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Introducing Silvrback: Hosted, Markdown-Powered Blogging (silvrback.com)
169 points by dsowers on Aug 21, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 91 comments

Don't pay attention to all of the comments saying there are enough blog platforms in the world already -- they said the same thing when WordPress started.

I signed up and paid to support the project, and even if you don't end up doing this full-time we're looking for a Markdown hacker @ Automattic.

Thanks. Hearing kind words from the founder of Wordpress is definitely encouraging.

Same could be said about postagon.com or tryghost.org.

> they said the same thing when WordPress started

That does not make it wrong.

Just signed up. This is literally exactly what I want.

The only thing I'd add is that I hope at some point down the line there's some level of customization (even the ability to add an external stylesheet.) For this kind of thing, I'm much more attracted to the backend than the frontend, and the ability to tinker with fonts and what not is important to me.

I am very sad that, Medium as a platform is so completely misunderstood here. It's not trying to be a place where writers are the center of attention. It's one of the few attempts, I think is somewhat successful, in democratizing the content, not the writer. I thought Quora was on it back in the day, but it drifted off now, completely.

I am also not sure why anyone who is serious about his personal-branding as to pay $29 would want to stick to a common-theme, especially when there are so many free super-customizable alternatives. People who are serious enough to pay might as well consider paying someone else to design the personal-theme and have it setup with Markdown somewhere for free.

What's even more disheartening is to see someone who is such a skilled person to ram up the themes from Medium and setup a product with such ease, is the person who misunderstood the Medium and add more product-clutter into the market, indifferent to the work of the designers of Medium with a great and noble vision.

Edit: I said 'misunderstood' because of following

> Medium is great for readers but it is bad for writers.

I am sorry, but it's great for writers, you don't need to be among the elite to share an idea with world. And that's something very powerful.

With regards to "branding", I agree with this comment elsewhere[1]:

> I think the 'brand' problem people have with Medium is less "my post looks like the same as all of these other posts!" and more "when people want to read more of my posts, they're more inclined to go to medium.com instead of my personal site!".

Medium is a very compelling product, but it isn't for everyone. I'm not sure what your argument is, other than "Medium is misunderstood, so people should not create similar offerings."

I think the OP understands Medium, and opted to create something that would suit his needs as well as possibly others'.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6251620

I agree that Medium is misunderstood. I have no idea, as a reader, what the compelling differences are between WP, Medium, Blogspot, or any of the other numerous blogging platforms out there.

Looks interesting, as I'm looking at alternatives to blogger for my new site. Going down my checklist, you'll support a custom domain and comments (via disqus).

Here's what's left unticked on my checklist...

   Image hosting. (Will you host my pictures or do I have to find external server space for them?)
   RSS/ATOM feeds.
   Multiple writers on a single blog.
   Mobile theme.


It supports image hosting. I didn't want to have to upload images to another server somewhere. It even supports multiple versions of your images (e.g. retina and regular).

It's fully responsive so it's good for mobile.

I have RSS on the roadmap, but it won't be there on day 1. Have too many things to do right now. It also won't have support for multiple writers on day 1.

How much does it cost? The pay button leads me nowhere.

    <a href="#" id="payment_btn">
        <i class="icon-credit-card" style="margin-right:10px">
        Click Here To Enter Payment Information

Hmm, that's weird. That button opens up a stripe payment overlay. Do you have javascript disabled?

I think I forgot to disable NoScript. Sorry about that. I should have tried it in Chrome as well. I just assumed you were still working on the details... like money.

Confirming the fully responsive: I first read it on my old Nexus S and it was a delight.

This lacks a lot of the nice things that makes Medium great. Just off the top:

1) The sidebar's navigation feels bloated and useless at the same time. Needs to be tighter and more useful. Why not put the last five posts' title in there? Move the social icons in there as well, they are super distracting floating on the right side. Simplify the page presentation.

2) The footer of the site should link to the post I made before this one. Similar to how medium links to a random post.

3) The hover effect on the list of posts is brutal. Way too harsh. The list itself is also weird. Why do I care when it was last edited? Show the subtitle if there is one instead.

4) Medium putting the author bio at the top is really nice. Same with who helped you write it and last updated. I miss it in your design. Medium also has a much better homepage with a really nice bio bar.

Am I the only one who thinks it's weird to be writing blog posts inside a web browser? What's wrong with a text editor? Is it just the "publish" button? Or do people find it actually helps the writing process itself? (It doesn't for me, I edit my blog posts locally and push them with rsync when they're ready to publish.)

I currently use Jekyll + GitHub Pages. The work involved in correcting a one-character typo is annoying if I'm on my laptop, but nigh-impossible if I'm on my phone.

