Review: Ghost Blogging Platform

I've made no secret that I HATE Wordpress. It's not that there is anything wrong with Wordpress, per se, it's just that Wordpress is so popular and so ubiquitous, it's an easy target for hackers. I haven't used wordpress for any of my projects in years.

I've been doing most of my blogging on Medium, but that is about to change. Lately, I've been playing with Ghost (what this blog is running on) and I'm not going back.

Ghost, is kind of an odd product. It's just blogging software. You wouldn't want to use Ghost for any other kind of website. The makers of Ghost saw what happened with Wordpress (another blogging platform) being used for everything and specifically wanted to create just a blogging platform. It seems the thought process was "let's create the perfect tool for a fairly technical person who just wants an amazing blog."

It shows. Blogging in Ghost is gloroius. From it's markdown approach to writing posts, to it's simple blog focused themes - it's a pro bloggers dream tool. It even lets you customize what the Facebook and Twitter cards will look like when you share it on social media. (See the image below.)

Settings

If you want to use Ghost, here are a few things to know:

1. It's kind of a pain to setup on your own server.

For both of the Ghost blogs I'm running, I'm just using Amazon Web Services images that were preconfigured. Ghost is kind of finicky about some of it's dependencies, and it doesn't play well with my other web tools.

The good news is, you can use Ghost as a service and have no setup, and setting it up on AWS isn't as hard as it sounds. Here are the steps:

Screen-Shot-2018-03-29-at-8.34.22-AM

  1. Login to your AWS account.
  2. In the EC2 area, click the "Launch Instance" button.
  3. In the "Choose an Amazon Machine Image" screen, click Marketplace and search for "ghost" and then select "Ghost Certified by Bitnami."
  4. Choose the "t2.micro" image. (Should be plenty for a blog.)
  5. Create a PEM file and save it to your computer.
  6. Open the log file on your new image and scan through it to find your default ghost password.
  7. Get the images DNS info and use it with the PEM file to SSH into your new server.
  8. Run commands over SSH to change the blog name, remove the bitnami banner, and restart apache.
  9. At your domain registar, create A records and point them at the IP address of your AWS image.

Screen-Shot-2018-03-29-at-8.58.18-AM

O.k. Seriously, it's not for everyone. But it's not hard either. I setup this blog yesterday in less than 10 minutes.

2. Ghost has a lot of power features that are amazing (but probably completely lost on most people.)

Here are two examples:

  • Code Injection - You can inject code by default on all of your posts, or on specific posts. This is great if you want to add banner adds to all of your posts or use an add service. It could also work for analytics.
  • Zapier Integration - Ghost has built in Zapier integration. This means WITHOUT LEAVING THE GHOST INTERFACE you can setup your blog to automatically post to Facebook and Twitter, Post to your Mailchimp or Drip account, and much, much more.

Screen-Shot-2018-03-29-at-8.47.30-AM

3. Ghost has some pretty sweet native writing apps.

You can download a ghost app for Mac, Windows, Linux or Android (but not iOS?). I'm using the Mac App to write this now, in dark mode, and I'm very much liking it.

4. Ghost makes it easy to lock down your site behind a password.

Screen-Shot-2018-03-29-at-8.59.42-AM

I've setup a Ghost blog just for posting resources internally to our team, but you can't see it. The whole site is password protected. It was just a matter of clicking a checkbox and choosing a password.

4. Ghost is great for blogs - it's not really meant for much else.

Let me reiterate this one more time: Ghost is for blogging and blogging only. It's not the best idea for, well, anything but a blog. You can create pages in HTML and create a custom Ghost theme, but you won't be able to edit them.
Want to use it for your podcasts? Probably not a good idea. Need a site for your restaurant or theatre? Again - not a great fit. Want a church or missionary website? We aren't using Ghost for that for a reason.

But if you need a blog and only a blog - there is nothing better.

Interested in Ghost, check them out here.