New Static Blog Is Finally Up

At some point in the last 3 years, I discovered Git and fell in love. While mostly used for code, Git is a fantastic tool when editing text files of any kind. My favorite part is that I can see exactly what I changed (diff) before saving my changes (commit). At this point, I feel uncomfortable editing anything, unless it's under version control.

At some point in the past year, I discovered Markdown and fell in love all over again. If you've ever posted a question or answer on Stack Overflow, you know what Markdown is. You type plain text with minimal hints (## heading, _italic_, **bold**), and it gives you back HTML.

file formatsource is readableoutput is beautiful
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Once I started keeping my notes in Markdown and Git, I knew I could never go back to the quirky and unreliable WYSIWYG editor that WordPress used. Luckily, other people have come to this realization before me, so now there are plenty of tools that let you write your blog in Markdown and store it in Git. These tools are called static site generators. They take the source for your articles (written in Markdown or a handful of similar formats), and convert it into a set of static HTML files. You upload those files to your server, and you're done! It's faster than WordPress, since you're just serving static HTML. It's safer, too, because you don't need to keep up with security patches in WordPress and PHP.

I first tried Jekyll, since that's the first static site generator I heard about. The idea was great, but I found Jekyll itself unintuitive, poorly documented, and difficult to extend (partly because I don't know Ruby). Then I tried Pelican, and that is what I'm using now. Pelican is written in Python and has generous documentation. I am very happy with it so far.

The one big downside of static sites is that they don't support comments. You need a database and some server-side magic for that. To work around this problem, a lot of people turn to Disqus, or a similar "cloud"-based commenting component. I don't like Disqus because it's not open source, and it performs user tracking across sites. But I love reading comments, so I decided to include an email link in each article. This means that your comments will not show up on the site, but only in my inbox. Most of the comments I got in the past were directed at me, rather than at other commenters, so I hope this will work out fine.

I've been working on this new blog on and off for almost nine months. Coming up with a theme that I liked took the longest time, and I almost gave up more than once. (CSS frustrates me to no end.) Eventually I decided to do something really simple with Bootstrap, and call it done. I sort of like the minimalist style. I made the font size large, because I usually find myself zooming in on most sites. If you think it's too big, feel free to use Ctrl+Minus to scale it down. Any decent browser will remember your preference.

I've "published" a few things in those nine months, that only became visible now. Mostly thoughts on books and photos, but also a few xkcd-wannabe sketches. You can see the entire list of articles on the front page. Thanks for stopping by :)