Ghost is here

The Ghost platform arrived today to the public. I should clarify that it "arrived" in the sense that it is in open Beta. However, don't think that just because you have installed a Wordpress site you will be off to the races with Ghost.

Writing in Ghost

Ghost aims to simplify blogging again. Founder John O'nolan thinks that for better or worse Wordpress has become a full-blown Content Management System, not a simple blogging platform. He has taken a Medium-like approach to simplicity in writing -- it's about words on page, not plugins and other distractions. Ghost continues the trend followed by Medium and others switching to Markdown insteady of WYSIWYG editing.

The argument is that WYSIWYG doesn't actually fulfill the promise of showing you "What you get" when typing in the editor. Ghost solves this by placing the Markdown editor on the left and a live preview on the right.

Here's how this post looks in the editor.
Ghost side-by-side editor

My verdict after my first five minutes: I like the Mardown and I do think it has me writing faster and with less clicking, dragging and dropping. I don't like the right-hand side of my screen constatntly flickering as I type.

Node.js

Ghost uses Node.js to accomplish the magic of real-time editing. This is the major departure from the world of Wordpress and PHP with a MySQL database that has dominated CMS platforms for the past decade. Node.js is lightweight and allows for continuous connections.

Think chat software that needs to constantly update or show you when a another user is typing, and you get the idea of Node.js. This is different than the way Wordpress works. Wordpress uses PHP to make calls to the database and then buildx a page for each view based on the PHP. That roundtrip of PHP call -- to the database -- back to PHP to parse -- to HTML to display isn't super effecient. That's why cache plugins are so important.

Other upstarts like Discourse forum software from the people behind Stackoverflow also run on Node.js. It is worth getting your head around it and taking a journey out of your Wordpress comfort zone.

While Node.js is powerful and impressive, it also means installing Ghost can be a bit of a project.

Installing Ghost

The best way to try out Ghost is by installing Ghost on your computer. Fortunately, the Bitnami Ghost Installer makes this easy with a one-click installer. You can use the installer to create a local Ghost instance on Mac, Windows and Linux computers.

Bitnami also lets you install an instance on Amazon Cloud or Windows Azure with install images. You will pay $24/mo to Bitnami and usage fees to Amazon on Azure.

I'm using Digital Ocean. They also have an install image that means you can get started without any worries of SSH and installing things like Apache or Nginx. Also, Digital Ocean Droplets start at $5.

The Big Daddy of VPS, Rackspace is offering a Ghost Deployment. I don't know the exact pricing, but expect to pay significantly more for Rackspace compared to Bitnami or Digital Ocean -- my preferred choice.

  • Digital Ocean - Best value for your money
  • Bitnami - Easiest to use and many one-click installs including Wordpress, Drupal, Discourse, etc.
  • Rackspace - Most robust option (You Probably don't need this for a personal blog)

The Downside of Ghost

Ghost is new. That means it only has a few theme options. Evanto (Themeforest) is trying to change this offering $5000 for new Ghost themes. There is very little customization and you can currently only have one user on a Ghost blog. Be prepared to get your hands dirty with SSH command lines as your primary interface with your site if you want to make changes or do anything beyond the default fuctionality.

The Upside of Ghost

Ghost is new. That means there are endless possibilities for great new features. It also means it is incredibly clean and the lack of options will get you writing immediately instead of fiddling with endless configuration options. I don't know how quickly everybody else will jump over to Ghost. For now, Ghost bloggers will be a tiny minority. That is great if you are sick of your site looking like everybody elses. Even with the thousands of themes, I have powerful "Wordpress-dar" and always know a WP site when I see one.

So, give Ghost a shot. It can only get better.