Add comments to a static website: Disqus vs Discourse vs Muut

One drawback to using a static website generator is that there is no built-in platform for comments. You must use a third-party service that provides commenting capabilities or roll your own solution. ThreadHunter has almost no traffic at this point so it did not make much sense to spend a lot of time on comments. The easiest solution was to take a quick look at three popular third-party services that provide commenting and discussion capabilities and choose one. In this post I will describe my initial impressions of MuutDiscourse, andDisqus.

Muut is a commenting and forum platform with plans ranging from free to $96 dollars a month. The Muut forums were easy to integrate into ThreadHunter, all that was required was adding a couple lines of HTML to a template but I initally had some trouble getting the comments to work. The code I found under ‘Settings’ to ‘Place on you site’ for commenting did not work and I could not find a link to help on the settings page. After locating the Muut Help, I quickly found the correct code to add comments to my posts. I didn’t like the default presentation for post comments, which was just a simple comment box, so I decided to move on.

Discourse is an open source discussion platform. Monthly hosted plans start at $200 but you can pay a one time install fee of $99 to get installed in the ‘cloud’ or install it on yourself. For a site with little to no traffic, it is not worth the effort or cost to use Discourse. I did click the ‘Try It’ link to try the Discourse sandbox but I found it to be a bit busy and confusing for a platform that claims to be ‘simple, clean, and straightforward’.

Disqus is a free commenting and community building service that is easy to setup and embed. Disqus makes money through advertising and shares a portion of that revenue with publishers. It is the most popular of these three platforms, has the best documentation, and the commenting system gives a good first impression to the user when embedded in your posts.

Disqus is the obvious choice for ThreadHunter. It is the easiest, cheapest, and most popular platform. I’m not sure I like the idea of a third-party hosting the comments for this site or the idea of advertising in the comments so I may revisit this decision if ThreadHunter ever starts to generate any meaningful amount of discussion.

Building a static website with Hugo

I had two basic requirements when choosing a tool to build this site:

  1. I wanted to build a static website so that I had the freedom to host the site anywhere without having to install, configure, or maintain any server software.
  2. I wanted to be able to write my posts in Markdown. With Markdown, I can write posts with simple formatting both offline and online, on any computer, and with any editor. I didn’t want my posts to be tied to any particular blogging software or CMS.

After some research on Hacker News, StaticGen, and GitHub along with some experimentation, I decided to go with Hugo. I choose Hugo because it was easy to install and run, the Hugo website and documentation was well done, and because it seems to be fast and flexible.

Installing Hugo is as simple as downloading the binary from GitHub and copying it to /usr/local/bin. The following steps illustrate how easy it is to create a new site, add some content, and start a local server:

$ hugo new site /path/to/site
$ cd path/to/site
$ hugo new post/first.md
$ hugo server --theme=lanyon-custom --watch --buildDrafts

Hugo is fast and if you use --watch it rebuilds and reloads content automatically. For a small site like ThreadHunter, Markdown changes are reflected almost instantly in the browser.

My first impressions of Hugo are that it is fast and easy to use locally but I’ve run into issues with broken urls when publishing the site. I’m not sure if this is a problem with Hugo, the Lanyon theme I’m using, or my server configuration.

Look for future posts on Hugo as I add content and work on customizing the site.

Switching from Unity to Cinnamon

I’ve been trying to stick with the default Unity desktop on Ubuntu 14.04 but the menu bars and scrollbars in Unity continue to frustrate me. I decided to give Cinnamon another try and I’m glad I made the change.

Installing Cinnamon takes just a few simple steps:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-nightly
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install cinnamon

After installing Cinnamon, log out of your session and choose Cinnamon instead of Unity when creating a new session.

In addition to the improved menu bars and scrolling, I’ve found that Cinnamon appears to be faster then Unity when opening and closing windows. I’m sticking with Cinnamon for now and I may even try Linux Mint the next time I need to create a VM.

Version control with Git and Bitbucket

Now that I have a simple website up and running it is time to backup my work. Initially I was planning to backup my project using Dropbox or Box, but I decided that it is worth the bit of extra effort to setup Git and get the benefits of a version control system. I decided to go with Bitbucket instead of GitHub because Bitbucket allows you to create free private repositories.

The first step was to install and configure Git:

$ sudo apt-get install git
$ git config --global user.email "you@example.com"
$ git config --global user.name "Your Name"

Next, I committed my files to a new Git repository and pushed it to Bitbucket:

$ cd /path/to/your/project
$ git init
$ git remote add origin https://your-username@bitbucket.org/your-username/your-project.git
$ git add -all
$ git commit -m 'initial project commit'
$ git push -u origin master

Now my project is backed up, version controlled, and easily accessible from any computer.