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Earthdate 2003-07-17

Gloss on Bill Hobbs' advice to bloggers

Everyone using Blogger is going through pains as the transition to “New Blogger” proceeds, replacing Blogger's old problems (which one could usually work around) with an entirely new set.  As I put it recently in an e-mail to Donald Sensing:

I'm not that happy with New Blogger, personally, so far.  The old Blogger never ate my archives (of which I have a local copy anyway), and I was always able to work around its problems.  The New Blogger issue of apparently only allowing a maximum of a couple of screen-fulls of text in each posting is potentially a killer for me though; hopefully they'll fix it soon.

Sensing has since run into another problem with New Blogger, whereby “Blogger eats posts.”  Bill Hobbs replied to Donald's concerns in One Hand Clapping's Comments section with the following words of advice:

The new improved blogger sometimes isn't.  I always highlight and copy my text before I hit the post button, just in case.

And for longer stuff, I build it in MS Word, or I enter a bit and post then add some and post... and add some and post... and think about moving to Movable Tybe... and add some and post...

Bill's advice is so sensible, in fact, that I thought I'd add a more extended commentary to flesh it out a little.  Sensing, of course, is far from a newbie (and has since noted that the lost posting was only a few lines long, and he normally does use an off-Blogger editor so postings can be separately saved).  However, the issues are common, and experience gained through hard knocks is usually painful.  I believe Bill's advisory applies well beyond just the world of Blogger, or blogging, into how to act effectively in a “noisy” (read: real world) environment.  Following is my commentary from One Hand Clapping:

I'd like to emphasize what Bill Hobbs said above.  It's a cliche that newbies (I don't mean you Donald!) fail to save while writing an entire document, or don't backup their hard drive, and then weep tears of frustration when the system or hard disk crashes.  We all know (from bitter experience) that's STOOPID — you have to save and backup your work.  Why do folks think one can do otherwise with blogs, or that the server can be trusted to save it perfectly (even if New Blogger is successful)?

I second Bill on using MS Word while writing a posting.  Word is convenient for building postings because (in addition to locally saving the document) Word's outline mode is handy while writing it, and macros are available to manipulate it line by line (or whatever), which has been useful for me from time to time.

After typing a posting into Word, it takes only a handful keystrokes to save and post it — Ctrl-S to save it; Ctrl-Home, Shift-Ctrl-End to highlight the whole thing, Ctrl-C it into the clipboard, Alt-Tab over to Blogger (or whatever the interface), and Ctrl-V to paste it in.

Bill's other point — on sometimes making only a few trivial little changes, saving, posting, looking at the results, repeat — is also very important.  The iterative procedure may not be needed if you're just building a text posting, but if one is doing anything fancy with HTML, or making more than a small change to your template, say, it's all too easy to break things drastically so that, sometimes, nothing shows up.  If you've made numerous changes (and discarded the previous version of the document or template to boot), the task of identifying and undoing the error can be extremely frustrating and unpleasant.

The elementary solution is to hold onto the previous version and make only a few alterations before trying out the new one.  If things go haywire, reintroduce the changes one by one until it fails, then you know where it's going wrong and what needs to be fixed.  Or, you can simply revert back to the earlier version and forget it!

Charles Austin replied on the thread, noting “One must be careful about the use of fonts in MS Word when cutting and pasting into Blogger.  Not all characters in all fonts are recognized.”  Charles' point is well taken, and my advice would be to disable some Word features, under “AutoFormat as you type” (pull down “Tools,” then select “AutoCorrect”), such as “smart quotes” and symbol characters.



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