Ghost: Publishing not made simpler

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Ghost launch in London.
Ghost itself is something I’ve watched closely since hearing about it via a flurry tweets and blog posts on various news outlets I follow. I also invested via Kickstarter as soon as I had the option – the promise of something beautifully simple with easy to understand metrics right there on the dashboard was hard to ignore. It promised simplicity in a sea of configurations, plugins, themes and options.

Before I continue further about Ghost specifically, I should really talk about launching a product in general. It’s exceptionally hard, there’s no question.

I have extensive knowledge of helping customers launch their products and services and currently trying to do something similar with The Business Website Handbook and a couple of other related projects which have yet to make it to Kickstarter.

A lot of the podcasts I listen to (mostly from the US/Canada) talk about a MVP (minimum viable product), bootstrapping (no funding) and I recently heard the phrase MVA (minimum viable audience) which is probably the key to the whole process.

Kickstarter offers a wonderfully perfect way of finding out if your MVP has a MVA.
Trouble is, once funded, you have a very specific audience who have, assuming that was your goal, already paid for your product. Now you’ve got to take it from a minimal idea to something full blown, a customer satisfying monster. Most likely if you achieved over and above what you set out to gain, you’ve probably already promised new features or extra options.
Problem being I want it yesterday, I’ve paid for it.

I can count on a couple of fingers how many Kickstarter campaigns that I’ve backed that have since been delivered. I’m not talking a few weeks or months late, I mean years!

Which brings me back to Ghost.
Aside from the pink cocktails (interesting choice for a launch event attended by mostly male developers), there were two laptops on podiums, with easily hundred people in the room. Chances of getting my hands on a trial run of Ghost were slim, which was awkward since a reporter for The Guardian wanted to ask my thoughts on it.

Since Ghost has gone public – now available to everyone rather than just the Kickstarter backers, I’m thankfully not the only person with the opinion that I sadly count Ghost as one of the Kickstarter products that still hasn’t be delivered.

True it’s ‘launched’, but have you tried to install it? Anything that requires a user to install additional software and fire up the command line just to get it going has completely missed it’s objective of simplicity regardless of how it looks once up and running. There was a very recent patch which involved pretty much replacing everything you’ve already installed. It’s very manual and hands on, almost like the developers have ploughed as many ideas into the actual code but forgotten what it’s like to sit down and install it as a fresh user.

In all honesty I’m not entirely sure who it’s aimed at right now. It’s squarely pointed in the direction of WordPress but I’ve got friends with no previous web experience that can install that.

Now I should caveat the above with the fact that Ghost is, at the time of writing, still at v0.3.3. It would be unfair to base whether it’s a WordPress killer right now. That’s why I backed a hosted version of Ghost – something that still isn’t available.

So for me it’s a failed product launch, or rather it’s not actually launched yet. I wish Ghost all the luck in the world, I look forward to catching up with it in a year or two.

7 thoughts on “Ghost: Publishing not made simpler”

  1. The version number is no excuse. If you are launching an application for public consumption, and they paid for the thing, you have a responsibility to deliver what you promised.

    And Ghost is nothing new, save for the language used. I helped found a blogging platform 8 years ago that is basically the fore-runner of Ghost. Only blogging, configurable dashboard that gives you analytics, clean minimal interface, the whole nine yards.

    We build ours on top of bleeding edge OOP PHP, but the core idea is exactly the same, and we actually delivered on it with our 0.1 release. It took 4 of us a year, but that is how it should be. Good software takes time.

    I still really like much of what is going on with Ghost. They have a great UI, and some interesting ideas. I just question the choice of platform, for much the same reason you have, and find it embarrassing that people paid them that much money, and they haven’t even delivered a useable dashboard. You have to edit a file with a text editor to set your URL for the love of Pete.

    Hopefully things will pickup soon for them.

    • I couldn’t agree more Chris, I was just trying to come back with a positive spin on what is a pretty negative commentary amongst a sea of hype.
      Plus I know John O’Nolan uses the version number as an ‘excuse’.

  2. Hey, Chris Southam, i saw your comment on my post , where you shared link of this post.

    You are right, Ghost is missing some point & Manaual installation of Ghost is not simple and easy & it might be confusing for begginers.

    But i don’t think it’s a failed product launch, we can see improvements in later verson of Ghost.

    • Thanks Tahir. I do think it failed from the perspective of a Kickstarter product launch personally. It was (and still is) missing the part I paid for which is the hosted version, and to be honest if I’d not tried to get it up and running locally and just signed up for an account and tried it then I probably wouldn’t have been so harsh on it.

  3. Interesting article and commentary. I only found out about Ghost ~18 days ago, so missed the Kickstarter fan fare and skipped straight to rolling up my sleeves and getting into Ghost and beginner node.js install and it had a bit of learning curve but it was well worth it = :)

    I can see where you’re coming from with the hosted version not immediately available, but after installing Ghost on my own VPS server with Nginx and seeing the extended possibilities of such as setup, I can now see how a hosted version might be too limiting for myself and others who took the self hosted route.

    After playing with Ghost for a while now, I’m liking it a lot. FYI, I also have been using WordPress for 8+ yrs now, but I also install WordPress from command line in SSH as well so similar to Ghost with that regards.

  4. I have to agree with you. I’m a developer and I’ve yet to get a version of Ghost up and running. I tried the command line as well as the installer. I’m really intrigued by the ability to edit from anywhere, but that would mean I would have to have Ghost running.

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