Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars Part 3: The Others

This is the final post in this series. In Part One I created blogs in each of the various blog engines. Part Two then reviewed the 3 major blog engines, Google Blogger, WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

I’ve decided to make my primary blog my own hosted WordPress from WordPress.org on my own domain Clear.Bluedei.com. You will notice however, that it is not as full-featured yet and my WordPress.com blog Allthingsweb20.wordpress.com or my Google Blogger blog, alongthepathto20.blogspot.com. That is because when you host your own WordPress blog, you have to set up everything yourself, it comes very vanilla. This allows you add all kinds of plugins and really customize it, but it takes time and is not as quick to get up and running with all the bells and whistles. Blogger really shines at being quick to get up and running with lots of add-ons that are easy to setup. Even WordPress.com, while limited in what it can do compared to the others, will let you create a very nice and full-featured blog quickly. But for me, the ability to host and completely control my own blog and to customize it however I want, makes it worth the extra time it takes to get it looking as good and as full-featured as the others.

(NOTE: We went with Inmotion Hosting for our web host and you can read my post about choosing this host service here. In retrospect, I would have chosen Blue Host instead. I did not find them until too late. I may still switch although it will cost me and will be a hassle to lose everything. But twice so far I have lost some or all of a post I was was trying to create because I could not temporarily connect to my site (or to inmotionhosting.com either). Just now this happened again. It doesn’t go down for long, say 5-10 minutes. But I also haven’t done a blog post for at least a week and it happened just as I was trying to write this post so I really don’t know the extent of the problem. But I have concerns with its reliability when I am trying to write a post and I work hard enough to write my posts, I don’t need to be afraid of losing them and/or having to wait and worry about it until my site comes back.)

In this post, I will review the other, less well-known blog engines. While I recommend using either Google Blogger or WordPress, I think it is useful to have an idea about each of these others. You can see an example of each in Part One of this series.

One of the other players in the blog engine wars is Six Apart. They have a number of different blog engines available: Vox, LiveJournal, TypePad and MovableType. These are listed in order from their lowest to highest end blogs. I looked only at the 2 free blogs which were Vox and LiveJournal.

Both TypePad and MovableType have monthly charges and although they say they have a 14 day free trial you have to actually choose a plan as if you were signing up for it and give your credit card information and then cancel it within the 14 days. I wasn’t about to do that so I will just give you an idea of what they have and you can go to the sixapart site if you want to know more. Personally, I would never pay the prices they are asking for a blog engine with so many good, free ones available. As an example, Typepad, which they call The choice for professional bloggers, costs anywhere between $.95 and $89.95 per month (4.95, 8.95, 14.95, 29.95, 89.95 / mo with 15% off annual subscription). The lowest cost blog has no domain mapping, full html , custom css. This is less than you would get with Google Blogger for free. I did not even look at MovableType which they call the The best choice for business blogging.

So that left me with Vox (Personal blogging taken to the next level) and LiveJournal (A diverse community of independent bloggers). Here are my impressions of these. Again, you can see my working blogs by following the links in my Part One post.

Vox:

  • can import posts from other blogs (but only 1 month it appears)
  • looks childish
  • has neighborhoods and groups
  • can easily add video and book lists
  • can add widgets
  • can add friends
  • Seems more like a mix of MySpace and a blog

LiveJournal:

  • has ads for plus free version
  • can add friends
  • no import of posts?
  • wants to use photobucket for pics
  • slow processing
  • can set ‘mood’ of post
  • very MySpace-ish
  • WAY too many advertisements and you can’t control them

My view of SixApart blog engines are that they are just trying to make money from them and I would not be interested in their blogs, although I do know a few people who use LiveJournal and TypePad.

InstantSpot is a blog engine that almost didn’t make it into my testing because I had not heard of it and only found out about it right at the end. But I was impressed enough by it that I wanted to include it. Here is my instant spot blog. I didn’t do much to it but from looking around at other instant spot blogs, they look to be highly customizable, almost to the point of looking like a CMS (content management system). And it clearly seems to be geared toward tracking, marketing and promoting your site.

Instant Spot:

  • can edit .css
  • allows google adsense (just click in ad manager)
  • tracking script manager works with trackers like g analy, feedburner, etc
  • host header mgmt allows redirecting to a host domain name
  • definitely looks geared towards tracking, marketing and promoting
  • has large set of social networking icons (like digg, etc) at bottom of each post (many of which I have never heard)
  • tag line is “Get spotted now!
  • seems to be highly customizable judging by looking at other instant spot blogs. Not sure how though.
  • has ads on page

Instant Spot was the only other blog engine that looked intriguing to me. I could see it being useful for people who are selling or promoting something and who want a very nice looking site (not sure of the effort involved though) and who want to be able to market, track and promote their site. If you had a club or small business, this seems like a good site. We teach Aikido and I could see easily setting up a website for our Aikido club on this. Here is an instant spot site that is for a fitness class that is not fancy and was probably easy to set up, but is a decent site for their classes. (I don’t know or endorse these people, just thought it was a good example of a not-too-fancy, easy to set up, useful site). And here is a really nice looking blog. Instant Spot seems to have some definite possibilities.

