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aip.dev static site generator

This is the site generator for aip.dev and its forks. It takes AIP files in a git repository and outputs a static website.

Why?

We are not fans of rolling our own tools when off-the-shelf alternatives exist. However, the AIP project has grown sufficiently mature to warrant it.

GitHub Pages normally automatically builds documentation with Jekyll, but as the AIP system has grown, we are beginning to reach the limits of what Jekyll can handle, and other off-the-shelf generators had similar issues:

  • AIP adoption is handled through fork-and-merge and top-down configuration files will lead to repetitive merge conflicts.
  • Our grouping and listing logic has grown complicated, and had to be maintained using complex and error-prone Liquid templates.
  • Jekyll is extensible but GitHub requires specific Jekyll plugins, meaning we can not use off-the-shelf solutions for planned features (e.g. tabbed code examples).
  • Lack of meaningful build CI caused failures.
  • Working with the development environment was (really) slow.

There are some additional advantages that we unlock with a custom generator:

  • We can override segments of AIPs using template extensions in new files rather than modifying existing files.
  • We can provide useful abstractions for common deviations between companies (e.g. case systems) that minimize the need to fork AIPs.
  • We can customize the Markdown parsing where necessary (tabs, hotlinking, etc.).

How does it work?

This is essentially split into three parts:

  • Python code (aip_site/):
    • The majority of the code is models (aip_site/models/) that represent the fundamental concept of an AIP site. These are rolled up into a singleton object called Site that is used everywhere. All models are dataclasses that get sent to templates.
    • There is also a publisher class (aip_site/publisher.py) that is able to slurp up a repo of AIPs and build a static site.
    • There is some server code (aip_site/server.py) that can run a development server.
    • All remaining files are thin support code to avoid repeating things in or between the above.
  • Templates (support/templates/) are Jinja2 templates containing (mostly) HTML that makes up the layout of the site.
  • Assets (support/assets/ and support/scss/) are other static files. SCSS is automatically compiled into CSS at publication.

Of the models, there are three models in particular that matter:

  • Site: A singleton that provides access to all scopes, AIPs, and static pages. This is sent to every template as the site variable.
  • AIP: A representation of a single AIP, including both content and metadata. This is sent to the AIP rendering template as the aip variable.
  • Scope: A group of AIPs that apply to a particular scope. The "general" scope is special, and is the "root" group. This is sent to the AIP listing template as the scope variable.

Templates are jinja2 files in the templates/ directory.

Note: We run Jinja in with "strict undefined", so referencing an undefined variable in a template is a hard error rather than an empty string.

Entry points

There are two entry points for the app. The publisher (aip_site/publisher.py) is the program that iterates over the relevant directories, renders HTML files, and writes them out to disk. The app (aip_site/server.py) is a lightweight Flask app that provides a development server.

These entry points are routed through the CLI file (aip_site/cli.py); when this application is installed using pip, it makes the aip-site-gen (publisher) and aip-site-serve (server) commands available.

Extensions

This site generator includes a basic extension system for AIPs. When processing AIPs as plain Markdown files, it will make any Markdown (level 2 or 3) header into a block. Therefore...

## Foo bar baz

Lorem ipsum dolor set amet

Becomes...

{% block foo_bar_baz %}
## Foo bar baz

Lorem ipsum dolor set amet
{% endblock %}

That allows an overriding template to extend the original one and override sections:

{% extends aip.templates.generic %}

{% block foo_bar_baz %}

## My mo-betta foo bar baz

Lorem ipsum dolor set something-not-amet
{% endblock %}