In 2011, two Stetson students approached Prof. Kate Bohl with the idea of creating a new law review, dedicated to advocacy. Knowing my interest in software, Kate asked me to help out on the technical side. I suggested we use LyX, open-source document processing software that produces professional quality PDFs that far surpass anything that Word can produce.
We also agreed that the viability of such a journal depended, among other things, on its being a wholly online publication. Rather than merely offering a place from where PDFs could be downloaded, we decided that we wanted the journal to be the first law review to make its articles readable online. We also decided to make downloads available in ePub and Kindle formats.
LyX can export identical documents to many different formats, including HTML, so that part seemed straightforward. But we needed a way to host the publication. So I talked to Stetson’s Communications people, and one member of the team was happy to set up and manage an appropriate website for us.
So Kate and I made a formal proposal to the faculty, and the Stetson Journal of Advocacy and the Law was born.
Then the person who was going to run the website took up a job elsewhere. Suddenly we had approval for a law review and a method of generating documents — but no means of publishing them.
But the departing colleague left me a note. He suggested we use WordPress and connect LyX up to it using an add-on called LyXBlogger. I tried. I failed.
But I knew we had a year or so before the first issue would be ready. So I kept my fingers crossed and told Kate we’d be fine. While she worked with the students to solicit, edit, and produce the articles, I set about trying to understand how to build a website and how to get the articles published.
By 2018, I was managing around twenty websites, including this blog, several Stetson sites in addition to the Stetson Journal of Advocacy and the Law, and my own webby-books.com brand.
At the same time, while the first few years of using WordPress had been fun and productive, I found myself increasingly frustrated by the direction that WordPress was taking. Features seemed to be added on a whim rather than on the prior basis that they would be useful to at least 80% of users.
My new-found coding proficiency also led me to realize that many plugins in the WordPress repository are very poorly coded. Some even introduce significant security problems. So I now frequently write my own custom plugins instead.
And then came Gutenberg, a completely new and highly unstable editor that made everything take at least three times as long as before. And that was if it worked properly. Usually it didn’t. And for those unable to use a mouse, it was a complete disaster, and failed to meet standards required for ADA compliance.
I was not alone in my frustrations. Scott Bowler was feeling the same way. But he did what so many others, including me, were helping someone else would do. He announced that he was starting a fork of WordPress.
Amid lots of discussions, Scott invited various people to join him in his venture to form a founding committee. I was one. A company called ClassicPress was also established in the UK as the vehicle for handling all the financials. We put out version 1, which has since been updated, and our community has continued to grow. We have, in particular, a set of thriving discussion forums.
There were many who said that a fork of WordPress would never succeed. But, while the Gutenberg editor in WordPress has become so unpopular that a plugin to disable it has recently become the fourth most popular plugin in the history of WordPress, ClassicPress is continuing to grow and become stronger. Indeed, we recently celebrated our first birthday. And we have a new website too.
ClassicPress is stable. It’s also more secure than before, because we have ripped out code that was used only by old, insecure versions of the PHP programming language. The editor works the same way it always did before Gutenberg. It’s fully accessible and meets the requirements of the ADA. And we have plans for further major security enhancements as the focus of version 2.
We will also be creating our own plugin directory, where a listing will be permitted only for plugins that meet security requirements. And future modifications to ClassicPress will only be made after going through a democratic process.
If you’re looking for a platform to host your own website or blog, and you want it to be fast and secure, ClassicPress might be just what you’re looking for. It is for me.