Blogging Options in 2013


One thing missing from the site I mentioned in my last post is a blog element. I honestly don't want to do another blog (I have three already, gesh), but it seems like it is a "requirement" and the lesser of two evils between that and using Twitter.

Obviously I'm not going to rebuild the wheel so to speak, so I'm looking at pre-built and hosted options. By default, the first option I considered is Mango Blog, which I use for this site and my other blog, Animania. However, I'm hesitant with the seeming uncertain nature of Mango's future. While 1.7 was released not too long ago, the actual site itself hasn't fully been updated to even note that and it has broken links on the news feed. The forums are FULL of spam that is not being moderated out even when the admin is around; otherwise they seem to be mostly dead. And while the developer says she is committed to continuing it she also notes it's a labor of love she can't devote a lot of time too anymore. Similar issues are happening with the plug-ins – I don't think a new one has been released in well over a year, and only a few seem to be actively maintained.

Don't get me wrong, I quite like Mango. It needs improvements and has some weird issues, such as has the archive pagination will not work no matter what I do on this site, but it works fine on Animania; any foreign character codes get broken on Animania during save though they work fine if I manually put them in the DB, etc. Still, on the whole it works well enough. I've hacked it a bit to fix some other issues I had and will be hacking at it to fix other annoyances. The code is rather convoluted, though, which makes it a serious pain in the ass to diagnose and fix issues. Still, the functionality itself has enough flexibility that I can easily make it mostly about the blog (like these) or make it more about the site with the blog secondary. That uncertain future, though, makes it something I don't think it is wise for me use on a new site.

I've also looked at BlogCFC, originally developed by Raymond Camden and passed on to Scott Stroz in 2011. However there hasn't been any word on the project since January of 2012 nor any sign of future updates coming out, so unfortunately I'm inclined to view it with the same "dead or dying" brush as Mango. The code based itself seems simpler, but some of it is from 2006 so quite dated as well. I also just dislike using any web application that supports Access as a database option ( yes, I am a code/DB snob!).

I've also considered running WordPress, arguably one of the top blogging apps at this point, but good lord that thing looks so complicated. I think it's manual is longer than that user guide I wrote and much more disjointed. I do know it is powerful and can act as both a blog and a CMS. We actually use WordPress in our agency for a bunch of our unit and county extension sites, though I have no experience with the system myself (different group handles that). Having it local means I can customize it to my needs, but also means I have to maintain it. Where Mango is rarely updated, WordPress is updated almost too much. 10 updates in 2011 and 7 in 2012, though they do only make two major releases a year. Also, like Mango it appears to now have a built-in updater but again on the flip side the one in Mango has never worked for me because of the file permission issues inherit in working in a hosted environment.

Drupal is another PHP CMS/Blog system. It has the added benefit of being usable with PostgreSQL (yay), though they do warn that contributed modules may not be properly abstracted from MySQL-specific code. I've also read warnings, including in Drupal's own documentation, that it may not perform well in a regular hosted environment. Granted, what I'd have would be pretty simple, but if the site takes off it could have higher traffic. I like to be a good "hosting neighbor" and not suck out all the resources of my box, and I can't really afford to go with my own colocation or the like (nor would I want to manage one).

The WordPress.com, the hosted version of WordPress, would take out the hassle of managing it and ensure I'm always up to date on version. However I'm not entirely sure I want to have my blog hosted in a third-party service and it costs money. Yeah, it's "free, but it's $30 a year to have it ad free, $20/year to up the storage from 3 GB to 10 GB if I decide to throw in some podcasts or the like, and $30 a year to enable advanced customization options. Premium templates "start" at $50. So out $90-100 a year…I already pay that for my hosting now, so I don't particularly want to double the cost. And even with the upgrades, it just isn't as customizable as the home installed system. I could, however, use HootSuite to manage posts, like I'm doing with my Facebook page, so that would be a nice bonus.

I've also thought about using Blogger for the blog component, but it has many of the same cons as WordPress's hosted version, except I think it is completely free. It also is run by Google, who I tend not to trust to keep anything going. Squarespace is just too blah and expensive. And, of course, with any hosted options you have all the horror stories about legitimate blogs being pulled by over zealous monitors, excessive TOS (like WordPress doesn't allow ads?), and all content lost because there are no backups or the like. I'm sure some of these are probably exaggerated, but it's enough to give pause.

For now, I'm not sure which direction I'm going to go. It's all rather confusing and frustrating…I may just say screw it and stick with what I know and can use for now, but maybe you guys know something that is simpler like Mango but more actively maintained. Should I consider branching from an existing, seemingly dying app, and just make my own system for my personal use? Or is there a hosted option I've overlooked?