Robust Blogging

Steven Den Beste has some thoughts about Blogger and blogging that are worth reading. As a longtime Blogger user I certainly agree with him on most points, though I think Blogger can be adequate if one understands its limitations. For example, it’s true that Blogger sometimes eats posts – which is why I have always composed (and saved) mine in a text editor. But my approach works less well for a group blog, because it’s prohibitively difficult to restore archives using multiple contributors’ saved text files.

Blogger’s rickety archiving system is also a problem, not because it doesn’t work but because it requires a great deal of time and attention to keep it working. Permalinks didn’t function on our blog for a month or two. I thought it was a system-wide Blogger problem and didn’t do anything about it, until Joe Katzman suggested that I rebuild our archives, and suddenly everything worked again. What a relief. But then, the fact that to solve a recurring problem I had to take a particular action, and didn’t know what that action was before someone knowledgeable told me about it, does indicate a system-wide problem.

Fortunately, the situation is probably not as bad as I initially feared, because I’ve got our blog’s archives backed up in HTML format on my computer. Also, Sylvain tells me that he was able to access our archives by figuring out what their URLs should be and entering those URLs directly into his browser. OTOH, I don’t know how stable our archives are on Blogger’s server, and restoring the blog from my saved HTML files would be a big pain in the ass. The bottom line is that it isn’t worth sticking around on Blogger to find out the answers to these questions, and Blogger was a time sink even when it worked properly.

Steven likens Blogger to training wheels. That’s a good comparison. When I think of Blogger I remember what a Russian programmer acquaintance told me, about how it was once common practice in the old country to improvise PC data-backup systems out of VCRs. Sure it works, but you shouldn’t use it if better technology is available. For non-geeks, Blogger was pretty much it a couple of years ago. And Blogger is still safe enough if you back everything up and take the time to practice various defensive rituals to avoid Blogger’s pitfalls. But it isn’t worth it.

We got much more than we paid for out of Blogger, but it’s time to move on.

5 thoughts on “Robust Blogging”

  1. Maybe we should back up the blog onto a VCR, just in case? But be sure to use a Russian VCR. Like a Kalashnikov, it can be buried in dirt for a month and works fine when its exhumed.

  2. Very true. Russian products are either absolute crap and break down in no time. But if they work, they’re virtually indestructible.

  3. The worst thing about Blogspot is the downtime and complete absence of anything remotely like customer service. One would think they’d email everyone when they go down each week, and a help manual in a PDF file would seem natural.

    Like you I start there because I didn’t know what I was doing, thought HTML was a jet that could landand take off vertically on an aircraft carrier, and it was cheap. But like my dad always said, “the most expensive thing in the world is cheap help.”

  4. Howard, you are too right, especially about “cheap” technology.

    Blogger doesn’t seem oriented toward service. Perhaps that’s because they’re growing fast and are disorganized, or perhaps it’s because they don’t think of individual bloggers as customers. Whatever. There are plenty of examples of businesses that grow so fast that they don’t think they have to provide good service, but that doesn’t mean we have to use their products.

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