Does Blogging Need Simpler Tools?

created Mar 3, 2017 - updated Jun 19, 2017

I doubt that programmers and designers who build publishing systems can answer that question legitimately because what's easy for tech people can be complex for others who are the people that blog developers are targeting.

I've always thought that creating a blog post should be as simple as sending a basic email message.

Email:

Form junk equals four items: two text input fields, texarea box, and one button.

Email provides additional or advanced functions, such as carbon copy, blind carbon copy, sending attachments, creating folders to organize received email, adding filters, etc., depending upon the sophistication of the email system or client-side app.

But it's not a requirement to know those additional functions to send and receive simple email messages. A person can communicate without ever creating folders and filters and managing contacts. Type, send, receive, read, delete, move on.

It's nice when the advanced functions for power users don't interfere with UI/UX of the basic functionality that's used by everyone.

For my web publishing apps, such as Wren that I'm using here, I limit the form junk to one textarea box, a preview button, and a post button. That's it. Depending upon the app, I might have a link that permits the user to open up the JavaScript "editor". I'm unsure if a link is considered form junk.

Anyway, I use no radio buttons, select-dropdowns, checkboxes, nor text input fields on the create page.

For some of my apps, the update page contains a text input field that gives the writer the option to provide a reason for updating the page. This note would appear on the page that lists all versions for a post, and then if the user wants, differences can be run on any two pages. My code that powers Toledo Talk, and my Junco and Grebe apps provide this functionality, but I rarely ever type an update reason.

I consider my Grebe, Scaup, Veery, and Wren publishing apps to be simple to use, but I'm affected by my own personal bias. Junco contains a lot more features, but I use mainly the basic functionality, which is also simple to use. Kinglet is my private, web-based messaging app, which is occasionally used by my nieces who are all under the age of 12. For early grade school students, it's helpful for them if the web app is easy to use.

I'm guessing that many designers and developers look down with disdain on the humble textarea box because it's too boringly simple. I use the textarea box often for quick creates and updates.

For my web publishing apps Junco, Grebe, Scaup, Veery, and Wren, I provide two options to create and update posts: textarea box and JavaScript editor.

Since I'm taking a long time to update this post, I'm using the JavaScript editor.

In January 2017, I rewrote the JavaScript editor to use vanilla JavaScript, and I call it Tanager. It's used with my Wren app. The other versions work the same, but I hacked someone else's Textile live preview editor. The original code relied on jQuery, and I added my functionality by relying on minified.js. It was easier than I expected to rewrite the JavaScript to use
only plain, vanilla JavaScript.

Tanager is not really an editor. The browser JavaScript calls my API code that exists in my apps. Tanager sends and receives JSON. Tanager can be used with a split screen, showing the markup on the left and the formatted HTML on the right. It can also be used in single screen mode for a bigger writing area. Preview can be shown in single screen mode too. It auto-saves every five minutes by default, but this can be changed with a power command added to the markup of the article. Save and preview buttons exist, but keyboard commands can do this too. Tanager provides other display options, such as light text against a dark background, and a limited view that display only five lines of typing area, in case of a desire to hide the text when typing in a public or to focus more on the writing.

On Mar 3, 2017, DW retweeted his May 26, 2016 tweet:
https://mobile.twitter.com/davewiner/status/735834952005193728?p=p

A big part of blogging is technology. With the tech industry controlling the technology, i.e. not open, we can't evolve the tools.

I would say that a big part of blogging is the content. Don't call it blogging. Call it personal web publishing, which can be done with many tools, including blog and wiki apps. A writer can also create and update content with a text editor on a local machine and then upload the content to the web server.

https://ghost.org

Thinking about blogging tools inspired John O'Nolan to create his idea for the Ghost blogging app in 2013.
https://web.archive.org/web/20131215144152/http://john.onolan.org/project-ghost

In 2014, users could download Ghost for a server-hosted solution. Eventually, the business side of Ghost offered a CMS-hosted solution.

The 2013 idea of Ghost opined for simpler blogging tools and not a CMS app, like WordPress had become. But I think that Ghost has morphed into a CMS app too. In 2017, Ghost launched a program to attract media orgs.

Ghost's core codebase may not be as big as WordPress. I don't know. But I would say that in 2017, Ghost is closer to CMS WordPress than the 2013 Ghost blogging idea.

Early 2017 post about Ghost and its business.
https://www.indiehackers.com/businesses/ghost

John O'Nolan talks about getting 30,000 mailing list signups, raising $300,000 on Kickstarter, and growing his open-source publishing platform to $750,000/year.

People still use Blogger/Blogspot. I encounter Blogger sites often in my web travels. Is Blogger simpler to use than the CMS-hosted versions of WordPress and Ghost? Many users don't want to download, install, configure, secure, and update software.

https://svbtle.com has been around for a few years. I have never tried it. It's a CMS-hosted solution. It appears to offer few if any options for themes and server-side plug-ins. That might be by design. Keep it simple. It advertises itself as a blogging platform.

ghost.org advertises itself as "The professional publishing platform". That sounds like a CMS and not a blogging tool.

From the ghost.org homepage:

Ghost is a fully open source, hackable platform for building and running a modern online publication. We power blogs, magazines and journalists from Zappos to Sky News.

From the svbtle.com homepage:

A blogging platform designed to help you think.

SVBTLE is a writing and reading network designed from the ground up to work the same way your brain does. It helps you curate ideas and includes everything you need to develop and publish your thoughts to the world.

A blog forever
Svbtle comes with a promise that your published content will remain online forever.

The cleanest writing experience
The Svbtle editor is designed to help you write—there are no distractions, and you can format your posts using Markdown, which is easy to learn and easy to write.

The best reading experience
Svbtle is fast, simple, and beautiful. It’s designed to showcase your writing in the best way possible, with the fewest distractions to your readers.

The Ghost software can be download for a self-installation, but Svbtle cannot be downloaded.

When thinking about new blogging tools in 2017, maybe borrow the O'Nolan thoughts from 2012-2013, but do not create the 2017 version of Ghost, and maybe create a downloadable version of Svbtle that is a little less reliant on client-side JavaScript for so-called cool animations. Client-side JavaScript should be used for useful, helpful purposes.

Ghost is written in Node.js because O'Nolan considered it a modern programming language back in 2012/2013. Node.js has a huge support community. Tons of libraries. It's definitely a popular language. O'Nolan considered PHP to be old and crusty, but PHP is still popular, and it's an easy language to learn.

If it's a CMS-hosted solution, then obviously, the programming language is irrelevant for the users.

But if a downloadable version exists, then it might still be too early to create the app in Golang or Rust. If it's meant to be used by savvy users who are not programmers, then PHP and Node.js are probably better choices.

Geeks like to criticize PHP and WordPress because it uses PHP. Actually, the core codebase for the CMS-hosted version of WordPress is now maintained in Node.js, I think. The downloaded version is still all PHP. But PHP probably helped WordPress reach massive popularity over the past 10-plus years.

I don't know if Node.js's non-blocking feature is a good idea for techy people who are not programmers. Savvy users can probably understand the flow of PHP easier than Node.js.

That would be an interesting study. Determine if non-programmers who are savvy or techy enough to make changes to source code files can work easier with Node.js or PHP or some other language.