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AWS 6.0

Published on April 21, 2014 in News


  • redesign
  • docpad

I had a problem with this site. I had converted it over to Nesta, a Ruby/Sinatra based CMS, and I put a lot of work into making it fully responsive. The problem was that I never really found time to update it. Nothing new had been added to the site in almost a year, largely because adding new content was a chore. Files had to be uploaded into the appropriate directories, and I had to remember lots of tag names that, if incorrect, would ruin the display of the page but not log any errors. The system was also somewhat temperamental; as a dynamic site, it required some special hosting (Phusion Passenger or the like), and when outside services changed (like Twitter changing its version of OAuth), parts of the site broke.

I had been working with static site generators on and off for a few months, and decided to take a look at some options for this site. I evaluated Jekyll, a Ruby-based static site system, Wintersmith, a Node.js build tool, and Docpad, another Node-based tool. In the end, I settled on Docpad. I use JavaScript on a daily basis, and I am extremely comfortable working with it. In contrast, Nesta always felt somewhat fragile to me - I know just enough Ruby to be dangerous, but not enough to feel like I am truly in control. Docpad also has the kind of community that emerged around established CMSes like WordPress or Drupal. There is a rich collection of community-developed plugins and active discussion around the project's development and future goals. Oddly enough, switching to a tool that requires an explicit build step has actually made things simpler as far as workflow.

As far as the design itself, I took inspiration from Frank Chimero's new personal site. The idea of treating the site as more of a sprawling attic of content rather than a tightly-focused "blog" was very appealing, and I have consolidated some sections of the site ("Journal" and "Articles") while splitting out others ("Reading", "Playing", etc.). My hope is that this more free-form approach to content will encourage me to write more often without worrying about whether or not a certain item "belongs" in a certain place.

So, it's a few days later than I would have liked (thanks, failing hard drive!), but what you are reading now is the new-and-improved AWS 6.0. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to providing you much more frequent content.