Fri 15 August 2014

Filed under Static Site Generators

Tags Octopress Pelican Ghost

It's pretty likely that I'll cycle through multiple platforms for this, as I try to pin down a Markdown-centric blogging workflow that works well for me. So far I've spent more time on this, by far, then I have actually writing anything for use here.

Here's the story so far:


I initially set up Octopress using Github pages (see here. That was pretty fun to do, and Octopress is really cool and accessible to use. But I'm simply not technical enough to troubleshoot it when it breaks. (It seems like, from what I've read, part of the issue here results from the fact that Octopress is built on top of Jekyll, so changes to Jekyll can break Octopress.)

I may come back to Octopress later. (I really do like it.)

Octopress Themes

I really like Koenigspress.


Next I tried Ghost. This isn't ideal yet for a lot of reasons, such as:

  • Only support for vanilla Markdown, which doesn't even have footnotes, FFS
  • Most themes are based on presenting small excerpts which are not formatted -- which means that if you start a blog post with anything other than a standard paragraph (e.g., a code block, a quotation, or a list), it looks like shit.
  • No smart typography
  • It doesn't have very good sync scrolling yet. (Although who does, apart from ♥♥MMD Composer♥♥?)
  • Everything's still deeply half-baked

In other words, in its current version (which is only 0.5, to be fair), it's probably the single least powerful Markdown tool I can name.

So, why bother?

  • I want something that (sort of) just works, while I keep looking for a better solution for processing more powerful Markdown flavors.
  • I don't want to use Tumblr, because even though Tumblr actually currently has better Markdown support than Ghost (hah), Tumblr is constantly breaking Markdown and taking forever to fix it. It's clearly not a priority for them. I'm also more and more weary of dealing with Tumblr's UI, dashboard, and lack of control over content.
  • I don't want to use Wordpress, because it's a bloated monster, and because it's not clear where it's going in terms of usability. Just look at what happened with post formats UI -- very disheartening.
  • I still have high hopes that Ghost will eventually turn into something interesting. The broad outlines of it are excellent -- it's not bloated, it doesn't try to be WYSIWYG, and it's straightforward in design.

Still, it doesn't seem like a great fit...yet.


Pelican is (like Octopress) a popular and relatively user-friendly static site generator. On paper, it's not as good an option for me as Octopress -- it uses Python's version of Markdown, which isn't terrible, but it's not MMD or Pandoc. It also doesn't do smart typography stuff, although someone has helpfully made a plugin for that.1

But it is easy to set up, possibly even easier than Octopress. There's even a charming installation dialogue on the command line that helpfully asks you to define variables.

I did run into some difficulties getting up and running, most of which were my fault for specifying the destination path differently in different places. (Oops) Some also arose from an intolerance of spaces in the path by the files generated by the installer. I've also had some issues with the themes -- not totally sure why.

Pelican Themes

  • Here, have an un-linked page of screenshots
  • And a giant combined GitHub page for them.
  • So far, I like SoMA okay (but beware the giant logo)
  • Might try built-texts. Not totally sure about that font, though.
    • The "social" section of the built-texts footer doesn't align correctly unless you uncomment the social PNG icons in the CSS spreadsheet ("Styling for Sidebar").
    • Also, I had to add a 16x16 PNG for flickr to the images folder and then add a line to the CSS:
      • .social a[href*='']:before {content: url('./images/icons/flickr.png'); margin-right: 2px; vertical-align: -3px;}
    • And there's no styling for tables in articles at all?
  • Or mnmlist.

  1. Note that it seems to be necessary to actually install the SmartyPants extension, although the GitHub page for markdown_thirdparty seems to suggest it shouldn't be. 


Sun 09 March 2014

Filed under Static Site Generators

Tags Octopress

I had high hopes for Octopress, because it's really cool, and it's easy to set up, and it's easy to use. It's really impressive how accessible it is. But as I later discovered, that ease of use doesn't mean much if it's too hard ...

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