Curse you, Blogger! Part III
While I've been toying with the idea of switching, either by picking another free service or paying for a blogging service (TypePad being the main service I'm considering in order to be rid of Blogger), it appears that more and more people are recognizing the deficiencies of Blogger. One of my favorite medical bloggers, whose wonderful essays helped to inspire me after I first dipped my toes in the blogging pool (and upon some of whose posts I tried to pattern a couple of my early efforts), The Cheerful Oncologist, has announced that he will soon be moving his blog to Live Journal. And now, I've come across an article on Wired! that discusses the recent problems with Blogger. Most of what's in that article is right on, and it made me think again about whether I've outgrown Blogger. Others gave me some suggestions the last time I wrote about this, and I'm still considering them, too.
In a way, I'm a bit torn about his. After all, Blogger is a free service. Consequently, if it has problems, I have a hard time complaining too much about the service because I'm not paying a penny to use it that I wouldn't be paying anyway for broadband Internet access. (What do I expect for free, anyway?) I also don't have to worry about bandwidth at all (not that I get enough traffic yet for it to be much of an issue, even if I were to pay for my blog), whereas with paid services I might. And some pretty high-traffic blogs still use Blogger, like Hullabaloo, Chrenkoff, Orcinus, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, The Decembrist, and others. Also, this is just a hobby. Why pay for it if I don't have to? Still, I wonder if, after nearly four months and over 30,000 hits, it's time to remove the training wheels. The number of posts I've made has now grown large enough that it would be very helpful to be able to break them down by category in the archives at the very least, rather than the present scattershot "Essential Orac" list that I have to update manually on my sidebar every time I post what I consider to be a particularly fine pearl of blogging goodness. Another huge frustration for Mac users using blogger is the clunky way of posting pictures that is forced on us. My main concern about switching now, however, is that my hit count has been steadily rising over the last four months and it worries me that having to change URLs might cause a temporary hit in the growth of my blog. I wonder if the benefits are worth the temporary hit in the growth of my blog that would be likely from a switch. On the other hand, the longer I delay, the more difficult the change may be. My other concern is that I'd like a service that would allow me to transfer all my posts to the new address. I could use this address as an archive site, as some have done when they switched, but it would be nicer and cleaner just to move everything over to the new site.
I started this weblog on a whim one cold, dreary Saturday afternoon in December when I was rather depressed, and it turned into quite a fun hobby. It's also an outlet for my latent creativity, which is necessarily suppressed in the copious highly technical writing I do for grant applications and journal articles. At the time I began, I had very modest expectations, but Respectful Insolence has turned out to be more widely read than I thought it would be at this point, and the readership seems to be still growing. I attribute my initial rapid increase in readership to my regular participation in blog carnivals, such as Grand Rounds, Tangled Bank, as well as the Skeptics' Circle, my hosting those carnivals, plus my filling of a niche in the blogosphere that (as far as I can tell) no one else had filled before or has filled yet. I've learned a lot along the way, and (I daresay) have developed into a more than competent blogger. However, even after passing the 30,000 hit mark, I'm not under any illusion at all that I'm anything other than strictly small fry in the blogosphere, or even in the specialty niches of the medical or scientific blogosphere. This remains for me a fun diversion. If the readership continues to grow, great. If not, it would be disappointing, but I'd still forge on. Sooner or later, readership will have to level off, and I'm curious to see at what level it finally does.
On a final note, regardless of what I decide as far as keeping or dumping Blogger, over the last week or so I've been doing some serious thinking about implementing a few changes in Respectful Insolence. First, I am always looking for ways to improve. Second, unfortunately, I have to react to a recent incident involving harassment by a (now formerly) anonymous nutcase. (Please note that I'm remaining intentionally vague for the simple reason that I doubt whether the enormous satisfaction that administering to this idiot the righteous verbal smackdown that he so richly deserves would bring to me is worth the additional annoyance he might cause, no matter how tempting it is to reveal everything right now in detail, particularly his identity.) Suffice it to say that my employers now know my weblog exists. That in and of itself is not too big a deal, as I expected all along that my colleagues would probably find out about my hobby sooner or later anyway. (I was also pleasantly surprised at how they reacted as well, particularly my Department Chair and Division Chief, who were supportive. My initial trepidation appears to have been for naught.) I had just hoped that its existence could have been revealed in a less jarring manner. In any case, the changes that I'm contemplating probably won't be radical, but they might end up being significant. Right off the bat, I have to tell my readers that one of these changes might be to ban anonymous comments. I really hate to take this step, given my long pre-blog history on Usenet and the fact that I myself have chosen to blog semi-anonymously under a pseudonym. Indeed, some of the best comments to this weblog are posted by readers who comment anonymously, and I fully understand why one might not want to leave his or her e-mail address, identity, or even pseudonym. Still, I might ultimately end up having to take this step. On the other hand, a better blogging service might allow me more nuanced methods to deal with this problem than having to resort to a "nuclear" option.
Don't worry, though, about the future of this weblog. I still haven't worked through my backlog of topics, and right now I seem to be adding to the topics to the list at almost the same rate that I'm knocking them off. For the immediately foreseeable future at least, blogging about the odd combination of medicine, science, skepticism, and history (all tinged with Orac's twisted sense of humor), will continue. The core will remain more or less the same as it has been since the beginning. However, as it must, this weblog will continue to evolve and (hopefully) improve.
And, of course, any advice is appreciated regarding ways to improve this weblog.