Saturday, December 1, 2007

When Brilliant Men Have Dumb Ideas

It was bound to happen someday.

It appears that the guys at Google had a very bad idea.

They were on a streak, what with revolutionizing web search and coming up with that friendly and easily identifiable little logo and becoming so popular that they had to fight to try to keep their trademarked name from becoming a standard-English verb and all that. They did pretty well for themselves making billions of dollars and buying up major players in closely related industries. Their "foothold" in web search became a stairway and then an escalator, and now few people even know the names of the early search engines and Yahoo! threw up its hands last year and said, "Maybe we should do something else."

But for some reason, these guys who understand technology and algorithms and the value of a good, free lunch onsite and the need to encourage employee creativity have missed the boat on Blogger comments. In fact, I don't think they even know where the shore is.

I can think of a lot of possible reasons that the outbound linking process from comments on Blogger blogs has changed (without notice), but they're all guesses.

  • It MIGHT be because Google, which uses backlinks as part of its algorithm for determining the value of a page, doesn't want to allow people the ability to create their own backlinks by commenting on blogs--even when the blogger has deleted the default "no follow" tag in the comment section.
  • It MIGHT be to prevent non-Google-registered commenters from leaving URLs; this would encourage everyone to sign up for a Google account whether they needed on or not--a solution that won't be of much help to bloggers with multiple blogs, anyway.
I'm sure there are other possibilities. And I'm UNsure about whether or not there's any basis in reality for either of these two speculative explanations.

I am sure of one thing, though. Someone has radically underestimated the importance of this functionality to bloggers and to those who leave comments on blogs. It's possible that the hope is that everyone will quickly sign up for a Google account so that they can leave comments with links in them, but it seems more likely that people will quickly move their blogs to other platforms where this issue doesn't exist...and that those who don't will see diminished traffic and a decline in comments.

They've also either overlooked or dismissed the fact that Blogger bloggers who do get visits from comments on other blogs will no longer be able to identify where they're coming from. Since they'll all be routed through the Blogger profile, all stats will show is a lot of referrals from the profile, not the actual source of the traffic.

I hope it doesn't turn out that we all have to abandon Blogger; I hope it mostly for selfish reasons, because I like Blogger a lot from a user perspective and would prefer not to move. But I'm not optimistic.

Of course, from what I've been hearing recently about disappearing blogs and comments, it may just be that after this post, I WILL find myself shopping for a new watch this space. If I'm moving VOLUNTARILY, I'll let you know in advance.


absolutelytrue said...

I noticed the changes, and I can't say that I've ever been a fan of the comment setup on blogger, but more than definitely now I can say that it is something not conducive to the community feel that I think is a great thing for a blog. I can also say with certainty, I am glad I don't have a blogger blog.

RockStories said...

That's one of the things that really bugs me, absolutelytrue: I really like using blogger. I've used WordPress and a dedicated platform powered by MoveableType pretty extensively, and from a user perspective, Blogger is by far my favorite. It will be a shame if that's lost to the simple fact that it no longer functions like other blogs.

Diddums said...

I have a Blogspot as my emergency blog... my main blog is elsewhere (and it's not Wordpress, Typepad or any of those mentioned in the OpenID list).

When commenting, I used to be able to leave a link to my main blog, but now the link will take any followers to my Blogger profile and from there to the emergency blog, which isn't much in use.

On the Blogger profile, I can leave a link to my main blog as 'My Web Page', but most people will look at the bottom of the profile for my Blogger blogs, thinking that's all that will be there.

Huff. said...

This really was a bad move by Google. You have to wonder, who they get to make these kinds of decisions and how much they actual 'get' about blogging.

MS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MS said...

I just revised and reposted a long comment here, but now it has disappeared into the ether. Doesn't Google allow one to post after one was stupid enough to delete one's own comment? Or are things getting buggy?

Joel said...

openID is not a bad idea, only difference is that other users have to log in using their blogging platform which makes it even more convenient for them.

Guess they should shift it to the normal version of blogger(currently it's in the draft version) as soon as possible.

I've enabled it and did a post on how to use it :)

RockStories said...

But, Joel, does that allow users to make the link point to their blogs instead of their openID profiles? I have a Blogger account, so theoretically it should be "convenient" for me, but since I have five different blogs on very different topics, I don't want the link just going back to my profile--I want it pointing to the relevant blog (especially if I've posted on the same topic). And, as a Blogger user leaving comments on other sites, I can't tell where my traffic is coming from, since it all passes through my profile--my stats no longer show the referring blog, but list my own profile as the referrer. Will the openID "solution" address any of that?

absolutelytrue said...

I was just coming to tell you about open ID, but you already know :)

Joel said...

The last option in the drop down menu of openID says 'any openID' and it asks you to specify your blog/website URL on clicking it.

I maintain a single blog and realized this only after you've mentioned it, still the 'any openID' option should work.

livefree said...

Personally, I feel Google really wants a stranglehold on the page ranking system, as well as simply the ability to dictate to us what pages are important. I know Google has dropped page ranks on blogs where people post Pay-per-Post ads, for example. The message seems to be, use Google or be damned.

Personally, I like the heat and the slightly acrid smell of sulfur.

RockStories said...

Joel, I just tried to post a comment using the "any openID" option and it would not accept the URLs for any of my blogs--which was no surprise. That field has a logo clearly designating that it's asking for your openID URL.

