Moving from WordPress, Part 4

This will be a quick one, because it’s just me explaining why it’s been a while since I had an update. Mainly, I have been preoccupied with other more pressing matters and this has taken time away from my search. I’m also increasingly skeptical that any alternative will give me what I want, despite my issues with WordPress, which means I might just stay with WordPress. But we’ll see.

I’ll have a more detailed report in Part 5, in which I will have actually tested, as promised earlier.

Moving from WordPress, Part 3

I am in a quandary. I thought that researching the supposed finalists would clarify things, but I feel I am no closer now to making a decision.

I looked at what I felt were the two best choices– and blogtastic. They have many broad similarities, not the least of which is an apparent fear of capitalization (or love for e.e. cummings). blogtastic has an advantage in price–at least until April 1, 2024, when their pricing increases.

I was leaning toward blogtastic, partly due to that price advantage, but then I checked its showcase page. And…it’s not good. It’s filled with blogs that have clearly been abandoned, or only ever had a few posts. Only one has a post from 2024. All of them have slow-loading images that draw onto the screen like a JPEG on a Pentium in 1998. blogtastic also features testimonials elsewhere on their site. One writer spoke highly of blogtastic. I click on the link to his site–and it’s very fast! Images load instantly. It’s also running on Ghost. Hmm.

Meanwhile, doesn’t show many examples at all. One is in Japanese, and it looks…OK? It’s hard to get a handle on how sites typically look. To be fair, Matt Baer, who created, does have a link to his own personal blog, and it looks perfectly fine. also lets you have three blogs for its price, which is a nice bonus. The editor is clean, but also very spartan. Maybe a little too spartan. blogtastic leans a little more heavily on what I’d call extra features, like footnotes and things. I love that kind of stuff.

After looking over both, I came away completely unsure on whether either would meet my needs.

Here’s a look at pricing, with Ghost thrown into the mix, as it and blogtastic will be pretty close after blogtastic’s price increase. All prices are per year.

  • Ghost: $108 ($9 per month)
  • $72 ($6 per month)
  • blogtastic: $49 ($4.08 per month). This changes to $99 if you purchase after April 1st ($8.25 per month)

All three let you do a limited-time trial, so you can test drive each. Since I have no idea how any of these will actually feel in practice, I’m going to do that next.

Part 4 will be my test run on

Moving off of WordPress, Part 2

In Part 2, I offer some takes on platforms I skipped, summarize my experiences with ones I’ve tested, and offer some alternatives to blogging altogether.

Not for me, but still good

Here are a few sites I skipped because they focus on text over images, though some do support images.

  • Scribbles. This one is still in early access, but the editor is very nice. There are no real themes to speak of, but the whole thing is well-designed and fast. If you just want text, this is a very good choice.
  • Bear (not to be confused with the note-taking app). Comes with some themes, supports markdown and images (as a paid option), but is extremely minimalist. It’s free for basic features and $5 per month/$48 per year for paid (paid covers things that are server-intensive).
  • This is a weird grab bag of stuff for a mere $20 per year. They now include a blog option which is currently in beta, uses markdown, and is the most “to the metal” of the three listed here.

Sites I’ve tried so far

  • Scribbles: If the image support was a little more refined, I might stick with it. I don’t knock it for this, though, it’s not their focus.
  • Bear: Fast and light, but again, image support is not quite there for my needs.
  • Pika: This was on my short list from Part 1 and…it’s so close. Images are constrained to the theme, so you have to right-click and “open image in new tab” to see them full-size. I can understand why it’s set up this way, but it’s just not right for me.

Alternate solutions to blogging platforms

Some of these may seem pretty obvious, I include them, anyway.

