Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Blogspot and Wordpress

I've been aware of Wordpress for a while now, even before my sister migrated her blog to it. But it wasn't until the recent aggravation with Blogspot that I got up the gumption to try it out.

So, for our faithful readers who follow the adventures of the Five Ms, I have set up a new blog site on Wordpress' free blog service. They have 'paid for' service, like Blogpsot / Blogger, but I am currently only going to compare the 'free services'.

I used Wordpress' import tool to migrate our posts here onto Wordpress. I have code-named the site Magrathea for now, so you all can test it out and see if it's worth making the switch. If my test-marketing comes back positive, I'll rename it.

There are some very nice things about Wordpress for readers, authors, and administration:

Categories - As an author you can create your own categories and 'file' your posts into them. This makes it easier for you to review your commentary on long-running themes on your blog. It also makes it easier for new readers to get the 'backstory' on recent posts. For blog administration, it is a valuable index for tracking down specific posts.

Private Posts - Wordpress also allows you to password protect specific posts. This is very useful if you have sensitive information to share with specific readers - like family or friends.

(Practically) Instantaneous Template Updates - Wordpress uses an embedded database to store the text in your posts, so if you decide to change your blog template, the change in formatting is pretty much instantaneous. Blogspot uses a different method in that all your psots are stored as individual HTML pages. If you change your template, you are forced to re-generate every page on your site to see the changes. Given the recent hardware problems here, that can be a very 'iffy' proposition.

Template Options - Wordpress makes customizing the presentation of your site very easy. No HTML or CSS knowledge needed.

Posting Interface - Just like in Blogspot, you can use a plain-text interface or a HTML interface for writing your posts. That said, Wordpress' interface is more slick and word-processor like. I think it also generates better HTML.

Import Function - I mentioned this already, but this made things very easy. The only frustrating thing about it was that Blogger couldn't keep up with the import process and timed-out repeatedly, forcing Wordpress to start over several times. (This worries me as I don't know of any way to ever archive our Blogspot site if Blogger really does roll over and die.)

It should go without saying that Blogger does not have a similar function to let you migrate to Blogspot from another blog host like Wordpress, MoveableType,or LiveJournal.

I do have some nitpicks, however.

Categories - If you create categories on the free Wordpress service, you pretty much have to make your category tags public. That is, everyone on Wordpress can see them and use them too. I'll explain why: when you click on the category links at the bottom of posts in Wordpress, you will go to a page that lists all posts on Wordpress which use that category. If you haven't made your category tags public, you won't see your posts. If you do make your categories public and they're not unique, when you click on the links, you will see your posts, but they'll be mixed up with everyone else's too. And there's currently a limit of 20 posts returned in the results.

Template Configuration Options - The philosophy behind Wordpress is to make as much of the configuring of formatting as painless as possible using Wordpress. This is very good, but after being here on Blogspot, where you have a lot of latitude to monkey with your CSS template, it's somewhat stifling. I'd like to change colours, font faces, and font sizes, but there's only limited facility for that in the free Wordpress service. This is an issue for me primarily because the default font types and sizes in the sample templates tend to be somewhat small and hard to read for some of our readers.

User Accounts - Blogspot has nailed this issue in that they allow you to create a Blogspot / Blogger account independently of having a blog. You can opt to start a blog, join a blog, or do neither and just have an account to use for posting comments. Not so with Wordpress. In order to set up Cheryl and myself on the new site, I had to create separate Wordpress accounts, each with their own blog, for each of us, then attached Cheryl to the first blog as a author. Cheryl's blog won't be used and it seems like kind of a waste for it to be there. Even more annoying, Cheryl can't use her own log-in to access the first blog. She has to use mine and then set herself as the post author.

As a side note, I have friend who has implemented the Wordpress software (which is free) on his own host, and all of the problems I've already described go away when you do this. Your categories are your own, you can tweak your CSS template all you like, and account control is all your own because the implementation is on your own MySQL database.

Summary - I'd have to say at this point that I am very much leaning towards Wordpress as our new blog software and host. Having our posts stored in a database is to me much more secure and stable than as straight HTML files that are scattered across who knows how many servers. (Speaking of which, I'm going to have to come up with a way of periodically downloading our blog pages for archiving. I don't trust Blogspot much at this point.) My hope is that some of the issues I've raised here will be addressed as the free service is broadened and improved. But even if they aren't addressed, there is always the option of moving to our own host and/or domain.


LarryandJean said...

Too Much Work

Too Much Time

Some things must stay
For all of us minions
To get through the day

Quick Online Tips said...

I also recently moved to Wordpress and I agree the new features are truly wonderful.

Gail said...

Don't forget one some very important differences: you can allow people to comment without registering with Blogger PLUS blocking spam.

Sponsorship is big for Blogger and they'll keep making pop-up windows that get past people's pop-up blockers. It's terrible in Firefox.

Ultimately, Wordpress software is free and continually being developed, which is not the same for Blogger. Wordpress, as a free host, has to limit your features somehow, but I do think you get MUCH MUCH more for free than Blogger.

Wordpress is better than Typepad/Movable Type, in my opinion. I'm glad I went with Wordpress.

By the way, there is a way to archive your entire Blogspot. You have to make one single HTML page of the site and save it as an archive. If I was able to do that with 1,000 entries from 2002-2005, you should be able to make one, too. But I recommend doing that soon before Blogger gets worse.

Gail said...

Oops, strike out the "one" in the first sentence, s'il vous plait.