Octopress Classic is the new Kubrick

  Wynn Netherland • 2011-12-24

Covering the bleeding edge lands me on many a geek blog. I've noticed a trend in the last year or so - an increasing number of stock Octopress blogs.


Octopress from Brandon Mathis is a geek's dream blogging system. Building on Jekyll, Brandon bundles a responsive layout, syntax highlighting, Disqus comments, and a long list of other plugins in a delicious static-based (yet Heroku friendly) package. It's no wonder that Octopress has become popular.

I can't help but draw a parallel with the rise of WordPress in the mid 2000s. As its ease of use drew in new bloggers, it quickly became easy to spot a WordPress blog. Link rolls, archive calendar controls, default sidebar items, and popular plugins could be found on almost any new blog you read (including mine at the time). Most even didn't even bother to customize Kubrick, the default theme created by Michael Heilemann. The web soon exploded with websites with blue block headers.

I mean the title of this post as a compliment to Brandon and the success of Octopress. I just wince when I see the geek web turning slate gray.

Why customize your blog?

Content is your voice, but design is your on-stage presentation. Make no mistake, content is still king, but if your blog looks like all the other blogs in your niche, you've got to work harder to get your voice heard. If you haven't customized your blog, when a reader is dropped onto your blog from Twitter or Reddit or wherever, you're missing an opportunity to identify yourself with the great post that brought them there. So the real question is why wouldn't you customize the look of your blog?

If you're rocking Octopress, Brandon has step-by-step guides for customizing both templates and the Sass-based styles. With even small color tweaks, you can add your own personal attitude, as Karthik and Scott have done. Add a custom header and you can take it even farther, as the Octopress web site does.

While you can take Octopress customization a long way, I use NestaCMS on this site because I find it less opinionated than Jekyll. Nesta also gives me the option to have dynamic content, with the same git-based publishing workflow Jekyll offers.

Just this week, Steve Klabnik, who has had one of the more popular Octopress sites, said farewell.

Personal sandbox

For me, my blog is more than an outlet for sharing thoughts on design and development. It's my own personal laboratory to play around with front end tools, CSS techniques, and just have fun — just for me.

Ultimately your blog should be just for you, too, whether or not you tinker under the hood. It can't be just for you if it looks like everyone else.

Wynn Netherland
Wynn Netherland

Engineering Director at Adobe Creative Cloud, team builder, DFW GraphQL meetup organizer, platform nerd, author, and Jesus follower.