brycewray.com

Back with Hugo

Well, that didn't last long

Even for me, this switcheroo was quick, as the prodigal comes crawling back to Hugo.

published:  September 20, 2019
last modified:  November 9, 2019

Note: See also this post for why this post went away and, more to the point, why it’s back.

I’m not even going to make a big deal of this, or spend a lot of your time explaining it. I’m just going to say it in what for me is a fairly short post.

I do still like, admire the thinking behind, and anticipate a great future for, the Eleventy static site generator (SSG). A lot.

But this site is back on Hugo.

Yep. The move lasted fewer than two weeks.

This is getting old, fella

If you stopped in here for, as I describe this site, “Opinions, observations, geekiness,” but now you’re getting tired of this meta, this navel-examining: I totally agree with that. You have every right to feel so.1

I suppose this is one of the advantages of having a site with very little traffic. I can eat crow about something like this, and there aren’t going to be a lot of people who see it, know about it, or care about it.

Oh, well.

Anyway, what changed my mind back so soon?

Truthfully, I’m not sure. But here are the reasons that sound right to me at the moment.

The learning curve wasn’t steep enough

That may seem weird, but, as I previously explained, a big part of the reason why I was looking to leave Hugo in the first place was that I wanted to learn more about how JavaScript-based SSGs work.

However, because Eleventy is so easy and so flexible as compared to, say, the inscrutable Gatsby, I just didn’t find it challenging enough—which may be kind of a strange tribute to Eleventy2 and its creator, Zach Leatherman, albeit a “while-I-say-goodbye” tribute.

That said, I re-thought the whole obsession with JavaScript-based SSGs, as well . . .

I changed my mind about Node.js

Although I was initially intrigued by the thought of making use of the many things that a JavaScript-based SSG can pull from the Node.js ecosphere, I decided—as I once had about Gatsby—that the many interdependencies of all the pieces just weren’t worth having to worry about.

While Eleventy does an admirable job of keeping that from its users, it can’t do it completely; and, for that matter, I neither have nor expect to gain sufficient knowledge to write my own plugins to use those many items, and there just aren’t that many such plugins right now. There will be in time, of course, but it’ll take a while—and the better-known competitors are sucking a lot of the oxygen out of the development room in that regard.

Thus, I was back to preferring the all-in-one-box, single-binary goodness of Hugo once again. Then I read something that helped me make up my mind, if such a thing is ever possible with a flighty cranium like mine.

Flavio Copes is ‘waaaay smarter than I (no kidding)

On the day this week when I was pondering whether to revert to Hugo, egg-on-my-face be damned, I encountered one particular article that made the choice a lot easier—if not less personally embarrassing, given the big deal I’d made about the short-lived change.

Back in January, Flavio Copes, the well-known developer and prolific tech blogger (not to mention Hugo user), wrote a piece called “The pros of using a boring stack.” Among his many salient-as-usual points (and the boldfacing is all his):

. . . if you want to create a blog and be serious at it, then use the most boring and bulletproof thing you can find. Definitely don’t work on your blog infrastructure if you want to do any serious blogging.

The tech must go out of the way[;] you should only focus on the content.

Otherwise you’ll spend most of your free time tweaking the blog platform (which — let’s be clear — no one except you cares about) instead of writing content. [And just in case it wasn’t sufficiently clear the first time, he immediately repeats it . . .] No one cares about that infrastructure.

One rule is that you know the pitfalls of your platform, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and you like to imagine new platforms being 100% perfect. That never happens, and the devil is in the details.

That crunching sound you heard was from my toes, getting crushed by Mr. Copes’s words.

(Mind you, if Hugo is “boring,” that’s in a good way, the “I-don’t-get-excited-about-the-air-I-breathe-either” way. Hugo is surely not The Hot Shiny—but it’s definitely bulletproof.)

Over and above that consideration is the simple fact that I wanted this site to be about content, not about the vehicle in which I provide it. Mr. Copes’s admonitions hit home quite surely in that regard.

Still learning, but not leaving again (really)

I’ll keep learning about other SSGs and their respective software stacks. I may even keep trying them—on my own local system.3

However, this site is back on, and will remain on, Hugo. You have every right not to believe that, but you can.

Since I used to spend a lot a time on Slashdot, I’ll offer a car analogy.

Think about a car mechanic—which is really a stretch since I’m not mechanical at all, but it’s just an analogy—who works days making sure customers’ vehicles are running properly, then spends nights and weekends tinkering, as a hobby, on some old classic in his garage at home.

But he keeps the two separate.

Why? Because the day job is not for tinkering. It’s for delivering quality service.

Similarly, this site isn’t for me to tinker. It’s to deliver what I hope is quality content. I can tinker locally. And will.

I will strive, going forward, to keep the two separate.

There aren’t a lot of you stopping by, but I appreciate each of you who does, and I owe you at least that much.


  1. Oddly enough, this isn’t the worst way I’ve embarrassed myself online this week. That’s what kind of week it’s been. But that’s best left there, so I’m gonna do just that.

  2. I also plan to keep giving a small monthly contribution to Eleventy’s development, and still encourage others to do so. I would do the same for Hugo if the opportunity were there, but a look through the Hugo site indicates it has some large sponsors and apparently isn’t seeking that kind of help. If that changes, I’ll definitely put my (small amount of) money where my ever-active mouth is.

  3. Also: as I took a fresh look at Hugo’s docs upon deciding to return, I have found out there’s a lot more under its hood than I knew, and I will spend time getting better acquainted with it. While it won’t be the exact kind of new knowledge I’d originally planned to seek, it will be challenging—and that definitely was a prerequisite.

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