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Blot – a blogging platform with no interface (blot.im)
391 points by firloop 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 120 comments

One bonus which isn't obvious on the website: the code's open source [1], and released under the CC0 licence.

[1] https://github.com/davidmerfield/Blot

Doesnt Creative Commons actively discourage the use of their licenses for code? I seem to recall seeing something to that effect on their website.

Yes, CC0 has not yet been approved as an open source license by OSI.[1][2] FSF on the other hand, do consider CC0 to be compatible with GPL.[3]

[1]: https://opensource.org/faq#cc-zero

[2]: https://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/CC0_FAQ#May_I_apply_CC...

[3]: https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#CC0

CC0 is a special case, it's a release into the public domain, plus a fully permissive license for countries where you can't release into the PD.

Cool, thanks. This seemed like a good service, but I want to run the daemon myself (and not pay $20).

I’ll contribute to the project or figure out some way to get money to the project team if I like it.

$20 per YEAR

Just a note for others who see this comment as high up as I did.

Honestly, unless it would take you less than half an hour per year on average to do whatever you want with the source code, I think buying it is the more economical option.

Perhaps I could spend more than half an hour to save others the time.

The beauty of software having a near zero marginal cost is that it only take one person to volunteer their time.

I signed up for this the other day and so far really love it. Write a markdown/text file in Dropbox and within 30 seconds or so it's published as a nicely-rendered blog post. As someone who used Jekyll for years and got tired of running hosting and doing rsyncs etc, this is really nice for personal blogging.

The usability of the blot.im site itself is a bit lacking. You get a totally different UI when you're logged in, and the links to documentation on how to format your posts and what the different dropbox folders mean are gone. I had to open an Incognito window to find the documentation (spoiler: https://blot.im/help). The service is dead-simple to use and supports a wide variety of posting styles and formats.

Glad to hear you like it so far. I’m working on a redesign of the dashboard to bring it in line with the front-facing site. I know it’s not good enough as it is and I promise it’ll be fixed.

p.s. I recently added support for git if you’d rather not use Dropbox (https://twitter.com/Blot__/status/996506149712211968). And as a point of trivia, Blot launched just under four years ago here on HN in this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8183498

Thanks for posting the link to the previous thread. And congratulations! Blot is a marvel in simplicity.

If you like Jekyll, GitHub pages has first class support for it. All you have to do is commit a new file for github pages to rebuild your site.

GitLab Pages is only slightly more involved in the setup but the end result is the same, with the added bonus that you can completely customise the pipeline, including not using Jekyll but e.g Hugo (sample[0]) or whatever else you fancy as a generator.

[0]: https://gitlab.com/pages/hugo

I switched to using Netlify for Jekyll. So much easier. Just push to github and it'll build and update the site. It also handles Let's Encrypt.

That's how medium started. And look where that got us.

The _Account and billing_ section is very refreshing, congratulations. It somehow answered every question I knew I'd eventually have. Pricing is predictable, Dropbox permissions are not invasive (no, I wouldn't want to share my family photos with just about any service out there) and the subscription renewals process is fair.

"no interface" is nice marketing, but of course there still is an interface. It just happens to be different from what we usually think of as an interface, but documents placed in Dropbox is still an interface.

No separate interface of its own. You use your existing tools.

It's dead simple, but you're right everything has an interface. Still I love how simple it is.

Definitely not bashing the simplicity. It's not a product for me, but I can certainly imagine this would be a great solution for many.

a simple blogging site — i never found anything more minimal than this.


I don’t expect anyone to use it, just wanted to show for fun since we are talking about simplicity :)

I recently got a gemini PDA, and i started to look at blogging on this thing. (basically android phone with physical keyboard)

Two biggest contenders were wordpress and blogger. I don't want a cms for my blog so blogger made sense, unfortunately it's tied up to google.

Ghost seems compelling, but 20$/month or 5-10$ on other hosting companies is too much, i won't spend hundred(s) every year on my blog. For now at least.

There is markdown editors on F-droid, and static site generators are viable.

I will definitely look into Blot.

Blot is actually only $20/y so 12 times cheaper than ghost. Also be aware that you can get free hosting using github pages, or netlify.

How have I never heard of this Gemini PA!?! I took a look and it really seems awesome! It's a tad pricey (I'm referring to the model with wifi only at $499 USD)...but admittedly I am a cheapskate, and I'm sure prices will go down with increased adoption, economies of scale, etc. ;-) Nevertheless, it really seems to be an amazing form factor. I could absolutely see this as being my laptop for the road. Thanks for sharing this!

