2012-01-10

Blogging with Mercurial from the Rocky Mountains

It’s been a while since the last update, but I do have a good excuse. I’ve upped sticks and moved from dingy Birmingham, in the UK, to sunny Littleton, Colorado, in the USA.

So, who’s hiring?

I’ve decided to start blogging about those experiences, but rather than flood this blog with personal posts I’m making a separate blog. But what blogging platform to use? It’s not going to have much traffic, I don’t want to put any admin time into it, I don’t want comments or tags or categories. All I want is to be able to post text as quickly as possible using Markdown.

It would be great if there was a blogging platform for Mercurial like the one available to Github users, but I’ve looked around and haven’t been able to find one. So why not write one?

Here’s my list of requirements:

  • Displays blog posts in reverse chronological order (newest first).
  • Posts are written in Markdown and reformatted into HTML automatically.
  • Posts are stored in a repository on BitBucket.
  • Pushing to the posts repository automatically updates the blog.
  • Allows paging through blog posts.
  • Includes an “Archive” page that lists all blog posts.
  • Has an RSS feed.
  • Maintains a cache of blog posts to minimise queries to BitBucket’s API.
  • Looks a bit like WordPress’ “TwentyEleven” theme, as that’s my favourite theme at the moment.

After a couple of evenings of hacking, here’s the result:

And here’s a demo:

A blog powered by BitBucket and Mercurial. Neat!

I’ve included instructions for getting a BitBlogger instance up and running on AppHarbor, a .NET hosting site that offers a basic freemium option. As BitBlogger doesn’t use any local storage or background events (BitBucket notifies it of changes, rather than BitBlogger needing to poll for updates), it doesn’t need anything above the free package.

I’ve copied bits and pieces of the TwentyEleven theme’s CSS file in order to replicate some of the appearance, so the licence for this application is the GPL rather than my preferred MIT licence. If anyone feels like putting together a simple and very legible theme to replace the current look and feel, I’ll be able to switch it over.