Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Blogger improvements: wishlist

Team Blogger have clearly been been working mighty hard on improving and upgrading our blogging experience using Blogger, yay to them!

Here is my personal wishlist of most wanted things which don't seem to be on their public to-do list. If you agree with any of my wishlist items please say so, maybe that'll up their chances of getting a precious place on that list. This post is meant to be constructive rather than critical, they've achieved so much already (e.g. import-export of blogs to allow backup etc, embedded comment form, Star ratings, Webmaster Tools Verification, spiffier Dashboard, hooray to all.)

1. Post editor changes (already blogged)

What I said. In particular, more hotkeys and a clearer indication that an attempted save has or has not worked.

2. Image posting and management

I've posted about some image posting issues in my comments on the new post editor.

It would also be good to have better Picasaweb integration. When you upload images to Blogger, they're stored behind the scenes at Picasa Web Albums in a single "album", and you can login there with your Google Account details to manage your Blogger pics. But, you have to login there to do that. I'd love it if there was an "Images" tab in Blogger, which would take you straight to a management page for your uploaded JPEGs, GIFs etc.

What I'd like to see there (or at least in Picasa, if it can't be integrated so fully yet), is the ability to:
  1. get a reverse chronological display of all your uploaded Blogger photos etc
  2. find all images associated with a particular post
  3. with one click, get a list of all the uploaded "orphan" pics which aren't actually linked to in any posts at all (I've done that, uploaded a pic, decided it wasn't good enough, uploaded another one, not got around to deleting the original pic from Picasa even though I deleted the link to it in the post; and it's still there, using up my precious limited space on Picasa, but some time later I can't figure out which is which)
  4. add pics from there to the new "floating window" for images, so I can use an already uploaded pic in a new post (I'm not the only one who wants to be able to reuse previously-uploaded images more easily)
  5. select a pic and get a list of links to all posts on my blog that display that pic?
  6. if I try to delete a pic from there, warn me which posts use that, if any, and make me confirm the deletion (and give me a link to those posts so I can delete them too if I wish).
Other wishlist items for image uploads - ability to upload and host .ico files for favicons and animated GIFs that work.

3. Comments and backlinks management and spam

Inline comments are a major advance for Blogger, people have been asking for it for years; and though it was a while ago that they released it, I think the ability to add your own comment form message is very helpful. But there are other areas which could also benefit from some attention.

Commenter's URL - if the blog owner has chosen to allow anyone to comment, they can choose "Name/URL" to identify themselves if they wish. Now though the URL box is optional, it only works properly if the commenter enters the URL with the initial "http://" e.g. http://www.consumingexperience.com/.

If they enter e.g. www.consumingexperience.com, the comment still publishes but with a non-working URL which, if you try to click on it from the post page, will produce an error message. So either the URL box should say "(optional - please enter http:// at the start)" or, better, it should be changed so that Blogger checks to see if the commenter has entered "http://" and, if they haven't, adds it for them.

Comment moderation and spam comments - if you allow the Name/URL combo for commenters (Settings, Comments, Anyone can comment) and choose to moderate comments, the comment moderation tab doesn't show the URL entered by the person commenting; here's a screenshot I took last year but it's still the same now:

If you choose to receive emails alerting you to new comments for moderation, those emails are slightly better in that they include the link to the Blogger profile of the commenter (if they chose to comment under that account); but if they've used Name/URL, there is no indication of the URL they entered in the email either:

Thing is, it would be very helpful to see the URL they've used before I decide to publish or reject the comment, because I can usually tell from the URL whether it's spam or not. So yes, I'd really like it if Blogger would include that URL in both the comment moderation tab and comment moderation emails.

Backlinks are another source of spam. I think I get more backlink spam than genuine backlinks. But, it's impossible to check the backlinks on my blog without going to each individual post and scrolling to the end to see what the backlinks to that post are. So I don't do it unless I happen to be looking at the post for another reason. Most of the spam backlinks are still there. If there was a centralised place where I could monitor all backlinks and which posts they were associated with (yet another a new tab?), or get notifications of new backlinks etc, it would be much easier to deal with. I'm seriously considering turning off backlinks altogether because of the difficulty of managing them from one place.

4. Stats

I won't say anything on this as I know integrated analytics for Blogger users via Measure Map is coming, hopefully soon, to a blog near you!

5. Dashboard

Previously I couldn't figure out how they display your list of blogs, if you've more than one Blogger blog.

It's great that in the dashing new Blogger in Draft dashboard your blogs are listed in reverse chronological with the ones you most recently posted to at the top.

Still, it would be nice to have an option to show the blogs in alphabetical order by displayed name, if the individual blogger wishes.

6. Template editing - meta tags

Sometimes you want to add code in the head section of your blog template e.g. a meta tag for verification purposes, or extra CSS. Those of us who are happy with HTML can do that, but it's daunting for beginners.

It would be great if there was an easy way for Blogger users to add code to their header section without having to delve into the template itself. Say a popup box into which the code could be pasted, and automatically be added to the head section?

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