in blogging, tech, wordpress

Ghost: My comments

Ghost showed up on Kickstarter yesterday and like any good blogging platform, it’ll be judged, commented on, loved and hated. So let me start early. I don’t like it. I love the idea, I loved the beginning, I just don’t like the execution. Here are the two reasons why –

  1. NodeJS? Really?

NodeJS is all the rage right now. Every developer is discovering the strange and amazing things you can do with, of all the things, JavaScript and is running from pillar to post to launch a real-time, fast and easily scalable app as soon as possible. Of course, this means that there are some really nice apps out there. But is NodeJS ready?

Well, define ready.

Of course. Ready means that the next time some layman decides to set up a blog on the Internet, can (s)he purchase a simple hosting plan, upload a couple of NodeJS files and be up in 5 minutes? No. You have to rent a VPS or invest in Amazon AWS, upload files via git and then know how to develop locally and push out changes to the repo in the cloud(Notice all those keywords I threw there, developer?) In other words, you better be a developer and please don’t expect every Tom, Dick and Thorsten to be able to use this technology.

The ghost blog tries hard to defend its decision to go with JS based on the argument that it’s the future and is robust and allows innovation. It leaves out the fact that until the GoDaddies of the web hosting world don’t come out with NodeJS support in their basic plans, you’re not going anywhere with this blogging platform other than the few platforms that specifically support this technology. Oh, and your own computer.

  1. What about WordPress?

When Ghost was first introduced, O’Nolan talked about how WP changed his life and how it was awesome and awful at the same time and how his plan is to take the WP Core and rewrite parts of it to make it awesome-awesome. He meant it. He was going to fix WordPress with just a plugin. But then he didn’t. He’s going to keep the WP format, so that themes and plugins can be easily converted. He’s going to make tools to import from WP so that people can shift to Ghost ASAP. He’s going to take from WP and literally give nothing back. Ever.

I did not expect this. Well, the folks at WordPress probably did. They understand that WP is open source and people can easily add or take as they want. But I did not expect that instead of solidifying and giving better direction to WP, John would just steal from WP so blatantly and try to replace one good platform with another. He could have worked on the Core, he could have made it so much better as to force Automattic to consider his direction as the right path forward. He could have influenced the lives of so many WP lovers in such a positive way, but instead he chose to give up all that just because it would be a little more difficult to make the same stuff in PHP than it is in NodeJS. He gave up on the entire idea and instead focussed himself on getting people to drop WP and come to Ghost, leaving behind the entire essence of the platform that he’s clearly got a lot to thank for.

I’m a big proponent of WordPress. When friends come to me with even a semi-serious resolve to start a blog, I tell them of the cheap and easy hosting plans out there, how they can just upload a bunch of files and run an install script by opening a link in a browser and can search for and edit plugins and themes right from inside the web app and be running a blog in 5 flat minutes.

Now, when people will ask me about Ghost, the “better WordPress”, I’m just going to tell them that it’s not worth the effort and that it’s not ready for prime time. That’s because, NodeJS being such a nascent technology, we can’t expect to see large-scale adoption of the platform any time soon. We won’t see people being enabled to quickly setup a blog without too much hassle and we won’t see ghost being the de facto standard for someone just stepping into the world of blogging. You thought was a country club? Wait till Ghost comes out.


This whole thing seems too much like a rant? As O’Nolan says, “Haters gonna hate.”

What do you think?


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  1. Dear Nitin,

    I respect your views – truly I do – as you say. Some will love it and some will hate it. The part that’s not *quite* ok, however, are the various attacks on my character and my motivations – which you’re totally jumping the gun on with false assumptions built upon false assumptions. I wish you’d sent me an email before writing this and I could’ve answered some of your questions 🙂

    I’m sure there’s a bunch of stuff I can’t change your mind on – but there are a couple of things I would at least like to try. First: Have you ever contributed to WordPress core? I’m genuinely interested – perhaps we share some experiences. I have. When you say I’m stealing from WP and giving nothing back, how exactly does that fit with the 2 years that I spent working (volunteering my time for free) for WordPress as the Deputy Head of The UI Group, and leading the biggest CSS refactor in the history of the codebase, as just one example?

