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Static vs. Dynamic Blogging

You’ve got a lot of software options when setting up a blog. Over the years. I’ve used or tried most of the options including, but not limited to: WordPress, Jekyll, Octopress, and at least 3 custom built systems.

What follows is my thinking on the pros and cons of each option, and why I’m switching back to a static blog system (Hugo this time).

Dynamic Blogs (WordPress, etc.)

Dynamic blogs, like WP, have a lot going for them:

  • Easy to use
  • Lots of plugins
  • Great media handling
  • Usable from any internet connected device with a browser.
  • Great selection of themes
  • Instant publishing
  • Scheduled posts
  • Multiple Authors

So, what’s the downside? It seems like every few months one of our WordPress blogs gets hacked and Google starts warning folks it has malware. You have to constantly log in to update it, and every time you do you run the risk of hosing your database (admittedly a rare occurrence), or breaking compatibility with one of your plugins (happened a few times to us).

Another big downside is when you do happen to write something popular, and thousands of people try hitting your site at once. Many a WordPress (and similar) blog has gone down under the strain of success.

Squarespace would be an excellent option except for the $8+ per month, per site price tag. $24 if you want to be able to actually modify the HTML, CSS, or JavaScript. Maybe, if you only have one, but I manage 11+.

Static Blogs

There are notably good things about static blogs:

  • The fastest possible page loads.
  • Can withstand crazy high request loads
  • Zero maintenance or security worries.
  • Minimal hosting requirements
  • Markdown support
    • you may not care, but I demand it of a blogging platform.

There are a number of downsides though:

  • Can only blog from home computer (without bullshit hoop jumping)
    • Prose is the only decent exception I know of. Tinypress may be an option too, but they’re too new to say.
  • Multistep publishing
    • run build script
    • sync files over scp / rsync / ftp / whatever.
  • Generally weak media support
    • no auto-resizing
    • no media players
    • have to think about where the images live
    • very limited selection of plugins (if any)
  • Typically poor selection of themes
  • Limited layout capabilities
    • they all use markdown, and Markdown can only produce a restricted subset of HTML.
  • Slow site generation
    • Hugo is the only exception I’ve seen to this rule.
  • Metadata gets mixed in with posts instead of stored in a separate database
    • All static blogs seem to use Jekyll idea of Front Matter embeded at the top of your post.
  • Multi-author sites require either human organization or hacking. It’s not really supported well out of the box.
  • Geeky
    • Very few of the static blog options seem particularly usable by the non-geeks out there.

Note

Being a geek, I’ve got some advantages. When I used Jekyll I wrote JekyllMail which lets you create blog posts via email. It even handles attached images. I could do that for any other platform too. That addresses what’s probably the biggest downside to static blogs. Again, using Prose would too, but that’d tie me to Jekyll on the back end, and I just wasn’t thrilled with it.

Why’d I Choose Static?

With so few upsides, and so many downsides, a dynamic blog would seem the obvious choice. So why would I switch back to a static blog?

At this point I require any dynamic system to also be a managed system (like Squarespace) that doesn’t cost a boatload of money to run a bunch of sites on. Also, I need to actually like the software. Ghost is a decent, and relatively affordable option but I’ve had problems with their import, and I’m not thrilled with the software.

Medium and Svbtle both have their proponents, but posting there doesn’t contribute to your success or credentials. It contributes to their’s.

Static blogs give me a few big things:

  • The ability to stop compensating for or worrying about hackers
  • The confidence my site will stay up when I post something popular
  • The ability to customize the look and feel
  • Unlimited blog sites for zero additional dollars.
    • I just pay a monthly fee for hosting space with as many domains as I want.
    • Or do it totally free by using GitHub pages…

Also, and I realize this is totally illogical, building a site with a static blog gives me a feeling of having actually been a part of it’s creation.

So, for now I’m using Hugo. I’m going to have to start converting my other blogs over because they’ve been hacked again. I just need to find a way to enable my wife to easily post to our shared blog at CorporateRunaways.

Want to debate this? Think I missed something? Hit me up on Twitter.