New blog hosting

Previously I concluded that the thing that I most care about is the ability to host content. I don’t care about comments, nor do I care about a shiny WYSIWYG editor - in fact, I’ve become habituated to writing plaintext MarkDown. This led me to conclude that rather than using a platform like Blogger, I could likely get by with a static site generator. This has the additional benefit of additional portability, since I just need someone who can host static HTML.

After doing a brief bit of research, I settled on Hugo as my static site generator of choice. This was mostly because the most common thing (Jekyll) is written in Ruby, which I have ~no experience with. Pelican was another option, but I didn’t see any strong argument in favour of one over the other, so Hugo one due to recommendations from other people.

I then needed to migrate my existing content from Blogger into Hugo markdown. This was a little annoying, but not disastrously so. I downloaded an XML backup of my existing content from Blogger. I then used blogimport1 to generate Markdown from that XML backup. Here is where I ran into a couple of issues.

Firstly: the import tool assumes that all timestamps in the XML export with specify a timezone offset.

t, err := time.Parse("2006-01-02T15:04:05.000-07:00", v)

In my case, several of my blogs were written when my local timezone was UTC, and hence the ISO8601 timestamp didn’t include an offset. I worked around this by adding +00:00 to the timestamps in my exported data where appropriate, using sed. So far so good.

The second issue I ran into: the Blogger WYSIWYG editor had embedded raw HTML styling in the export of my blog. This raw HTML ended up in the converted MarkDown. Worse, different blog posts had somehow ended up with different styling for the same effect (e.g. <b> vs <h1> for headings).

Some stuff was trivially fixable - for example, it was easy enough to write a vim substitution for links of the form:

<a href="http://example.com/blah">blah</a>

And replace them with:

[blah](http://example.com/blah)

However, for much of the styling, I ended up just hand editing/cleaning things up by hand in VIM.

Once I had well formed Markdown, the next step was to get them being served up in Hugo. Hugo’s getting started documentation is pretty good. I also needed to find a theme - there are several themes for blogs published on the official site.

This is where Hugo’s documentation fell down a bit, to be honest. It took some work to find a minimalistic theme with pagination, and how to distinguish between pages and blog posts; I ended up settling on this theme called coder.

Finally, I wanted to find a hosting provider. For now I’m using Netlify. They’re a general “host web projects” company. Nice things I’ve noticed:

The one thing that they’re missing is IPv6 support, which appears to be a limitation of DigitalOcean. The lack of v6 is annoying, but not enough so to motivate me to move given the other convenient features Netlify provide otherwise.

TODO(msuriar): at some point I should publish the repo for this blog, including the Hugo config.


  1. There are import tools recommend on the Hugo migration page. [return]