My Problem with Blogger

For the longest time, I have been blogging with platforms such as:

WordPress was my first experience with blogging. I have used Blogger to change between blog platforms, but until 2010, I never really used it as a blog. These days, I set one up as mirror, due to stability issues on my server from late last year and the early months this year. Today’s post though is what I do not like about Blogger. However, as there are things that have changed, I will first cover my original complains about Blogger, which are the following:

  • Duplicate images (noticeable on Android)
  • Cannot be installed locally
  • Some, if not all, templates are code soup
  • Lousy Android experience

First, I will deal with the duplicate images issue. I had to use Blogger back in 2010 because of a class for my degree. That class dealt with social media and we essentially had to review each thing we used, as well as do book reviews like this post. It was also around that time when I got my first exposure with Android. Everything I posted on Blogger would appear in my phone’s photo gallery because Android syncs with Google services out-of-the box. As Blogger upload images to Picasa and links to them from there, the albums appeared on my phone and displayed images I already had on my phone. Really, redundancy of things like photos on the same device is stupid. People use Picasa to back up their photos, but they do not necessarily want it to come up on the same device twice. This point is pretty much false now because I found out how to disable syncing with Picasa, but that does not change the fact that this is really annoying. My new phone, the Droid Razr Maxx, does not auto-sync with Picasa like my old phone did, so things are different now.

Next, I cannot have a local install of the platform. I use local installs to test web applications, such as MediaWiki and blog platforms, as well as to back up the said applications because I have control over everything, including the database. With Blogger, the best I can do is download my images from Picasa and export the blog as XML. The XML cannot be read across any platform like the major types of stuff ATOM and RSS can, since they are widely used these days for certain purposes. A local install also allows me to be able to have an offline version of my posts, should something happen to the network, thus I can use tools like wget, even when I do not have an Internet connection. I could also write the post in a way that the platform understands by utilizing a local install, then export using an XML or SQL dump to import into a publicly accessible server. With Blogger, the best I can do is type it up in a word processor before hand, then convert it into HTML, so it renders properly. I use local installs to test web applications and even to perform back ups.

Third, some, if not all, templates, are code soup. If I want to find where a problem lies in a layout or I want to add something somewhere that is not available as a gadget, I have to edit the template’s code. However, some things need to be properly placed. When one goes into view the template’s code, everything is a mess and there is no way to find out where exactly you need to enter something. This is why things like whitespace and tabs exist, in order to make things easier read and edit. WordPress templates have a lot of code, but it is definitely easy to find what one needs to find. Blogger templates are still pretty much code soup. Code soup does not help fix any problems, only makes them more difficult.

Fourth thing I will cover from my original list is the Android experience. Back in 2010, Blogger was horrendous on the mobile platform, especially Android. At that time, Android was mainly limited to phones. Blogger would render the same in Android as it would on a Desktop. Now, Android tablets are widespread, but a desktop appearance on a mobile device is not always the best thing. When I create a style for a web style, I always specify a different stylesheet to be used with iPhone and Android, as they render using the screen rules, not handheld, as per the CSS level 2.1 spec. Google has now released an Official app, which kind of puts it on par with the mobile experience of WordPress now, but as I have no experience with the official app and I do not visit the blogger site much on my phone, I cannot really say anything has changed much, so this point is possibly false now.

Wow, that is a lot, but as I mentioned, two of the four are still true to this day. One is false only if Picasa syncing is disabled on the phone and the fourth is questionable at best, according to my experience. However, there are things that I have encountered which are not so great.

Current faults with Blogger:

  • Cannot import from any platform except WordPress
  • Only feeds for comments and posts can if found easily
  • Front page excerpt with full article feeds is not simple

First, I will deal with the import issue. I used to like WordPress, but it is unnecessarily complicated. If I want to access it from both LAN and the Internet, the server must have the public address listed in its hosts file, though it obviously should anyway. However, with applications like Mantis, MediaWiki, Scuttle, PivotX, S9Y, and others, I only need to get them up and running, with no need to touch the hosts file. However, PivotX, Habari, and S9Y are all depend on imports and exports through SQL dumps or XML dumps, if the platform supports an XML format. Blogger though does not recognize WXR or BlogML. WordPress only exports the former and Habari can export both (via plugin). WordPress users are lucky though in that there is a converter online that will take WXR files and convert them to Blogger. Here is the catch though, WXR files exported from Habari do not convert well and no end user has access to an SQL database in order to import their SQL dumps. If that is not bad enough, Blogger’s XML is supposedly an ATOM feed, but it will not import just any ATOM feed, even if it is a valid feed using ATOM, it has to be Blogger’s, which does not seem to be very well documented, unless one exports the file from Blogger. Because of this, one must import their blog into WordPress before they can even move to Blogger.

Next, I hate how the feeds are set up on Blogger. In Habari, there is a feed for posts, comments, and even tags (visible only after you select a tag (at least in Safari)). This allows people to be able to subscribe to the content they want, without the need for separate blogs. My blog covers various topics, so I doubt everyone is interested in everything I have to say. Even this very post may not be something all visitors to my blog would want to read, so why make them see it? Blogger does not give easy access to label feeds, which kind of kills the personal blog scene. The auto discovery feature will only let a person view the post and comment feeds.

Lastly, since the post is incredibly long, I will cover the excerpts issue. I follow plenty of different sites, due my interests, via RSS or ATOM, depending on what the site has available. However, the thing that really annoys me is when both the front page and the feed contain only excerpts. I want to read the full article from my RSS client, then possibly comment right on the blog. However, the sites on Blogger that do have excerpts on the front page also have excerpts in feeds. The reason to have excerpts on the front page is because posts like these take a lot of time to load, especially if there are a ton of images. Blogger loads quickly due compression being enabled on the server. In practice though, server admins would only want files like HTML and Javascript to be compressed because compressing images will do nothing, since they are already compressed. Compression will decrease the size of the file being sent to the browser, since the file is most likely GZipped, or some other format (gzip files are more common on Apache setups). By limiting the amount of images that get displayed on the front page, the size is even further reduced, as some social networks timeout before uncompressed data can be rendered. In the settings, there is absolutely no way to accomplish this and as the templates are mainly code soup, it is not easy to implement. The same would apply to RSS and ATOM feeds, but I like being able to read full articles via RSS, instead of physically visiting the blog, especially if it is not mobile friendly theme- or template-wise.

Blogger is certainly good for beginners, but still does not work out for me.

What is your opinion on my problems with Blogger? Do you have any easy fixes? Do you find any of these are absolutely false? Any that I might not have caught in this post? Feel free to comment.

Copyright © 2012 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.