Riding on Jekyll

I recently refreshed my personal site/blog. I’ve been meaning to try out Jekyll, a static site/blog generator, and so I decided I might as well give it a try. This post is about getting a Jekyll blog/site running with Capistrano, a tagging system, and a generator for new posts. You can check out all of the code for my site on Github.

First, you’ll need to install Jekyll globally:

gem install jekyll

I decided to use a Jekyll theme rather than the stock site or designing something from scratch. There’s a pretty great directory over at jekyllthemes.org; I ended up selecting Pixyll, so my codebase started out with a clone of that repository.

I used Photoshop to create an icon for my blog and exported it to the various sizes baked into Pixyll. I also wanted my blog to live in a /blog/ subdirectory, so I added these options to _config.yml:

permalink:     '/blog/:title.html'
paginate_path: '/blog/page:num/'

I also messed around with the navigation and created a page for my projects. Pages on Jekyll are created in pagename/index.html while the navigation, post footer, and other partials are located in _includes.

Now for the interesting parts. I loosely followed this guide to add tags to my Jekyll blog. Following the tutorial’s advice, I created _plugins/tag_gen.rb with these contents, and _layouts/tag_index.html with these contents. I also had to add tag_dir: '/blog/tag' to _config.yml to match my /blog/ subdirectory, and had to add the tags to the beginning of _includes/post_footer.html so they’d be printed after each post:

{% raw
{% for tag in page.tags
  <li class="inline archive_list">
    <a class="tag_list_link" href="/blog/tag/{{ tag }}">{{ tag }}</a>
    {% if forloop.index > 0 and forloop.rindex > 1
    {% endif
{% endfor
{% endraw

Sweet! Now, adding tags to the top of each post’s metadata causes them to be generated and linked at the bottom of the post, like this:

...other metadata...
- jekyll

Next, I worked out how to deploy with Capistrano. I ended up deciding to build the blog locally (to ensure a consistent build with what I was seeing in development) and then just copy the static HTML up to my server - that’s one of the benefits of a statically generated site. I created a Gemfile with the following gems and bundled:

source 'https://rubygems.org'

gem 'capistrano'
gem 'capistrano-scm-copy'
gem 'jekyll'

Then, I ran cap install and set up my Capistrano deployment.

# Load DSL and set up stages
require 'capistrano/setup'

# Include default deployment tasks
require 'capistrano/deploy'
set :application, 'schneid.io'
set :include_dir, '_site'
set :scm, :copy

set :deploy_to, '/srv/www/schneid.io'

namespace :deploy do
  before :deploy, :update_jekyll do
    on roles(:app) do
      %x(rm -rf _site/* && jekyll build)

  after :deploy, :move_site do
    on roles(:app) do
      within release_path do
        execute :mv, '_site/* .'
        execute :rmdir, '_site'
server '192.xxx.xxx.xxx', user: 'myuser', roles: %w{app}

The deployment just rebuilds the site and copies it from _site up to the root of the release path. Easy as punch and deploys in a few seconds.

So far, I’ve had a pretty solid experience setting up my site and blog with Jekyll. I hope this post is helpful to others following the same path.

Zach Schneider

Zach Schneider

Rails, React, & Sundry