Welcome to the indie web Michael!
What was that famous quote from the Zuzu in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life? “Every time a blog starts, an Angel gets its wings?” Yes, I’m sure that’s it!
There my be no better honor than to be mentioned on the first page of a new personal website, and I certainly am. I’m tickled to serve as an example, particularly when mentioned in the same breath as Dan Cohen.
I don’t aim to emulate them just yet (I’m not terribly technically minded), but I get the importance of owning my own data, and I like the idea of having my own little space on the Web.
You’re completely right Michael, don’t simply copy what anyone is doing, but focus on the bits and pieces you find the most valuable to you personally. Given your penchant, perhaps looking into the IndieWeb wiki pages for Flickr and Instagram might give you some inspiration? I’ll note that over time I’ve become much more technically proficient, but I suspect you’re not too far behind me, so don’t let anything stop you.
If you need any help or guidance as you travel along, feel free to reach out. There are many of us around to help.