Gems in the rough #14

Full-time Eleventy, variables in Hugo, learning from a nice tweet, using web fonts with internal CSS.

February 18, 2022
Last modified April 10, 2022

Each entry in the “Gems in the rough” series is a collection of tips, explanations, and/or idle observations which I hope will be at least somewhat useful to those of you with websites built by static site generators (SSGs).

Eleventy goes full-time

The popular Eleventy SSG is no longer “only” a side gig for Zach Leatherman, and the web will be a better place for that.

A blog post and an Eleventy tweet jointly announced on February 14 that Netlify is now sponsoring full-time development of the Eleventy project, which Leatherman created in 2018 and has maintained ever since. He joined Netlify in 2020, and keeping Eleventy excellent will now be his full-time role there. According to the blog post by Claire Knight, the company’s Senior Software Engineering Manager:

. . . we recognize the importance of open source for enabling web developers and advancing what’s possible on the web, and we are working to address this. That’s why I joined in January to help build out an engineering group focused on ecosystem integrations and open source upstream contributions. We have an amazing team of folks, including Matt Kane and Tiffany Le-Nguyen, who have been building integrations and contributing to frameworks like Next.js, Nuxt, Gatsby[,] and Svelte. And now we’re excited to have Zach Leatherman move into engineering to work full-time on [Eleventy.] 🚀 This is just the start of a group that will be focused on contributing upstream and to help and support such projects.

In a corresponding Eleventy Blog post, Leatherman said:

. . . I don’t know if you all can tell, but I am so excited. If Eleventy was walking before now[,] we’re going to find out what it really feels like to run.

Handling variables in Hugo

While working on my recent posts concerning how to embed fully static tweets in Eleventy and Hugo (about which a little more in the next item), I learned something worth passing along. It likely isn’t news to you, but I’d overlooked it up to that point.

I used to think it was necessary to use Scratch to get variables’ values out of a loop, due to a known scoping issue within the Go language on which Hugo is based.1 Well-l-l-l, not so. The trick is to initialize such variables with the Go := operator and then assign values to them afterward with the = operator. Or, to put it another way: once you’ve initialized the variables with :=, you can pretty much handle them, from there on, the same way you would in any other SSG.2

For example, the following won’t work:

{{ $myArray := slice "2" "4" "6" "8" "10" }}

{{ range $myArray }}
  {{ $x := . }}
{{ end }}

<p>The value of x is {{ $x }}.</p>
There will be a blank after "is"
rather than the desired "10"; so
it will say:
  The value of x is .

But this will:

{{ $myArray := slice "2" "4" "6" "8" "10" }}
{{ $x := "" }}

{{ range $myArray }}
  {{ $x = . }}
{{ end }}

<p>The value of x is {{ $x }}.</p>
This will say, as we want:
  The value of x is 10.

This ability to overwrite template variables wasn’t always possible in either Go or Hugo, so you can find really old web pages, discussions, and tutorials which could steer you wrong on this subject. However, as long as you’re using any version of Hugo since the release of Hugo 0.48, you’re good to go with the above.

I am perturbed to have remained ignorant of this up to now, since Hugo 0.48 appeared in August, 2018—precisely around the time that I first started using Hugo! Ah, well. As I told you three years ago:

First, don’t be ashamed to admit you don’t know something. Maybe you should be ashamed that you didn’t know enough even to have curiosity about the item of which you were ignorant, but “water under the bridge” and all that rot.

Second, when you belatedly discover the thing you surprisingly had missed, let others know it, too. Life happens and people miss things. They’ll appreciate knowing—finally knowing.

Learning from a friendly hat-tip

This showed up in my Twitter feed a few days ago, referring to those aforementioned recent posts about embedding static versions of tweets:

Thanks to some of the work by @BryceWrayTX, I just made the @wafflingTaylors website even faster and safer for its users (embedded Tweets which are generated at build time). I’m really grateful for their sharing of how to do this.

. . . and these folks are very welcome! Helping others with their website development work is part of why this site is here in the first place. And, in fact, these folks helped me.

