Karl Kedrovsky

Moving To Middleman

Over the last few years my long-neglected blog has been running on Drupal. That was mostly due to the fact that I use Drupal in my day job (and most side projects) and when I needed a way to stand up a simple site it was the path of least resistance. Other than that and the ability to easily enable comments (more on that later) there was no real reason why I needed a CMS, the site is pretty much just static content.

Why Move?

Drupal is a great CMS platform but it also requires a bit of care and feeding (e.g. security updates) and takes more resources to run than a static site. That’s not a huge deal but the simplicity of creating and deploying a static site turned out to be a bigger deal (at least in my mind) than I thought. Also, being able to create posts as simple markdown files in my favorite editor instead of using a web-based admin is a ton better for a developer, or anyone else that lives in their editor all day long.

I also like to use my personal site as a sandbox for technologies I’m interested in at the moment and right now those have skewed toward the front-end technologies in web development. I’ve been looking for ways to use some of the newer features in Sass and Susy and while I’ve only been able to do that a small amount on this site but at least I have a sandbox that’s a “real” site where I can try things out. Sure you can do things like this on a Drupal site but it’s a lot easier without all the trappings of a CMS getting in the way.

Why Middleman?

Another one of those technologies that I’ve been hankering to use more is a static site generator. While the idea isn’t new (I remember using blosxom back in the day) they have gotten a lot of mind share recently and there is a lot of work going into them right now.

Having a ton of options to pick from I settled on two: Middleman and Assemble. I was looking for something that was well supported, had plenty of online resources and was more of a general purpose static site generator as opposed to a blogging engine, etc. In the end I picked Middleman, it had good documentation, plenty of tutorials and help online, and had ready-made solutions for blogging and deployment that worked great out of the box. It also used Compass and Sass which fit my need to have a platform to fiddle with the latest Sass and Susy bits. Assemble looks like a really cool project but it was a bit more “build it yourself” than I wanted and the wild west that is the node ecosphere right now (Assemble is a javascript project) was more hassle than I wanted to deal with. I really like Ruby (which is what Middleman uses) as a language and I’m already comfortable with it’s ecosystem so that helped make it a good fit too.

The only bump in the Middleman road was getting everything to work with the latest version of Sass. It turned out to not be all that big of a deal but using the latest versions of Sass and Susy means you have to use a pre-release version of Compass with Middleman. Again, it’s not a big deal but if you want to go this route yourself just be prepared for a bit of wonkiness until Compass 1.0 is out and Middleman is updated to use it. If you want to see how I’ve set it all up just take a look at the Github repo that houses the source code for this site.

What About Those Comments?

Having comments on my blog taught me a few things. On the upside, they are a good way to get valuable feedback from folks but on the downside it’s a pain to manage all the spam (even with spam filtering) and I found that for some reason I just don’t respond to comments like I should. I have no idea why comments don’t grab my attention like email or twitter but for some reason they just don’t. I had to disable comments on the Drupal version of the site a while back due to all the problems with spam and I’ve decided to just leave them off this new version for now. I may add them back later, and I’m hoping to add the archived comments to old blog posts, but for now I’m sticking to email and twitter for feedback.