And now I'm logged in to my blogger account and still unable to enter a URL--only the automatic link to my profile.

Joel said...

I was mistaken(sorry for killing your time), the any openID is for any profile and not a blog URL.

But wordpress users can use their blog name and it appears as a link (that was what impressed me).The probability of adding a URL will be very low in case they settle with the idea of openID

RockStories said... WordPress users can leave a link directly to the blog of their choice and Blogger clients cannot...what kind of message is THAT sending?

MS said...

Here's that comment disappeared earlier, courtesy of Tiffany. Thanks!

I've tried to create some buzz for this on other sites besides BlogCatalog, including Bumpzee and the Authority Blogger forum.

I hope that bloggers who are not on Blogger will see this as an issue that matters to them. Some, like Chris (MattNutts) seem to, but I wonder if others just think we're getting what we deserve for using such a platform. Here's hoping I'm wrong.

I so do not want to switch, but I also do not want to put up with behavior by web designers who appear to have no idea what blogging is actually about.

I've stumbled and dugg your post. You might also want to update your friends list at StumbleUpon to get some more stumbling oomph. Meanwhile, I look forward to hearing who else has blogged about this. I myself have mentioned your post on my tumblelog along with another, and I've included the Digg and Stumble links. I also mentioned the problem on Twitter, though I have no idea if anyone listens over there. And I mentioned the problem on Google's Blogger group. No responses yet, not even from other bloggers. Mystifying. I guess these things take time, but how much?

RockStories said...

Note: as exemplified in MS's post directly above, it is still possible (today, anyway) to leave html links in the body of Blogger comments. It's more of a hassle and probably looks and feels spammier, but it's probably the best way to preserve the legitimate ends accomplished by associating links with comments for now.

Alan said...

commenting from my Google account because it's easiest.

I am still hoping that Google will come to their sense but I don't feel like I can just continue pouring my effort into my blogspot site if I may Really need to jump to Word Press.

So I am posting to my new WP blog duplicates of my blogger posts. But Tiffany, you seem to be telling me this will cause me to lose all my search engine rank?

Argggh. So maybe I need to Only publish on WP until this hopefully clears up and I can resume things on Blogger or it becomes clear Blogger will not be fixed and I focus exclusively on my WP site...

RockStories said...

That's right, Alan. I know your intentions were honorable, but operating multiple sites on different domains with the same content is an old-school blackhat SEO attempt to corner the market on a particular term by taking up multiple slots with the same content. All of the major search engines specifically prohibit mirror sites.

I left you a reference link in your BC Shoutbox, but for anyone else contemplating the same, just run a search for "search engines mirror sites" or check the webmaster guidelines on your search engine of choice.

Alan said...

feh. I will post place holders to blogger that link to but don't contain the WP content. (thinks that if google wasn't so greedy this needn't be so complicated)

Lisa said...

I use Bluehost to do my hosting and to buy my domains.

For those of you considering a move, you can redirect your blogger blogs to a new site, so you don't lose your readers.

Ed said...

I agree, this is so stupid, I can't believe Google doesnt see how this is just hurting blogspot. time for everyone to jump over to wordpress

Colin King said...

I feel this is just adding insult to injury. I disliked commenting on Blogger it's so awkward. I do not have OpenID and don't intend to get it just to comment on Blogger blogs. Now I don't get a link back to my site, just my name, such is life.

I know this sounds all me me but there is give and take and Google are taking that away.

Robin said...

It is NEVER a good idea to make it more difficult to comment. There's just not enough time for the inconvenience...:/.

Writing about this today as well, adding you to my growing list of posts.


Will said...

Hi! I dugg this story. Hopefully we are creating enough of a fuss to get Google's attention. I don't use Blogger myself, but am upset about it as I have a few friends who do. This has made it much more difficult for them to foster discussions on their sites.

This comment is a good example. Without spending a bunch of time doing different, it was just easier to post using the nickname option. If this had been a blog I came upon by chance, I probably would have just gone on by. I actually have a dislike for the popup version of Blogger comments, and often just skip it altogether unless the content has really drawn me in.

By the way - Thanks for your comment and digg on my article on the same subject of Google's "dumb idea"! (Link to


Emoporer said...

OMG, it's horrible! After all that hard work typing a super long comment, the blog owner won't even know where i'm from.

So far, the blogs i've visited (besides this one) doesn't have the OpenID option. I think no one (not the blog owners at least) have realised that the URL thingy has gone missing.

I'm gonna try if OpenID works here.


p.s. Please make a bigger fuss. XD

Emoporer said...

Yikes, they didn't let me and used my blogger ID instead. Doesn't matter, i'm gonna have to insert those header codes if i'm to link my blog to my OpenID.


lankapo said...

they own the internet, hehe

so they can do anything they want maa

joel-robinson said...

Well, blog URL can be placed in the any openID option but it needs delegating that particular blog using openID; even for custom domain blogs.

More information about it can be found here

(This comment was done using openID)

RockStories said...

I did read that, Joel, and it's better than nothing, but it's still hard to see it as an improvement that what we used to be able to do by simply typing in a URL we can now do only by creating a separate openID account for each blog--and even that only helps those who are active enough bloggers/commenters to have sought out a solution. I don't know whether that holds true for others or not, but I would say that does NOT describe the majority of people who leave comments on my blogs.

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