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Show HN: You Don't Need WordPress – Create a Blog With Only Google Docs (youdontneedwp.com)
257 points by patwalls on Sept 26, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 109 comments

I don't know why this is attracting so much hate here. It's a novel and useful idea. Sure, you're relying on Docs, but that's an established, mainline Google service which makes them money through their enterprise work stack (so I doubt it'll get Google Reader'd). If you were using Google's cloud, nobody in the comments would know or care. Sometimes HN is just negative for the sake of being negative.

I think this is a great solution for anyone who wants to throw some articles online without having to muck about with frameworks or the minutiae of managing a blog. Good work, OP!

Thanks! That's a good point.

People might crap on your idea because it relies on a Google product, but massive companies like Snapchat and Airbnb use Google Cloud.

Obviously GDocs are a bit different but lots of businesses are built on top of Google products (e.g. Google Maps)

*<< "...but lots of businesses are built on top of Google products (e.g. Google Maps) "

And if they forgot that, Google just reminded them with massive price hikes and limits on free use https://www.mapsmarker.com/docs/misc/google-maps-tos-changes...

There's a big difference between a neat side hustle you made in 24 hours, and Uber. I genuinely don't understand why people on this website are so critical of things like this.

They might not shut down google docs but they will randomly lock your documents for a few days because a script thought they seemed unusual. Had it happen to me and apparently lots of others have had it as well.

> I think this is a great solution for anyone who wants to throw some articles online without having to muck about with frameworks or the minutiae of managing a blog.

Your comment might be right, but this sentence is puzzling. How does this require less minutiae than, say, Medium or tumblr?

(As good as) No login (if you're logged into Google)

Docs UI -- Editing documents in a proper word processor is better than most blogging platforms

This lets you make a blog of existing docs

It's not a drop-in replacement for everything, but it's novel and makes sense as an option for a lot of people

Medium is the "YouTube" of text blogs, and may (soon) be in the same league of evilness. The point is to have a blog without a gatekeeper that controls who sees what. Using Google docs fulfills this requirement (at this moment).

Google Docs might not go away but Google might charge for it. Or you will be locked out of Docs because you uploaded a video on YouTube featuring your toddler listening to copyrighted music.

Wordpress is here to stay and relatively under your control

I mean it's not like migrating some pages will be hard anyway ...

I say it's a quick and easy way to put some things out there.

Only if you remembered to back them up before you got denied access.

That said now that's actually a concern to me. Anyone know of any decent automated google docs backup services?

> If you were using Google's cloud, nobody in the comments would know or care

I would. Deeply unhappy with all the fashionable reliance on external monoliths as a matter of course. Whenever I have the choice, I simply discount technologies that can't stand on its own legs. I would not trust Google with my shopping list. Why would I trust them with a website?

Hey HN,

In my opinion, platforms like WordPress can feel bloated or be intimidating to new users.

For this reason, I wanted to build a blogging platform on top of Google Docs.

I actually run my own blog as a side project, and I use GDocs religiously because of its excellent collaboration and sharing features. When I’m collaborating with dozens of writers, it’s convenient to be able to use a product that everyone is familiar with.

Another cool thing, I built and launched this project in 24 hours and streamed the whole thing on Twitch (https://www.twitch.tv/videos/313288148). I started with just an idea, and streamed the entire process to launch and had a few thousands viewers tune in.

Excited to get your feedback.


It seems like YDNW is like a CMS that uses Google Drive as the "backend"/admin UI.

Personally, I see the benefits to using GDrive as the backend, but instead of having to host a server, I would rather be able to run a static site generator that exports my GDrive folder into some HTML that I can push to a free/cheap hosting provider. Is that something you've considered?

Static site generation would also obviate the concern that Google could "delete your blog" -- at worst, they could delete the source documents, but the published blog would be unaffected.

I do agree that static site generators are preferable for many reasons. But I think that people who want to deal with statically generated files (all technical people) rather write their content in markdown anyway. I don't think there is enough overlap in the two audiences.

It's not cool to grab someone else's blog posts to use as your demo.

I also thought that was strange. Took me a minute to realise that he wasn't the author.

Nice to see an open-source project like this, but where can we find the repository / source?

Very cool! I'm guessing that this relies on Google not breaking, disabling or rate-limiting their Docs API, correct?

Yes, very true. Important to think aboout.

There is a rate limit on their API although I don't think I will hit it at this point of the project, but I do plan to start thinking about how I can cache/save the export from the Google doc for pages that are getting hit really hard. Any ideas?

