Dumbing Things Up

bwidawsk.net 2.0

written by ben on 2021-02-19

Table Of Contents


After a lot of effort over short stints in the last several months, I have completed my blog migration to Lektor in the hopes that when I migrate again in the future, it won't be as painful.

Despite my efforts, many old posts might not be perfect. This is a job for the wayback machine

In case you're curious I did this primarily for one reason (and lots of smaller ones). I wanted my data back. Wordpress is an open source blogging platform with huge adoption. It has a very large plugin ecosystem and is very actively updated and maintained. While security issues have come up here and there, at some point automatic updates became an option and that helped a bit. In 2010 it was the obvious choice.

If you've gained anything from my blog posts, you should thank Wordpress. Wordpress' ease of setup and relative ease of use is a big reason I was able to author things as well as I did.

So what happened - plugins

I wanted my data back. It was a self hosted instance and I had all my information stored in a SQL database. Obviously I never lost my data, but...


I used plugins for my tables (multiple plugins). I used plugins for code highlighting. Plugins for LaTeX. Plugins for table of contents, social media integration, post tagging, image captioning and formatting, spelling. You get the idea. The result of all this was I ended up with a blog post that was entirely useless in its text only form. Plugins storing the data in non-standard places so it can be processed and look fancy.

The WYSIWYG editor interface was a huge plus for me. I spent all day in front of a terminal breaking graphics and display (meaning I really was in front of an 80x24 terminal at times). I didn't want to have to deal with fanciful layout engines or styles. Those plugins ended up destroying the WYSIWYG editor experience and I ended up doing everything in quasi markdown anyway.

Plugins themselves introduced security issues when they weren't intentionally malicious anyway.

What was next?

These static site generators seemed really appealing as a solution to this problem. Everything in markdown. Assets stored together in the filesystem. Jekyll is obviously hugely popular. Hugo, Pelican, Gatsby, and Sphinx are all generators I considered. The number of static site generators is staggering. I wish I could remember what made me choose Lektor, but I can't - python based was my only requirement.

Python because I wanted a platform that did most of what I wanted but was extendible by me if absolutely necessary.

Migrating was definitely a lot of work. I was tempted several times to abort the effort and just rely on wayback machine. Ultimately I decided that migrating the post would be a good way to learn how well the platform would meet my needs (that being an annual blog post or so)

There are definitely some features I miss that I may or may not get to.

  1. Comments. There is disqus integration. I'm not convinced this is what I want.
  2. Post grouping. There is categories. It was too complicated for me to figure out in a short time, so I'm punting on it for now.
  3. I'd really like to not have to learn CSS and jinja2. I can scrape by a bit, but changing anything drastic takes a lot of effort for me.


I followed this. I did have to make some minor changes specific to my needs and posts did still require some touchups, in large part due to plugins and my obsessive use of SVG.

See you soon

Now that I'm back, I hope to post more often. Next up will be a recap of some of the pathfinding projects I worked on after FreeBSD enabling