Well, that is it for my review of blog engines. Google Blogger for balance between being easy and having functionality, WordPress.org (self-hosted wordpress) for total control and flexibility and Instant Spot for an easy (I think) website for a club, class, non-profit or small business.

~Susan Mellott

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Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars Part 2: The Results

So as you know from my first post on this “Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars Part 1: The Test“, I am reviewing and evaluating several different blog engines, with an emphasis on Google Blogger and WordPress (.com and .org). You can see my previous post to see the different blogs in action. And I’m sure this is going to be a large post, just reviewing the Blogger and WordPress blogs, so I will have a “Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars: The Other Options” post following this one where I’ll talk about the other blogs I looked at. But for all intents and purposes, it came down to Blogger and WordPress (2 ways).

I wanted to decide which type of blog would work best for my needs and which one I would recommend to others. It turned out to not be quite that simple. Each of the 3 main blog engines (Blogger, wordpress.com hosted WordPress and self-hosted WordPress) had some serious advantages and some serious drawbacks. So as it turns out, rather than recommending one above all others, I will give an overview of each, what is good and bad about them and why and for whom I would recommend each particular one.

And to make a long story short, I recommend Blogger for people who want someone else to host their blog, don’t want to pay for a web hosting service and/or who want a quick and easy blog that takes hardly any maintenance or technical know-how.

For people who want the all-around best solution, who have their own web host and like to get ‘techie’ (and know how to do installs, use unix and ftp, etc), it’s definitely WordPress from wordpress.org. This is the most flexible, you have the most control over it and your data and it will do almost anything you want if you find the right plug-ins or code. But you have to have the know-how and desire to use it and it is only as good as you make it. And you have to have somewhere to install it like a web hosting service.

Google Blogger: I personally give Google Blogger the edge over WordPress.com hosted WordPress for anyone who doesn’t have their own web host and/or wants an easy and quick blog. I think it is good for:

  1. Anyone who doesn’t have a lot of programming, moving files, installs, bits and bolts of how things work experience
  2. Anyone who wants an easy setup with the most features for a blog hosted by the blog provider and the most options for adding plugins and html code easily.
  3. Anyone who wants to have their own domain name, but use a blog hosted by the blog provider. In other words, who wants to buy a domain name like say, http://www.allaboutme.com (costs about $10/yr) but doesn’t want to have their own web hosting service where they can put and maintain their own data and blogs (costs about $10/month). Redirecting is free in Blogger, it costs $10? (10 credits) in WordPress.com
  4. You might want to have commercial usage on your blog. WordPress.com’s term of service prohibits ‘commercial usage’ (although its unclear to mean exactly what they mean). It appears OK on a Google Blog (see this post from the Blogger Help group).

Google Blogger has the most features, the most choices and the ability to add html code easily including that using javascript. That means that when you find something you like (like say Odiogo, which is the text-to-speech widget you see at the top of my posts on my google and personally hosted wordpress blog), you can add it to your blog posts very easily. You cannot add Odiogo to a WordPress.com hosted blog because it doesn’t allow javascript. I’ve run into several widgets that I wanted to add to my blogs, but could not easily do it in WordPress.com. You can easily redirect it to your own domain name so when they type either your original blog name or your domain name, both will go to your blogger blog. It is an easy, attractive and flexible blog engine. It doesn’t have as nice a built-in statistics page as wordpress, but you can use Google Analytics (which is nice, but isn’t real time) or any other stats tools like ActiveMeter or Sitemeter or ShinyStat (or I’m sure there are others) to keep track of it.

The one thing that seems to keep a lot of people from recommending Google Blogger is that it does not allow you to back up your posts. Therefore, if anything happened to Blogger, you could lose your data. Also, you can’t move the data to another google blog if you wanted to. And looking at the hacks to backup your data, there really isn’t a good way to do it. Except…

What you can do is to create a WordPress.com blog and import your blogger data into your wordpress blog. It is very easy in WordPress.com to import posts and comments from other blog engines, basically just point and click. Then you can export the data from your wordpress blog into a file of your own. You can’t reload that file back into Google Blogger, but you have all your data and can recreate it in wordpress easily. Which is better than losing it all. And if you use a redirect to your own domain name in Blogger, if something happened, you could change the redirect to point to your WordPress blog (for $10/credits per year, I believe). It’s a work-around, but I tried it and it works just fine.

