Usually when I’ve blogged in the past, I’ve used Wordpress. I’m used to it - I develop (private) Wordpress plugins for a living - and I generally like it, but - weirdly - I find Wordpress to be overkill for personal blogs now, especially ones where you just want to write; you’re not worried about SEO, or image galleries, or anything plugins will offer you.
Then hosting is an additional cost, unless you use Wordpress.com but even that has its limitations.
Finding the right tools
So, I was looking at what else I could do. Obviously, a free host would be nice, and Github Pages was obvious to me (not least because I already use Github every date for version control).
Static site generators are something I’ve also been dabbling in lately - namely Gatsby - and something similar but on a smaller scale (ie, not requiring its own data source like GraphQL) would be good. I’ve toyed with static site things via Netlify the last time I tried to spin up a blog, and found it a bit… meh (it’s me, Netlify, not you).
Jekyll kept coming up in searches, not least because Github uses it itself, so it was a pretty obvious choice. The reason I’d gone with Netlify before (I now recall) was because I wanted an admin interface for posting, rather than adding text files to a repo, but that was a layer of complication-for-the-sake-of-convenience that I’m ready to do without. Being happy to use Markdown also helps.
The How of it all
So here we are. It was all rather simple; the most annoying bit was finding and implementing a nice theme, as some documentation is out of date, some themes are older and still have old instructions, or I just fucked things up on my own.
The Jekyll instructions on setting up in Github Pages is very helpful in giving a quick overview.
See also Github’s Quickstart guide, which is even better.
- Set up a repo in Github calls
- Set up pages within your repos Settings section
- Voila your new site will be done
(Yes, it’s more complicated than that, but only in details - ready the documentation)
Then it came down to choosing a theme; Jekyll by default had me using one called Minima which is nice enough, but not NICE nice.
I ended up going with So Simple Theme and as it supports Github Pages’ remote theme option, it was super-simple (HA) to get up and running. The biggest faff I faced was getting my logo to show.
And now we’re here. I have a blog again. It’s costing me NOTHING. It’s easy to update, it just takes a few minutes to commit my post, and wait for the site to rebuild. I could, if I wanted, add new posts directly in my repo via Github rather than locally, if I wanted to.
Yes, it’s a bit lo-fi in a high-web-tech kind of way, but as I’m recently revisiting how I do things in my digital life it’s another piece I get to toy with.