Yeah I'm also pretty stoked about this thing, if only it weren't so pricy.

You can self host ghost though

I see a lot of people complaining this doesn't support Git. To me this is an advantage.

Source control is essential for managing code but for handling a few text files on a blog it's probably unnecessary overhead.

Also most people aren't programmers, there is a large audience who could edit a markdown file but have no idea what Git is. I'm sure I could teach my mum markdown in an hour or so but there is no way she could ever grasp Git.

What do you mean by "git support"? Surely you could just store the markdown sources in whatever repo if you need to, and skip that part if you don't. There is no reason to put that feature/requirement in the blog tool, as with any other static site generators.

I stopped using git to track my blog (about 175 posts) because a blog tends to have a lot more than just text files.

There's over 300 jpgs just in blog post related images.

Then I also have a photo gallery where there's about 500x 1920x1080 jpgs.

The .git/ folder ended up taking up gigs upon gigs of space.

You could .gitignore your images folder (or store it outside of the repo) and still get the benefits of tracking text changes.

> 500x 1920x1080 jpgs. > > The .git/ folder ended up taking up gigs upon gigs of space.

Sounds very big for 500 small (IE not 10/20 mega pixel) jpegs?

Even at a generous 500k that should be just ~250 mb of that, unless you have on average four or more "versions" of each image? But I'm assuming the 1080p jpegs are "prints" and so doesn't change much?

There's only 1 version of each file and they never change. Outside of git it's not much space but I remember looking at the .git/ folder a couple of years ago and it was around 4GB.

At that point I blew out the directory and have gone gitless on my blog.

On what filsystem? (in case hard links are being mis-counted as copies). Also note that git for a time was pretty broken re:binary files, but that has sine been fixed/improved.

I was running xubuntu 14 back then, ext4 with no links. I don't remember the exact version of git but it was the one that came with Ubuntu's default package list.

I don't need source control, I just need something that isn't just accessible via proprietary apps, especially ones controlled by corporations with questionable board members.

You might not need all the features, but a public git repository is usually easier to setup than a private WebDAV setup or something like that…

No affiliation but all of my email exchanges with the creator have been surprisingly helpful and pleasant.

This is really cool but it kinda sucks that it's tied to Dropbox - I would like to be able to do something like point it at a git repo URL instead.

Off topic: it would be really nice if there was a common open API for file sync/share services like Dropbox.

My first thought was the same.

My second thought was: github and Gitlab both have pages which will do this for you.

This is even easier for people who want to do less.

Blot recently added support for git, I just haven’t updated the homepage to reflect this:


While you are updating things. I think it would be good to re-enable the YouTube controls-bar on the video. I had to drop out of your site and go to YouTube directly, to be able to watch the video on mute with closed captioning.

Have fixed this, not sure what I was thinking.

I mean, Dropbox is basically a nice front end to Amazon S3 - and doing S3 yourself by hand isn't much cheaper than paid Dropbox (or wasn't when I looked a few months ago).

But I am actually surprised I couldn't quickly find a DIY-Dropbox project.

The majority of Dropbox data hasn't been on S3 for at least 2 years now. See https://blogs.dropbox.com/tech/2016/03/magic-pocket-infrastr...

Ah thank you, I didn't know that!

Take a look at my https://sitios.xyz/ (the interface is very rough yet, but I'm slowly integrating more stuff and making everything better).

It would be nice, but in the meantime I keep recommending people to use SyncThing. It has become much easier to set up and it works brilliantly.

dmerfield posted below he recently added support for git. His comment has details and a link.

I used to run something like that at some point. It basically was a Dropbox account for syncing to a Pi, a python script that monitored changes in a folder hosted on that Pi and would recompile a harp.js website that would then be gitted to Heroku.

I still have some sticky fingers from all that glue but it was good time.

Don't forget about Netlify coupled with Hugo/Gatsby. It's coupled with Git but it's really really seamless. Uses markdown, free https, built in CDN, large community. Just push to master/whatever and your site gets updated. Also for a blog it's free.

Now that really makes me want to try it out. I'm using S3 + CloudFront right now to host a React app, would you say Netlify offers advantages over that stack?

I use Netlify for two websites/blogs. It works very well and is pretty fast (they feel faster than the example blogs promoted at the Blot website). It's for free as long as you don't need extra features (that you really don't need for a simple website).

What functionality does Netlify add to a Gatsby project?

Hosting, if I understand the stack correctly.

Ok. You can also host a Gatsby project using github-pages.

