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Ask HN: There is room for innovation in a blogging platform?
10 points by diegogcouto 1003 days ago | 16 comments
I was thinking about the features provided by the usual blogging platforms and how they have innovated throught the years. It looked really strange when I saw that there aren't any real improvements to the final user.

Don't get me wrong, I think that WordPress, by exemple, is an awesome product, but that there is a lack of features that could be pretty useful for the users and an excess of boring administrative stuff.

I'm launching today a page to validate my hypothesis that people will like something new in this area. Do you think that there is room for innovation here?

Some features I'm working on:

* Every blog has yours own API which will allow a user to "get connected" to it (to the user point of view, it'll be only a button to get connected, every technical detail will be hidden).

* Better sign method: The idea behind Mozilla Persona is awesome and I really want to make use of it.

The idea is to make it free and open source. Any kind of feedback will be appreciated!

If you got interested, this is my landing page: http://barapps.co/rlie




Here is an idea.

- Create a blogging API. - The API should give people al of the basic functionality a blog has (post, comments, social, users, etc.). - CReate a front end that will allow developers and designers to use the API in the blog template to fill it in with content. Example:

    <title>{% site.com/api/get/blog.title %}</title> 

    <div id="blog-post">
     {% site.com/api/get/blog.post/uniqueId %}
    </div>
And so on.

What is hard to deal with blogging is not the platforms there are, but a lack of standarization. Providing a simple API that people can use to create blog around it could prove to be beneficial and profitable.

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Your feedback was really important to make me think about which kind of user I should focus initially.

First, I was thinking how to get attention of the regular user, but you made me think about how it could be a lot more useful to developers and designers in a first moment.

Your idea is awesome, I'm very grateful for your help!

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No problem. If you build it and it grows, then you have to hire me as a engineer. :)

In all seriousness, the trick to this kind of platform is the following. You have to make it very, very easy to work with. Using confusing API calls will just make people run away from it. I've seen a lot of APIs that are over engineerd with wacky syntax. Try and keep it as simple as possible, as if the developer was writing HTML itself.

The only problem with wordpress is the platform itself. In order to build something with it, you are accepting a lot of engineering overhead from past versions. This technical baggage makes it a pain to work it, though not as bad as joomla. By going with the API route, you can change the back end as much as you'd like, but the developers would just see the same API calls. Its like an interface in OOP programming.

The last API I did for a client took calls like this:

host/category/products/product/id/get

to this:

host/get/id

See how easier it is to develop with that? You dont need to know what category the product belongs to, because that data is passed as a JSON string to you. Once you get it, on your side you just go through the results and display it accordingly.

Same with a blog API. I dont need to know the title, just the post ID. So do host/get/id and then in the front end do {% post.title %} {% post.author %}{% post.date_published %} {% post.content %}

and so on.

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As a WordPress Developer I see lots of innovation going on the WP platform. I think for new blogging platform to get any kind of momentum it has to differentiate in meaningful ways. In terms of features, it's hard to beat WordPress.

The API connectivity you speak is very doable in WordPress (take a look at Kickpress which turns WordPress into an API, or the JSON api plugin). I think you're on the ball in terms of the importance of a more connective experience.

WordPress is incredibly flexible and every day use-cases where people would have said 'WordPress is not the right tool for this job' people are starting to say 'actually WordPress can do this'. (Checkout projects like wp types/pods/buddypress/p2 etc)

I'd love to see more innovation going into WordPress. Right now I think it could be made a lot easier to use for beginners. I'm not really keen on the backend in that respects. Personally, I'm making tools that will make for smarter themes and more personable apps for WordPress.

There's also lots of blogging platforms that take a more minimalist approach if that's the direction you want to go in. Then you have to contend with established platforms like tumblr and posterous. And that market is also cornered by services like google plus and facebook which tap right into social networks which is very attractive to users craving connectivity with their network.

Last but not least, I'm assuming you'd want to develop something that makes money. In that case you need to really figure out a product that people will pay for. Personally, if I had to do that, I'd pick a niche I understand

Themeforce for example built a saas using WordPress( rather than building something from scratch) as the platform for restaurant owners. It's very customized so most people of their clients might not even realize it's WordPress and frankly it wouldn't matter to them either. I think their example is a great lesson: most endusers aren't going to care that much about the tool, they are going to care what results it gives them, the cost and how easy it is to use.

Right now I don't think your USP as it's coming across at the moment is exciting, new or radical. 2cts

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It's good to know the point of view of another WP developer, so thank you for your feedback!

I've also worked with WordPress and, as I said, it's really a very nice product, but it's not as user friendly as it should be and it probably won't change in any near future, because its user base already is used to work with it as it is.

My experience with WordPress showed me that for both, users and developers, it could be really easier to work with.

I made some experiments with some of my clients who use WP, and the Pareto's principle was king here, I mean, 80% of all the actions made use of 20% of the features.

I agree with you when you say that there are a lot of big players working on a minimalist approach. But I really think that there are a lot of users who really want to own their data. If you make a fast search about people incentivizing another's to get their own blog with their own domain, you'll see that maybe there's some market here.

I've never heard of KickPress, so I'll study it, but I got really impressed with HappyTables!

