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Miscellaneous

Blogger’s New Template Editor, Where Blogging Stands

Blogger was one of the first and biggest services that helped build blogging into the huge thing it is today. Back when it started, most people who were savvy online would have a kind of static web page and not a diary or blog. Blogger allowed people the opportunity to post their thoughts, observations and experiences online in a way that didn’t require any real technical knowledge.

In the probably too social web we have today, practically everyone has a blog of some description. While blogging is technically a website of your own where you post reasonably long articles and other content such as photos and videos, anything from Facebook status updates to tweets are technically a form of blogging, and everyone’s doing it. I don’t think the traditional blog is under threat though by any means, but I’ve written about this topic before so I’ll move on to the main topic of this post.

I mentioned that Blogger helped to ignite the blogging revolution over 10 years ago now. However, I feel it has been partly stagnating for the last several years and I think the design templates were looking very dated when compared to WordPress who have been pushing the envelope of design and features for many years and have surpassed Blogger a long time ago in those areas.

Recently though, Google have been working hard to improve and now have a brand new design tool which allows you to fully customise the templates in a very simple and stylish way. The templates themselves are very stylish to begin with but you can customise every aspect, change the column layout, colour scheme,  width and even apply custom CSS if you’re so inclined in that respect. You can also add custom gadgets and HTML which allows you to add almost anything you want including gadgets from social sites.

It’s a big and very much needed step forward for Blogger and I think it helps them to really close the gap to WordPress. Blogger also have support for advertising through adsense which isn’t offered on WordPress.com as they have a total ban on advertising unless you self-host WordPress. More importantly to me though, they have very affordable domain registrations through GoDaddy which seem to be priced cheaper than going through GoDaddy’s own website. Not only this, but the domain you buy is automatically configured to work with Google Apps such as Mail, Docs, Calendar and more. This is a very nice feature and even though WP do offer this, it takes some manual setting changes to set-up Google Apps using WP.com.

Overall I think the blogging industry is very strong as everyone naturally has things they want to share with friends and the rest of the world, or just document their lives. These updates will get me to recommend Blogger for new people looking to start their own blog now, or even people who have been for a while.

Personally I’m happy with WordPress and Tumblr for my two blogs but Blogger is definitely a more viable option than it has been for a very long time.

Categories
Miscellaneous

MarsEdit 3 vs Windows Live Writer

I’m not the biggest Microsoft fan generally speaking. I don’t like Internet Explorer at all and I’m not a fan of how they brand their products in a nonsensical way. For example bing doesn’t really have anything to do with any other product. Windows Live Search made more sense to me.

However, I can say that I very much like Windows 7 and another lesser known product called Windows Live Writer. This application is a free downloadable publishing tool for a variety of blogging platforms from wordpress to blogger and more. It comes as one part of Microsoft’s Windows Live Essentials package of apps. Of course I’d love for it to be on Mac too but you can’t have everything.

On Mac I’ve used Marsedit for quite a long time. It works well but until version 3 it was purely an HTML editor and compared to the features live writer offers, it’ feels a bit bare especially for a paid app. Version 3 now has a rich text editor but it still feels very basic and you can hardly tell the difference between the versions until you actually insert an image and see the image itself instead of the html code. There is no format bar like you would expect in a publishing app like Word or Live Writer, so you can’t change the font or do any other simple formatting without digging through a drop down menu which doesn’t feel right.

I think when you consider that because of ventures like Google Chrome OS, the future is going to be more browser based than ever, I find myself wondering if I really need a local app for blog publishing. Of course, I enjoy using live writer at the moment. I’m writing this post on it, but I feel that in the end there’s going to be only a stable of a few core standalone apps that you’ll use apart from the browser, on the desktop at least.

On the mobile front, things appear to be going in the opposite direction towards more apps than web content, but I think there will always be room for some apps on the desktop. Whether they will primarily consist of games, movie, photo or audio editing software or more isn’t clear right now, but apps in the traditional sense aren’t going to go away completely any time soon.

