Thursday, March 31, 2005

On Blogging

The Great Confusion that pulled Bloggers' feeding tubes over the past 2 days encourages reflection of my 10 weeks experience of the infrastructure and medium.

These notes are for my own purposes, but comments are welcome

Infrastructure

Blogger server availability is in the low 90%s. This is likely because it's free - thin client architectures need a lot of server side resilience and that costs money.

So my requirements are:

1. Commercial-grade server side availability, say 99.9%
2. Commercial-grade intrusion defenses
3. Location in rule-of-law country outside of the EU and US (just in case they do start censoring blogs). Anguilla perhaps.
4. Remote management

Content

The blog is for short-attention span information, and is weak for serialization. Which forces serious posts to become very long, deterring all but the most committed readers. I tried to solve this for my Granita Tapes and Loss of UK by breaking them up into bite-sized chunks, but that loses continuity.

So my requirements are:

1. Books component, accessible directly from entry screen without scrolling, or linkable from posts. That way, books can be evolved over time, with posts simply announcing each new chapter.
2. Books should support full Word-style presentation, including images and video. Mrs G tells me I need Content Management, so I'll start there.

Presentation

Blogger is designed around 800 pixel screens, IE fixed font sizes, no memory. And the screen has a lot of information you usually don't need 99% of the time: blogrolls, blogger bio, previous posts, archives, search. And this takes up about 40% of the screen all the time!

So my requirements are:

1. Display width automatically adapting to fully utilize >800 pixel screens.
2. That means customizable font scaling, with memory.
3. IE, Opera and Firefox support.
4. Show/hide sidebar. Ideally an extra menu bar at the top that doesn't scroll.
5. Bookmark feature so I can jump to where I left off reading the blog or book.

Publication

Editors are hard to do, and thin client ones are even harder. The Blogger editor is 90s style, buggy, and has clunky formatting and image management. And if you paste in from Word you lose format effectors. But we all have some sort of Word processor on our publication devices, including our poncey phones.

So my requirements are:

1. Publication direct from Word, with fancy formatting, text editing, spell- and grammar-checking, image and movie embedding with decent text wrapping, and hyperlinking not only to external URLs and also to bookmarks within the current post or book.
2. A Word template that mimics the Blog presentation layer.

Navigation, Bio, Etc

Currently on the sidebar. Navigations is Most Recent Posts, Archives, Search (this blog or web). Functionality is not bad, although Blogger search is poor and takes up a display line. Technocrati is good, but sits in the horrible sidebar. Bio is vital, but ridiculous to waste the entire sidebar on. Stats vary by Blog.

So my requirements are:

Search in a dedicated command bar, as per Opera, together with buttons that pop up the other sidebar features.
- Bio
- Most Recent Posts
- Archives
- Statistics

The Linking Kerfuffle

Commenting, trackback and blogroll seem to have evolved from genuine feedback to a barter currency. Which has led to enormous blogrolls, which the blogger can't possibly keep track of & trackbacks that add zero value. I can see how this works for folks who blog as a business, or who get kicks from climbing TLB levels, but don't need that. Add to which, the Trackback mechanism is the mots horrible user experience I've ever encountered.

I just need feedback and something that shows Depleted Uranium readers a bit about eachother.

So my requirements are:

1. Comments with moderation applicable from the published blog.
2. No trackbacks
3. A blogroll of the 20 or so the news & blogs I read regularly.
4. User visible displays showing geographical location of readers (like the unavailable-to-new-users hitmaps feature, see Jacobs Room).

So, that's what I'm off to look for. Meanwhile, I'll hack this site to align it better with my spec. I'd like to kill Trackback, but can't without losing past Comments, darn it.