18 Ways for Blogger to Beef Up3/08/2006 02:58:00 PM
After Google acquired Blogger from Pyra Labs in February 2003, Blogger was re-released with new features and a wider user base. Pyra's Blogger had been simple yet buggy while Google's new Blogger was clean and stable--but Blogger was still elementary in comparison to more powerful tools. In the years since the "Great Blogger Relaunch" of 2004, Google has made few improvements: RSS feed support, moblogging, a Blogger version of trackbacks, a Blogspot navigation bar (like Bloghop's original blog browsing version), AdSense integration, and various Blogger extensions for Firefox. Despite these improvements, Blogger remains roughly the same simple blog press and splog hoster as before its Google acquisition. Here's what Google can do to beef up Blogger and reintroduce it to the sophisticated set:
- Categories and Tagging: The dearth of tagging and categories has become to Google's Blogger what the lack of commenting was to Pyra's Blogger--a monument to antiquity! Tagging as an organizational "folksonomy" has become the accepted way to group online information in the age of "Web 2.0." There are many Blogger categories workarounds out there, but it's time Google built an elegant categories system into Blogger itself. (Subcategories would be brilliant as well but mayhaps we're asking too much.) Given Google's penchant for the world "label," (see Gmail and Search History), we might see this organization system under that monicker.
- Tag-level Feeds: The addition of a tagging system would allow Blogger to support feeds gleaned from single tags. Rather than subscribing to a Blogger user's entire site feed, users could subscribe to feeds for just "News" or any other single tag name. This follows the popular practice of many linkfiltering sites and online newspapers where you can subscribe to a single author's articles, for instance.
- Post Scheduling: Blogger Pro had this feature (being able to set posts to publish to the past or future) but for the life of me I don't know where it went. Bloggers want chronological control of their content.
- Blogger Analytics: We've got Google Analytics, but I am anticipating that Google's recently acquired MeasureMap will be integrated into Blogger. Imagine that you could log into the Blogger dashboard and click a tab that says "Stats" or something similar and see uniques, pageviews, traffic graphs, referring URLs, referring search queries, and geolocations organized by blog title and viewable for a title's entire existence (wthout signing up for SiteMeter/Statcounter). This is easy and likely.
- Plug-in Support: Opening up Blogger's backend to its developer fans would bring an impressive collection of plug-ins, much like the mods that have made WordPress and MT uber-customizable.
- Blogsearch Zeitgeist: Google's Blogsearch has proven itself useful and popular. But it still has to compete with Technorati, Icerocket, and other blog search tools and rankings. Googlist pines for a sort of "Zeitgeist" (like the Google Search Zeitgeist), for the blog world. Most read blogs, most linked blogs, most popular blog topics, most popular blogsearch queries, days of the week with the highest volume of posts, etc. The eventual purpose is to map each blog into its relevant position in the context of an online conversation. Technorati has attempted to do this with blogger "authority," and I think Google's Blogsearch could eventually improve upon this by providing further stats upon which to base these authority/knowledgeability/popularity judgments. The enhancement would continue to encourage traffic between blogs and the building of a social community amongst Blogger's (and other blog tools') users.
- Blogger + Google Pages: The ability to create both dynamic blog pages and static site pages with matching CSS layouts would please many an online content provider. This also happens to be an area where many other blogging tools fall short, making it prime territory for Blogger to move in for the kill.
- Blogger + Gmail: This is most probably in the works, the only question is in what way specifically? My idea for the integration of Blogger and Gmail is to add more than just "post via email" capability. It's to allow pages created in either tool to be ported into the workspace of the other. For example, say you're having an email conversation and need to link to a blog or create a paragraph of text for possible publication. Inserting an editable Blogger page into the Gmail conversation thread might be a simple and powerful solution. Importing mail into a blog would be another useful feature.
- Blogger + Google Groups: If you've used Basecamp or Writeboard from 37 Signals, you can appreciate documentation of groupwork. Currently, single blogs can have multiple authors (see author groups for official Google blogs), but there are no real controls for attributing ownership to a group or passing unpublished suggestions to group members about blog posts. Definitely something for Google to look into.
