Rodrigo Rosenfeld Rosas

Site's Debut

Tue, 16 Mar 2010 20:40:00 +0000

For my first article, I chose to write about the reasons that resulted in my decision to finally develop my site, as well as talking about its technical structure and why I have taken such approach.

Motivation

I have been considering writing my site for a long while. There were lots of subjects I had interest in writing about, but for several years I really had no free time to do it. There were tons of distractions I had to deal with: graduation, writing my master thesis, looking for jobs, working, marriage, more working. When I had some time at night, I was really exhausted.

During this time, I considered using some ready to deploy system, such as Blogger, Wordpress and others, but I didn't like the idea of loosing control over by articles. Although customizing Wordpress was an option, it is written in PHP, so, in short: no, thanks. I wanted my site to be exactly as I desired and these tools wouldn't allow me total flexibility over it and I guessed it would be too hard to migrate all my articles to a new system later if I decided to.

When I found some available time at night, I came to think in building my own site, in my way, with Rails. But I always faced the same problem. I wasn't inclined to invest money regularly on some hosting provider when I didn't intended any payback from my site. I never found a free hosting service either that supported Rails and neither was willing to develop my site with other framework.

Recently, lots of blogs that I follow commented about Toto. So many of them that I decided to get a deeper understanding of it and doing some tests. Toto is a blog system written in about 300 lines of Ruby code, in top of Rack.

Toto was the reason that made me decide to finally write my site. These were the main ideas that inspired this site design:

  1. The articles get stored on disk, instead of a database. This allows easy version management of the articles, using my favorite version control system: Git.
  2. Comments are managed by Disqus, a system I had never heard of before and that is just fantastic!
  3. Finally, the main reason was that Toto increased my interest in Heroku. I had already read about it before, but every time I tried to understand what was it about, I didn't get the idea instantly and, with little time to read all my feeds, I ended up not being interested enough for digging deeper. After reading more about Toto, I understood that Heroku was a service that would allow me to host a Ruby web application with no cost. My sincerely thanks to Toto and Heroku who made this site possible!

Why not Toto?

My first attempt was doing exactly Toto's recommended procedure. As long as I developed my site with Toto, I faced some obstacles:

  1. The first one was related to code highlighting. This one was easy to solve after following some instructions found in some blogs, explaining how to embed CodeRay in Toto, for instance.
  2. The next challenge was about internationalization. I wanted to write articles both in English and Portuguese. I wanted some support for internationalization and Toto didn't worry about this, as it was designed to be minimalistic. I don't blame it, but this was a concern while writing deciding or not to use Toto.
  3. Finally, I wanted to group my articles in directories for organizing the articles by topics such as Ruby/Rails, general programming, operating systems, infrastructure, etc.

Fortunately, Toto is so compact and well written that it is a trivial task to adapt it in a full Rails application and change it to meet my expectations. Rails has I18n native support, so I only needed to implement the topics organization.

Basically, the main ideas implemented on this site were extracted from Toto. I'm very grateful to its creator Alexis Sellier for the inspiration that resulted on this site.

No databases are being used for now. Site statistics are handled by Google Analytics. The images used in this site are hosted at Amazon S3 and Ultraviolet is the installed code highlighter. RDiscount was chosen for parsing Markdown.

Given the opening, I hope you enjoy the next articles.

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