For me, part of the fun of writing–or I guess, part of the fun of putting off writing–is taking some time out to play with all the various writing platforms available. If you’re technically-inclined as I am, you dream of one day completely owning your platform, being able to control every aspect of it. Being its sole owner.
You’d love nothing more than to build your platform from scratch according to all your preferences and all your needs, you just don’t have the time or ability right now. This is why I tend to favor lesser known platforms like Dropplets, which I use for my personal site at jdbentley.com, or Jekyll, which I used for literally years before my needs outgrew my Ruby knowledge.
I’m always excited to see something new in this space because there seems to be so much creativity living in it. As user sneak says on a related Hacker News thread, these writing platforms (or static site generators) are a Cups and Balls for programmers. Cups and Balls is a trick every magician performs at some point which makes it completely uninteresting. People have seen it, they know what to expect. Or do they? The magicians job is to innovate, to make it new again. With static site generators and writing platforms, the problem that needs solved is very clear cut, but the methodologies, workflows and tactics the programmer chooses to implement to solve that problem can mean they’ve created the ideal platform for you. There’s always that hope.
Today, Segment.io released a static site generator called Metalsmith, billed as extremely simple and pluggable. Pluggable because all logic is handled by plugins: a plugin to manage drafts, a plugin to customize permalinks, a plugin to convert markdown files to HTML, etc. You can write and include whatever kind of functionality you want through this plugin system. This means Metalsmith is incredibly flexible. On the project’s Github page, there are three separate examples of how you might implement Metalsmith as a writing platform: a simple static site generator, one that mimics Wintersmith, and one that mimics Jekyll.
What I appreciate about these sorts of generators is that they are completely focused on the content. Once you have it set up, you never really see it again. There’s only your writing. No backend to login to, nothing to customize or fiddle with. You just write and upload files.
So, if you’re a technically-inclined writer, I’d definitely recommend you check out Metalsmith or the other various site generators. It may be worth your time to build out your perfect publishing environment as I have. It distracts you from your real job–writing!–only briefly. After it’s all set up and you develop a workflow for it, you’ll be able to publish more than ever.