Ben Tsai

Intro to Calepin

A recent post on onethingwell.org pointed me to a new web service called Calepin. It's a static blog generator that uses Markdown-formatted files from your Dropbox. The concept is powerful because it takes the formidable and future-proof plain text file, provides the glue to existing infrastructure, and reduces self-publishing to the click of a button. The service is powered by Pelican, which has blog features like categories, tags, feeds and themes. Currently, there is comments support via disqus. On the roadmap is theming and CNAME support, and the developer @calepinapp has been actively fixing and implementing things since release.

Once you have things set up, the basic workflow looks like:

Although easy self-publishing is hardly a novel idea, this implementation is really intriguing to me for two reasons. The first is that posts are stored as plain text files on your local machine. This means you have full control over your own content, and you'll never have to worry about having your posts tied up in a third-party service. The second is that it uses Dropbox as its backend. Since Dropbox is the cloud's file storage darling, it's a good bet that it will stick around for a while, and there are plenty of apps and services that interface with it—meaning, I can update my blog from any Dropbox-enabled device. Calepin gains the benefit of the whole Dropbox ecosystem.

One potential killer combination is using ifttt to trigger Dropbox actions that propagate to Calepin. If ifttt ever gets a feature to create a Dropbox file from text it receives, then that opens up even more possibilities to updating a Calepin-powered blog: using SMS, chat, email, phone call, etc. All of this without having any explicit support on their end, since the work is all done on the ifttt side.

In my quest for a low-friction, universal journal, I'm one step closer.

Sunday, December 18, 2011