I agree think there's plenty of room for new ideas for collaborative blogging, but I do think relying on centralised proprietary SaaSS is very problematic.

Google can just take down your blog any day if they feel like it. With Wordpress I can host my own.

I wonder if it would be possible to use something like Etherpad as backend instead?

>Google can just take down your blog any day if they feel like it. That's just the best case scenario. They could close your email, locking you out of gmail, youtube, and any other service tied to the registered email.

And then since Google has been tracking related emails, they'll close those too.

Don't you find it difficult to maintain a consistent format/schema between many authors?

I thought about using Google Docs for a publishing project, but the lack of an enforced schema made me pick a JS rich text editor instead.

Also, how do you deal with images?

I would suggest using google oauth for authentication rather than the username/password combo.

Solving accessibility (and simplicity) to blogging and freedom of speech, and in just 24 hours; this is awesome to say the least. I look forward to the words and wisdom that people will share with us through the platform.

I find Gdocs hard, because I'm not used to it. So it's really a case of which tool you are used to working with and are proficient at.

People take to Wordpress relatively easily in my experience.

So I'm reading your plus point specifically as the collaboration support in Gdocs.

I really like this. I have a pretty big legacy site with one section full of user-contributed (HTML/images) tutorials written over a period of 20 years (yes, the site has been up over 20 years) and it'd be nice to just copy/paste them into something like google docs, tweak them a bit to make all the styles match, and then republish them.

Your site says the project is open source, but I can't find any link. Will you share a link to the source?

Sure! https://github.com/patwalls/ydnw

Contributions are very welcome!

Code is very hacky and I've been trying to manage making some changes between all the feedback I've gotten and my full time job.

"...I'm collaborating with dozens of writers.."

You may be collaborating with more people than you know. Cause it's, you know, google. I wonder how many third parties get access to your data. Remember, when you aren't paying or pay very little, _you_ are the product.

The data that G Suite organizations and users put into our systems is theirs, and we do not scan it for advertisements nor sell it to third parties [...] Google does not collect, scan or use data in G Suite Core Services [including Google Docs] for advertising purposes.


Disclaimer: I work at Google Cloud, but not G Suite/Docs.

Does Google have any clauses like this with regard to Google Docs contents? I didn't think they did, but maybe I'm naive.

On another note that sentiment always reminds me of Morning Moon by the Tragically Hip (https://youtu.be/o-cI87djK2Y). It's a sentiment that bears a lot of truth, regardless of Google's privacy policy. But I digress...

I'm not making strain

Said, "Someone's paying

When something's too cheap

Somebody's paying something"

You said, "Some one's paying something."

Under a morning moon, yeah

Say those little things that don't make anyone feel better, yeah

You're saying that Google might be reading my blog posts if I use Google Docs? Somehow crawling it for content, maybe?

It looks like good fun, but I'll be honest I find the name very insulting.

I've had a wordpress website for 8 years. Is this going to work in 8 years? 6 months?

You don't need a lot of things in your life; you shouldn't get insulted by people saying so.

The name is inspired from You Don’t Need jQuery, You don’t Need MomentJS and so on.

Context context, always good to add context.

I guess you're not going to like my side project:

You Don't Need To Be Insulted By You Don't Need WordPress.

Getting offended over hobby projects, wow, this is a new low for HN.

You don't need Google Docs either. Seems like a terrible decision since Google is known for randomly shutting down services and updating their terms of use at any point. It's a nice proof of concept but I'd stick with WordPress or a static site generator

Most static site generators require authors to learn something like Markdown in order to publish, which is a much bigger hurdle for non-technical people than technical people generally appreciate. Google Docs at least provides a WYSIWYG-ish interface many people will already be familiar with, and those that aren't won't find as forbidding.

I definitely think static sites are a great alternative to WP, and I love Markdown. But you're right: trying to get non-developer users to write markdown was a struggle, they thought it was some new special language we were forcing down their throat.

I work for https://forestry.io/ and we created a CMS for static sites that lets users write markdown with a WYSIWYG editor, and allows devs to build an interface for editing front matter.

I never thought I would hear someone call markdown a hurdle to adoption. Maybe I'm more semantically minded, but I have yet to find a markup syntax easier to figure out than markdown, including the rich text editors in Google Docs.

