The Ghost of future publishing systems

Or why am I writing about a Christmas present in late January?

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

I wonder how many people can claim to have been sent a penknife by a blog platform — twice?

Just before Christmas, I receive an unexpected package from Ghost — the team behind the content management system I use to run this site. Inside, as you can see, was a penknife. And this message came with it:

You see, there was an not-very-hidden meaning behind the gift, which I can best illustrate thus:

A Movable Type penknife above a Ghost penknife.
Two penkinves from different ages of blogging.

A few months back, somebody posted on the Ghost forum suggesting that Ghost produced some merch. I commented, suggesting that I would be up for that, as my blog platform merch is getting rather old. (I also had a Blogger hoodie, long claimed and worn to death by my wife.) I'm guessing John, or another member of the team, took note…

I must have had the Movable Type 4 penknife you see above for well over a decade. That version of the early blog platform launched back in 2007, when I was leading blog development for publisher RBI.

A brief history of blog platforms (and how penknives fit in)

For those who haven't followed blog platform development obsessively for over two decades (which, I'm guessing, is everyone apart from me), MT was one of the earlier blog platforms, and briefly the dominant one before the rise of WordPress. MT4 was released during the phase when Movable Type had fallen seriously behind WordPress in market penetration, and was trying to reinvent itself as a commercially-orientated CMS, applicable to many different uses: there were pseudo-forum and social network add-ons, for example.

The move didn't really work out for MT, and it was eventually flogged off to its Japanese subsidiary. (In that, it fared better than stable mate Vox, which was shut down entirely , and the domain name sold to, well, Vox.)  In the years since, Ghost has risen as a good challenger CMS to WordPress (amongst others) when you want a tool that can do one particular kind of thing well: member-supported engaged publishing.

And this rather makes the point, doesn't it?

Bloat is rarely a good thing in a software product. And yes, I'm looking at you, Instagram.

The penknife works great, by the way. I used it to open a big bag of bird seed in a homeschooling break earlier.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.