New Website Platform

11 April 2010

When I started developing this site I knew I wanted to use a static website. I've used Wordpress and I'm fed up with checking for updates and plugin incompatibilities. Combine that with the server with this site doesn't have MySQL on it but PostgreSQL and it all seemed like to much hassle.

A static website on the other hand seemed blissful. Simply type in my sage like words, export and fear not for nothing could go wrong. No hacking, no plugin problems, no slashdot effect, nirvana.

Rapid Weaver

I started with Rapid Weaver . Rapid Weaver is a Mac OS X application for creating largely static websites. It comes with a set of interesting templates and you can install plugins to add functionality (such as syntax highlighting).

At first it seemed ideal. Infact it was great to work with. You can very quickly generate a great looking website and export the static html pages and assets (css, js and image files).

Problems started when I wanted to add a commenting system to my blog. I wanted to usedisqus as I already had an account from another project but I couldn't find a way to add the Javascript to the template I was using. I discovered that if I upgraded to a beta version (4.4b2) I could add disqus.

My next problem was publishing. Despite the options existing to publish over SFTP I just couldn't get it to work... grrr.

The final nail in the coffin for me was not being able to version the Rapid Weaver project file in subversion. In common with many files in Mac OS X the project file is really a folder that contains many files all hidden within. Subversion sees the file as a directory and dutifully adds all the internal files to it's repository adding .svn folders to each directory to record metadata. The problem comes when Rapid Weaver saves it's project file it obliterates the .svn folders causing havoc for subversion users. I don't really blame Rapid Weaver for this. It would be good if Subversion could see this project file as a file but then it would cease to be platform independent and I don't want that either.

I really wanted to get Rapid Weaver to work as it is a great piece of software. At the end of the day though it just seems to restrictive and the eco system for plugins seems to weak for me to really entrust my entire site to it.


Sticking with the idea if a static site generator and given my love of python I the first thing I stumbled upon was Hyde.

Hyde is built on top of Django and allows you to define pages, edit templates and the website structure using all the usual Django-isms that the fanboys love.

Hyde is a LOT more work then Rapid Weaver. The basic template is very basic (functional but very basic) so you need to style the page yourself (note the basic styling this site now has!). The structure of the site is not exactly what I wanted but I am sure I could jiggle the templates around and get something pretty close to ideal if I had the time.

To add content to the site you fire up TextMate add a new html template file with the correct tags and type in the article using markdown syntax, call to generate the output and check in a browser. Simple as that. OK it's not a WYSIWYG interface but in someways that is prefect. Markdown is restrictive but powerful enough for 99% of the internet and if you REALLY need to you can embed HTML.

Although this site doesn't look as good as it did (design wise) it's going to be much more simple to maintain.


The reason I'm really writing this though it to let you know why your RSS feed will have gone a bit squiff :)

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