It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that non-technical people see these things completely differently than technical people do. Seen through the eyes of technical people like your average HN reader, Markdown is simple and lightweight. Seen through the eyes of a non-technical person, marking up text in any format (not just Markdown) looks indistinguishable from writing code, which is something they believe deep down is way over their heads. The pushback you will get from them if you try to force them to do it anyway is typically epic. They will fight against it every step of the way.

It's not impossible to get regular people to mark up text; WordPerfect did so very effectively for many years. But it's worth remembering that (1) that was in the 1980s, when people put up with having to learn things they didn't want to because the technology wasn't advanced enough to offer them an alternative, and (2) eventually the technology did advance, and Microsoft Word came along with its WYSIWYG interface and promptly put WordPerfect into a hole in the desert.

It's also not impossible to write a static CMS that provides a normie-friendly WYSIWYG interface, rather than having everything revolve around editing text files. That's what Movable Type (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movable_Type) was, for instance, a set of Perl scripts that provided a friendly WYSIWYG interface over content stored in a database, and then ground out static pages from that content whenever it changed. But modern SSGs are pitched to developers first and foremost, so they all revolve around stuff like Markdown and Git that are about as approachable to non-technical people as garlic is to Dracula.

This is so true. The other day I listened to a project manager rant about how Slack is "like a coding tool" because "you need to put stars for bold". She was really quite upset about it.

Another time a friend of mine, who I wouldn't call non-technical, but isn't a programmer, was collaborating with me on a Github wiki for a project we were working on. I was flabbergasted at the way he would copy-paste and edit the source of pages I'd written just to get bold text instead of typing the asterisks himself. He was just really used to WYSIWYG formatting buttons.

This HN comment[1] provides quite an interesting theory about why Markdown in particular has such a different reception by programmers and non-programmers.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4765665


For my blog that I mentioned in my top comment, I use Google Docs because I'm working with people that usually don't know Markdown (I'm interviewing e-commerce business owners).

I need it to be as easy as possible for them to get the written interview done. From my experience, a Google doc is the easiest way to do this, and it allows for very familiar features when I ask them for edits or provide feedback in-document.

Basically, I'm trying to make as little friction as possible to getting the document complete.

This is just my experience.

There are free/libre simple markdown editors[0] available that have the buttons and keybindings more similar to Word. Additionally, collaborative editors like Etherpad[1] don't use markdown either (and btw, neither does WP, of course) and will be entirely familiar to non-technical people.

> Basically, I'm trying to make as little friction as possible to getting the document complete.

I can see how it may be more frictionless for you to use Google Docs, and how this may be less work for you than for example installing and running your own Etherpad. But I think it's too grand a statement to say that "You Don't Need Wordpress" because people that don't want to give up their online freedom still do.

Maybe that's what's upsetting people about this project, it's grandiose title that's dismissing another successful free blogging platform? While I fell kinda bad about defending anything PHP, WordPress does have a lot of extensions and your solution couldn't replace WooCommerce or WPForms.

[0]: https://simplemde.com [1]: https://etherpad.net

Normally I would agree but Markdown-esque text annotation has been a feature of many commonly used platforms for years now. A quick search plus my own knowledge tells me the following platforms support it: Facebook Messenger, Skype, Discord, Slack, WhatsApp, Telegram and Reddit posts. It looks like LINE, Viber and Kik Messenger don't support it, but those are the only major ones that don't seem to.

Markdown is supported, but is it required? I know lots of Messenger and Skype users that have never heard of Markdown.

Perhaps an embarrassing case in point I have been a developer, sysadmin, infra architect, and generally in IT industry for couple of decades. I am not professional but dabble in HTML/CSS/JS. Certainly use social media.

And every now and then think to myself "I should check what this 'markdown' thing is" :P

Checking it now, I can absolutely agree that 100% of my non-developer friends will believe it is code and beyond them [both untrue as facts but true as perceptions]. And trying to persuade them otherwise will only convince them further how much out of touch with "the real world" I am :D

I don't mean they've heard of it, indeed what most of these platforms support isn't Markdown but a similar simplified ruleset. I mean that more people than one might think are using the general concepts of Markdown on a daily basis.

I hated WordPerfect for this reason at the time. I was a fan of Word for DOS long before Microsoft had the dominance it would come to have. And I say this as someone who did quite a bit of coding at the time (and used lots of different word processors).

There are much more intuitive markup languages than Markdown, like AsciiDoc and Org-Mode. Plus Markdown's issue with multiple incompatible implementations...

