blogger – Stay N Alive

You’ll Always Hear it First on Google+

I’m starting a new experiment. From now on every post I make to will originate on Google+. This goes in line with my earlier post where I suggested that the Blogging landscape is significantly changing, and the blogs that want to survive will need to embrace social means of publishing and discovery. You’ll recognize this trend immediately as you visit my blog and see the ability to automatically share the articles you read on to Facebook, and today I’m going to continue that trend with the strengths that Google+ provides.

The Power of Google+ Circles

One of the coolest features of Google+ is the ability to not only target posts by Circles and groups of people, but also the ability to send updates to specific email addresses and people. This opens up the ability for some really cool hacks. For instance, want to archive a post? Send it to your Evernote email address (Evernote allows you to send content to an email address and it archives right inside Evernote).

For all future posts on I’m going to use this same hack. One of the advantages to hosting on is that I can post to an email address, and it will post automatically to the blog. I’m going to set it to save my posts as a draft so I can go in afterwards, add links and pictures, etc. But you’ll immediately receive updates on Google+ the minute I hit share. All other social networks will have to wait for the blog post to go live because I’ll need a link to share those with.

The Best of Both Worlds

Now you can get the immediacy of Google+, while at the same time getting the RSS Feeds, and customized interface of the blog. If you want to subscribe via Google+, you can subscribe via Google+ (Go to to subscribe). If you want to subscribe via RSS, or receive updates to posts via Facebook or Twitter, you can go to I still have a home base, and you have the option of getting real-time updates via Google+.

So come follow me on Google+ if you want real-time updates from the blog, or subscribe right on the blog – it’s your choice.

Stay N Alive Supports Facebook’s Open Graph

Just the other day I got approval from Facebook that the “read” action, available for Facebook’s Open Graph “Frictionless Sharing” was approved for What this means is that if you click the link on the right of this blog, under “Click below to post to your Facebook Timeline when you read articles on Stay N Alive”, every post you read on this site will be automatically shared to your Facebook Timeline under the “News” section of your timeline. This means your friends will see what you read here, just like anything I were to share to Facebook. (Some day I need to design it so it’s more enticing to authorize this – hopefully soon)

You may have seen this done before with other blogs and news sites, such as the Washington Post Social Reader. When your friends see articles you read, they are more likely to click through and read them because they’re associated with someone they’re familiar with. Then, they can read and participate in the experience with you.

I just wrote about how traditional blogging is dead, and instead needs to evolve to more social models of content flow. This is one way I am trying to make that happen. Like I said, this blog isn’t dead. It’s just that it will become more and more a part of the social networks you most actively participate.

If you feel so obliged, please click through to this article and click that link over on the right. It’s one of the best ways you can spread the word about what I write, and the things I stand for. Or, just click below – I’m embedding the form right below via a Facebook Social Plugin (click through to the article to see it on the blog).

In a future article I’ll share how I did this, on a blog, nonetheless!

Why as a Developer, I Switched to and Why I’m Staying With It

Since writing for a few years ago I’ve been curious about Blogger. Louis Gray used it at the time and he really swore by it. I talked to Rick Klau, Blogger’s Product Manager at the time, at a BlogWorld expo a few years back and he insisted I try it. He suggested that even as a developer I would be pleasantly surprised. I was surprised by him even saying that.

I admit I didn’t like the interface of Blogger at first. It was klunky, and seemed very limited compared to my self-hosted WordPress install I had been on for years. But I was intrigued at what Rick Klau had told me. At the same time, he Tweeted back in December that over a 2 month time frame, Blogger had experienced a 100% uptime. This further intrigued me.

Just last year, I was running this blog on a self-hosted WordPress instance, the same server I was running Being a one-man show at the moment (I do most of this on the side so I can help out the LDS Church with their Social Media efforts), occasionally that server would go down as a result of heavy activity on SocialToo, and with it, my blog as well. I’ve fixed those issues since, but I realized I had to have a more reliable, redundant solution so my communications weren’t cut off when my other services were. It was at that time I decided it was worth trying something else out that didn’t involve me having to worry about hosting.

The Choices

The main choices I had were self-hosted WordPress (, the subscription, pay-as-you-go, and There were others, but I was looking for reliability and Blogger and WordPress seemed to have the best uptime. Self-hosted WordPress I had already realized wasn’t an option for me – I loved the flexibility of it all, but I just didn’t have the time any more to keep worrying about whether my servers were up, whether I had appropriate cache set up, and everything that goes with it.