  • A journaling or diary app.
    • Pros: Completely offline, entries could be entire books if you are very silly and wordy
    • Cons: It’s for you and you alone, unless you publish your collected writings at a later date. This is also a pro to some people.
  • A paper journal. The pros and cons are the same as the electronic version, with the bonus of never needing electricity or battery power to write, just enough natural light and your favourite pen/pencil/crayon.
  • A note-taking app like Obsidian, Bear or one of the other billion options.
    • Pros: Lightweight, local, fast.
    • Cons: That sharing thing again. But wait! See the next bullet item…
  • A writing app that also lets you publish to the web. Some of these include Ulysses, Mars Edit and iA Writer (the Mac in particular has a lot of options).
    • Pros: An excellent writing environment, and they allow you to share your posts relatively easily.
    • Cons: You still need a site to share to. Also, while the writing experience is often quite nice, once you move beyond that with photos and heavier formatting, the process tends to start breaking down a bit.
  • Dictating into a voice-recording app or voice recorder device.
    • Pro: It’s as easy as just opening your mouth and talking.
    • Cons: Cleaning up the dictation later could prove clunky or messy. You have to decide where to put the transcripts, unless you just want an audio version of your life (which might be interesting!)

For Part 3, I will be doing more research and narrowing down my choices a bit more.

Here is another cat GIF. The cat is industriously working away on its blog, All the Mews Fit to Print.

Moving off of WordPress, Part 1

Back in January I wrote that I was contemplating moving off of WordPress for various reasons.

Back then, I posted four possible options:

  • Keep using WordPress and just shut up about it. It works, right?
  • Actually switch to a WordPress alternative.
  • Stop blogging altogether.
  • Post my cat pictures on Facebook for free (after getting a cat).

I have narrowed down these options to one (and a half):

  • Actually switch to a WordPress alternative.
    • Move some of my bloggy stuff to an offline journal (probably the running/exercise posts)

The next question is: Which WordPress alternative? Because it turns out there are a lot of options. Like, a lot. Oodles. Too many.

But since my needs are specific and known, I can winnow down the list. If your needs are like mine, this might be useful for you, too. If not, there is an animated GIF of a cat at the end of this post.

What I want

My needs (also in the linked post above, but paraphrased here):

  • Blog posts, both long and short.
  • Photos, along with galleries to keep them organized.
  • A general means of blog organization, like categories or tags.
  • An easy-to-use editor that makes me feel warm and fuzzy and want to share with the world.

Pretty basic stuff, really. If I eliminated photos (I will not do this, but let’s pretend), my choices would be nigh-infinite. I could go for one of many super-minimalist blogging sites. But having no photos would also mean no drawings, which are like photos I put together with my hands and brain instead of a camera. This is a dealbreaker. I don’t want to revive my old Flickr account.

That clears out the wide array of minimalist, text-only sites. What’s left? Still oodles!

What I’ve found

Important note: I am omitting blogs that lean into more technical, nerdy skills to set up or maintain, so there's nothing here that installs from a command line or runs from a folder or requires scripting, etc. These follow the flow of:

Write a post  Click a button  Your thoughts are on the internet

Here’s an incomplete list:

And a quick summary of them, with some emphasis on what I’m looking for:


This is probably the most WordPress-like, and it takes the most direct aim at WordPress and its features, claiming to be better/faster and, in some cases, cheaper.

The biggest con is that it’s $9 U.S. per month minimum1All prices listed here are in U.S. dollars. This is a lot of money to record my inane thoughts that could just as easily be typed into Notepad for free. You can also self-host Ghost, which is cheaper, but not exactly a simple process.

Ghost does have another notable pro, though–it can import from WordPress, so the nearly 4,000 inane posts I’ve made here could be carried over.

This is reasonably priced at $5 a month, but has an emphasis on community (not a bad thing if you’re looking for that) and while longer pieces are possible, the focus is more on short, quick posts.

There’s a free plan, with some reasonable limits, so you can try before you buy (note: as of this post, the free plan is listed as “Closed for now”), and it’s $6 per month after if you pay annually. It supports not just photos, but albums. It has a blog community and supports newsletters, which suggests it has started moving away from its personal blog roots.


Pika has a free plan that is essentially a trial–you can make 50 posts, and then you’re done. So if you only ever have 50 things to say, you don’t have to pay! It’s otherwise $6 a month. It emphasizes a great writing experience, has some simple themes, and supports images. It’s also really new, as it just launched at the end of January 2024.


With a name like Blogtastic, you would expect this to be a good blogging platform. It has multiple plans, including Starter for $20 and Expert for $50. Prices are going up on April 1st, though (no foolin’), with new names like Hobby for $50 and Startup for $100. I don’t think the old $20 and new $50 plans match up, though their chart doesn’t make it especially clear.

