Why Blogofile?

| categories: python

I recently started following Planet Python, and two posts by Mike Pirnat caught my attention: I have to admit that if after the first post I did not really try to learn too much about Blogofile, -- “Yet another blog engine”, he thought -- the second post, however, got me more interested: pushing a changeset to publish a new blog post, that looked exciting and I decided to learn more. That led to this blog.

I've been meaning to start a technical blog for some time now, but I never quite found a setup that would look appealing enough for me to do it. Blogofile got me started: let's find out why.

Not a $wordpress

I guess that we all fall for free stuff or simplicity, but I'm still fairly amazed by the number of developer blogs that are hosted on Blogger or Wordpress.com: my experiments with those services have not been so great, and most of all, posting any kind of code seemed, at the time, difficult. But, fair enough, setup is simple, and every penny you save is a penny you can spend on troll food.
Using a blog platform was not an option for me: I want control over the content I serve, and, ideally, a blog would only be a starting point.

But then, for those that do spend time setting up a blog themselves, why would you pick $wordpress? ($wordpress being a placeholder for any CMS serving content dynamically). And this applies to me as well: why did I only consider dynamic applications so far? Afterall, we're geeks, we're good coders! We write blogs about code generation or compilation, Vim good practices, about details of load balancing or cache invalidations, but we would not be able to come up with a few lines of Python to generate HTML from a set of files formatted with ReST or markdown? Ridiculous! No, the reality is that most of us have hard-coded the blog == dynamic equivalence in our minds, and that it's hard to work around it.

Static goodness

What's dynamic in a blog? Article content, and comments. Do we need a database for this? I say that comments can be handled by Disqus: you can argue with that, I'm pretty sure that the FSF will someday pick up a fight against such platforms, but the service is good enough for me, and I can risk losing this data. For articles, you are in control, and from my viewpoint, we can afford to regenerate pages each time we write a post.
A blog is not this dynamic.


We're getting fairly good at serving dynamic content. But still see a lot of blogs that get fireballed or go down after a couple hundred visits from a news aggregator: setting up a dynamic stack is quite easy; mastering this art is something else. Static content, on the other hand, is easier: Nginx with proper Cache-Control is a good start.


My first hacks as a kid were done on PHP. I used PHP to send and receive Caesar cyphered blobs to my friends; I was creating pages issuing 50 or so unindexed requests to MySQL... I was young.
I then forgot about this sandbox. And when a nostalgic myself visited it years later... My browser blocked my request, warning me that I was accessing a malicious website. Hacked, of course :)
Static content means less things to sanitize, less permission issues. Happy me.

User control

I'm the kind of person that has troubles writing a lot of text without my favorite editor. Here, I wrote this post in Vim. I hit :make, the site is regenerated. I have a “high-end” SimpleHTTPServer running in background, and I can preview everything offline, without a complex setup. I also know that everything I view offline will be rendered as-is online: no backend can play tricks on us.

I version everything in a Mercurial repository.
“Backups” are achieved with a simple hg clone.
“Deployments”? hg push and a changegroup hook.

The core blogofile sources are a mere 1200 lines of Python.
The blog controller is an additional 500 lines.
That's really easy to analyze or patch, if you think that will ever need this.

I have yet to find something I really dislike about blogofile.