While charlieegan3.com has been my ‘online home’, my personal site has gone through various revisions. Personal websites are subject to an above average level of tinkering and experimentation. I thought it time to pause and write about the interesting elements of the current setup.

I’ve been using a static site generated using middleman since the end of 2015. What started happily as a GitHub pages site moved to Netlify last year to take advantage of their free HTTPS on custom domains. I really enjoyed using Netlify and think it’s a great tool. At the end of last year; after attending GCPNext I got into playing with the the (free) App Engine Standard environment - charlieegan3.com was the simplest project of mine that I could use to try it out. Most of my projects are Ruby-based and you can’t run Ruby on the free App Engine tier. It was time to move, again. Here’s the setup I’ve arrived at - it’s one I’m fairly happy with.


Prior to my App Engine experiments, I also looked into the Google Container Engine for hosting some of my other more involved projects. I found a tool called wercker that I liked the ‘interface’ for and was keen to keep using on the App Engine for my personal site. The wercker config file; where each pipeline starts from a container image (e.g. one ready to build my site or equipped with the gcloud tooling for deployment) made a lot of sense. So my wercker workflow looks a little like this:

  1. Build - starting point image: ruby:2.3.3

    • clone the source
    • bundle install
    • middleman build -> build directory
  2. Deploy - starting point image: google/cloud-sdk

    • (only ran if build completed successfully)
    • (using the build artefact from the last pipeline)
    • deploy the site to the app engine using the gcloud toolchain.

I’ve found basing each pipeline step in the workflow on a ‘pre-loaded’ image like this makes the deployments quite quick - under 2 mins to build and publish the site.

I had imported my old posts from Tumblr some time ago but hadn’t bothered to check them all for broken links (I found the broken-link-checker to be the best thing for this task). I also realised that my app.yaml handlers where not serving some of my post attachments. After fixing this issues I thought it’d be nice to automate checking internal links before deploying.

I toyed with the idea of serving the site with one process and running the checker against it in a Link Test wercker pipeline. After some looking around I found HTMLProofer, a gem for checking validating static HTML. With the help of a little monkey patching to sort out an encoding issue I was able to set this up as an after_build callback.

Now if I try and deploy a broken link or a page that renders to invalid HTML the site won’t deploy.

Live Status

I have a task that runs every 10 mins on Heroku to update the live sections on the homepage. This is a separate repo and is basically a set of scrapers and API clients for a number of sites and services I use around the web. The task gathers all the latest data from each service and pushes the result to a json file in a storage bucket. There is also a fallback copy of the status file saved into the build directory when this site is built. This project is pretty hacked together; I’d like to make it more modular but for now it does the job. I think the live sections on the homepage are a nice feature.

Noscript Friendly

Until this last weekend the site didn’t load correctly without Javascript, shame; shame. The good news is that it now works fine. The live status panels only display in when the data’s there and the page re-arranges itself. I’ve also opted to add turbolinks to the site as it makes switching pages faster and gracefully degrades in the absence of Javascript.

I think it’s interesting to explore what we can do with a “static site” and think simple projects like this are often a place to try out new things that might be harder to justify in more involved applications.