Blogging with Wyam

The evolution of my blogging platform

Published on Sunday, April 15, 2018

This weekend I ported my blog from static content generated by Octopress to the static site generation platform, Wyam. After several years ignoring the site based on the Jekyll derivative, I felt it was time to move to a generator based on technologies that allow me to focus on writing.

The Wordpress Aggravation

I started this blog with Wordpress back in 2006 as a way to share some nerdy things that I do on a daily basis at work. Like all sites, Wordpress ones have to be hosted somewhere. Yeah, I know it can be hosted at a hundred places for cheap, but that would mean a hard hit to my nerd ego. So, like so many others I built a LAMP server under my desk to host my site and quickly found that I didn't want to be a Wordpress admin.

But, I started to blog and like so many before and after me, found that out of the box, Wordpress needs a few plugins to be a solid platform. Unfortunately, I ran into constant problems on something that was supposed to be fun, and spent a lot of time battling formatting, compatibility issues and making sure everything was backed up.

The final nail in Wordpress' coffin came in the form of never-ending security issues, which made running the platform something I just didn't want to deal with anymore. I hated it, and so I didn't blog. All the hassle reinforced that I wanted to play World of Warcraft more than I wanted to feed my nerd ego.

BTW, notice that there isn't any content on here prior to 2008? That's because my backups worked, but in reality didn't. I learned a hard truth back then:

"Backups always succeed. It's restores that fail." - Scott Hanselman

Onward with Octopress

At some point I got tired of dealing with the infrastructure of a platform I wasn't even really blogging with, and decided to find something that would be simpler to host. A friend had turned me on to the concept of static site generators, and after some digging I found Octopress.

Static sites ftw

Static sites are the antithesis of Wordpress from a hosting standpoint; they aren't an application that needs services beyond just serving out simple HTML pages and other static assets. Because of this you can get away with a much simpler and far more secure hosting environment. Without an application and it's supporting frameworks, other than the server itself, there is very little to hack.

Compared to most modern CMS platforms, static sites are primitive, harkening back to the earliest days of the interwebs.

They are awesome.

My problem with Octopress

Octopress was bitter-sweet for me. On one hand it solved all of my infrastructure issues and let me move my blog to a much simpler hosting environment: Azure Web Apps. It was inexpensive to host, managed by Azure and it just worked. Now I could focus on writing rather than running my blog, and maintain some nerd cred.

With Octopress I could write my posts using markdown with a simple text editor. I'd not have to deal with the formatting problems I was plagued with in Wordpress, and if I wanted I could blog with Notepad. Since I'm not a crazy person, I used Sublime Text and life was good.

Or was it?

Octopress is based on Jekyll and uses Ruby. This is fine; I don't participate in technology holy wars. But after using Octopress for a while I came to appreciate a hard reality; I'm fully vested in the Microsoft ecosystem and the Ruby thing was going to take more time to get comfortable with than I was willing to put in. Octopress did some nice things for Jekyll, but the tech gap demotivated me from blogging for nearly 5 years.

The new hotness

I discovered Wyam sometime in mid-2017.

I wasn't actively writing (clearly), but I was considering what I should do with my blog. Should I kill it or keep it? At this point in my life I enjoy writing much more than I did when I was younger, so I looked for a replacement for Octopress; I found Wyam.

Wyam is appealing to me because it is based on .NET, which is the programming framework I've focused on since it came out forever-and-an-age ago. I've watched it's development now for several months, and like it's underlying design philosophy more than I did that of Octopress. It's simple where it needs to be simple, and complex where it needs to be complex. I like the pipeline architecture, the extensibility, the simple templating model. I like the themes and I like how absolutely simple it is to get up and running.

Only three things took actual time this weekend:

  1. Updating my markdown files to work well with Wyam
  2. Deploying the site via Git and Kudu in my Azure Web App
  3. Picking out which theme I wanted to go live with

This site has been ported to Wyam, my latest static site generation blogging platform of choice. I am writing this post using markdown with Visual Studio Code, deploying it with Git and Kudu and hosting it with an Azure Web App.