For basic websites, Google Docs and its WYSIWYG interface is good for many people. Tools like Syncdocs https://www.syncdocs.com lets you create websites in Word and publish via Google Drive. In this market segment, people probably only want to publish simple websites, and the simplicity of Word/Docs is what they want, compared to Wordpress, which needs maintenance and has a learning curve.

Google Docs is probably _reasonably_ safe; it's used by a lot of Google's business users, and has no clear internal competitor anxious to murder it. (As far as I know, anyway.)

I'd say that Docs is as safe as YouTube or Gmail. Sure, you might get locked out of your account with no recourse, but the offering itself isn't likely to go away.

I thought Inbox was reasonably safe. After all, it's part of their e-mail offering, right?

Inbox was kind of an experiment and competition with their main GMail offering. It had resources that ABC probably felt could be used elsewhere, so they took what were probably the most used features from it, merged it back into GMail and killed it.

Docs doesn't have anything in their current product line that they can do the same to, they might merge another product INTO Docs and kill that product, but never Docs itself.

I don't think Google Docs is going anywhere, but what actually concerns me more, is I seem to recall some articles last year about a number of private google docs that were deleted by google because of $reasons. (ranging from content protection, to firing on appropriateness or censorship).

That would be my bigger concern.

Very true, definitely a major concern. I've heard horror stories of accounts being locked out or services cancelled on them without warning because of certain 'violations'

Setting a site up with Jekyll took less than a weekend, and I'm a C++/games programmer with next to zero web experience.

If you want a blog I don't know why you would go with anything but starting with a static site generator and building on top of that.

You're still a C++ developer... A normal mom/dad who simply wants to share his/her latest cookie recipe isn't gonna want to deal with Jekyll.

Don't forget the "less than a weekend" part, either. You know what normals can do in a weekend? Build a backyard fence. Install solar panels on an RV. Drop the engine in that VW and freshen up the top end. Put new tires on three motorcycles, by hand, and balance them; with enough time to ride on Sunday. (All of which I personally have done in less than a weekend.)

And you're saying other people can see pictures of my kids with "only" a weekend's worth of work (assuming one is an experienced developer)? Yeah, thanks, I'll stick with Wordpress.

Right, my comment is more directed at people who are somewhat tech savy and a response to the parent's comment about static site generators. I'm echoing and advocating how easy they are.

And the comment is directed at people reading hacker news, so a majority are probably tech savy enough to glue together some CSS, small html templates, and markdown.

WordPress isn't really targeted at single-user blogs for technical people... it's targeted at an environment where you can have multiple people writing blog posts and doing design without being programmers or mucking with the server. And it fits that need very well.

In a comment from the author[0], he mentions that one of the reasons for making the product was because he likes the collaboration features of Google Docs.


I maintain a blog built on static tools since 2009, which is older than most people's blogs I see on Hacker News: https://alexn.org

Hosting is free if you host it on GitHub Pages. I have my own VPS on DigitalOcean. Maintenance of that node is insignificant though, as the machine auto-updates itself. And you don't need to do it if you're on GitHub or GitLab Pages or other similar services.

The initial cost was a little high, setting it up and all. But now that cost is virtually zero.

And guess what ... it's mine, my blog, my website, on my own domain. It's part of my identity, it's the link I place in email signatures. It's my creation, just like my work or open source contributions.

In 2005 when my career started I was also using a blogging service. Until my membership was revoked for some reason and I lost articles in which I poured my soul in. Never again.

Outsourcing your blog to others is ... foolish. And not having a blog, as a computer scientist, is equally foolish.

So setup a static blog with a tool like https://jekyllrb.com. The initial setup smells like yak shaving, however you'll get over it and you won't regret the investment.

Now what if my 55 years old mother want to create a blog on her own ?

It's easy: she just needs to become a computer scientist.

Not to sound harsh, but I don't care about your 55 years old mother. What works for her will not work for me.

Or you could use the new Google Sites which has a lot of the same features and benefits.


When Google realizes this still exists they'll kill it

Oh wow I've never seen that. Pretty cool.

After building this project I was thinking about a similar project where you could build a straight up website with Google Docs. Since Google's HTML export is pretty sophisticated (it also converts charts/shapes/etc) to HTML, it could work!

Almost a throwback to that Microsoft product? Can't remember the name..

FrontPage! Good memories...

We were pretty impressed with ourselves when we replaced all of our corporate intranet sites created in FrontPage and Site Server with SharePoint.

Not really sure if justice was served at this point.

The footer is obnoxious.

Google sites has been around since 2008. Hardly new.

The completely different Google Sites that OP is referring to was released less than six months ago.

