Dead simple DIY comment system for Jekyll.
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README.md
add-comment.sh
comment-form.html
comments.html
count-comments.html
hooks.yaml
sample-comments.zip
screenshot.png
test-page.md

README.md

Dead Simple Jekyll Comments

DIY comment system for Jekyll

  • Works on any repo (Github, Bitbucket, ...) including private ones
  • No need to trust a third party
  • No JavaScript
  • No SQL
  • No PHP
  • No Ruby
  • Only Liquid and one shell script
  • Supports threaded conversations

How it works

  • Each comment is stored as a yaml data file in _data/comments
  • Comments are rendered entirely with Liquid
  • A static HTML form is included in each article
  • Form submissions are intercepted by webhook and processed by a bash script
  • This bash script creates a comment file in a separate branch
  • Comment is reviewed and merged into master

Setup Instructions

Outline:

  1. Install prerequisits
  2. Create a few sample comment files
  3. Render these comments + a HTML comment form
  4. Create the add-comment.sh script
  5. Create a hooks.yaml configuration file
  6. Launch webhook and test the whole thing

Install prerequisits

On Ubuntu:

# apt install yq webhook passwd

Sample comment files

Create a directory for the comment files

$ mkdir -p _data/comments

Download and unzip sample-comments.zip into this directory.

The format of a comment file name is <comment id>.yaml where the comment id is <unix timestamp>-<random identifier>.

Example: 1516695540-quRch1Gi.yaml

The format is carefully chosen: The timestamp makes it easy to show the comments in chronological order, and the random suffix avoids collisions when two comments are submitted the same second and makes the comment id unguessable, should you decide to have some approve/reject moderation link. Each comment lives in a separate file to avoid merge conflicts.

The comment file format looks like follows:

reply_to: /some-post.html
author: John Doe
email: john.doe@gmail.com
text: Nice article!

The above example illustrates be a top level comment on /some-post.html. Had it been a reply to another comment, it would have looked something like

reply_to: 1516695540-quRch1Gi
...

Render comments + a comment HTML form

Download the following files:

  • comments.html, save it in /_includes

    This file displays a comment tree. The replies_to parameter should be page.url. Internally it includes itself recursively to render conversation trees. The replies_to parameter then refers to the parent comment.

  • comment-form.html, save it in /_includes

    A simple comment form.

  • test-page.md, save in the root of your site

    The interesting part is at the bottom:

    ...
    
    Comments
    --------
    {% include comments.html replies_to=page.url %}
    {% include comment-form.html replies_to=page.url %}
    

Build the site...

$ bundle exec jekyll serve

...and open the resulting page: http://localhost:4000/test-page.html. You should see something like this:

Sample comments screenshot

Create a script for adding comments

Create a directory for the comment processing server (preferrably outside your Jekyll directory)

$ mkdir comments-server

Download the add-comment.sh bash script and place it in this directory. Make it executable

$ chmod +x add-comment.sh

The script needs a local copy of your repository...

$ cd comments-server
$ git clone --bare <YOUR REPO URL.git> repo

You can now try out add-comment.sh. The usage is

./add-comment.sh <reply_to> <author> <email> <text>

So, type something like

$ ./add-comment.sh /test-page.html "Your Name" "your@email.com" "Hello world!"

The script does the following:

  1. Makes sure the local copy of the repo is up to date
  2. Clones a teporary working copy
  3. Creates a branch off of master
  4. Writes the script arguments to a yaml file according to the comment file format
  5. Commits and pushes
  6. Removes the working copy of the repo

The reason for creating a temporary copy of the repository is to allow multiple concurrent comment submissions. An alternative approach is to invoke add-comment.sh through tsp which enqueues commands and runs them in sequence.

The script uses yq for writing yaml files to simplify handling of multiline strings.

Create a webhook configuration file

Download hooks.yaml and place it in the comments-server directory.

This configuration says that requests to <domain>:9000/hooks/add-comment should trigger add-comment.sh.

Launch webhook and test

Launch webhook:

$ webhook -verbose -hooks hooks.yaml

Go to <site url>/test-page.html and try to submit a comment. Make sure a new branch is created with the comment. Merge the branch, rebuild your site and refresh the page.

Additional Features

Comment Count

The file count-comments.html counts the number of comments in a comment thread and stores the result in a variable called comment_count. Put it in _includes and use it as follows:

{%- include count-comments.html replies_to=page.url -%}
<h2>Comments ({{- comment_count -}})</h2>

or, a more elaborate version:

{% include count-comments.html replies_to=page.url %}
{% if comment_count %}
<h2>Comments ({{ comment_count }})</h2>
{% include comments.html replies_to=page.url %}
<h3>Add comment</h3>
{% else %}
<h2>Comments</h2>
Be the first to comment!
{% endif %}
{% include comment-form.html reply_to=page.url %}

Nginx and CORS headers

If you're serving the form submission requests from a different host/port than the rest of the webpage, you might need to add CORS headers to your response. This can be done in hooks.yaml. This can be done by passing a -header name=value argument to webhook.

Another alternative is to serve both static files and webhooks on the same domain and port using nginx. The configuration would then look as follows:

...
location /_hooks/ {
    proxy_pass http://127.0.0.1:9000;
}
location / {
    root /home/user/my_blog/_site;
}
...

Email features

msmtp is trivial to configure and allows you to send a notification email about new comments. Such email could contain links to webhooks for accept or reject (merge or delete branch) a comment.

You could also include a verification step by putting new comments in an "unverified" directory, send an email to the provided address, with a link to a "confirm" webhook that moves the comment to the repository.

If you have a CI system that builds all branches, you can include a link to the comment branch to easily review how the comment looks rendered.