June 11, 2016

Why I’m Liking Blot.Im

Long time readers know that I’ve struggled with blogging platforms for a long time. I finally opted for a static post approach because it’s safer than the PHP code injections that Wordpress suffers (suffered?) from. The bonus side of platforms like Wordpress is that they have 1000′s of great plugins to download and turbo charge your blog. I really liked this but I got tired of having my PHP templates code injected” with spam attacks.

After a long time, and several experiments (i.e. TextPattern, Expression Engine, etc.) I decided to give the Ruby based Jekyll a try. I loved it from the start at first, but I grew tired of it after a year or so. The good thing about Jekyll is that there’s an emerging community for templates (aka themes) and some plugins. I liked the fact that I could write markdown and HTML posts and have them inside a directory that I could always quickly edit or remove. The big downside to this static approach and Jeykll in general is that you have to rebuild ALL your posts when you upload a new post. This can take a LONG time if you have many posts, and I suffered from this problem.

What I really wanted was a static post generator that was fast, uses HTML and Markdown files, and is portable. By portable I mean saving my posts to a folder that I can share across computers.

Enter Blot.Im

I started trolling around the Internet and found that there is a new class of static blog generators that are based on Nodejs. They appear faster and I discovered one called Hexo. Installation was a pain the butt and I couldn’t really import a lot of my old blog posts because they didn’t have the YAML type header, but it seemed to work well. It just felt very early stage development.

I don’t how I found it but shortly after I stumbled upon Blot.Im. Blot.Im is a class of static post generators that use some sort of JS system and build a blog from your saved posts in Dropbox. While this concept isn’t new, it’s the remaining survivor of this type of Dropbox to Blog system. Why? Because the proprietor charges a small nominal fee ($20/year) to make this service happen.

Pros

  1. It’s fast. As soon as I drop a post into my Dropbox folder, it gets generated. You can set up a very simple folder structure where you can drop it into a drafts folder and Blot renders a preview of it.
  2. Lightweight but great folder system. In addition to a draft folder, you can organize your posts by year or topic. Just create a folder in your Dropbox with 2016 and put all those posts in there. If you make a folder named travel then Blot auto tags all the posts in there as travel related.
  3. Custom domains supported! Really easy to do and I’ve done it here. The plus side is that you can set your own permalinks too, so you can have domain/blog/your-post by just adding /blog/your-post to the head of your file.
  4. Markdown, HTML, TXT, and now DOCX support. Enough said about markdown and HTML but writing in TXT and dropping in DOCX formats is pretty cool.
  5. Embedding Javascript. That’s really easy to do in a markdown post. You can add some much cool stuff to your posts that it just hurts. I do this all the time with things like D3js.
  6. Simple Templating System. Now this is great. Blot uses the Mustache templating system that is EASY to understand and very lightweight. The best part is that I can embed templates within templates! Reminds me a lot of Expression Engine, which was the only neat thing I liked about that platform. The best part? You can embed a template within a markdown post and it gets rendered. HOW COOL IS THAT?!??
  7. Dropbox. I can now access all my posts from anywhere I have Internet and a connection to Dropbox. I’m no longer tied to my one computer with Ruby and Jekyll on it.

Cons

  1. YAMLish type front end. It appears that all the newer static generators like Hexo and Jekyll all use a standard” type of YAML notation at the top of the post. Blot simplifies this structure but does provide you the ability to set a Title, Date, Tags, and Permalink. My only concern is future portability if Blot closes down. David did post that if Blot closes down he’d release the source code, so my concern is really just a nit pick.”

Yes, I listed only 1 con and it’s really me being a drama king. I decided against listing David as another con because - as far as I can tell - Blot is a one man show. However, he’s been really responsive any emails I’ve sent and really spends a lot of time fine tuning Blot and providing new features.

Overall I think Blot has a great future because of it’s focus on simplicity, speed and functionality, and that’s why I like it!



Blot.Im blogging CMS


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