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last updated 2021-01-18
This site is called mmx

A person building something with bamboo, from The Red Turtle

mmx was built at the start of 2021. Largely inspired by others on [webring], especially [Devine], the site aims to be a long term repository for my writing, notes, and research. Entries on my previous site (a precarious tower of javascript dependencies) were ported over.

The site’s compiler is written in [Go]. It can generate a graph of entries from a modified version of [Indental] as well as markdown with frontmatter.

Entries have names, hosts, titles, and bodies. They optionally have dates. An entry can optionally embed itself in a parent - {reading} being a key example. A reference graph is linked after the entries are generated, enabling inbound and outbound relationships to be formed. {home} is a special case that has its own generator function to render the timeline.

Go’s [templating engine] is lightly used, but it’s often more straightforward to generate the html directly into a string (it’s a “functional component” after all).

If you want to learn more, see the [source code].

Building mmx

I’ve historically defaulted to the technology du jour to build and rebuild my personal and company webpages. It’s worked fine - there have been moments of fantastic efficiency, and others of abysmal reverse engineering of an errant Gatsby plugin.

In the spirit of {self-sufficient informatics}, and heavily inspired by others on the [webring], I sought out to simplify my dependencies, build something myself, and learn some new technologies in the process.

To start, I mapped out my hoped-for characteristics of the end result. I landed on:

[Devine Lu Linvega’s Oscean] served as the primary inspiration. I spent a weekend pouring over their wiki, the underlying C-code, and the ecosystem of file formats and prorgams they created. I could (and should will) write a whole post on the great things I continue to learn from them. The act of reading through their code and reverse engineering the site compilation was one of the most fun weekends I’ve had in a while. I promise I am fun. I gained an understanding of their technical approach to linking and render disparate databases, while simultaneously exploring the content of those databases themselves.

I opted for GoLang as a learning opportunity. Compared to my usual Javascript, GoLang is miles closer to C - the last time I thought about pointers was my senior year of college, if that. I never imagined saying this, but I missed pointers! My impression of GoLang so far is fine. I hardly tapped into the features it is known for, such as concurrancy. But this project served as a gentle introduction.

Another reason I wanted to create the compiler myself was so that I could add features over time that are typically only available on “platforms,” such as bidirectional linking and other memex-style data graph functions. I noticed that Oscean as well as others on the webring were able to do this. How cool.

In a moment of doubt, I played with [11ty] as well as [gatsby plugins] that promised functionality I sought. But after speedbumps with each, always grappling with the obfuscation that make them “magic,” I felt confident that I was on the right path.

For my pages, I opted to use a modified version of the human readable [Indental] format, and started by porting a portion of my site to it, and writing a parser to convert it to Go structs. From there, I linked the structs into a hierarchical tree and created various rendering functions that converted the ndtl entries into html, resting a bit on Go’s native templating engine. It works remarkably well, and I am able to easily add features and improvements over time. For example, I recently added the ability for an entry’s body to contain markdown.

Other features of established web frameworks are replicatable with bash, usually. For instance, “live reloading” was achieved with the following bash:

while inotifywait -qqre modify ./src ./links ./data; do

The site is hosted using Github pages. This is great, because there is no build step. I check in the built files (in /doc) and they are served within seconds. CNAME setup was a breeze.

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The wood thrush, it is! Now I know
who sings that clear arpeggio,
three far notes weaving
into the evening
among leaves
and shadow;

or at dawn in the woods, I’ve heard
the sweet ascending triple word
echoing over
the silent river —
but never
seen the bird.
- Learning the Name by Ursula K. Le Guin

A poem by Ursula K. Le Guin is encoded into unicode’s representation of braille and used as the hr across the site.

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