So you just built a super-mega robot project that you want to share with the world. Super! But now you’re faced with an entirely new and different problem: documenting the process for the world to see. It’s enough to drive you back down into the lab.
- What software should I use to create my project site?
- How deep down the rabbit hole should I go when it comes to documenting the project?
- What toppings do I want on my something-to-eat-while-hacking pizza?
We’re not going to get into the age old “pineapple or no pineapple” debate, but it’s important to note that the topic of how to share a project with the world has as many choices as toppings, and just as many opinions. The answer will always be simple: Do what works best for you!
The purpose of this article is to give some options to somebody considering sharing their projects online. There isn’t enough room to talk about every single option available to a hacker, so be sure to fill in your favorite options in the comments below. Let’s dive in!
Considerations Before You Start
Before even beginning to look into all of the options for hosting your projects, there are some basic questions that we need to answer. Consider the following:
- Who is your audience, and how will they expect to consume what you present?
- How deeply do you want to document your project, and what kind of media will you present?
- How will people find your project?
Let’s talk about each of these topics for a moment.
Who is your audience?
This is probably the question that will affect your choices more than any others. Who are you writing for? Are you sharing new ideas for people who are experts in your chosen subject? Are you trying to expose your area of expertise to a new crowd who know little about it? Try to answer these questions before you start. If you’re not sure, that’s okay. You’ll figure it out as you go.
If you’re writing for people who are expected to know as much about your subject as you do, you’ll likely be limiting your audience quite a bit. Instead, try writing for a specific person who knows a bit less. Pick a relative, friend, or another person that you know who you’d like to interest in your project, and write it for them.
For example, if you’re writing an article about a new bed leveling method for 3D printers, take a moment and describe why bed leveling is a problem and perhaps introduce common solutions and their drawbacks. This will help your audience to understand what makes your project unique, and will add a lot to their enjoyment.
How deeply to document your project?
This question is closely related to your audience. If you intend to do deep dives into a subject and explain its underpinnings from scratch, you may choose a platform more suited for long form content vs one geared toward a quick share.
Deeper documentation may mean integrating video, pictures, and text, so you’ll want to pick platforms that will let you integrate all of these media into one presentation.
How will people find your project?
This is where some research will be required on your part. Software developers will find drastically different answers to this question than somebody who wants to publish a deep dive on debugging shift registers in obsolete 10-bit computers.
A great way to determine this is to go to your favorite search engine and do a search for the that you would do to find your own content, and see where others are publishing their projects. You can also take a look at their approach to sharing their works and decide which elements you may wish to emulate, change, or leave out altogether.
Choosing A Platform
Now that you’ve had the opportunity to consider the approach you’d like to take, it’s time to make a decision about how you’d like to share your project with the world. This brings up many of its own questions, but rather than run you through another laundry list of questions, we’re going to look at self-hosted options as well as various services and discuss the pros and cons of each.
In a previous article, we talked about ways that you could host your own project website at home, and that extends easily to hosting things on a very cheap VPS, a free cloud computing instance, or a solar wind and rain powered piduino8266. You get the idea. With the self-hosted option, you’re responsible for the server administration.
We’re going to get this one out of the way right away for two reasons: If you have never blogged before and want to run your own software, it’s hard to go wrong with WordPress.org. Originally designed as a blogging-only platform, it has morphed over the years into being a full on website builder. There are countless themes that let you change the look and feel of the website with just a download, and there are as many plugins that extend the functionality of WordPress.
If you’re wondering just how useful it is, it’s noteworthy that Hackaday, and this very post, are all done in WordPress, and some of the largest sites on the Internet are using WordPress too. WordPress has the great advantage of not requiring any coding skills. Because it’s a big project that’s widely used, it gets lots of security attention, on both the white hat and black hat sides of the fence, so you’re going to need to keep your install up to date. This isn’t hard, but there’s some necessary management overhead.
Ghost is a website builder and blogging platform that is based on NodeJS rather than PHP. It’s hailed as being very fast and easy to work with and for a while it was what all the cool kids were using.
Ghost is great if you like to code in NodeJS and don’t want to build something from scratch.
HTML5 and Friends
Building an HTML5 site from scratch or a template is an excellent way to go if you’re in it for the development just as much as for the project sharing.
