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Making a new blog with Docusaurus v2

To make a new blog with the upcoming Docusaurus 2, we need understand how GitHub Pages works, and also pay attention to several caveats.

How GitHub Pages works and how to use itโ€‹

GitHub Pages sites serve its root as static content from a directory on a selected branch of the special repository or If there is an index.html file, then it will be used. Otherwise, will be served -- but see this note.

For example, I have the username wpyoga on GitHub. My GitHub Pages site is, and it serves its root as static content from the master branch of the repository in my account.

As of 2021-06-12, the special repository defaults to serving GitHub Pages from the master branch, and other repositories default to serving from the gh-pages branch. This means that:

  • on repositories other than the special repository, if you push to the gh-pages branch, and no branch has been configured to serve the GitHub Pages site, then GitHub will automatically designate the gh-pages branch for GitHub Pages, and serve the site from the repository's root directory.

  • on the special repository, pushing to the master branch will trigger the same mechanism. Pushing to the gh-pages branch will not trigger this mechanism.

Note that this designated branch contains the generated static content, not the raw Markdown and the sources. So if you use Docusaurus (or Jekyll) to generate the static site from Markdown documents, then the designated branch should not contain the sources, but only the generated (built) content. Docusaurus follows GitHub Pages' convention, so by default it will try to publish the generated content in the build directory of the source tree to the designated branch, according to the repository name.

However, my preferred method is to use the master branch for the source tree, and push my generated content to the gh-pages branch. Note that for the special repository, the gh-pages branch doesn't trigger the automatic mechanism above, so I had to manually configure it. Alternatively, you can also follow GitHub conventions.


yarn deploy will build and deploy the site:

$ GIT_USER=wpyoga DEPLOYMENT_BRANCH=gh-pages USE_SSH=true yarn deploy

It doesn't look pretty, and it's not easy to remember. Fortunately, I have a better solution.

Further discussionโ€‹

Manually deploying to a branchโ€‹

First, checkout the site serving branch (gh-pages in our example) to a temporary directory:

$ git worktree add --no-checkout /tmp/build gh-pages

Generate the site and copy it into the temporary directory:

$ yarn build
$ cp -rT build /tmp/build


  • we cannot use yarn build --out-dir /tmp/build because this will remove the .git file inside that directory
  • with the -T option, cp copies the contents build directory into /tmp/build, as opposed to copying the build directory itself
  • there is a better way if you want to use a script, see the end of this section

Push the files to GitHub:

$ cd /tmp/build
$ git add .
$ git commit -m "new build at $(date)"
$ git push
$ cd -

Remove the temporary directory:

$ git worktree remove /tmp/build

Here's a script to automate the whole process:


TMPDIR="$(mktemp -d tmp-XXXXX)"
TMPDIR2="$(mktemp -d tmp-XXXXX)"

git worktree add --force --no-checkout "${TMPDIR}" gh-pages

mv "${TMPDIR}/.git" "${TMPDIR2}"
yarn build --out-dir "${TMPDIR}"
mv "${TMPDIR2}/.git" "${TMPDIR}"
rmdir "${TMPDIR2}"

(cd "${TMPDIR}"; git add .; git commit -m "new build at $(date)"; git push)

ls "${TMPDIR}"
git worktree remove "${TMPDIR}"

Note: we use a custom template because there might be a bug that causes yarn build to fail.

Another method of deploying manually doesn't work wellโ€‹

After building the site, push the build directory to a new gh-pages branch:

$ git subtree split -P build -b gh-pages
Created branch 'gh-pages'
$ git push origin gh-pages
Enumerating objects: 117, done.
Counting objects: 100% (117/117), done.
Delta compression using up to 4 threads
Compressing objects: 100% (83/83), done.
Writing objects: 100% (117/117), 322.93 KiB | 1.02 MiB/s, done.
Total 117 (delta 29), reused 54 (delta 8)
remote: Resolving deltas: 100% (29/29), done.
remote: Create a pull request for 'gh-pages' on GitHub by visiting:
* [new branch] gh-pages -> gh-pages

Because this repository is the special repository, GitHub doesn't treat the gh-pages branch here as being special. So I need to manually specify the gh-pages branch to serve the site root.

