A blog-aware website for coders
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balisong-content @ a8313b8


Balisong: A blog-aware website for coders


Balisong believes that:

  • A coder should have a website that they hack on and customize.
  • The best way to edit website content is with your favorite text editor.
  • Source code sections in blog articles should be a first-class citizen, stored as source files rather than cut & pasted into the article text.
  • A static site isn't enough. A lot can be done with JavaScript but sometimes you need some server-side functionality.
  • Content should be separate from the app and should be deployed/updated separately.
  • Content should be able to be versioned and managed as easily as source code already is.


  • A post or page is simply a directory of files. There's a main file (think of it as index.html, but it can be Markdown, Textile, HTML, whatever), plus included partials, image files, source code files, and downloadable files of any type.
    • Text can be written as Markdown, Textile, HTML or plain text.
    • Posts/pages can consist of multiple parts: text, code blocks, and images. Parts can be separate files and can be included by each other.
    • Code blocks can be separate source code files so that they can be tested, edited with syntax highlighting in your favorite editor, and so that you don't have to copy & paste.
      • Code is rendered using syntax highlighting
      • Any partial (i.e. "include" file) can be rendered as code, so you can have an HTML partial that gets rendered either as HTML or as source code (or both).
  • All data is stored using Git (including dynamic data such as comments if/when that gets implemented). (It uses GitModel)
    • Content can be edited locally and deployed to the production server using Git without redeploying the app.
    • Content can also be pushed to a public repository like GitHub where people can follow it for updates and fork it to contribute articles.
    • Backing up the site's data is just "git pull" (no need to bother with dumping a database).
    • The site's data can be rolled back to any previous version, and all history is kept forever (stored efficiently by Git).
  • Atom feed with autodiscovery link
  • Easy to hack on and customize
    • Balisong is a Rails 3 app using Haml and Sass
    • Good test coverage with Cucumber and Rspec
  • Good design foundation


It's a standard Rails app, but you'll want to customize it. The best way to do that is to fork this repo on GitHub. Please do send pull requests for general changes.

There is sample content added as a Git submodule, do git submodule update and it will be cloned into the balisong-content directory.

Obviously you'll want to customize the look, which is done by editing the files under /app/views, /app/stylesheets, and the files under /public.

There are also some important configuration options that need changing, such as the location of the git repo that contains the posts and pages. Search for CHANGEME comments in the code. (grep -r CHANGEME).

Getting started

  1. Deploy the app somewhere
  2. Create a new Git repo for the site content by running RAILS_ENV=production rake balisong:db:create on the server
  3. Edit your content locally and push it to the repo on the server (TODO instructions) OR: edit the content on the server in the Git repo that you created in step 1 above, and commit it
  4. Profit!

Format of pages and posts

The content database (i.e. the Git repo where the page content is stored) has a directory named "pages" at it's root, and inside that it has a directory for each page or post.

For an example, see the content for pauldowman.com. Some notable pages to look at are:

So each page or post is a directory inside CONTENT_ROOT/pages. The directory must contain two files:

  1. A file for your article text named "main.ext" where "ext" is one of the supported file types ("md", "markdown", "textile", "html", etc.) (TODO list supported formats)
  2. A file named attributes.json for the article metadata such as title and categories

The metadata file

The attributes file is in JSON format, it's content should look something like this:

    "title": "My favorite bourbons",
    "categories": [ "Alcohol", "Delicious things", "Bourbon", "Whiskey" ]

The content files

The main content file ("main.md" or "main.textile", etc.) can include other content files. The syntax looks like this:

{{ filename | formatter }}

The formatter argument can often be omitted if it can be guessed by the filename extension, for example the following are equivalent, and will include the file named knobcreek.markdown, rendering it as HTML:

{{ knobcreek.markdown | markdown }}

{{ knobcreek.markdown }}

But it can also be used to render a file in a different format, for example as source code. For example, to render the file named knobcreek.html as source code with syntax highlighting you would do:

{{ knobcreek.html | code(html) }}

Note that you could also have the following which would simply include the file as HTML to be rendered normally by the browser:

{{ knobcreek.html }}

Some more examples:

Ruby code:

{{ whiskey.rb | code(ruby) }}

Only specific lines from a source code file:

{{ whiskey.rb | code(ruby) }}

Plain text files can be rendered in <pre> blocks:

{{ makersmark.txt | text }}

Image files are rendered as images inline in the HTML (i.e. as ≶img> tags)

{{ bulleit.jpg | image }}

Any type of file can be rendered as a download link, and when clicked the browser will prompt to download the file instead of displaying it:

{{ archive.zip | download }}

{{ bulleit.jpg | download }}

The included content files can, of course, include other files. (Recursive includes are detected by the app hanging forever or crashing or something, I haven't tried it. Definitely not recommended.)

Pages vs. Posts

Blog "posts" are simply pages that have a date as part of the directory name in the format YYYY-MM-DD-post-id-string.

"Posts" have a URL that includes the date, e.g. http://yourblog.com/2010/11/27/my-favorite-bourbons while normal pages have a url that is simply the page name, e.g. http://yourblog.com/my-favorite-bourbons.

Posts (as opposed to Pages) show up in the "Recent posts" list.


Here are some attributes that you can use in the attributes.json file:

  • title: This is the title of the page/post, of course.
  • categories: An array of category names.
  • site_menu_position: An integer. If this is set, it determines where this page appears in the site menu (navigation links that appear on all pages).


Contributions (with tests!) are welcome. Balisong uses Cucumber and RSpec. To run the tests, do rake spec cucumber or AUTOFEATURE=true autotest.


To do

  • Update to Rails 3.1
  • Documentation
  • Comment support
  • Search for TODO in the code and Cucumber features tagged with @wip