Making Some Changes

If you are reading this post then it means some changes to this blog that I have been working on this week have gone live. If you subscribe to the RSS feed this probably also means that you have just seen the last ten posts show up again in your RSS reader. My apologies for that but I hope the end result is worth the temporary disturbance.

Ancient History

For more than two years this blog has been hosted on SquareSpace.com and for the most part I have been very happy with the service. If you are looking for a quick, easy and relatively cheap way to get a blog up and running it is an option well worth considering.

However I think it is time to make some changes to get the site closer to the way I want it. What follows is a brief description of what I have been up to this week.

Static Blog using Octopress

This is a very simple blog with very simple requirements so I have for a while been wanting to move to a static blog engine rather than a complex content management system such as SquareSpace or WordPress. With a static blog all of the content can be checked into a version control repository of my choosing allowing me complete freedom on how and where I host the site.

There are many static blog engines to choose from but I chose to use Octopress a framework developed by Brandon Mathis for Jekyll. It already has plugins for everything that I could possibly want, works well in both desktop and mobile browsers and I figured that if it is good enough for Matt Gemmell it is surely good enough for me.

I will spare you the details of the migration as it mostly involved cleaning up the html export of my SquareSpace blog. The biggest pain was in fixing the URL’s of some posts and converting everything back to markdown format. I also had to convert the comments to the Wordpress XML comment format so that I could import them to Disqus. If you are really interested I posted the ruby script I used to convert both the posts and the comments in this Gist.

Disqus Comments

Early on I had a lot of problems with comment spam on squarespace but the comment moderation seems to have improved a lot lately. The iOS App also makes it easy to manage comments even though it seems to crash way too frequently. However with the move to a static blog I needed to reconsider what to do about comments.

It seems a lot of sites are now just disabling comments on the grounds that they are a pain to manage and often do not add any value. I really appreciate the feedback and suggestions I get in the comments on this site so I have decided to move them to Disqus.

You do not currently need to have a Disqus account to leave a comment but I may change that setting in the future if Spam becomes a problem. You do need to specify an email address when posting but it is never displayed. Also note that to access the comment thread from the blog home page you need to first click on the individual blog post.

Linode

The final change this week has been to move the blog to a Linode (referral link) hosted VPS and set up the web server. A static blog has no need for a backend database and does not need PHP, ruby, perl or any other means to generate dynamic content. As a result I opted for the smallest VPS node that Linode offers at a price that is comparable to what I was paying for the Squarespace site.

Summary

It is early days to say how well the migration has gone but so far I think it is a big improvement over the previous site. For me the extra administration involved in managing the whole site is a price worth paying but I guess you do need to be comfortable with some basic sys admin to make it work. So far I am pretty happy with the results. As always feedback and suggestions are welcome.

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