Or, if you can afford $20 per year, there's this https://blot.im which lets you dump stuff in a Dropbox folder to become blog posts. -

This reminded me of https://www.sheet2site.com/ , which lets you make a website using a Google spreadsheet. I think they’re nifty, and although I haven’t had a personal use case for them, I could see building a prototype with them.

I want to own my own content, servers, domains, etc... it's not even about Google specifically being evil—we gotta stop outsourcing stuff to people providing it to us for "free."

For me, it's all about knowing, and owning the stack.

If something breaks, I know its my fault, and using the knowledge gained by setting it up, I should have a pretty good idea where to start.

Never stop learning.

"Ensure that your users never get any privacy at all! Why install Google analytics on your WP blog when you can just give the entire blog to Google in the first place!"

I did something similar back in 2013-2014 for the initial Makers UPV blog[1], which was much later migrated to Ghost.

The underlying technology we used is drive-db[2], a library I made to use a spreadsheet as the database. Then just used an obscure-ish Google docs API to retrieve each article content. When you wanted to publish an article, you had to create the doc, publish to the web and copy the link to the spreadsheet.

This looks like a very well put together product of the hacky solution I did back in the day, so kudos!

Edit: the best feature of this is that several people can collaborate in real time on an article! Something that Wordpress doesn't have and was used a lot for us in the beginning.

[1] https://makersupv.com/

[2] https://github.com/FranciscoP/drive-db

Please, if you are going to use this setup a new google account. The permissions that this requires is crazy.

I was super excited by this because I do most of my writing in Google docs. But then I realized how much other information is in my Google docs! What are the privacy implications of signing up? If this project happened to be taken over by an evil villian, could they snoop my docs?

I've been using same idea for years now

Using Spreadsheets instead of Docs, and it's not a product per-say, more like a go-to setup for medium size websites

Glad to see more people are using the technologies freely available instead of using wordpress for every small project

This looks like a great idea since Docs is both a good editor and a good way to collaborate. However I don't want to give access to my whole Drive to an unknown product, it would be good if it could just get access to one directory or the like.

Same, wanted to play around with this but I won't risk it

Is it necessary to give them access to the whole google drive for this to work?

If so, this is a non-starter for me.

Enjoyed watching the idea-to-launch process on Twitter and Twitch. Nice work, Pat!

It got too a bit too meta for me after watching 10 minutes screencast of the author posting about this on Reddit. Perhaps I am not the target audience for Twitch-style videos.

Ah man sorry that was just the beginning to get the ball rolling on the stream.

There's a recording on Twitch if you wanna skim through it (I linked to it in my top comment). Cheers


The name seems weird. There's tons of blogging systems that aren't Wordpress, presumably your product is interesting for many of their users too, while not being interesting for many Wordpress users due to not matching Wordpress' capabilities.

At least your landing page actually talks about what makes your thing good, I've seen worse examples of promotion which then also spend a large percentage of their space talking about their competitors.

Hmm, I can't hit the site in my browser, but curl is grabbing it just fine.

However I am beginning to feel that the user experience might not be exactly equivalent.

I think this is pretty cool. I know more than one person who loves google docs and hates wordpress whom I will be forwarding this to.

Great idea. But how to change the template or add more data like custom fields? I've been using Meta Box plugin (https://metabox.io) for custom fields and can't live without it.

Why do I have to sign up using my Google Account, and give you permissions to host my content in Google Docs in my Google Drive? And where is it Open Source? How can I use it without singing up?

I looked for this information and could not find it. Thank you!

I can actually see that being helpful for non-technical people

Pretty cool. I wonder if Google will end up adding this in as a full fledged feature at some point.

Super cool. Custom fields though?

What do you mean custom fields?

wordpress has stuff like custom fields: https://www.advancedcustomfields.com/, allowing you to create more structured cateogories and taxonomies which can then be used for filtering and stuff. I think that's what they mean

Nice - so are there any actual blogs built on this that I can take a look at?

How hard is it to just create a simple html file and throw som CSS on it ?

For most people, pretty hard. This comment reminds me of the comments left when Dropbox first shipped saying stuff like "This won't sell, people who want this service will just use rsync and rent a VPS"

But it's Google and right now we're mad at them.

The most pleasurable set-up I do, for work and personal, is have a DO droplet hosting a bare-boned server, where static pages are served up, mostly text - because content is King, right?

Very mad. Also, I can't find anything easier to publish content than this aside from Medium.

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