Ghost is dead! What's next?

Ghost is dead!

Ghost is a blogging platform, it is - in-fact - the blogging platform that this site is currently running on. It first came to the attention of many as a Kickstarter back in 2013, where they launched with the tagline:

Ghost: Just a Blogging Platform

I first tried Ghost a couple of years ago, and loved it! Ghost was exactly as they claimed it to be: "Just a Blogging Platform", writing on it (in Markdown) is a simple and joyful experience. At the time this site was running on Wordpress, which was doing an ok job, but I was never quite happy with it and I found Wordpress to be quite high maintenance.

So, eventually, I decided to take the plunge and switch to Ghost. I've been very happy with that decision and haven't regretted it for a second, even when upgrades proved a little trickier than most other platforms - it was always worth it! I was in the process of writing a post on installing and setting up Ghost on a Raspberry Pi (part of my (Web) Serving Raspberry Pi series), but had paused it because of the impending v1.0 release. I finally got chance to try upgrading this blog recently, and was looking forward to the promised improved Ghost experience.

However, with Version 1.0 the people behind Ghost have essentially killed the platform for self-hosted blogs such as mine. As of v1.0 Ghost only supports their "recommended stack", which consists of: Ubuntu 16.04, MySQL, NGINX, etc. There is no help, not even a quick tip, for anyone requiring any other setup. Not only that but their forums have vanished, leaving only the developer centric Slack for support. The new "installer" - if it can be called that - only works on their "recommended stack" and is worse than useless on any other platform. By way of example there is a post over on micropreneur.life detailing the trails and tribulations of attempting to get Ghost v1 running on Debian. The real killer blow though is the fact that even if you can get Ghost working on a non-supported platform you will have to go through the same nightmare for each and every update, as the ghost update system will not work.

Ultimately Ignacio, on micropreneur.life, came to a similar conclusion to myself (That Ghost is heading in entirly the wrong direction, and is no longer a viable platform for self-hosters), and has moved away from Ghost. Now, I could be cynical and guess that they're attempting to force people onto their paid 'Pro' offerings - but they wouldn't do that, would they? Whatever the motivation, the result is the same: I'm looking for a new platform.

What's next?

I've used all the big boys (Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress) in the past and none are really appropriate for my requirements: Last time I tried it Drupal was an impenetrable mess; Joomla I found to be a bit better, but it is total overkill for this site; Wordpress is where I was before moving to Ghost, and I have no particular desire to take a step backwards - Though the shortcomings of Wordpress are widely reported, so these days I wouldn't consider it anyway.

Therefore I searched and searched and searched for alternatives, what I really want is something like Ghost, but not Ghost. Names like Anchor, Bolt, Grav, Jekyll, Kirby and Pico came up.

Anchor

Anchor was recommended by a friend, and it looks great. It's really nice to work with and is not entirely dissimilar to Ghost in principle, but it does lack a few things by comparison - such as live previews. Not a major issue, as it looks like the missing features are planned. However, the real killer for me is that the GitHub pages and forums are lifeless.

Bolt

Bolt is a CMS rather than a dedicated blogging platform. Despite this Bolt won "Best Blogging Software" in the 2016 CMS Critic awards. It does sound pretty good, you can even try it out before taking the plunge. The forums look reasonably active and updates are regular. It's one of my front runners, certainly. However, I found it to look a bit dated.

Grav

Grav is one of the new generation of flat-file CMSs, and won "Best Open Source CMS" in the 2016 CMS Critic awards. It looks slick, sounds extremely flexible, and is well documented. Grav has regular updates, by far the most active forums of any of the CMS I've looked at, as well as being the one with the most 'buzz' online. I'm currently trying it out... So watch this space. The main problem I'm having so far is working out how to port my content from Ghost. They have systems in place for porting from Wordpress, but nothing for Ghost. Like Ghost, Grav revolves around Markdown (specifically md files), so I can't imagine it'll be too hard to convert the long way if necessary, but a tool would be nice.

Jekyll

Jekyll isn't a blogging platform, or a CMS, it is a static site generator. If you fancy generating flat files from Markdown, Liquid, etc. it's an interesting tool, and includes importers for almost anything you can think of (including Ghost). It's not really what I was looking for, but if nothing else works out it's good to know that I can get my content out of Ghost into something more universally usable.

Kirby

Not free... Does look nice though, but not for me.

Pico

Much like Anchor Pico looks good, but there's very little activity there, which is a concern. Meaning I didn't delve too deep into this one.

Conclusions?

I'm currently trying Grav out and working my way through their documentation, I'll see how it goes and remain hopeful that it's famed flexibility is a benefit and not a curse. One way or another I'll try to post all about it soon, and hopefully that will be on a new platform.