Ranting about Blogging Programs

by Susan Harris on February 6, 2007

This has been long in coming – the airing of my complaints and a call for improvement – and I hope blog-readers will jump into the fray with me.

Like everyone, I started out with Blogger, until I decided that having categories was worth $50 a year toBlogger_1 me and switched to Typepad.  It’s free and easy, so I continue to use it as the Official Blog of my town’s Wildlife Habitat Project, and it’s perfect for that.  I understand the Beta version has included categories, so they’re listening to their customers.  But links still have to be added using HTML, and photos can’t be placed where the writer wants them in a post.  But at least it’s still free – how do they do that, anyway?  Blogger users, what would you like to see changed?  And how’s that Beta version working out for you?

It’s my program of choice and I recommend it to everyone, but its excellence only makes itsTypepad_1 limitations more frustrating.  But first, the plusses:  It’s easy to use without knowing HTML, even in manipulating the photos.  It’s especially easy to personalize designs using Typepad, as this very blog shows.  There are categories so that readers can browse with purpose.  Typepad’s support team responds quickly and expertly to my emails – thank you!  But there are some needed improvements I’ve written to request and been assured they’re in the works but how long does it take, guys?

  • It’s impossible to place items in sidebar Lists in the order you wish.  Such a little thing but oh, so important to us humble users.
  • The way that comments are displayed, it’s unclear who posted them.  Really, I’ve had complaints!
  • Archives by month are only listed for 10 months – why-o-why?  For us old-timers (ha), we have to then show “Full Archives,” which list them all.  Duplicative, non?
  • Commenters aren’t offered the option to have subsequent comments to the same post emailed to them.
  • There’s no way (that I can find) to find a post using search terms, or jump to posts for a certain month and year.  Kinda annoying for us old-timers, with potentially hundreds of posts, to have to scroll through page after page after page…

The folks at Typepadhacks may be Typepad users’ new best friends.  They’re dedicated to improving Typepad’s performance through the application of fixes (widgets) and may have already addressed some of my complaints (and someday I should really figure out how to apply a widget).  Check ‘em out and Hackers, carry on.

Okay, I get that these are the advanced, total-flexibility version for sophisticated bloggers, but here’s my complaint.  Their promotions tout improved flexibility without warning us that unless we can write in several codes, they actually offer LESS flexibility.  So when GardenRant was in development we tried both these programs – we’re sophisticated, right?? – only to give them up in frustration.  And switching programs and transferring domains and all that crap is a hassle. (Michele, who was in charge of that unpleasant task, probably still has nightmares about it.  I know I would.)  And I know of other nongeeks who thought they were making blogging easier by trading up to these pro-level programs and are sorry they did, so I know the GardenRanters aren’t alone.

Yes, blogging can sometimes bring frustrations, or what I call e-mysteries (in my attempt to make light of them, thereby defusing them of their POWER).  But hey, they still way more user-friendly than PhotoShop. I’ll spare you the details.


donna February 6, 2007 at 11:31 pm

The Airing of the Grievances? Is it Festivus again already? ;^)

Pam L February 7, 2007 at 12:20 am

Ooo, better get the pole out.

sixty-five February 7, 2007 at 3:30 am

I’m a happy Blogger user who switched to the Beta a while ago. It took HOURS to accomplish the upgrade, but no problems after that. I have NEVER needed to use or know html to add links – don’t understand that complaint. (It’s just a simple copy and paste thing) Agree about the positioning of the photos. I’ve learned to post all the photos first, in reverse order of where I think I’ll want them, and then insert the text in between, which Blogger does allow. My needs are pretty simple, but I’m not looking to switch.

Andrea February 7, 2007 at 6:29 am

I disagree that you need to know several languages to use WordPress. In fact, you don’t need to know any.

The only changes I made to my WordPress blog was to change the colours and fonts of my theme which was all done in the css file. You don’t need to know css for that, you just need to type over the existing code with your own colour combinations.

I think the flixibility is in the wide variety of plugins available and for those it’s just a matter of uploading a single file and clicking on the activate plugin button.

WordPress is brilliant, I can’t recommend it enough.

Doug Green February 7, 2007 at 6:51 am

Susan – I too started with blogger but decided I liked “owning” my words on my own site. I looked at both WP and TP and opted for WordPress because I think it has more of a future and much faster development stream.

I *love* the richness of plugins available and continue to introduce them to my site increasing the functionality of it and making simple chores much easier. Adding those is a no-brainer even for a non-techie like myself.

CSS and html. Well, like Andrea above, I don’t mess around too much with the css stuff but I am playing around with the next theme to change font colors. I only use about 3-4 html commands in setting up a post so that too is a no-brainer.

WP lets me put in my radio podcast now as well with the simple addition of a very basic plugin.

I’m a WP fan.


Pam/Digging February 7, 2007 at 9:08 am

My tech-savvy husband helped me set up my WordPress blog last year. Once he showed me the basics, I found it very easy to alter my site to my liking, and I didn’t know anything about html beforehand. In fact, I still don’t know much. Like Andrea says, you just substitute for the code that’s already there. I’ve been pleased with WordPress, though set-up would have been tricky for a non-techie like me without help.