Anyway, this platform seems to offer everything and has been running for about three years, so it’s still relatively new. It feels like a Ghost competitor and, indeed, they compare themselves directly to Ghost, stating that they are more focused on writing and less on “secondary” things. They claim their gallery management is “robust”!


There’s a $5 per month Founder Plan (good for 10 blogs) and–that’s it! No other options. It keeps things simple. Posthaven bills itself, somewhat weirdly, as “the blogging platform designed to outlive us.” I mean, OK, but I’m not sure if I care much about my blog a hundred years after I’ve departed the Earth for parts unknown.

A major caveat for me is image sizes seem to be limited due to their theming. They mention 800 pixels max, which is tiny and probably a dealbreaker.

Having gone through these, the ones I feel can be eliminated are:

  • Ghost (too expensive)
  • (cheap, but a different emphasis than what I’m looking for)
  • Posthaven (great, until you get to the tiny images)

This leaves Pika, and Blogtastic. Currently, only one offers a free trial of sorts, so I’ll give Pika a test-run and do more research on and Blogtastic.

Coming up in Part 2:

  • Some alternatives I rejected, but are still pretty good
  • Alternate solutions through non-blogging software
  • Probably another cat GIF

Here is the promised cat GIF for this post:

What if music streaming suddenly disappeared?

Spotify has been in the news recently, and it has not been good news:

  • They’re pulling out of Uruguay because that country wants them to pay artists fairly
  • They’re also laying off 17% of their workforce (over 1,500 people)

On the second item, I do wonder why they needed so many people. Like many tech companies, they got silly with hiring during the pandemic, so some cuts were inevitable.

But the layoffs, Uruguay demanding fair payment and Spotify essentially saying, “We can’t pay artists fairly and also survive” made me wonder if we’ll eventually reach a point where music streaming transforms from what it is now–a frankly shockingly inexpensive way to have what is essentially endless music–to something else. Some possibilities:

  • All music streaming services start raising prices…a lot. Let’s call it The Netflix Effect because if anyone knows anything about regular price hikes, it’s Netflix. I think most people would grumble and keep paying as monthly prices climbed from $10-11 to $15. They’d get cranky at $17-18, but would still keep paying. $20 (or, let’s be realistic, what the companies would bill as $19.99) crosses a psychological barrier. We’re now twice as expensive as what people were used to. But still, I think few would bail. In fact, I feel they could raise prices to at least $30 before you’d start seeing people go without, and even those numbers would be small enough to be more than offset by the price hikes. I figure you’d need to hit around $50 a month to really get people to stop. And then we’d probably be looking at Napster: The Next Generation happening.
  • Streamers that aren’t currently owned by big tech (like Spotify) would be gobbled up by big tech. People idly speculate about Microsoft buying Spotify, for example. Why would this happen? Because the music streaming business is so marginal (Spotify has over 200 million paid subscribers and still manages to lose money) that it’s only appealing to big tech companies that can subsidize the service, keeping it as a way to get or keep people in their ecosystem (people using Apple Music will buy iPhones to listen, etc.1Yes, Apple has an Apple Music app for Android phones, but I suspect it’s a tiny market vs. iPhone)
  • A less likely scenario is companies giving up on streaming services altogether, and we go back to music as it was 15 years ago, when you listened to the radio (“Mommy, what’s a radio?”), bought albums on iTunes (iTunes, shudder) or went to a physical store to buy an actual spinning disc. I mean, most people would do the latter through Amazon, but you get the point. This would have a couple of interesting effects: I think people would buy far less music and, by that same token, listen to a lot less new music. People would get picky again, and more conservative, sticking more to known bands and performers. It’s even possible the album format could see a revival of sorts if it was no longer ridiculously easy to flip through dozens of songs with a few clicks or taps. Maybe those cheesy CD music compilations would become a thing again. But I think the odds of streaming music going away entirely is very unlikely, so this is really just playing out “What if?” scenarios for fun (but not profit).

Of the above scenarios, I think the first–price increases–is the likeliest. And we’ve already had some recently. I’m sure more are on the way.

