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Blogger's Identity Issues

Google want you to be you. They sort of insist. And they'd really prefer it if you, the real you had a Google+ profile. And when creating a new blog on Blogger they try and make you link it to a real person's Google+ profile.

Except there's a problem. If you create blog posts with a regular Google identity when at the University of York ( or anywhere ) then if you leave, all the images from your blog posts disappear and the blog posts look as if they are written by "Unknown". Hardly ideal, in fact, pretty rubbish.

I've written about this issue before. It's caused because Blogger is sort of "held in stasis"... it is not a good fit with Google's other tools and yet it is so popular it would be difficult for them to close it down. And given Google's track record with social tools, I imagine they've been working out how to close it down for a while now.

The Problem

A department wanted to avoid this strange behaviour of Blogger because they were setting up a new blog and knew they'd be handing it over to someone else in the department in six months time.

So we decided to use what we call a Non Personal Account (NPA). These are departmental accounts like or that lots of people may be able to answer. Normally the person who had the login details for NPA would delegate email access to other people. This means a team of people might share the responsibility for answering emails ( that would come from rather than their personal email account ).

An issue with using an NPA for shared Blogger accounts is that you can't delegate access like you can with email accounts. You have to share the username and password which is something Google frown upon. You have to be a real person remember and shared accounts break all that, horribly.

More Problems...

We, or rather the department I was working with found that even before they'd got started blogging, simply registering with Blogger had issues.

The first hurdle was choosing a first and second name for the account. Reasonably they chose an acronym of their department and "Admin" as names. They were then told that these weren't real names and that their account would be suspended if the account didn't have real names.

When choosing a "birthday" for the account, they chose, the start date for their project which as it turns out made the account younger than 13 years old, locking their account and requiring assistance to get it re-instated.

You also have to remember to change the NPA password every time somebody leaves.

And the problems that arise from being logged in to two accounts ( their York one and the NPA ) are hilarious. If you like laughing at pain.

Google's Response...

During all these fun and games, Google helpfully suggested that "what we really need is a Google+ Business Page"... like this.  I'm not convinced.

The thing about posts in Google+ is that there is no idea or feeling of drafting. Posts aren't something you can save and come back to. You can't share editing with a colleague. 

You can't add multiple images. You can't alter layout. It's like comparing DTP to a text message. 

You can't easily collect "posts" together into collections... or collate stuff. The post tags don't really work very well either. With Google+ it feels like you're throwing something into the information stream, something quick and ephemeral, but blogs have always had a more permanent feel, a feeling that a post from a few years ago can still be relevant and part of a larger whole.

The Elephant in The Room... of course that Blogger is pretty much dead to Google and they'd love everyone to start using Google+. I don't mind this strategic coercion, I like Google+ ( a lot ) but when people want a blog, you know maybe they actually want a blog. They want posts and pages with navigation. And they might want it to look a certain way too. People are fussy like that - when they're scrumping for apples onions won't do.

Not A Great Place To Be...

... not having a blogging solution at York that I just don't feel comfortable with...

  • Using a Blogger blog with an account isn't really tenable. Old blog posts get shredded if you leave.
  • Using a Google+ Business Page instead of a blog isn't remotely realistic.
  • Using a Blogger blog with an NPA account isn't very secure (shared password) and has a number of set up and usage issues. I tend to advise people to use two separate browsers ( i.e Firefox and Chrome ).
  • Using a Blogger blog with a consumer gmail account is probably best. It's long term, in that it won't blow up if you leave York.

... and the worst part is that Google have all they need in terms of technology sitting right there. It just need a little re-wiring.

Google could spruce up Google Sites - which has a woeful Announcements page feature, or make Google+ pages and posts just a shade more configurable, or even make collections of Google Docs be presentable as a blog. It's all there - there's nothing new. It's only blogging. And in terms of our needs, corporate or organisation blogging isn't even very demanding. We don't need the latest far out technologies, we just need a blog... for a department... that doesn't do evil.


  1. Hi +Tom Smith there are a few things you can do here.

    1) when you leave the university you can transfer your images to a different Google account, which will preserve their URLs and not shred your blog:

    2) Gmail delegation might help you with a shared Gmail account:

    Users would still need to login as that account because you'd want the images in their blog posts retained by the "master" account holder, the account that will never go away.

    3) when creating accounts, especially for the department account, do NOT have it as a G+ account. It needs to be a Google account. Unfortunately you won't get the benefit of authorship this way, but that's the drawback... unless you have individual authors creating the blog posts, but storing the images in the master account's image directory.

  2. 1. You can't transfer the images to a different account if they're inside a blog post. That would work if images were first uploaded to a Public GDrive folder, but that's not what I'm talking about.

    2. Gmail delegation is for Gmail not Blogger. It actually gets in the way if anything.

    3. Er...

    thanks for that :-)

    I think :-)

    * whispers to stage right * What's he on about?

  3. I also fear about the future of things outside G+ but which have an overlap like blogger and groups.

    Google can be pretty damn agressive - if they keep this up they will lose trust and people will look elsewhere and we "meet the new boss same as the old boss"

  4. I agree. And even sung that song recently when talking about Google about this very issue.


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