More than a decade of grousing about product management
network servers on an enclosure

Tech Stack

This incarnation of the PM Dude’s presence is a bit of a hybrid.


The foundation is a Digital Ocean “Droplet”. It is a modest sized instance with enough SSD storage to easily accommodate the 4 sites I run on it. At the moment, all 4 sites are WordPress based.

The OS is the latest Ubuntu LTS server install. The management shim is provided by Server Pilot. This is an agent that you point at a bare ubuntu install, and it will do all the configuration for you. It will install Apache, PHP, MySQL, Nginx and all the other niceties. It also has automation built in to install WordPress sites hands off. It also does all the typical security and performance updates. I literally never need to log on to do any maintenance.

The install

I used the Server Pilot automation to do a generic install of WordPress. Takes about 30 seconds, and you get an email with the log in credentials.

I have several WordPress properties, so I use Jetpack, and my unified account to log in and do basic security and traffic monitoring. I do not pay for any of the “extras” that they sell (and make no mistake they do the hard sell of a ton of granular services. $4.95 as month here, $9.95 a month there, it all adds up. But I am niche, and it is a small audience, so I forgo the capabilities, and instead rely on the weekly backups of the droplet that I pay for on Digital Ocean (that is like $1.50 a month for the storage costs).

Since I had moved from wordpress to ghost, to ghost, to wordpress, back to ghost (their newsletter version) and finally to Substack, I had a wee bit of trouble to get everything back in order. I will address this later.

I looked at the various themes I had purchased over the years, and one that I bought in 2017, and used for a while before dumping it was Opinion by Meks. I bought it through ThemeForest (part of Envato). It was sitting there in my owned templates, I wasn’t using it, and it was last updated in September 2023, so I grabbed it and installed.

I have been spending time tweaking the configuration and the visual elements. The Opinion theme has a lot of capabilities, and flexibility. I am still working on things like menus and other visual elements. It is a LOT more powerful than I need, but it is doing a great job so far.

“Newsletter” Functionality

The last incarnation I used WordPress for the PM Dude leveraged Mailchimp to manage the audience and notifications. For a variety of reasons, Mailchimp is not really a great solution for small audiences like mine.

Now, I am using Buttondown to provide the newsletter/notification capability. It is simple, and if you are tech savvy, you can get it to bark like a seal (I am using the paid “Basic” tier, $90 a year). How I have it set is that when a new post on the PM Dude is published, Buttondown is monitoring the RSS feed, and it crafts a custom email to send to the subscribers. The proprietor, Justin, is a stand-up guy, and his pricing seems really fair for the hassle of handling the email delivery and analytics. Where Substack and Ghost rely on Mailgun (they are actually a pretty awesome service) Buttondown uses Amazon’s SES. So far, no issues, but I am not likely to stress the allocations in my subscription tier.

General Analytics

I have long used Google Analytics, but I am trying the best I can to avoid the Alphabet monster. I pay $90 a year for a Plausible account. They are based in Europe and they take privacy and data protection seriously, unlike our friends in the MANGA crowd.

I will admit that I looked at others like Amplitude, but it required a lot more technical chops than I have, and was WAY overkill for my usage.

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