inessential by Brent Simmons

Weblog software

I tried Wordpress for a little while on this weblog since I wanted to have comments. And last night I switched off Wordpress, back to my homegrown static-rendering system.

For comments I’m trying out Disqus. The cool thing is that it works via Javascript includes, so I can still have a static-rendered site.

Why I switched back

Mt. Rainier forestI admire Wordpress tremendously and recognize what an achievement it is, what a great platform it is, and I wish its creators and community every success.

But I had some problems with it: performance problems and caching problems. For instance, I had to manually delete the supercache folder every time I posted.

Even assuming I could have fixed the problems, it still didn’t suit my temperament, which is, I admit, twisted by an advanced hatred of the overly-complicated.

Theory about details

What my screens keep doing, part 2The amount of detail involved in writing software (which is what I do) is hard to over-estimate. As great as Cocoa and Cocoa Touch are, writing software is still not like snapping blocks together.

With software you’re always one typo away from an app that doesn’t build — or, worse, crashes.

I have the tolerance, patience, and gumption to deal with all that complexity because it’s the thing I do.

But blogging — like Twittering, emailing, IMing, keeping track of to-do lists, and so on — is a secondary thing.

And I want those secondary things to be as simple and frictionless as possible. I insist on it.

The self-hosted versions of Wordpress — and Movable Type too, to be fair — appears to be for people for whom publishing on the web is their main thing. That’s fine: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

It’s just that my main thing is something else. So I’ve gone back to my simple 50K weblog rendering script over the heavy megabytes of a Wordpress or Movable Type installation.

My theory is that everybody has, or should have, one main thing where they can submerge themselves: everything else needs to be simpler.

The ancient history of weblog software

Papa on my chair with sunshineIn the beginning, blogging was easy. With Blogger you didn’t even have titles — you just wrote until you were finished. It was almost like Twitter, but without a 140-character limit.

But people wanted titles. And comments. Trackbacks. Themes. Search. Categories. Keywords. Tags. Pings. Text filters. Custom fields.

And when they got those things, the people did rejoice.

Until a simpler weblog system came along. Then the people said, “Oh, Old Thing is so bloated now. I’m going to switch to the New Thing.”

And the people did ask that the New Thing add titles, comments, trackbacks, themes, search, categories, keywords, tags, pings, text filters, and custom fields. And then they also asked for tag clouds, widgets, a plugin architecture, and distributed comment-spam filtering.

Which the New Thing did add, and the people did rejoice.

Until the New New Thing appeared, which was simple and clean and delightful, and they liked it better than the New Thing. But the people did ask if it would add just a few features…

And so on.

Until Twitter.

Twitter is proof that people like writing for the web

It’s an easy analogy to make: IM is to email as Twitter is to blogging. Look how much people hate email — and how much they like IM.

But, sadly, if you list these by increasing complexity it goes like this:


That’s just plain tragic, when blogging is harder than email.

Mt. Rainier forest flowerI love Twitter — but I also love blogging. I love reading your more complete thoughts.

This, for me, is what the web is all about: seeing the world through your eyes.

Room for a new system?

I like what’s going on over at Tumblr. I’m considering switching, but it’s a big job because I have almost ten years of content here, including images and some downloads, that wouldn’t be easy to move over.

What I’d really like is a self-hosted system that comes as close as possible to the Twitter (and early Blogger) ideal: a little text box and a submit button.

Make it super-easy; make it fun. Remember that it’s not my main thing.

(And, okay, maybe add a few more features…)