Friday, January 05, 2007

New Blogger? Not quite yet, but I’m so tempted…

Warning: This post probably gets a bit too technical, with the ins and outs of blogging with Blogger. If you don’t blog with Blogger, some of this stuff might be greek to you, and even if you do, you probably won’t care.
Today I was toying with the idea, again, of upgrading my Blogger account to use the new Blogger service. There really are some nice features I might be able to make use of, when I do make the switch, but the problem is that they won’t do me any good until I upgrade my templates, too.

But the template I use for the serna Bible Blog is from Blogger Templates—the one called Newsline—and I haven’t found an updated version for the new way of doing things within Blogger. (Maybe it’s time to change the template anyway? Although I like the template overall, I’m not happy with the fact that the text is so small.) And the template I use here is really customized, so I’d have to do that all over again, to get the new template working properly.

But there’s one particular feature that I’m sure will be somewhat handy: They have something called Page Elements, that you can use to create custom sections at the side, top, or bottom of the blog, without having to edit the template. (Common examples would be a list of links, or that kind of thing.) Almost every blog has a list of links, or a “blog roll”, or something similar.)

In other words, they’re finally separating the presentation from the content—making the layout of the blog (the Page Elements) separate from the look and feel (the template). This is a big plus, because it means you can change your blog’s template, and still keep these things. (For my blogs, I’ve had to put everything right into the template, so if I ever switched templates, I’d lose all of the content—except for the actual posts, of course. But I’d have to re-do anything I’ve got along the sides or bottom of the blog.)

In the pop-up above I mentioned thing things on this blog that would become Page Elements, but they’re fairly static. One that would be more useful is in the serna Bible Blog, where I’ve got a section called “Finished Books”: any time I completely finish blogging through a book of the Bible, I create a page with a link to every chapter of that book, and post it, like I did for Genesis. I then have to edit the blog’s template, to add a link to that page to the Finished Books section, so that the list of finished books will always be there for the reader. But with a Page Element, I could simply edit the element, and create a new link there. I would then be more free to change my template, if I ever wanted to.

Aside from all of this, though, there is one feature that will be immediately useful, even if I don’t upgrade the templates: As Blogger works now, when I post an entry, it’s creating static HTML pages, and saving them somewhere. This makes posting a bit of a laborious process, but it is also one of the reasons—I think—for Blogger’s instability. With the new version, the post will be saved to a database, instead. Any time someone goes to my blog, instead of getting a static HTML page, Blogger will dynamically generate the page, based on the contents of the post, my template, my Page Elements, etc. This will make things more quick for posting, and it should make it more stable, too, even for people reading the blog.

(This is also, by the way, how most blogging services already work; it’s why they’re more stable, but also why they have some of the same features that Blogger is just now introducing. Doing things dynamically this way makes some of these features possible.)

All my worries aside, I have been playing with the new version a bit—not for my “real” blogs, but with some fake ones—and I do generally like it. So I’m sure I’ll talk myself into switching soon. I just need to remember not to do it until I have some free time to update the templates, and re-customize all of the customizations I’ve done!