There is some concern about losing your rank if you move (which I don’t totally understand about rank and all yet) but here is a post that explains things you can do to help with that, called “Moving from Blogger to WordPress without Losing Traffic and Page Rank” (Actually, when I qit blogging on all my blogs and switch to one (clear.bluedei.com), I may have to figure out what all this means.) Also, as I understand, Blogger (as would be expected) integrates very well with Google Adsense, which I gather is a way to make money from your website, with advertising, I guess.

Also, if you start with Blogger, you can choose later to go to WordPress. You can’t go the other way because Blogger doesn’t have an import or export function. For the life of me, I don’t know why.

WordPress on wordpress.com: This is the most middle-of-the-road bet. It doesn’t really do anything as well as any of the others (except for import/export) but it doesn’t have anything really wrong with it either. Many people would recommend it over Blogger. But it seems that it is mostly because Blogger doesn’t provide a way to back it up and my work-around takes care of that, in my opinion. One thing that I really like about wordpress.com is that they provide an easy to use stats page that tells you how many page views you’ve had each day, which pages were viewed, how people got to your site and what they clicked while there. The one thing it doesn’t tell you is who actually viewed your site. You have to use another stats package like sitemeter or ActiveStats to see that. And Google Analytics will not give you as much information using wordpress.com as it would if you were using Blogger because it requires some code to be added that you cannot add to WordPress.com blogs.

This appeals to all the people that Blogger and would be a better choice if:

  1. You really want to be able to export your data and import it back into WordPress easily, or want to be able to import posts/comments from other blog engines.
  2. You plan to go to a WordPress blog that you host yourself and you just want to get started now with WordPress.com and then import your posts and comments into your own hosted WordPress blog.
  3. AND you don’t plan to have to have commercial usage on your blog. wordpress.com’s term of service prohibits ‘commercial usage’ and you are supposed to use wordpress.org (your own hosted site) if you do…
  4. UNLESS you are a big business and want wordpress to host your blog using their VIP Hosting Service that costs $600 to setup and $300/month hosting fee. If you have that kind of money, you can decide if that is worth it. Briefly looking at it, I would think not. For that kind of money, you have many, many options. But if you have that kind of money for a blog, I doubt that you are reading my post 🙂

As I said before, WordPress.com has some drawbacks. It is not as flexible as Blogger. There are things you want to add that you can’t (but you can in Blogger). You can’t use javascript and you cannot have any commercial usage or you run the risk of being shut down. You also have to pay to redirect your blog to your own domain name (this is something you very well may want to do at some point) and for many other things too, like more upload storage space or the ability to customize your css or unlimited users.

Self-hosted WordPress from wordpress.org: This is, in my opinion, the very best option for:

  1. anyone who is ‘techie’ (understands files, uploading, ftp, unix, etc) and
  2. who likes dealing with the bits and bolts, likes installing, maintaining and customizing their own blog and templates and all and
  3. who has a host server to put their install on.
  4. who wants to be able to do pretty much anything they want to their blog, wants to add all sorts of plug-ins and who wants to really ‘pimp their ride’.

Self-host WordPress offers the most options and is the most flexible of any of the choices. Really, it is about the only option I’ve found for being able to have total control of your own blog, outside a CMS (content management system) like Drupal, which is extremely more powerful than just a blog engine and requires a lot more knowledge and programming know-how.

Some drawbacks of it are that you have to have a host to install it on (either your own, or from a web service that costs about $10/month) and you have to install and maintain and customize it yourself so you have to have some experience with these things and you have to want to do it or it will just be a hassle and frustrating. And your blog will only be as good and functional as you make it. It comes as basically vanilla and you have to add everything to it.
You also have to be sure your host is stable and has good backups in case something happens. The other blog engines are as stable and well-backed up as google.com and wordpress.com can make them so it doesn’t vary so much. But your own host system can be very good or very bad, depending on who you are going with.

Also, I tried exporting from my wordpress.org blog to import into my wordpress.com blog (as if I had a problem with my web host and had to move) and it didn’t move my extra pages (like about me and books I am reading). Nor of course, any of my plug-ins or customization. So it is important to save your plug-ins and files. Since they are just files on a server, you can back-up any or all of it any time you want.

Here is an article that talks about the differences between Google Blogger and self-hosted WordPress from wordpress.org that has some good information. It is part one, but for the life of me, I can’t find part two. It still has good info.

