One More Blog

Another year, another blog. It seems that I just re-wrote my blog for the third time.

The Second Rewrite

I never deployed the second rewrite, which was mostly for fun and to play with yesod. Despite my reservations about its use of Template Haskell and quasiquotes, I eventually came around to the whole model suggested by the framework. Type-safe URLs are very pleasant and the automatic routing of requests to typed handlers is a huge time and boilerplate saver. After I got the hang of the framework, development was very fast and I had pretty much everything working as I wanted in two or three days of occasional effort.

The most annoying thing was that it required more full rebuilds than other projects due to the Template Haskell code. By default, routes are specified in a plain text file that is read with Template Haskell at compile time (which then produces routing code). This is convenient until you need to add or modify routes and yesod has no way to know that you changed the routes file. Working around this problem is simple but annoying: do a full rebuild. It looks like GHC 7.4.1 and the template-haskell-2.7.0.0 package have a new function qAddDependentFile that should be able to fix this issue.

At the end of the rewrite, I was pretty happy with Yesod and I would definitely use it for any significant web application that I happen to need. That said, the result was completely excessive for this blog. The pages on this blog essentially never change and the only dynamic content is the list of comments for each post. Additionally, building yesod with its dependencies on my VPS was alarming and always sends it swapping. It just wasn’t very fun for this blog, which is supposed to be fun.

The Third Rewrite

Noting that my content was basically static and that the only way I ever want to write a post is via a text editor and a git repository, I decided to switch to a simple static site generator for the blog proper and delegate comments to Disqus. It turns out that there are no simple static site generators, so I went with hakyll, which is really awesome. It uses pandoc (which I had used in all of my previous blog incarnations) as its formatting engine, so all of my existing posts were compatible. My blog code is based around one of the examples included with hakyll and clocks in at under 150 lines of code. This seems like a good number for something this simple. To post, I just:

  1. Write a post in markdown
  2. Test it locally
  3. Commit it and push to my VPS

I use a post-receive hook (as described in this post by Chris Done) to build and deploy new posts.

Hakyll is a great piece of software. I would definitely use it again and am very happy with the results. It was apparently mostly rewritten for the 3.x release series, and it now makes use of some interesting types. In particular, it is heavily based on arrows. Luckily, I had just been looking at arrows lately so it wasn’t as jarring as it otherwise might have been.

While hakyll handles the content generation well, I still wanted to allow comments (not that I get many of those). I didn’t even look around very much and just went right for Disqus. It seems to do the job and integrating it with my generated site was very easy. It only requires a little Javascript snippet on each page that needs to support comments, and a bit of extra magic to get comment counts on the post listings.

Design

I also took this opportunity to redo the design and make everything much simpler. The last design was also apparently visually offensive to some. I hope this is a bit easier on the eyes. Maybe this is why people don’t pay me to make things look good.