Since February, 2003 I’ve had a text blog on Blogger. Blogger was a great introduction to the field of blogging. It has some features that I enjoy like a spell checker, automated pinging of e mail addresses, and the ability to easily control font styles and sizes through template code (since I wrote this I now realize that you CAN change font settings via the TP template system, but until you learn the system it’s a little bit more complex than Blogger was). There are more people using Blogger than Typepad, so your blog may be viewed more often if you are a Blogger. Search engines may be more likely to pick up your blog. Typepad still strives to reach a threshold that guarantees wide blogger visibility on the web, but hasn’t quite attained this goal (yet).
If you e mail to blog on Blogger, your post will retain the formatting (bold, italics, hyperlinks, font style and size) in your e mailed post. Typepad somehow removes this information from mobile blogging and strips out font style & size information before posting. A very disappointing omission. Blogger allows you to send updates automatically to a list of interested parties whenever you add a new post. With TP (but not with MT), you must do this manually (a chore). TP does allow you to trackback to other TP blogs, but it will not allow you to send automatic e mail notification to those you wish to know when you’ve updated your blog. Blogger also allows greater flexibility and control by giving you full access to your uploaded images and files at the ftp.blogspot site. Typepad inexplicably denies such access so you have no record of what files you uploaded and thus cannot control them. For anyone who nears the MB limit on Typepad, this could be a significant issue because you cannot delete any of these images.
Despite these Blogger positives, I eventually came to hate the program and the way it worked. Customer service, documentation & FAQs were almost non-existent. Sometimes the server failed, sometimes posting failed, sometimes publishing failed. In fact, I tried to view a Blogger blog yesterday night and the server was down. Not only couldn’t I view the blog, I couldn’t even enter the main Blogger.com site. You could spend 30 minutes writing a post, click Post and Publish and voila…it disappeared forever! Sometimes you’d click Post & Publish and the post would not publish immediately, but it might publish an hour later or a day later. You just never knew what was going to happen.
To get a Blogger blog to display graphically the way one wanted required enormous investments of time and energy to learn html code and all the other technical knowledge that went into running a blog site. I must’ve spent hundreds of hours (hope my wife’s not reading this!) in that time slaving away on solving the most mundane problems (many of which I found out Typepad addressed in an automated way). For example, figuring out the proper settings for rss code involved tons of web research, scores of attempts to configure it properly, and many posts to the BloggerPro Yahoo discussion group. On Typepad, all this is done automatically. The folks at the BloggerPro Yahoo discussion group were really helpful, but they were users too and had limited time to hold your hand & walk you through each and every crisis caused by your lack of knowledge of how to solve various problems as they arose. Blogger’s customer support is very spotty (that’s being charitable–I think they answered maybe four tickets out of the 40 or more that I created). Typepad answered almost every single one of the 50-60 tickets and comments I’ve posted to them.
A few months ago, I started a photoblog on Blogger. This was even more of a disaster than my text blog. Blogger is completely unsuited for photoblogging in oh so many ways. Placement of photo images must be done manually. Memory is limited (50 MB I believe) making image uploads limited. The list goes on and on.
When I read about MT & Typepad in an online discussion group I thought I’d try it out. Now, I find Typepad to be a dream for text blogging. It is feature rich, realtively easy to use and graphically looks great. One of TP’s huge pluses over Blogger is that TP’s creators and staff actually answer questions and reply promptly when you’re having a problem. And if you can’t find an answer from the TP staff, there’s a great subculture of TP users who respond readily and helpfully in the unofficial TP forum.