So to me, it comes down to Google Blogger for flexibility and ease of use vs. self-hosted wordpress for control and customization. And that is a choice that depends on what you are looking for and how much you want to do.

I will post my reviews of the other, less well-known blog engines in my next post on this subject.

-Susan Mellott

Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars: Part 1 – The Test

I have recently gotten into blogging and in the process, wanted to determine which blog engine I felt was best. So I created a working blog in the following engines:

You can go take a look at each of these to see how they look.

I have been actively customizing, testing and using the Google blogger blog: Alongthepathto20 and the WordPress.com blog: allthingsweb20 and the wordpress.org blog: clear.bluedei.com.

These 3 were my primary test cases and I have been copying any post I write to each of them. I have also been trying out their different features and seeing what they can and can’t do. So they are all highly customized.

The others I created for testing some particular feature (like redirecting a google blog to a domain name or testing the import feature of wordpress.com) or for trying some of the other, less popular blogs just to compare and see if they had something worth looking at. The vox and livejournal blogs I did very little customizing to. I mostly just set a template and posted a post and poked around.

I also found this one called InstantSpot after my testing. I know nothing about it but may set up a blog on it to test it. Then I’ll update this list with my Instant Spot blog.

I did not test ExpressionEngine, (someone commented they use this but I didn’t look at it, might be a Content Management System) TextPattern,(actually Content Management System) Joomla, (also Content Management System) Windows Live Spaces, or B2Evolution. Nor did I test Drupal, which is considerably more than a blog and worth a whole evaluation of its own (with the other similar tools, like Joomla) Those are actually Content Management Systems so are outside the scope of this test.

So now you have what I used for my testing. Go look at each of these to get a feel for what each is basically like. And stay tuned for “Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars: Part 2 – The Results”

~Susan Mellott

Web 2.0 – Odiogo on WordPress (self-hosted)

Late last week, I had found out about Odiogo which changes your blog text to speech (see my post on 8/11/2007) and had tried adding it to my blogs. At the time, I had a Google Blogger blog and a WordPress blog hosted on WordPress.com.

It worked just fine adding it to my Google Blogger blog, but it turns out there is no way to add it to a WordPress.com hosted blog. This was a big black mark against WordPress.com blogs in my opinion.

Since then, we have set up our own domain and I created a subdomain of my own (clear.bluedei.com) and set up my own WordPress blog on there and supposedly, it was possible to use Odiogo on a self-hosted WordPress blog so I created my feed and submitted my request to Odiogo and waited impatiently for my confirmation email to arrive from them.

It came this afternoon, so I then tried setting up Odiogo on my new blog. It was amazingly easy! I just downloaded the plugin from the link in the confirmation email, ftp’ed it to my wp-content/plugins subdirectory on my subdomain and set it up on my blog. Now I have an odiogo feed button on my sidebar so people can subscribe to my audio feed and each time I create a post, the odiogo ‘listen now’ button is automatically added to my post.

Here are the actual instructions that were very clear and easy to follow.

1. Download the plugin

2. Upload directory odiogo_listen_button to your /wp-content/plugins/ directory via FTP

3. Login to your WordPress admin account and activate the Odiogo Listen Button plugin through the Plugins menu

4. Click Menu Options > Odiogo Listen Button

5. Enter your Odiogo Feed ID and click Save
Your Odiogo Feed ID is xxxxx.

6. Click menu Presentation > Widgets (or Sidebar Widgets depending on your WP version)

7. Drag and drop Odiogo Subscribe Button from Available Widgets to Sidebar

8. Click Save Changes

Here is a link to the Odiogo FAQ page. I noticed that people have been trying to find out why their feeds were being cut off before they were done.  You can find the answer on this FAQ page by looking under “How do I activate RSS full text option on…” and they have one for Typepad, WordPress and Blogger.

It is really a neat and useful tool and I’m very glad I can add it to my new blog.

~Susan Mellott

Web 2.0 – Convert your post texts to speech with Odiogo!

I was looking at a Blog called Just Giblets and I noticed a widget at the top of each of their posts that said “listen now”. So I clicked on it and it read the entire post by converting the text to speech! I tried other posts and it did the same for every post. And as I was going down their posts, I found one called “Do you notice anything different?” that explained more about Odiogo.

