Friday, May 29, 2015

You Get What You Pay For

I haven’t been blogging much this week. In part that is being busy with the year ending at school. In part it is because the connection between Windows Live Writer, which is the application I write my posts with, and Blogger, the site that hosts this blog, is broken. Google announced a while ago that they were going to change the login for the API for Blogger. Unfortunately Windows Live Writer is officially a retired product which means no one is updating it. SO when Google changed over to the new API this week the connection was broken. It turns out that a lot of blog posting tools were also broken at the same time. I have no idea how those users are coping. I can still manually post – obviously – but WLW made posting so easy and I still have to figure out how posting images work. Well it’s frustrating.
I understand that Microsoft and Google are talking about both short and long term solutions and I am cautiously optimistic that something will work out. The whole thing highlights a lot of problems with software though.
First off companies who compete do not have a lot of incentive to make life easier for each other so using tools from competing companies and expecting them to work well together can be risky. Many people pick a platform and limit themselves to that one company as much as possible. I admit that is one reason I stick with Microsoft products when I can. I prefer them to Apple or Google and they, Microsoft products, work well together. Other people prefer Apple or Google and I think it is great that they have to options.
This also highlights one of the risks of using proprietary products rather than open source products. If either Blogger or Windows Live Writer were open source other people could make fixes. This advantage of open source is often more theoretical than actual though. I could probably modify WLW to work with the new API if I had access to the source code. Millions of other users probably could not do the same thing because they don’t have the technical background. They would have to wait for someone who does have the background to make the fix and share it. That is not much different from waiting for a company to do the same thing.
Another issue is using free products. Free as in “free lunch.” Both Google’s Blogger and Microsoft’s Windows Live Writer are free to use. There is little incentive to spend money to fix problems. Arguably Google has more incentive here because they make some advertizing money for Blogger (I think). Microsoft really gets nothing but some good will from Windows Live Writer. It can be hard to justify spending lots of money on free products. As a user it is also hard to complain about something you didn’t pay for in the first place.
I’m thinking about the long term for my blog these days. Maybe I would be better off on a paid site. I don’t mind paying for good things that come with good support. I don’t expect people to give away valuable resources like software or services for free. People need to make a living and people deserved to be compensated for their work. If I want free software maybe I should just write it myself?


Mike Zamansky said...

Well, it's never really free as the host is able to collect gobs of data from you and your readers.

On the open source front - it certainly gives flexibility - you can use WordPress on a hosted site and pay for it, a free site, or install the software on your own site.

DigitalOcean - my favorite virtual server hosting site costs as little as $5 a month for your own Linux system and they have a WordPress install (and wonderful howtos and tutorials).

So, even if you never look at a line of WordPress you gain tremendously from the open source aspect.

I used to use Blogger but found it limiting - largely because I'm an old school Unix, command line, Emacs guy. I ended up going to a based static site blog hosted under github pages. It's free, simple and works and I can easily host on my own site if I want.

It's not a perfect solution since Jekyll is written in Ruby and isn't a perfect fit but it does give me the control I want and posting is just a git push away.

Anonymous said...

It's a real dilemma. I had set up an instance of WordPress and was going to host my own. The problem with that is keeping up to date with all the patches and updates to make it secure. There are a lot of roaming bots just looking for insecure instances.

So, as you know, I ended up posting to They look after it and I just have to do my thing. I recognize that they do have to pay the bills and the advertising isn't really in your face so I can live with that. As it turns out, way, way more people follow and subscribe by email.

I was really sorry to hear that the Blogger/LiveWriter relationship was broken. They've been good to you for a long time. At one time, I thought that you and I had discussed Microsoft's plans to make it open source. So, there may well be something coming. Most of my time I use ScribeFire which is a browser extension so that I can do things right in my browser. It works nicely although LiveWriter does have a bit more functionality.

Good luck with your decision. I'll be interested in seeing where you land up.

Alfred C Thompson II said...

From what I hear there is still talk (hope) of open sourcing WLW. I hope it comes to that. I might actually play with it if they do.

I've thought about self-hosting but I don't want to be a system manager.

Brian Sea said...

Having been in the OSS community for years, I'm not sure that I agree that the open source 'advantage' is more theoretical over proprietary solutions. In both worlds, a non-programmer would have to wait for a fix to be available. Sometimes, that means it'll never happen, but in the OSS community there's at least the *option* that someone might pick the software up. Your current problem is a prime example... unless WLW goes open source, chances of the problem being resolved are near zero.

I'm actually in the process of setting up my own Wordpress instance on my own hosting. This way I at least get to hold on to all of the IP of what I create and post --, for example, gets certain rights to what I would post. I'm thinking long-term, of course, because I could post hundreds of items, just to have some company change their IP policy.

The downside is that I have to decide if I want Wordpress to run my entire site or not and if I want to write my own WP theme. Oh, the advantages and problems of being a programmer.

Anonymous said...

Scott actually mentioned some folk still trying to get open sourced just the otehr day on his blog

Alfred C Thompson II said...

I read Scott Hanselman's post the other day myself. And I've exchanged a couple of tweets with him as well. I am hopeful that something will develop. In the mean time I'm looking for move a number of things I do now off of Google products.