I Updated My Blog to Jekyll!

I've been using Octopress 2.0 for over a decade. The time it takes to generate my site and declining traffic made it painfully obvious a change was overdue.

I Updated My Blog to Jekyll!

Almost exactly ten years ago, I switched my blog to Octopress. At the time, Octopress was a really interesting pre-configured and themed Jekyll static site generator. It was a huge upgrade from MovableType. In the decade that followed, I wrote nearly 150 blogs and spent countless hours tinkering and customizing it–mostly poorly–to meet my needs. I’ve genuinely enjoyed Octopress’s specific set of features, and deciding to move away from it was difficult!

Wait, aren’t you already using Jekyll?

Technically, the answer to this question is yes. Jekyll is at the foundation of Octopress. But the way Octopress 2.0 was constructed, upgrading the version of Jekyll that it was using was somewhere between impossible and difficult.

So why switch, Brian?

Octopress is dead🪦

Unfortunately, at this point Octopress is derelict and appears to be abandoned. Octopress’s creator teased that Octopress 3.0 was on the verge of being released back in 2015. But unfortunately, that release never materialized, and there hasn’t been any subsequent news from Octopress since. In the past ten years, I’ve rebuilt my desktop computer a couple times and learned that some of the Windows prerequisites were so old they couldn’t be installed anymore, and the current versions weren’t backwards compatible. After my most recent PC upgrade, I couldn’t cleanly recreate my Octopress environment. I spent a few days fiddling with it and got it working with newer–but not current–versions of Octopress’ dependencies, but I’ve been worried about whether I did a good job or not. It simply became obvious that moving away from Octopress was inevitable.

Octopress's tombstone in a moonlit graveyard.

Google doesn’t love briancmoses.com quite like it used to.

To make matters worse, Google hasn’t been as kind to my blog as it used to be. Broadly speaking, I think this applies to a lot of blogs–not just mine. I still rank really high on the same search terms that I have always ranked high on, but for one reason or another dramatically less traffic is sent my way by Google. The overwhelming majority of my traffic finds its way to me via Google, so this has led to a significant decline in visitors over the years.

A graph of a downward trend in briancmoses.com's visits since 2019.

I don’t believe that the ancient static site generator is to blame for this drop in Google traffic, but it’s indisputable that I was missing out on more than a decade’s worth of development to Jekyll. I am optimistic that in these past ten years, there have been some improvements to Jekyll that will hopefully lead to an increase in traffic to the site.

Octopress was slooooooooooooow.

I’ve created quite a bit of content in the time that I’ve been using Octopress, and in that time, generating my site has gone from something that used to take a few seconds to something that took quite a few minutes. Generating and deploying my site has been taking way longer than I would’ve liked. How long it takes to generate and deploy both of our blogs became painfully obvious to Pat and I after we launched butterwhat.com. When working on content for Butter, What?!, it takes a moment to acclimate back to how slow it is to when working with briancmoses.com.

A blogger impatiently waiting for the blog to deploy.

It was a surprising amount of work!

I took a look at a few different static site generators but quickly decided that my easiest path was to stick with Jekyll and upgrade to a current version. But between changes to kramdown, the Jekyll Origin theme from zerostatic, upgrades that I wanted to make to my existing blogs, and the consequences of my own shenanigans, I wound up having to update each and every one of my blogs. All by itself, it took me a couple weeks to make all these changes! Beyond that, I spent some time tinkering with other Jekyll add-ins and customizations to the theme to make sure everything worked as well–hopefully better–as they did on my old site!

So what’s new here at briancmoses.com?

Literally everything has changed, but I thought I’d list a few of my favorite changes:

  1. Dark Mode.
  2. Fantastic pagination, featuring thumbnails and descriptions for each blog.
  3. A contact form.
  4. Superior categories pages–you no longer have to scroll through each blog’s contents when browsing a category.

What do you guys think? Did I do a good job?

I actually deployed all these changes at the very end of October. I’ve been anxiously monitoring the site, looking for problems that thankfully have not popped up! I wanted to wait a couple weeks and let it bake in before I started writing this blog. So far, I’ve been encouraged by the feedback that I’ve gotten from the behind-the-scenes content that I’ve shared in the Butter, What?! Discord server and on my Patreon page.

If you’ve got any thoughts on the update to my website, share them in the comments! I’d love the feedback. If you found something broken, please contact me! An embarassing enough mistake surely is worth a coupon at my Tindie store or eBay store!