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Configuring Staticman Comments with Hugo

julio_ui profile image Julio Originally published at jvblog.net on ・5 min read

I wanted to add comments to my blog, and Disqus seemed like a good option as the theme I’m using supports it out of the box. However, as things stand, I am happy with a solution that doesn’t require storing people’s data in third party databases and doesn’t add ads and unnecessary tracking scripts that could make the reading experience slower or cluttered.

After searching for open-source/ethical comment suppliers, I found out about Staticman, and I am giving it a try since it integrates with Hugo blogs, it uses a git repository to store and triage comments, it’s been around since 2015, and has good documentation. I just had to work around some constraints. In essence, you need to deploy your own instance of Staticman to Heroku as the official Staticman API hits its quota frequently (Heroku’s free tier is enough tho’), I wanted to keep this blog’s comments on a separate repository, and I am using Staticman API V2 since everything is hosted on GitHub (V3 supports other providers like Gitlab).

This post by Arne Petersen was of great help to put everything together. After some tweaks, my deployment works like this:

  • I’m only collecting people’s names and comments
  • I’m using reCaptcha 2 to avoid spam
  • I only load reCaptcha’s JS script when you click the “Show Comments” button
  • I accept/reject comments using pull requests.
  • After accepting a comment, my blog is re-build and published automatically in Netlify using webhooks
  • After someone submits a comment, they get redirected to the original blog post with a message explaining their comment will go live after approval. No AJAX or popups are required, and you can try it leaving a comment!

And the instructions:

  1. Create a repository for your comments in your main GitHub account; we will call it blog_comments
  2. Create a secondary GitHub account; we will call it account2. This is for security reasons as Arne pointed out, you are creating a Personal Access Token and keeping it in your Heroku instance which could give anyone who gets hold of it full access to your GitHub account.
  3. Create a Personal Access Token in account2 at https://github.com/settings/tokens. Save it because you can only see it once, and you will need it in a bit.
  4. Invite account2 as a collaborator to blog_comments going to https://github.com/YOUR_MAIN_GITHUB_ACCOUNT/blog_comments/settings/access
  5. Deploy Staticman to Heroku using the purple button in the project’s README (make sure it’s in the master branch)
  6. Create a private key for Staticman (you can do this in your Heroku instance going to “More” -> “Run console”): openssl genrsa -out key.pem
  7. Add the following three Config vars to your Heroku instance in https://dashboard.heroku.com/apps/YOUR_INSTANCE_NAME/settings:

    NODE_ENV         production
    GITHUB_TOKEN     YOUR PERSONAL ACCESS TOKEN
    RSA_PRIVATE_KEY  CONTENT OF key.pem
    
  8. If you want to use reCaptcha to avoid spam, do the following:

    1. Register your blog here. You can add localhost to the domain list to be able to test everything in your local machine. Save your siteKey and secret
    2. Encrypt your reCaptcha secret obtained before by querying your Heroku instance in this URL: https://YOUR_HEROKU_APP_NAME.herokuapp.com/v2/encrypt/YOUR_UNENCRYPTED_RECAPTCHA_SECRET
  9. Add this partial to your blog and call {{ partial "staticman.html" . }} where you want to load your comments.

  10. Add the CSS styles from this line onwards to your blog.

  11. Add this JS script to your partials

  12. Add the following lines to the params list in your Hugo blog’s config.yaml

    staticman:
        api: https://<YOUR_HEROKU_APP_NAME>.herokuapp.com/v2/entry/YOUR_MAIN_GITHUB_ACCOUNT/blog_comments/master/comments
        recaptcha:
            sitekey: "YOUR RECAPTCHA KEY"
            secret: "YOUR ENCRYPTED RECAPTCHA SECRET"
    
    
  13. Add your Staticman configuration file, staticman.yaml, to the root of blog_comments. You can use the one below or this other one as a reference if you want to collect more data like emails or personal websites.

