2019 Rebuild with Gatsby

January 21, 2019

Most of my recent work, the projects I most enjoyed working on have been built on Gatsby, so I figured it was about time to update the ol’ personal site with my favorite static React site generator.

What’s under the hood?

I started with gatsby-starter-blog-mdx and made some modifications to the way blog entries are handled. I want to be able to categorize posts between web development, game making, and any other category that I may fancy writing about.

What did I learn?

gatsby-mdx is pretty flexible

To be able to categorize posts I needed to make sure I had a way to infer the post structure.

My first approach was to query everything and filter the results based on the file path with a regex. The starter organizes mdx content under /content/blog so I figured I could add /content/work to categorize content related to client and personal work. But this didn’t get picked up right away. It requires adding the folder to gatsby-config.js so that it gets picked up by the file-system gatsby source first. The easy fix here is to instead add a root folder, with subfolders under it eg. /content/writing/blog and /content/writing/work and configure /content/writing to get picked up.

Still, regex file path matching feels pretty ugly and clumsy, and it’s too restrictive of an approach. I’d rather have a multi-tag system that would allow writing to be categorized in a variety of ways. Who knows what kind of writing I’ll end up doing here, so I don’t want to box myself in to force every post to be about a singular topic.

GraphiQL to the Rescue

Next I looked around at what is supported by the allMdx query, which I wasn’t able to find much documentation for, but thankfully GraphQL is sort of self documenting so I was able to explore the interface with GraphiQL and find

Hey would you look at that! The arbitrary frontmatter data I’ve added is queryable. That’s great, looks like this will work out perfectly.

Signs of gatsby-mdx’s Immaturity

Incomplete Documentation

While flexible and robust, the fact that I needed to hunt around on my own to discover this fairly common feature highlights some of the weakspots of the gatsby-mdx ecosystem. The documentation site has a lot of pages that just say TODO.

Early Windows Support

Poor Windows support in package tooling usually stems from very simple assumptions coded in about environment variables or file paths.

Spinning up gatsby-starter-blog-mdx raised an error on Windows about not finding a file. An issue has already been raised, and the underlying bug in gatsby-mdx was fixed, but it just needed to be upgraded in the starter. An easy fix, but a frustrating bump to run into nonetheless.

What’s next?

Well, now that I have a nice little system for categorizing my writing, I just need to… actually do some more writing :)

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Lenny Sirivong

Lenny Sirivong is a full stack web developer and game maker.