For a long time I have been looking at different options for a blog backend. I have tried many different services from Squarespace to Tumblr. I've experimented with entire theme platforms on WordPress as well as free and paid themes. Nothing felt right. Some services were too complicated, while others were simply too simple. I needed something that allowed me to tinker with my server while at the same time not feel like it was being held together by the skin of the proverbial teeth.
After what has literally been years of testing, experimenting, poking and prodding I think I have found the right mix of simplicity, polish, stability and nerd. It isn't a simple shared cPanel host, or Tumblr, or a dedicated server or even WordPress. It's Ghost, running on my virtual server. Some of my fellow bloggers probably don't know what ghost is, and most of them probably don't care. What works for them works for them—but I am not them.
For the better part of two I have been running my blog on WordPress exclusively. WordPress is a bit of a resource hog, and therefore I always served it with Nginx instead of Apache. (I have a small virtual server, I need to be able to maintain stability during times of heavy load.) What I ended up with was a good portion of a working WordPress install that would frequently throw out random errors while composing posts. On top of that, WordPress itself was just not very intuitive.
The solution I settled on is called Ghost. Ghost is a blogging platform—that's it. It isn't for people who want to run a florist's site and a blog or a community and a blog—it's just for blogging, and it is sleek in the process. Instead of a clunky and bloated writing interface, we get an awesome two paned Markdown editor. (I've blogged about Markdown in the past, it's fantastic. You should try it.) Instead of a shitty convoluted theme system, Ghost provides a templating system similar to what was offered on early blog systems like Greymatter. The end result is a system that isn't bloated, and is easily customizable by anyone with knowledge of HTML.
All things considered, Ghost isn't for everyone. It runs on Node.js. There is no PHP here. The majority of webhosts simply do not support it, but since I manage my own server this wasn't an issue. I installed the software I needed, trounced through some configuration files and had it up and running in about an hour, with it being fully configured in less than a day. (Mind you, I already had a fully configured Nginx install serving my WordPress blog, so the install and configuration step was a bit easier.)
The system is fast—ridiculously so. The amount of working parts was reduced from five to two, creating an even faster setup than existed before. It's a win for me. Now all I need to do is find something better than Disqus for the comments.
Also, it's fucking cool.