by Mike Shea on 18 August 2011
I rebuilt Sly Flourish this week into a set of static HTML pages generated from articles written in Markdown processed by a small 100 line Python script. The site is complete HTML5 with semantic tags for articles, sections, asides, and what not. The biggest change isn't technical, but social. I decided to finally remove comments and focus exclusively on the article. Overall, the site is simpler, smaller, faster, and more flexible.
I used Wordpress for over two years to power Sly Flourish. It's a powerful program that builds pretty amazing websites. That said, it tries too much to be everything to everyone. You might not be running a photo gallery website, but you're executing the code to do so every time you run the site. There's a lot of code in Wordpress and it generates a lot of HTML and CSS that you don't need and clients don't need to download and render. There are programs you can add that speed things up, but now you have even more code.
Every few months you have to update the site. If you don't, you risk being hacked. Upgrading is far from simple and often results in having to hand-fix a lot of stuff. It's pretty messy.
So for two years I had hoped to get out of Wordpress and run Sly Flourish the same way I run this website, through processing static markdown files with a python script into a series of static HTML pages. Only one thing stood in the way — comments. But I'll get to that in a moment.
With my new setup, I write documents in Byword, upload them using FTP to the site, and my little Python script generates HTML, rebuilds the home page, the archive, and the RSS feed. The results are all static, and they are very very fast.
Unlike Wordpress output, I have control over every single character of text, markup, and style. There isn't a single element that I didn't want there. It meant I could generate a mobile version of the site that looks awesome on an iPhone in about an hour.
It's fast, small, and fully under my control. I love every single bit of it.
The biggest change in the site is a change I have thought about for some time. I wrote about it before, discussed it with my good friends the NewbieDM and Dave the Game. Removing comments is an unpopular choice, it seems antisocial, stuck up, and isolationist. I had some good reasons though:
It took one such asshat comment to move me forward but I'm really glad I did. My site is fast, small, clean, focuses on what I want it to focus on. The simplicity of the site and the way I manage it lets me focus my attention where I want. I'm a lot happier now.
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