Blog Setup

Posted on February 8, 2014 by Alissa

When I started my search for a static site generator, I first came across Jekyll. I’m not particularly excited about learning Ruby, but I am excited about learning Haskell. HaskellRuby This quickly led me to Hakyll. Hakyll is easy to install with cabal, though the first time I installed it I had an old version of cabal, and thus installed an apparently very old version of Hakyll. I remedied this as follows:

$ ghc-pkg unregister hakyll
$ cabal update
$ cabal install hakyll

From there I followed the Tutorials on the Hakyll site and found them clear and up to date. Once I built the Example Site locally, it was time to move the example code to github pages. Blogging without version control was out of the question!

The most confusing part of github pages is the difference between User Pages and Project Pages. The difference is mostly confusing because you can have a gh-pages branch in the repo username/username.github.io. In that case github needs to make an undocumented choice about which branch to use. I decided to use User Pages, which is why you can find my blog at http://alissapajer.github.io. This means that content from my master branch will be used to build my website. Here is where things get a bit tricky.

Problem:

I need the contents of my site in the directory alissapajer.github.io/ on the master branch. But Hakyll generates the website itself in alissapajer.github.io/_site/, and places the Haskell code, markdown, and various other files in the top level directory. And of course I need to version control everything, generated and not!

Solution:

I created a source branch, which contains both the manually-created and the generated files. When I make a change to my website, I always commit on the source branch, and I never manually edit files on master. The idea is that source will contain all of my code, and master will contain just the generated files. Now all we need to do is to copy the contents of the _site/ directory to the master branch.

To perform this copy, I use ghp-import as follows, run from the source branch:

$ ghp-import _site/ -b master -m "commit message"

There is an optional flag to push to master, but I have been pushing manually so I can review the changes first. And that’s it! The only thing I still need to do is the redirect to a domain I own. This is done using a CNAME file on the master branch. Since my master branch is auto-generated I’ll need to add this CNAME in such a way that it’s not deleted when I commit to master.

The only weird thing is that source and master will permanently diverge.

Tips:

While editing the webiste, I run

$ ./site watch

This command registers changes to the _site/ directory and publishes the up-to-date website to http://127.0.0.1:8000/. Very useful for immediate feedback!

Also, Hakyll allows you to write all your blog posts in markdown. I’ve found this Markdown Cheatsheet essential.