Googles Blogger Boss Focuses on the User

Blogger creator and Google Program Manager Evan Williams joins eWEEK's Steve Gillmor in a conversation about the revamped Weblog creation tool and its controversial support of a new syndication technology.

Over the past two weeks, there have been dramatic shifts in the Weblog software landscape. First, Google announced a brand new, "easy-to-use" version of its Blogger Web-based blogging tool last week—the first new version since Google acquired the company in February 2003. SixApart then announced a new licensing scheme for its Movable Type software, creating discord among the blogging community as it moved toward charging high-end users of the latest version of the tool. And then this past Monday, Dave Winer, a Harvard Law School Berkman Center fellow and former head of Weblogging tool vendor UserLand Software, announced that he and the company will open-source license the Frontier scripting and Web server kernel of UserLands Manila and Radio products.

In a wide-ranging conversation with eWEEKs Steve Gillmor, Blogger co-founder and Google Program Manager Evan Williams runs through the changes in the software, the company, and the RSS and ATOM content syndication ecology.

Whats going on with the new Blogger?

To give you a little context, since weve been here at Google the last year or so weve been working mostly on the back-end stuff, building out the infrastructure, working on scalability and viability issues. Weve done a few features, rolled most of the pro features into the free version a while back, and built out the support department.

This is our first major release in terms of user-focused things. It has three major elements: First is an ease-of-use factor, from the design of the home page and the sign-up process to the interface. We did a bunch of user testing and are aiming to appeal to a much wider, less technical audience than blogging has ever reaching before. We feel weve made good strides in that direction.

The second part is building out some of the community aspects. A few of the major features are comments and profiles, both of which help drive the connections between users, which is of course a big motivation for why people are blogging.

And then the third is improving the experience and esthetics of the blogs themselves and the flexibility with what you can do with them. There are the new templates and the new URLs—every post has its own page—and some new flexibility in the templating language.

Templating language?

The templates in Blogger have a very simple templating language [that drives] how to put the content in the page. We added some new tags that extend the language, conditional tags that allow you to show different things on the home page than you show, say, on an archive page. Theyre pretty simple, but they offer a lot more flexibility.


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The templates are built using these new extensions?

The core of the templating language is still the same. All the old templates still work, theres just more flexibility.

Give me an example of some new tags.

Conditional tags are basically like IF statements, but they have a simple syntax. If youre on what we call a post page—a permalink for a post—where its the only post on that page, you might not want to put all the things in your margin, like all your archives or your entire blogroll. Or you might want to put a link back to your home page. It doesnt make sense to have a link back to your home page on your home page. So instead of having a bunch of different templates that might be harder to manage, you use these conditional tags.

Next page: E-mail and the Blogger API.