Going back to the point of this article in comparing the best windows blog publishing app to the best on the mac, it’s clear that live writer is a more complete experience that feels well made. Marsedit does too but I think for a paid app, it’s just not quite there and I would probably prefer to just use the wordpress dashboard editor itself to create my posts when I’m away from my PC. I think it has a lot to do with being a one man developer. Covering costs is an important aspect, and of course everyone needs to make a living. The issue is that when you’re competing against one of the biggest companies around who are making a free product, it’s hard to match up.

If you’re on a Mac and want a well made stand alone app, then I do recommend marsedit. If you’re not bothered, then the wordpress browser editor should be fine for you. If you’re on windows, the same can be said. If you’re happy with the browser, then that will be adequate, but considering live writer is free anyway, it won’t hurt to give it a try regardless of if you prefer standalone apps or not.

Categories
Miscellaneous

The State of Facebook and The Social Web

The only real issue I have with facebook privacy was the bug with the chat and other people being able to access it. Apart from that, I’m happy with the controls that they offer, and I feel that there’s nothing wrong with the current setup.

I think the issue people have is more about how facebook appear to be able to change the rules at any point and make what you set to be private as public without really consulting you first. I think that should only really be the case when you first sign up, to have all your settings defaulted to public, but for current users it should be defaulted to private first and let the individual choose what they want to do.

The other issue is whether or not facebook are selling your private data to advertisers or not. This isn’t a huge concern since I never click on any ads anyway. But for some people it will be a bigger concern and it may be the principle rather than the actual data being sold that’s the main point of contention.

I highly doubt that 60% are considering quitting. It’s a huge number of people and I would suggest that even 10% is unlikely unless a massive wave of mainstream support for abandoning the site takes place.

It kind of makes me a bit despondent at the whole social web that this is even being talked about. People wouldn’t quit using email because there was a privacy scare so what does this say about facebook? Does it say that facebook really is a fad just like myspace and that social networking is never going to be actually important, and more than just a gimmick.

I’ve said before that I would try not to get involved in another gimmick social network after facebook, but I just feel like I won’t be able to stop myself when it comes down to it. We’re all going to drift from site to site and they’ll all get too bit and ruin what made them great. Sure, I like playing scrabble on Facebook, but I would still prefer facebook to be pure social networking, devoid of apps and extras which make the experience bloated and confusing.

Twitter in principle is a simple service, and that’s one reason why I like it so much. Will they continue to keep it simple or will they ruin it by incorporating too many features into it? I very much hope they don’t, or at least they continue to innovate, but in a way that doesn’t add unnecessary features to the site.

I’m a strong believer in dedicated websites and services for individual tasks being the right way to go about things. No one will doubt Youtube, Flickr, Google Docs in their effectiveness to provide a great service. Facebook does a lot of things, but do we really want to have everything in one place? Is it really good for the web as a whole? I don’t see how it is.

Facebook to me is a fun way to share quick anecdotes with friends, some quick family snaps that aren’t professional enough for flickr or quick videos I just want to share with specific people. I even use it to communicate with friends via message rather than use email because it’s more personal feeling and quite easy to use.

Stuff like that, facebook really excels at, but there’s no denying the fact that the site is more of a gimmick than actually useful. All of the things I do there I can do elsewhere in an equal or better way.

I hope facebook manages to reassure users about their privacy practices as I don’t think they quite deserve the level of mainstream criticism that they’ve received. I also hope they do a good job of not making the site any more convoluted as it currently is. I don’t want to leave, but it’s nice to know I have other options should it’s popularity deteriorate, and just to be safe, continue to have your own place online to share your opinions, like this place.

Whatever happens in the world of social media, I don’t think having your own blog will ever go out of vogue. Just like writing a diary, blogging (although the term may eventually change) is here to stay and it’s comforting to know.