Sunday, March 20, 2011

Long time no see...

It's been quite a while (over a year, to be precise) since I've last posted to the blog. I took hiatus from writing mainly because of great changes in my life: change of employer, followed by change of martial status, job position and master's thesis subject. So you can imagine that all the adaptation kept me pretty busy :D.

I've also managed to pass two certifications in the meantime:

So, to reflect all these changes, I've decided to move my blog to a custom domain, and switch blogging platform to Blogger. I was quite satisfied with Wordpress.com, but I needed more freedom with editing CSS (12$ 'upgrade' for small corrections is too much I think) and using custom Javascript. I had some experience with customizing Wordpress blogs, so hosting one on my own would look like a logical choice, but I've opted for Blogger mainly because it's quite flexible and of course much easier to set up and maintain.

I think that great improvements will come to Blogger, as it has a huge user base and is an invaluable source of content for Google – so important in times when so much user-generated content is buried in uncrawlable social sites like Facebook. So I wasn't very surprised to see Google announcement on new features that will come to the platform this year. They look really promising – I like especially the user experience design borrowed from Google Docs – the more document-oriented interface seems cleaner, exposing the posts as the most important element and I think that's the way to go. Also, the functionality of blog exploration based on topic clustering looks pretty cool (although everything depends on execution, so we need to wait to see it in action).

Transition to Blogger went pretty smooth, thanks to this conversion utility. I simply needed to export my blog from Wordpress, upload the XML file to the mentioned tool and then I've got another XML to import into Blogger. There is a very nice Google effort on making it easy to transfer your data in and out their products: The Data Liberation Front. There are however few things that aren't so smooth:

  • Blogger has really awkward handling of paragraphs: it encloses them in div, inserting br elements on every hard break. There is an option to turn off the later functionality, but it doesn't get you plain old <p>s anyways; it's pretty annoying, because it caused extra empty lines after my each paragraph and makes the markup very non-semantic. I'm writing the posts in HTML then to have control over it, but the editor is also pretty strange, because it seems to interpret whitespace – I hope that it will be fixed soon.
  • The platform doesn't let you define your own 404 pages. It's maybe not a big deal on its own, but because I've set a 302 redirect from my old blog here and URL patterns differ between Blogger and Wordpress, it causes all redirects from the old blog to land on the standard 404 page, so visitor feels a bit lost.
  • Great thing about Blogger is that you can host static resources like CSS or Javascript files on Google Sites. The catch here is that Google Sites block the traffic if the original request was performed outside of Google domains (which include blogger.com). So it's easy to host JS files if your blog is in blogger.com namespace, but if you choose to use a custom domain, you need to host the files elsewhere. I don't really think that this restriction will be lifted, because other checks for request coming from actual Blogger blog could be counterfeited; luckily, there are lot of CDNs (I'm using the one from Google) that host the most popular Javascript frameworks and toolkits and for simple scripts and CSS, you are free to modify the head element of the page.

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