Crummy word processors

4 minute read

I haven’t been blogging much lately. Why is that?

Of course, I could blame myself and my laziness. And that would probably be fair. But it’s also too easy, because there’s more going on than just laziness: I’ve noticed I don’t particularly like blogging. Don’t get me wrong; I love writing. I’ve been doing it my whole life. I just don’t particularly like blogging, and I blame software. (I think I’m allowed to blame software: I’m a programmer myself, so I know what I’m talking about.)

I’m old enough to remember WordPerfect 5.1 (barely, but still). It was the Best Word Processor Ever. Nothing else has ever come close. The control you had over your document’s layout through its awesome underwater view was unprecedented and, unfortunately, unpostcedented. WP had only one downside: it has turned me into a bit of a layout control freak.

But I digress.


I’ve tried some blogging platforms over the years. My first blog was on Blogspot, which was fine, I guess, but it felt a bit limiting. First of all, I had to go to the website and type my story into its crummy word processor. I didn’t like this, so I usually wrote my story in my favourite text editor. When I was done, I’d copy my work into Blogspot and do the layout. This way, I could also keep a copy of the text for my personal archive, which wasn’t possible in Blogspot.

Also, Blogspot lacked certain options that I would have liked to have, such as scheduled posting.


So for my next blog, I decided to try out WordPress. A self-hosted WordPress, no less: big mistake. It seemed like I had to upgrade it every time I logged in.

And boy, did it have options. It has all of them. Literally. Several times over, with all the plugins you can get for it. I think I spent more time administrating WordPress than actually writing blog posts. This is obviously not true, but it feels true enough, so let’s just pretend that it is and we won’t be too far from the truth.

Like Blogspot, I still had to go to WordPress’s crummy word processor to to type my story. Or rather: copy-paste it in, because I still wanted to keep a private record. Sure, I could do the layout in HTML outside of WordPress, but that’s still kind of awkward, and you have to check it, because sometimes the HTML gets garbled.

There’s probably tons of plugins to make this process more convenient, but I really couldn’t be bothered to find them, decide which one best suits my needs, and then set it up. I want to write, so please just get all of those plugins and settings and options and stuff out of my face and let me write. Thanks.


For the blog after that, I wanted something simpler. Posterous seemed to be cool, so I decided to try that. And at least they’ve fixed the crummy word processor issue: you can avoid it altogether, simply by e-mailing your text to Posterous. But I’d grown comfortable writing my text “off-line” and doing layout in the crummy word processor, so I never used the e-mail feature.

But I probably should have, because Posterous’s word processor is the crummiest of all. Doing layout in it is a truly horrible experience. I have no words for it. The usability is super awkward and in the name of security, it garbled all my HTML beyond even the slightest hope of repair. I hate it. It’s been a major contributing factor to my blogging hiatus, and something had to change.


I think I’ve found the solution. It’s called Telegram, and it’s written by David Pollak, who is probably best known for the Lift web framework. It’s still in the early development stages, but already it supports my workflow perfectly. I can just type my text, give it some simple Markdown (or HTML) layout, and push it to GitHub (or Dropbox). Telegram takes care of the rest. I have already migrated all my old Posterous posts to Telegram, and the post you’re reading now is the first new one since the move.

Telegram is still quite new and under heavy development, but already it has all the features that I want, without throwing them in my face as WordPress does. Actually, it lacked one feature that was important to me. But in less than a day after I reported it, Mr. Pollak had added it. This was not something I expected; I’m a software developer myself so I know how feature requests are generally handled: respectfully but reluctantly. I certainly don’t expect Mr. Pollak to just blindly put in every feature request I might throw at him in the future, but it has definitely boosted my confidence in the platform.

But most importantly: Telegram doesn’t have a word processor. So there isn’t even an opportunity for this to be crummy. I love it. Now, if I don’t keep up my blogging, I can point the blame squarely where it belongs: my laziness. And nowhere else.