My personal opinion comparing small blog services

Hi everyone! I, like a few people hovering around Mastodon, were looking for a blog service besides the SSG I was using for my own website. Since I mentioned my journey in the discord a few times, I’m expanding on the article I posted on my website.

This is my opinion only of course, so take from it what you will. I currently use the Hugo static site generator for my main website. I write “notes” which are articles with some thought put into them, but I wanted the following for short form blogging:

  • A way to blog much easier with an editor in an app or browser, and not having to open up Codium and my terminal to sit down and write a full post.
  • Write more than what I would post on Mastodon/social of choice.
  • Ability to upload photos and link from my personal gallery via markdown/html.
  • Enjoy the writing experience and have good UI
  • Edit the theme as I want to. I love to tinker with code and CSS
  • Free or paid, I don’t mind spending $5-6 a month for something that made me very happy to write with.
  • Some sort of social experience either via a local discover blog list list or comments (maybe? meh not really)

I whittled it down to Pika, Bear and Scribbles. All services that are specifically made for micro blogging and on the small web.

Pika, created by the folks at Good Enough.

  • Non-markdown editor with toolbar, easy to attach (and delete)images, links etc
  • No free tier over 50 posts - $6 a month (save on annual purchase). Then you get:
  • Unlimited blog posts
  • Unlimited pages
  • Custom domain mapping
  • The option to hide the Pika brand on your blog
  • Cannot set a dynamic image per post, something silly to most but important to me when sharing to social/chat

Bear blog - built by one person, Herman

  • Free tier gives you ability to have unlimited posting, but bare bones, no editor. Just a text box where you can use markdown. Cannot attach images, just link via markdown.
  • Free plan gives you simple analytics which is neat. Paid plan gives you deeper analytics. You can make them public or not as well
  • Ability to list posts and pages very easily, plus tons of other custom stuff in the docs
  • Paid plan gives you custom domain
    • Ability to upload images
    • Read a discovery feed of other Bear blogs
    • Dynamic image can be set per post via markdown link
    • Still has plain markdown editor. Fine for mostly text posts but it would be nice to have a toolbar sometimes

I purchased a month of bear ($5/month) to give it a try fully - I really liked the customization of CSS, headers, footers, dashboard, and such. But I found out that you cannot delete an image once you upload it. It stopped me in my tracks and I then started to upload images to my own host to then link. It became a little arduous and now I don’t think I want to use it for a small blog. (I might as well keep my Hugo site setup)

Scribbles - built by on person, Vincent. I’m familiar with his work via micro.blog, omg.lol, and his own services TInylitics and Shoutouts.lol

  • Currently free as a tester with feedback. Price plan not set yet, need to check scribbles blog for updates
  • I love the UI and simple interface for writing
  • Has a discovery feed of other Scribbles blogs (shorts, longer posts, and blogs)
  • Ability to upload media and delete as needed
  • Dynamic image is the first image of the post
  • Cannot customize the look of it other than an accent color atm.
  • Still very new, not really fully released yet, but very polished

So far, I’ve moved off of Bear for now until Herman creates the ability to delete uploaded images on the paid plan. I’m really liking Scribbles since I’m a beta tester and find it super easy to write a post and attach/delete images. I also use Tinylitics and it’s very easy to integrate into the blog since he makes both services. It is free at the moment which is great but I will definitely consider a subscription or lifetime plan if he offers that.

As I mentioned in my original article, I change my mind alot so don’t be surprised if I update my own post or this discourse post in a few months when offers changes between services :joy:

I hope this was helpful! What are you experiences with small blogging services?

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The features I want are:

  • write new posts in a web app
  • fast preview when editing drafts
  • no need to involve a third service like github
  • templates that are easy to edit
  • no emergency security updates
  • spell check
  • reasonable defaults

I think I have this (except for spell-check) by running jekyll-admin on a local server and rsync-ing the results to static file hosting at nearlyfreespeech. It costs me about $0.41/month

I think jekyll-admin is somewhat abandoned software.

I like the local server publishing to a remote server because I can easily protect it and not have to scramble every time there’s a new wordpress bug. I did write some small plugins for jekyll to get it working exactly the way I wanted. I don’t know if there’s something that does this “out of the box.”

This was an interesting read! It’s crazy that bearblog doesn’t allow you to delete images, that’s such a basic feature. Scribbles sounds really promising, if they add more customization options it seems it will meet all of the criteria you set!

This is a shame. I think providing a graphical front-end to SSGs is a cool idea, I’d like to explore that more. If I could just have some web UI frontend to write posts on my Hugo-generated site, it would be a perfect setup for me.

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You could give DecapCMS a go! It would work well for my site except that I use page bundles on my theme and have tried everything to work around it but no go. If you use single pages for your blog posts then it might work well for you.

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Wow that looks really neat! Unfortunately I use page bundles a lot too :pensive:

There’s Quiqr, for an attempt at a local, Hugo CMS experience, but, from what I’ve tested, it was pretty bad.

There’s also TinaCMS (allegedly), says it works with Hugo. But I’ve never tested.

Great post btw, @BinaryDigit

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this isn’t quite what you want but there is an extension for VS Code called Front Matter, which adds a sidebar to your SSG’s posts so you can easily add images, tags, front matter, etc. a far cry from a full GUI but it’s still better than just futzing with templates and the terminal :joy:

Awesome write-up! I had not yet heard of Scribbles and Tinylytics, this is a very interesting proposition! I’m also starting to think about moving away from hand rolling pages and posts to something more opinionated, with a UI. I really like the idea of encouraging solo creators, but on the other hand I’m wondering if there’s a chance it could make the service a bit more fragile? I’m curious to know if you have any thoughts on this.

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Manuel Moreale recently posted this nice collection: The great list of all the blog platforms. Might be worth checking out.

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Ohh this list is great! I didn’t know about some others on here :eyes:

Great list with solid info!

I was able to test out Scribbles and I like it. Something about Vincent’s approach to UI that I appreciate.

I’m dying to make something in Hugo. I made my blog in 11ty, which I love, but Hugo looks really fun to build with.

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I love Hugo and how solidly built it is with major features. Once I got used to how it all works I think I prefer it from 11ty. (I have one site with each SSG). I definitely recommend trying it out!

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