    I feel like I’ve given a lot to WP – and I love WP, contrary to what you seem to imply. If you’d read the followup to the original idea – you’ll see that I abandoned the idea of a “fork” after just 3 days, back in November. Why? Because I was talked out of it. Who by? My friends over at the WordPress core team. They’re much smarter than me, and explained how forking would be the worst of both worlds (lose compatibility, keep technical debt). So I listened to them.

    The very first thing I tried was to build this as a WordPress admin plugin – and you know what? I couldn’t do it. Perhaps this is truly an incredibly hard task – I spent months looking into it. Perhaps my skills are inferior – should I apologise for that? I built Ghost with a couple of friend using technology which we know and can work with.

    To the hosting issues I would pose you the question: How easy was it to host PHP/WordPress in 2003?

    It’s not easy, you’re right. But that’s how technology advances. By doing things that aren’t easy. That’s something I’m really passionate about 🙂

    Anyway. I shall end it here. I spent some time last night talking to Andrew Nacin about the potential to create a way for people to build a site with WordPress and connect it to a blog with Ghost – we both agreed that would be pretty cool if we could work out a good way of doing it.

    You are completely entitled to hate – I just want you to know that I’m (hopefully) not as misguided as you initially thought.



    • Ah John! I’m honored you took the time to read and reply. My comments seem too harsh if they came across as an attack on your character instead of the decision to make Ghost a separate entity using NodeJS. I do still think that the Ghost team is taking a lot away from WordPress, but I do not renounce your contribution to the Core. You’ve obviously worked a lot on the Core and I have not contributed at all. Your work there gets reflected in the fact that you’ve taken up a project to rebuild an entire blogging platform.

      I’m glad you mentioned the Admin plugin. Yes, it would have been difficult, even with awesome skills such as yours and others who are with you but one could argue that it’d help pave the way in understanding how Ghost would be better. Of course, your time, as you’ve taken the decision to make Ghost something completely different, is better spent on building the platform than building these plugins.

      Please understand, I do not hate on you, I hate on the fact that NodeJS is not popular enough right now for the common man to easily set up their own Ghost on any server they want. Perhaps that’s where we’re all headed, but on a slow, meandering train. I was still learning Visual Basic in 2003, so I don’t know what the state of PHP hosting was.

      I certainly look forward to Ghost, as I’m of a programmer’s guild. But my non-programmer friends will still host WP, as it’s much easier right now. I do know you’re not misguided and that by building a platform that’ll maintain compatibility with WP, you’re allowing a really good segment of plugins, themes and ideas to be available to both sides. Of course, all that I’ve talked about pretty much gets negated by the love the kickstarter campaign is receiving.

      Had this been an email, it would have been a correspondence between the two of us. I’ve always learnt to write blogs to express myself and people can comment on them or write their own in response. That might well be the one thing we fiercely agree on.

      • That is absolutely something we can fiercely agree on.

        I really appreciate you taking the time to write up your thoughts. It’s good to question stuff. Too many people accept the world exactly as it’s given to them. I think I’m a bit similar to you in the sense that I absolutely do not 🙂

    • Ruby & Rails have been “popular” for years, but the rails apps still need “deployment”. When “add”, “commit” and then “push” via git is the only way to deploy a rails app to heroku, it can’t beat the php way even with 10 more years.

      • that’s true. But here’s the thing – there needs to be a glaringly popular set of platforms running on a language to make it popular. WordPress, Joomla and Drupal did that for PHP. Maybe Ghost will be the same for NodeJS… I’m hopeful it’ll popularize JS, but till then, it’ll be a pain to deploy.

        • I am using a static blog generator written using node.js and hosting my blog on github pages. It’s more complicated than those which can run on app clouds (like app fog or heroku). I can manage these things — git, node.js or ruby/rails, both on windows and on linux — but I just don’t like it when I want to write blogs. I just don’t like the fact that “before you start to write blogs with blah blah blah, you must install a version control system on your computer”.

