Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Blogger vs Wordpress debate



I have had four people THIS WEEK (and it's only Wednesday) come to me to ask about the University of York's blogging options... that we don't have.

The Social Policy Research Unit wanted to start blogging this week, so I showed them Blogger. Within minutes they'd created a blog, mimicked their dept's colours and added the logo and started adding content. Interestingly, to me, they're using tags/labels to manage the main navigation.


Wordpress. We Simply Don't Have The Manpower

There are two compelling arguments FOR Wordpress. People know, use and like it and from a branding perspective - it is easy to create "York Blogs" with a locked down design created by the Web Office.

We have been looking at both internally hosted Wordpress and buying a Wordpress service from Page.ly. The result of this seems to be that we don't have the man power to host Wordpress ourselves ( and also back it up, running a development/test version AND keep the site maintained etc. ).

Connecting a hosted Multi-site Wordpress service with our authentication system isn't straightforward. The LDAP plugins don't work out of the box ( although a Google authentication plugin may be a solution, but this is completely untested... and we don't really have the manpower to test this with any sense of due diligence ).

The hosting of the Wordpress install may also become a pain. If terribly popular then configuring and tweaking the caching needed is not non trivial.

One of the big pluses of Wordpress is its hackability and the ability to add useful plugins. When this is done at an organisational level we can't simply add any requested plugin not knowing how it may impact other sites from both a design and security perspective. We would need to evaluate the shared need and impact of adding the sort of "quick" hacks that most people used to working with Wordpress take for granted. Then we'd need to test them.

Blogger Got A Whole Heap Better. They May Have The Manpower

Whilst we have been looking at the Wordpress options, Blogger ( owned by Google ) has improved significantly. If you haven't noticed York has "gone Google". Furthermore, recently it seems that Blogger now has Google+ integration ( automatically offering you the option to publish a  link to Google+ and showing your blogs on your Google+ that you are a "Contributor to" ).

As you can see from this blog, although I have probably annoyed the dickens out of Dan Wiggle ( and rightly so, it's just an experiment Dan ) with regards to the design, I have with a few tweaks addressed to some degree the branding issues of look n feel and that horrible "Next Blog" link in the navbar ( come on Google, get that fixed! ).

So Which Is Best?

I challenged one of our most articulate Wordpress fans ( who shall remain Ned-less ) recently and asked him to clearly state what the actual advantages of Wordpress were. And, I may be wrong, despite him trying, he could come up with one concrete advantage except for the fact that people both like and know it. Which is a very, very good reason I know but...

Blogger
Wordpress
Personal Ownership
From an organisational perspective, until Google properly integrates with Google Apps then a Blogger blog better suits the needs of an individual. A person can change job and take their blog with them.

Personal "ownership" of a blog is often a key motivator anyway.
If we ran Wordpress, then, when people leave, we would still have control of their blog and content.

People could export all their blog content (as an XML file and re-import it into a new blog).
Control
Although Blogger works with your York credentials, any content created can not be deleted by York staff.York Web Admin staff could monitor blog created and offer advice, or indeed take down any appropriate content.
Branding
Some branding is possible ( see this blog ).

Removing the nav-bar is probably against Blogger's policies, but a. Come on Google sort out the Next Blog issue and b. What if you don't remove but set its top to -30px?

Note: Breaking the ToS can mean removal of Blogs without warning. 
Full branding is possible so that people don't need to worry about this. Many projects and depts would prefer this to having to hack the designs themselves.
Hacking Risk
Whilst Blogger blogs do get hacked, this is normally if someone's password has been guessed, which would also apply to WP. Most support issues would become Google's and not be ours.Wordpress sites do get hacked. Keeping the site up to date needs to be done regularly.

Lincoln seem to be able to manage this OK ( currently 614 blogs ). DoS attacks?

Even testing software updates ( moving content from LIVE to DEV - munging relative URLs in content ), moving the wp-content folder THEN applying the patch will become quite a task in terms of data size.
Monitoring Content & Serendipitous Navigation
One BIG problem with encouraging the creation of lots of Blogger blogs is that there is no way to keep a track of them. This is not from a control perspective, it prevents people from finding out what other related blog content there may be.

The irony here, is that IF we run with Blogger then it really raises a HUGE need for a central aggregator of these disperate blogs, both for monitoring content and to allow people to find other interesting or related blog content. Ideally this might have a TagCould like interface.
Were we to use the BuddyPress plugin in Wordpress ( like this site or Lincoln's above), all blog posts are listed.
Future ProofingWe can't guarantee that Google won't shut down Blogger tomorrow.We can't guarantee that Wordpress won't get bought by BigCorp tomorrow.
FeaturesFrom an editing perspective,  Blogger doesn't seem as powerful as WP.  Many of WP's "cool features" are often replicable with Blogger's Gadgets.Remember, pretty much all WYSIWYG editors suck. 
CostFree. No dodgy ads.$29.97 - Go Ad-Free
$30.00 - Custom Design
 $12.00 - Domain name transfer
 ______
$71.97 = TOTAL


My Conclusion

I begun trying to get Wordpress running over two years ago. I was an ardent fan of Wordpress. Now I'm not so sure.

For me, our Blogger vs Wordpress debate comes down to:

  • Manpower - to it properly
  • Control - an the need to be able to at least show people where the other blogs are

This suggests to me that WHATEVER WE CHOSE, before we chose it, we need a central aggregator to pull together disparate blog content into one lovely tag cloud.









10 comments:

  1. And ... this looks nice... Pubwich http://pubwich.org/

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  2. Although a better ( more Google ) approach would be using an aggregator written in Google App Engine - requiring no servers and manpower etc.

    https://developers.google.com/appengine/

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  3. What a lovely blog post :) Stirling stuff.

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  4. I've only just seen this post (and indeed this blog, via the events post on Google+ - was its existence mentioned anywhere project members might have seen it?), so apologies for not being annoyed sooner :)

    Actually though, I'm not annoyed. Much of the above seems very sensible. The problem of aggregation is a tricky one; Wordpress is very appealing because it doesn't need to do it. No need to register your blog with an aggregator or anything like that, so no end user burden. But crucially, no need to build and host our own separate aggregator and web pages that output content from that aggregator. If we can make something work on AppEngine I can see how it doesn't require servers, but surely it requires manpower?

    Even without an aggregator, settling on a single platform that we offer consistent advice about is worth doing. If that's Blogger for now, so be it. We can work out the branding, aggregation and other stuff as we go, which all gets easier once we know what we're working with.

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  5. Thanks for the post.I enjoyed the topic and especially the comparsion between the blogger and wordpress..Nice one..Keep up your
    work.

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  6. web pages that output content from that aggregator. If we can make something work on AppEngine
    that site Halong bay like blogger

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u


    Wordpress Maintenance Service

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