Being new to blogging, my first decision is going to have to be which blogging software to use????
I’m starting off with TypePad because it appears to be the quickest way to get going (I am now on the trial version). I was considering using Blogger, as it looks easy to customize and hey, it’s FREE, but was disappointed when I found out that they don’t have categories (a MUST for me) AND they don’t support TrackBack (Update – I just published a new article just comparing TypePad to Blogger dated 2/26/05 – check it out)
Originally, I was confused regarding whether TypePad and Movable Type are actually the same thing, with one being a hosted version of the other. Searches on this subject came up with articles (example) talking about how Six Apart, the company that makes both TypePad and Movable Type has some conflicts of interest, and there seems to be concern in the MT community regarding how much more effort Six Apart is going to put into Movable Type now that they have TypePad. As I’ve finally set up a MT blog for my travel guides site using Movable Type 3.0 hosted on my dedicated server, I can now say that while the interfaces are quite similar, Movable Type and TypePad are NOT the same thing. As you can see on my trip report site, I’m having trouble mucking around with the templates. And remember, TypePad charges per month even for only 1 blog. If you have 3 or less blogs, Movable Type is free. But it is VERY difficult to modify the templates that are provided with it (and there aren’t other sets packaged with it to choose from, like with TypePad). You can find free templates for Movable Type on the web, but even those are hard to figure out and customize. There’s gotta be an easier way. Not to mention that the templates that Movable Type installs with do not even create Category Archives — you need to modify the main page’s template yourself to add a list of Categories, and the posts themselves don’t even list their category — now what’s the point of the category if they’re not going to set the product up to use it w/o requiring users to muck around so deep in the templates? Hopefully I’ll be a lot better at Movable Type soon, thanks to Elise Bauer’s Learning Movable Type blog. She has a very informative article comparing Movable Type to TypePad, which sort of sums up what I’ve started to think all along — TypePad is MUCH simpler to use to just get your blog up and running — but if you already have web hosting company, and don’t want to pay an additional monthly fee OR if you want to run a more customized, robust blog, Movable Type has tons of plugins that provide additional functionality and while the learning curve is surely much steeper (now I’ve got to delve into CSS so I can understand how to make the templates, even?), the power it provides users with is almost limitless in comparison to TypePad. On the other hand, it does make TypePad a good choice for my blog on How to Blog since the point was that initially I didn’t know how to do it and I got this up and running pretty quickly, with the caveat that I still can’t get the ‘banner’ portion to display all the text of my blog description, and that portion renders oddly on many browsers, including IE 6. But here I am, w/o knowing how to make a blog, blogging away. I will say that it will NOT be my platform of choice for any future blogs. I’d rather put the effort in and learn a more robust, customizable system, as overwhelming as that seems right now.
Another post I found on TypePad vs Blogger focuses more on the visual aspect of the design interfaces, and clearly chooses TypePad as its preference. Interestingly, that site is powered by Movable Type.
As I’ve mentioned, I’m creating this site in TypePad, but I’m noticing I’m really missing some things that blogger has and TypePad doesn’t.
First of all, Blogger let’s you edit the actual HTML of your post, which is a big plus for advanced users – why is this missing in TypePad?? UPDATE: you can type HTML straight into TypePad‘s edit post form and it will interpret it (although not necessarily the way you expect, as you can see by clicking the above link — interestingly, when I previewed that post the text that says it should be red was – but when I published the blog the text color remained unchanged – same for the line that’s SUPPOSED to be centered) – if you’re going to do this, you should probably go to the advanced section when posting and choose Text Formatting of ‘None’
And now for the Things I Like Better about Blogger’s ‘Create Post’ interface (assuming that one is not going to edit the HTML, so we’re just comparing the UI for creating posts btwn Blogger and TypePad here:
Blogger has far more formatting choices available to you, much like a regular word processor would. What’s so special that Blogger has and TypePad is missing?
– Bulleted Lists (which are indented, something I tried to accomplish by blockquoting this list created with hyphens, but it turns out that TypePad then puts all of the info in the same line and does not process the line breaks)
– Text Alignment (ability to center a portion of text, etc)
– Numbered Lists
– (this one’s a biggie….) ABILITY TO CHANGE FONT SIZE WITHIN A POST
– ability to change text color
– hell, just the ability to change the font being used so that the line above could have been Times New Roman and this line could’ve been Arial. Or whatever – changing fonts mid-post. Am I not the only one who sees these things as critical features?
So Blogger can make much posts that look more like what you want them to look like – and make them more easily. Their standard UI makes customizable formatting within posts a snap! UPDATE: TypePad now has rich text editing when you compose your post, so it is now on par with Blogger’s UI for post creation with the exception of the ability to change fonts w/in a post. For that, you’ll need to edit the HTML – another thing that TypePad finally allows you to do.
PLUS, the edit field in which you enter the text for your post is so much easier to read on Blogger’s site than on TypePad (no longer true – TypePad’s improved edit field is fantastic). Not to mention that if you want to host your blog elsewhere, and still use Blogger’s easy interface, you can! It will FTP your blog to your hosting provider. Or, if you don’t have one, it will host it for you at blogspot for free!
But Blogger doesn’t have a Category field, and for my purposes (actually a blog other than this one – this is my blog about me learning how to blog…), I *NEED* a Category field.
Blogger also does not support TrackBacks, which are one of the best ways of getting links to your site to appear on other sites that you’ve linked to and of letting sites you’ve linked to know you’re talking about them (and vice versa). Without Categories or TrackBacks, I’d only recommend Blogger to the absolute newbie who wants the cheapest (aka free), easiest, fastest way to start blogging without having to know anything about html, css, etc.
Is there any app that gives users the best of both worlds??? At this point, I’ve spent some time fiddling with both TypePad and Blogger, and neither of them gives me all of the features and customizability that I need in a single package.
Incidentally, I read an article somewhere that said that Yahoo was devaluing sites that used Google’s AdSense code in their pages (essentially punishing publishers for any affiliation with yahoo’s biggest competitor, google). As a result, another issue that’s burning in my mind is whether Google gives ranking preferences to sites which are hosted on BlogSpot (which they own) over those hosted on their competitors like TypePad?
Latest update: Does anyone have any comments on b2evolution?
It seems that I’m fairly late to the blogging game, and much of the Movable Type community is outraged that Six Apart has taken what was once FREE software and is now charging for it. Whilst a commercial license is not that expensive if you have 5 authors or less ($199) and allows for unlimited blogs, this was once free and now it’s not.
Mark Pilgrim wrote an entire article about why users should use WordPress instead of Movable Type
And I just came across a post from another person who chose WordPress over MovableType, after starting out with Movable Type. As you can see from the comments on his page, there are many others who feel WordPress, combined with its plugins, is simply the best blogging tool out there.
As you can see from my other posts on WordPress, I can confirm that installation takes 5 minutes(it is almost a joke in how easy it is to set up!) and the customization of categories, with sub-sub-sub categories, strong development community, full trackback support, customizable pings, and plug-ins that allow you to choose between static or dynamic pages may make WordPress my tools of choice, too. We shall see. We shall see…