My first mistake was buying a cheap server from CloudAtCost without knowing beforehand if I’d have any particular use for it. As is usual for nerds like me, I immediately had to find something to put on there.


My first port of call was to try out OwnCloud. I’d heard rumblings about it on the interwebs previously and figured – despite having a premium Dropbox subscription – that I should have a go at setting it up. Fortunately, getting it working in Ubuntu is pretty much as simple as:

sudo apt-get install owncloud

At this point I can pretty much consider that plan a failure. Open Source guys, listen up: if your software isn’t at least as nice to use as the proprietary stuff, why do you even bother? You shouldn’t just settle for mediocrity and hope that because you’re open source you’ll get a decent userbase of digital hipsters.

The client for OS X is horribly ugly. Did you lot just hand this to the intern uni student to do? Seriously, get a load of this uggo – and this is the image they chose show on their homepage!

OwnCloud sync client - Mac

Yikes! The website that runs on the server isn’t especially fast or reliable, either. Second-hand reports from various sources say that OwnCloud has a knack for randomly corrupting the database or handling sync states between clients poorly. Investigating these issues on the internet reveal it’s most likely improved in newer versions and could’ve been caused by misconfiguring the server.

At this point, I feel I’ve spent way more time on this than I need to. Especially considering the end result is an uglier, slower, less reliable monstrosity which would require my constant attention.


After giving up on OwnCloud and happily going back to Dropbox, I decided to check out Octopress, the blogging framework for hackers. I’ve seen it used in the wild by some pretty prominent figures. The list on their GitHub Wiki is impressively long.

It sounds like my kind of bag.

  • Ruby! Check.

  • Jekyll! Check.

  • Markdown! Check.

  • No need to write HTML or CSS! Check.

The fact that it simply produces a public folder that you can host with any old web server is pretty slick as well. It means – theoretically one day, when I can be bothered – I could pretty much host the entire thing on a CDN, which is kinda cool since I have a heap of spare data on MaxCDN.

I do have some concerns though.

“For Hackers”

The thing is designed to be used by hackers, which to me feels a little bit like a rationalisation for making its user interface deliberately obtuse. I do know my way around the ruby toolchain well enough, but I know that if I leave this thing alone for a while, I’m going to forget which rake command creates a new post, which command regenerates the public folder, which command rsyncs stuff up to the production, etc.


I do like Markdown, but I don’t write nearly enough of it to be fluent in it. This means whenever I want to write a post, I’ll have to pull up Gruber’s trusty Markdown Guide as a reference so I can remember how the fucking links work.


I’ve been bitten by frameworks in the past which claim “no HTML or CSS, promise!” They typically end up being really fugly, or can’t do something I critically need (read: it does something that rustles my jimmies) without cracking open the CSS. I’m already noticing that pungent smell of bullshit in the air. While writing this very post I had to crack open the CSS of the theme I’m using1 to find out why the line-height is inconsistent when <p> are contained in <li>; why the CSS for inline <code> blocks has inconsistent styling to code blocks in <figure> and THE MADNESS BEGINS.

These issues aside, it does look like a promising framework. There’s something really satisfying about being able to write your posts in Sublime Text and preview them in your web browser as though the whole thing is just a flat file. Of course, now that I’ve set the thing up, only now have I come to realise the biggest flaw in my plan: I can’t write for shit.