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Keep blogging simple. Ghost is a new blogging platform built upon Node.js. Unlike WordPress, which has become a real behemoth of a CMS over the years and runs on outdated PHP/MySQL technology, Ghost promises to simplify things right back to where they began: pure, unadulterated blogging.

Main Features

Ghost began as a Kickstarter last year – “it’s just a blogging platform”, they pitched. When £200,000 ($320,000) was raised for the open source project, they knew they were onto something.

Ghost is about simplicity. It’s not a full-fledged CMS: it doesn’t even include comment functionality. It won’t transform your site into a jobs board or eCommerce shop – it’s literally just a blogging platform. It’s a beautiful blogging platform, but that’s all it is. If you want something that can be mutated into any your heart can dream of, look elsewhere.

So what makes Ghost different?

  • Preview pane and markdown editor. One of the most striking features of Ghost is the simple editing screen, consisting of two panels: one to edit in markdown, and one to preview the result. It feels like WordPress’ full-screen edit mode, if you’ve ever used that. Image uploading works by drag and drop, not complex upload dialogs.
  • Responsive interface. Designed from the ground up to work responsively on tablets and mobile devices. And not just in a “we support mobile devices and touch events but doesn’t really work” kind of way, a la WordPress.
  • * Beautiful dashboard. Ghost promises a whole lot of useful stats right there when you log in. WordPress promises this too, but woefully under-delivers.

That’s it. That’s the feature list. I’ve *ed that last one, because the Dashboard doesn’t actually exist yet: it’s planned for release around Christmas. So for now, you basically just get an editor, and the actual blog. Here’s a screenshot of the promised Dashboard to tide you over.

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dashboard

Hosted vs Self Hosted

Right now, Ghost is only available for testing in self hosted environments – i.e., “bring your own server”. Since it requires some complex server adjustments and root access, you can’t run this on shared hosting, either. At some point soon, they will begin to open up beta accounts for their hosted service – that is, a free blogging service much like WordPress.com What's The Difference Between Running Your Blog On Wordpress.com & Wordpress.org? What's The Difference Between Running Your Blog On Wordpress.com & Wordpress.org? With Wordpress now powering 1 in every 6 websites, they must be doing something right. For both experienced developers and the complete novice, Wordpress has something to offer you. But just as you start on... Read More . That’s not ready yet, however, meaning you’ll need a server of your own to try out Ghost.

Installing Ghost

I did initially plan to install this onto my Media Temple VPS production server, but so many things went wrong with that. This is understandable: both Node and Ghost are still in beta, after all, and my VPS runs an old version of CentOS. If you have a Raspberry Pi lying around, this is an ideal test platform to try out Ghost; alternatively, you can install Ghost on a free Amazon AWS instance, or just grab a ready-made BitNami virtual appliance.

You need to make an account at ghost.org before you can download the system. Go ahead and do so now. Once you’ve grabbed it, upload the complete ZIP file to your Pi via SFTP – I’m going to assume you know how to do that much.

Next, SSH to get started.

ssh pi@10.0.1.10 (or your RPi IP address)
sudo su
apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

At the time of writing, 0.10.20 is the latest version of Node – it may have been updated, so do check. Adjust filenames and folders as necessary.

curl -O www.nodejs.org/dist/v0.10.20/node-v0.10.20.tar.gz
tar -zxvf node-v0.10.20.tar.gz
cd node-v0.10.20
./configure 
make
make install

Beware – that first make command will take at least a few hours.

apt-get install sqlite3
git clone git://github.com/isaacs/npm.git
cd npm/scripts
chmod +x install.sh
./install.sh

At this point you have an updated system with Node.js and the Node Package Manager installed.

unzip -d ghost ghost-[press tab]

By pressing tab, you’re asking Bash to fill out the rest of the details of the file name, saving you the effort.

cd ghost
npm install

This will grab all the Node dependencies for Ghost. If you get errors about NPM not being found, try symlinking the binaries:

ln -s /usr/local/bin/npm /usr/bin/npm 
npm install
Lots of green is good. Any red, and the process has failed.
Lots of green is good. Any red, and the process has failed.

Now you’re ready to do some minor config changes.

cp config.example.js config.js
nano config.js

In this file, your want to edit all instance of host: ‘127.0.0.1’ with your IP address, and port: ‘2368’ with 80. Hit CTRL-X, Y to exit and save.

edit-host-port

Lastly, type:

npm start 

to run Ghost. You can now access Ghost from any local network browser with the IP of your Pi.

http://10.0.1.10/ghost

ghost-login

You’ll know it’s working because if you’ll see resources being served from the RPi.

rpi-debug

Though the initial user ID creation is extraordinarily slow – about a minute – the experience after that is blazingly fast. Behold the power of Node.js!

