Bloggy thoughts & technicalities

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The problem with being a certifiable nerd writing on what is mostly a “Mommy blog” is that sometimes it’s really hard for me not to break out into talking about blog plugins and hacks and other nerdy things that nobody wants to read about. 🙂  But I’ve just switched back to WordPress–which was a thoroughly frustrating experience since I was using WordPress to begin with–and so it’s a good opportunity to get a little bit geeky, right?

Blogger

I think Blogger does two things really, really well: it’s simple (to set up, to use, to maintain, and even to design) and it’s reliable (since you don’t host it yourself, you don’t even have to think about hackers, site load, bandwidth, downed servers, etc.).  It has a lot of good widgets, built-in statistics, and is fairly forward-facing in that if you use your own domain (which is free to set up on Blogger’s end) you can switch to a different platform (WordPress) and maintain all your links.  In short, I like Blogger.  I was astounded by how simple it is to develop custom themes for Blogger–from a programming perspective there’s no comparison at all in difficulty level to WordPress or any other CMS I’ve ever coded.  I went from layout mockup to completely finished, coded theme in a couple hours, despite having never touched Blogger code before.  It’s brilliant.

But. There were some things about Blogger that really drove me batty just in the short time I used it.  First, it didn’t play nicely with Live Writer, which is such an essential to me that it’s pretty much the reason I’m using Windows instead of Ubuntu.  Every time I opened an entry in Blogger to do some little edits, it would totally screw up my formatting and I’d have to go through the whole article and fix it.  Very time-consuming.  Secondly, the very simplicity of the system really begins to limit you when you want to use widgets that move beyond snippets of code on the sidebar.  You can’t really do different layouts on different pages, and there are some things that you just can’t change–at all.  There were a few things I wanted the blog to be able to accomplish, and it just wasn’t possible with the limited access Blogger gives you to the code.  One particularly troublesome area is in comments: Blogger’s comment system is very Blogger-y, and kicks your readers back onto Blogger’s site with Blogger’s rules.  I had problems with disappearing comments and actual feedback about how confusing it was.

All that said, however, I was incredibly impressed at how much customization and control Blogger does allow, considering that it’s a hosted solution.  It’s a very finely-tuned machine, and they’ve done an amazing job of keeping it simple yet considerably powerful.

One tip: if you use Blogger, and you have remote space for images (I think Dropbox would work for this even if you don’t have your own server), store them there instead of via Blogger’s default API.  Then if you ever decided to change blogging systems, your images are still all nice and ready to go wherever you are.

WordPress

But in the end, I was sorry that I’d moved and I went right back to WordPress.  (And just to clarify, I’m talking about self-hosted WordPress, not WordPress.com, which is a totally different beast that fails to impress me as much as Blogger.)  The great thing about using any self-hosted/open-source solution is that you’re really only limited in what you can do by your own resources.  The WordPress folks themselves grabbed an old program called B2, hacked it to death and re-wrote it until WordPress became what it is today.  And you or I could do the same.  If you want to hack your WordPress install so that it spews spyware onto everyone’s computer, you can do that.  Or, more practically, if there’s not a plugin that does what you need done, you can write one.  The only real limits are your skills and your time.

That very openness and flexibility is, to me, WordPress’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness.  I think it’s really significant that I was so much more comfortable with Blogger after literally a couple of hours of poring over the code than I am with WordPress after literally years and years of using it–I started using WordPress even before version 1 was released in 2004.  The sheer bulk and complexity of the system is no small mountain to climb.  And so, generally, it easiest just to take WordPress for what it is, use a theme someone else created or build on a theme someone else created, and search high and low for plugins to do what you want instead of even considering making your own.

I like Blogger’s themes better.  They clearly have a lot of corporate money fueling them, which is a good thing for the end-user.  But WordPress’s plugins just blow Blogger’s out of the water.  I don’t think there’s really anything at all that you can do in Blogger that you can’t do, quite easily, with WordPress, and there are certainly many, many things in WordPress that you can’t do in Blogger.  WordPress also doesn’t have “rules,” in the sense that you’re not limited to X number of pages, you can do whatever you want with monetizing your blog, you don’t have to abide by any terms of use, and so on.  There are also practical things that you can do, like nesting categories and subcategories (and pages and subpages), creating drop-down menus and contact forms, polls, RSS feeds, and so on.  You’re not limited to the realms of HTML, XML, and Javascript–you can use PHP to import that Twitter feed, for instance, which works a whole lot better than the Twitter widget on Blogger.  Where Blogger pairs simplicity with limited power, WordPress represents ultimate power with limited simplicity.  Not that you have to be able to code to use WordPress–not at all–but if you’re into hacking things, you can do a lot more with WordPress.  It’s just harder to do.

So. Little Sinners

So we’re back to WordPress, which was a fairly smooth transition because WordPress can match Blogger’s permalink structure and my images were all hosted here, anyway.  If I’d made the theme the same, I probably could have never mentioned the switch and no one would have noticed.  But that would have been a lot more trouble than I wanted to go through, particularly since one of the major things I want to do is to revamp the theme, and it would have been foolish of me to spend a lot of time porting the old one to WordPress when I’m only planning on replacing it in the near future.  So right now, it just doesn’t look very much like a Mommy blog!  Two major improvements already, however–the (blue) drop-down menus at the top are an easy way to get at all the content on the site organized by subject, and if you leave a link with your comment, the software will look to see what is the latest entry on your blog and append a link to your comment (assuming all this works correctly, that is) free linkiness.  And that’s always a good thing.  🙂  The new design, whenever I manage to spit it out, should feature those things as well as dynamic layouts to match your resolutions (more tablet/phone friendly, and also more giant-screen friendly) and hopefully some more Ajaxy goodness to make everything smoother and quicker.  And hopefully it’ll look a little more like a SAHM blog and a little less like a corporate blog, too.  🙂

Linked to Words for Me Wednesday.

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1 thought on “Bloggy thoughts & technicalities”

  1. Thanks for this clear post. I’ve got a self hosted WP blog, but have a friend who is just starting out in this crazy world of blogging! This post will be really useful for her, I’m going to forward it to her. Thanks for sharing!

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