Moving to Ghost. Or not

I've recently been looking at moving the blog - and the associated few static pages - from Octopress to something else. Octopress has been ok, but only just "ok" - frankly, it's a pain to write anything quickly, as there is a huge ceremony around making a new post and rebuilding, and what is basically a compilation step from writing and editing to seeing it on the page.

When Ghost came around on Kickstarter, it looked like exactly what I wanted - lovely writing interface, good theme support, markdown everywhere. So I backed it, and as soon as it was stable, started using it a bit.

Move forward 6 months, and we are almost at Ghost v0.4.0, which is the first one which has static pages. Because I have the support pages for mobileAgent and my other apps on my site, I need to make sure that those still work, as the URLs are linked directly into the app. So I grabbed down the source, installed Node (and Ruby, and about a million other bits) on my Linode, and had a play.

Without too much effort, I got it up and running, and got all my posts into it, too (hint: there is a debug page at /ghost/debug which has an import/export function, and it takes json which is quite easy to export to). But then I started hitting walls left and right.

To be honest, it's a very promising platform, and I suspect, with a bit more polish over time, I'll move to it. But unsurprisingly for a v0.4.x release[1], there are some big holes which kind of killed that idea off.

  • I can do pages, which is great, but if I have 500+ posts, and the pages are the bottom (they were updated farthest back in time), then it's nearly impossible to find them in the content list. No search, no filtering by page/post.
  • No footnotes. I use them a lot now.
  • Some parts of rolling it out are still kind of rough. They appear to have been focusing on the hosted model more than the self-hosted version.
  • slugs can't have / in there, so I can't use my usual /2014/01/14/slug format, or even /mobileagent/support, as it just strips out the / in the middle. That might have to be resolved with a Apache rewrite, but still, thats quite messy and I'd have to break every url on the site, and then some.

I suspect most of these will come in time tho. But for the moment, I guess I'm "stuck" with Octopress. Hopefully, with a little effort, I'll get a bit more written here this year. I disagree that the blog is dead, and I'm definitely in agreement with Dan Frommer regarding twitter:

Among its other accomplishments in 2013, Twitter ate this site. But now I’m taking it back.

What I mean by that: Last year, when I had a fun or interesting thought, I almost always just tweeted about it and moved on. Who could blame me? Twitter is unbelievably fast, the feedback is seamless, and with a more pressing job on my mind, why bother sitting at a computer and writing it out? (We’ll discuss WordPress’s better-but-still-not-good-enough mobile tools another time.)

But while some parts of Twitter are satisfying — getting retweets, faves, and especially, interesting new followers — others aren’t. It’s difficult to elaborate on ideas there. It’s hard to point to a permanent record of your thoughts, if you can even find them. And the character limit, while amazing for one-liners and solid for simple ideas, doesn’t leave much room for nuance. I probably wasted as many good ideas on Twitter than I got across well.

I'm not sure I'm going to aim for 500 words a day like Dan and MG Siegler, but more short-to-medium-form and a lot less twitter is likely to make me a better writer. Or at least a less-bad writer.

  1. 0.3.0 is the current released version, and 0.4.0 was ment to be out last month, so I went with the "get the source off github" route. If you want a brand-new platform, it's worth a look, as it's otherwise pretty stable. ↩︎