Monday, December 18, 2006

Review of Google's Blogger Beta

I recently started using Google's new Blogger beta. Its definitely a big step up from the previous version of Blogger.

One no brainer new feature is the introduction of tags. Perhaps a couple years late, but a welcomed new feature nonetheless. I was getting quite tired of loading my entries with keywords, and then relying on the search capability to "kind of" get tags to work. Another thing they seemed to have done a decent job on is the introduction of a UI builder to design and edit your blog templates. You no longer have to hack your way through convoluted HTML to introduce simple UI elements like a linked list. In general the UI builder seems to work, and not crash. But it does have its problems, the biggest being the confused state it winds up in if you do edit the HTML; unfortunately, this is innevitible if you upgraded your old blog as opposed to creating a new one from scratch. I still recommend rebuilding your UI template from scratch using the UI builder; of course, make sure to keep a back up of your original.

There are also some nice widgets in the UI builder. One of my favorites is the RSS summary display; it allows you to put in an RSS feed, and then drag the element onto the blog display. The result is all the titles of the RSS feed show up so your users can click off onto this other blog. You can see an example on the new site I created at - if you scroll down a bit, you'll see an RSS feed called Chalo Bolo. Chalo Bolo is my main blog, so this element allows me to pull users interested in more general topics I write about. In general, the new Blogger is a big step up from the old, and better than other server side blogging all inclusive tools I've used. Nonetheless, I have a few items on my wish list for the next release:

* More customization ability on the RSS viewer. For example, I would like an option to include a couple lines of text from each article in addition to just the title. I would also like to be able to customize the number of articles displayed.

* Clean separation of content from blogs. Currently I have about 4 different blogs on Blogger. It is a real pain to post articles to different blogs, especially when I need to cross post. I would far prefer it if I could simply choose, for a given blog, which tags to automatically show in that blog. For example, my general blog Chalo Bolo, would show any articles regardless of tag, where as my art blog, would only show articles with the tag "art."

* Future dated posts. I often write a number of blog posts at once. I would like to have these posts automatically posted over the next few days. It would be great if I could simply select a date in the future for a given post, and then have the post go live automatically on that date.

* Frequent Commenter Widget. Many people who post comments on the web, do so out of a self interest to drive traffic back to their site through an active link on their name. I would like to encourage this (minus the spammers of course), since it increases interest and traffic in my own site. It would be nice if I could have a widget that ranks in inverse order the most frequent commenter. Another idea is to enable users to vote on comments, so there could be a featured comment of the day.

* Ability to buy a domain name. Many of us are too addicted to leave Blogger, but would prefer to have our own domain name, and would prefer to do without the generic tool bar at the top of each blog. I would like to be able to pay a small amount, and have the DNS registration, migration, etc. all handled for me.

That's it for now. I give the new Blogger 3 stars out of 4. Unless you want to go the next level and highly customize your blog locally using client side software, I recommend going w/ Blogger.


basicindia said...

I agree the new blogger is much better than the old version but still haven't got the hang of RSS feeds. I found it interesting, what you said but am a bit dumb as far as these things go. Can you help out?
(at basicindia)

Veerasundar said...

Good review !!

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