So my main choices were Blogger and To tell you the truth, my first inclination, as a WordPress user and developer (I’ve written a few WordPress plugins and even put together the theme for this blog with help of a designer), was to try out I began looking at it, and quickly realized to get “” as my own domain I would be paying $12 per year. Then, to add my own customized design, I’d be paying another $15 per year. To remove ads, that would be $30 per year. If I wanted to accomodate my entire community, that would be another $30 per year. The entire bill to switch was going to cost me $87/year! All that and I would still not be able to fully integrate the design I had from my own hosted solution. I don’t make a ton of money from this blog (I do make a little from ads to support it), so that’s a huge chunk of change for just a blog, and I wasn’t planning to get rid of any servers to be able to pay for the blog (since I still needed to run SocialToo).

That left me the choice of, so I decided to try it out. Blogger is 100% free, and has close to 100% uptime thanks to Google’s incredible infrastructure. I decided to try it, and boy was I impressed!

Let me share some of the pros and cons of why I decided to stick with it:

The Pros

I always thought of as a place for mommy bloggers (no offense to all of my mommy blogger friends!). It was the place I always sent people with little knowledge in technology and who just wanted a good place they could start a blog. Maybe that’s it’s biggest advantage. I quickly learned as I was getting started that the interface was mind-numbingly simple. It was really easy to manage!

Like I said though, that was what kind of kept me away in the first place. What I discovered however is that Blogger, while simple on the surface, has some very developer-friendly features that to me, seemed even easier to deal with than my custom-hosted WordPress solution. Here are the advantages:

  • Simplicity. I said it already – Blogger’s interface is mind-numbingly simple.
  • Reliability. Rick Klau isn’t lying. I can expect my blog to be up 100% of the time. They simply don’t go down! It was actually quite a relief today, with such a high traffic day (see my blog post about it), to not have to worry about any of my servers in the process. You simply don’t need to worry about a burst in traffic, DoS attacks, or anything like that. Google handles all that for you and they’re pros at it.

    On top of that, I added Torbit caching to the top of it all (they offered me a free beta of their service), which made it even faster. That took away any need for customized Apache caching.

  • OpenSocial Support. I think this is the coolest part. WordPress has plugins, but Google uses the standardized OpenSocial API, along with Google Gadgets, to provide an interface to Widgets and other features within the blog. To code a customized feature, I just need to know a little OpenSocial (which works with many other sites), and boom! It works right on my blog. That really got my Geek and Social Developer blood going, and I’ve only started to learn what can be done with it.
  • Simple, XML themes. You don’t have to know how to code (for the most part) to build a Blogger theme. Of course, I know how to code, but it’s not completely necessary. Look at the design of this blog (assuming you’re not viewing it on a very small screen or mobile device – more on that in a second) – all this custom design was built using Blogger’s own XML format. It was a pretty simple integration. I downloaded the XML file, edited it, uploaded it, and tried it out until I got the design I was looking for.
  • Seamless Integration with other Google Products. I say this with an asterisk. It works really well integrating with Google Adsense, Feedburner for RSS tracking, and a few other Google features (including any Google Gadget, as I mentioned above), but some obvious Google products have not been integrated. I’ll share more on that later.
  • Instantaneous RSS updates. When I publish a post, almost instantaneously it goes out to Google Reader and other readers that support the Pubsubhubbub format.
  • It’s free! The best part of it all is I don’t have to pay a thing to run it, and I don’t have to run ads on the site for it to work. It’s a cheap, very customizable solution any blogger can use. I don’t have any special deal to get what you see here – anyone gets this.

While the pros certainly outweigh the cons, there are still a few pet peeves of mine I’d love to see Google resolve. Some of these are obvious, and I really hope Google puts focus on them. Blogger could well be one of the most social products they own, and I hope they realize that. There’s a big bonus check in store for the employees that do get this.
  • SEO. I hope Matt Cutts is reading this (he doesn’t even use Blogger for his blog). The transition from custom WordPress to Blogger is horrible for SEO! In WordPress, I had an interface to customize the link structure so it matched the previous blog where my content was stored. That is non-existent in Blogger. They do provide a URL you can fall back to when your content doesn’t resolve on, but that means I’ve got to keep my previous custom WordPress solution running for it to work.

    The solution for this seems simple. Google already has a cache of every website known to man. They already have a cache of my entire blog. Why not use that cache to resolve current content that doesn’t resolve from old links on the site? Or, they could just do something like WordPress does – I think the former would be cooler, and more Google-like.

    In addition to URL structure, there is no good way to create a site map in Blogger. They provide an RSS feed, and you can submit that to Google Webmaster tools, but I’ve found Google is still missing links in their index from my new blog despite giving it my RSS feed. I’m now trying to just include the Archive of all the links on the sidebar of the page, but that’s hardly optimal, and cluttered too. It would be nice if Google just provided a sitemap, or automatically indexed it for you since they own the site anyway.

    There are also no good ways to customize the way your title, description, tags, and other data are formatted. You can sort of do this in your theme design, but it’s hardly an easy thing to do.

    That said, the uptime, and giving it time to index everything, does eventually make up for the bad SEO features of the site. I’m finding I’m almost all the way back to where I was traffic wise on Google.