Thanks again for you comments. They're pretty useful!

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Well, ask if people are satisfied with their own blog CMS, and they'll probably say "no". I had to use something as obscure as Blogofile to satisfy my needs.

## Technically

I think some competition for Jekyll is sorely missed, and no one who isn’t a nerd even knows about static blogging. Granted, it's also been a royal pain for me, when it comes to pushing automated tweets, whenever I update my blog, so there are a lot of problems to be solved. I still haven’t bothered to write something in Python that tweets based on my RSS activity. (ifttt hasn’t worked optimally for me.)

Nevertheless, it’s liberating to be able to simply create a Markdown file and write a post like this:

    ---
    title: Something Something Paul Graham
    date:  2012/09/30 23:00:00
    ---
    That Paul Graham might have a point.
Run Blogofile’s Amazon S3 uploader with one command, and boom, uploaded. As a bonus, I can back up my blog really easily using version/change control, since all files are static.

There are a lot of steps here too complicated for the average user, but all it takes is a moderately simple Mac app, and most people are golden - especially now that everyone has Dropbox to store their files.

It seems that there is a tendency for people who want to revolutionize blogging and social media to reinvent RSS. I doubt that’s the way forward.

---

## Socially

If I were to suggest an idea for a Wordpress-like platform, it would be a reinvention of the blogroll. When people don’t have the reach to attract advertizers, they can instead link to other users on the same platform and vice versa for exposure.

I would find a way to gauge the reach of blogs, and allow customers to find bloggers with similar reach to collaborate with for a mutually beneficial exposure that attracts traffic. I imagine a business model could be built on this alone, but it would probably be much easier, if people were on the same platform, say, Tumblr or Wordpress.

Tumblr really revolutionized blogging by adding a community layer onto their platform to make it a social experience that married Wordpress blogging and Twitter.

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I think there is room for innovation in blogging platforms, and as a general rule, I would not make any feature that was not supported by a well-thought out API.

My basis for saying that there is room for innovation is that I have worked on a number of big websites, and I have never been able to use out-of-the-box blogging for any of them, the features had to be too integrated and specialized.

One way to think about the market is to keep in mind that what people mean by "blogging" may be slowly evolving.

If I were implementing a blogging platform, I would use Drupal because that's what I'm most familar with. I think extending Wordpress is also an idea you should consider. However, it be best to ignore the underlying platform, and just think about and write the API. After you have defined that, pick a platform or framework and implement it.

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There is definitely room for innovation in the blog tools/publishing/server space, the big question for you to be comfortable with is whether or not the space is big enough for another player.

I launched a new blogging platform in the early 2000's and despite some really cool new approaches to how things got done, it was really hard to turn these innovations into a winning business. I think there's probably enough room for 1-2 players of any size, and currently, Wordpress, Tumblr and a few others are doing a great job serving the market. Don't hear me as saying you don't have a chance, just hear me as saying that even if you do bring some compelling innovations to the market, it will be a real fight for you to win appreciable marketshare, and even then, you'll have to figure out how to make money from it.

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First of all, thanks for your feedback!

It's really important to know the experiences of people that already worked on this area, I'll consider everything that you've said.

How it's important to me to store my thoughts and my work on my own server, I though that improving the process of blogging and bringing some social features (taking care with noise problems) would be nice to everyone.

It's really a naive approach, I know, because as you also have said, Tumblr is very powerful now and it's free.

Probably I won't get attention of the usual Tumblr user in the beginning, so I'll bet on the developers and designers, with a simple to use app for their clients and easy to work and customize (as orangethirty brilliantly suggested).

What you think about it?

Thanks again!

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My opinion is that the features you are working on are not really specific for a new blogging platform. If you want to test these features in the blogosphere, I would recommend building a WordPress plugin to test the waters without having to reinvent the rest. If that interest you, you can also distribute a template with the plugin included and make a demo (or use it for your own blog) to show it off.

That way, you would be able to focus on what's important to you.

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It's a very interesting point!

I'm focused to make all the process easier (and the WP admin panel is full of boring stuff, in my opinion), so maybe the creation of the whole product could be a natural evolution of the plugin instead of a new product.

The plugin could also help me to attract users, adding some functionalities to WordPress blogs and making available an option to move to my product, with even more features.

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Betteridge say's no and I agree - by this point it's not that it's hard to make a blog and push content to it - the sheer number of Tumblr and Posterous blogs attests to that, it's that blogging is, well, work. I'd argue that the hard part is no longer the publishing part but the actual sitting down, writing, editing, proofreading, reviewing, fact-checking, link-checking part.

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"Can Betteridge's law be applied to literally every question, even when it's a real question and not an article headline?"

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"Every blog has yours own API which allow a user to 'get connected' to it (to the user point of view, it'll be only a button to get connected, every technical detail will be hidden)"

How is that different from RSS?

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It's different because it's a powerful approach, I think.

Doing this, I'll make every blog open to a lot of different applications to interact with it's content.

By example, a user will be able to comment on an article published on a blog he "follows" from his own page.

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Go for it! Theres more than one way to skin a cat, and at the end of the day you only need one person blogging to be considered a website

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