Monday, May 10, 2004

Let down

by Suw on May 10, 2004

I've always loved Gary Turner's blog, but I was disappointed tonight to discover that he's actually been using Autoblog – an autogenerator that parses RSS feeds and creates posts based on keywords and pre-selected phrases.
I captured this screenshot – I'm sure he'll have fixed it before you go take a look.

What can I say. Gutted.

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As reported by Boing Boing and the BBC, Blogger has updated its service and user interface. But not very much.
The first incarnation of Chocolate and Vodka was hosted on Blogger and it was the first blog writing tool I ever used. It wasn't long, though, before Blogger's unreliability drove me over to Blog-City who have also, I noticed today, recently launched a new website, although not a revamped UI. Reliability became an issue at Blog-City too, and so I find myself here on Blogware instead. I also use TypePad when posting to Four Corners.
I still keep a few blogs going on Blogger, including the Clwb Malu Cachu blog. (Although I don't update it very frequently, because I am lazy and the idea of writing a big blog post in English and then doing it again in Welsh is not hugely appealing.)
Anyway, upon reading that Blogger had updated, I thought I'd pop along to see what goodies they've added. Call me cynical if you like, but I found myself rather underwhelmed by the Blogger 'update'. Ok, they've added comments, but not before time. Each entry now gets its own archive page. You can have an author profile page too, if you like. And photos. Oh, and they've added more templates and prettified (arguably) the UI.
Er? is that it? Is that an update? Looks more like minor tweaks and a bit of a tidy up to me, and certainly is not deserving of a 'holy crap'. I'm not hugely impressed by the new interface – it still seems ugly and clunky to me and no amount of designer-speak justification is going to make me think otherwise. Rounded corners? W00t.
The main reason I keep the CMC blog on Blogger is because it allows me to have a completely customisable template so I can make it look like it belongs with the rest of the CMC website, where it is hosted.
The drawback with this is that my archives regularly get screwed up. A while back I managed to find the time to sit down with the templates and fix what was wrong, but with this new page-per-post archiving system, my templates are screwed again. I'm going to have to sit down, again, and fix them, again. Maybe this is testament more to my poor Blogger template writing skills than anything, but it does make me wonder why I bother at all.
One of the things I love about Blogware is that not only is it easy to use on a day to day basis, it's also easy to customise the stuff on your site. Adding components such as search to your side bar(s) and tweaking your blog's layout is as easy, literally, as dragging and dropping. Blogger's advantage of having fully customisable templates is also its major drawback. It doesn't offer half of the stuff that Blogware (or Blog-City, or TypePad, for that matter) provides, and the templates are so easily broken that they're almost not worth the hassle.
It used to be that the option of a fully customisable template was attractive enough to offset the fact that Blogger didn't provide the options that other blog hosts offered, but that is no longer the case. Blogger doesn't offer integrated search, calendar, topics/categories, bookmarks, trackbacks, reviews (book, movie, music) or the ability to easily create custom components. And, worse than that, it doesn't provide server stats. At all.
This 'update' is not Blogger catching up with the other providers. It is Blogger wasting time and money on a redesign when it should be considering the fundamentals of its service and how it can add in the options that have become standard elsewhere. Blogger is going to have to do a lot better than this if it wants to compete again.

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