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The blog gets a face lift


Well… initially the blog was written as simple markdown posts. Markdown is an obvious choice for a blog, easy to write and maintain. I decided to render the markdown ad-hoc, so I used pagedown extra1. I also added syntax highlighting using highlight.js. This was simple and easy. Integrating with blogger was not too much of a fuss, I just wrapped every markdown post with:

<div class="markdown" style="display: none;">
  # markdown content went here

And added a small js snippet to the theme HTML editor:

// Yup! jquery was still a thing back then.
$(document).ready(function () {
  var converter = new Markdown.Converter();
  $(".markdown").each(function(index, element) {
    var md = element.textContent;
    var formatted = converter.makeHtml(md);
    element.textContent = "";
    element.innerHTML = formatted;
    $(element).find('code').each(function(i, block) {

I also added there the <script> tags with src of the libraries I used, directly hosted from my github account through rawgit. It worked out as expected.

The plot thickens

Throughout the years, blogger made all sorts of changes, that occassionaly caused my blog to break in weird ways. Patching it every couple of years was not such a big deal. But at some point, I decided I want to shoot myself in the foot add \(\LaTeX\) in my posts, so I added MathJax to the mix.

At that point, all the patching I did throughout the years, together with adding MathJax, turned the cute little snippet above into some serious dumpster fire.

Unsuprisingly, the blog became unusable in recent years. Rawgit service has been shutdown. libraries became outdated. And my script broke in weird ways.

Time to refactor

OK then, obviously maintaining the blog with scripts to render markdown + syntax highlighting + \(\LaTeX\) inside blogger is not something I want to continue doing. So I was thinking: what are my options?

  1. Ditch blogger and host the blog somewhere I fully control.
  2. Use blogger with pre-rendered HTML. Without any scripting shenanigans.

I didn’t want to ditch blogger. It’s convenient, support out of the box to some nice stats with google analytics. No need to care about hosting. etc’…

So I tried converting all my posts to HTML.

Attempt #1

I needed \(\LaTeX\) for all the nifty equations and I only used markdown to format the text nicely. Well… that’s exactly what \(\LaTeX\) is for. So I figured I can just reformat all my posts to \(\LaTeX\), and then convert the .tex files to HTML using htlatex. Obviously, I’ll write future posts directly in \(\LaTeX\) instead of markdown. All I needed was to figure out how to do the syntax highlighting for code blocks.

I’ve used syntax highlighting in \(\LaTeX\) before, but needed something simpler and easier to maintain. I went for Listings, as it seemed the most suitable solution. The result was… ok. The scala language2 support was not ideal. The parser/lexer did not recognized stuff like class names, or types. But it’s possible to “help” it a bit, by providing extra tokens with their style. The code blocks themselves were not as nice as I hoped: glitch-lines between the rows But the real deal breaker, was the fact that htlatex was not able to export listings as HTML.

Attempt #2

Even before the last experiment, I had a gut feeling against it. The “pipeline” was not very simple. Export markdown to \(\LaTeX\) → fix \(\LaTeX\) & syntax highlights manually → export to HTML using htlatex → maybe even fix HTML itself?

Well, MathJax already works great, and if I only add MathJax, the integration with blogger should be simple enough. So I went for direct markdown → HTML, and left MathJax inlined in the HTML.

I used pandoc to convert the markdown files to HTML. Unfortunately, syntax highlight for scala code with pandoc isn’t great as well, but I figured I could easily just patch the HTML output directly. I decided this is good enough for now and I should stop shaving this yak. Since I need to touch the HTML output a bit3, I figured I should commit it to the blog repo as well.

What’s next?

So now the blog is up and running again. All posts were converted, and everything works well. I will probably change the theme sometime soon (I chose the first thing just to get on with the tweaks). I also noticed some “inacuracies4” I should fix in some old posts. Perhaps archive the less relevant topics. But I also noticed many drafts I started and never finished over the years5: draft posts I guess we’ll see soon.

  1. I can no longer find the original sources, but I do give credit (with mostly broken links) in the first blog post.↩︎

  2. Which is by far the most frequent on my blog↩︎

  3. Some MathJax expressions contained stuff that pandoc “rendered” as HTML wrongly, and I needed to “undo” these.↩︎

  4. I guess the blog stays true to is name ;)↩︎

  5. There’s some interesting ideas in these drafts I should definately write about.↩︎

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