A few weeks ago Dustin Curtis (designer/blogger/self-described Villain) wrote about his experimental new blog network called Svbtle. Svbtle is the codename of both the network and the content management system running he created to run it. Curtis said that he decided to create his own blogging solution after being “irritated by the complexity and uninspiring nature of most blogging platforms.” Along with a minimalistic design and approach to blogging, Curtis is also (currently) only allowing those bloggers onto the network who he has invited on board.
Since the announcement in March, Svbtle has seen a bit of attention.[ref]Dustin Curtis announced Svbtle on his blog. TechCrunch covered the Svbtle launch. The Verge covered the Svbtle launch.[/ref] Soon after someone else released an open source clone of Svbtle on Github, which itself caused a heated discussion on Hacker News.[ref]The discussion on Hacker News is worth a read, but isn’t what I’m focused on here.[/ref]
There are 23 members of Svbtle right now. A number of them have run their blog on WordPress before. A handful of the Svbtle members were using WordPress to power their blogs immediately before switching to Svbtle. It’s easy to write that off as little more than excitement over something new and exclusive, but perhaps there’s more to it.
“Simplicity”, “great fit”, “how I think”
It’s far too soon to make any statements about Svbtle’s appeal in the long term. Besides, it’s far more interesting to look at what attracted current users on in the first place. Let’s look at how they talked about Svbtle when making the switch.
Christina Warren, Entertainment Editor at Mashable and frequent WPCandy commenter, said:
My hope is that the simplicity, the Markdown compatibility and the blank aesthetic will help me realize my goal of putting more content out under my own name, without having to be about work.[ref]Quoted from Christina’s blog.[/ref]
That comment wasn’t pointed right at WordPress. This one is, though. Jared Erondu, founder of The Industry, said:
Coming from the complex CMS that is WordPress, I could relate entirely with Curtis’ frustration. Don’t get me wrong. WordPress is the perfect platform for large sites like Mashable, TechCrunch, and RWW. However, for “personal blogging,” as I call it, we don’t need the fancy plugins, SEO, colors, featured posts, news post, OP-Eds, social sharing links, call-to-actions, author bio box, contact form, and the list goes on. Rather, give me a clean minimal space that encourages me to dump my thoughts and add a title, I’m sold. Svbtle is just that, just a tad bit sexier. Oh, and the Markdown support helps.[ref]Quoted from Jared’s blog.[/ref]
Around these parts we’re usually talking about how to make WordPress a fit for larger sites. We don’t criticize it nearly as often for what it lacks for personal bloggers.
Brad McCarty of The Next Web, said:
2 years and a few posts ago, I started this site on WordPress. I always wrestled with themes, ideas and the workflow of the site, and I never found anything that actually felt right to me.
Then I saw Svbtle. Suddenly the way that my brain worked was sitting in front of me as a blog platform. I applied, got accepted and today is day 1 of the new journey. [ref]Quoted from Brad’s blog.[/ref]
Aside from the direct mentions of WordPress, other Svbtle members pointed out highlights of the new system that many of us would likely assign to WordPress. Derrick Ko of Kicksend (who moved over to Svbtle from Posterous) said:
But more importantly, I’m thrilled with Svbtle’s focus on the experience of producing and consuming great content. It’s something that has – up till now – been sorely lacking among the services and platforms out there. And to be able to join an amazing community of bloggers is always a privilege. Thanks a lot Dustin.[ref]Quoted from Derrick’s blog.[/ref]
Or there’s Bobby Ghoshal of Flud, who said:
Its “the essence of blogging” as Dustin puts it. Its clean, well designed, and i bet its actually going to get me to want to write.[ref]Quoted from Bobby’s blog.[/ref]
You get the idea.
The Svbtle difference
Svbtle is still in private invite-only mode while Curtis works out the kinks and gets ready for a full public launch. Yet he did post a handful of screenshots showing what the Svbtle user experience is like. Just for kicks, let’s line them up against WordPress screenshots.
First, there’s the manage posts screen (click the image to enlarge).
Svbtle doesn’t call something a “post” before it’s published. Actually, based on these screenshots it doesn’t look like posts are mentioned at all. Authors write ideas and then those are published.
The writing experience is somewhat similar, when you turn on Distraction Free Writing in WordPress (click the image to enlarge).
It sounds as if those are the only two screens within Svbtle. At the very least they’re the only ones that have been published so far.
I realize it’s not entirely helpful to just set those screenshots side by side, and true comparisons are difficult without actually using both products. These screens and the quotes from users are all we have to discuss, for now.
Is there a takeaway (or a few) here?
I don’t mean to give Svbtle more credit than it’s due. After all, it’s new and not yet publicly accessible, WordPress is used by a strong (and growing) portion of the web. Still, perhaps there is a morsel or two we can take away from it.
Discussing which content management system (CMS) is better doesn’t interest me in the least. When describing my choice of WordPress over other options, I say it’s my preference. Really it solves problems I’ve run into, and I keep using it because I still like it. I certainly don’t have the experience (or the criteria) to measure one CMS against another, let alone every one available against the rest. Calling a CMS the best would require specifications such that it would only apply to a single person, or a small group.
I think it’s helpful to see what a project like WordPress might learn from something new like Svbtle. Svbtle is receiving the kind of praise I think the WordPress project would like to see come its way. At least a few WordPress users think Svbtle offers an elegant, simple solution to a problem that WordPress itself wasn’t addressing.
Svbtle is receiving the kind of praise I think the WordPress project would like to see come its way.
On the other hand, perhaps I’ve misread this from the start. Maybe WordPress isn’t, and shouldn’t be looked to, as a dead-simple way to blog online. Perhaps it’s moved on from that and other options can fill that role.
I know I would like WordPress to be the easiest, simplest way to blog on the internet. It’s also a solid tool for more complex web publishing, and I don’t want that to change. I wonder if it can be both without sacrificing one or the other.
I brought up Svbtle and discussed it with Brad Williams and Dre Armeda on last week’s WP Late Night, if you’re looking for more on this topic. I would also recommend Joshua Strebel’s editorial contrasting WordPress with Tumblr for a similar discussion.