Swapping from WordPress to Jekyll
I have been a WordPress user for a very long time, however, I feel the increased complexity of the system has resulted in feature bloat, and for me at least, creates a not especially intuitive user interface. There are many features of the system that I have never used, and to be honest, it now probably usurps my requirements as a basic tool to create a record of what I do.
More generally, I have changed my academic workflow quite substantially over the past few years, writing almost entirely in either Latex or Markdown and utilising version control in a serious way on Bitbucket for both academic writing and programming. This has been an enlightening experience!
I have been looking around for an alternative blog system for a while and have been experimenting with Ghost which is a new, and I think a really promising system. You will see that the founder shares some of my frustrations about WordPress. It is early days for Ghost, but I could see myself using this in the future once it is a few more versions into development.
New Solution – Jekyll
Jekyll takes me back to the late 1990s when I first started to code websites in HTML. This system does not use a database and instead generates a static HTML based website using a variety of formats including markdown – it is essentially a parsing engine. What is clever though is how it can generate a blog layout, essentially using the naming conventions of your files to create a page structure filled with posts. The other really neat thing is that you can host a Jekyll powered website on your github repository; even with a custom domain name. This costs nothing and is completely transparent, as all the source is available for others to download. Thus far I have been very impressed.
How I exited wordpress
The first thing was to get all my posts out of the DB – this involved exporting an XML file and then using exiwp which is a set of Python libraries that converts the XML into Markdown posts that are named correctly for Jekyll. I have been through all of these, pruning out some old posts that weren’t especially interesting or had many dead hyperlinks. Something else which has been annoying me recently is Slideshare – the interface is increasingly cluttered, and for some reason it has been doing funny things to the layout of my old presentations. Fortunately, a better solution has emerged (again Github based!) called Speaker Deck which I have now converted all my old slides to; and indeed uploaded some new talks I have done recently.
For this blog I have adapted a theme called Hyde, including some extra bits such as: a category based RSS feed for my R posts (this is important for R Bloggers); the [splitting of short and long posts] (http://foldl.me/2012/jekyll-excerpts/); and the use of Disquss to manage comments (not that there are usually many!). Along the way I have borrowed some code from here (which is an excellent introduction to Jekyll), a sitemaps code from here, and also aquired some icons from iconmonstr.
Anyway, I hope you like the new blog.