Hello, Ghost!

I installed Ghost today over on Linode. You're reading the result.

As content management systems go, Ghost strikes an interesting balance between the kitchen sink approach of something like WordPress and the static minimalism of Jekyll or nanoc. As the Ghost theme developer's guide puts it:

Ghost is intended to be a happy medium between a completely dynamic CMS-style application, and a static file generator. The Ghost admin is a dynamic client side app, but the blog pages are generated server side and sent to the browser as static HTML. This makes Ghost themes super fast, and also allows for the blog pages to be heavily cached.

Like Jekyll and WordPress[1], Ghost supports native Markdown. Unlike Jekyll and WordPress, it sports a modern Node.js + Express back-end, a solid web-based Markdown editor, optional SSL verification through Let's Encrypt, even a cross-platform desktop app for a native authoring experience on any of the Big 3 desktop OSes.

Opinionated Design

Ghost makes a couple hard and fast design decisions right out of the box.

  1. No built-in comment support. You're free to build out your own comment support or use a third-party provider like DISQUS, but Ghost doesn't---and won't---support built-in reader comments.

  2. A single taxonomy system based on tags. Not tags and categories, as in WordPress or many other organizational systems.

Now, I'll be honest. One of the more painful parts of working with Jekyll is the lack of comment support. This is a ragged functional hole blasted into the heart of the Jekyll ecosystem and it's forced thousands of Jekyll developers to offload their reader comments to services like DISQUS, which don't offer Markdown, don't offer code formatting, and may or may not be profiting off of the user data so collected. In Jekyll, comments are a complete afterthought.

Now along comes Ghost with a nifty server-side component. They could offer bonafide comment support a la WordPress, which would give publishers and readers any option other than DISQUS, but they won't because it goes against the Ghost ethos of clean minimalism. In fact, Ghost's official recommendation is to "use DISQUS". Well, DISQUS is the opposite of minimalism. No offense to DISQUS, but nothing about DISQUS is clean in any way, shape, or form. Maybe that's why Hugh Rundle made leap and got rid of comments entirely when he moved to Ghost:

I'd prefer to have dialogue as equals, not a relationship of publisher-author and the peanut gallery throwing out comments.

It's true that if everybody had their own blog, there'd be less need for the "Leave a comment" apparatus. Even so, comments play a useful role on many sites especially in today's charged political climate, where they can be so effective at deflating propaganda that many mainstream media sites have removed their comment sections entirely.

  1. WordPress offers robust Markdown support through Jetpack's Markdown module, powered by Michel Fortin's Markdown Extra. ↩︎