blog.BrianLawler.net (beta) using Blogger and Google BlogSearch


I've started a new personal, public, blog site at www.brianlawler.net/blog/ or blog.brianlawler.net....so check it out if you have a chance.  Site is still in "beta" as I put on a few finishing touches but is generally stable and full of permalinks to content.
I've pretty much become a fan of using blogs to publish lots of web content that used to be published as HTML pages.  Blog publishing integrates more easily into my normal work activities as I publish most of my posts by sending emails to the blog engine (e.g. this message was sent as an email but cc'd to my blog).  Blogs inherently have a nice separation between content and format that we should have done with our HTML pages...but often didn't.  In short, it is just easier and easier is good.
My favorite blog service is Google's Blogger. It is free, can post to their free servers on BlogSpot or push the blog (using FTP) to your own hosting service.  I have a personal website at www.BrianLawler.net so I use the publish to my website option.  Blogger also takes care of generating RSS and ATOM feeds for your blogs.
I also like some things about TypePad and if you are interested in blogging you might check that out. If you use the on-line control panel to build your blog (add posts, upload files, control the blog appearance, add "widgets" to your blog, etc.), you can have a very nice blog.  However, two things stopped me from using TypePad.  First, their mobile posting (i.e. posting to your blog using email) doesn't work that well - it is unreliable and has too many quirks for my purposes.  Second, you can't FTP or otherwise download your blog content.  Many people wouldn't care but I like to have my own backups and also be able to "mirror" my blog content onto other servers - with TypePad that is a big "no".  TypePad is a pay blogging service but it is pretty cheap and that also means you can have a very clean (no ads) blog if you want.
The other beauty of Blogger - especially for web geeks like me - is the control you have over the content and format using the Blogger template tags. Blogger has a nice set of pre-built templates that use the tags well but are a little ornate for my tastes.  You can see the template I use by looking at a simple post page, an archive page and my main page on my site - try the "view source" option on your browser to really dig into the template if you want to.  My template is very detailed in that I attribute almost every element on the page - look for all the "class" and "id" attributes - but only has structurally information and no formatting information (notice absence of a stylesheet, use of "font", etc.).
Because my blog template uses detailed attribution but contains no internal stylesheet, I can really fine-tune my entire blog (index, archive and item pages) using a couple of external cascading stylesheet (CSS).  I start with a default stylesheet that is used for all of the content at www.BrianLawler.net and add in another stylesheet to tailor the blog content.
There are a few downsides to blogging and to using Blogger.  Blogs may dynamically generate pages but the pages themselves are static - it is difficult to impossible with most blog services or engines to generate pages that can also use the dynamic page capability (e.g. JSP, ASP, ASP.net, PHP) of the web server.  You can put dynamic content on the page using applets, JavaScript or Flash but I don't because those technologies don't interest me very much.  Most of the free blogging services put lots of ads into your blog - you have to pay to get an ad-free blog usually.  Blogger despite being free doesn't clutter up you pages with lots of ads but the templates they provide, while easy to use, are a bit garish for my tastes - so, to get something simpler and cleaner, you may have to be willing to "dig-in" to how HTML/XML tags work and using CSS stylesheets.
The one big feature yet to be added to my blog is a search capability.  Search is key.  Nobody is going to come to my blog site because they are that interested in my daily ruminations but they might to find some goodies on Java, UML, SOA, or some other area of my supposed expertise.  Google offers a beta version of their blog search capability that is really nice.  If you use a default Blogger template it is pretty easy to get a search box added to your blog.  Since I've delved into a more customized solution that is going to take just a bit more work but since I have bigger plans for using BlogSearch I really want to figure out how it works anyway.  I should have this integrated into my blog soon so check back from time to time or send me an email at brian@brianlawler.net if you are interested in how this is working out.
- Brian




 

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