Maybe running your own server and website is beyond what you’d like to do, but you still want to have somewhere to share your works and projects. You’re in luck- there are countless services just waiting to host your content, and we’re going to talk about all the ones you can use that are free (as in beer).
WordPress.com is a hosted version of the WordPress.org software. Your site is hosted directly on the WordPress.com servers, and that comes with some limitations. But if you like WordPress, or want to try it out without spinning up a server for it, it’s an excellent option.
It may seem like an odd choice, but by creating a new Repository in Github, you are given an area to upload files, write HTML, and link to outside sources. Each repository can have a Readme page that shows up when the Repository is loaded, and that page can embed the pictures and other media that you upload to the Repository. Github is especially a good choice if your projects are software only, but works fine for others, too. And, Github has a free tier of service. And, of course, it’s versioned.
Blogger.com has been around for ages, and is the place where many bloggers have started. Some have grown away from it, while others have utilized it for many years as a reliable place to host your content. Because it’s a blog-only platform, it doesn’t lend itself to building a website about your project, but rather to sharing multiple projects over time.
Imgur.com / YouTube
Imgur.com is a photo sharing community that is often used to document projects that are mostly photographs only. Sharing other file formats isn’t allowed, but it could be used in conjunction with Github for sharing files. If your project is video based, the same things are true for YouTube. The weakness with YouTube is that it’s not easily searchable, but it is an excellent way to demonstrate projects that are documented more thoroughly in a blog or other website, where the written word reigns king.
It may seem rather self-serving to suggest Hackaday.io, since it’s our own platform, but the truth is that if this post were being written elsewhere, it would still be on the list. It’s designed to be an excellent way to share files, pictures, and embed YouTube videos. It has the added strength of being searchable on a platform full of similarly minded hackers. Getting a simple page up and running is extraordinarily easy, and there’s even a “submit tip to Hackaday” button. What more do you want?
Regardless of which medium you choose- written, photographs, video, or some combination thereof- just get out there and get started! A great way of getting your feet wet is to go through your backlog of completed projects and documented using your chosen means, and see how it feels.
Your first works will probably a bit rough, but once you develop a style and a method, it will get a lot easier. Don’t worry about perfection, and especially do not worry about the Internet Popularity Contest. You’ll never be able to please everyone, so focus on your chosen audience and let the cards fall where they may. Every content creator has to do this to some extent.
No doubt, there are countless other options that we’ve omitted because let’s face it, platform options are like pizza topping combinations: there are too many to list! So this is your opportunity to shine- let us know about your favorite platform in the comments below.
22 thoughts on “Sharing Your Projects With The World: How?”
You forgot Twitter *wincess at the very thought*
I didn’t forget it, I omitted it :D (But you knew that). I also omitted Facebook. Groups.io was also left out but has the distinction of being a possibly good idea.
The reason I chose Hackaday.io months ago was because the site was already developed, shows up on Google search results, is in the same location as other projects from hackers and makers and low-resistance to add new developments in my projects, making it easier to see past progress.
My target audience is someone months or years into the future that stumbled on my project, or someone who likes quick updates on a project to see that it’s still alive.
I’m on Hackaday.io for the same reason. Nitty-gritty electronics talk goes there. The finished result goes on a GitHub site and I post it around forums.
Yeah, “years into the future” is a big deal, I don’t want my stuff to disappear if I miss a hosting bill or fail to renew a domain or something. I might buy a vanity domain and _point it to_ my github or hackaday pages, but I’ll want those redirects to be easily cached and followed by ArchiveBot so it’s easy to find my stuff once I’m gone.
Imgur should not be considered an option. It used to be a good site for documenting steps in photos, but not anymore, where it interrupts your album with ads and the latest trending screenshots of hyperpoliticized tweets and weird memes. The kind of content I come to sites like HaD to get away from…
I have been through a number of stages of this.
In 1995 I documented a house renovation project with hand-coded HTML hosted on a server (SGI Indigo) in the corner of my office at Leeds University. That site has moved, but still remains unchanged, including thumbnail photos from the days of 28k modems that really are literally thumbnail sized:
For some time I would put the smaller projects on forums such as cnczone, but there is a problem there with link-rot, especially since Picasa slosed down.
Then I moved on to Blogging at Blogspot, and put up a few articles there on a Ner-a-Car renovation and conversion of a Lathe to CNC.
