Monday, May 28, 2018

Do You Even Blog, Bro?

Comments are the lifeblood of blogging. I love getting them and I love making them. It's one of a couple of things saving blogging from being not much more than a high-tech way to keep a diary, turning the whole process into a strange kind of slow-burning conversation. (The other, in case you were wondering, is cross-posting).

Given the importance of comments, it's a great pity blogging platforms often seem to go out of their way to make posting them as difficult as possible. There are some blogs where I never comment because of the hoops I'd need to jump through and others where I only comment on rare occasions because it's such a pain to navigate the required permissions.

Granted, sometimes it's because I run NoScript in Firefox, but even if I switch to Chrome there are a few blogs that just defeat any attempt to communicate. All of which makes it particularly irritating when some faceless beaurocrat (hmmm... good character name...) decides to remove one of the few existing options that actually works.

I'm an undemanding user when it comes to software. Quite demandingly undemanding, in fact. I generally like to use the most basic versions, usually on the default settings. Once I've familiarized myself with an app it's very rare indeed for me to want to adapt or upgrade it in any way.

Feedly, for example, is always trying to nudge me onto the paid version by offering me things I can't do for free. It doesn't work because, if anything, even the free Feedly has more bells and whistles than I want or need. They'd have more success making some of the paid-for options mandatory for free users and then charging a fee to disable them - not that I want to give anyone ideas...

One of the great benefits of using Blogger over the years has been that Google mostly seems to have forgotten it exists. The downside, especially following the sudden and unexpected demise of Google Reader, is that it does create a sense of unease over Blogger's longer-term future. Other than that slight anxiety, no news is good news.

Unfortunately it appears that someone at Google wandered past the Blogger office this month, brushed aside the cobwebs, pushed open the door and decided, in their own words, to do a bit of "spring cleaning". That's management-speak for taking away stuff we don't - in their opinion - need and replacing it with stuff that - in their opinion - we do.

Most of it I'm not fussed about one way or the other. I'm surprised they're bothering to fiddle with Google+ integration, though. I thought everyone pretty much agreed G+ had been a complete washout and we were all just waiting for it to close down altogether. Then  again, perhaps changing widgets specific to G+ into more generic HTML ones is preparation for that very day.

As for the changes to localization, I never understood why my blog comes with a separate modifier for every national domain in the first place. Good riddance to that.

The change that does annoy me is the removal of support for OpenID. The justification given is that it had "very low usage"and I admit I don't use it often myself...but "low" and "not often" don't equate to "non-existent" and "never". There are a couple of blogs where just about the only way I've been able to comment is by using OpenID and I would guess at least the occasional person uses it to comment here.

All the changes, coming and going, are detailed in the Blogger Blog. Yes, Blogger has its own blog. How meta is that? I don't "follow" it. I barely ever look at it. It does, however, have a comment thread, where irony is raised to a new level.

As commenters line up to complain that recent, undocumented changes have removed the option to send comments to email, making it harder to purge comment threads of spam, The Official Blogger Blog's own comment thread itself is filling up with the exact same spam people are asking Google to help them avoid. Here's an example. I don't believe an actual, living, thinking commenter composed and posted the following:

"Hey, this article is really helpful to me thanks for sharing your intelligence with us. As a new member of this community, I needed these pieces of information.Getting Involved in Conversations can also make my communication skill better, nice piece of advice there. thank you!"

Or this one (link deleted but it was something about girls in bikinis...):

"Nice I am here for backlink exchange visit my blog and give some remarks with your blog url. I am coming to you within some days as this cooler".

The thread is stuffed with such gems. It makes me wonder; if Google can't even be arsed to purge their own comment thread of stuff like this, do they actually read any of it? Ever?

Anyway, if you rely to any degree on OpenID to comment on this or any other Blogger blog, consider yourself On Notice to find another means of making yourself heard. Also, in a revisionist move George Orwell would probably have appreciated, "all comments that previously used OpenID will be anonymized". You never said that, right?

From now on, according to Google:

"New comments can be posted either from a Google account or labeled as “Anonymous” on blogs that allow it."

Inventory Full does allow anonymous comments so at least there's that.