Impressions

You’re thrown straight into a content overview, with a single post example to learn the basics of markdown. I wasn’t a big fan of markdown before using Ghost – I’d rather just type in plain text, then use the WordPress visual editor to jazz things up later. Once you’ve learnt the syntax it’s fairly simple, however, and I find appealing now. I especially love the ability to add screenshots later:  just put a placeholder to remind yourself, then drag and drop into the editor at a later point. How long have we wished for drag and drop uploads in WordPress?

editor

And that’s about it. You can view your blog removing the /ghost of the URL (or click the top left icon if you set the IP as the production URL). The default theme is pretty boring, but there’s already a marketplace to buy more.

I’m clearly sensationalising by saying Ghost is a WordPress killer: Node itself is still beta, as is Ghost, and the process of getting either installed on a production server is far from easy as of now. Still, Ghost does offer a compelling alternative for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with the complexity of WordPress for simple blogging. Such is the way with any popular system: as it grows, features are added, code complexity increases, the original mission is lost, and at some point a bright new competitor arrives offering something fresh. Ghost is that start up, and you should expect big things from it. For now, though, it certainly won’t be killing any WordPress.

If you’ve had a chance to try out Ghost, what do you think? Is it just a little too simple for you, or do you love that simplicity?

  1. Ar?nas
    December 11, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    And now you can have the same admin panel on WordPress: http://wordpress.org/plugins/gust/

    • James B
      December 11, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      That sounds awesome, but seriously you need to add screenshots if you want anyone to even considering trying it.

    • Khürt L. Williams
      December 22, 2013 at 9:07 pm

      I installed it -- even before seeing any screen shots. Love it.

      I'm also trying out ghost: http://khurt.com/

      Right now Ghost seems more responsive, albeit a bit lacking in features. We really don't know how Ghost will perform once the plug-in architecture and API is complete. Blogging from a browser is extremely limiting.

    • Khürt L. Williams
      December 22, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      James, I forgot to say, your write up on installing Ghost on the Raspberry Pi is more informative and useful than any of the Ghost documentation or write-ups for other platform that I've read in the last month. Kudos to you for being so clear.

  2. moneill
    November 16, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Ah that worked beautifully, great instructions! Might just be an idea to indicate that the unzip command is for the ghost.x.x.x.x.zip file, got a little confused as to what I was supposed to be unzipping for a couple of minutes there. Thanks!

  3. martin
    November 3, 2013 at 12:20 am

    There are new plugins out, for instance the REAL Plugin a php form builder, with drag and drop template layout builder and a drag and drop website / content builder on http://www.jb-webs.com for wordpress and there will come other plugins the next years for wordpress which turn wordpress in a multi million dollar machine, for free download - so why is this so? Well I think the answer is simple, a wordpress is cool, but more than that it has 68 Million users, that's is it what makes it very interesting for developers to create plugins for wordpress. And that’s why Ghost will have in my opinion a hard time to become a WordPress killer, because it is nit very attractive for developers to make plugins for such a small market - beside that, the Ghost story is good, the Kickstarter campaign was surly a smash success but well, how many people using it now? 10K, 20K - can’t much more than that, no?

    • Khürt L. Williams
      December 22, 2013 at 8:49 pm

      I don't know how many are using Ghost but it has been downloaded 98,044 times.

  4. Rogger
    October 25, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Omg, a few hours to install Node.js? Huh?

    Install Node.js and npm in just 2 minutes...
    wget http://rasptorial.com/downloads/sh/nodejs.sh && sudo chmod +x nodejs.sh && sudo ./nodejs.sh

    Source: https://github.com/nathanjohnson320/node_arm

    • James B
      October 29, 2013 at 8:00 pm

      Thanks, I wasn't aware of that.

  5. Unsane
    October 25, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    So, were you waiting for someone to tell you how fucktarded you are for: "runs on outdated PHP/MySQL technology" ? Fucktarded.

    • James B
      October 29, 2013 at 8:06 pm

      That's exactly what I was sitting here waiting for! Thank you for making my evening much more satisfactory, I fear I was losing sleep waiting for someone to call me that. Are you a developer yourself?

      • vik
        February 9, 2016 at 1:34 pm

        No, he's just someone who's attuned to calling people names when ancient technology is called ancient technology. PHP / MySQL is outdated. Deal with it.

  6. Fatih A
    October 25, 2013 at 9:23 am

    i don't think it's a wp killer.. you can choose how to use WordPress as blogging or cms.
    we can see that MakeUseOf is made using wordpress.. imagine that MakeUseOf was made using Ghost !

  7. Kev Q
    October 24, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    Like you James, I think Ghost has a long and fruitful future ahead of it. I was one of the Kickstarter backers, so I've been testing Ghost for around a month or so now. I absolutely love the markup, it's a really great way to write, as it having the full screen editor.

    With it being such a young project, I'm reluctant to use it full time, plus, not having features like pages (so you can add things like about and contact pages) is a deal breaker for me at the moment. I'm sure those kinds of features will come though.

    John O'Nolan (the creator of Ghost) has committed to staying faithful to the premise of Ghost - keeping it simple, even once they're an established name. I hope they stick to that, and don't lose their way like WP.

    WordPress is great, but it's more of a full-blown CMS now, not a blogging platform.

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