A new blog

There. Finally. A new blog. My old blog was found on bler.webschuur.com and webschuur.com. Which is also the name of my company: webschuur.com.

For several times, I attempted to rewrite everything, but after 80% of the work done, I found out was doing it all wrong. And started over again.

They say the cobbler's children go the worst shod.

My blogs and bler webschuur.com, respectively, my personal, Dutch and English business blog, had to be merged. The CMS powering them, Drupal, needed a complete rebuild. And it really needed a redesign. Oh. And I had a much cooler domain name: berk.es.

All content has been migrated, but not everything has been repaired, there are thousands of articles dating back to 2001 in the database. In all kinds of formats, with all sorts of extra content, and many articles were broken for years. The coming weeks, I will have to repair them one at a time. By hand.

And the comments are not yet migrated. First, I need to weed out all spam and then migrate everything to Disqus. A hell of a job.

Jekyll

This blog runs on Jekyll. Jekyll is super simple: it uses a text file for each article and generates a site out of all these files. Which you then upload. This sounds old fashioned, but is actually super effective: no CMS, no database, no complex server software, no security upgrades, no possible intrusions in your CMS, and so on. Faster than a site so you can not get, as safer than CMS is not even in theory, and the simplicity is unimaginable. And hosting it on a professional environment is cheap (or free).

That is, if you think editing text files is easy.

More technical: you write the text in HTML or markdown. Which is then converted to clean HTML. You manage all text files in a revision control system (git, in my case) and that revision control provides the deployment: it generates and upload the site.

Why not Drupal?

Both sites were running Drupal. Both were FUBAR: totall loss. Upgrading was not possible (anymore) and troubleshooting or bugfixing yielded only but more problems:

  • Spam: I have tried all spamsolutions for Drupal, but with sometimes millions (!) of spam posts per day there is always some slipping through. 1% of 1 million is still 10000. Sometimes, after not looking at my site over a week, I found hundreds of thousands of spams that still seeped trough: a self-maintaining effect: published spam attracts spammers. Solution: A new comment system Disqus. This requires a difficult migration.
  • Old modules, old content: During time I have updated Drupal hundreds of times and upgraded seven times. Always some minor thing broke; there was no upgrade for a certain module. A table did not update completely right and so on. The result is a broken database, lots of broken content and lint. The solution is a complete rebuilding. And full export and import of all the old articles.
  • Drupal has become extremely big and bloated over time. Too heavy for a
  • small little blog. You notice this very well when you get a million
  • hits from spammers. But also briefly when the site has been busier
  • (e.g. a post on Reddit). My Tiny server may power five small drupalsite. Really, no more. That is ridiculous: a dedicated VPS for five tiny sites. An upgrade to Drupal7 of all five sites would mean that I have to order a larger or second VPS: ridiculous; an extra twohundredsomething Dollar per year for just five tiny sites. Or that I need to start fiddling with proxies and memcache. For five small sites: ridiculous. Solution continue with the old, yet better perform-using Drupal, or find another CMS.

I also had some small, simple requirements for a new blog:

  • HTML5 (and CSS3) for the layout.
  • Mobile Friendly.
  • Fine HTML.
  • No / minimal administration and security updates.
  • Bilingual content.
  • Cheap hosting.

Drupal7 can, with lots of effort, serve somewhat clean, responsive HTML(5) and CSS3. But after implementing 80% of my design (and development of an entire theme-engine just for this), I decided that this is nonsense. So I decided to look for something better, that gives me full control over the layout.

Rails?

I had converted my entire site in Ruby on Rails. The content migration was finished, a pretty secure commenting system was done. And it was full of fun gadgets (like Twitter, Reddit and Facebook scraper: copy the comments posted there onto my blog). And it even performed nearly as good as Drupal7. With some tweaking even better then Drupal 5. Just finish the last 20% and release it.

Then I made a few steps backwards, looked at it from a distance: a rather large, self-written CMS on Rails, just to publish a super simple blog. I must be mad: even that last 20% probably costs more work than a few evenings of Jekyll hacking.

There is why. Jekyll.

And now some more blogging.

Woodcut from Doré. Purely illustrative
Doré Woodcut. Its only function is to make the layout look better. And these images are really nice themselves

About the author: Bèr Kessels is an experienced webdeveloper with a great passion for technology and Open Source. A golden combination to implement that technology in a good and efficient way. Follow @berkes on Twitter. Or read more about Bèr.

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