If you are thinking of starting your own blog, or have been writing one for a while, choosing the right blogging platform is an important consideration. In recent years, the two major platforms have been WordPress, and Tumblr.Both platforms are hugely successful, with many favouring WordPress with its’ vast array of plugins and options, and trendy types settling for Tumblr’s pared-down and minimalist aesthetic. There are other, smaller, blogging platforms, but non that have truly attempted to compete. Enter ‘Ghost’, which looks set to deliver user-focussed design, open source code, easy analytics, and to top it off, is not-for-profit.
Expect a battle of David and Goliath proportions: WordPress is estimated to currently account for around 20% of sites on the web, and Tumblr has been acquired by Yahoo. Ghost aims to offer a viable alternative to the major blogging platforms, designed specifically for bloggers to aid their creative process. John O’Nolan, formerly a deputy head of interface at WordPress, is the brains behind the project, and wants Ghost to provide inherent blogging usability. His goal is to provide a platform that is a simplified version of WordPress, that doesn’t consist of a thousand plug-ins. WordPress can be customised to just about any type of website, that it has almost become obsolete as a ‘blog-only’ platform; Tumblr can barely be customised at all. O’Nolan wants Ghost to have a single purpose: to enable writers to publish quickly, easily, and beautifully. After realising that his dream could not be accomplished at WordPress, O’Nolan decided to go it alone. He started a Kickstarter campaign in April, and exceeded his preliminary $25,000 goal in 12 hours.
If you already blog, you might ask what other benefits you could possibly expect from moving away from WordPress or Tumblr. Will moving to Ghost enhance your blog and make it easier to manage? Most importantly, will Ghost enable you to blog and create easily? The main differentiating factor is that you will write in a simplified formatting language called ‘Markdown’, the format O’Nolan feels mimics a more natural writing pattern, enabling a continuous train of thought.
Inspired by the 120 foot roll of paper Jack Kerouac used to write ‘On the Road’, O’Nolan obviously wants blog publishing to be a seamless creative process. A platform that allows the writer to write with no hindrances (such as html code, or pressing buttons) is an imperative. Understanding what tools we write with, from quill and ink to Twitter, is central to understanding shifts in genre and literary style. The growth of social media and blogging platforms has drastically changed the way people write. For the modern reader and writer, the 140 characters of Twitter is an established literary trope, yet one that threatens narrative and creative writing. This is an issue that Ghost looks like it will address, with its’ inherent focus on the blogger.
How, you might ask, does using a markup language software, become a differentiating factor? Surely Ghost cannot be so different if this markup language is already being used, albeit on a smaller-scale? Is the fact that Markdown hasn’t taken off, already testament to its unpopularity in the blogosphere? These are all legitimate questions. As with any start up, one can assume that when Ghost whole-scale is launched, there will be teething problems with software and formatting. What’s exciting is that O’Nolan and his team are marketing creative blogging in a populist and accessible fashion. A critique of Markdown is that it is deemed ‘nerdy’, yet Ghost looks set to create an aesthetically pleasing and easy to use platform that brings this type of blogging to a wider audience.