Sunday, November 20, 2005 first impressions

Now that I've played around with Blogger/Blogspot some, here are my first impressions. This is based on about five hours with the system: two just playing around and three spent modifying the style to get the somewhat-better-than-average look you see here. Good Things
  1. The posting interface is pretty good, with a nice array of rich-text formatting options that are applied in real time to the edit box. It's very simple to post, which is probably at least half the point of a service like this.
  2. The default templates are attractive. I'm still amazed nobody has a good WYSIWYG blog template editor built into their publishing system, but in this Blogger isn't worse than others.
  3. Modifying the template (assuming you know HTML and CSS) is easy. They made a few CSS and semantic mistakes, but not any more than other blog systems I've seen.
  4. The "blogger bar" at the top is reasonably unobtrusive for a free service, and the "next blog" button is a nice way to explore other blogs.
  5. It's easy to plug in AdSense ads (also owned by Google). This is a non-issue for pros, but for amateurs (presumably a lot of the membership here) it's a nice way to have a revenue stream available in the unlikely case you get popular. Of course it's also incredibly self-serving on Google's part, because one ad click on each grandmother's blog makes them money in aggregate, while Granny probably doesn't get more than a couple cents total. In their defense, Google made the ads optional - it's easy to imagine them being required.
  6. The blog search in the blogger bar really does search "all blogs" (ie, all things Google currently considers blogs). It would have been easy for them to only search their own blogs, so kudos for making that feature actually useful.
Bad Things
  1. There are a lot of spamblogs hosted here. Some of them are pornographic, with "Not Safe For Work" images. That's probably a Very Bad Thing for kids and for people browsing at work.
  2. When exploring via the "next blog" button, there's no obvious way to get back to the blog you started from.
  3. Some blogs, both spamblogs and normal ones, hijack the browser: take you to another site, for example, or hide the blogger bar, or mess with your browsing zen with obtrusive ads.
  4. The HTML transformations for posts are amateur at best. On the one hand, the formatting you choose is preserved visually; on the other hand, much of it is lost semantically. It's not that hard to get this right (I've implemented it myself), so Blogger gets big fat demerits for that one.
  5. Single-entry pages have, by default, very different sidebar content than the main page does. This could easily mess with your linking and advertising strategies. I'll probably find a way to fix it soon, but it's bad to have it this way out of the box.
  6. The spell checker in the post editor uses a popup, which is of course blocked by modern browsers. That's another rookie move: there's no functional need for a popup of that sort. None whatsoever. Anyone who claims otherwise is a good couple years behind the curve on web development.
  7. The editor needs more semantic markup buttons. "Bold" is nice, but you should also have "Heading" as well, and have the heading level automatically determined.
Who needs a second (third,fourth) blog anyway? That's one I'm not sure I have an answer to yet. I may just use this as a testing ground, who knows. Since the readership of Frostopolis is mostly people who know me in real life, I don't have much of an "SEO" need for any greater blog presence. Also, if the forums are correct, Google actively penalizes you in search results if you cross-post content between your blogs. Still, it might be fun to try out more "blog this" features without necessarily worrying about them muddying any of my more real sites. Or maybe I'll think up some other reason to keep this going. (Or maybe I won't, and this is the last post I'll ever make.) Conculsion All in all, Blogger seems to have its act together. There are two important exceptions, though: the rookie moves and the porno-spam. (I think "normal" spam blogs are not really stoppable, because there are too many border cases.) When you stop and think how much money is backing these guys up, it's really odd that Google/Blogger can't do better. I do think they'll at least get it together with some reasonable anti-porn-spam system, but until then you may want to think twice about that Blogger account. When Next Blog can be Porn Blog, you need to be careful handing out that address. If that's not an issue for you, then Blogger gives you a free, mostly easy-to-use publishing platform that is very likely to stay accessible.


Lindsy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
frosty said...

Oh, that's rich. The "Lindsy" comment was spam. Presumably a spambot with a Blogger account.

So after deleting a spam comment, the link to the spam account stays attached to my post?

Good one, Sergey. And of course, there's no obvious way to flag a user as "may offend."