The case of the disappearing tag cloud

As you can probably tell — if not from the posts mentioning Pelican, then the giveaway is the footer of each page — my site is currently built using Pelican.

Noticing there was a new version this week, I eagerly updated and then tried building my site. No errors, I thought, so everything must be fine.

Unfortunately, on loading the site, the tag cloud had vanished1.

Over the next twenty minutes or so, I slowly figured out the cause: the Pelican code that creates this had been moved out to a separate plugin. (If only I'd checked the Pelican docs first, I would have saved the time...) From there, it's a simple fix. Install the plugin, add it to your PLUGINS in and the tag cloud will be restored.

Installing Pelican plugins

One small frustration is that the official plugin repository is, if maybe not monolithic, a substantial size. The appeal of a central repository does make some sense. It provides a single location for developers to add functionality to Pelican and means users can issue one command to get access to everything at once.

But my hunch is that users probably only want a few of the numerous plugins: seventy at the time of writing. Also, when a plugin is updated by its author, they additionally have to put a pull request into the plugins repository to keep the submodule or files stored there in sync, which is extra work for everyone involved too.

My tag cloud plugin fork

One solution for installing the plugin would be to write a simple shell script that does the cloning and just keeps the tag plugin. Instead, I felt that it would be both simpler and more sensible — rather than retrieving many plugins that I don't need — to install the plugin via the existing requirements.txt in my blog configuration. (The other plugin I use, pelican-alias, is installed this way in my setup.)

So, I made the plugin pip installable (available here) and added that to my requirements for what seems like a neater solution. The only downside is that I have to ensure that this plugin is updated when the original code is. For this plugin however, I suspect that updates would be irregular.

  1. If the site's not changed since I wrote this, then it's the one that shows up in the upper right sidebar.