Thought Pointers

So things aren't lost in memory.

Starting a blog with Toto

A good friend of mine, Jason Larsen, talked to me the other day about an awesome way of blogging. Instead of using some service like Blogger or Wordpress, why not take a minimalist, more hacker-like approach. Write your posts in markdown in simple text files, maintain your blog as a git repo, and simply push to publish your articles. The approach sounded appealing, so I decided to give it a try.

My first approach was using Github pages and jekyll. That probably could have worked well, but in the end I decided I wanted a bit more control of the server-side, just in case I wanted to get more dynamic. So I tried the solution Jason also ended up using: Toto. It’s a simple blogging framework written in ruby, and is only a few hundred lines of code. Nice.

For deploying my blog, I’m using heroku. You can run a simple app on heroku free, and can even point a custom domain there. Comments are provided by Disqus.

Here’s the setup:

  1. Create a heroku account. Install the heroku toolchain and login on your system.
  2. Install the necessary gems. gem install heroku toto thin
  3. Download the Toto base template, Dorothy. git clone git:// YOUR_BLOG_NAME cd YOUR_BLOG_NAME
  4. Create your heroku app. heroku create YOUR_BLOG_NAME
  5. Set it up to use bundler instead of the .gems file.
    1. Edit and add the following three lines at the top: require rubygems' require ‘bundler’ Bundler.require
    2. Remove .gems file rm .gems
    3. Add a file named Gemifile with the contents: source “”

       gem "builder"
       gem "rdiscount"
       gem "toto"
  6. Optionally setup a custom domain, adding a CNAME that points to Then add the domain to your heroku app: heroku domains:add YOUR_CUSTOM_DOMAIN
  7. Signup for disqus to add comments to your blog.
  8. Finish template setup by editing and uncommenting and setting the author and title, and enabling disqus comments. Mine looks something like this: # Add your settings here # set [:setting], [value] #
    set :author, “Stephen Lottermoser” # blog author set :title, “Thought Pointers” # site title # set :root, “index” # page to load on / # set :date, lambda {|now| now.strftime(“%d/%m/%Y”) } # date format for articles # set :markdown, :smart # use markdown + smart-mode set :disqus, true
  9. Finally, push your app to heroku. git push heroku master
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