Blogging Platforms

My sister and I were discussing blogging platforms the other day. She’d recently moved to Blogger from LiveJournal, so we were contrasting various blogging experiences.

I’ve used Blogger since 2003 (though originally with a different blog, now defunct), WordPress.org since 2009, and LiveJournal since 2001. I’ve visited a number of blogs using these and many other blogging platforms, free and otherwise. These are my thoughts.

These days, having a LiveJournal is sort of sniggered at, kind of like having a Hotmail.com email address or a MySpace account. I’ve come across people who were surprised to learn it even still exists, and roll their eyes as if it’s just one of those embarrassing things we do as stupid teenagers then grow out of.

But why is that? Is there something inherently childish about the LiveJournal format?

MySpace, with its awkward interface and preponderance of glittery GIFs, is not quite analogous, though it did attempt to be at least partly a blogging platform. People moved to FaceBook largely because it was cleaner and faster and easier to use.

WordPress is great if you want complete control over your blog’s layout. There are bunches of customizable templates for various uses. My husband, for example, uses Easel (which grew out of ComicPress) for his webcomic. If your blog is specialized, WordPress is very handy.

Blogger is free. It’s easy to set up and get started. Personalization options are so-so, and it often tries to be entirely too helpful in its enthusiasm for all things Google (stop trying to make Google+ happen!), but it’s not bad. One perk is that if you can run multiple blogs from the same account without difficulty.

A lot of people have turned to Tumblr for their blogging needs. I have an account but I don’t use it. I never quite got the hang of Tumblr. As far as I can tell, it consists mainly of people reblogging pictures, with relatively little original content. There are no comments: you can heart/favorite something, or you can reblog it and add your own thoughts, or you can send a question directly to the author but no one else will see it unless they decide to answer it publicly. I think of Tumblr largely as a meme accelerator.

Twitter and Facebook are not blogging platforms. You can write “notes” in FB but that’s nothing but a lengthy status update most people don’t bother reading. I like Twitter and FB for random links, pictures, or pithy comments – stuff too short to warrant a full blog post, in other words.

One thing LiveJournal handles better than any other platform I’ve used is comment notification. You automatically get notified if someone replies directly to a comment you posted. Most other blogs only allow you to subscribe to all comments to a particular post, many of which offer minimal threading. This is problematic for a popular blog. For example, if I comment on Cake Wrecks or The Bloggess, I get the option of either checking the post repeatedly to see if anyone’s replied, or else subscribing to all the comments and watching my email fill up for the next few days. Discussions are very difficult in this format.

LJ’s nearly limitless reply levels also improves the discussion aspect, because you can clearly see who is replying to whom. I’ve never seen this depth of threading anywhere else. Blogger, for example, allows for only a single level of replies – anything beyond that is formatted like a reply to the first comment in the thread.

LJ isn’t perfect, of course. Though you can login/comment from a number of sources (my brother, for example, has commented on my LJ using his FaceBook account), full functionality really requires a LiveJournal account. It’s free to use but I have a paid account because I like the perks it offers. I like how easy it is to read and add to my “friends page” – those other LiveJournals I read regularly. I can add RSS feeds too (one of the paid account perks) but I prefer to use Feedly (since Google Reader died, anyhow) as my blog aggregator since I can use categories and read individual blogs and sort by oldest first and stuff like that. Of course, I could always just add all the LJ blogs I read to Feedly and read them that way. (Adding Tumblr blogs to Feedly doesn’t work very well for some reason.) However, since I’ve been using LJ for over 12 years now, I’m perfectly comfortable with the format of the friends page there.

LJ also doesn’t allow you to have multiple blogs from the same account. I have multiple LJ blogs (my 101 Things in 1001 Days progress blog, for example, is on LJ) but I have to log out of my regular account and into another in order to post or comment. LJ does, however, give you control over who may and may not read certain entries, or even your blog as a whole. Granted, those allowed to read must have LJ accounts themselves, but still, that sort of selective locking is something I haven’t found elsewhere.

I stay on LiveJournal partly out of habit but mostly because I haven’t come across a compelling reason to leave. It’s not like personal blogs don’t exist anywhere else, but for some reason LJ has become synonymous with whiny teenagers venting their spleens. Which is kind of hilarious, actually; I don’t read anyone under the age of 30. One of LJ’s most famous residents, Cleolinda Jones, continues to draw a huge readerships without even bothering with a personalized domain name.

So what do you think? Do you have a preferred blogging platform? Do you look down on certain URLs for particular reasons? Are personal blogs passe?

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  1. I do find that I view Hotmail and Yahoo email addresses as kind of quaint, even though there’s no reason for that. They’re just email.

    In terms of blogging… well, I could see someone with their own domain name looking more professional or serious than someone without, but that should apply equally whether you’re at myblog.blogspot.com or stick wordpress or livejournal or typepad in between the dots. But it does seem like LJ is less serious. Which is also odd because I’m pretty sure LJ is the oldest of the four, so it would have the longest-run blogs as well.

    I have to do some Googling. BRB.

  2. So it would seem LJ fell out of favor because it kept doing things to alienate users, more than the reputation of its userbase – not that Facebook has fallen apart for that. And people don’t go back. Although it is possible *I* will yet go back…

    This is worth reading: http://www.dailydot.com/culture/livejournal-decline-timeline/

    I liked this quote from http://www.dailydot.com/business/why-livejournal-rules-russia/ : “As a real, childhood-in-a-snowsuit Russian, I think the appeal lies in LiveJournal’s no-frills style. It’s remained an unfaltering beacon of the sort of burlap utilitarianism that appeals to a Russian audience. In this case at least, basic is better.”

  3. It occurs to me there is one thing LJ does that no one else does that I have missed on multiple occasions in my other blogs: allow you to cut text out of the middle of a post, but have the beginning and end show up on the main blog page and people’s friends pages – and hence also allow multiple blocks of text to be cut separately. Now that they have the drop-down-in-place functionality it’s even better. I have been wanting that for my blog and am probably going to have to learn some AJAX to do it.

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