Building a Ghost

This is a follow-up to the post Creating the Awesome Machine. Once again, for full-disclosure, I work for Microsoft. Legally, I have to come out and say this when touting a product my company built, maintains, etc., or competes with which is mostly all technical solutions give or take. Yes, the technical community is a small world.

So, my kid has been pestering me to start a blog for months. I have one. Why can’t he? It was a good argument, and I finally relented. I’m glad I did. It’s good education. There are thirteen-year-old kids in the world coding for start-ups, working on the next big thing, so I figured why not?

We went through the same steps as described before, leveraging Azure Services. Give Microsoft some credit. It’s amazing how mainstream these services are becoming. The interface is fairly easy to use, similar to the familiar ribbon found in most Microsoft products. Instead of print being at the top, you start at the left and build to the right. Choose your solution.

Machine learning? Check.

Big Data? Check.

Solve the world’s next great problem? Check.

If you can dream it, you can do it.

And of course, start the next amazing blog? Check.

This time, I leveraged the Ghost Platform. I’ve been a WordPress user since 2010 and wanted to see how the hyped next great blogging platform performed. Ghost launched in 2013 and is designed as a simple means to blog. Unlike WordPress, it’s built in JavaScript and there is no database required. There are also not as many extensions (this is good and bad). At least, for now, it seems easier to maintain, support and use. However, it also excels in a fairly narrow niche. It’s a blogging champion.

I love the split screen editing. On one side, you edit with markdown and HTML. On the other, you can see the finish product (how the page will look). It is extremely easy to use.

But Ghost is also not a content management system, so there is no picture library, etc., Yes, there are themes that can fill the void (somewhat), but I wanted to keep this simple. For this exercise, I used the theme supplied by Azure, which is Casper. Clever. Short for the friendly Ghost. I also don’t know the platform quite as well, which means I will have fewer questions. All in all, I’m still a believer in the WordPress platform. It’s more mature. Still, it’s good to see a competing contender. Competition is good for all industries, including the open source community.

Working from left to right in Azure, I then had my kid (1) Select Build a Website, (2) Choose the platform (Ghost in this case), and (3) Find an available web address. After completing the necessary steps, Azure started its version of the hour-glass and in the next few minutes my kid’s blog was born. It’s that easy to use. I didn’t touch the keyboard at all. I made him do it.

In building a platform, it’s amazing how things can grow. You plant a seed and flowers do bloom. Using Ghost, my kid has posted about Taylor Swift, Dogs, and Great Vacation Spots. Yes, these are the important things in life. My all-time favorite post is how Coke is made, which involves a fairly long trip around the solar system. It doesn’t make any sense, but I loved it all the same.

During this experiment, my kid learned about (1) web services using Azure, (2) simple technical architecture and (3) markdown language (basic HTML). He also learned how to diary a bit and structure his writing (even if it’s about Taylor Swift). It is good for the old brain muscle.

Now, he wants to learn a little about java script, which might be a lesson down the road. Actually, he wants to write his own version of Ghost and WordPress, which is a little beyond my wheel house. Given the time, he might be able to figure it out. Kids are persistent.

What I find amazing is that schools don’t teach these critical skills, or even acknowledge the need/existence. And not at an early enough age. Technical skills are one of the new currencies in the world today. With the power of today’s computing platforms, is Calculus really needed anymore? In reviewing common core curriculum, we still require the use of a graphing calculator. I still have a TI–85 calculator in my desk drawer. I just couldn’t throw it away. It used to be a thing of beauty,

twenty plus years ago. I should never be put in the position to show my kid how to use it. Today, we can spin up a few cloud servers, analyze a million rows of data, and build a model for a rocket to land on a barge in the middle of an ocean.

Yes, I know Calculus is a part of discrete mathematics and has its place. But so does statistics, probability theory, data modeling, mobile application development, and other technical skills. Unfortunately, our school systems are slow to adapt in a rapidly changing world. It’s our job to push them to do so. Hopefully, we eventually get there. Until then, take Azure (or a competing product) for a little spin and have a little fun with your kid. You won’t regret it. Who knows, you might learn something too.

Other Notes:

To give Azure a trial, check out there are website. There are a number of solutions to try.

Give Ghost blogging a go. It really is a great up and coming platform. It’s so simple to use that anyone can take advantage of the platform.

WordPress is still the undisputed champion of blogging, at least for now.

Here is a guide to blogging for creatives. Blogging for Creatives: How designers, artists, crafters and writers can blog to make contacts, win business and build success

On Calculus in our schools, I’m just being provocative. There is data that goes in both directions on the benefit of teaching it.