This is a sample site showing how you could build a Digital Garden using GatsbyJs - see those pages for more info on what these things are.


This started because I've been using a private Jekyll site for tracking my personal notes - diary, thoughts, work notes and the rest - for about 18 months, and found it very useful - but it was getting a bit of a mess.

I wanted to be able to search and browse by tags and categories; and I wanted to be able to store more random things. Old history notes, tech snippets, whatever.

Then I was reading up on Gatsby, and I came across this sample digital garden and associated links, and I thought "I could move my diary to gatsby" - so here we are. (See the Digital Garden page for more on gardens.)

Approaches used and limitations so far

Conceptually, diary pages are for continual note taking - the sort of thing I dump as I'm working, usually in notebooks. I'm not really structuring this, beyond every page having a date stamp, a title, a category, and a number of tags.

Wiki pages are for stuff that is longer lived - not time based. Things like project overviews, guides to topics, and the rest. To be honest at the moment 95% of my stuff is dated, but that may change over time.

Firehose is for capturing the mad stream of stuff I might look at, or might not.
TODO up to here.

Technically There is a vague separation between blog/diary entries, and wiki pages, but at the moment the only difference is timestamps - if a markdown page in the /content/ directory has a date in the frontmatter, it's shown as a diary entry and displayed in reverse date order; if not it is shown as a wiki page. By convention wiki pages are in /content/wiki but that's just convention.

Firehose pages

URL routes

The nature of gatsby is that everything is really a static html page at it's base. So to build some browsing state like the "current category" and "current tag" settings, what I actually do is generate a bunch of pages (at build time) that correspond to different states.

Every page has a URL like /category/tag/pagelocation/ - for this page it's /-/-/wiki/about/ if you come from the main page. Those - elements mean "you haven't selected a category or tag".

But this page has a category docs and a set of tags website, wiki and meta. If you are browsing just the docs category, the URL becomes /docs/-/wiki/about click here to see what that looks like - yup, it's exactly the same page, but now the docs category is highlighted on the left!

This magic means the current category and tag stay highlighted as you wander around the site, even though it's a static site. (Yes, you could do this with browser local storage or something, but this way is more normal and doesn't need browser tricks)

How is this done? The gatsby-node.js file is executed at build time and it generates pages for each combination of tag and category needed. That's a fair bit of duplication - but it's just in the generated html, so it's not all that many bytes. And nothing has to happen at run-time, so it's real fast!

the catch

The one real problem with this - relative links don't always work. If you are browsing this page at /docs/website/wiki/about/ then a relative link to ../asciidoc/ won't work, because that page doesn't exist because the asciidoc page isn't tagged with wiki. I need to think about how to fix this - it might need a special link handler :(

Styling limitations

I've set things up for responsive styling - but I haven't actually implemented anything but a wide-screen style which works on my machine!

I plan to fix this - all it needs is some tweaks to layout.css to handle more page sizes. But it's not done yet.

Things that work

Things that are planned or don't work

  • Asciidoc - I had this, but it just complicted scripts and most plugins didn't work, so I've removed it. If you need it, it's in git history
  • Moar documentation needed!
  • Css for other screen sizes - see above
  • Most things don't work for asciidoc
  • probably going to kill asciidoc - if you have no asciidoc pages, gatsby throws an error!
  • Wiki linking and page linking more cleanly?
  • Distinguish wiki pages from blog pages, both in frontmatter and in the UI (probably show wiki pages matching a q)