Maybe I’m just being cynical, but…

UPDATE, November 19, 2023: They announced Procreate Dreams, which is a standalone, non-subscription animation app. So I was totally wrong!

I got an email from the team behind Procreate, the terrific drawing app available on the iPad that I use for all of my digital sketching. It talks about an event on September 8, 2023 and if you click the “Learn more” link it takes you to a page where you can subscribe and shows you the following, with “cool” laser light effects:

Procreate is a one-time purchase that currently goes for $12.99 Canadian in Apple’s App Store. It’s a great deal. There are no in-app purchases, nothing to unlock.

But I look at the above, and it is clearly setting up something the developers of Procreate think is Big.

And all I can think is…subscriptions. That they will announce a brand-new version of the app (the old one will be rebranded as Procreate Classic or something similar) and this new app will come with a mandatory subscription with either a) a free trial period or b) a stripped down set of features that can only be unlocked by subscription.

I am so certain this will happen that I’d bet my iPad on it. And it makes me sad.

But maybe I’m just being cynical.

And to be fair, I would happily pay another $12.99 (or whatever reasonable price they ask) for a new version of the app. I just don’t want to keep paying for it, forever.

Even more 2022 pruning: No way, no HEY

Apologies for the terrible title.

I knew the people behind HEY’s email service had controversial opinions on running a business, and I mostly ignored them, because I found HEY does some genuinely interesting stuff with email. But after reading the latest piece from co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson I could no longer in good conscience continue to use the service. I’m paid up until April 23, 2023, so I have plenty of time to move stuff over to another email platform, likely Outlook as I already have an active account with the service, but it’s still going to be a big ol’ bother after having already done this once already moving away from Gmail.

But when you throw in with monumentally shitty people like Elon Musk, you are basically telling me you don’t want my business. So I am done with HEY. And I save $100 a year as a bonus. HEY, that’s pretty nice.

The Great Culling of 2022 Continues

Yesterday I trimmed down a few more subscriptions. Yes, I am the poster boy for subscription fatigue. Beware, SaaS purveyors!

  • After dropping the Todoist sub, I have now also dropped the TickTick sub. I’ll see how the free version goes, but if it proves too limiting, I’m already running Microsoft’s To Do, and it seems to meet my needs, even if it’s “My Day” feature is a bit weird compared to a more conventional “Today” list (mainly, you have to move stuff to My Day, as it always starts blank).
  • Apple emailed me announcing my already expensive Apple One Premier subscription was going from $33.95 a month to $37.95 a month. Since they made $20 billion in PROFIT just last quarter, I opted to slim down to the Apple One Family package for $24.95 per month. I suspect the company will manage to scrape by. And I’ll save $13 by not getting stuff I don’t need, like:
    • Fitness+: I have literally never used this.
    • Apple News+: An ad-riddled hellscape, even as a paid service.
    • 2TB iCloud storage: I’m using 150 GB and only because of my photos. The new plan gives me 200GB. Since I’m now using OneDrive for photos, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Apple has become a fat, greedy company that seems determined to worsen the customer experience in exchange for squeezing as much revenue out of everyone as they can. I don’t think the company is going to fail or anything, but I think the long, gradual decline has begun. Maybe the ghost of Steve Jobs will visit Tim Cook at Christmas and be all, “WTF you doing, Tim?” and then Tim will retire on the few dollars he has put aside. BUT NOT $48 PER YEAR OF MY FEW DOLLARS. TAKE THAT, TIM.

Anyway, the number of subs I have is much slimmer now than at the start of 2022. My email is no longer full of newsletters I no longer read. I feel much less burdened now. And I like it!

NaNoWriMo 2022 sponsors: Pay now, pay later, pay forever

While looking over the list of sponsor offers for this year’s National Novel Writing Month, I noticed a similarity among them: Subscriptions are dominant. Pay up, writer! And keep paying, forever! [evil laughter here]

Here’s a look at the sponsors that are offering novel-writing editors (ie. a text editor, but tailored for writing fiction):

World AnvilSubscription or Lifetime purchase ($650 U.S.)
First Draft ProSubscription
Campfire WriteSubscription or Lifetime purchase (by module)
StoryistOne time purchase
ScrivenerOne time purchase

Monthly pricing starts at $4 at the low end and the high end varies quite a bit, but seems to be mostly in the $15-20 range. Interestingly, Novlr (apparently not a sponsor this year) sent out an email today noting that its pricing is changing, going from $10 a month to $18. Yikes. But you can now also write one full novel for free, so if you think you only have one book in you, you’re set! Otherwise, that’s a serious case of inflation.

