One Hundred, Two Hosts, Three Engines

— January 24, 2008 at 13:05 PST

I started this blog nearly two years ago. In its first incarnation, it was running on the venerable Typo engine, hosted on DreamHost. About a year ago I switched over from Typo to Mephisto, still on DreamHost. Typo was a great start for me, and Mephisto was a good change when Typo was having some issues with the project. (Typo seems to be back on track these days, and has been for a while.) DreamHost was really cheap to get started on with hosting a Rails app, but I outgrew it in a couple months and have just been living in pain and denial ever since.

Now it's nearly two years later, and this is my 100th post on this blog. Coincidentally, it's another big transition for me. As of now this blog is hosted by the awesome force of nature that is EngineYard, and it's running on blog software of my own creation.

If you've used DreamHost to run a Rails app, you'll instantly understand why I wasn't happy there. As the folks at DreamHost have said themselves, Rails sucks on a shared hosting setup, and if you're doing anything more than a toy app, it's not something you want to suffer with. (I should say that in all other ways I've been quite happy with DreamHost, and am going to remain a customer for my non-Rails needs.) My blog has grown and with over 6,000 subscribers it can be a real nightmare when I post a popular article and things start breaking. Now, I'm not crazy enough to pay EngineYard's rates just for my blog (but for a money-making app, I'd be crazy not to). But EngineYard has been good enough to sponsor this blog by providing me a slice to host it on. My experience with them through the setup and transition has been excellent, and I couldn't be happier with the service.

As for the new blog software, I'd say yes, I was a bit crazy to write my own system. But I read Geoffrey Grosenbach's post about the benefits of writing your own blog software, and I realized that's what I wanted to do. I guess I sort of outgrew Mephisto in a kind of retrograde way. Mephisto is a solid piece of software, but it's too big for me, and that makes it hard to modify to do what I want. It's development has also lagged - no new release in over a year! And, I wanted something that ran on Rails 2. Plus, Liquid is exactly the wrong choice for me running my own blog. So I took a month of weekends and random evenings and wrote Teldra. She's just about 500 lines of code (not counting plugins), and does everything I want in a blog, but nothing more. Basically, I wanted a blog that didn't duplicate the things I could already do as a Rails developer. I am perfectly capable of editing a view template, so I don't need a theme system in my blog. I can scp assets to my account, so I don't need an asset manager. It's amazing how many features become irrelevant when you can use your innate developer powers.

Some friends have already asked me if they can use Teldra, and the answer is "yes, eventually." Teldra will probably be open-sourced at some point. She's certainly destined for some significant exposure, as half the reason I wrote her was as grist for a talk I'll be giving later this year. By the way, thanks to Steven Brust for his blessings on using the name.

While Teldra seems ready for prime time, she still has a few rough edges. I expect the feed will refill since I changed the ID schema to conform to the standard (Mephisto is bad about that), and some of the UI looks a bit ragged. But now that I've got a nice platform to build on, those things will get fixed in short order. If you see problems, feel free to leave a comment to let me know. Oh yeah, I've been playing nice and keeping around some redirects to support the old Typo-style URLs for the last year, but I've finally turned that off. If an old URL breaks, there's likely a new one that does what you want. Search works, have fun with it.

Alright, now that all that's out of the way, maybe I can get back to writing all those articles I've been putting off since I couldn't stand my blog dying everytime I posted something new.

9 commentshosting, meta, teldra

  1. Neeraj2008-01-24 20:57:24

    Can't wait to play with Teldra. As you said mephisto is great but it's still too heavy. Not many people need liquid.

  2. August Lilleaas2008-01-25 00:26:24

    Thy blogposts has been linked in great numbers in #rubyonrails at freenode, awesome resource. Welcome back!

  3. Chris Papadopoulos2008-01-25 08:44:50

    Interesting post.

    I've been running on WordPress but I'm also planning on finishing off a custom rails system I've been working on and at some point when I have time switching over to that. I also took a look at Mephisto but agree that there's too much code there for what I personally need. I also want the ability to add features in the future and doing my own thing makes that a lot easier.

  4. Phil2008-01-25 13:08:07

    I really wonder who the target audience for a released Teldra is. If you've got developer smarts, it's probably quicker to write up your own blog engine than figure out a new one for an application as trivial as a blog. (Or just write a frontend to mod_atom if you're really cutting-edge).

    I predict if you open-source it and start getting users, you'll get requests from your users for functionality that would turn it into another Typo/Mephisto if you implemented them. =)

    Then again, sometimes it just makes more sense to go simple and static:

  5. Galen Ward2008-01-25 14:20:11

    It would be really nice to build out enough plugins to make building your own blog super-easy (like Markdown). Until then, we're sticking to WordPress and it's built in support for trackbacks, easy RSS feeding, and myriad of (hackish) plugins allowing people to subscribe to comments / manage comments, etc.

  6. Josh Susser2008-01-25 14:22:26

    Hey Phil, I'm not really looking for Teldra to be adopted, and I don't want to manage a community of people contributing to it. At best, I'll probably have a git repo available and people can put up their own repos and if I see something I like I can pull their changes in. But I will be making the code available as grist for my RailsConf talk, so I can show example code with tests/specs. Beyond that, I don't much care what happens with it, though if people want to use it, I certainly won't mind.

  7. Phil2008-01-26 13:30:03

    OK, gotcha. It makes plenty of sense if you're using it for explanatory purposes.

    I still find it quite amusing that you're already getting feature requests though.

  8. Ryan Rickerts2008-03-20 13:09:06


    I feel your pain when it comes to shared hosts. I am using Site5, but after about the 3rd round of installing upgraded versions of software (e.g. ImageMagick) into a localized bin directory for each separate app, I decided I needed to look into other alternatives for rapid deployment.

    I also went looking for a Rails-based blogging engine just last fall, but not just for my own use. I wanted to support other users, some with restricted rights. I waivered between Typo and Mephisto for a while. I went with Mephisto at first because the community seemed more active, and I was impressed with the Leaky Cauldron work. But when I started looking through all the code, especially the Liquid stuff, it was more than I wanted to deal with.

    Then I noticed Typo had been upgraded to support Rails 2.0, along with a lot of the best themes from their contest. I was also following all the talk emanating from DreamHost's complaints about Rails on shared hosts, plus Zed Shaw's rant about the Rails community, and pulled a couple recommendations for RailsMachine out of all the poo. Although expensive for a personal project, I thought it would be worth a shot for at least the learning experience.

    So I have been running Typo on RailsMachine for a little over a month now. I added a nice bit of customization using RMagick on the Flickr API (see my galleries) and did not have much trouble there. It's all built into the Admin interface so my wife can manage it, too. The experience was positive enough that I started another app last night deploying code straight out of Typo's Subversion trunk.

    I am going to try and run that one stock, integrating all their updates. It's pretty solid in my humble opinion, and I look forward to their changes.

  9. PJ Davis2008-04-01 13:47:21

    I feel for you and shared hosting. A good way around that is to work for an ISP, and then throw your crap on one of their boxes ;) Complete control over environment is a wonderful thing.

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