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Blogging…with Sanskrit

If you’re a writer, one of the best ways to engage your readers is to post regularly on a personal blog. The sandbox is your own: you can reach out to your audience with regularly posted content, and the comments open up further dialogue. Often it’s a more dynamic endeavour than a static website or a book.

Recently, one of my projects for Talk Science to Me involved setting up a personal blog for long-time client Christopher Wallis. You will recognize him as the author of Tantra Illuminated, a scholarly discourse on Tantrik learning published by Mattamayura Press. Currently, my workmate and Talk Science associate editor Roma Ilnyckyj is editing the book for e-publishing format. And there’s a new book coming out soon tooso it’s a great time for the author to start blogging!

Project specifications
Christopher’s requirements were fairly standard for the blog world: chronological presentation of posts with the most recent at the top, and preferably hosted on a public platform so it would not require uploading to a server.

Then he mentioned Sanskrit.

Since Christopher is a scholar of Sanskrit, naturally he blogs in the language. Using a romanized alphabet rather than Devanagari script, his work is written to include all the diactritics, or glyphs, required to transliterate text from the original script.

Font tech in hosted blog land
This also means that his font requirements are quite specific: through experience, he has found the Google font Gentium Book Basic to work best for his writing.

Since the initial specifications specified a hosted blog platform, I first looked at the two most popular blog providers, WordPress and Blogger. My number one task was to find out if they could be customized with the required font.

Custom design, which includes setting custom fonts, is available in premium accounts, which give access to a myriad of Typekit fonts…but sadly not Gentium Book Basic. Scratch

On to Blogger, owned by Google. Naturally, it allows easy installation of Google fonts like Gentium Book Basic. Phew!

Once this feature was established, we started looking at Blogger template options. This phase of blog design can be quite lengthy, as you collect ideas and template URLs, then send them to the client for comment. Clients may also have a list of websites that inspire them. There’s usually quite a bit of to-and-fro before the Perfect Template is found.

Enter Squarespace!
After checking out a friend’s website and sending a layout he particularly liked, Christopher suggested Squarespace. Though not quite as well-known as WordPress (it was founded a year later, in 2004), it’s making steady ripples in the world of personal blogging, especially in the arts and creative industries.

A number of organizations, including DKNY, Brian Wilson and Surface magazine, use Squarespace for their websites, as it comes with a number of useful additional features including e-commerce, social media integration, RSS feeds and impressive flexibility for layout design. (Oh, and don’t miss out on Dreaming with Jeff…) Furthermore, during set-up you can import existing content from a number of other platforms, including Tumblr, Blogger and WordPress—or you can export content to WordPress if you decide to self-host in the future.

Squarespace also takes Gentium Book Basic; this font and hundreds of free, open-source fonts are already available in the typography settings that tap into the entire Google fonts directory—no tweaks required. Another useful feature available in Squarespace is the ability to add in page-specific or site-wide custom CSS styling, useful for additional text formatting if needed.

So, once the font requirements were met, I just needed to work on design and layout, translating Christopher’s requirements into a personal blog that would convey every keystroke and thought to his readers…

…and all he needs to do now is type.

Check out Chris’s work at Tantrik Studies.

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