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2011-01-15

More blogger annoyances and suggestions

Much has happened since my last “wish list” for blogger: The new editor is great and fixed many of my complaints. Some of it still stands, and I have a few more things that I would like to see improved. This post may come across as bitchy, but I’m very happy with Blogger, in general. It gives you a lot of freedom (ads...) and its styles look good (much better than what Wordpress offers).
Annoyances:
  • Shortcut for “Link”: does not work on the Mac (tested: Firefox, Safari).
    • Link dialog on Firefox 4: When it opens, the focus switches back to the editor. This means that if you start typing or pasting after opening the editor, you type into the editor. Very annoying, but Firefox might cause this.
  • Writing about code: is incredibly painful in Blogger.
    • <pre> tags are not supported and when I add them manually in raw HTML, I’ve had several instances of Blogger rewriting whitespace, line breaks, HTML entities, etc. The only stable solution was to edit HTML in a separate editor and paste it into Blogger.
    • Teletype <tt> would also be great as a text style plus shortcut.
  • Navigation: is a bit unorganized. You have the dashboard, the design mode and the blogger bar which are not consistently linked and have functionality that overlaps in illogical ways. There are only a few things one accesses often, Blogger should find out what those things are (e.g. by tracking UI usage) and make them easy to access. “Edit Posts” comes to mind. I use far more often than, say, “Design”, yet it is harder to get to.
  • Label auto-completion: If you type a word, the first label (in alphabetic order) where the word appears is used. Thus, typing “web” and hitting tab leads to “semantic web” being chosen and not the shorter “web”.
  • Jump breaks: Inserting a jump break adds space underneath it after saving. You have to edit one more time to remove that space.
  • Accidental publishing: Publishing a post has a completely different meaning for drafts and for public posts (the same holds for “save as draft”). By putting this operation in the same place for both kinds of posts, one risks accidental publishing (which I’ve done a few times already). Solutions: Display the less commonly used operation (publishing for drafts, saving as drafts for published posts) less prominently or give a warning before publishing a draft.
Feature suggestions:
  • Support for headings: They could be introduced to the user interface in a manner similar to MS Word, as paragraph styles. I would consider a quote one of those styles.
  • Select more than one label (faceted browsing): For example, to get all books on Java, I would select label “book” and then “java”. In this example, there would also be non-book posts on Java. And book posts on non-Java topics. Selecting two labels at the same time should also be bookmarkable.
    • Another use case: best of lists. When there are two many posts in your blog that you consider read-worthy, it overwhelms readers. This would not be the case if they were grouped or navigable by label.
    • Example: Faceted navigation of the 2ality blog.
  • Arbitrary meta-data: For the faceted navigation of this blog, I parse and transform the Atom file exported by Blogger. It would be nice if one could add arbitrary meta-data (similar to HTTP header fields) to a post to further configure this process. 
  • Support for sending and receiving trackbacks: This is an important way of interacting with other blogs.
  • Stats per blog entry: For some blog entries, I’d love to know where visitors are coming from (e.g. to gauge what affiliate links make sense).

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