scriptogr.am generates elegant weblogs from Dropbox-stored text files
January 17, 2012
The bloggers among you will be aware of that ongoing, nagging, internal monologue as to whether our chosen blogging platform offers the optimal combination of features, cost and reliability for our particular blend of needs. Depending on where that silent debate presently rests, you may be either pleased or frustrated to hear that another contender - scriptogr.am - has entered the fray, though it's one with a markedly different take on the very process blogging, using text files from a user's Dropbox account to generate a simple, elegant weblog.
After connecting scriptogr.am to your Dropbox account and selecting a username and custom url (one and the same), scriptogr.am creates a hierarchy of folders inside Dropbox, starting with an Apps folder (if you don't have one already), with a scriptogr.am folder inside. Inside that is a posts folder, the individual Markdown files within making up the posts which will comprise your blog.
Creating a new post is as simple as creating a new Markdown file named with today's date and a .md file extension, then hitting a Synchronize button on the scriptogr.am website. If you hear a low, rumbling sound as you do, it's nothing to worry about: it's just the whole paradigm of content management system-oriented blogging giving way beneath your feet. The Dropbox folder is your CMS.
The choice of Markdown reinforces scriptogram's emphasis on simplicity and elegance. If you're not familiar, Markdown is a syntax for text files that makes the plain text translatable into HTML. Much of the simple formatting will be familiar to any user of plain text email. Text can be italicized by placing it within asterisks, for example, and links are created with the use of bracketed urls. The idea is that your posts remain nice and readable without being strewn with HTML tags, but will be converted to HTML without need of additional, more code-like formatting.
The simplicity of Markdown shouldn't be read as a lack of features. Adding titles, dates, blockquotes, excerpts and, as of today, tags, is as simple as getting your head around the correct formatting.
Note that scriptogr.am does not rely on Dropbox to host your blog. With every press of the Synchronize button, scriptogr.am rebuilds your weblog based on the contents of your Dropbox folder, so your blog's traffic won't affect your Dropbox bandwidth allowance.
As you can tell from the official blog, where the first post is dated December 31, 2011, scriptogr.am is about as new as can be. In fact, scriptogr.am tells us, the service has been in development for a little over a month - with the beta employing PHP, though there are very loose plans to clone the app into Ruby in the future, once the service is more established. Indeed, the website describes its current development phases as "super-beta", which I assume means beta with all the usual caveats. Underlined. Twice. In red. Use scriptogr.am with caution at this stage, in other words. Of course, the official blog is itself an example of a scriptogr.am blog with the default CSS.
Beta or not, scriptogr.am already includes some heavyweight features. Should you wish, posts can be created and edited through the scriptogr.am website, though this is by means of a simple editor - traditional CMS it ain't (thankfully). Though scriptogr.am generates pleasing, plain text weblogs that adapt to mobile devices, your blog's CSS is customizable, and editable HTML templates and custom theme presets are on the way. If you can tinker with your registrar's A-name records, you can set up a custom url as well.
The only minor pain is the need to press the Synchronize button on the scriptogr.am website - otherwise it really is as simple as editing a plain text file in your editor of choice. Suddenly, blogging from a mobile device sounds easy, though in reality, the Dropbox mobile app doesn't make this as straightforward as it probably should be.
By the sounds of it, scriptogr.am will remain a free service for the foreseeable future. There are no places to introduce fees. Hopefully before long the developers will add the ability to like and reblog a scriptogr.am posts. Not. For goodness' sake, not.