Thursday, July 07, 2005

Blogger v Spaces

I read somewhere that it was a challenge for software designers to lessen the daunting learning curve for newbies while at the same time providing the functionality they might want once they get past the initial experience.

Obviously MSN Spaces are very easy to set up and run. Unfortunately however, this means trading off high functionality for a low learning curve. This strategy is understandable when we consider its target group.

As a regular user of MSN Messenger, my introduction to MSN Spaces came via the button in Version 7. After doing a few test entries and liking the therapeutic feel of writing it became natural to just stick with it.

However I don’t use it for the purpose of sharing details with family and friends. Just by reading my blog and profile I don’t think you would be able to gather too much about my personal life. I use it as a sounding board to bounce off my thoughts about the state of affairs as a way to test the coherency and consistency in views. Getting comments from people who question those thoughts are an added bonus.

And I like customisation. I like to play around with the look and feel of the site and in that department Spaces is getting a little stale. So I decided to take a relatively closer look at Google’s Blogger.com by populating it with some entries that I made earlier.

I actually signed up for an account fair whiles back, purely out of curiosity, but I never got past the first few entries. They were having some problems with updating the blog on time and new entries failed to appear for days. Now it seems like those issues have largely been resolved and most of the entries that I made went through almost immediately.

The best thing about blogger is that they allow you to edit the template file, and this provides unsurpassable customisation ability, which I am pretty happy about. I actually started with one of the standard templates, changed the colours and a couple of graphics, and I ended up with this.

The biggest downside for a lot of people is that you need to know some basic html to make substantial modifications to the standard selection of templates. But in my case this is actually a positive since this provided me with a motivation for learning html.

They even have some great hacks. For example it is possible to implement a drop-down comments feature like the one we get in Spaces when you use IE. It is also possible to implement expandable entries so that interested readers can see the full text of very long posts while casual surfers can skim through an uncluttered interface. All the tags, both the general tags and the markup for these tricks are well documented.

One of the worst things about MSN Spaces is keeping track of comments. If it's a particularly busy period for your blog, comments get lost. Blogger solves this problem by providing an email notification system so that a copy of every comment pops up in my inbox.

MSN Spaces do have some features that Blogger doesn’t have. An external application is need to maintain a photo album on Blogger, but that is really not an issue for me. The very useful ‘categories’ feature at Spaces cannot be replicated at Bloggers and I will miss that. They also don’t have Lists, but you don’t really need those at Blogger where you can just as easily construct your own list by editing the template.

In my short time playing around with Blogger it has been a positive experience barring the following minor issues: Firstly there is sometimes a slight delay before the blog gets updated, and there is a mismatch in the timing of the update between the addresses theconsigliere.blogspot.com and www.theconsigliere.blogspot.com. I find that the later address updates quicker than the former, so on rare occasions we have two versions of the blog online, one being the older version and the other being the never version.

Secondly the stats are temporarily down and that screws up my profile page. So I had to make it private for the moment until they sort that out.

Thirdly, although posting pictures with your articles are easier with Blogger, the pictures that you upload and the old blogs that you’ve deleted still remain on the server. This isn’t as much of a problem as there is no limit to the amount of pictures you can upload, but it just seems like a waste of space. And some users might get a little suspicious about Google holding their pictures indefinitely.

Fourthly you need to get Haloscan for trackbacks. But trackbacks aren’t big deal for me yet so that issue is largely irrelevant.

So am I going to make the switch? Well, not yet. I am just going to simultaneously post entries to both blogs. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem since I only expect to post an entry every two days or so anyway.

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1 comment:

Alan S. Bandy said...

Hey Kaan,
Yeah I started my blogger site about a month ago and now that it has developed a good bit of readers I decided to delete my msn space. I wanted to target a more professional audience. Hope to continue our discussions.