brycv icon

A window into the Digital Life of Bryan Vyhmeister

Enter Octopress

I have been using Wordpress for the better part of three years for varying projects. Before that, I used Blogger and a variety of other blogging and CMS engines. None of them really met my needs. One of my preferences is to run without a database if possible. Using a database makes everything more complex for this type of task. I understand and use databases for some projects but blogging is not one where I want to use a database.

Flat files are such an easy way to create any type of content system such as a blogging engine. I have been searching for a blogging engine that works the way I want it to but I have not been able to come up with anything. Marco Arment uses a blogging engine that he designed for his own use called Second Crack for his site but unfortunately he has not released it in any way although he mentions that he may release it as open source in the future. For now, Second Crack is off the table.

Earlier this week, I thought I would do some more searches for an alternative blogging platform. While I still use Wordpress for some significant projects, it just does not evoke the creativity and clean simplicity that I like in a blogging engine. I decided to try Tumblr for a litte while and I do like its simplicity and creativity but it lacks the flexibility in layout and customization that a self-hosted solution provides.

My search this week led me to one other blogging platform I had never heard of. This blogging engine is Octopress. Like Second Crack, Octopress works from flat files formatted using John Gruber’s Markdown. In its own words:

Octopress is a framework designed by Brandon Mathis for Jekyll, the blog aware static site generator powering Github Pages. To start blogging with Jekyll, you have to write your own HTML templates, CSS, Javascripts and set up your configuration. But with Octopress All of that is already taken care of. Simply clone or fork Octopress, install dependencies and the theme, and you’re set.

Anyone who has worked with me knows that I am firmly entrenched in using the command line for just about anything I can. Octopress fits this paradigm perfectly because everything from writing the post (using vim) to publishing it happens from the command line. Of course other text editors can be used, but publishing must happen using the command line.

Octopress is not for the faint of heart and requires a technical bent. This will not replace the easy-to-install Wordpress instance that you setup for your parents to post about their vacations. Octopress is the hacker’s blogging engine and that is why it works so well for me.