From Netlify homepage:

* Deploy to a redundant network of servers with built‑in continuous integration and HTTPS.

* Manage user identity, HTML forms, and even AWS Lambda functions with ease.

* Use your favorite tools for search, payments, commenting, or content management.

I don't think you can do all that using github-pages. Then again I'd need hands-on experience to compare further. Let me try it right now :)

GitHub pages does have HTTPS. I can do HTML forms, search, payments, commenting, and content management without making my project complicated and without Netlify. I was just curious, not trying to argue. For my use case I don't need any of that other stuff from Netlify, but thanks for the details.

Please add an option to pay with Paypal or Stripe Checkout.

I don't think I am the only person who is uncomfortable typing in my credit card details on various website, even if you're using Strip APIs.

Understood. It's on the list → https://blot.im/updates (under payment methods)

The website's design doesn't work well on mobile (just trying to be helpful).

I seem to recall Dropbox-powered static blog generators being all the rage a few years back...then they all shut down.

Right you are. Amusingly their about page lists a graveyard of 'em: https://blot.im/about

13 out of 22 are dead.

I switched to Blot when Calepin and Scriptogr.am, similar free services where I had my blog hosted, were both folding. It was a welcome change to pay for such a service in hopes it too wouldn't shut down.

Regrettably as is always the case with Markdown-driven services there were some migration pains, and even more regrettably I haven't actually done anything with my blog, but I will say that David was great to deal with, gave thoughtful replies that indicated he recognized the value of my suggestions, and seems to take a lot of pride in the service.

I think I'm about ready to ditch Facebook after a year's experiment, and I've been inactive on Twitter for quite some time, so maybe it's time to go old-school again.

This is really great; so simple yet elegant, and quite inexpensive! While I'm all good for my own personal blogging, I can definitely see me recommending this to others - especially the less tech-savvy bloggers. And, yes, strangely enough I get asked more times than one would expect about "Which blogging platform should I use". I usually tell people to pay for the cheapest wordpress.com plan or something similar (so i don't have to do "free tech support" for them). Well, I now have a good alternative for these bloggers. Kudos to the developers!!

How is that different than any other static website generator that started way back with Blosxom and has now grown to a dozens of different generators?

Github pages is also really simple to use, unless you have problems with git.

I couldn't find an easy way to edit textfiles stored on github from my iPhone or iPad.

But if you use Dropbox, there are several apps that were made specifically to write posts and content in Markdown. When you tap into the Dropbox ecosystem, you gain a lot in ease of use.

The 'what I'm working on' page was a fun show. I feel like you are honest about everything on your plan in public which is great. I laughed when I saw this hidden in the middle:

"Increase price for new customers to $30 a year. This will not affect existing customers."

Great looking service, I like the use case this enables for blogging from my phone. Does it render videos in the folder? It would be amazing if it could sync with a YouTube account and auto upload videos there too (and embed YouTube in the blog)

This looks really nice. Elegantly simple, and very reasonably priced. I could easily see Blot carving out a niche with customers for whom the likes of Squarespace or Wix is total overkill.

https://getkirby.com/ is a a good file-based CMS too that might be of interest to people looking at this.

The attraction of Blot appears to be that it's not a CMS. It has no GUI, just drag-and-drop into Dropbox synced folders.

Started setting something like this up several years ago[1], but never had the time to get it properly off the ground. There are a few existing alternatives including dropsite.com and paperplane.io, but I always end up missing some feature.

[1]: https://github.com/Japanuspus/Site-in-a-Dropbox

Nice. Wrote something similar a couple of years ago: a shop where products and categories are folders and files.


No real features. I wanted to set it up not to forget about it and was also curious about Google Datastore.

Super reasonable cost, looks easier than dealing with my own Jekyll or something similar. Plan on giving this a spin!

If you use a static site generator like Jekyll, you can host a site for free on github pages.

(Blot looks as easy to use as other static site generators)

I was just looking for a simple blog to log my wilderness backpacking trips. This workflow is very convenient for phone-only blogging in the wilderness when Internet is on and off.

1. Write blogs posts offline and save to Dropbox on mobile.

2. When you have Internet, sync Dropbox.

Seems like it would be easier to set up a basic Node or Python server that just renders markdown documents from a given directory, then check in your blog posts as part of your repo and push the whole thing to Heroku whenever you want to update

This seems substantially much more complex than "connect your Dropbox account and choose a theme".

>Node >server >directory >repo >heroku

Compared to

>dropbox text document >choose a theme

Octopress is similar to this for google drive but I don't think its been updated in years - no support for custom domains, themes, etc but the idea is great.


