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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Blogger Wishlist

Writing a blog is not easy. Doing a food blog is doubly hard, because not only do you have to have good prose, you also have to have good pictures to go along with it. I mean, how can you share about cooking and eating food if no one can see what you're talking about? But at least taking pictures of food and then writing about it is fun.

You see, there's a dark side to blogging: template tweaking. The "Dirty Job", if you will, to making civilized blogging possible. I use Blogger as the back-end engine for the House of Annie blog. It's nice and customizable, but there are lots of things that I have to really work at in order to get the blog looking the way I want it. If only Blogger had them already by default!

It would be nice to not have to work so hard on tweaking Blogger. That way I could spend more time on quality content (and quality sleep!). So here is my wishlist of things Blogger should implement to make my life easier.

Three-Column Templates

The original House of Annie blog template was a 2-column one. That was all right to start with. But as I started to add more widgets to the single sidebar, the page kept getting longer and longer. I wanted to add a second sidebar to shorten the page so you wouldn't have to scroll so much to see all the different widgets and links. You don't know how many hours of sleep I lost trying to understand, then mess with the template and change it from 2-column to 3-column.

I finally got it to pretty much where I wanted it. But now I'm thinking about tweaking the design again. Yet I'm hesitant to do that because it took me so long to get things working the last time. If Blogger had 3-column templates, and a good selection of them at that, I wouldn't be so chicken to dive back in to the nuts and bolts of template tweaking.

Unlimited, Easy Photo Uploading

I use Picasa to manage and edit my photo collection. It's free, simple to use yet powerful enough, and best of all, it has a nifty "Blog This!" button that allows me to select photos, create a blog entry, and upload them to Blogger. The problem is, Picasa only allows four photos per blog entry at a time. Four photos might be enough for most of my posts, but sometimes you need more. Look at FotoCuisine's blog, for example. I don't think they could get away with only four pictures per post!

There used to be a way to get more than four pictures per blog post uploaded at the same time. It was called "BloggerBot", a bot on the old Hello photo chat network that you could access through Picasa. I blogged about it back in 2006. Unfortunately, Hello is now defunct. BloggerBot has died. And the only way to have more than four pics in a single blog post is to use the klunky Blogger web interface. What's worse, when you upload a picture, it places the pic at the top of the blog instead of where your cursor was. You have to manually move it down! What a pain in the arse!

So my wish is two-fold. For Picasa to be able to upload unlimited photos per blog post. And for Blogger to fix its dumb image uploading interface so that the picture gets put where the cursor was instead of at the top of the page.

Conditional Expandable Post Summaries

I'm proud to say, I got it working, and without too much headache. I blogged about it here and here. But wouldn't it be nice to not have to tweak the template? Wouldn't it be nice to already have that capability built in?

I think so.

Conditional Expandable Post Summaries in Feeds

Going along with that, I'd like to see the ability to specify exactly how much you want to display in an RSS feed. An RSS feed is a way in which readers can subscribe to stay up to date with a blog via email or in a special reader application. A subscriber can automatically see new posts without having to constantly check the blog's site every day to see whether it has been updated. It's a very powerful tool. If you want to get new posts of House of Annie by email, just click the Subscribe link here or at the top of the page.

Currently, Blogger only gives me three feed options: None, Short, or Full. If I choose None, there will be no RSS feed for people to subscribe to. If I choose Short, Blogger will only display the first 255 characters - no pictures - in the feed. The subscriber will have to click on a link to view the rest in their web browser. If I choose Full, then the full post will be seen in the subscriber's RSS reader.

The problem is, there are unscrupulous people out there who take Full RSS posts and apply them to their own websites in order to gain readers and ultimately sell ads. These "scrapers" are stealing other people's content for their own personal gain. It's a widespread issue among the blogging community, but not much has been done to stop it.

Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen is one flogger who had her content stolen by a scraper. So she has decided to switch her RSS feed from Full to Short. But the problem is, a Short feed only gives 255 characters - not quite enough to build a good summary - and NO pictures. It makes a feed a lot less interesting. I'd wager there would be less people clicking through to view the rest of an entry if they only got the first 255 characters of a post.

So I'd like to see Conditional Expandable Posts Summaries as an option in RSS feeds. The ability to select exactly what in a post you'd like to display in a feed before having to click "Continue Reading:..." Simply Recipes' RSS feed can do it. That is probably because her blog is powered by Movable Type instead of Blogger. But I'm sure the geniuses at Google can figure out how to add this functionality to Blogger.

So, this is my Blogger wishlist. If you are on Blogger and have some wishes of your own, blog about it and then tell BloggerBuster. They're collecting ideas for new Blogger features. You might even win a prize!



Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Well, if Blogger had half of these features, I wouldn't have switched to Typepad (though I'm very glad I did)!

tigerfish said...

It's hard to admit. I'm one of those wishing for these features to happen, yet too resistant to make any change the meantime. You did a great job in tweaking. I don't think I can ever get the expanded post summary going.

Amanda Kennedy said...

Thank you for your entry to the Blogger Wishlist Competition! I've added your entry to the list of entrants for Friday's draw.

Best wishes and thank you,


Nate @ House of Annie said...

Yay! I hope I win ;-)