Another TP revelation is Typelists. You can place just about any supporting information and links in your TP blog sidebar using Typelists and it saves you the code/template editing you must use in Blogger to accomplish the same end. In addition, Typelists will display jpgs and album or bookcover art if you wish to let people know what you’re reading or listening to. This is a cool feature and makes the graphic look of the blog interesting and compelling (if you’re reading or listening to something that interests your viewer!). My only quibble with this feature is that the album/book art feature is tied to Amazon.com and essentially you’re shilling for them. I understand that every viewer who buys from Amazon helps TP financially and I don’t begrudge TP this, but still…I’m now accomplishing the same end by featuring in my Typelist world music online retailers instead of Amazon. And this is another great thing about TP. If you’re not totally happy with the way it works, chances are there’s a way to tweak it to get it to do what you want.
Sure there are improvements I’d like to see in TP: templates moved “up front” so that it’s easier to find templates and to edit them (you have to click through 5 screens before you reach the template editing screen). The ability to change font size for individual posts (other than through code) and the ability to set default font size for all posts based on pixels rather than “small, medium, large.” I’ve also noticed that you can create two Advanced Templates which have different code but have the same name. This is a problem since you can’t distinguish between them. There is also no way to change the Template names to reflect that they are different. This is a problem that TP is aware of and planning to fix. The Edit Posts screen is too small, both the font (what is it, about 8pt??) and the box in which you add text is also too small. Some of us don’t have brilliant eyesight and this smallness detracts. I don’t understand why Movable Type has automated e mail pinging which can be configured by the user (not just blogs.com but anyone’s e mail address), but TP does not. Blogger too has this feature and it is very useful. But all of these “issues” don’t amount to the fundamental problems I had with Blogger.
I have some gripes about the TP photo album feature. It’s not as feature rich and not as graphically attractive as the weblog feature. You can’t upload zip files which makes uploading large numbers of files difficult. I’ve noticed that uploading large files or large numbers of files at once causes a much greater chance of upload failure.
Thumbnail display is poor because one has only two choices: uniform thumbnail display which makes horizontal thumbnails make a person look like they have crushed cheeks; or non uniform display, which looks terribly haphazard. There is no comment or trackback feature in Photo Album as there is in the weblog feature. Pbase has them. I’ve created a Help ticket in which I stongly urged Six Apart’s staff to review Pbase which has the features I list above. Pbase also has a frame within which all the thumbnails sit which allows horizontal and vertical images to look uniform. Mena responded to my ticket by saying essentially that the Photo Album feature is a work in progress that will be upgraded in time. Not an entirely satisfactory answer, but a sincere one nevertheless.
Typepad and Movable Type began as text blog services. I don’t believe they’ve thought out clearly enough their photo album feature and I think it requires more work. On the positive side, 200 MB of storage space is great for uploading images and much more than any site I know of.
Because TP is a secure site, I had great difficulty at first adding jpgs from a non secure site to my TP blog (I’m using the IE browser). I constantly saw a warning message asking me whether I wish to display non secure data on my TP screen. The fix TP provided (suggesting that you change your IE security settings to allow the display of mixed content) did not work…until I noticed that IE had, for some reason, reverted back to its default security settings after I had changed them to enable the display of mixed content. I understand from IE experts that it often does such naughty nasty things (shame on you IE). Now, IE has accepted the correct settings and I’ve fixed this problem.
Another feature I’d like to see TP adopt is a TP blog directory of all TP blogs and a search capability enabling anyone to search TP blogs based on whatever search parameters you choose (i.e. author name, blog name, post title, keyword, etc.). I don’t think TP can become a strong and interconnected community until TPers and those interested in TP blogs can identify and locate TP blogs and search for specific blogs that interest them. TP now has a search feature through which the blog owner can search through her/his posts based on keywords. What I’d like to see is another search feature that allows the blogger to search through the technical/functional data on the site so that if you can’t remember what a bookmarlet, say, is then you can search the site for it. This is an important feature for TPers who haven’t yet mastered the TP technical features (which would include many of us).
Typepad’s Pro service price of $12 per month is high especially compared to the $50 per year I pay on Blogger. But there’s essentially no comparison between the two services and Typepad wins hands down. That’s why I’ve gone with Typepad.