Blogging Software

This blog is powered by Movable Type, and on the whole, I'm very happy with it. It's a huge step above Blogger, for a good number of reasons. The main problem with Blogger was that the application and all your data was stored on their server (I didn't use blogspot, so I had a local copy of dirty data, but blogspot users are not so lucky) and thus when Blogger was down, so were you. And when Blogger became so popular, outages became common. I've never particularly liked the idea of being at the mercy of their server, so when I got the opportunity to upgrade, I did.

Movable Type is feature-rich, reliable, and easy to use, which is about all you could ask from a good software package. But even Movable Type has it's limitations. Most of these things I can live with. As always, many are simply tradeoffs. MT's interface is simple and easy, but relatively sparse. It would be nice to have some sort of WYSIWYG option, but because MT is portable, meaning that all you need to access MT is a browser and an internet connection, you are somewhat limited in what can be done. Since I do post (or edit) from mulitple locations, portability is a must but the advantage of portability cuts into usability because browsers aren't robust enough to support WYSIWYG features. Steven Den Beste uses CityDesk, which is much more usable and includes a WYSIWYG editor (among other features not included in the online packages), but requires that software be installed on your local machine. It lacks portability.

I recently upgraded to Movable Type 2.64. The chief reason for doing so was to start taking advantage of various TrackBack and pinging sorts of features, but the more I learn of these technologies, the more they seem forced. They're difficult to initially grasp, and take some time to implement, for very little gain. Once they're set up, they're easy enough to use, but other technologies such as referrals do this much better. More on this in a bit.

I've also recently come across JoeUser.com, which is another blogging software package that (unfortunately) seems to resemble Blogger a bit, in that everything is hosted on their server, but that also has some really wonderful features that other software doesn't seem to have.
  • Native Referral Tracking: A very convenient feature of JoeUser is that it automatically tracks referrals (per entry and for the blog itself). This is sooo much better than TrackBack! Some sites make use of this, but they are rare, which is a shame. JoeUser supports this, which is a great feature and allows you to see who is linking to you and to automatically link back (something other bloggers will certainly appreciate - if they're willing to jump through hoops to use TrackBack, they'd love this feature). If such a feature were more common in the blogosphere, it would encourage people to link more, if only to get a link back in return (and it's also nice to see how many referrals you're giving out too!)
  • Next Articles Link: At the bottom of the page is a link that says "Next Articles" and clicking on it takes you to their archives, starting with the next entry. To do the same here, you would need to go to the archives and click on a month and scroll down until you don't recognize a post. It's a painful user experience. Not so at JoeUser. It is a brilliant feature, and it's not on any other blogging software.
  • Rating: JoeUser allows visitors to rate posts, and then allows you to view highest rated posts. The categories for evaluation are limited, but the idea is correct. I also believe other factors contribute to a post's "value" but I'm not sure exactly how the system works. What's more, if a post on your blog gets rated high enough, the entire post show's up on JoeUser's main page.
  • Community: Because of features like the one where a highly rated post ends up on the main page, you have a better chance of getting people to notice what you wrote. It's difficult to get noticed in the blogging world, and there are a few nice features on JoeUser that will help in that respect (as long as the user base stays relatively low - see scaleability below).
  • Setting a Viewing Audience: You have the ability to restrict access to a certain post to specific members or groups of members within the JoeUser community. Not something I would use, but an interesting feature nonetheless...
Unfortunately, it also seems to have a great deal of drawbacks too, which is a shame... but it is still a relatively young application, so I'm sure at least some of them will be improved upon in the near future...
  • Centralized Hosting: Like Blogger, you are at the mercy of JoeUser's server. And note that part of the reason that the good features listed above are not available in other blogging packages is because JoeUser runs on dynamic .asp pages (not necessarily a bad thing, but just something to note)
  • Not Customizeable: It doesn't look like you can customize the look and feel of the blog at all - not even with a set of predetermined layouts. In a way, this isn't so bad for visitors as every JoeUser blog has the same layout so you know where to find whatever features or links you want, but as a blogger, this is a major problem!
  • Drafts: Most of the time, it takes me a while to write a post and I continually save the post as a "draft" until I finish, and then I "publish" the post. You can do this on JoeUser too, but you need to use their "Audience" feature and set it to "Just Me," which is hardly intuitive.
  • Archives: While the "Next Page" feature is fantastic, it appears to be the only way you can browse the archives. You can view entries by subject in the "Channels" section, but there doesn't appear to be any time-based archives... A search feature for a specific user would also be nice...
  • Scaleability: Many of the good community features of JoeUser, such as the ability to have a highly rated post on the main page, will diminish in value as the site grows more popular. All of your public posts show up in the "Recent JoeUser Articles" section of the sidenav, but you've got a much better chance at getting noticed now because there are only a few hundred other users, and so you're posts aren't immediately shoved off of like they were on blogger.
Some of these are killer problems for me, so I won't be switching from MT any time soon, but I think some of these features, particularly the auto-referral system and the "Next Articles" link, are great and need to be used more often... I'll be looking to implement something similar here if I can find the time to figure it out...

Update: Check out Kaedrin's JoeUser page to see an example of a specific user's page...

Update 12.1.03: Brad Wardell/Draginol comments (he owns Stardock, the company that created JoeUser) And it looks like that post made it to the front page too!