Can't you just edit the file directly on Github? It's what I did recently with a one word typo I noticed while I was out of town and only had my phone.

I find the quality of my blog posts improve when I write them in Google Docs first rather than attempting to write them in Drupal's CKEditor.

By "text editor" I meant a text editor running on my local machine, something like emacs or vim or gedit (or KWrite/Kate, which is what I actually use since I run KDE).

I don't use an online editor, but the main advantage I see is that it makes editing across multiple devices really easy.

I can see wanting to edit across multiple devices, sure, but that doesn't require an online editor, just an online location for files--something like Dropbox, or if you're concerned about keeping your data really private, a server that you control access to and can use to sync files. Then you can still use the most effective editor for each individual device, instead of being stuck inside the online editor's lowest common denominator.

Right, but what if you're borrowing a computer. I completely agree, it's more private, but it might lose some of the ease of use.

I think a bug rain that things like Statemic and other databaseless systems are popular is because they kinda offer the best of both worlds: they have the online editor, and command line-less interface, the popular content management systems; and they have some of the simplicity of today's static site generators, namely the use of a simple markup language, and a last file system.

I see the appeal, and have visited considered building my own, but haven't because my existing Jekyll/custom python systems work fine for me right now.

This looks interesting, but I find the name choice odd since there already exists http://silverbackapp.com.

There's also SilverStripe, a pretty well known CMS.


Should've named it Large.

What circumstances would cause you to shut down this project in a year or two, and how likely are those circumstances?

I don't mean to be negative, but why should I pay $29/year for blogging platform when I can install something like Jekyll on a free Heroku (or insert your favorite PaaS) and host my posts on another free blogging site, like Tumblr.

Basically I'm asking what's so great about Silvrback over other free alternatives?

If you can install Jekyll or set up your own VPS and find the prospect of having to do so to have a personal blog enjoyable rather than a hassle, you're really not the target customer for these sorts of things.

So, it's convenience? Which is okay, I guess I'm just so used of setting up stuff like that, that I didn't even consider it a "restraint", but now that I think of it I can see how for some people it's not worth the time to struggle through the setup process and just pay the fee.

I wanted to start blogging and set up Octopress/Jekyll, and spent a few days choosing a theme and then playing with the colors. Granted, I was not entirely happy with how it ended up looking, and generally did not have much motivation to start writing. Looking back, there seems to be some nice themes I'd be happy with[1].

But since I do not yet have the habit of writing, any little thing that will take time from writing/publishing a blog post will interfere with a spur of inspiration.

This takes care of all my needs: no need to think about the design, no need to worry about deploying and maintaining, etc.

[1] https://github.com/imathis/octopress/wiki/3rd-Party-Octopres...

Heroku or other PaaS will crash out if you're relying on the free service and get any kind of spike.

Seriously, $29/year is nothing if you're an active blogger. It's a small fraction of most professionals' hourly rate. If you're spending any significant time writing, I'd be much more concerned about many other factors than forking out $29/year. If anything, I'd worry if it's too low, ie will it be reliable enough?

Additionally, even if you know how to install blogging software (which most writers don't of course), you'll probably underestimate the effort and you'll need to keep it updated with security patches at the least.

If you're worried about reliability, why would you use a brand new blogging platform to begin with?

Well in the case of Heroku, the free tier is really not designed for any sort of production use and the next level up is considerably more than $29/year.

This looks great, and I've been wanting to start blogging for a while now. I hesitated on the $29, even though it is not much because, why pay for something I possibly will not use (e.g. I never get around to writing anything more than a few, if any, posts).

But then I realized (a) I would not be charged until receiving an invite, and (b) if I've put money down for this, that alone puts some pressure on forcing myself to write.

So I've signed up.

I recently started looking for a markdown powered blogging platform to host my site[0]. I wanted to be able to write markdown documents, arrange them in directories, and then have a site built from that. Also, I am not a designer so I would like it if there were premade themes out there.

I settled on using Pelican[1] for generation and Github Pages[2] for hosting. Pelican does exactly what I wanted, and there is a collection of free community created themes that look great. Github Pages is absolutely free hosting that even supports custom domains.

It might take a little more hacking than Silvrback, but I have been slowly working on a git repo that anyone could simply clone, populate with markdown files, and then push. I need to clean up the few scripts a little, but if you want you can find it here[3]

[0] http://jack.minardi.org

[1] http://docs.getpelican.com/en/3.2/

[2] http://pages.github.com/

[3] https://github.com/jminardi/jminardi.github.io

Octopress, Jekyll, Hakyll and probably a ton of others do the same thing, manage gh-pages hosted blog.

