Moving my site off of Blogger

I was having two problems with the setup of this website. First, I wanted to factor out the experiment in vulnerability and transparency that I have been doing by keep a log of my daily goals, progress, and insights at Hacker School. I like the experiment, but I wanted it to be separate from articles I write more deliberately.

The second problem was that I wanted to migrate from Blogger.

Blogger has advantages. It is easy to set up, and freely hosted. It has themes, comments, and a variety of plugins. You can export your stuff if you want to, so you aren't completely locked in.

However, Blogger is not a good match for someone who wants fine-grained control over her content. My use of Blogger for the three sites I have hosted on it has consisted of the following elaborate dance:

  1. Edit my post in reStructuredText 1.

  2. Convert my post into HTML using a custom script I adapted from rst2blogger 2.

  3. Cut and paste my post into the Blogger compose form, click Preview, and see if it looked ok.

  4. Repeat until all typos and other issues were resolved.

  5. Click Publish.

The result of all this work was a site that looked more-or-less how I wanted it to in some ways, but was frustrating in others. For example,

  • I couldn't change the css styles that went with a given theme, (and some of them were really dysfunctional).

  • I couldn't make the site not a blog — the blog assumption is that your most recent content ought to be your most prominent, and this is not an appropriate assumption for some of my use cases. I sometimes found myself putting off making a post that was less compelling until I knew I could follow it with a better one quickly! The restrictiveness wasn't serving me.

Also, a little independence from Google seems healthy.

What I really wanted was a static site generator, with no dynamic logic on a server-side database. I wanted my whole site complete and rendered on my local machine to do with what I liked. In other words, I wanted a static site generator.

Choosing a static site generator

My criteria were:

  • Open source

  • Python

  • Works to generate non-blog sites.

This gave me two choices that I knew of: Pelican, and Nikola.

I have had my eyes on Pelican for some time now. I didn't like the way the resulting websites looked, though, until recently. They had a jarring "I'm a programmer, not a designer" feel. Being a programmer and not a designer, I can't articulate it much more precisely than that. These days, the sites look fine to me. The docs are well written, the code looks good, and people whose opinions about such things I respect use it.

In the meantime, I also found out about Nikola, which was recommended by another respected coder-friend.

I decided to use Nikola, in part because it has a plugin to import from Blogger, and in part because the above-mentioned friend offered to help me.

In the next post, I'll describe how I ported my Blogger blog into a Nikola blog.


I used to write in pure HTML, but after much goading from Zooko, I switched to rst. I'm glad; I find rst more flexible.


I didn't want the script to deploy it, because I didn't want to trust the script with my Google authentication, so I took that part out. I also changed some heading styles that Blogger doesn't render well.


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