Static site generators & Everything else

This post lists the details of my blog, which is powered by gh-pages and pelican. In short another guy puts up his blog at GitHub and blogs about it. It initially started as a Lorem Ipsum content while I was testing out my rough and edgy pelican theme. You have been warned!

Welcome to the new avatar of my blog which is powered by pelican, just another static site generator. For the uninitiated, static sites are just a bunch of html pages, reminiscent of those old times where people used some ftp program to put some html pages in some server space. Remember the saying, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” It is a full circle from plain html -> dynamic content based websites -> Back to plain html again. Well static site generators do just that, convert your favorite markup format into something a webserver can serve.

Also static site generators are dime a dozen, these days, you will always get one matching the language of your choice and markup of your choice as well. (Psst. if you are interested, I have tried making a sentence with a few If you are the type who hates wordplay, skip right ahead, there is nothing here… 1).

At the moment Jekyll arguably leads the pack2, with close to ~8.2K watchers in Github, while that metric doesn’t actually tell the number of sites actually built using Jekyll. FYI, almost any post on jekyll trends in Hacker News, and even the US election campaign has used Jekyll for blogging. A more interesting information would be just googling Jekyll, about 410 links in the first page go to Jekyll the static site generator, the rest mostly links to Jekyll the TV show, and none link to Jekyll and Hyde, the novella (condolences to R L Stevenson). This is similar to googling “Big Bang Theory”, TV has a higher preference than cosmology, of course.0

Now talking that much on jekyll, this site isn’t generated via Jekyll, it is generated by Pelican, a static generator written in python. And this was the primary reason, just that in case things need to work in a certain way, it could be done without setting my hair on fire. Though knowledge of python isn’t an absolute necessity if your intention is just to create a site in pelican, but recommended. Like other well known static site generators, pelican also features these (last point is a bit debatable):

  • Good Documentation
  • Easy templating system
  • Good community support
  • Written in python

Posts are written in markdown, in emacs. A simple git repository with post commit hooks that runs pelican on each commit, does the trick of generating the html pages. The config file is a simple python file which takes care of all the site related details, links etc.

Pelican comes with a default set of themes, and a few others available at the pelican-themes repo, which can help in setting up a blog running without much hassle. Building a theme is also pretty easy, and it uses Jinja templating in the backend, this blog look right now is a customised theme built upon the existing tuxlite-tbs theme, I will write on that another time. (This post is already long enough as it is)

For the typographically conscious, there is support from the excellent emacs typo mode which takes care of your punctuation marks, if you are the type who cares about the em & en–dashes. (Yes, we have a mode for everything… including a psychotherapist, who can kill time, if not depression) That is pretty much it, as far as generating a site in pelican is concerned, simple.

Foot Notes

popularity, its precedence in search results… possibilities out there, generating a static site is as easy as baking a piecrust. You just have to chisel your heart’s content in the markup format of your choice and hire a middleman to solve the strange case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde, whose obsession with Octopress, is frankly petrifying. (This is far from the list of possibilities, but it is difficult, though, to make a valid English sentence with all the static site generators out there. A relatively comprehensive list is at nanoc which, FYI, is also another static site generator. Choose your poison)

  1. These days, one is awestruc with the number of [return]
  2. For more info on this read,a crowdsourced list and a HN poll for static generators [return]