You see, when I tried to embed that tweet by using the shortcode explained in one of those posts, I quickly discovered that the JSON it receives from the Twitter API doesn’t give it enough data to display animated GIFs, such as what the original tweet included. It does show a static preview of the GIF, but not the animation. In some cases, that might be just as well, but it definitely wasn’t going to work in the case of this particular tweet, for which the static preview just looked odd.

More annoyingly, I found no way to fix the no-animation-data glitch when I researched and worked with Twitter’s Developer API tools.3 It seems there is some back-end black magic on Twitter’s side which doesn’t translate to what comes through the API.

Anyway, I went back to the stweetv2 Hugo shortcode covered in the most recent post and added some logic which avoids showing any GIFs. Not fun, but necessary, in my view. (I also updated that post accordingly.)

Update, 2022-04-10

I have now learned why this didn’t work with the V2 API. I found the following in the Twitter documentation for the V2 API’s media object:

Note that video URLs are not currently available, only static images.

However, thanks in particular to Chris Swithinbank, I have added the appropriate code to my stweet shortcode from the first of those posts, so you can see that particular tweet as @podcasterJay originally intended it:

Thanks to some of the work by @BryceWrayTX, I just made the @wafflingTaylors website even faster and safer for its users (embedded Tweets which are generated at build time). I’m really grateful for their sharing of how to do this.

(If the continuing animation drives you nuts, just click or tap on the image.)

Of course, this doesn’t obviate the issue, expressed in the first post, with using the really old public syndication API on which stweet depends. But that API also serves to buttress the Twitter-related part of the astro-embed package which Swithinbank started.4 He told me he feels it will suffice until such time as Twitter actually kills off this API. Especially in view of this specific, current limitation in the V2 API, I agree.

Making web fonts work with internal CSS

In the most recent installment of this “Gems in the rough” series, I noted that I’d taken to using internal CSS (i. e., CSS contained within a style element in the head of each page on the site) to get around the overly aggressive caching inherent in Safari, which many of my visitors use, as well as on Cloudflare Pages.

However, since the initial posting of that piece:

  • I fell back to external CSS, to avoid invoking “CLS hell” by loading web fonts on each page.
  • Then, I decided the best way around the whole mess was to use internal CSS after all, but without web fonts.

Only thing was, I figured that was a cop-out, and a lazy one at that.

So I finally (?) came up with this fix: load the styling for only the web fonts via external CSS (i. e., CSS living in one or more separate, linked .css files) while still handling all other styling as internal CSS. That works because (a.) the web fonts’ CSS very rarely changes while (b.) I’m frequently dorking around with the internal CSS and, thus, need to inject it in such a way as to defeat too-aggressive caching.

One added wrinkle is that the single-file Inter variable font—which the site is using as of the initial publication of this post—can induce some funkiness with oblique characters, especially in Safari and Firefox, if you don’t handle its CSS properly.5 As a result, I provide the following in each page’s head, in this order:

  • External CSS file #1, which calls the Inter font file and assigns its subsets.
  • The internal CSS within a style element.
  • External CSS file #2, which fixes Inter’s obliques in Safari/Firefox. And, yes, this has to run last. Trust me.

It’s a little messy in the code, especially in making sure neither the external CSS nor the internal CSS will run afoul of my site’s Content Security Policy; but the final result works well, I think.

  1. You may recall my tortured use of Scratch in last year’s “Go big or go home?” ↩︎

  2. See also this discussion on Stack Overflow and the “Scratch” section in this article on the Stackbit blog↩︎

  3. I had no luck regardless of whether I used my bespoke Hugo shortcodes or the Eleventy shortcode, the latter of which uses a completely different API and a smarter dev’s code. ↩︎

  4. That package came about after the Astro team saw my later post about doing static tweets in Astro. They liked the idea and quickly improved on it in a big way with the astro-embed package, which in time will provide fully static embeds from several different social media platforms, not just Twitter. ↩︎

  5. Things go a lot more simply with variable fonts that have separate regular and italic/oblique versions, as is true for my second favorite variable web font, Public Sans↩︎

Commenting by giscus.

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