It looks like I have moved on from that, last post seems to be dated 2018. Though I think it would still be my first choice for static documentation of a project.
Nowadays I generally use GitHub for software-related projects:
And YouTube, for when I want to show off and read well-reasoned discussion in the comments thread :-)
From this I think it is fair to assume that I am something of a show-off, and that the platform of choice seems to evolve with time.
I just spent an hour reading parts of your Ner-a-car restoration!
There is also Instructables.com. Despite widespread disdain for some of the content posted there (for frivolity and bad writing, mostly), it can be pretty good for publishing certain types of projects.
This is, unfortunately, really self serving to the point of dishonesty.
Using a web ranking service, the popularity of the three I searched for, Hackaday.io, Hackster.io and Instructables.com comes out at 53083/1059, 52798/1069 and 6068/72 respectively (Global Rank/Category Rank), with Instructables being the clear winner and HaD and Hackster essentially competing neck and neck.
A fair few options are listed, and no list can be exhaustive when the internet is involved…
The points raised on pro’s con’s and knowing the target audience are valid, there are other options yes, but its not like they in any way hid that one of the options mentioned is related to this site – can’t say fairer than ‘here are a few options I’ve looked at or used and reasons you might like them too, oh and by the way this one is related to here’
It would infact be very odd if they didn’t mention it…
Re: popularity contests. You’ve discovered that niche sites have smaller audiences than sites with more general appeal. But if your audience is a niche audience, it can cover a greater percentage of them.
Instructables is more popular than Hackaday or Hackster because cooking is more popular than soldering.
Imagine if Hackaday _were_ interested in popularity contests. Shudder!
When will HaD start posting cookie (biscuits -Jenny) recipes?
Self hosted at home to keep control and mirrored for easy access.
The scriptkiddies then will attack the mirrors instead of the original location.
And look for some already long time stable pubnixes offering webspace too. Dare to use lowtech! Less eyecancer and helpful neighbours. You can get both!
My big gripe with WordPress at the moment is the themes keep wanting to censor content behind a “Read More” link. *and it can’t be turned off*. It’s also getting to be a rather “fat” package to host.
The theme I use does allow the full post to be displayed in a category listing, which is good for SEO since search engines can pick off the keywords being discussed, and of course if someone hits the front page they can see what you’ve been working on without needing to drill much further. Unfortunately, it’s no longer maintained, and the current ones I can find on the WordPress site insist on showing excerpts of posts instead of the full content.
I’ve been using WordPress since 2005 for my blog, and at this point I’m starting to seriously give consideration to static code generators. Of course, the difficult bit is migrating all the content. Some content has been lost already due to a bungled update years ago (accidentally blew away the wp-content/uploads directory), but I’m finding in exporting all the content, not all posts have made it across, and some have formatting issues that need correcting.
Most of them also assume categories-articles is a one-to-many relationship, not a many-to-many like WordPress.
That, and I want to keep hyperlinks valid. This is probably where I’m hitting issues with directory structure confusing the generator I’m using.
As for Hackaday.io: I was on there, got tired of the spam, *actively tried to do something about it*, then found I was being shunned for doing so. I came to the conclusion that Hackaday.io management *wanted* the spam there, and so I left.
Personally I hate WordPress. It’s slow on many shared servers. Having to wait for php to load when I just want to fix a typo is very annoying. Anything wysiwyg is a bad idea in my opinion, but I’m a utilitarian minimalist, so clearly that’s a factor.
Yeah, what was wrong with just banging out html in notepad and ftping it to your ISP home directory for the free with subscriber account web hosting?
The lack of syntax highlighting and line numbers in notepad is what is wrong. I use to use a program called Notepad2 which was essentially a notepad clone with those features added into it. That worked pretty well. These days, I would recommend either VS Code or Sublime Text.
Depending on a bunch of other factors, there could be issues with the ISP’s free web hosting, but I won’t go into those here.
Static site generator (hugo), pushed to git and picked up by netlify. Plus a domain and a tiny bit of DNS. A bit difficult to get started, but no hosting headaches. And everything is in git (I do GitOps for a living)
Posting your work is the easy part. Getting people interested in it is the bigger challenge. (He says, having written an Alexa skill and trying to figure out how best to publicize it to its target audience.)
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