After years of taking for granted that if you wanted a blog, you’d better go with Wordpress, we’re now seeing an interesting rise in demand for simpler blogging tools, and the appearance of a new generation of blogging engines and platforms in response to it. One of these is sloblog.io, which you’re looking at right now, but it’s certainly not the only kid on the block, so let’s take a look at some of the alternatives.
svbtle, I think, started it all. Dustin Curtis wowed everyone with screenshots of his work-in-progress software; back then, he already made it clear that svbtle would remain a closed, invite-only platform, and its tagline has since been tweaked into “A new kind of magazine.” Nevertheless, the extreme simplicity of svbtle’s user interface has had a great impact on many other blogging packages. Getting access to Svbtle currently requires applying for membership.
After realizing that svbtle was going to remain invite-only, Nate Wienert created obtvse, an open-source blog engine built with Rails and inspired by svbtle’s approach to UI, a move that wasn’t without controversy. I haven’t tried obtvse myself, but I assume it’s just as easy to use as it looks on the screenshots. Deploying a Rails app to a server or the cloud isn’t entirely trivial, though; don’t expect things to be as straight-forward as with Wordpress or other PHP packages.
Everybody is talking about Ghost right now, a simple, but powerful looking blog engine that is currently doing a Kickstarter to infuse development with some much-needed funds. The team behind Ghost seems to know what they’re doing, with their Kickstarter video pushing all the right buttons: simple interface, Markdown everywhere, built-in analytics, an open-source release alongside a hosted service, it’s all there. Keep your eye on this one.
After giving us both Blogger and Twitter, serial entrepreneur Evan Williams is now building Medium, a platform for “sharing ideas and experiences moves humanity forward”. As a blogging platform, it’s relatively simplistic, with some interesting ideas for the editing interface and commenting, which happens as notes attached to individual paragraphs, instead of a long-form discussion sitting underneath your post. It also has a Director of Content, which I thought was curious, but also means there’s actually heaps of interesting content to discover.
Jekyll & Octopress
If you want to host your blog yourself and keep things simple, Jekyll and its cousin Octopress allow you to write a Markdown-based blog on your local system, compile it to static HTML documents, and upload those to pretty much any web host available without the need for scripting languages or databases. Obviously, all this stuff is heavily geared towards developers, so if you don’t know your Ruby from you Bash, you’re probably not going to have a good time with these.
I didn’t know about pen.io until earlier today. It’s a pretty simple, but beautifully designed platform that, at least partly, is extremely similar to this one. It’s worth noting that pen.io allows anonymous posts, which I think is great, but also seems to have lead to a bit of a spam problem. All in all, I understand the fact that it’s so similar to sloblog.io as confirmation that there’s an actual demand for platforms like this.
And finally, there’s sloblog.io, the platform this post lives on. What is there to say that hasn’t been said before? Its (er, current) tagline is “a light-weight, developer-friendly, ad-free blogging platform”, which I explain in further detail in the newly published FAQ. sloblog.io may not be what you’re looking for in a blogging platform, but you’re more than welcome to give it a try; no hard feelings if you prefer a self-hosted blog, of course.
No matter what you end up using, I love how there’s a demand for blogging tools that are not Wordpress, and I love even more that there’s a growing number of options available to satisfy that demand. (Not to mention having built one of them, with considerable success, too, considering it’s just a little weekend project.)
I’ve used Wordpress a lot in the past, and I’m sure there’ll always be a market for it. A lot of people have given up on long-form blogging and are now exclusively using Twitter, Facebook or Google+ instead. It’s become obvious that there’s a gap between the old-school Wordpress and the micro-blogging world that is now starting to be filled, and maybe we’ll win some of you back.