That said, if you care about branding and outreach, Silvrback appears to offer value beyond what the free alternatives do.

Not to be sarcastic, but what is offered beyond the free alternatives exactly?

I like the idea a lot, and I like the UI and aesthetic. From a writer's point of view though, you're marketing page and these requests for info in the comments seem too focused on the tech details. I would guess that bubbling up the problems you're solving here for writers on your marketing message would help you gain more traction.

Sure, talking about servers, backends and all the nitty gritty is great fun and what I'd expect from HN absolutely, but the goal of writing is to communicate an idea to others, and how well you're service solves that problem will greatly pique my interest. The tech behind it is fun and important, but less so to solving the core problem of writing/communicating.

For example, I'd love to hear this expanded upon: "I built Silvrback because none of the existing blogging platforms satisfied me completely."

I'm glad I learned about typography and CSS so I could do my own blog, but if I hadn't this is exactly what I wanted. Is there an example of code formatting anywhere?

At least it loads quickly, unlike Medium which seems to get stuck for a few seconds before it renders the entire page.

I just set up a new blog using Pelican. My considerations were much like what you've listed. The price point seems right as well. I'm tempted to sign on, but my workflow is holding me back. I've got my Pelican based blog set up so I never have to leave Vim to write/organize/publish. Every other workflow I've tried for blogging has quickly decreased my output to... nil.

It seems to me if I switched to Silvrback I'd have to either use the admin interface to write (I assume it doesn't have Vim keybindings) or copy and paste from Vim.

I did the same thing, and I really love Pelican. Silvrback does about 80% of what I need for http://steveasleep.com/ but that's more like 100% for most people.

To me it's actually easier to write a post in Vim and then 'make gh-pages' to push it to the internet. But I don't count that against this service at all.

The main reason I won't be using this service is that I pop out more open source projects than blog posts, and my site is more about project commentary than blogging, so the "post" format doesn't really work for me.

Pelican is awesome. Been happily using it for a few months now.

I don't really understand the desire to have more blogging platforms, there is already like 15 billion.

However I do prefer this style to Medium/ what ever that s one is.

I've been playing with a lot of blogging platforms lately and they're all bad in some way. Having more options is good.

Great idea and execution. You're filling a need that many people have and nailed the design. Naturally, this thread is full of legitimate suggestions for improvement, but you've got an excellent first iteration.

I'm not quite the type of person who needs your site, but I'm close enough to recognize its value. Keep it up and pay no mind to the "Why not X instead?" people. This is unique and worthwhile.

So a price has been placed on an almost exact copy of Medium without the benefits of Medium (an existing readership, existing capital), it's a copy right down to the typeface and even the green coloured buttons. How does one have complete control over their brand with Silvrback? There's no ability to customise the design beyond what already exists. There's nothing marketable about this product yet.

This is nothing close to an exact copy of Medium. I spent a ton of time on this UI. It's definitely inspired by Medium. I'm not hiding that fact.

I agree; it's really not that similar to Medium. Medium don't have a trademark on off-black text on an off-white background!

I think the 'brand' problem people have with Medium is less "my post looks like the same as all of these other posts!" and more "when people want to read more of my posts, they're more inclined to go to medium.com instead of my personal site!".

I agree that there should be a customizable design, though. That's not a particularly difficult thing to implement.

hosted is good but i require the option to easily host it myself (like github pages).

My content is my life and I want it to be around in 40 years. Even if facebook bans my account for a TOS violation where they changed the terms out from under me. Even if google hands my account to law enforcement because another country's government doesn't agree with my free speech.

I need to own my content.

You can export your posts at any time with Silvrback. You have full ownership. That's why I'm making it a paid solution, otherwise there would be the risk of your data being sold to advertisers.

it needs to be trivial to rehost. I've been through a blog content migration before, it was difficult enough that I didn't bother to migrate a portion of my data.

In what way is a paid membership going to stop you from selling our data?

So, as long as you have means to export the data, you're satisfied with this product?

Do you have a "data liberation" type policy? Eg, if someone wanted all their content, how do they get it out?

I've gotten burned by that before with Blogger and Posterous, and now use Octopress for this reason. Open to better alternatives, but need a clear and easy way to get my content back out if I ever decide to change services.

My idea of the perfect system would be something hosted that would allow me to have a shared folder in Dropbox, Google Drive or something like that. It would have two folders, drafts and posts, and putting a markdown file in either would publish it as a draft or a post.

I've looked at a few static site generators, but there are some dynamic things I want to do, so, for now, my own, custom-built blogging engine (http://stavros.io for the curious) is what works best for me.

