Monday, October 30, 2006

Monday Rant (Delayed): Blogger's Bullshit

Yes, this blog contributes next to nothing to my life, with the weak exception of "practice writing", thus the ratio of effort expended to benefit gained is very poor, possibly as poor as most other computer activities that I do (damn you, Civ!). And yes, this blog service, provided by a subsidiary of Google named "Blogger" (look for the logo at the top left of this page) is absolutely free of charge. I don't even pay for 'net access for my computer at school.

However, this doesn't prevent me from ranting (whining) about some of Blogger's more annoying quirks.

Edit Post Window
This is what I'm writing this in. It's a little box, with some cute buttons across the top, and reminders about some keyboard shortcuts across the bottom. Why this little box is the size it is remains a mystery to me: why not fill the height and width of the screen? The buttons are mildly irritating as well: for example, the buttons for bold text, italic text, text colour, insert link, and all of the various paragraph format options, are built as buttons that appear to depress when clicked (through shading differences to generate an optical illusion). This is dumb. If I highlight a block of text, then click any of these buttons, that text will change (usually in an acceptable manner), but the button remains "depressed". Installing virtual springs under these buttons would make more sense.
The font selection is also strange, in a similar manner. I could change font to any of a menu of choices, but I prefer Arial. The default is Courier, a singularly unattractive font reminiscent of pre-photocopier mass-printed documents. Besides often simply ignoring my font choice (yes, I want it in Arial!), the software is quite happy to tell me that we're in Arial mode when clearly we are not.
The software is worrysomely eager to revert to defaults, especially in fonts but also in other ways. Excessive zeal when formatting, particularly through the use of backspace, delete and enter, invariably leads to inappropriate paragraph separations and the loss of all paragraph formatting decisions for large blocks of text.

I understand that most or all of these problems relate to the underlying HTML coding structure, but nowhere in Blogger's "help" files (see below) are there instructions to assist with deciphering that structure. Vast patches of angle brackets surrounding psuedo-words of unknown function greet any intrepid voyager who clicks the "Edit Html" button. Yes, this is fairly simple computer code, but its arbitrary nature makes guidelines necessary.

It's probably not worth it for me to discuss the lack of any "back" or "undo" buttons, or how the depressed-button illusion leads to highly-frustrating accidental redo errors, particularly in the use of the blockquotes button. The "remove formatting" button, a picture of (apparently) an eraser, might be useful here, but I've never tried it.

Photo posting
Yes, I just bitched about this recently. Oh well. The problem remains, but in addition, the upload picture window frequently takes a very long time to appear, or just hangs in mid-load for no apparent reason. The Blogger how-to pages exhort us to "go nuts!", which may well happen when I eventually experience a psychotic break on the 1000th photofuckup.

I never use Blogger's spellcheck, mainly because I have never bothered to click on the mysterious "ABC + checkmark" button (what word starts with ABC?). Carlo informs me that certain words, which one might expect to be included in the dictionary, are omitted and auto-changed. For example: "blog".

Edit Posts view
This view, listing all (or just the most recent) posts, is actually reasonably good, except it's impossible to access this view in mid-new-post-creation, except by virtue of opening another window. Not a big deal, really, I just find myself frequently checking my unpublished "Ideas File" post when writing.

For some reason, the "Preview" button is a complete waste of time, since it displays the contents of the Posting window without re-sizing to the actual blog width or changing to the actual blog colour scheme. My blog is light-coloured text on a black background - but this edit view is black text on white background, and just forget about any coloured text differences.

Blogger Help
Completely fucking useless. The FAQs, when they load up at all, are uniformative and stupid, apparently written by and for learning-impared 10-year-olds. Even more excitingly, when one eventually finds a "contact us" link (buried deep as they are), Blogger displays an error message, so I can't even complain about not being able to complain. Except here, of course. Do you think Blogger's army of helpful staff peruse the content of this site?

Rapid typing seems to overwhelm Blogger, this is probably something most users don't experience, given the general lack of typing proficiency demonstrated on the 'net. Some days this is worse, some days it's not so bad. Formatting seems to be a general struggle for almost all posts, and behaves somewhat randomly even for relatively simple tasks.

All of this may eventually lead me to either (or sequentially) start writing in MS word and importing blocks of HTML, or switching to another service. It's hard to beat the price here, though.


Carlo said...

I'm surprised that you're able to post at all without constantly going back the the 'view HTML' button. I always have to.

Blogger seems to allow you to resize photos, but only so long as the photo is not initially larger than the 'post writing window'. Then it screws up. I personally do a lot of my posts in HTML because that way I know they'll look correct.

Strangely, I'm also the webmaster for the dept. grad society website (soon to be up). I've been using FrontPage to work on it and, despite the fact that this is supposed to be commercially available software for the express purpose of making websites, it seems to fuck up in a similar manner to blogger. It'll default text to a particular thickness or font, then not allow you to resize, etc. Frick-ing HotDog Pro let me make great webpages in the mid 90s and it was FREE.

Anonymous said...

If you get a proper domain name for $6.95 US (sorry, this isn't as good as their $1.99 deal a while ago, but it still includes free WHOIS privacy), I'll host your blog for free.

I've heard good things about WordPress, and it has a huge following of loyal, skilled users to help with just about any issue you may encounter.

Anonymous said...

I'm VERY happy with WordPress.

I'm amazed at the number of posts on Blogger-hosted blogs which complain about how buggy Blogger is. I've NEVER read a post on a WordPress-hosted blog which complains about WordPress.

Perhaps you might consider that the small price for Wordpress is a small price indeed for the pleasure of writing about other topics besides how buggy Blogger is.