Using pelican and github user pages to setup a blog

This post explains how I set up this blog.

I wrote this partly for myself to make sure I had a well documented way to configure development, and partly for my sister @woah_caitlyn so she could copy any useful parts to make sites for herself and for friends.

Create repository

First, I followed the instructions at: and created a new github repo to hold the blog code.

My site is: (source code:

Then I cloned the site down locally so I could work on it and checked out a branch named source. (See the note below on "Github pages branch names" to see why I used a difference branch than master)

Pelican setup

I followed the instructions in the quickstart to set up pelican. One change is that I ran pip install pelican markdown ghp-import to get the ghp-import package too.

Next I ran pelican-quickstart to generate the initial content. Here are the values I used at the prompts.

> Where do you want to create your new web site? [.]
> What will be the title of this web site? Systems Doing
> Who will be the author of this web site? turtlemonvh
> What will be the default language of this web site? [en]
> Do you want to specify a URL prefix? e.g.,   (Y/n) Y
> What is your URL prefix? (see above example; no trailing slash)
> Do you want to enable article pagination? (Y/n) Y
> How many articles per page do you want? [10]
> What is your time zone? [Europe/Paris] America/New_York
> Do you want to generate a Fabfile/Makefile to automate generation and publishing? (Y/n) n
> Do you want an auto-reload & simpleHTTP script to assist with theme and site development? (Y/n) Y
Done. Your new project is available at /Users/timothy/Projects/

I also edited the settings file ( You can see my current settings on github. You can also see more docs on settings options in the pelican docs.


Next, I started the pelican development server to watch for changes and serve the site locally.

./ start

After this you can preview your site at: http://localhost:8000/

Then I created my first bit of content in the content directory. See more docs on writing content here. I used markdown since I'm familiar with it from a lot of other applications. You may know it from github READMEs.

Lastly I needed to publish the generated content (in the output directory) to the master branch so the content would be found by github.

# Add a commit with new generated output
ghp-import -b master output

# Switch branches and push
git checkout master
git push origin master

# OR

# Pushes for you automatically so you don't have to switch branches
ghp-import -b master -p output

See more options for the ghp-import command in the project' README.

After that I could see all my content at:


Github pages branch names

The documentation on where to put generated content for githib pages was kind of conflicting. Most docs say to put it on a gh-pages branch (e.g. pelican docs, github docs showing how to use jekyll), but the docs for githib pages implies that the master branch should be used.

If you are generating a static site for a single repo, you still want to use the gh-pages branch. For example, for my traffic monitor project I created a site to visualize data with javascript using a gh-pages branch.

But for user and organization sites github handles things differently and it looks for contant on the master branch. That means that you need to put the source for your articles, your configuration, etc. on a non-master branch.

My solution to this was to move all my source code over to source and then use gh-import to dump generated content onto the master branch.

More things to do

Here are some things that I didn't do, but you may want to explore.

Custom themes

Cloned this repository into ~/pelican-themes:

Custom domain name

You can follow these directions if you want a custom domain name (like

Disqus comments

I don't think this is too hard, but I leave that for later. For now if you have any questions, find me on twitter.