Build Software Carpentry lessons with Pelican


February 26, 2014

Software Carpentry offers bootcamps for scientist to teach basic programming skills. All the material, mainly about bash, git, Python and R is available on Github under Creative Commons.

The content is either in Markdown or in IPython notebook format, and is currently built using Jekyll, nbconvert and Pandoc. Basicly the requirement is to make it easy for bootcamp instructors to setup their own website, modify the content, and have the website updated.

I created a fork of the Software Carpentry repository and configured Pelican for creating the website:

Pelican handles fenced code blocks, see and conversion of IPython notebooks, see

How to setup the repositories for a new bootcamp

  1. create a new Organization on Github and add all the other instructors, name it: swcarpentry-YYYY-MM-DD-INST where INST is the institution name, e.g. NYU
  2. Fork the bootcamp-pelican repository under the organization account
  3. Create a new repository in your organization named that will host the HTML of the website, also tick initialize with README, it will help later.

Now you can either prepare the build environment on your laptop or have the web service travis-ci automatically update the website whenever you update the repository (even from the Github web interface!).

Build/Update the website from your laptop

  1. Clone the bootcamp-pelican repository of your organization locally

  2. Create a Python virtual environment and install requirements with:

     cd bootcamp-pelican
     virtualenv swcpy
     . swcpy/bin/activate
     pip install -r requirements.txt
  3. Clone the in the output folder as:

     git clone output
  4. Build or Update the website with Pelican running

     fab build
  5. You can display the website in your browser locally with:

     fab serve
  6. Finally you can publish it to Github with:

     cd output
     git add .
     git push origin master

Configure Travis-ci to automatically build and publish the website

  1. Go to and login with Github credentials

  2. Under click on the organization name on the left and activate the webhook setting ON on your bootcamp-pelican repository

  3. Now it is necessary to setup the credentials for travis-ci to write to the repository

  4. Go to, create a new token with default permissions

  5. Install the travis tool (in debian/ubuntu sudo gem install travis) and run from any machine (not necessary to have a clone of the repository):

     travis encrypt -r swcarpentry-YYYY-MM-DD-INST/bootcamp-pelican GH_TOKEN=TOKENGOTATTHEPREVIOUSSTEP

    otherwise I’ve setup a web application that does the encryption in your browser, see:

  6. Open .travis.yml on the website and replace the string under env: global: secure: with the string from travis encrypt

  7. Push the modified .travis.yml to trigger the first build by Travis, and then check the log on

Now any change on the source repository will be picked up automatically by Travis and used to update the website.