The Ghost of Blogging Yet To Come (with apologies to Charles Dickens)
In 1843 Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. In it Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by 3 spirits, the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come, who teach him the true meaning of Christmas.
Who knew that 160 years later, being visited by another Ghost could teach me the true meaning of blogging?
Like a lot of people who blog, I maintained a number a blogs, split into specific subject areas. I had one for our recent garden makeover, one for our horses, another for data science, yet another for science & technology, some project specific ones, and a catch-all for anything else - I have a lot of interests :-). A friend has one for her children, a dog training one, another for horses and yet another for a imminent move to America.
Focusing each blog on a specific subject makes sense, it means people aren't randomly exposed to things that are of no interest to them and helps you build a following. Just because I like dogs and horses and technology and garden makeovers doesn't mean anyone else is going to. A dog person probably isn't going to be interested in straw bale gardening.
There was a price for this of course. The effort to maintain all these blogs was a pain in the backside. They were on different platforms, had different requirements, different editors, and some were just plain difficult to use. Common posts couldn't be easily moved from one blog to another and often had to be completely re-formated when they were ... the list just goes on and on.
The result was I didn't update them as often as I would have liked. I spent time I could have been writing, fiddling with blogs, updating plugins, and tweaking themes. Months could go by when a particular blog was left to languish. It wasn't good, the joy was gone :-(
A Ghostly Change
Like Ebenezer Scrooge I had a bit of an epiphany after being visited by a ghost, or rather a Ghost, and I've promised the spirits that I can change ... OK, the last bit is a bit tongue in cheek :-) but I have rediscovered my love of writing, of communicating and sharing with people.
What enabled me to rediscover this was three things:
- A blogging platform called Ghost;
- How Ghost handles tags; and
- Ghost's simplicity.
Ghost started, appropriately enough, as a blog post by John O'Nolan. John had a vision, to produce a blogging platform that went back to basics and focused on writing, on communicating and on connecting to people. Ghost was launched nearly 5 years ago on the 29th April 2013 on Kickstarter. Since then it has gone from strength to strength.
I'm gradulally escaping the problems of multiple blogs by gradually consolidating them all into one Ghost blog.
What makes this possible is how Ghost handles tags. Most systems simply use tags as a way to group related posts together. Ghost takes this a step further by giving each tag it's own page that looks like the front page from a standalone blog, complete with custom header image and description. It's these final bits that make Ghost stand out. Rather than creating a seperate blog for a particular subject, all you have to do is create a unique tag, fill in the description, upload a header imagine, and voilà, instant blog, tailored for a particular subject. This is how tags should work.
The advantages to this are huge. You only have to maintain one blog and yet people only see the information they want to see. They do have the opportunity to discover your other interests if they want to. You go from being a fratured image to a whole picture. They can see the real you ... assuming you want them to of course :-)
One place, one platform, one style. This is one case where less is more - less pain, more gain.
Ghost is to blogging what Ulysses or IA Writer are to writing. A minimalist platform that allows you concentrate on the communicating rather than being distracted by the clutter.
Ghost uses Markdown to create formatted text. Markdown gives you a very minimalist set of options to format your text. Six heading levels, bold, italic, bulleted or numbered lists and a few others. The formatting is done by putting symbols like * or # in the text as you write so you don't have to take your hands off the keyboard.
The result is you spend more time writing and concentrating on the content and less time worrying about what it looks like.
But don't mistake simple for crude, Ghost is anything but crude, it's elegant, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word.
- Graceful and stylish in appearance or manner
- (Of a scientific theory or solution to a problem) pleasingly ingenious and simple.
Definition: elegant - Oxford Dictionaries
Ghost is all of these, it is graceful and stylish in appearance, and it is most definitely pleasingly ingenious and simple.
Successful blogging is about content, pure and simple. Having a simple blog with great content will serve you far better than having a visually stunning blog with crap. Using Ghost enables you spend more time concentrating on the content without the distraction of how to format or layout your blog.
More importantly it presents the content to your readers in the same, clean, elegant fashion. How many blogs have you seen that are so overloaded with sidebars, bottom bars, top bars, floaters, footers and headers that it's difficult to even find the text that your actually supposed to be reading.
Ghost lets your readers concentrate on just reading what you've written without distraction. Pure communication.
All of this has meant that I've re-discovered the fun of writing, of seeing or reading something quirky that sparks a train of thought that you want to share with people. And it's great :-)
So if your interested in pure blogging and you haven't given Ghost a look yet, I would urge you to do so. It won't suit everyone, and it certainly won't replace a multi-function Wordpress installation, but it will do one thing and that's let you communicate quickly and clearly with your audience, and in the end that is what successful blogging is all about - communication.
Life is rather like a tin of sardines - we're all of us looking for the key. (Alan Bennett)
For a overview of what makes Ghost different have look at Julian Ćwirko's excellent article, Why I chose the Ghost blogging platform.