  • Plugins. I mentioned OpenSocial and Gadgets as an advantage, but if you are used to the custom WordPress install, there is still a lot you cannot do on Blogger. For instance, to provide an alternate, mobile, version of this theme, I can’t just install a plugin to do it. I have to hard-code it into the main theme itself, which is clunky and bad looking. I’d love to see more fully integrated, and better plugin support. They could really take this to another level.
  • Storage. If I want to store something at the root of my domain, I have to figure out a way to hack my server as the root controller domain that forwards all other requests to blogger. Or, if I want to upload an image, it’s a rather clunky process. I have to upload it as an image on an article and link to it that way from my theme code, or upload to Picasa or some other location to host it there. There’s no good storage solution that fits well with Blogger. Google could do better integrating this.
  • The Cloud. The fact is, when your data is in the cloud, if something dies, so goes your content. I’m very aware of this. I’m trying to consider solutions of redundancy at the moment. I’m hoping to find something. It might be nice to auto-back up your blog to an external server somewhere, and that leads me to my next Con.
  • It’s proprietary. Blogger is not Open Source. I can’t install it on my own server like you can WordPress. I can’t contribute to its development. I can’t create my own instance if, knock on wood, Blogger ever does actually go down. I can’t send my backups to a server and have it continue to run there if my blog ceases to exist on
The Summary
If you’re considering an alternative blogging platform, getting sick of hosting it on your own, or just want to try something new, I highly recommend Speaking as a developer, it really isn’t your mamma’s blogging platform any more. There is so much you can do with it, and so many ways you can configure it, that it’s definitely worth a consideration.
If you really needs something fully customizable, are concerned about strict SEO, or need better plugin support, you may be better off sticking with a custom WordPress install, or some other open source blogging solution (hopefully that’s Blogger at some point). is simply too expensive to compare – I’m still unsure why people choose it, unless they don’t care about the custom features I mention above. That said, for me Blogger’s advantages far outweighed the SEO and any slight customization I would need. I also have faith that they will improve.
In a high traffic day like today, Blogger has been a life saver. I’ve been able to replace almost everything I had in my self-hosted WordPress instance, and it’s completely free to do so! I encourage you to carefully weigh the pros and cons but give it a try.
In another post I’m going to share the steps I took to transition from WordPress to Blogger. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime I’m interested in hearing your experiences. What pros and cons do you see with it?

Who Are You Writing For?

writing-with-penI love reading updates from my peers, particularly in Utah where I live, as well as other States and Nations that have great blogs. I subscribe to them, in part because I enjoy receiving their updates and what they’re up to, but also because I love to see them post new things and I want to support that practice. I love to see people write, especially amongst my peers because that is how the world can learn about them. A blog, as opposed to a Facebook update or Twitter, gives me the opportunity to see much more of who they are, what they are up to, as well as learn more about their expertise in the areas they like to share.

I see a trend amongst my tech peers here in Utah as well as other places though that I think may be limiting their potential. Many of them are writing for their local state’s or area’s audience, or perhaps even their family and friends, rather than seeing the potential that others outside of their inner circles could be reading their blog.  I admit I am guilty of this.

I went through this early on with this blog if you read over the history. There was awhile I wasn’t quite sure of who my audience was. I wrote my blog as more of a way to get my thoughts recorded for myself, rather than consider that others could be reading this down the road. Some times I would write very techie stuff documenting my progress on a few projects I was working on. Some times I would write stuff about my close family, or maybe even local events that a national or worldwide audience may not be quite as interested in. Occasionally I would delve into religious topics. All this is okay, so long as I recognize that those are the audiences I’m targeting. I’m not sure at the time I did.

It wasn’t until I started recognizing that this blog was more than just a local blog for me and my close friends that this blog began to start getting traffic and taking off.  Once I began seriously researching and writing topics, acting as though it were a blog for a national or worldwide audience, people started to listen.  Sure, it was and still is and will always be my personal blog, but I have changed my perception of who my audience is, and who it could be.   I treated it as how it could become.  Because of that I’m achieving my original purposes of sharing things I learn with even greater impact than ever before.

When you’re writing, you should consider who you’re writing for:

If you’re writing for your close friends and family, that is who will read it…  If you’re writing for just people in your local city or state, that is who will read it…  If you’re writing for your religion or faith, that is who will read it…  If you write for a national or worldwide audience, that is who will read it… If you write for TechCrunch or Mashable or Scoble or Louis Gray or Guy Kawasaki, that is who will read it…

Do you want more eyes on your content?  Which of the above audiences will bring the most eyes?  What are your purposes for your blog?  Look long and hard and spend some time determining this.  Which one will have the biggest impact on achieving your goals in the long-run?  After you do so, look at the above audiences, and then determine which one you need to start writing for.

Most importantly, start writing!  Something is always better than nothing.