Loki Astari

Thoughts of a former code monkey.

Switching to OctoPress

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Switching to OctoPress and Github

I have not blogged much, until recently, so I am not an HTML/CSS/Javascript expert. Thus layout, or layout during writing an article, is not of supreme importance for me. I expect the framework to handle that all for me. But that was my issue with WordPress. As a normal blogger I am sure it is not an issue, but the tools for blogging about code are rudimentary and not well integrated in to WordPress; basically forcing me to write in HTML (see Set up WordPress). I do write a lot on other sites that specialize in coding and these sites have developed a style called <MarkDown>. The two most common versions are 'StackOverFlow markdown' and 'GitHub markdown'.

MarkDown

Markdown is a very simplistic form of 'Markup' (yes programmers think they are funny with the up/down thing) that is designed specifically to be simple and deal with the common issues of writing word based articles. Coder sites usually extend this with basic support for placing code (or pre-formatted text) directly into the article. It is not designed for non technical people (they should be using a 'Visual' interface not markup) but for the technical writer who does not want the full blown power of HTML, but wants slightly more control than visual interfaces provide.

Attack Vector

WordPress is also infamous for being the target of attackers, thus new attacks are constantly being developed (the joy of being top dog). This can be mitigated by putting your WordPress site on wordpress.com. This not only provides you with free hosting, but they do keep on top of security vulnerabilities and make sure all hosted sites are not overexposed.

If you want use your own domain name (i.e. LokiAstari.com) or any other "featured" services then you either need to fork up the cash (not an insignificant sum) or run your own WordPress site. So I have been running my own WordPress sites. However, running your own site opens you to the vulnerabilities of WordPress attacks. To be honest not a big deal until I actually tweeted about my articles (now very much so).

So the combination of these two issues has made me look for alternatives.

OctoPress

OctoPress was suggested by a colleague Dan Lecocq. It is basically an off-line blogging system that takes your articles and creates a set of static pages. You can then use several systems to publish these static pages. As the pages are generated once (each time you create a new article) the requirements for the hosting system are minimal, and consequently, because there is no dynamic content, there are no attack vectors that can be used against the site. Note: This does not mean the site has to be simple or boring as the pages can still have dynamic content loaded from other sites (like twitter/github/facebook etc.) It is just that the dynamic content will be fetched by the browser from other sites.

The other major advantage is that it natively supports MarkDown. In fact, you plug in your favorite MarkDown engine (I have currently stuck with the default 'GitHub markdown'). So you can write your article in MarkDown, and it will translate to the appropriate HTML.

Like WordPress it has multiple themes, unlike WordPress the user base is small so the pool of user created themes is tiny in comparison (a couple of dozen). Though not as well established as WordPress, you can easily extend it and build your own themes. There are already a couple of themes based on Bootstrap the most commonly forked HTML5/CSS/Javascript web-site project on GitHub.

GitHub

OctoPress also integrates with GitHub Pages a feature of the site designed to allow you to create documentation for your software.

Though this is still not my perfect writing environment; OctoPress is a step up from using WordPress (for me, if you are not used to writing code it will not be good for you and I would stick to WordPress's Visual editor). There are a couple of tweaks I still need to iron out here and there. Once I have got a basic system working perfectly I will talk about exactly what I did. I have some ideas on how to improve the basics which may be down the road a bit (I need to perform more research how others are using this tool so I don't reinvent the wheel).

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