Wednesday 21 February 2007

Blogging about blogging.

This blog is hosted by Blogger. It's a popular choice with people who are just starting out, but most techy types and blog experts slag it off incessantly. They hate it. And I can't figure out why. I love it. And, the more experienced I get in these matters, the more I love it.

It's simple, which means not only that it's dead easy, but also that it's flexible and therefore capable of absorbing anything. It'll hold any design you're capable of coming up with — if you're capable of little more than typing, it just works; if you're a Web genius, you can do pretty much whatever you want with it. You can host it on your own webspace or they'll host it for you. Either way, if it breaks down, they fix it for you. And I was particularly impressed when my site went down and I was able to get the blog up and running in a few minutes by simply flicking a switch in the settings.

Over the last couple of years, I've done the occasional bit of maintenance and set-up work for Moveable Type and Expression Engine blogs. Both of these platforms are supposed to be much better than Blogger. And they certainly are a bit better in some ways. But they're worse, too.

Fixing a problem with Moveable Type is a monumental pain in the neck. You need to have devoted a significant amount of time to learning about Moveable Type itself. If you've got a job supporting a number of people's Moveable Type blogs, that investment is worth it. But just for your own site? Why bother, when Blogger requires no such mechanical expertise?

Expression Engine, I have to say, is brilliant. I am very, very impressed with what it can do. But here's the thing. It doesn't do it all for you. It doesn't write code for you. It doesn't have a simple GUI interface where you just click on the red button to tell it you want your text to be red. What it is is an extremely flexible and powerful tool for taking your blocks of code and arranging them into webpages exactly as you wish. Great. But it's a Catch 22: in order to get a great site out of Expression Engine, you need to be good enough at coding HTML and CSS that you don't need Expression Engine — if you can handle Expression Engine, then you can get a great site out of Blogger. Most of the advantages offered by the more complex blogging packages are the sort of advantages that are needed most by people who do not have the necessary expertise to use those packages.

There's a big gap in the market out there for something, but I'm not quite sure what it will look like when it arrives.

And look at this: I've recently added a new Reviews page to the Eisenhowers site, and it works through Blogger. It doesn't even look like a blog, but the site's owner can just log into Blogger and add new reviews and remove old ones and change the order they appear in. It's exremely easy for him to maintain, and he needs to know nothing at all about the background software — and doesn't even need to know someone who does know — in order to keep it running. The News page works in the same way. Adapting the site's existing design into a Blogger template was not a huge or complicated task. This is just a great little tool.

Admittedly, Blogger's commenting system is shite on toast, but hey, HaloScan are good.

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