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I really don't understand the appeal of these static site generators. Why don't people just toss something like CloudFlare in front of their dynamic sites and turn the edge caching up. I mean this is free, the bandwidth expenses are covered, and you now have a globally accessible site.

Unless you're just trying to get away with hosting your whole site as a GitHub page ;)

You can use S3 to make hosting your site super simple, and super cheap.

I don't understand why people use a database for content that (for the most part) doesn't need one.

Agree 100%. Requiring an active server and database seems like overkill for a site that's read-only (or very nearly so)

You could easily replace his rsync with an s3cmd sync to ship the stuff straight to the S3 bucket.

Sure, S3 may cost more per byte shipped than serving it yourself, but probably not for a personal site (if you factor in the need to pay for a running server and the extra hassles and time cost involved with maintaining that server). You can pay for a lot of S3 bandwidth with what you pay for even a cheap VPS.

You can also use something like DigitalOcean + CloudFlare Edge caching, and still be able to use a DB.

At the end of your day your content is already being stored in a database or in some custom format to be able to generate the static site aways. You have a lot more options if you go through a database first vs a custom static format.

"I really don't understand the appeal of these static site generators."

Simplicity? If the content is not an application but a static publication I'm left wondering how making it dynamic would improve anything...

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