Setting Up...

I’m toying around with Octopress for the next version of this site. I haven’t been bitten by the self-publishing bug or anything. And I’m not looking to build an audience. At the very least this will be a journal of the memorable things I come across. Just a place to drop my thoughts as life flies by.

In the Past…

My previous false start at this (there have been a few) was a Tumblr blog. I really like the social component of Tumblr. But I never developed a habit of visiting the site regularly. Introverted geek? Too old (you kids get off my lawn!)? Whatever the case. Tumblr was one of those toys that sat on my shelf collecting dust.

I set off looking for a blogging project that publishes everything “baked” as static content. Publishing a static site has been a popular topic lately. And, although I don’t need to withstand a Fireballing, there’s something really elegant about creating a completely static site from a dynamic back-end.

Second Crack

I planned on giving Second Crack by Marco Arment a try. Marco–who created the excellent Instapaper service and writes some great blog posts–recently open sourced his bespoke PHP blogging engine on Github. I’m an old PHP hack and I’m interested in reading some of Marco’s code. No brainer. Right?

What I like most about Second Crack is its workflow. You post by creating a draft markdown file in a Dropbox folder. When you’re ready to publish you move your draft into another folder. Second Crack runs in the background, detects changes, and publishes your site automatically. Really slick!

I haven’t had a chance to review Second Crack at length. I’m too buried in work right now to give it the time it deserves. And Marco would be the first person to admit that Second Crack is “still rough and unfriendly.” So I’ll have to back-burner it for the time being.


Octopress is “a blogging framework for hackers” where you create site posts as plain text Markdown files. Then you run rake tasks to generate and publish the site. It comes with some really useful plugins for embedding images and videos, quoting other people, adding snippets of code, and a lot more.

As a programmer, Octopress feels like a better fit than a hosted solution. There are plenty of nerdy internals to fool around with. From the start your site is chopped up nicely into a sane collection of easily-customized templates. Theming is done with Compass and Sass. There are really too many open source goodies baked in to mention here.

Installation was a breeze (for a programmer) because I already had some Ruby development prerequisites installed. I just cloned the Git repository, tweaked a couple of configuration files, added my logo, and I was off to the races.

Octopress doesn’t have the auto-publishing features of Second Crack. But that’s a small problem I’ll enjoy solving.

In the End…

In the end I chose Octopress because it hits all of my nerd buttons. Markdown feels more natural than raw HTML or some WYSIWYG editor. Sass is the greatest thing since… well… CSS. And I’m feeling closer to the open source community already (that’s a topic for another day).