Rethinking wanderer

It’s been almost two years now since I first built wanderer, and I still use it as my primary tool for building and maintaining my websites.

There have been some pain points, though, now that I’m no longer as close to the development of the thing:

  1. I often forget what the format for template variables is, and don’t have much documentation for wanderer’s templating language
  2. Updating the source code has a larger-than-expected ramp cost. I’ve gotten maybe too used to Typescript, and it takes me a while to chase down the shapes of all the intermediate steps. This is part of the reason why I never got RSS feeds working.
  3. I used a custom Markdown parser too, which doesn’t always support all features. Sometimes I forget that and produce weird pages.

Some of these issues are a direct result of the ‘limited dependencies’ philosophy; I opted to roll my own Markdown parser and template engine instead of using a pre-made one, and I avoided using Typescript for the same reason. (and also to avoid build steps). At the same time, I believe that this philosophy was very valuable, both for me to learn how these underlying pieces worked, and also for making me think about what truly is and isn’t needed. It’s very easy nowadays to npm install a truly terrifying number of dependencies for a single project, and I wanted to see how far I could take this while scrutinizing every dependency deeply.

But perhaps, it’s been at the cost of actually using the tool properly. So for the next version of wanderer, I’ll probably relax my own rules a bit. Tooling has gotten a bit less cumbersome in the last two years. I don’t need to spin up a giant rollup or webpack configuration anymore to use Typescript; esbuild works exceptionally quickly. I’ve made my Markdown parser, so maybe it’s time to switch to one that is better supported (and documented).

I have no illusions that anyone other than me will ever use wanderer, and I lightly discourage people from doing so. There are more robust and full-featured and well-documented static site generators out there. So…I fully expect that whatever wanderer turns into next, it’ll look quite a ways different. Hopefully this means that I’ll be more inclined to maintain it and add on the features I really want.

Like an RSS feed.