On publishing and blogging platforms

@spek and I started discussing blogging methods and platforms on another thread but since it was totally off topic I proposed to move the discussion to a new thread instead.

It all started because I mentioned I’m building a blogging platform of sorts which triggered a discussion about the pros and cons of CMS (eg: Wordpress) vs SSG (static site generators like Jekyll) vs publishing platforms (eg: Medium) vs stuff in between (eg: Hashnode).

Broadly speaking I think @spek was arguing in favor of using dev-friendly tools while I was arguing that most of the solutions out there are not very friendly to non-tech people.

Do you have a blog?

What are you using to publish your content?

Why did you choose whatever it is that you’re using?

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I host a local version of WordPress, using Local by FlyWheel: https://localwp.com This is very easy: you run the app and click a button…it configures the entire hosting VM.

This makes editing etc. very fast and easy as it’s happening on my own machine, and eliminates all security issues.

I then convert this to a static website, using WebCopy: https://www.cyotek.com/cyotek-webcopy

I then post-process these files using a utility that I wrote to insert/update dynamic(ish) content eg: replace placeholders with Javascript snippets, update product pricing etc.

I then upload this to Azure static websites. You can use AzCopy, or I wrote a little utility to perform a differential upload.

I use Azure CDN as well.

This approach gives me the benefit of using WordPress for a nice editing experience and using plugins etc. to minimize effort, as well as all the benefits of a static website fronted with a CDN. Win-win.

My website: https://www.formuladesk.com

Interesting approach @Gareth. Have you worked with other publishing platforms too?

Yes, I used to use my own custom CMS…it worked well but added no real benefits…just chewed up my time and was inflexible. Going with WordPress opens up an entire universe of plugins. I use Elementor which I regard as absolutely essential - it makes creating and editing pages much easier than standard WordPress.

I’ve used many other CMS’s in my line of work as well. My primary concern is performance, and a static website wins that contest every time :wink:

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@Gareth why not simply use a SSG?

Seems like most pages on https://www.formuladesk.com/ are custom. You could simply write HTML with partials/templates/includes/etc and drop your site folder to any static host.

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@pier That’s the point exactly. I used to follow that approach, but it’s a lot of work compared to what I’m doing now. The website is has zero customizations - it’s just WordPress with Elementor plugin and a few other plugins. I can change the theme, layout, whatever extremely quickly, not touching any HTML or CSS directly. Maintaining the website and even changing look and feel, layout, whatever is super easy.

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Yeah, doing the management in a CMS you know and can work with while exporting the site to static hosting is a good merge of both worlds

@pier Oops, actually there are custom bits - these are the ‘dynamic’ parts that I inject during post-processing. Currently they are the download page (allowing me to quickly update versions displayed on the website) and the pricing page (allowing me to display current pricing/discounts etc.).

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Why are these required to really dynamically? Couldn’t you just re-run a deployment automatically?

I need to update these frequently, so I don’t want to have to fire up WordPress, navigate to the page, edit, save etc. I’d rather my automated build updates the files directly and pushes them up to the server. Much easier and quicker.

I use Substack mainly because it’s free. It’s pretty good for making a newsletter

A priori it feels like for this kind of site it would be a lot less work with an SSG… but hey what do I know? If it works for you then great!

Why did you choose Substack instead of Medium?

(Medium also has newsletters btw)

I was on Medium for a couple of years and had a couple of popular articles with +100k reads but ended up deleting my account after seeing how they treated Freecodecamp:

“But over the past year Medium had become more aggressive toward us,” Larson said. “They have pressured us to put our articles behind their paywalls. We refused. So they tried to buy us. (Which makes no sense. We’re a public charity.) We refused. Then they started threatening us with a lawyer.”


That was actually one of the inspirations for starting my own blogging thing.

I truly suck at website design…this way - using themes etc. I (hopefully) get a website that doesn’t look like it’s been designed by a drunken rhinoceros…!

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Ah okay. Fair enough - getting the whole site opened etc. takes time.

Yeah, seen it’s becoming more popular. What’s your site/newsletter?

Have you considered hashnode?

Haha, me too. I’ve managed too pull some stuff together with TailwindCSS and especially TailwindUI recently. But I’m still more a backend dev.

Ok fair enough :slight_smile:

There are plenty of Jekyll themes available though (free and commercial):

@pier are you using substack atm?

I moved away from Medium to my own blog (SSG with Eleventy)


And now I’m building a platform for blogging, podcasting, etc.

I’m kinda competing with Substack :slight_smile: although since they are focused on newsletters it’s essentially titles, text, and images which is kinda limited.