New Ghost Blog -- My Blogging History

Another year, another blogging platform. Yes I am falling into the trap of spending more time fiddling with blogging platforms than actually blogging. Back in 2012 I deployed Octopress, and now I'm deploying Ghost. Here's an overview of my longer term blogging history, dating back to the 1980s, read on if you're interested.....

The two main features I configured in Ghost were to add a Feedburner feed link to the main theme (rather than the local RSS file) c.f. Troy, and to add Discus comments when the full article is viewed, c.f. Voigt. Both of these are implemented by editing a template file in the theme, and restarting ghost.

I used NROFF and TROFF (c.f. TROFF) in the mid-1980s in university, so I was familiar with markup early on (this is still what is used for Unix/Linux man page formatting). I then used TeX and LaTeX in the late 1980s (c.f. TUG Getting Started), and ever since, for Computer Science (and other) academic papers. I even persuaded NUI Galway (then called UCG) Computer Services, where I worked, (with the help of Paul Doyle) to use a LaTeX workflow for user documentation. This did not last long, as the learning curve was too steep for non techies to engage as authors. Anyway, I was a big fan of structured markup to manage content and produce various formats of output.

In the early 1990s I got into the web after seeing a presentation at NSC92 conference (Network Services Conference) November 1992 in Pisa, Italy. That's a separate thread, but of course HTML was originally much easier than LaTeX, and conceptually similar. Thus I got engaged early on in deploying websites, and loved it. This is when I learned Perl, at the suggestion of Joe Desbonnet in Galway, who thought it would be useful for the UCG website. I was fascinated by CGI, and the power of the web paradigm. I generally avoided higher level authoring tools and did raw editing (or generation from LaTeX).

I moved from Galway to Waterford in the mid-1990s, where I helped setup the TSSG with Willie Donnelly and Eamonn de Leastar, later joined by Barry Downes. I was interested in RSS (and later Atom) as it emerged in the late 1990s with Netscape support, and I followed Dave Winer's blog. I was able to incorporate feed aggregation into an early TSSG project, NITOURA, in 2000 as a way of providing customised information. Eventually I created the space to setup my own blog in early 2002. The initial system I used never really took off, it was called GreyMatter.

As a Perl guy, I was then attracted to MovableType (MT) and migrated the original blog to this. I persuaded the TSSG to adopt this for their own blogs, and some content management. I migrated from own hosted solution to one shared with the TSSG. This exposed me to the dangers of Berkeley DB version incompatibilities, ho hum. I then moved to a full MySQL DB backend instead.

As I became more interested in W3C standards, not that I was ever uninterested, I wanted to ensure my stuff complied. I found that with MT it was always generating invalid pages and invalid feeds. This was not the platform's fault per se, but due to my habit of pasting in clipped URIs and text that broke the rules. However, I could not find a smooth workflow that gave me confidence that I wasn't breaking compliance, and I let it slip. Browsers are very forgiving, even if validators are not, though it always irked me.

Now I know that the original markdown was implemented by John Gruber and others in Perl, and available for MovableType. I was interested in the concept, perhaps more for its use in automated program documentation workflow than for blogs. I didn't implement it on my own blog, but did use it elsewhere.

In Q4 2010 I became CTO of FeedHenry and here I've had the opportunity re-engaging with my scripting roots, now JavaScript rather than Perl. The original server-side JavaScript we used in FeedHenry was Rhino -- very conceptually similar to the Perl CGI paradigm. The server-side JavaScript with Node.js is streets ahead, and very powerful.

This encouraged me to experiment with Octopress and Jekyll to manage a statically generated blog. In parallel I embraced git and github, and I can see that for some types of blog this low-tech approach may suit well. It is much less tooled than the MovableType web browser embedded editing, but is very powerful. It feet right for me then.

FeedHenry evolved to adopt Node.js (a sensible choice for server-side JavaScript) and it continued to niggle at me that there wasn't a suitably mature Node.js blogging platform for me to experiment with. Enter Ghost stage left, and so I'm now experimenting with that.

In the mean time my blogging has really tapered off, as many people's has, with the use of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ for discussion of the latest technology news. However Ghost allows such ease of editing and posting that I'm hoping it will reinvigorate me to do some longer posts again: no excuse if you can easily edit, preview and publish on your phone or tablet device as well as your desktop.