Here's hoping that after this brief flurry of activity everyone at the Blogger office goes back to sleep for another few years. If it ain't broke, as they  say...


  1. Holy crap, I hadn't even noticed that the e-mail notifications were gone. I don't get a lot of comments so I'm used to it being quiet for a few days... but only yesterday I was surprised when I spotted a new comment for which I didn't remember getting a notification. Now I need to keep an eye on the comments area within the Blogger UI itself to see any new comments on old posts - why would anyone remove that feature?! Thanks for the heads-up!

    1. I never had comments sent to email so it doesn't specifically affect me but it seems a ridiculous thing to remove. I use the Blogger Overview Statisitics panel to check comments - it shows my ten current most viewed posts and also the number of comments against each. I pretty much always notice if one of those numbers changes, whereupon I go and look to see what's appeared there.

  2. "Hey, this article is really helpful to me thanks for sharing your intelligence"

    If I stop there it actually doesn't sound half-bad :-)

    Seriously nice post, pity about the Blogger changes but I'm not really surprised, I mean, this is Google we're talking about. "Be Evil *and* Stupid" seems to be their new motto.

    1. I'm not sure they've gone as far as Evil yet, although many people would disagree, but I think they might very well need a new motto. I'd go for something like "Are You Sure You really Want To Do This?".

  3. Fortunately I already comment with a Google ID, so I'll carry on as before. Open ID was problematic at times, so it was easier just to be logged in with Google. But Google hasn't been a favorite of mine since they killed Google Reader, allegedly for low usage but so suspiciously timed with G+ that they might as well have run a press release announcing their intent to drive us from one to the other.

    And I agree that every minor barrier to commenting represents a huge wall when it comes to people leaving comments. There are several sites I read than demand I make an account on their site in order to comment. To me that pretty much says they do not want me to comment, since the last thing I need is yet another account on the internet.

    So far still allows comments with just a couple lines of unverified info.

    1. I really did think G+ was next for the chop. Even Tipa doesn't use it any more and she was a super-early adopter and longtime advocate for it. I wonder if this sort of thing is ever going to stabilize? We went from Friends Reunited to MySpace to Facebook and now FB is being relegated to "your mom's social media" as WhatsApp and Instagram eat FB's young. Meanwhile Twitch supercedes YouTube and then itself falls prey to some other streaming service whose name I have yet to learn. Discord is flavor of the month in voice but so was Teamspeak and Mumble and Ventrillo...

      It's never going to stop, is it? We may as well just all learn to adapt, as Tyler says below!

    2. Richard Bartle, Belghast, and I all cross post to G+ from our blogs. But that is all I see regularly in my feed, when I bother to check.

      Actually, I should have remembered G+ for my EVE Online Pictures anniversary post. That is another source for internet spaceship pictures.

  4. I've never been able to get the OpenID transaction to work anyway. I just post using name/url in the dropdown box as a result.

  5. I was using OpenID to comment via my WordPress account, but I suppose I can learn to adapt.

  6. I've found for years now that the integration is sketchy at best (whichever side is to blame). I've had OpenID ignore my WP chosen id and show the real name on my Google login on occasion, so have long gotten used to using the url/name option.

  7. In reply to everyone above, yes, OpenID has always been sketchy! I use it on one or two blogs where it seems to work better than the other options but I'm no advocate for it. The commenting app I really can't stand, though is Disqus. I long ago gave up even trying to comment on any blog that insists on using it.

  8. I haven't posted to my Blogger blog for more than six years (damn) but at least I can still use that account to comment on other Blogger blogs like this!

  9. That's terrible! Getting an email for comments is a given, mandatory feature for a blog. Especially if you have an older blog with many posts that people might comment on in the past. Or if you have as many blogs as I do. I don't think I could blog without it.

    Hopefully they reconsider for you. :(

    1. Well, it doesn't really affect me because I never used email to check comments anyway. I spotted your comment here the way I spot most of them - by looking at the Stat page and noticing the number of comments on a post had changed. I can pretty much remember how many comments I have on the last ten or so posts and I rarely get comments on anything older than that.


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