deploying site sources from hakyll to

Posted on November 27, 2014

All blog posts that explain how to publish your site sources to from a Hakyll build suggest to use the _site directory as a git submodule. After a few experiments, I came to the conclusion that doing this can lead to some trouble. I explain in this post why, and detail the workaround I use instead.

Most of the times, you build your site sources with:

cabal run build

and all is perfect. The directory _site is updated and, in case you declared _site as a submodule, everything is fine and the contents of the submodule are correctly updated. The only precaution to take is to be sure that _site is not on a ‘detached HEAD’ state.

Imagine now that you run instead:

cabal run rebuild

In this case, you can notice that hakyll first wipes out the directories _cache and _site. What happens then? git-submodule is now wrecked out, and, because _site/.git has been deleted, the directory _site is considered as a standard subdirectory in your source tree instead of a submodule! Indeed, if you go in the directory _site and for example run git remote -v, you will see that origin points to the location of you Hakyll source tree, not to the location of your repository where you push the source site files!

Why did this happen? Because the rebuild process first involves the deletion of the _site directory. Hence the .git subdirectory.

Hopefully you can recover from this situation. Go to the Hakyll source tree and run:

git submodule udpate --remote

To avoid this problem, it is necessary to use two separate directories for the build directory used by Hakyll, and the git submodule used to push the files of your website to github. Hakyll uses _site as a build directory, and I created a submodule in site.

To summarise, the build/update process involves these steps:

  1. hakyll build
  2. set your build submodule (e.g. site) to the default branch (e.g. master)
  3. sync _site to your build submodule (e.g. site). Do not delete the .git subdirectory!
  4. git push to github

I pushed all of this in a minimalist Makefile (my submodule lies in site):

.PHONY: build rebuild watch
    cabal run $@
    cabal run $@
    cabal run $@

push: rebuild
    git submodule update --remote --merge
    rsync -avr --delete --exclude='.git'  _site/ site/
    cd site \
        && git checkout master \
        && git add . \
        && git commit -m 'site update' \
        && git push origin master
    git add site
    git commit -m 'site update'
    git push origin master