Thoughts on a “distributed” CMS with PESOS

It’s a widely held belief in indie web circles — it’s the indie web belief, I suppose — that we should own our content. And I do! You’re reading some right now (for better or worse 😅) on this very blog.

When it comes to micro-blogging (the dusty, non-proprietary phrase we used to use for what we now mostly just call tweeting), using Mastodon feels 100% better than depending on the stability of a private platform whose future depends entirely on the whims of a capricious bigot, but I still feel that nerd-pang to hold my online things even closer.

Good thing I have a blog! And yet…

I’ll confess, I find myself freezing almost every time I set out to write something here. Does the idea warrant an entire post? What if I just want to share a link, or fire off a quick dad joke? In that sense, a blog doesn’t seem like an ideal way to capture the spectrum of things I type out into the world.

Redesign-Driven Development

This is all rattling around my brain as I continue to poke at a news-y redesign I started way back in the summer of 2020. Here’s a semi-recent mockup:

Redesign of Multiline Comment's homepage, featuring a newspaper-style layout and a VERY large logotype
What can I say? The client insisted on a bigger logo ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The home page layout — which draws (rather obviously) from print and online news — feels like an excellent vessel for tweet-sized tidbits or one-off photos that don’t really work as an entire blog post.

But how do I get them in there...? 🤔

A Hundred Tiny CMSes with “PESOS”

I’m coming around to the idea that the next version of my blog that’s in my head doesn’t jibe well with the Markdown-driven Git repo setup I currently have.

Creating tweet-sized content via individual text files is a pain. Faving links to share should take a tap or two, at most. And buddy, you can forget adding a photo or five; there just isn’t any reasonable repo-based substitute for the simplicity of posting to Instagram. Et cetera.

I’ve toyed with the idea of switching to one of the industrial-grade CMSes I use for building web systems in my day job. They’re great! But they’re built for teams of content editors, and I’m just one guy. More importantly, none of them seem well-suited for my mobile-first personal posting habits: noodling around on my phone, firing off stupid one-liners, and sharing links I think other people might enjoy.

I could spend the next year filling my down-time building a bespoke CMS that works exactly the way I want it to (reader, I’ve considered it!), but I’m old enough to know better than that by now.

Instead, I think I might experiment with a constellation of tools that are purpose-built for specific kinds of content:

  • Mastodon for tweet-sized text
  • Pixelfed (perhaps) for posting images. (Or maybe a return to the late-great Flickr?)
  • A bookmarking service with an API (and some indication they’re in it for the long haul…)

Using Eleventy’s top-notch data layer to bring all those ingredients together and build a single website I own is, I think, at the heart of the PESOS approach to content ownership — “Publish Elsewhere, Syndicate (to your) Own Site”.

Check back for an update on how a distributed CMS turns out in practice! (Or heck, why not subscribe to the RSS feed and have the update come to you? ☺️)