I recently gave my blog1 a fresh new look and decided it was time to spruce up my GitHub profile’s2 landing page as well. GitHub has a special3 way of treating the README.md file of your repo, displaying its content as the landing page for your profile. My goal was to showcase a brief introduction about myself and my work, along with a list of the five most recent articles on my blog. Additionally, I wanted to ensure that the article list stayed up to date.

There are plenty of fancy GitHub Action workflows4 that allow you to add your site’s URL to the CI file and it’ll periodically fetch the most recent content from the source and update the readme file. However, I wanted to make a simpler version of it from scratch which can be extended for periodically updating any markdown file in any repo, just not the profile readme. So, here’s the plan:

  • A custom GitHub Action workflow will periodically run a nodejs script.
  • The script will then:
    • Grab the XML index5 of this blog that you’re reading.
    • Parse the XML content and extract the URLs and publication dates of 5 most recent articles.
    • Update the associated markdown table with the extracted content on the profile’s README.md file.
  • Finally, the workflow will commit the changes and push them to the profile repo. You can see the final outcome here6.

Here’s the script that performs the above steps:

// importBlogs.js
/* Import the latest 5 blog posts from rss feed */

import fetch from "node-fetch";
import { Parser } from "xml2js";
import { promises } from "fs";

const rssUrl = "https://rednafi.com/index.xml";

const header = `<div align="center">
    Introducing myself...
<div>\n\n`;

const outputFile = "README.md";
const parser = new Parser();

// Define an async function to get and parse the rss data
async function getRssData() {
  try {
    const res = await fetch(rssUrl);
    const data = await res.text();
    return await parser.parseStringPromise(data);
  } catch (err) {
    console.error(err);
  }
}

// Define an async function to write the output file
async function writeOutputFile(output) {
  try {
    await promises.writeFile(outputFile, output);
    console.log(`Saved ${outputFile}`);
  } catch (err) {
    console.error(err);
  }
}

// Call the async functions
getRssData()
  .then((result) => {
    // Get the first five posts from the result object
    const posts = result.rss.channel[0].item.slice(0, 5);

    // Initialize an empty output string
    let output = "";

    // Add a title to the output string
    output += header;

    // Add a header row to the output string
    output += `#### Recent articles\n\n`;
    output += "| Title | Published On |\n";
    output += "| ----- | ------------ |\n";

    // Loop through the posts and add a row for each post to the output string
    for (let post of posts) {
      // Strip the time from the pubDate
      const date = post.pubDate[0].slice(0, 16);
      output += `| [${post.title}](${post.link}) | ${date} |\n`;
    }
    // Call the writeOutputFile function with the output string
    writeOutputFile(output);
  })
  .catch((err) => {
    // Handle the error
    console.error(err);
  });

The snippet above utilizes node-fetch to make HTTP calls,xml2js for XML parsing, and the built-in fs module’s promises for handling file system operations.

Next, it defines an async function getRssData responsible for fetching the XML data from the [https://rednafi.com/index.html] URL. It extracts the blog URLs and publication dates, and returns the parsed data as a list of objects. Another async function, writeOutputFile, writes the parsed XML content as a markdown table and saves it to the README.md file.

The script is executed by the following GitHub Action workflow every day at 0:00 UTC. Before the CI runs, make sure you create a new Action Secret7 named ACCESS_TOKEN that houses an access token8 with write access to the repo where the CI runs.

# Run a bash script to randomly generate empty commit to this repo.
name: CI

on:
  # Since we're pushing from this CI, don't run this on the push event because
  # that'll trigger an infinite loop
  # push: [ main ]

  # Add a schedule to run the job every day at 0:00 UTC
  schedule:
    - cron: "0 0 * * *"

  # Allow running this workflow manually
  workflow_dispatch:

jobs:
  build:
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest

    steps:
      - name: Checkout repo
        uses: actions/checkout@v4
        with:
          # Otherwise, there would be errors pushing refs to the destination
          # repository
          fetch-depth: 0
          ref: ${{ github.head_ref }}
          token: ${{ secrets.ACCESS_TOKEN }}

      - uses: actions/setup-node@v3
        with:
          node-version: "lts/*"
          cache: npm
          cache-dependency-path: package-lock.json

      - name: Install dependencies
        run: |
          npm install          

      - name: Run linter
        run: |
          npx prettier --write .          

      - name: Run script
        run: |
          node scripts/importBlogs.js          

      - name: Commit changes
        run: |
          git config --local user.name \
            "github-actions[bot]"
          git config --local user.email \
            "41898282+github-actions[bot]@users.noreply.github.com"
          git add .
          git diff-index --quiet HEAD \
            || git commit -m "Autocommit: updated at $(date -u)"          

      - name: Push changes
        uses: ad-m/github-push-action@master
        with:
          force_with_lease: true

In the first four steps, the workflow checks out the codebase, sets up nodejs, installs the dependencies, and then runs prettier on the scripts. Next, it executes the importBlogs.js script. The script updates the README and the subsequent shell commands commit the changes to the repo. The following line ensures that we’re only trying to commit when there’s a change in the tracked files.

git diff-index --quiet HEAD \
  || git commit -m "Autocommit: updated at $(date -u)"

Then in the last step, we use an off-the-shelf workflow to push our changes to the repo. Check out the workflow directory9 of my profile’s repo to see the whole setup in action. I’m quite satisfied with the final output:

periodic readme update

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