The problem is, now I cannot update the gh-pages branch. I need to read Docusaurus' source code in lib/deploy.ts and see how they manage to make yarn deploy work. Looking at the log output, it seems that Docusaurus clones the gh-pages branch to a temporary location, deletes everything, overwrites the content with new files, and then pushes the changes back to the remote branch.

How GitHub Pages really worksโ€‹

I'm not 100% sure how it works.

Docusaurus mentions that GitHub will run the generated files through Jekyll, so a .nojekyll file is added to each directory, to prevent the removal of files whose names have a leading _ (underscore).

I've also tried messing around with the designated repository, renaming index.html and adding, but the Docusaurus site is still being served (a "page not found" message can be seen upon initial loading, but then disappears after a split second).

Since this is a static site, index.php is not served (at all).

Serving GitHub Pages from a subdirectoryโ€‹

We can actually use a single branch for both the source code and generated content -- GitHub allows us to specify the /docs subdirectory as the content location. However, this is not easily adaptable to Docusaurus, where docs stores Markdown files, and the generated content is actually in build.

Unfortunately, as of 2021-06-12, GitHub doesn't allow the use of any other subdirectory for this purpose.

Following GitHub conventionsโ€‹

For the special repository, following GitHub's conventions is somewhat counterintuitive. You would usually have the source code in the master branch, and in this case you cannot deploy to the master branch since it will overwrite all the source code. In this case, the solution is to move the source code to another branch, say source, work on that branch, and deploy to the master branch.

I pushed the source code from the master branch to the source branch.

$ git branch source
$ git push --set-upstream origin source

Then I would need to delete the master branch. The problem is, GitHub didn't want to delete the master branch:

$ git push --delete origin master
! [remote rejected] master (refusing to delete the current branch: refs/heads/master)
error: failed to push some refs to ''

It turns out that GitHub just doesn't want to delete the default branch. Note that this concept of "default branch" is not from git, but rather from GitHub.

Anyway, I changed the default branch to source for now, and now I can delete the master branch:

$ git push --delete origin master
- [deleted] master

Now, yarn deploy will push the generated content to the master branch of the special repository.

Moving source code back to the master branchโ€‹

After I moved the source code from the master branch to the source branch, I found out that I can actually deploy to another branch instead. So I wanted to move the source code back to the master branch.

I deleted the master branch, renamed the source branch to master, and then pushed the changes:

$ git branch -D master
Deleted branch master (was 67c2b46).
$ git branch -m source master
$ git status
On branch master
Your branch is up to date with 'origin/source'.
$ git push origin HEAD
Total 0 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0)
remote: Create a pull request for 'master' on GitHub by visiting:
* [new branch] HEAD -> master

At this point the source branch was useless, so I changed the default branch to master again (on GitHub), then deleted the remote source branch:

$ git push --delete origin source
- [deleted] source

At this point the remote branch has been deleted, but the local repo still references the old one:

$ git status
On branch master
Your branch is based on 'origin/source', but the upstream is gone.
(use "git branch --unset-upstream" to fixup)

So I dutifully followed the recommendations:

$ git branch --unset-upstream
$ git push --set-upstream origin master
Branch 'master' set up to track remote branch 'master' from 'origin'.
Everything up-to-date
$ git status
On branch master
Your branch is up to date with 'origin/master'.

Changing usernames or organization namesโ€‹

I used to have the username wpyh, but I changed it a few weeks ago.

When I had the username wpyh, if I had created a repository named, then GitHub would have made a subdomain for me: This is a special repo, which serves as the source of the GitHub Pages site hosted at from its main branch by default.

When I changed my username from wpyh to wpyoga, I would have had to rename the aforementioned repository to GitHub would have changed the custom subdomain to, and the old custom subdomain would have been deleted.