Experiments With Ghost

Photo by Syarafina Yusof / Unsplash

I'm lucky enough to have owned my full name .com for more than 10 years now.

Many aren't so lucky, especially those with more commonly found names.

Not owning such a domain makes setting up a personal site when you're out looking for a new gig a bit more challenging. You're not quite as easy to look into and I'll come back to this in a moment.

At that time I set up a Wordpress Blog and I used it as a place to write about anything not related to fitness.

For those that care, I've been writing about fitness at skillbasedfitness.com since 2009. About 250+ articles now, many of them detailed enough I should turn them into mini-novellas and sell them on Amazon. I've also written more than 2500 answers/articles on Quora.com since 2012. Although I can't quite seem to crack 10k followers on that platform. My fitness-related work has been featured in Forbes, Thought Catalog, Medical Daily and Lifehacker.

A mistake switching hosting providers led to all of my content on the old darrenbeattie.com being lost. It wasn't much and a little thing called Medium had just come out (circa 2012).

Luckily, I had migrated some posts over to Medium. Rather than try to recover anything I lost on the migration I just redirected darrenbeattie.com to my medium site for years.

After all, I was a strength and conditioning coach, so having my biggest presence online be Skill Based Fitness made sense.

And in that time, some guy also named Darren Beattie became a speechwriter for Donald Trump and has been pushing his new book on Trumpist Nationalism under my very name!

Well, it's time to get this domain rolling again and push that *stuff back down the google search result page.

*There is now a 17-year-old hockey player in Canada with my name who thankfully helping me with this.


I've spent the better part of 15 years as a strength and conditioning coach/personal trainer, and aspiring web entrepreneur.

I love it. And while most people switch careers because they hate what they're doing or there isn't enough money in it. Thankfully that wasn't me.

I've been a solo entrepreneur now for the better part of 9 years and things were getting a bit lonely. What was me was the need for a new challenge. I needed a way to liven things up again, to start working with a team again.

There was always one thing missing after I started Koachable and later Fitnack: Technical Skills.

What did I decide to do about it?

Well, I went to the Lighthouse Labs (LHL) and did their 12 Week Web Development Bootcamp. That's what.

Why did I do this?

Well to make myself immediately employable first and foremost. Without spending another 4 years in school working on a computer science degree. Impractical at this stage in my life.

Yes, I'm going to be winding down my fitness career, but hopefully, I'll have a little spare time to keep some of my existing online clients and maybe 5 hours a week, maybe on the weekends I'll do in-person coaching. You know, to keep that coaching muscle fresh.

It will become the equivalent of a side project (thankfully encouraged in the Web Development community) that I hope to tie many of my new found development skills into.

Think about it, this is not something strength and conditioning coaches do. Especially relatively successful ones. And that's what I like so much about doing it! It's so crazy it just might work.

It makes me fairly unique in both fields and development is something I've already been playing with for years on the side anyway. I hope that it helps me develop a very unique skill set in the long-term.

If you haven't read Range by David Epstein, read it and you'll understand my position better.

However, after 9 years of working for myself, my new challenge will be finding the right web development opportunity to take my skills to the next level.

LHL is pretty upfront about this. They give you enough skills to get a job, but not enough skills for you to come out of their program as a lead developer ready to build production-ready web applications.

That's another 5 years of learning on the job and thankfully I'm up to that task. Ideally a job with lots of growth opportunities and mentorship. An apprenticeship of sorts. I like building cool stuff that helps other people enhance their quality of life.

Which Brings Me to Ghost...

Here I was forwarding this darrenbeattie.com to medium willy nilly. Not getting any top-level traffic for my own name and it was time to bring it back.

Yet, I didn't want to bring it back to Wordpress (WP), which has gotten more and more cumbersome over the years. I have 3 other websites running WP currently and can confirm that the new Gutenberg editor on Wordpress is slow as molasses.

Honestly, it is a painful writing experience. It was designed to compete with Medium and you guessed it, Ghost!

I love the writing experience on Medium but they've long since decided to take their company in a different direction towards subscriptions and away from small bloggers like me.

Ghost's writing experience is similar but even better. And it's blazing fast!

Ghost is a headless CMS built on node.js. I just spent 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for 12 weeks in school learning what? Predominantly Javascript and you guessed it NODE.JS! In case it wasn't clear, I like node...

It occurred to me: What developer can't code their own blog? And at the same time, as I was repeatedly told in school, why reinvent the wheel?

Setting up a new ghost blog would permit me to test out some new skills on the back-end and the front-end. I'd have the freedom to code my blog in a manner I'm already a little familiar with, and at the same time, I can get a great writing experience without building one from scratch.

What'd I Do?

Ghost only charges you to use Ghost if you use their managed servers. At $29 a month, its not completely unreasonable but it's also not going to help me groove any back end skills either. It's also open-source and well documented.

Instead, I spun up a droplet on Digital Ocean for $5 as my back-end. If you click that link and sign up for Digital Ocean yourself, I get 5 months of hosting and you get 20 months if you also choose the $5 option. Good deal.

I configured my server, even managed to troubleshoot Digital Ocean's "1-Click" Ghost App creation (it's not exactly 1-click – i.e. I'm glad I learned some debugging skills in school) to get what you're reading right now. Version 0.9 if you will.

Ghost also lets me challenge my frontend code skills with handlebars.js templating if I want. Granted I haven't gotten there just yet (this is my first post) but I probably will. It looks interesting, but let's face it, not as interesting to me as React (my preferred front-end option currently).

More importantly, Ghost 3.0 brings a ton of support for the JAMstack. That means I can tightly integrate Ghost into a React app via Gatsby and/or Next.js. Two React platforms that I've been dying to play with.

It's all win-win. Over the next few weeks, I'm considering migrating my entire online eco-system to Ghost from Wordpress. And in the process, I'm taking control of all my website development in a way I never have before.

So far so good.

Darren Beattie

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