It was a particularly warm day, yet again. October in Brazil tends to be a very consistent temperature throughout the summer season and, on this particular day, I had set up my little mobile office at a small cafe beside the Praia de Cumbuco. Or "the beach" as you might otherwise refer to it.
Approximately a year earlier, I had decided that freelance life in England was a little boring for my tastes. So, as you do, I dilligently sold everything I owned with the exception of about 5 tshirts, a laptop and an uninhibited sense of adventure. With that out of the way, I bought a one way ticket to the (almost) polar opposite side of the world: Australia. From that point onwards I started my new life, being "professionally homeless" - travelling from place to place - all the while working online as normal. Provided that I could find wifi, I was able to be in the proverbial office.
Brazil was but the latest in a long list of stops on my open-ended trip thus far. It attracted me with its consistent winds, beautiful beaches and a reputation as one of the best kiteboarding locations in the world during the latter part of the the calendar year.
Each morning I would wake up and clock in a good 3 or 4 hours of work before hopping on a bus to go kiteboarding on one of the local lagoons for a couple of hours. Around sunset I would return for a bit more work and a relaxing evening adorned with freshly cooked pizzas and Caipirinhas. It was a rather excellent daily routine. I have a lot of fond memories of daily life in Brazil, but the fondest of all by far - of course - is how Ghost was conceived.
A Normal Day
When you look at the ideas and projects of others which have gone on to have some success, it's easy to imagine some sort of epiphanic moment when time stood still - the universe opened - and a big idea was born. A moment of enlightenment where true inspiration reveals itself and its genius is certain. All other ideas are immediately cast aside. I have this perception about every successful business or idea that has been created by others, and I realise now that a few people (rightly or wrongly) have a similar perception of Ghost.
In reality, of course, it's nothing like that.
It was just a normal day. A Tuesday. I was working away on a client site, just like I did on Monday. The particular site in question was a blog for a reasonably large company, who were looking to kick off a developer outreach programme with a really great online publication about their products and technologies.
I was trying to do two things which I had become accustomed to wrestling vigorously with over the last few years. The first was to beat the WordPress templating system into submission. While it has an almost infinite level of control over various elements of a website, WordPress has never made it very easy to work with the actual output of the post content itself - which is typically just one giant blob of markup spat out by its WYSIWYG editor.
The second thing, was attempting to set up some kind of editorial workflow for my client which would make sense with their multiple authors. Both of these were issues which I was exhausted from trying to overcome. I'd tried many different solutions to both. None of them had met my needs, nor my quality standards. And yet - for an online publication - these two issues were, and are, increasingly critical.
The Back Story
At the time I had been contributing to WordPress as a core designer and front end developer for roughly two years. I'd spent my time as the Deputy Head of the UI Group, managing the design work of the various contributors - and helping to make sure they got implemented. I knew the platform pretty well by this point. I'd grown frustrated, though, that it was really hard to move things forward.
WordPress has a great fear of changes both in design and code due, in no small part, to having such an enormous user base.
A lot of people initially asked why I didn't just work on Ghost as an improvement to WordPress. As a core patch or plugin or even an admin skin. What you have to understand is, at this particular moment, sitting at my little table in Brazil, I had been trying to do all of those things for a very long time - and I was pretty tired of making no progress.
So I opened my little notebook and tried to imagine what WordPress would look like in a world where anything was possible, and the system was built around just publishing. Not making websites or supporting complex CMS functionality or trying to cater to every vague use-case under the sun… just blogging. I'd been bouncing the idea around in my head for years, usually writing it off as "too much effort" - but on this particular day I put pen to paper, just for the sake of getting the idea out of my brain.
Oh it was messy. And confused. But you can see the beginnings of Ghost in those pages. Some of the conceptual ideas made it, many of them didn't. After an hour of thinking and sketching and writing, though, it seemed even more interesting than when I'd started.
But who wants yet another blogging platform, right?