John O’Nolan took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to Packt Publishing about the meteoric rise of Ghost – the stripped back blogging platform.
What were the biggest issues you faced/continue to face in the development phase?
Open source development is always a challenge. You’re taking a group of people from entirely different backgrounds, with widely varying skillsets, from all over the world, who’ve never met each other before – and trying to get them to work together in a way which is both functional and cohesive. Organising such a large project tends to attract an even larger group of developers, so managing that whole process is generally one of the biggest challenges which we face on a day to day basis. It’s incredibly rewarding when it all comes together and works correctly, but it takes a lot of time and attention to get right.
We’ve learned a tremendous amount about this process in the last 12 months, and I’m sure we’ll learn just as much in the next 12 months.
Would you recommend Kickstarter for other software devs? Are there any lessons other open-source developers could take away from it?
Crowdfunding is something I’d recommend to anyone – but whether or not you use Kickstarter is a really hard one to answer, and I’ve gone back and forth on it a few times. I think these days my answer is more or less: “It depends” – as there are both advantages and drawbacks to each approach. On the plus side, Kickstarter gives a project a certain degree of credibility, puts in in front of people who might not necassarily have seen it otherwise, and gives you quite a lot of tools to manage the campaign. On the downside, they take quite a large chunk of the money you raise, you have to play by their rules, and the tools for managing the campaign are good – but not great. I think if you have an existing network or audience, independent crowdfuning might be a more compelling proposition.
What are your views on the situation with Express.js, and the questions is raises overall about the OpenSource movement?
The situation with Express.js was interesting, but realistically, things like this happen in Open Source all the time. It’s not a new paradigm, and to some degree it’s a bit of a storm in a teacup. I don’t think it raises any new questions about the Open Source Sofware movement – in fact in some way it points to the very strength of it. Had Express been a closed project which got sold, everyone would’ve been left high and dry. With Open Source, there is always the option to fork and create a new project if the original branch loses its way. It’s not a perfect solution (it’s often not even a good one), but in the face of the alternative: no solution at all – it’s a significant step in the direction of freedom.
What’s your biggest hope for the future of Ghost? Mass adoption? An increase in dialog about how we distribute our blog content?
Mass adoption is always a hope, of course, but I’m definitely more passionate about quality than quantity. I would rather have 5 respected major news organisations running on Ghost than 10,000 cat blogs. I think that for journalism to continue to remain relevant it needs to continue to be free and open, both in the tools being used as well as in the organisations behind the content being created. I hope that Ghost can move the needle on independent publishing, as opposed to venture-backed click-bait.
Besides a different use philosophy (just blogging!) Ghost is notable for its embrace of Node.js. Do you think more CMS systems will start to make the transition to Node.js?
Yes and no. I don’t believe many (if any) existing systems are going to start transitioning to Node.js. There are far too many reasons for why it doesn’t make much sense. But I do think that we’re already starting to see a definite transition in the technologies chosen for building new platforms. Node.js is certainly towards the front of the pack, but it’s by no means the only player. There are a great deal of exciting new technologies which are lining up to power the next generation of the web, and I’m pretty excited to see where they all go.
With Ghost(Pro), and fairly easy going third-party hosting, Ghost’s more accessible than many open-source blogging/CMS platforms. What do you think Ghost offers over and above more packaged blog solutions?
The choices right now are beautiful and closed, or clunky and open. We’re trying to combine the best of both worlds and create something really special.