Friday, July 04, 2008

Blogger gets some real updates and Google moves away from Data Lock

There's still no update to the extremely antiquated BlogThis! blogger bookmarklet, but Google is, at long, long last, putting some energy into Blogger.

To see the new environment you need to be using FF 3 or Safari 3 (some versions of IE too) and running Blogger in draft. Today Safari 3 is showing the old editor, so things will be fluid.

The current big news is that Safari 3 is supposed to have full support -- which means it's a more viable browser for my use. The big future feature is promised FTP file upload and enclosures. Uploaded images are stored only in Picasa web albums.

I've run into these bugs and lost capabilities so far:
  1. Items authored in the BlogThis! window are formatted incorrectly when edited in the new editor.
  2. Items authored using ScribeFire for FF are formatted incorrectly in the new editor and cannot be fixed easily. (SF has just been updated, so this may change.)
  3. Lists don't work fully. So if you save an item and try to add to a list, it inserts the row without a list tag. (known issue)
  4. The Save Now button closes the draft, so you have to reopen it (known issue)
  5. No formatting  buttons in HTML mode (they will return soon)
Some highlights on the editor:
  1. The new post editor: Dynamic image resize, drag and drop location. Changes to the HTML editor that seem of unclear value to me (solving a non-existent problem?). Full Safari 3 support? (But today 3.1.2 gave me the old editor, so they may be tweaking something).
  2. How to report HTML bugs with the new post editor: Add a comment to this blog post? Seems that won't scale.
There are also some very nice big new features, the backup and ability to effectively merge blogs seems awfully big to me (note that this particular page has links to pages that are "saved in draft" and thus don't appear as regular post pages -- a curious choice):
  1. Star ratings. Readers only, personally I'd like to be able to rate my own posts too -- differentiate the ones I think are more interesting.
  2. Import / export of blogs. Back up all of your posts and comments to one Atom XML file on your computer, and import your posts from one blog to another.
  3. Embedded comment form. By incredibly popular demand, we’ve brought the comment form to your blog’s post pages, with support for Google Account and OpenID authentication.
    New post editor. We’ve completely revised the post editor, bringing in drag-and-drop image placement and better HTML handling.
Safari 3 support in the new editor is great, but for me the really big deal is import/export. Per blogger:
  1. Merge two or more blogs into one. Take the exported posts and comments from one blog and import them into another one.
  2. Move individual posts from blog to blog. After importing, select just a set of posts to publish and publish them with one click.
  3. Back up your blog to your own storage. You can keep your words safe and under your control in case anything happens to your blog, or us, or if you want to remove them from the Internet.
  4. Move your blog somewhere else. Our export format is standard Atom XML. We hope to see other blogging providers extend their Atom support to include import and export. And, if you decide to come back to Blogger, importing your export file will get you back up and running in seconds.
The last is big. Google claimed over a year ago that they were going to make user data portable (see also). I've been very skeptical, and it's taken them a heck of a long time to do anything real. Now I'm willing to give them some time to show genuine commitment -- such as the ability to move Picasa albums to other services.

Altogether this is the best Blogger news since it became a somewhat reliable service about a year ago. Maybe Google can do product commitment after all.

Now if Google would only fix BlogThis!

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