Saturday, February 12, 2011

Google Blogger Tool

I also wanted to talk about Google Blogger, the tool I use to host my blog entries. I've been using Blogger for a year plus now I wanted to give a review of it as a tool. I am doing this in a separate post from my Post-Mortem note because it really is a different enough of a topic.

I initially chose Blogger because at the time I had already been toying around with other Google tools - Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Talk specifically - so when I was looking to jump start a blog using Blogger was a logical choice. That, plus it was free, and that counts for something. Blogger allows for a myriad of customization options and provides plenty of pre-designed templates to choose from as well. Getting started with a new blog was quick and easy, although I did spend several weeks making minor tweaks to the layout options before I finally settled on this particular combination. Once the initial design issues were resolved it was just a matter of spitting out blog posts.

While the targeted audience for the blog was specifically our Sunday Night DnD group I did occasionally came across other people that read the blog and enjoyed it. The tool provides metrics so you could see how many distinct page views you received (more than 3,000!), from what countries (all over the world!) and how the viewers were directed to your page. It looks like a lot of my page views were from people that were looking for something via a Google search and a link to one of my posts came up. The tool provides ways to include ads for some sort of monetary benefit, but I wasn't interested.

Lastly, the editor provides a certain level of frustration. When I look through old blog posts I see unexplained font and font size changes and the occasional unequal spacing between paragraphs. There is a preview page option, but sometimes what finally gets published isn't exactly what is previewed. Adding pictures is easy enough but getting them to display the way I want is a bit of hit and miss and sometimes requiring several attempts before I finally get what I want. There is a misspelled word option that highlights misspelled words that works most of the time, just not all the time.

The editor sometimes jumps between sections of the document, and when I get to the end of a paragraph and hit enter to open up new lines to the beginning of a new paragraph routinely doesn't display properly. It's all minor stuff, stuff that with practice and patience I learned to work around, but the kind of stuff that just really annoys me. Again, as simple as I tried to keep this and to get this level of angst from a simple editor is a puzzlement to me.

Side note: I would occasionally start typing a blog post in a different editing tool and then cut/paste the text into the Blogger editor. The best PC tool for doing this is Wordpad. The native RTF text format worked the best when sourcing the text into the Blogger editor, including remembering spacing, paragraphs, and line wraps. MS-Word includes a lot of meta-data text strings in its files and Blogger couldn't handle them when I tried to paste in text from an MS-Word file. Editors like VI or Notepad didn't include line wraps, so it was necessary to essentially recompile each paragraph so I would get the word flow I wanted.

The tool was perfect for what I wanted to do with it - it's just a simple blog. But I think if I wanted to do something more substantial I am not sure Blogger is the way I would want to go. I just think that if I was looking to push a blog out to a national (international?) level of audience and start getting thousands of pages hits, tons of comments, etc., I think I might want something a little more substantial.

In conclusion, no, I'm not going to move to a different blog tool. I'm happy with what I've got, plus I've already spent the time to learn the workarounds with the editor. I would recommend it to anyone starting a blog of their own, but just remember you get what you pay for.

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