumped all over the place this year writing about a variety of topics. What I didn’t realize is how little I retained and how disorganized my learning has always been. Some of it was just ad hoc, something I needed at the time. But when I need to revisit it, it’s gone, and I have to relearn it again. Blame it on college or undiagnosed ADHD; either way it is a challenge. For a long time, it was almost frustrated, and it made me feel like an idiot because I couldn’t remember anything.

Building this site has helped me understand that I was just doing it wrong. I was rushing through learning, wasn’t always testing what I learned, and never documented anything. Last year I built a whole home lab for myself, including configuring a virtual router (not a networking guy, so for me that was an achievement). I didn’t save any of my documentation, or even the links I used to learn it all. When I needed to change it, I couldn’t and ended up scrapping the whole lab. It was discouraging. Then I started SeeSmitty. I built the new home lab with the intent to learn it, and document it. It reinvigorated a stagnant love of learning and made this year my most successful year yet.


Conclusion

If you found this article, then awesome. I hope you read it all, and it made you want to write your own blog, start a website, or find a new way to express yourself. If you are already doing those things, I hope you can appreciate the journey I’ve been on so far. This is probably not going to be my top article ever, but like many things, it will serve as a documentation point for me. This time next year, who knows what I will have learned, and I’ll be able to go back and look at this to see where I was a year prior.

If this inspired you to go start your own site, or you own blog. Awesome! It is a fun journey with challenges and something I will look back on for a long time with fond memories. If you are still unconvinced, take 15 minutes and go watch this Video from Network Chuck. This is the one that got me motivated to finally start a site. If you don’t know Network Chuck, he does a ton of awesome video tutorials, and has a ton of energy. Check him out even if you don’t want to start a site. It’s worth the visit.

Let me know what you thought of this post. It would be incredible if this got you motivated to get started. If it did, please let me know. I would love to hear about it, and to check your site.

Hit me up on Twitter @SeeSmittyIT to let me know what you thought of this post. Or if you are avoiding the bird site, I’m also posted up on Mastodon @[email protected]. Thanks for reading!

Smitty

Curtis Smith works in IT with a primary focus on Mobile Device Management, M365 Apps, and Azure AD. He has certifications from CompTIA and Microsoft, and writes as a hobby.

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