The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Plain-text blogging

Companion piece to academic writing workflow, wherein I will mention plaintext lifestyle choices available without the complicated fiddly academic bits such as citations.


How hard can it be?

(long pause)

Software choice

There are lots of tools to do this. There are in fact a few hundred static site generators for plain text blogging.

The top few, for academics at least, seem to be

You can find many more.

Some, like lettersmith take a DIY route; just make a simple blog without excessive abstraction

I use Pelican.

As to why I chose Pelican over Jekyll: I am more fluent in Python than Ruby, and those were the two prominent options at the time.

Due to the inscrutable tides of hype, Hugo/Blogdown might be the most popular move now, especially if you want to access the mind-share of other academics, such as the rbind community.

See also the blogdown-book.

Gatsby is even fancier with so many features I cannot track them, although it is less focussed on my academic needs.

A lot of these are made easier if you have a localhost dev server.

Hugo tips

Caddy has a builtin automatic hugo editor.

Some themes have been tested against blogdown.

hugo-academic is recommended for scholarly types.

Comment systems

I use the hosted Disqus system but it is bloated and suspect, so I seek alternatives.

Here are a few overviews of options.

One could host a server running its own comment system. Schack is a simple node.js nice one supporting various 3rd party authentication. Another simple alternative is isso ( python) it has no third party authentication support so I am nervous about having to do my own account management.

A small amount of work can repurpose github as a comment system, although it is a little clunky, and require your users to be prepared to open github issues if they want to comment, which is nerdier than one would like. This can be made smoother with utterances which automates some of the legwork in github comments at the cost of needing a helper app to run. Similarly, staticman is an (optionally) hosted (open source) app that integrates comments into your source. There is also a hop Go option called remark42

Hosting choice

In the past, I used many online services to handle my information; but I’ve been burned too many times by these businesses going under, or being too inflexible to evolve with my workflow, or relying on me being constantly online, which is not a given in many parts of the world I want to work. Waste of time, loss of data. (So long,,, evernote, google docs…) Fuck that.

The only online services I use these days are:

I pay for the services of github and Zotero in the hope it will ensure ongoing support (actually - github unilaterally declared my account to be free so…). Technically speaking, I am minimally committed to either of them in any case,; all the data I have on these services is in open formats and can be (and has been) migrated to and from other platforms.

Editor setup

There are many options now if you use markdown. A brief note here. Markdown preview extended turns atom or vs code into good markdown editors, including mathematical equations.

For a combination blogging tool and encrypted markdown edition note storing you might want to use something like standard notes, which costs some money when you use the bells and whistles, although might be worth it if you nots include some confidential ones.

Preview tools make it all nicer.

Awaiting refiling

To mention:

Other things to audit for UI goodness: