I'm now trying out Mataroa, which is the blog platform on which this blog runs. Why have I started using Mataroa, I hear you wonder?
Table of contents
I've used WordPress for almost 20 years. There's been ups and downs in using WordPress, but, oh lord, I'm so tired of being hacked due to security vulnerabilities, to constantly having to care about updating plugins or other core stuff, that it's nearly exhausting. I'm also tired of having to care about website-hosting limits, PHP upgrades, themes that stop working, SQL-injection attacks, security updates, the fact that it's hard to migrate from WordPress to another format, etc.
I've currently got 3,932 posts published since 2004. Nearly 31,000 media files.
Before that, I had another WordPress blog that I crashed. I've been blogging for longer than that, for over 25 years in total.
I rarely read my old blog posts again. I tend to search my blog at times, but that's another thing. My blog posts have often been written in the moment, not made to constitute some weird legacy. On the other hand, some of my posts contain my innermost thoughts. I've released music, short stories, poems, films, drawings, handwriting, work, research, and analysis, all created by myself, and posted most of that on my blog.
I've got a site that runs on Hugo and two others that run on Jekyll, but Mataroa offers me the freedom (!) to skip using GitHub as a mid-level storage space. I know, I love GitHub and the freedom that version control offers, but come on - I just wanna write.
I'm going to export everything from my old blog, keep it running while I try out Mataroa, and then see where I go.
Why am I trying out Mataroa?
There are several reasons for this.
No ads, no tracking, no selling of data
Mataroa's modus operandi page is charming and simple.
We are committed to:
- No tracking of user or visitor behaviour.
- Never sell any user or visitor data.
- No ads — ever.
They're super-transparent in showing their revenue and other details, including privacy stuff:
Most Mataroa features are available free of charge, but If you decide to pay for using Mataroa (only 9 USD/year!) you can use a custom domain and receive auto-exports of your blog. When using the free version of Mataroa, you can manually export your blog in just the same formats as paying users, when you like.
Mataroa is 100% open source.
Mataroa offer a comparison matrix that shows what features they offer in comparison with some other blog platforms.
One of the first things you'll see is Mataroa doesn't use extensions/plug-ins or themes. This is part of the Mataroa 'minimalist' philosophy.
First, Mataroa is built for speed. It loads insanely quickly. It doesn't use web fonts but your own system fonts, which cuts down the loading time somewhat. This is a feature that some like and others don't; it means that the writer doesn't control which font is used to display text to the reader.
I'm fine with that. Most text that I read is via an RSS reader that uses the font I decide to use. Also, if anybody wants to read my blog in another font, then do it.
Second, your styling options are two: you can use a smaller (default) font, or a larger one. That's it.
Third, Mataroa supports dark mode as long as that feature is supported by your web browser.
Writing interface: Markdown
A blog that runs on Mataroa uses the Markdown language for styling purposes. I really like Markdown, and use it every day, both professionally and privately. It's easy to learn, there are plenty of tools to use for writing in Markdown (for example, ghostwriter, Typora, and Obsidian). It's a format that survives and is easily exportable.
I use Obsidian to write my blog posts, both on computer and mobile, and then paste it to Mataroa when it's time to post. There's no tools available in Mataroa to help you format text or link text. Use an external Markdown editor for this, paste your text into Mataroa, and you're good.
Mataroa supports syntax highlighting. This is interesting for coders.
By the way, editing a post is extremely fast and simple, just as posting. This may seem silly, but it's very time saving compared with WordPress and most other blog platforms.
Subscriptions: RSS and newsletter
Mataroa's RSS feed offers full posts, not just a small portion of a post. I like that a lot.
Readers can subscribe to your blog as a newsletter, so that they get your posts in their inbox. The emails are in plain text; a link to your post is at the top, then the entire post in Markdown is included, and the email ends with a link to unsubscribe from the newsletter. No images included.
From Mataroa's landing page:
What we respect the most is that these are your words. If you decide to take them and leave, we can help. Especially, if you decide to self-host your blog. We provide tools, such as export to Zola or Hugo source files, and we can also redirect to your new domain.
As Mataroa's own Export blog page says:
Mataroa allows you to export your blog posts into a zip archive that you can directly use to self-host your website. We support five options:
They also support the ability to redirect to a new domain. In other words, if you ever tire of Mataroa, you can leave and configure your new domain name to not break stuff.
Mataroa are open to the idea of you packing up and leaving at any time.
This is almost incredibly freeing to me. It's like being in a romantic couple relationship where you love the other person so much that you want them to leave if they don't feel happy.
The Mataroa API allows you to post to Mataroa without having to use the website. In other words, you can blog from your command line.
You can even write a script to migrate your old blog to Mataroa, if you have the technical skills.
No end-user updates nor security problems to worry about
Of course, nearly1 every platform can be hacked. It's just a question of skill and time.
At least, with Mataroa, you don't have themes, plugins, or updates to worry about. No PHP issues. No MySQL updates to plan. No file area that you can access and others can hack.
Naturally, all platforms have things that you either dislike or simply would like them to do differently. These are my subjective opinions.
File-upload support: only images (maybe not a drawback)
The only type of file that you can upload and display are images.
Mataroa offer image hosting for free, which is lovely. I just wish that there were support for things like audio files, but I can't have it all. Also, this will limit me in good ways.
Put it this way: most of the plugins that I've used in my WordPress installation (probably over 100 different ones over the year, no exaggeration) aren't really useful. They've also made the site slower.
All in all: this may not be a drawback, but a healthy limit.
I'm considering the list of articles on Noam Chomsky's site. Pretty calming. They don't even contain images.
Font size (not really a drawback)
Edit, May 2022: This paragraph was added on 2022-06-10, even though this section has existed since the start. Since I first wrote this section, Mataroa has changed to include a blog setting where you can choose to use a serif or sans-serif font. This solves my problem completely! On with the rest of my original text:
Sure, using system fonts is good in a way. This keeps my blog quick to load.
As detailed earlier in this post, there are two ways to style one's Mataroa blog: smaller (default) or bigger text. The small one is very small and by default most often sans serif. The big one is (by default) very serif to me.
With by default, I mean how the text is displayed for me on a number of operating systems (macOS, Manjaro (Linux), Windows, Android) and a number of different browsers on each operating system.
At the end of the day, all of the great features, the transparency, the excellent help from Theodore (Mataroa's admin)... It's beautiful.
I look forward to start writing on Mataroa, which makes me think of how the 'old Internet' used to be, when the focus was on creation, dreams, and caring about one another, not selling user data to further surveillance capitalism. This is just beautiful.
There must be some platform that's unhackable, like my paper diary. Woo! Sorry. I've studied too much philosophy to not be able to imagine at least one non-hackable platform. ↩