I moved my blog over to Zola, you should too

by Marco - (4 min read)

Blogging

I started this blog like many other folks, on GitHub Pages. It was great at the time. You can have a source repo that compiles to a blog. Neat! Over time though I started really feeling the pain points with it. When I wanted to write a quick post about something I'd often spend hours just trying to get the right Ruby environment set up so I can see my blog locally. When I got an email from GitHub saying that my blog repo has a security vulnerability in one of its Gems, I took the opportunity to switch over to Zola.

Zola

Zola make more sense to me than Jekyll. I think about my posts in a hierarchy. I'd like my source code to match my mental representation. If you look at the source of this blog, you'll see I have 3 folders (code, books, life). In each folder there are relevant posts. I wanted my blog to show the contents folder as different sections. For the life of me I couldn't figure out how to do that in Jekyll. I ended up just using a single folder for all my posts and using the category metadata in the front-matter to create the different sections. With Zola, this kind of just worked. I had to create an _index.md file to provide some metadata, but nothing overly verbose.

I'm not a Jekyll pro...

Or even really any level past beginner. I image if you've already heavily invested yourself in the Jekyll ecosystem this probably wouldn't make sense for you. I'm sure there are all sorts of tricks and features that Jekyll can do that Zola cannot. I'm Okay with that. I really don't need that much from my blogging library.

Zola has 3 commands: build, serve, and init. They do what you'd expect and nothing more. I really admire this philosophy. Whittle down your feature set and make those features a joy to use.

Fast

Changes in Zola propagate quickly. Zola rebuilds my (admittedly very small blog) in less than a millisecond. Zola comes with a livereload script that automatically updates your browser when you are in serve mode. It's feasible to write your post and see how it renders almost instantly.

Transition

The biggest change was converting Jekyll's front-matter (the stuff at the top of the md files) format into Zola's front-matter format. Which was changing this:

---
layout: post
title: Interacting with Go from React Native through JSI
categories: javascript react-native jsi go
---

into this:

+++
title = "Interacting with Go from React Native through JSI"
[taxonomies]
tags = ["javascript", "react-native", "JSI", "Go"]
+++

There was also a slight rewrite in the template files that was necessary since Zola uses the Tera Templating Engine

The rest was just moving (I'd argue organizing) files around.

Prettier Repo

I think at the end the repo became a little prettier to look at. You could argue it's a small thing, but I think these small things matter. It's already hard enough to sit down and write a post. I want every bit of the experience to be beautiful.

But don't take my word for it! judge yourself: Jekyll vs. Zola