Boy, has it been ages since I last wrote a post. I can hardly recall my style, even, however that’s not really an issue as we’ll see.
Out With the Old
As you may (or may not) have noticed, the blog is finally migrated to a sensible static site generator, namely Pelican. I’ve been using Jekyll for over a decade! Albeit a decade of frustration, unfortunately.
Look, I am not one to complain, especially when it comes to open source software. As an open source contributor myself, I know how hard it is to maintain a project, let alone a popular one. However, at the end of the day, you have to be entitled to your own opinion, and sharing that opinion will help others navigate the open source landscape better.
So, what’s wrong with Jekyll?
First and foremost, Ruby.
I’ve played around with Ruby in the past, and my experience was generally pretty pleasant. I’m a big fan of Elixir, for that matter, and its syntax is heavily inspired by Ruby. Heck, half of the Elixir core developers are recovering Rubyists. Not only that, but I’ve also used Ruby with respect to iOS development with projects like Cocoapods and Fastlane.
Alas, I’ve never really truly understood Ruby tooling. There is the rake thing, then there is the Gem thing, and then there is the Bundler thing. Every single time I came back to my blog in a new environment, I had to struggle with these tools. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind playing with a new language for fun. I’ve written small projects with Go and Rust, but the tooling they provide is phenomenal.
Next up, Jekyll itself (obviously).
As far as I can tell, ever since Github adopted (acquired?) Jekyll, development of the framework slowed down tremendously. For a static site generator, keeping with the times is crucial, to say the least. Even if the framework wants to be minimalistic, constant refactoring and simplification for reduced complexity and easier onboarding is paramount. I mean, Jekyll was so unapproachable to many in the past, to the point that it lead to the development of Octopress. (Granted, Jekyll eventually got a bit better over time and the need for Octopress greatly diminished after that).
Other issues I had with Jekyll were mostly inconveniences rather than deal-breakers, however, you know how a thousand paper cuts can kill you. These range from the performance of Jekyll itself, to the insane number of dependencies, some of which are just a pain to fetch/build (I’m looking at you, nokogiri), and the lack of in-depth documentation. (Just to make sure, I opened the Jekyll website to see if it was improved, and sure enough, it’s the same website from a decade ago!)
In With the New
Yes, you heard that right, I migrated to Hugo. The dazzling hotness of Go, in combination with the clean website/docs of the framework, made me jump in head over heels. And let me tell you, it was super exciting! At first anyway.
Migrating to Hugo was generally a pleasant experience. They had importers that support importing a site from Jekyll, so that took a huge burden off my plate. Next, I was just astonished by the performance. The whole site was being fully generated in mere milliseconds every time I made a change. I was in love… Until.
Sadly, the honeymoon phase was over within mere days. I don’t even recall exactly what went wrong, to be honest. It was just too hard for me to work with, constantly looking up documentation, spending time trying to figure out what are the supported functions in the template engine, and so on… For example, in order to format the date object, I was searching for the date specifiers for Go, and to my astonishment, they use an actual date for formatting.
This gave me an immediate lightbulb moment. What if I used a static site generator built with a language that I know and love?
In With the Newer
I have to say, when I was first exploring Pelican, I was extremely hesitant to throw away the efforts I spent on the Hugo blog migration. Pelican uses reStructured text as the default format, which rubbed me the wrong way as a first impression…
Speaking of rubbed the wrong way, it is actually the exact same feeling when I first learned about pyproject.toml. I’ve been using Python for years, and all of a sudden, there is this new markup language I’ve never used before, with a rather silly name, too, and I’m suppose to adopt it to manage my dependencies and project? The inner resistance was very high at first, but as is always the case, I had trust in the seasoned developers of the PSF, and decided to lower my guard and approach it with an open-mind. Few years later, this is perhaps the cleanest, flat-structure markup language I’ve worked with.
Pelican also didn’t use frontmatter, like Jekyll and Hugo. Finally, I was having trouble with the bare-bones, minimalistic core that Pelican aims to be. It felt like I’ll be spending most of my time hunting for plugins to make my workflow work. Thankfully, I was wrong.
After getting past the initial learning curve of Pelican, which mostly consisted of figuring out the structure and settings (like what are themes, how are static files added, what is the best configuration for development vs. publishing, …etc), I realized that I could just search Github for other Pelican-ians (?) to see what their set up looked like and if I can, ehm, “borrow” some of their knowledge. Surely enough, found the indispensible pymdown-extensions. Basically, pymdown-extensions is to Python markdown project, as oh-my-zsh is to the Zsh project.
Closing the Loop
Remember that remark in the introduction? About how not remembering my style is not really an issue? Well that’s because of the following…
At the beginning of the migration, I was going to import all the Sass and HTML templates setup from the old site. I wanted to finish this migration as fast as possible, but quickly realized a few main points:
- There was A LOT of unused crap laying around that I never really bothered to clean up in the past. Most of it was because of using a Jekyll theme as a base, and then heavily modified it to the point that I was probably using only 10% of the original theme.
- I may not look like it, but I am a web developer now. Indeed, in the past 3 years, I’ve engrossed myself in web development and I’ve become much more familiar with aspects of web development than before. I could easily see the many issues that existed, and how to quickly fix them.
- Many of the assumptions I had around the structure of the blog and layout were simply wrong, and I was gonna port all that to this new, fresh beginning without a second thought. Alternatively, I could take it piece by piece and evaluate what stays and what goes.
Hence, I shall not simply keep carrying the baggage of the past for the mere legacy of it. It shall be re-evaluated and, if needed, improved upon … for a better future(?).
I’m wondering, as I always do, is this post a one-off, or is it a proper reboot of this forgotten blog? It pains me to see the missing years in the home index, as well as the existence of just a handful of posts in some years… But this pain is but a motivator … for a better future. (Maybe I should try openai whisper to blog with just voice. That will be interesting.)