The blogdown of theseus

Because you know what? I am here to fuck spiders
Literate Programming

December 23, 2023

It is the first day of my summer vacation. The out-of-office autoreply is on. I have a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, the sun is shining, and I’m wearing a sequined dress. Blues Brothers it is most certainly not, but a certain attitude is in force. And so it is that I’ve decided to get the band back together. Where “the band” in this case happens to be “a tool chain that looks like a shit version of blogdown”.

Is it a good use of my time? No. Will I do a good job of it? No. But will it it make a good blog post? Also no.

Okay. So here’s the backstory. Literate programming in R has been around for a very long time. So much so that we’ve all become accustomed to thinking about tools like R markdown, blogdown, and quarto, as baked-in aspects to the language. That’s not actually a bad thing. They’re good tools. I have no intention of abandoning any of them. But they aren’t primitives. Each of them is an opinionated tool that takes a code execution engine like knitr as a starting point, and builds from it in different ways. R markdown and quarto both use knitr to execute the R code within an appropriately annotated markdown document and then feed the results to pandoc to create outputs in different formats. Blogdown takes the same idea, but passes the output to the hugo static site generator to create full featured blogs and static websites. Et cetera.

What would happen if those “upstream” tools were taken away? What if you needed to create an R blog from scratch and the only part of this tool chain you had available to you was knitr. What choices would you make? Could you cobble together something vaguely similar to a blogdown site or a quarto blog, using entirely different constituent parts?

Why would you do this? You wouldn’t.

But for reasons that absolutely made sense to me at the time, this is precisely what I did. The website is live at, and – because I have absolutely no intention of writing the same blog post twice – if you want to “read more” as they used to say, you can check out the actual blog post here.



BibTeX citation:
  author = {Navarro, Danielle},
  title = {The Blogdown of Theseus},
  date = {2023-12-23},
  url = {},
  langid = {en}
For attribution, please cite this work as:
Navarro, Danielle. 2023. “The Blogdown of Theseus.” December 23, 2023.