Ministry of Prose: making words work for your business

One in a semi-regular series of ponderings, musings and contemplations on the interaction of words and psychology in business.



The Prose Engine

July 2017

I used to like WordPress. Really, I did. For a time it was quite an elegant solution to the problem of getting text into web pages.

Then it started to suffer from feature creep, as so many applications do. Five years ago I could just about access it from an ancient 400MHz Nokia N810. Three years ago it would run quite happily on an old 900MHz Asus Eee 900. But even with the latest browser, that's now impossible.

WordPress isn't the only culprit, and it's not really the fault of the developers. They're bowing to customer demand for ever more features. But providing those features takes code. Lots and lots of code. Most of that code runs as JavaScript on the user's device, making it sloooowwww.

I have a philosophical dislike of bloatware. The Ministry of Prose website is minimalist for a reason, and I try to find the most elegant solutions to all computing problems. For a recent trip around Europe I wrote some offline content-processing scripts that remotely updated a simple blog page. Not hard to achieve; after all, it's only text and photos.

Earlier in my career I wrote several powerful content management systems (CMS) that ran text-rich websites. I had thought that my minimalist philosophy was now outdated, but it seems not. It turns out there's still a need for a lightweight but powerful CMS. Last year I was asked to build one.

The Prose Engine

This was a pleasure for me, since it combines my two favourite work-related pastimes: writing and coding. The CMS is called The Prose Engine and you can read about it here. It runs just fine on that old Asus Eee 900. It even runs well on the antique Nokia N810 tablet.

The Prose Engine isn't yet being used to power this site, since static HTML is all that's required for Ministry of Prose (I like to keep things simple). But it will soon be powering a selection of new, content-rich websites. Goodbye bloat. Hello elegance.

Alex Cruickshank is CEO and Chief Wordsmith at Ministry of Prose and is in his element.

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