- Blogger + Google Calendar: The world awaits Google Calendar, and the Googlist awaits Blogger integration with the mysterious scheduling app. One way? A referring link to a Blogger post could appear on each date of the Calendar that a post was made.
- Photo Archives: Blogger currently has an image uploading/inclusion form, but it does not integrate that with its blog archives. For photobloggers, Blogger could call these image URLs, render thumbnails, and then display the thumbnails in a simple array for the post archives. Blog authors could then choose between text lists or image arrays for their archive pages, depending on blog content. (See Wists for an excellent example of visual blogging and archiving.)
- Multiple File Type Uploading: MT allows users to upload various types of files and create usable URLs to these files for integration with posts. Want to upload a Power Point presentation or screencast? You can't do it with Blogger, which supports only image uploading via its Hello/Picasa arrangement. There is the argument for "those files take up too much space," but if Google is planning to store all of the world's information (see GDrive rumors), then let's hope we're going to see some GDrive integration with Blogger.
- Feed rendering: The ability to burn/render recent headlines from other Blogger blogs into the sidebar or a single post would encourage Blogger's social aspect and the discovery of new content within the blogosphere. This could easily be done via a copy/paste code snippet in Blogger and would be something like a better Rojo.
- Enhanced/Comprehensive "Trackbacks": Blogger's version of MT's trackbacks are "Links to this post." There are 2 issues here: 1) "Links to this post" never comprises all of the linking blogs that Google searches and the Blogger Comments Firefox extension find for site links. 2) "Links to this post" does not include contextual snippets like MT trackbacks do (the Web Comments extension does however). The solution here is just boosting the "Links to this post" feature with functionality of the Web Comments extension, rendering the information on the post page, and making the feature post-specific (rather than blog site-specific).
- Favicon Editing: It currently takes a bit of icon-making and HTML-wrangling (that is not always successful) to change a hosted Blogger blog's favicon. Since many feedreaders use site-specific favicons to distinguish titles in users' feed lists, it would benefit Blogger authors to be able to customize blog favicons via a simple image uploader. (Of course, this feature is not in Blogger's interest as it detracts from the Blogger brand, but the suggestion is there.)
- Elimination of Blogger Comments Interface: The bulky navy and brown page that Blogger presents for comment writing distracts from blog authors' discussions. Comment fields should be available within the post page to keep the reader's experience contiguous.
- Aggressive Spam Control: That means both splogs and spam comments. Blogger currently offers captchas for comments, but it has a real problem on its hands when a large minority of its blogs are spam infestations. Splogs denigrate Blogger's validity in the blogging world, and they should be controlled through user sign-ups and more diligent use of the "flag this blog" option.
- Alternate Hosted Domains: Currently, Blogger lets you FTP your blog to your own server or use its own hosted service--BlogSpot. As blogs grow in prominence professionally (think resumes, small biz blogs) and are referenced more often in traditional media (think WSJ, The Economist) it would be less awkward to refer higher-ups to URL's that do not contain the word "spot." Just a thought.
As even recreational blogging grows more sophisticated, Google's Blogger must keep up by making Blogger more robust. The features above are by no means the divine answer to Blogger's woes, but many are necessary steps to maintaining Blogger's user base, and therefore its relevancy to Google, Inc. Google's revenues depend on ads, ads depend on rich content, rich content depends on intelligent/adept writers, and those strong writers depend on a powerful, versatile blogging platform. Better Blogger = better content = more ad revenue. Yes, it all goes back to green.
[Before tackling many of these improvements, Google must decide whether or not to merge Google accounts profiles with Blogger user profiles. When Yahoo acquired Flickr, it inconveniently began to require all new users to register with Yahoo in order to use Flickr (rather than just registering on Flickr itself). This caused a stir among original Flickr users but the purpose was to provide universal login to all of Yahoo's properties. Google will face this same accounts decision when deciding how to integrate Blogger with its other apps, if it does decide to.]