Tuesday, August 22, 2006


New tricks: Blogger Beta and Squidoo

I had no idea that anyone was listening. I must be an important cog in the Blogger machinery, because the very week I lamented Blogger's lack of categories and started my first cautious exploration of other blogging platforms, the Google folks behind the screen unveiled a new and improved iteration of Blogger called Blogger Beta.

I saw the invitation on my dashboard to convert my blog into the new platform and took a quick browse through, but didn't get organized enough to actually submit my blog for conversion. It's a damn good thing, too, because this weekend when I read Phantom Scribbler's harrowing account of losing her HaloScan connection and her custom-made blog banner, my heart froze in sympathetic terror. Luckily for her, she was able to restore her original settings and step carefully away from Blogger Beta, but her experience served as a cautionary tale for me.

I found myself with enough time on the weekend to set up a test blog so I could play with the new features, and I rather like them. There's a new drag-and-drop functionality for template building that makes it easy to customize your colours and fonts, you can specify who can read your blog (and, I think, particular posts) and finally, they offer - be still my heart - categories, which Blogger calls "labels," just like in parent-company-owned Gmail.

The biggest problem is that you can no longer edit your template html, so you can't have add-ons like HaloScan commenting or customized banners or other embedded blog tricks. Blogger Buzz promises this will soon be incorporated, but until it is I think I'll be staying with the devil I know. But, categories!! Woot!

If you'd like to set up a test blog yourself, you can sign up for a new blog and give it a go. Let me know what you think.

And as if I had enough time for yet another online addiction, the clever and lovely but subversively evil Ann Douglas has introduced me to Squidoo. (If you've got some time, check out all of Ann's lenses - seven of them! That woman's boundless energy and enthusiasm never fail to amaze me.)

Do you Squidoo? How could you resist playing with an application with a name like that! So what exactly is Squidoo? In their own words:

We have built a new online platform and community that makes it easy for anyone to build a single page--called a lens--on a topic, idea, product or cause he is passionate about. These lenses in turn help finders get unique, human perspectives instead of computer-selected and often irrelevant search results. Not only can Lensmasters spread their ideas, get recognized for their knowledge, and send more traffic to their Web sites and blogs—they could also earn royalties.

Like blogging, it's surprisingly addictive. I started with one lens on Fun for Families in Ottawa, and soon branched out to a second lens on (quelle surprise) iPods for Newbies. I think the former worked out a little better than the latter, but I'm having fun playing with both of them. I have a third one under construction, and probably more to follow. Once you get going, you find Squidoo-able topics everywhere!