Z-Site Refresh, Moving Off Radiant

2010-06-03 20:00:00 -0400

A thing of minor note: we’ve updated the main zetetic.net website. Aside from giving a few of our pages a long-needed refresh, we’ve decided that we really wanted to get all this content out of the database and onto the filesystem.

For a long time, we’ve been using the Radiant CMS to run both the website and the blog. It’s had it’s ups and downs. Radiant is pretty cool, a Rails-based application that has a lot of brilliant tricks for building out a website with a lot of shared content and cross-marketing. However, for us it’s always been a tad volatile and clunky. For instance, it’s easy to accidentally double-submit on a new post to the blog which then creates a page with no parent_id and that makes your whole site impossible to access.

Major version upgrades have been a real nightmare, especially when it comes to getting plugins updated. Plugins are what make Radiant so dynamic, but they tend to be very brittle, and are complex to upgrade with a major update of Radiant. Simple things like tagging or comments really ought to be part of the core system.

Then there’s the memory usage, or rather Ruby’s memory allocator and garbage collector (which could be considered a form of entropy). We don’t see the need to incur and manage this overhead just to provide static HTML content and images.

Finally, we wanted to be able to build out our pages in HAML, manage them over time with Git, and we’ve found that the Ruby gem staticmatic is just the thing for this. It provides a Rails-like project structure, partials, layout capabilities, etc. I even managed to hack in an automatically generated sitemap.xml.

At this point our website is almost entirely static content, with a little jQuery here and there where needed, and the blog itself is still on Radiant, soon to be moved over to another engine. When we have some spare cycles I’ll try to post some of the tips and tricks we employed to make it happen, but it’s nothing that any competent Ruby programmer can’t handle.

As an aside, the staticmatic gem is maintained by Stephen Bartholomew, and he’s doing a great job of actively maintaining the project. The mailing list is pretty active and helpful, and there seems to be a good community of people using it. That tends to give a tool a longer shelf-life and makes us even more confident in our decision to make the switch.

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