So I went to the Odiogo website and started looking at how I could add it my own posts. As it turned out, I ran into yet another limitation of WordPress (hosted on wordpress.com). It does not allow you to use this feature since it restricts some of the things Odiogo needs to use. So I re-signed up with Odiogo for my Google Blogger blog instead. After I got the confirmation email (it takes about a day), I followed the instructions, which required me to do nothing more than click a couple of links and buttons and voila! Each of my blogger posts had a “listen now” button. I didn’t even have to add it to each post, it is automatically added for me. Here is how it looked when I clicked on the listen now button. It is in the process of reading the post.
odiogo posts

As you can see, there are other formats you can also listen and download the post as. Odiogo also creates an audio feed stream that you can access from the blog using this button:

odigo feed

This takes you to this page where you can sign up for the audio feed of the posts using various feed readers, or can just listen to them from the page.

We are in the process of converting over to our own hosted site and I will transfer my WordPress blog there, which should allow me to add this to that blog (although not as easily as you can add it to a Blogger blog).

They also market it as a way to create podcasts easily by just writing your text and then converting it to audio. That is interesting but I’m not sure how much easier it is than just reading and recording it and that way you also have a human voice rather than a digital voice. But I didn’t really look into that much from their site and I’m sure they have a lot of other good uses for it. You can go here to learn more about their mainstream media, or here to learn more about adding it to blogs.

It is free to add to your blog and for some people, may generate revenue. I’m not sure what they are referring to by “ad income”, I have not really noticed any ads except for saying it is from odiogo. But in any case, it is free. This is what the site says “Not only is Odiogo free, it may be able to generate advertising revenues. Once your listenership reaches a significant level, you may qualify for a share of ad income! More technical details about the solution can be found here and in our FAQ. So what are you waiting for? Give your blog voice, and legs, now! ”

Since I could not add this to WordPress, you can see this in action at my Google Blogger Blog “Along the Path to 2.0“. On the some the earliest posts, when you click the listen now button, it says “Sorry, this article is not available yet.”, but most all of them are available now.

Here is a link to the Odiogo FAQ page. I noticed that people have been trying to find out why their feeds were being cut off before they were done.  You can find the answer on this FAQ page by looking under “How do I activate RSS full text option on…” and they have one for Typepad, WordPress and Blogger.

I have friends and family with low vision and this seems like a wonderful addition to a blog to make it more accessible. And I believe that this is something that needs to be considered as Web 2.0 apps are being developed. Part of the concept of Web 2.0 is inclusiveness and being accessible and this shows how easily you can enhance your blogs to make them easier to access for everyone.

I hope this sparks your interest and helps people think about creating and looking for Web 2.0 applications that help make it accessible by everyone.

~Susan Mellott

Google Analytics Update and WordPress Beef

Well, the latest on my problem accessing blogger.com, google analytics, etc is now fixed. I’m not sure what the problem was, but I closed Firefox and reopened it and everything was OK. I had tried closing all but 1 tab and that didn’t do it. I thought I might have to reboot my PC but fortunately not.

As you may know, I’m trying to decide between Google Blogger and WordPress for my blog. Currently I am updating both and trying to decide which one I want to ultimately go to. So far, in many ways I have been leaning towards WordPress. Part of this is because I like the idea of hosting it myself and I am hoping that when I do, some of the problems will be solved with the additional plug-ins available.

But it is driving me crazy trying to add buttons and whatnot to my WordPress.com blog. I am trying to add a “Digg It” button for Digg. But it seems to be impossible. I have looked and looked and can’t find a reasonable solution. And there are many other ones that won’t work on WordPress, usually because WordPress doesn’t allow Javascript.

And it would not be so bad if it wasn’t almost every single thing I try to do. I do it in Blogger and it is easy. I try in WordPress and it is somewhere between difficult and impossible.

I am still hopeful that if I host my WordPress blog, it will solve alot of these problems. I really hope so because for some reason, I still like WordPress.

~Susan Mellott

Google Analytics (and maybe blogger) acting up???

It might be just me, but I am not able to connect with www.blogger.com or http://www.google.com/analytics/or the Google Analytics Blog and I can’t post a new post on my Google Blogger Blog although I can view it. But when I click New Post (or one of the links above), I get “connecting to ssl.google-analytics.com…” and it just waits and waits.

I don’t know if this is because I have Google Analytics running, or if Google Analytics itself is having problems or what.

UPDATE at 1:40pm:  Well, I’m still having problems, but Sean tried to get in blogger.com and google analytics and didn’t have this problem.  So now I wondering if it has something to do with the fact that I installed it and am using it to track one of my sites, like it has something that runs in the background that might be acting up (I know I am probably pushing my computer pretty hard and it isn’t always happy with everything I have going)

Here is a link to some other problems people have had lately. I’ve seen some of them too.

I will say that I have not been overly impressed with Google Analytics.  I’ve had problems with it and there is some reporting features that it lacks that some of the other trackers have that I am using.

~Susan Mellott

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