As most technology guys I’m also working on different technologies, playing with new stuff, facing some challenges that I end up solving. Always wanted to blog about what I’m working on since if it interests me then others can also find it helpful or interesting.

So I finally decided to create one. There are many blog platforms out there. I’m not really into CMS, I would much rather open Vim, write some markdown, publish it somewhere and call it a blog post. Seemed like what I want is github pages with some basic blogging features. And I found exactly what I was looking for Jekyll. Yep Markdown + github pages = AWESOME. It also has plugins, I’ll give it a try.

It’s ruby based so I had to install ruby in my vagrant vm. Basically what it does it parses liquid and markdown files and generates static site for you. You can view your posts in browser before publishing. Another nice thing I like about it is that it watches files when you change something you don’t need to restart the server (although I noticed that it doesn’t pick up changes to _config file) just refresh the browser (maybe I’ll also explore adding live reload to it.)

So I created my blog app using jekyll new and decided to customize it little bit. Added bootstrap and did little UI work to make it look the way I wanted, made it responsive and all that. Then decided to see how I can extend it so it fits my needs.

I figured I’ll be uploading some images with my posts so it’s a good idea to think about how I’m gonna organize those ahead of time. I think I would prefer to keep all images for a post into a separate directory for that post, maybe give it the post name so things are easy to find. I came cross Asset Path Tag plugin created by Sam Rayner. It’s very basic but also a very nice implementation. Create folder structure assets/posts/<post name> to store images and reference an image in markdown by writing ![<alt text>]({% asset_path <image_name> %}). Elegant!

OK next plugin, sitemap. Jekyll is already nice enough to generate RSS why not try to get sitemap.xml generate also. For that I used Sitemap.xml Generator created by Michael Levin.

And here free lunch ended for me. Turns out not everything is supper simple with Jekyll. I wanted to have tagging feature in my blog also since most likely I’ll be writing about different technologies and it would make sense to provide ease filters for people to use and I already designed navigation based on tags. Jekyll has really easy way to associate posts to categories and tags and to get tags and categories you used in your posts also very easy. But what’s not easy to do is to have tags page where you go and you see all the posts with that tag. I was like ok, there must be a plugin to do it already, I tried couple and got some errors, maybe it’s because I’m running the latest version of Jekyll or maybe I’m using ruby 2.2.0 that’s why and those scripts aren’t up to date. Decided to go more advanced and write my first Jekyll plugin. Why not, they have great documentation and it’s been a while since I wrote ruby, why not get my hands dirty and I write a plugin in ruby. Basically I took the example that was for categories and changed it to work for tags. Decided to share it here in case other find it helpful also.

Uploading to github is also easy, just create a repo in github called <your user name> push your code to master branch of that repo, just like any project you’re working on. Unfortunately if you need to get plugins working this approach won’t do it since github runs Jekyll in safe mode. To get plugins working one thing you can do you can store the code in one branch, build it locally and push the output that’s in _site directory to master. If you’re building a project site and not user/organization site you can have Jekyll code in master and output in gh-pages branch.

Happy blogging folks,