How This Site Gets Deployed


I wanted to put as much of myself into my personal website as I could. So, what better way to do that than build the entire thing by hand?

I'm starting it all off by using a minimal set of tools. I don't really need a full machine to host my site, since, so far, all of the content is written in static files. I don't really need a fancy templating engine; I've already got HTML. CSS precompiler? I have 25 lines of css including white space, so that's out. Jenkins? Spinnaker? A web browser? Pah.

I'm hoping the articles on this site can illustrate an accurate picture of how I like to view software development: use as little as you need. With this in mind, I like to write software for people that provides them just enough features so they can focus on the thing they actually want to do. In this case, I get to be both developer and user, so I can add features only as I need them from both an engineering need as well as a UX need. This project is just for me.

If you haven't put two and two together yet, I'm overly excited at the prospect.


Ideally, I don't use any software in my coding workflow that I don't need. I'll apply the same concept to the development of this website. Animated menus, commenting sytems and loading spinners are all fun. However, if they aren't necessary to communicate my points, you won't see them here.

This isn't to say "I will never use Javascript or image tags." In fact, Javascript will greatly help me in some cases. For example, when I want to use code blocks in my articles, I'll use Rainbow to automatically parse my code and add HTML tags to it so that they're easier to read. However, I will only include the library in articles that have code blocks. This is easy to do since I'm writing each HTML file by hand. Yeah, that's right.

This website is really only static files, and there is a really good story for hosting static websites directly from S3 buckets. I don't need to spin up and administer EC2 instances, so I won't bother with that. Cloudfront allows me to upload a certificate and have SSL for my files in S3, so that's cool. I use Let's Encrypt (which is free!) to issue certs. Luckily, there is a command line tool that makes this process really easy called certbot-s3front.

Additionally, I want something that will let me deploy my code in a way that doesn't interrupt my flow. Since I do most of my work in the terminal with tmux and neovim, I'd prefer it if my articles could also be deployed from the command line. Luckily, AWS provides aws-cli that will let me manage all of my assets in the s3 buckets that host my site.

But hey, I don't want to manage resources in s3 buckets: I want to publish articles to my site. If I have to manually do the conversion between the thoughts "I am writing and publishing articles on my website" to "I am putting html files in my s3 bucket," I'm wasting time as well as valuable energy with those thoughts.

For this reason, I wrote a small shell script that abstracts the concept of "Upload these files to my s3 bucket." Now, I can just write ./publish.sh index.html articles/how-this-site-gets-deployed.html and boom, I've published this article as well as a new version of my index page that has a link to said article.


It may not seem like much, but consider that this process lets me always think about my articles as articles rather than objects in an s3 bucket. I think this is a valuable concept: humans enjoy abstract processes more than the many technical parts that make up those processes. Therefor, I will be more inclined to write articles as this abstraction allows me to context switch less. I can focus on writing the content of the article rather than thinking about all of the things that come with actually putting the article out onto the net.

The amount of context switching is lessened even more by the fact that every part of this process is possible through the use of the command line. I never have to switch windows while I'm doing work, so I can remain focused on the task at hand. I find this to be familiar to the flow I feel when writing and committing code using git.

A final awesome thing about using only cli tools is I can easily chain the individual parts together to compose complex workflows. This is a very powerful concept; small applications can be written for very specific purposes. Over time, they can be stacked upon one another until there is a professional, seamless pipeline that allows me to spend time on the parts of work I enjoy.

Though, admittedly, I do quite enjoy the process of writing those scripts in the first place.

- ryjo