Blog revamp

7 min. read

New blog theme

   Welcome to my blog Again! I initially picked a theme named Cactus Dark that I found on the Hex website that looked nice and had some kind of programmer feel to it. However, I wasn’t really happy with how the theme behaved on a large screen such as a desktop one. So I went ahead and made some small changes for displays that are large enough to fit the entire menus.

  • There is now a side menu for the navigation.
  • Post related navigation & buttons are a side menu too (I love side menus).
  • There is now a progress bar on post pages that progresses as the user scrolls down the page.
  • I changed the color of few things so the color accent is more present.
  • New comment system that I’ll explain later in this post.
  • RSS Feed now works.
  • New download page layout.
  • A working tag page

Github as a comment platform

   Since the beginning of the transition of this blog to Hexo, the comment system was run using Disqus. On one hand, it allows me to keep a statically hosted website (which is free) and have dynamic comments that do no require people making an account just for my blog. On the other hand, I have to include their scripts which after reading some articles led me to think again about it since I care about privacy. So I took the same route as both of those blogs took and switched to Github for comments while making the few changes I wanted on the theme.

   There are few upsides and downsides to this but I’ll begin with Disqus before listing the ups and downs of using Github as a comment system. While Disqus is pretty handy (you only have to configure the already embedded Hexo plugin and poof it works), it means that users are also required to have a Disqus account to comment on your blog. The way it is designed also requires me to check on it regularly to moderate/approve pending comments, which make yet another thing to check when booting the computer. Comments sections were also automatically created and made available to the Disqus’ thread of the blog when developing locally, creating a new Disqus thread per dummy/draft/test posts that would not even be of any use and would come as duplicates of final post threads.

   Meanwhile Github was not really intended for this, I had to do some work to get it working as I wanted. Since Github is one of those websites I browse almost constantly during my free time this also remove that one more place to check when I boot up my computer. Regarding privacy, I trust Github more than Disqus and the way the comment section is now done is just a single Github API call to get an issue’s comments. From my point of view, all of this has many advantages and makes managing comments easier (even if there are none yet).
   Regarding the user’s perspective, I could imagine arguments that could be seen as assets or drawbacks. The most positive asset is that now, if someone is interested in this blog, they can subscribe to the Github’s repository containing all the issues to get it included in their Github’s feed. As an example, a long time ago a friend told me that he was waiting for me to deliver a mailing list to update him on the blog posts I would make, however, I did not have a proper marketing email setup ready and the mailing list was filled with mail addresses that were most likely inserted by bots scouting for Wordpress installations. Now he can subscribe to the Github repository and have notifications when a new post is released. Users are no longer required to have a Disqus account but they are required to have a Github one if they wish to comment. Since I’m mostly talking about software and programming in my blog, I assume it is more likely that someone will have a Github account than a Disqus one (even if I may be wrong). Looking at the comments of one of those articles that led me to it also made me notice that once a user comments on an issue he will automatically watch the issue and receive emails when some one else comments or mentions him. I can see why this could be annoying but this also means that the user will be notified if someone responds to his comment.

More details

   If you like the new version of this theme, you can find it on Github at Tym17/KosmoKot, it’s mainly some kind of fork from the original theme but when it was at version 2.0, so the version of the theme about 7 months ago from the time this post is released. This gave me an occasion to practice my front end skills as well as learn new techs: Stylus and EJS. And I had a lot of fun doing it. I was also surprised that when looking for an alternative in Javascript to the PHP templating engine Twig, I never found EJS.
   The main things I modified were the features I mentioned at the top of this post. I am very happy of how I made the comment section as the required javascript code to load the comment engine is only included in the pages that requires it.

What’s next

   I don’t know yet. I have a lot of ideas for blog posts but I need to take the time to write them and if they contain pseudo code, test them. A friend of mine was also interested in some kind of condensed form of my open-source findings (I accumulated about 1.3k Starred repositories on Github at the time this post is released), so I might as well finally start doing this, may it be on random occurrences or monthly. If there is anything you may be interested in, do not hesitate to comment below and I’ll look into it!


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