Learning out Loud in Milwaukee, WI

But Jekyll is not a CMS!

Honeycrisp orchard, my favorite apple
image from wikimedia commons

Earlier this week I wrote another post comparing static site generators to
content management systems
using Jekyll and WordPress (perhaps unfairly) as representatives of their respective technologies. It got me thinking that in writing it I was compairing apples to oranges. Static site generators are not content management systems. They are generators, converting properly formatted input into webpages. To compare it to a content management system is like comparing TeX to Microsoft Office. Perhaps a better metaphor than apples and oranges is apples to farmland.

The things I outlined that static site generators don’t quite have down are really all management tasks. A built-in text editor, management of  categories and tags, clearly defined content types, automatic rewrite rules for if you rename a page, I could go on and on: These are all features a good content manager should have built in. With static site generators you have to do all that yourself, particularly if you’re hosting your site with Jekyll on GitHub pages or want to add commenting to your blog posts.

I am under no illusion that this blog will probably never have anonymous, inline commenting like it did when I hosted it on WordPress, but it was a conscious move to encourage my readers to comment through GitHub issues and pull requests. Most of my comments were fixing my typos anyway and now I don’t have to log in to my admin screen to fix them. They fix themselves! That is all to say, if I wanted to get away from a particular content management system I could have easily switched to a different one, and if I wanted a DIY content management system I could have used Django or learned Rails to build one. Switching to a static site generator was an intentional decision to reassess the value of all the things a CMS would give me by eliminating most of them completely.

CMSs are apples. You know what to expect, they’re easy to eat, and you get roughly the same thing every time. Static site generators are farmland. Maybe you’ll plant an apple orchard, but if you’re not into apples, you could grow something that works better for you. It’s been a fun road
so far, not only learning the new thing, but also appreciating the do more with less attitude that comes with having to do everything up front.