    comments:
    allowedFields: ["name", "comment"]
    branch: "master"
    commitMessage: "New comment in {options.slug}"
    filename: "comment-{@timestamp}"
    format: "yaml"
    generatedFields:
    date:
    type: date
    options:
    format: "iso8601"
    moderation: true
    name: "YOUR SITES NAME"
    path: "{options.slug}"
    requiredFields: ["name", "comment"]
    transforms:
    email: md5
    // Delete this if you do not want to use reCaptcha
    reCaptcha: 
    enabled: true
    siteKey: "YOUR RECAPTCHA KEY"
    secret: "YOUR ENCRYPTED RECAPTCHA SECRET"
    
  14. Add your blog_comments repo as a submodule to your main repo in the data/comments folder: git submodule add https://github.com/YOUR_MAIN_GITHUB_ACCOUNT/blog-comments.git data/comments

  15. I use Netlify to publish my blog, so I had to modify my Netlify build command to pull the latest version of blog_comments to render any new comments. You can do this using Netlify’s website or by adding a netlify.toml file to the root of your blog repo with the following lines:

    [build]
    publish = "public"
    command = "git submodule update --remote data/comments && hugo --gc --minify"
    
    [context.production.environment]
    HUGO_VERSION = "v0.68.3"
    HUGO_ENV = "production"
    HUGO_ENABLEGITINFO = "true"
    
  16. Every time someone comments on a blog post, Staticman creates a new branch and a Pull Request (PR) in blog_comments which you can accept or reject to publish it or not. Branches will start to pile up, so, for those PRs you reject, you have to delete their branches using GitHub’s UI manually. Still, for those PRs you accept, GitHub can automatically delete them by activating this feature.

  17. At this point, you can submit your first comment from your computer or, commit everything to GitHub and do it online.

  18. Optional. If you want to avoid triggering a new Netlify build manually every time you accept a comment, you can automatize it by using Integromat’s webhooks. You could also use Zappier, but you have to switch to their paid tier.

    1. Got to Netlify’s Build hooks section in https://app.netlify.com/sites/YOUR_NETLIFY_DOMAIN/settings/deploys#build-hooks and click on Add build hook. Save the generated URL
    2. Create a new Scenario in Integromat
    3. Add a Custom Webhook trigger. Inside, add a new Webhook and copy its URL. Click on Determine data structure
    4. Go to https://github.com/YOUR_MAIN_GITHUB_ACCOUNT/blog_comments/settings/hooks. Click on Add webhook, in Payload URL add the URL of the Integromat Custom Webhook trigger, in Content type select application/json, and under Let me select individual events check Pull requests. Click on Add Webhook.
    5. Submit a comment in your blog, so Staticman creates a new Pull Request in blog_comments, and Integromat infers its content. You should see a confirmation message in the Custom Webhook trigger.
    6. Add a HTTP action in Integromat. Connect this to the Custom Webhook trigger
    7. In the connection between the HTTP action and the Custom Webhook trigger, add two conditions joined by an AND operator: action = closed and pul_request: merged = true. They should be autocompleted if Integromat was able to infer the PR’s content
    8. Click in the HTTP action, add the Netlify hook’s URL you got earlier to the action’s URL field, and change its Method to POST
    9. Turn the scenario ON using the switch at the bottom left and set Schedule setting to Immediatly
    10. From now on, the scenario should trigger a Netlify build every time you accept a Staticman’s Pull Request

Feel free to leave a comment if you have issues or questions!

Discussion (4)

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benjaminwolkchen profile image
Benjamin Wölkchen

The link to the comments partial is broken. :(

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julio_ui profile image
Julio Author

I only fixed the links in my original blog but I just updated them here too

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luciferchase profile image
Lucifer Chase

This was a lifesaver. After spending a day figuring out how to add staticman to my website, this was the only thing that worked.
A very detailed and well-explained article.
Kudos.

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cooltea713705 profile image
cooltea713705

Thanks for the detailed explanation!