          • Obviously you need a way to quickly add files to github pages. Might I suggest It’s an excellent way to add code/pages… Also, why the heck are you hosting on github pages? Most inefficient use of the platform ever!

            • The github pages service is meant to host static pages for github repos, and many people host their static blogs on it. The generator (Hexo) has integrated support on ghpages as well as heroku, while heroku here is not as fast as ghpages.

              No matter what service it is, my point will always be that, as long as I need git to deploy, I won’t like it.

              Now I have a php virtual host, which provides more server location choices than app fog, and also provides front-end speed up servers in even more locations. I can switch between the front-end nodes to speed up my site in specified areas without migrating my actual app from one actual server to another. I have AnchorCMS, dropplets, Habari installed on this host, but none of them meets my requirement.

              AnchorCMS is elegant in design, but it lacks very important functions. Providing a pure text editor backed with a markdown engine doesn’t mean better experience. Things could be better if they have an editor like StackEdit. Dropplets is a blog software which uses uploading for publishing. It is pure single-user, which I love the most. However, it is also too simple. Uploading .md files doesn’t mean better experience, either. And Habari, it (especially the back end) looks like a blog software from 2008.

              The problem with lightweight/simple blog engines is that, they take “rough” for “simple”. Markdown is good, but a markdown editor without shortcut and preview is bad. Publishing by uploading is OK, but not providing an online interface to delete an article is NOT OK. WordPress is too heavy, while on the other hand, the lightweight ones are too light.

              Actually the editor is the most important part in my view. I hope Ghost could provide an editor with Markdown in left panel, and HTML5-contentEditable in right panel, so that people can edit in both panels, and the right panel is also a preview. (For contentEditable, see, which provides such an editor. It really cool)

    • @brickcap:disqus here’s the thing – You didn’t start off by promising a better WordPress (or did you?). You started off as a node-based blog from the get go. I see the way Ghost has grown and I feel that though it’s going in a great direction, it has missed out on the popularity of PHP by opting for Node. Who knows, tomorrow NodeJS might be more popular than PHP, Python and Ruby combined. But that’s not true today, thus leaving the people who were hoping to use Ghost on their own platforms high and dry.

      Beyond this, I only have one thing to say – Specter looks interesting, I’ll try it out! 🙂

      • Thanks. I did not choose node js for high and lofty ambitions. It is just that javascript is the only language that I program well in. So I decided to build a product using what I know best.

        Not looking to compete with wordpress either. Just trying to provide an alternative for people looking for something new. I would appreciate if you would try it out 🙂

        • Exactly my point, you started out with something you knew and just wanted to experiment. I’m good with Python, not JS, so I do all my experimentation in that… I will try it out, but I must warn you, I’m really bad with NodeJS! 😛

  2. Don’t forget – WP is now more website-like, rather than just a blog platform. I actually love the idea. Given it’s 100% free, I don’t have anything against someone taking a good idea and making it better. 🙂

  3. Re: #1 – Hosting might be a pain but shouldn’t stop people evolving tech. Services like have already arrived to deal with this. I’m not a developer and using the beta release of Ghost for the last couple of weeks has been an eye-opener. It makes the editorial experience on WordPress seem very outdated, but obviously wordpress has c. 10 years of bells and whistles which solve other web challenges. It’s going to be interesting to see how everything stands in 12 months time.

    • In 12 months time, nothing will have changed, unless someone comes along to give something down to $1/mo Node.js hosting. Unless that happens, Ghost will see the same kind of growth as ADN has – slow and in bursts. That’s good too, because that means enough iterations will pass before a mass of uninterested, trolling users come along and start calling out bugs publicly.

      I do believe in Ghost’s approach to editing being the most important part of blogging, so I’m looking forward to it, even though I’m not a big fan of Markdown. Hopefully, I’ll soon get to write something like “How to get Ghost for ~Free using Heroku” or some such… 🙂


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