I have two Substacks, one a shitposting site that I just vomit up whatever I please, and one where I write semi-seriously about my profession. Since Substack has a really fucked up position on their growing cohort of out and out Nazis, and a surprising number of people who go around to pile on troll when they come across someone who is dismayed about it (I have had to block more people in 3 months on Substack as I did in 14 years on Twitter).
I am somewhat dismayed to leave my professional presence on Substack, as that is an implicit affirmation of the shitbird tack of the Substack Founders. Thus, I was looking at going back to Ghost as a platform.
For the last two weeks I have been trying to get a good Ghost install on a stand-alone server. Like 10 times (ok, not ten, but I have created and destroyed droplets 4 times.) No love yet.
The first and third failure was an own-goal, where I was cavalier about what version of Ubuntu that I chose (I was on the current, not the long-term-support version) and that led to some of the framework that Ghost runs on failing to work well. No bueno, and many many MANY hours wasted trying to figure out what the fuck I did wrong. I accept that.
The one attempt that came close was when I used the “one button” install from the Digital Ocean marketplace. I had to do that twice, since I fucked up the first pass by trying to install it before the DNS settings fully populated. Turns out that just because nslookup and ping properly resolve it, the folks at Let’s Encrypt get a bit testy if all the DNS changes haven’t fully propagated. Oops. I need to wait a full 24 hours before trying to start the install.
The second attempt at the one-button install was better. I got it installed and configured, but while I got it to load and work, it worked fine. I tested the flow for subscribing, and did some branding and display tweaks to the theme (the themes use handlebars.js templating, and I am really rusty at it, but some of that knowledge still rattles around my brain.
But I 100% failed to get the mail delivery platform working. I still have my old “flex” account. This was recently deprecated, but I am grandfathered in. As long as I do not send more than 1,000 emails a month, I am good. And that is plenty for my professional blog. At most I send one newsletter every other week, and I have 40ish subscribers, so even if I posted every week, it would still be in my “free” allocation.
But it just wouldn’t work, and it was definitely on the Ghost side. Hours searching the community forums for support, and I got nothing.
Sigh. I could punt, and go with the Ghost(pro) solution for $9 a month, but I really don’t want to rely on a platform where the same bad behaviors could infect the place.
That really was just the final straw. I will keep my professional presence at Substack and since I am not monetizing, I am merely a free-rider so I am consuming resources without giving Substack their 10% rake.