Thoughts On Ghost: Let’s Embrace Opinion

Like nearly a hundred thousand others last week, I was very interested to see John O’Nolan’s concept of a simplified blogging platform, Ghost.

And like quite a few of those others, I really liked John’s ideas. He suggested things like totally revamping the Dashboard so that it’s “like your iPhone home screen”; adopting an email client split-view approach to managing posts and — my favourite bit — “a new writing screen that actually makes sense for blogging”. I’ll come to that in a bit.

Ghost’s Dashboard concept.

The main idea of Ghost is to tailor-make a blogging platform that does blogging, and blogging only. WordPress is, without a doubt, a fully-fledged content management system, but it seems it’s always been fighting to be accepted as so.

Back when I started WPShout three and a half years ago, articles entitled “how to use WordPress as a CMS” were all the range. That time — from WordPress 2.6/7 – 3.0 — was when WordPress made a big shift from blogging platform to CMS. A new Dashboard, custom post types and arguably premium themes were the big drivers of change.

The pioneering new Dashboard introduced to WordPress 2.7.

And we, as a community, embraced that change, because the new features were, without doubt, awesome! The new Dashboard in 2.7, released nearly four years ago, is largely the same thing that’s in use today. A lot of people have gained a lot financially from premium themes,  myself included, and things like custom post types were the icing on the cake.

An idealistic approach

But here’s the thing. Whilst WordPress is fantastic, as a blogging platform, it’s not actually particularly ideal. Whilst it does everything you could possibly want, the pure scope of the more advanced features means when you just want to sit down and write, there are a thousand and one things to distract you.

Ghost’s awesome writing-screen concept.

John suggests a writing screen that “makes sense for blogging”. How does it do that? A split screen view which has markdown on the left and a live preview on the right, with the idea being you can spend less time writing out HTML to get your post displaying how you want, and more time just writing whatever comes to you.

And like me, it’s quite possible you’re reading this thinking this looks fantastic. Ghost has great looking UI, wants to do things like build in the plugins that everybody uses and even wants to be “free as in Mozilla, not [free] as in Automattic.”

This looks brilliant.

Please stop moaning

My problem, then, is that a bit like an Apple fan, I’ve taken one look at a new idea and immediately thought that looks amazing when can I have it. I’ve then written a blog post telling my readers how wonderful this new concept is.

And I can’t help but think it looks just a little bit like I’m having a good old moan at WordPress, something I’m not really too entitled to do. John served as Deputy Head of the WordPress UI Group  on versions 3.0 and 3.1. He’s gone out and crafted the entire idea and made the designs to back up his ideas. What have I done? Well, not much really in the grander WordPress scheme of things.

WordPress has done absolutely brilliant things for me and I can’t help but feel a little hypocritical for thinking Automattic shouldn’t really be making $45 million a year (source) off free software, but I should be able to make an income off the same free software without paying a dime in due, royalties, whatever.

And, then, I can’t help feel like I’m just moaning for suggesting WordPress suddenly isn’t suitable for my needs when I’ve not done anything to try and address these issues myself.

So what do you want, then?

So what do I want? Matt said:

I really like some of the things John has done in his mockups here, especially on the write screen, and contrary to what he thinks ideas like this are more than welcome in the WordPress community.

But I don’t know to what extent this is actually true in practice.

The Great GPL Debate created a with-us-or-against-us WordPress community which — I think — has prevented ideas like this coming forward in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

People like John can say these things because they’ve made the core contributions and given up their time for WordPress, but people like me? Sure, I’ve got opinions, but the barrier to entry is so high when it comes to submitting to core or the like, that whilst I have some skills, they’re nowhere near good enough.

And if I’d published a concept for a blogging platform? I’ve not got the skills to create awesome mockups and I’ve not contributed too much to the WordPress platform, so I expect I’d be told to do these things for WordPress or shut up and stop moaning — and in a community where you’re with-us-or-against-us, I wouldn’t want either me or my blog labelled as one of the black sheep.

So what do I want? I’d like the WordPress community to open itself up to more ideas like this, but embrace the thoughts of everyone, not just those with the skills to flesh out every single detail of what they’d like to see.

The barrier to entry of submitting something like this to WordPress is huge. The barrier to entry of thoughts, though? Nil.

Let’s push ideas around some more; let’s embrace opinion.

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About the author

Hello, I'm Alex! I started WPShout in 2009, just before my 16th birthday. Get in touch with me, I'd love to chat. You should also follow me on Twitter :)

4 Comments

  • The barrier to entry of submitting something like this to WordPress is huge. The barrier to entry of thoughts, though? Nil.

    The barrier to posting and getting involved on the make/ui p2 is also nil, where a lot of ideas are born and fleshed out. It’s not that the barrier is all that high for contribution, it’s that people either don’t have the time or inclination to put forth the effort to get involved.

    I’m reminded of that saying about the lottery, “You can’t win if you don’t enter.”
    Contributing is as much about action as it is about ideas, both of which are necessary to get discussions rolling.

  • Ideas and concepts can help push innovation. Critiques of ideas and concepts can make the ideas and concepts better.

    However, shooting something down because it may somehow become competition or the one creating the idea or concept may not yet be able to make it a reality is simply foolishness. I hope the WP community would be open to seeing new ideas so we all can benefit from it.

    Thanks for the write up.

    By the way, when viewing on mobile device, I could not kill the popup overlay making reading very difficult.

  • My biggest problem with John’s “Ghost” concept (BTW, he isn’t alone in the “let’s redesign WordPress” fad that seems to be going around the internets — Jason Schuller from Press75 said that he’s working on a project that sounds eerily similar) was that I couldn’t find anything that John was suggesting that couldn’t be handled by an admin dashboard plugin. A fairly large, and wide-ranging dashboard plugin, sure, but he’s not changing any of the core functionality — he’s just changing the UX, so why can’t Ghost and WordPress co-exist? Why can’t Ghost just be a really awesome plugin? I’d download it in a heartbeat, why do I need to abandon WordPress to do so?

    The other thing that annoyed me is that, okay, yes, it’s been said that opening your stuff up to comments in an age where things like Twitter, blogging, Facebook, etc. exist isn’t entirely necessary — the conversation will happen whether it’s on your site or not — but putting a revolutionary idea like this out there and not allowing people to post comments or feedback isn’t helping things. It seems like the biggest problem that John and Jason and other people who have come out and criticized the direction of WordPress core have with the way the software has been going is that they feel like they don’t have any input in the conversation. So what have John and Jason done? They’ve put up these posts about drastically changing/forking WordPress to be more blogging-centric, and not allowed people to comment, which sort of perpetuates the cycle, doesn’t it?

    I agree that there are things in WordPress core that have stagnated for several iterations — and there are good reasons for that; it’s tough to please everyone when 17% of the internet uses your software. But how can you get a software out of this rut? By getting involved in the actual conversation. Which doesn’t (necessarily) mean forking the software. I agree with Drew above, “you can’t win if you don’t enter.”

  • Hi Alex,

    I sort of see what you mean. But this project was crowd funded. It literally would not be getting made if there wasn’t enough interest. I’d also point to their partners: WooThemes, Envato, MarketPress and many others who have an excellent grasp of just how secure WordPress is as top blogging platform. And yet they’re helping to fund and make way for Ghost to be a big hit.