You can actually use

for blogging too.

No formatting though. Just plaintext.

Could be a big drawback (even my stupid blog has a short CSS file, so that it doesn't look too ugly: https://try.popho.be/simple.css)

PSA: You can run Wordpress headlessly, there are libraries in a few languages which consume its API to help you render how you want.

You can hate PHP but Wordpress is king for non-technical users.

There are also plugins that generate a static version of WordPress, so you can run it locally as a site generator and deploy static files anywhere you like.

Agreed on WordPress. In fact, I'm about to start working on the second edition of my book, Technical Blogging, and I will still recommend WordPress despite my audience being highly technical. (Of course, I'll discuss the alternatives as well.)

I'm much more likely to continue to update a site in my spare time if it's a static site on a managed service than if I have to keep on top of security updates for a web server and a CMS and a backing database and the operating system(s) underneath it all. It's just too much administration for something I mildly enjoy doing in the first place.

But your insistence that Wordpress (possibly as a static gen) is worth it has me interested. Where would you recommend I pick up a DRM-free copy of the first edition?

I definitely hear your concern and will be upfront on the pros and cons of each platform.

The DRM-free first edition is here: https://pragprog.com/book/actb/technical-blogging

> I'm about to start working on the second edition of my book, Technical Blogging

Great news!

I read your book in (I think 2012), and found it very useful.

I suspect I'll be buying the second edition.

Awesome. Thank you for your kind words. A lot has changed in 6 years and I learned much more as well. I'll ensure it's a worthwhile upgrade for those who read the first edition as well.

> I'll ensure it's a worthwhile upgrade for those who read the first edition as well.


Is there a way for me to be notified once it comes out?

You can subscribe on https://technicalblogging.com and I will definitely announce it there. Alternatively, the publisher's newsletter on https://pragprog.com.

> You can hate PHP but Wordpress is king for non-technical users.

What if I enjoy using PHP, am very technical, hate Wordpress and my users tell me it's too hard? :D

This seems to more accurately represent the reality of the situation in my experience.

As an author of my own static site generator, I quite like how this one has progressed. It's good to see some activity in this field :)

Fantastic, so simple and powerful. Great work.

I think they meant to say no visual interface.

If something cannot be interfaced with, then it is non existant

Would be interested if you plan to support Google Drive for the source files at some point?

Feels like the spiritual successor to Indexhibit [indexhibit.org], which is great!

This is a good idea, could be really popular with semi-technical users.

Is there a static blog generator with a UI for non-tech people?

Uh... that's what the linked post is.

No it isn't. By "non tech", I mean not manually fiddling with html and all that.

Isn't that what movable type is?


All the blog subdomains.blot.im seem to get no https; I have no idea how that is attractive. Perhaps something to implement, there. Before people consider to sign up for this.

It looks like all the blogusername.blot.im blogs get no https, as opposed to the main blot.im site/page.

You are correct and it will be fixed. The rate limit on LE certificates for subdomains was too low for my usage. Since LE have recently released support for wildcard certs, I will be enabling HTTPS traffic on Blot subdomains as soon as I can.


Extremely slick.

502, Deathhug.

Should be fixed now. One of the servers went down and was struggling to restart under the increased load.

Beautiful API.

would like to see mathjax support

It supports TeX formatting/notation for math. https://blot.im/formatting#math It uses mathjax under the covers.

One cannot not communicate. One cannot not design.

Dropbox is the interface in this case.

All the 7 themes could have been written using pure CSS with the https://classless.alhur.es/ standard.

$20 per year seems steep enough to count as outrageous. Especially when compared to other hosted blog options like WordPress, Blogger, Livejournal, Tumblr, etc. Heck, if I get a free ".tk" website, with maybe free 5GB web hosting with WP.org installed and a free 5GB CDN from Cloudinary, I can "self-host" WordPress for free.

So am I missing a major value-add over any of the above options that makes the $20 a reasonable cost?

This dev created a service that is hosted by himself. There is no "steep" in $20 if you think about server costs and support. Heck, think about how less $20 is, in terms of a whole year! I don't know this guy and I don't need his service but I'm sorry for him that our "every must be cheap or free" dev-culture will make his product less attractive by not making the customer to the product instead.

> I can "self-host" WordPress for free.

If your time is worth nothing

You are not paying for the hosting, but for the convenience.

Okay, but then I have to ask - how is this more convenient than Wordpress.com or Tumblr?

It's cleaner, you have version controlled dropbox files, edit seamlessly on your computer using any editor. All the pain points/features are listed on the site.

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