Kathy Jentz, Washington Gardener Magazine February 7, 2007 at 9:59 am

I’m on Blogger – haven;t done the upgrade to the new version yet – not until I’m forced to! I’m satisfied with it for now – free, easy & quick.

firefly February 7, 2007 at 1:22 pm

Heh. I don’t mind Photoshop — I have to use it at work to tweak screen shots so they’re acceptable for a printing process — but it really is pretty arcane and intimidating.

I hear all the time from Blogger blog owners that they’ve had no problems switching over, but I wonder how many commenters they lose because Blogger 2 doesn’t play nice with certain browsers (like Firefox and older versions of Safari). Because Blogger switched to Google IDs, which requires you to register for a gmail account (fuggedaboudit), and you couldn’t post feedback on their ‘beta’ forums without a Google ID, I’m sure they never got notified about some problems that commenters had. It’s just too much work to go through all that to tell them their program sucks from a commenter’s point of view.

Plus, a “beta” version is supposed to be released to power users who can break it and tell QA and developers about their problems. It doesn’t go public all at once in some kind of half-baked open source manner unless it’s a really open forum like Mozilla’s Bugzilla.

TypePad has its problems too — you’re really limited as to what you can get on the main page, and some of their configuration areas are named oddly so I didn’t figure out until a couple of months ago that I could do a blogroll with a TypeList — but I like that I can upload garden photos and have yearly libraries.

I’ve thought about upgrading, but for me technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself, so I’ll probably wait until it’s really necessary.

Trey February 7, 2007 at 1:34 pm

I have been using blogger beta since the beginning. It’s definitely better than the original. I am concerned about “owning” my page as Doug Green mentioned above. Wordpress is the only one that doesn’t include blogger, typepad, or some other name after the blog title. For that reason I am going to check it out. Until then Blogger is just fine.

Carol February 7, 2007 at 10:15 pm

I’m using Blogger and like what they have added with the beta version. I had no problems upgrading and now find it much easier to add/remove items from my sidebar, and I can put lists on the sidebar in whatever order I want. The price is still right, free. I figured out “mostly” how to get the pictures where I want them, though that is still the most frustrating thing about it for me.

I’m glad Blogger was available when I started my blog. If I had had to pay to get in the game, so to speak, I’m not sure I would have started the blog when I did.

Christopher C in Hawaii February 8, 2007 at 1:25 pm

I switched to Blogger beta last night thinking they are going to force it soon so I might as well do it now. The switch was easy and painless.

I have not switched to the new template form yet because it will take you back to a blank template. You will have to add all your sidebar links and add ons again. I will do that when I have a bit more time. Maybe it will rain all day again soon.

Already there are some things that bug me in the beta. I went to the help section and the list of known issues was extensive. How is that possible? This is the second version upgrade. Maybe they will change in the new template.

The previous posts in the sidebar used to automatically scroll backwards in time when you clicked on one and the new page opened. Now it is static and stays at the current top posts. I like using that to get to older posts. Now the monthly archives is the only way and who can remember what month something I am looking for is in.

I post huge photos. You could click on them to open on a separate page. They opened small, but bigger than on the blog and then could be expanded to full size if you wanted. Now they open as the huge photo that are slower to load and can’t be seen in the smaller size but still bigger than on the blogger page.

That is just what I have noticed in the first twelve hours.

But it is still free and I really like that!

Graham Rice February 9, 2007 at 7:24 am

I went with TypePad because I liked the look of the blogs that use it. I’ve found it easy to use, support is prompt and helpful but it certainly has its limits in terms of flexibility of layout. A lot people don’t realize that when you click on an image it pops up larger (they say they’re looking at how to make this clear) And the stats are terrible. I think it’s a copout to provide such limited stats and then suggest signing up to get better stats from elsewhere. I’m thinking of trying Performance Metrics (http://performancing.com/metrics/start). Can anyone recommend a stats supplier? I don’t want a visible counter, just better private stats.

Graham Rice February 9, 2007 at 7:58 am

On the other hand… I now find that Performance Metrics has been discontinued! Trying free Feedburner stats instead.

eliz February 11, 2007 at 4:41 pm

I use typepad at the Rant, wordpress for my work blog, and blogger for my own blog. And this is my conclusion: they all do the job. I am glad that blogger added categories and I had no problems switching to the new version (no longer beta).

As for “owning,” I’m not sure what is meant. Anything you write is automatically copyrighted to you. If it’s about the name of the blog, anyone can and should buy their own domain name and simply have it point to their blogger or typepad blog. I have a couple .com urls I use for my blog. But maybe there is a copyright issue I don’t know about here.

Richard Boyd February 23, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Wordpress for us very customisable, very powerful and much more.

BTW Susan we enjoy your blog but are confused as to why you use nofollow on your comment links?

The County Clerk March 17, 2007 at 10:16 pm

I just saw this. Missed it i guess.


I’m on TP too and happy. But I agree with your list:

Especially: “Commenters aren’t offered the option to have subsequent comments to the same post emailed to them” and “There’s no way (that I can find) to find a post using search terms, or jump to posts for a certain month and year. ”

As for the last… there is a way, just not an easy way. You have to use HTML. ( “It’s impossible to place items in sidebar Lists in the order you wish. Such a little thing but oh, so important to us humble users.”)

I hope you shake the typepad people up and get them to fix these things.

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