You have full ownership over your data and can export at any time.

I had my eye on this, but the blog hasn't been updated for nearly 18 months so it's probably dead.


I've signed up, I'm hopeful it will spur me to write and worry less about how it looks.

Have you given any thought to being able to import existing posts that are in markdown format? I'm currently using scriptogr.am and have a number of posts that ideally I'd like to import.

I made Mardown-Powered SkyDrive-Hosted blogging platform a few weeks back.

All you had to do is claim a username/url (by navigating to it), login with SkyDrive and start adding markdown files to the "StratosPress" (name of the service) directory in SkyDrive. No need to manually sync/push/publish. Just save and as soon as the file gets synced, your blog post is updated.

Unfortunately, nobody seems to use SkyDrive. And even if they did, who would give a random guy on the internet access to all of their SkyDrive files. I know I wouldn't. Too bad there's no way to restrict file access to third-party services.

Silvrback looks alright, but it still seems a bit too bloated to my taste. I'm not sure why exactly.

This issue can be solved with Dropbox (you can make an app which doesn't have access to the rest of the files). See above for "my ideal blogging system", it's pretty much this. I may have to add support to my blogging system for this.

You mean Calepin.co?

Something like that, I spent a few hours last night and added Dropbox integration to my blog, and it's fantastic. Much superior to online editing interfaces.

What about http://tryghost.org? How is this going to be any different?

It is a hosted solution and you pay for it, for starters. Ghost will be open source, you host it.

Ghost will have a hosted platform as well [1].

  * November 2013 - Release of the hosted platform to Kickstarter backers
  * January 2014 - Release of the hosted platform to the general public
[1] - http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/johnonolan/ghost-just-a-...

Ghost is similar to wordpress. You will need to setup and maintain your own servers with Ghost.

They will be providing a hosting service later on.

This looks great! Do you plan to support comments? I know it's a difficult thing to do so I'm not expecting that, just curious. I also know about Disqus, but that is no good for a technical blog since they took away the ability to post code samples a year or two ago.

With a minimal amount of work, dsowers could implement support for hull.io and implement comments exactly as he'd want to - disclaimer: I work there.

you might check out http://www.postagon.com

On a related note, I found an app called Haroopad which is a cross-platform offline Markdown editor[1]. It even supports some GitHub flavored Markdown.

[1] - http://pad.haroopress.com/

Could you provide more details? How many servers, where is the data stored, what type of support will you offer, is it an LLC, how many people behind it, company roadmap, application roadmap, what happens with it if you die tomorrow, etc?


Good questions. I will follow up with a blog post addressing these issues.

Looks like nice execution and everything, but guys, I have to ask, is Wordpress really that hard to set up? Copying Medium's theme shouldn't be THAT much work...

Wordpress is easy to install if you're already familiar with setting up a LAMP stack. A lot of people who just want to blog are not. It's easy to get running and install themes, but honestly it's almost a full-time job to keep it running right. You have to keep up with security updates and deal with confusing config options for custom domains. wp_config, Apache, and MySQL are not something you can use casually.

Also, performance is terrible unless you cache aggressively, which most people don't because it's a lot of work, even with W3. The nice thing about real hosted solutions is they can handle extra load if it happens.

I get why it's popular. The blogging interface is very good, but trying to setup/maintain a server makes me want to pull my hair out.

There's no reason you need to maintain all of that -- do a one-click install someplace like Bluehost, Dreamhost, or ZippyKid and they'll manage everything, and do core WP upgrades as well automatically. There's also WP.com.

All are more expensive than 29/yr though.

It's not the setting up that's hard, it's the fact that Wordpress is still bloated as hell.

Not to mention that Wordpress is a security nightmare out of the box, and even more so if you don't keep it up to date weekly. Its just too much work if all you want is a nice blogging platform.

Actually wordpress core has very few vulnerabilities. Most of them are in custom plugins.

I don't really understand the existence of these blog services aimed at developers when so many thousands of static site generators and rsync exist.

Do you think WordPress has outlived its utility as a personal blogging platform? I am planning to move my blog from WordPress to something more simpler.

Looks quite nice, but do you really need a loading indicator for an image of your logo that's a single colour?

I like the idea but I still prefer using Github pages for my blog. Not to mention it's free.

cool - thanks. i almost wrote the same thing, alas... i had other priorities.

will defintely check it out, but if i dont like it... you might have some competition

Why not Posthaven?

For a start, their launch page has terrible typesetting and no useful info about their service.

Will you offer MathJax support?

How do I leave a comment on his blog? WTF is up with people disabling commenting... if you don't want any feedback then I don't care to hear what you got to say.

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