Starting From the Middle(Man)

Decided to give Middleman a try for the new blog, after trying out about a dozen static site generators (and a handful of CMS’s). The rundown went a little like this:

(links included for posterity, and in case you choose to explore something other than Middleman):

Ruby

Jekyll

Seems to be the de facto static site generator built on Ruby (it’s the engine powering Github’s blog/pages/something of the sort). I gave Jekyll a try before attempting any of the other options. Some of the development tools I consider standard required additional configuration (e.g. SASS and Livereload) and Middleman had these tools integrated standard.

Octopress

I formerly ran this site on Octopress. Far too much “voodoo magic” going on for me; something would work one week, and then mysteriously (or at least mysteriously from my perspective) blow up after an update to the core or installation of a new theme. Ultimately, having a simpler starting point that I understood instinctively felt like the better choice. v3 finally seems to be coming along (as of a month or so ago), but given progress-to-date this may or may not be finished soon enough to warrant waiting.

Node

Wintersmith

Worked well out the door, and basically looks like Middleman’s cousin in Node. Middleman still seemed to have the slight edge in terms of existing plugins and community support, but I think Wintersmith might be something worth exploring in a future update of this blog or smaller brand site implementations.

Metalsmith

Could not get SASS or Livereload working on initial install. Docs were a little too sparse to help troubleshoot, so I was forced to move on.

Assemble

The promise of being able to use Grunt as the foundation of the publishing workflow makes Assemble a very strong candidate. Unfortunately, this being my first real foray into a static generated blog, I needed little more hand holding than Assemble provided. I could also see this being a good option for something a little less opinionated than a blog, so I may come back to it for custom site builds.

Ghost

Mobile support is still underway, and the plugin architecture has yet to be implemented. Having a strong core team implementing something like a stats dashboard does have a lot of appeal, but this might be a bigger appeal for a non-/semi-technical blogger who doesn’t have the same itch to tweak settings that I have as a developer.

Conclusion

Middleman’s stable initial blog configuration, solid plugin community, clear documentation, and balance of opinion and modularity ended up being the best fit for me. That being said, there are a lot of strong contenders in this arena, and the needs of your project or blog might make one or the other tool better suited to your particular needs.

What’s most important is that this setup is minimal enough to allow me to make new posts without worrying that updates or versioning issues will melt down my generator. This means I can focus on the most important part of having a blog: writing.

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