Data Bits and Pieces

my $0.02 about data, technology, and other exciting randomness.

Welcome, again.

19 Apr 2014

When I started working for MongoDB, I realized that I'd like to do more blogging, to share ideas, code, tutorials etc. with the open source community and interested friends and colleagues. I looked at a number of platforms, and Google's Blogger seemed to be an easy enough solution to just jot down some text, a bit of code, and the occasional image or diagram. However, after writing two articles, that first impression quickly changed. What kept me from enjoying Blogger was for the most part its WYSIWY(n)G editor. Because I wanted syntax highlighting for my code snippets, I had to do some customizations in the template. But that turned into a nightmare in the form of nested divs in the HMTL editor, as the WYSIWYG editor couldn't create the code blocks I needed. The end of the story was that I had to spend more time fixing the format than actually creating the content, and subsequently stopped using Blogger.

At the same time, I got more and more into Markdown. It's such a clean and easy markup language, that I started taking notes in Markdown for every occasion, rather than using plain text files, Google docs, Apple's "Notes" application, Evernote, ... (yes, I tried a lot of different approaches). So the decision to use Markdown for a blog, ideally with Github-style fenced code blocks was quickly made.

I found a number of hosting platforms that offer Markdown functionality. But they were either very expensive (hello, Ghost, I'm looking at you), completely overloaded with features that I didn't want or missed the mark of what I actually wanted (Tumblr, Wordpress) or didn't support the flavor of Markdown I wanted to use (scriptogr.am). There are obviously many more options and I didn't look at all of them so perhaps there's something else out there that would fit my requirements (feel free to tell me about your favorite solution in the comments).

Then I stumbled upon GitHub Pages, in combination with Jekyll. I use git and GitHub every day, so the workflow of edit, commit, push is very familiar. Jekyll turns Markdown into static websites, and it's easy enough to install locally to see how the page would render without having to push every time. After only a couple of hours, I had a basic blog running. I can create a text file in my editor, write my article in Markdown, push, and the page was published. Easy, elegant, free, beautiful.

This weekend, I spent some more time cleaning the style up, making it pretty for phones and pads, using my own domain blog.rueckstiess.com and adding a Disqus comments section to each article. I'm toying with the idea of making use of the tags somehow, but for now I don't mind the solution of listing the articles by categories.

I'm really happy with the outcome, considering the little time I invested setting it all up. I'm sure this will put the fun back into blogging and you'll read a lot more from me in the near future, for better or worse.

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