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Behind a Blogging Environment

January 7, 2018
blogging go ruby jekyll solution medium wordpress ghost

In my 2018 intentions, there is “start a blog”.

One of the first reasons because I put off this aim till now was finding the best blogging system. There are a lot of blogging solution, but I was looking for something comfortable to me.

Medium, Wordpress, Ghost et similia

In my job, I had to try several blogging solutions, but no one made me happy. Wordpress, Medium, Ghost are lovely, and they work great for my clients and their projects, but I do not feel right for me.

Medium is super-easy for people that want just write – no technicalities please! – or for people that procrastinate writing – techy stuff are an excuse to don’t do the job. In counterpart, you give for free your contents to a private company that will use to make money without sharing it with you, and you do not control user engagement (little marketing advantage for you).

Wordpress, Medium, Ghost logos

Ghost, Wordpress and Medium: three big in blogging systems. No one is good for me ;-)

Wordpress is a pervasive solution, so people are well-disposed towards it, you find a lot of support online, and you can self-host the blog. A self-hosted solution offers the opportunity to optimize user engagement and build a complex-as-you-want digital marketing strategy. The unlucky side of Wordpress is that bored hackers tend to attack it regularly, so you (or your IT staff) will need a non-negligible effort to keep it updated and secure.

Ghost is one of my preferred alternative to Wordpress because the community has a clear ambition, and the software is modern, optimized and promising. I tried to push it to my customers, but the Wordpress fame and his environment richness make difficult for them to trust a different solution.

All these options are suitable for my blogging project, also. Indeed I started to use all of them in the past without lucky. After some posts, I quit. Yes, a big part of the motivation was that I did not commit myself to write seriously. But also I think that all these systems do not represent myself.

My way is be a ‘90s dev

My way is not to install a fancy CMS with a text editor on steroids or a thousand of mobile apps to write 300 words with an image. I prefer Textmate to RubyMine, Emacs to Visual Studio. If you understand why you know what I mean: just coding HTML, as in the ‘90s.

Computer programmer Dennis Nedry from Jurassic Park movie

When I write a new post on my blog, I want to feel like Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park: a big bastard fucking good at coding.

Obviously, I’m too lazy for thinking seriously to write each page of my blog by hand: indeed, a manual approach has no sense. So I started to investigate about static website generators: a good compromise between not writing silly code and keep the feeling with my old-style text editor.

The first options I evaluated are Jekyll and Octopress because based on Ruby, one of my preferred language. They are super! The first one is more generalistic than the second one, and with a small effort you can generate and maintain big websites or automatize landing page generations – if you are a nerdy marketing guy.

Often people blame static generator because you cannot publish your content on the fly. That’s not so true today: you can publish Jekyll website on GitLab or GitHub Pages just by a git push. It means you can do this from your laptop but also from your mobile device by apps like Coda or straight on-line by services like Prose. Yes, you have to be a code guy to do this, but we are proud to be this kind of person, bro.

In my case, I do not love writing on the phone, and generally, I am an old school man: I write my wander notes on paper. For extemporal thoughts, I’ve my twitter, certainly. So publishing by walking on the street is not a feature I need.

The final choice

Finally, I decided: my blogging environment will be static generator based. Also, this solution allows me to start a progressive migration of my old website to the new technology without doing all the stuff in one shot. For example, I kept my contact form system: I’m very fond of my Voigt-Kampff replicant detection test.

I’d like to use this personal project to learn something new, so I choose to use Hugo instead of Jekyll. Hugo is an HTML generator written in Go. I’m exploring Go language and start using it gradually in a small project seems to be an opportunity.

Ok, end of the story: this blog is Hugo generated website, rsynced to my web host with some small tooling script to perform image optimization by tinypng.com service1.

I do not love to reinvent the wheel, so I used the inheritance mechanism of Hugo to achieve a minimal appearance by starting from an existent theme. What I downloaded is Minimal, a very clean free theme. I changed typography to increase readability by mimic hints showed in the Nick Babich’s post 10 tips on typography in web design.

There is more to do, I know. I’ll do but… it’s blogging time, now!

FYI, I leave you with a video for a quick overview of Hugo.

  1. About this, I suggest the Go client by Peter Hellberg [return]
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