Conversely, I got an email recently from Ulysses announcing a drop in price, from $49 per year to $39. They claim research showed it was their “sweet spot.” What does it mean that one company is jacking up their prices while another drops theirs? It may mean the same thing–both are underperforming and they’ve each taken different approaches to shoring up revenue. I don’t know how successful Novlr will be (I think even $10 a month is too much), but their new pricing puts them more in line with most of the subscription software out there (again, Ulysses and a few others being exceptions).

Now, I have previously established that I’m no fan of software as a service (SaaS), so I’m not going to rant about it yet again, just note that it’s a little depressing to see so many developers turn to it. Subscription fatigue is real, not to mention there are plenty of good one-time purchase options that will work just fine. Two of them are in the above list! Also, you don’t need to go full Harlan Ellison and write out your novel longhand on a legal pad, but Macs come with Pages, Windows comes with WordPad and both will allow you to write an entire novel. Want to go minimalist? Try TextEdit and Notepad instead. Notepad even has dark mode now!

The main thing is while these tools may offer nice-looking interfaces and handy tools, Steven Erikson didn’t use any of them, and he’s written like two tonnes of novels, at least. Stephen King has written probably a billion pages, only half of them being the uncut version of The Stand. Don’t pay these people a monthly fee, just write. Write write write. Spend the money on important things, like muffins and a really nice mouse pad.

The culling continues: MyFitnessPal ain’t no friend of mine

Or: Subscription fatigue, Chapter 21.

A few years back, Under Armour sold MyFitnessPal to a venture capitalist firm. Recently, the app (not website) was updated to make the starting screen more convenient for premium users, and…less so for free users (who see ads instead).

I was okay with this, because free is free, and I tolerated the ads on the iOS version. I primarily use the web version, anyway.

However, the company has now announced that the ability to scan barcodes is being locked behind a subscription. It’s not a huge deal for me in practical terms, because I rarely eat new packaged foods that I’d need to scan (I’m trying to eat more natural stuff like fruits and veggies that are not canned, bottled or whatnot), but it’s something I do use occasionally. I find it odd and irritating that MFP would gate this behind a pricey subscription ($20 US per month or $80 US per year), but it’s obvious they are relying on a sizable chunk of its user base to pony up to make mad money from them.

I won’t be paying, and this is further incentive to find an alternative to the app/site, even though I have a streak that spans over 9.5 years:

Apps/sites I am currently mulling:

  • Cronometer (it seems decent but gates some stuff behind a sub, including a few things that are still free on MFP)
  • FatSecret (seems good, but the UI is pretty utilitarian)
  • Macros
  • Lose It! (yes, they use an exclamation point!)
  • Others, possibly

I am currently using Noom, which is paid, but that’s only for three months, after which I will drop it–it was more to motivate me to lose weight than to become a permanent diet/exercise tracker. It’s been working, too, or it’s just a fancy coincidence that my weight started dropping a lot more once I started using it.

As of today, I am 160.4 pounds, with a 150 pound goal. On January 1 I was 182.8 pounds. That, on my body, is rather chunky.

I’ll post again after giving some of the alternatives some time. I’m not even opposed to paying on an ongoing basis, but the cost needs to be really reasonable (Noom is not, hence using it strictly as a boost to get started).

From Six Colors to no color at all

On the same day that Pixelmator announced that its Pixelmator Photo app was switching to a subscription model (with a “lifetime license” option that raises the app price from $7.99 to $59.99), Jason Snell also announced some pricing changes on Six Colors. But he anticipated what people might be thinking:

I know where you think this is going. You think I’m buttering you up before announcing that I’m raising the price of a Six Colors membership, which has been at $6 a month (or $60/year) since the very beginning.

I’m not.

