The home of Sweaty Spice, the 'other' Spice Girl

My first brush with Ghost as a platform was almost as soon as it launched. At the time I had a few properties, and I was using Wordpress mostly, but also had toyed with Drupal, and Joomla. I was looking for some new experience, and I heard about this new, crowd sourced project, and I said why not.

I believe it was like version 0.3 when I joined, and originally I used their hosted environment (Ghost (PRO)) and it was pretty solid, seamless, and easy to use.

I moved away, and came back in 2015 but did a self hosted install. about version 0.9. It was a rocky experience, because the install was primitive, and upgrading required some bravery, and faith leaps. Fortunately, the 1.x and later versions became a lot more straightforward to maintain. Not as easy as Wordpress, but not awful.

The Editor

The early versions used Markdown for entering your text. I like Markdown, and became rather adept as typing in it, thinking in it, and being able to seamlessly just crank out text and posts.

Alas, it seems that now all CMS’ are using a block based editor, allowing you to mix and match formats, insert videos, and other cool items. While the Koenig editor isn’t terrible, but you can drop Markdown in if you need (or want), and it is ok. Certainly it destroys the Gutenberg editor that is the default in Wordpress these days.

Fortunately, the Ulysses editor (Mac and IOS based) lets me “think” in Markdown, and it seamlessly exports directly to Ghost.

Themes

Alas, Ghost isn’t as popular as Wordpress, so you do have some limitations in the number and variety of themes available to purchase.

Additionally, some of the major theme makers for Wordpress also are porting their styles to Ghost, and that is improving the selection.

While most Wordpress themes are bulletproof, and configurations can be set easily in the control panel in the back end, without any fiddling needed.

Every theme I have used on Ghost has required my to crack into it, and edit files. Every time I need to fix something, I get to roll up my sleeves and re-learn Handlebars templating language. It is not hard, and I enjoy the stretching of my skills, but it is not for the uninitiated.

Final Thoughts

I wanted to have a different site than the usual Wordpress installation, and it definitely is. It is in some ways simpler, easier to understand the whole thing, and while it is less customizable (or, to be more specific, there isn’t a huge ecosystem of plugins, content builders, and other tools to allow you to build e-commerce sites, social media functions, storefronts, and more.

Still, the integration of memberships and subscriptions is a cool twist, and while I am not going to monetize my site, it is great that there is an open source version to compete with Patreon, Substack and others.

It isn’t for everyone, but it is a fun diversion.

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