Learning Hugo, migrating Tumblr, hating it all the way.

I’m currently learning the ins and outs of Hugo static site generator, while using my Tumblr as a case study, and thus a reason to learn. I’ve been relying on this YouTube tutorial series, and the official Hugo documentation.

Coding and markup for webmastering have always been a two steps back, three steps forward, process for me. All self-taught, amateur, and learnt piecemeal, through poring through documentation and online advice, the occasional guidance from friends (usually serendipitous), and hours of trial-and-error and troubleshooting.

People in my (Myers-Briggs) personality type category tend to gravitate towards programming and coding. I suppose I have a knack for it, and I seem to insist on hand-crafting websites myself, so I must find some enjoyment and value in webmastering. But there’s something that separates webmastering from other my “crafting/creative” hobbies such as writing and drawing. I can enter flow states in the latter two, lose myself in the process of making art or writing stories. Hours pass by, and I never ask myself whether art or writing is worth it. (The questioning usually happens after the fact, when I’m out of the flow.)

I make websites, but I can’t bring myself to say that I love the process, nor have I ever been aware of entering a flow state. Webmastering differs from art/writing in that it’s only enjoyable insofar as it gives returns on investment. At every step, the back of my mind is constantly evaluating, “is it worth it?”


I’ve started manually importing (copy-pasting) my Tumblr to a Hugo static site. About 20% of the way through currently. It’s slow and time-consuming, but straightforward to execute.

The Hugo documentation lists several Tumblr-to-Hugo importer scripts. I go look at them, and finally run up against the hard boundary of my self-taught coding knowledgebase. The readmes are couched in elusive terms; it’s like listening to a conversation that is kind of going over my head. (“You shall be hearing but not comprehending.”) Those importers are about 4-5 steps removed from my scope of understanding.

So, I evaluate.

Do I download (eg.) Ruby on Rails or Python to run the importer? How do I download and install RoR/Python? Does it work in Windows PowerShell, or do I have to download something else just to get it operational in the first place? How does RoR work anyway, what is it meant to do? Can I dredge up 20-year-old memories of Python programming from high school? How much documentation do I need to read? If I go through that trouble of installing RoR/Python, can I just copy-paste the script in the Readme, and will it work? If it doesn’t work — how much time and mental energy have I already expended to reach this point, and how much more do I have to expend to achieve success?

What are those 4-5 steps removed from me, and how do I go about taking them? So, is it worth making those steps to do one specific thing?

Maybe it’s better to just keep on manually importing those posts, laborious and boring as it may be, and I can do better things with my time.

At the same time, why am I so unwilling to learn something new, and what does this say about my openness and teachability?

–Yet, just to do one simple thing.

–But this is a new skill, this is expanding your mind, Vega.

–Very well, how does learning Ruby on Rails serve my end goal of making a commonplace book hosted on my own domain?

And this is the dilemma. My unwillingness to learn, my stubborn ignorance, the hard limits of my present knowledge, and the opacity of people sitting inside the room discussing a specialized topic, while I stand on the outside, looking in through a glass darkly…. all this drives me pointless rage.


Perhaps this is why I never achieve flow in webmastering.

Yet – coding a website is a means to an end: a scaffold to build my creative works on. The scaffold has never been the main event, and something (else) in me stubbornly refuses to compromise on my real ends.

Manually importing my Tumblr will serve those ends too. It would be a more peaceful, if more ignorant, way forward. But I can’t help wondering if I’ve missed an opportunity in this.

5 thoughts on “Learning Hugo, migrating Tumblr, hating it all the way.”

  1. @vega I find those things that are just (a few steps) out of reach so frustrating, and especially the ones where one of those steps is “install an entire dev toolkit which the author believes ‘everybody’ already has, which is why the script is written in it”, because that never goes well. Unlike you, though, I tend to put the project aside for later at that point (unless I can toss together some shell scripts and/or AppleScripts myself)…kudos for perservering with the copy/paste import!

  2. @smokey I know enough CLI to not feel completely insecure in the environment, but not enough to put scripts together without explicit guidance. Hugo’s own documentation is actually quite comprehensive, and even better, is explicit when it’s explaining something for newbies, and when it makes assumptions about your prior knowledge. Having that newbie “in-road” really helps build confidence, and the YouTube tutorials were invaluable too! So I’m inspired to keep on working at it, because now I feel secure that I can find help in the documentation when I inevitably run into obstacles. I haven’t started customizing webpage templates yet, no doubt it’ll be a mix of fun and frustrating too.

    Plus, manually importing my Tumblr is nostalgic — it’s nice to revisit my state of being when I made those posts! 🙂

  3. @vega That sounds like really good documentation; kudos to the Hugo team. @Miraz has said good things about the video series, too, when she talked about starting her @custom tutorials microblog.

    Plus, manually importing my Tumblr is nostalgic — it’s nice to revisit my state of being when I made those posts! 🙂

    That is a plus of the manual method, for sure 🙂

  4. I’ve done this before and would be willing to help, but I have to admit that I get to skip so many steps because I use a Mac, and things like Ruby and Python come pre-installed, and the scripts are written mostly by people like me for people like me.

    That being said, making Hugo work as well as Tumblr, with post types and the like is actually pretty hard, in spite of what the web tells you. While it’s super possible and Hugo is amazingly powerful, starting from scratch and knowing how to architect things like post types and build all the different templates is not super easy. I’d be happy to help/contribute to your theme on Github as I’ve been learning similar stuff for the last few years, first with json.blog and more recently rebuilding that as a micro.blog hosted site (at micro.json.blog but intended to take over the new blog over time).

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