Instead, we’re doing here what we did over at The Incomparable from the very beginning (and what my pal David Sparks did with his website recently), and adding multiple membership tiers.

The “More Colors” tier is $10 a month, and it includes these things (descriptions excised for space, but check here for full details):

  • Regular video reports and Q&As
  • A special section of the Six Colors Discord for More Colors members
  • Six Colors podcast live stream and bonus material

The third item posted after this announcement is shown in the screenshot below:

Now, I can’t say for sure what kind of content this is, because I can’t see it (or even who the author is!), but it looks like a blog post, which is not one of the perks mentioned as part of the $10 More Colors tier. Bonus posts are specifically a part of the now basic $6 a month tier. Except maybe not so much anymore? (I am subscribed to the $6 tier, which until today was also the only tier.)

My reaction was to ask myself a few questions:

  • Do I have more content to sift through that I can reasonably manage? Yes.
  • Do I need to pay for the privilege of reading a site that regularly exhorts me to pay even more? No.

And so, while I enjoy Jason Snell’s and Dan Moren’s site and have been a paying member for a while, I found it surprisingly easy to turn off auto-renew on my sub. As of September 12th, I’ll no longer be paying and will eventually probably remove the bookmark. It’s ironic that Snell specifically mentions David Sparks’ multi-tier membership approach, because it was when his site started getting riddled with PAY PAY PAY TO SEE SEE SEE that I opted to DELETE DELETE DELETE the bookmark.

I’m not saying what Six Colors is doing is wrong. I’m saying that I’m not fond of paying and then being presented with locked links saying PAY MOAR. It makes me feel like I’m being squeezed. If they need the money, good luck to them. But they won’t be getting any more from me.

My anti-subscription crusade begins anew!

One of the worst parts of Apple’s App Store success has been the move (encouraged heavily by Apple) toward Software as a Service (SaaS). This benefits both the developer and Apple because:

  • The developer gets a continuous revenue stream via ongoing subscription
  • Apple gets a continuous cut as it takes 30% of every subscription collected, in perpetuity (this can drop to 15% under some conditions)

This does not benefit the consumer, as they now might pay $50 per year in perpetuity for an app that once cost $50 total. In theory, the primary benefit to the consumer is ongoing, active development of the application, with the revenue stream providing stability the developers would lack if they sold their programs as a one-time purchase option.

I think that argument is largely bunk, and it made me stop using Ulysses for about a year and a half before I finally acquiesced and got a sub for it at a 25% off rate. But no more!

I have canceled or opted to not renew the software subscriptions I have, with a few exceptions.

A list! That is also a table! This shows the before and after apps, but not in that order.

Subscription-free replacementSubscription-based app that was replaced
Diarium (journaling)Day One
iA Writer, Scrivener (writing)Ulysses
Affinity Photo (image editing)Adobe Photoshop
Affinity Designer (vector image editing)Adobe Illustrator
Obsidian (note-taking)Craft

And the exceptions for which I still pay a subscription:

  • Microsoft 365. This is the family version, so it allows both me and my partner to access all the apps. While I do use Excel and Word sometimes, the main benefit of this is the 1 TB of OneDrive storage.
  • TickTick. I decided to try the paid version for a year, to see how it compares to going free. The calendar view, which is not available in the free version, turns out to be something I literally never use.
  • Todoist. I couldn’t decide between this and TickTick, so I am running both in tandem. It’s silly, but I’m a silly person. In six months I’ll pull the plug on at least one of these.

If you are software savvy™ you might note that some of the software that have subs can be used for free, albeit with some features disabled (Craft, Day One), while others, like Ulysses, cannot be used at all, apart from a brief trial period. Note also that none of the subscription apps are bad–they are all quite good, and some are industry standards (Photoshop, for example). And while it looks like it takes two apps to replace Ulysses, iA Writer and Scrivener have very different focuses and, unlike Ulysses, are cross-platform, which is another thing I’ve decided is critical to the software I use. All the replacement apps are available on Windows and macOS. In fact, they all have iOS versions, too.

If I end up having giant regrets over switching to the apps listed in the table above, I will make a follow-up post, complete with a well-chosen “I’m very remorseful” image. For now, I think this is the right call. I save money and also help support a model I prefer. Win-win!