Friday, July 13, 2012

On Mobile Blogging

As a technical writer, I have to make sure that the information and instruction that I provide is first and foremost accurate and does not mislead my audience: that is, it's important that I'm understood but it's more important that I'm not misunderstood.

With the information out of the way, my documentation has to look good. It has to be laid out in such a way that is visually appealing to the reader. If what they see is an eyesore, they're not going to enjoy looking for the information.

When I blog, I'm concerned with the content. I hope that what I write appeals to you and makes you want to read more and return to The Brown Knowser. But I firmly believe that a big part of enjoying my blog lies in how my writing and photos are presented. If this blog looks like shit, you probably wouldn't want to stay on it for long.

And you might not return.

For years, I've been blogging on my home laptop. With a full keyboard and mouse, and the ease of a big screen, I've enjoyed the control of my blog engine. I haven't had very many restrictions, certainly none to make blogging a chore.

A few months ago, on a short trip, I decided to leave my laptop at home and go smaller, taking my iPad and wireless keyboard. It was disastrous. Blogger didn't let me switch between HTML and WYSIWYG, and I couldn't import my photos easily, if at all. The whole experience had me refusing to use my iPad for blogging again, and so for the next two trips I lugged around my laptop (It's a big one).

For this trip, I voiced my mobile blogging concerns with some friends, and they recommended Blogsy. Blogsy is an authoring app that allows you to publish to all sorts of blog engines, including Blogger. One of the things I was told was that Blogsy was easy to use and worked well at importing photos.

And so I bought the app.

Last Friday, I tested the app by posting my Photo Friday post. Text and photos. My usual kind of post. Blogsy worked really well. While the formatting wasn't what I expected, that was my fault. I didn't set the font. But by and large, I was happy, and so my iPad was my only device that came with me on this vacation.

This week, I used Blogsy for all of my post and it seemed to work without a hitch. That is, until yesterday's post. In my weekly beer review, I use a few different paragraph formats, and here's where Blogsy failed me.

Here are my issues:

Blockquotes: when I give the details about a beer, I put the name of the beer, the brewer, the price, and alcohol content in blockquotes. With Blogsy, there appears to be a button at the top, with all of the other formatting buttons, for this feature. And when I used it, my paragraph was indented. But when I wanted to move down to the next paragraph in the blockquotes, the lines were double-spaced. I wanted them single-spaced and I couldn't figure out how to make that happen.

And another problem occured when I wanted to get out of the blockquotes paragraphs. I couldn't do it. I tried pressing Return twice, which in some apps returns the cursor to the main body paragraph. I tried pressing the Blockquotes button again, but all that did was to add another level of blockquotes (further indentation).

I felt trapped. I had to start again. And I gave up on blockquotes. Take a look at my previous beer reviews and then look at yesterday's. Which one do you prefer?

Photos: while I have had no problems bringing photos into a post if the photo is centred, I had not yet tried bringing a photo into the text, aligning it on the left or right side, and reducing the size. In Blogger, I simply place the cursor where I want to place the photo, import the photo, and then click the photo, where I can click the size I want and click the alignment. And it's done.

In Blogsy, I have to import my photo from my library into a tray and then drag the photo into the body of my blog. I have to say that at times, dragging the photo has not been smooth: the photo jumps into the body and sometimes lands in a paragraph that is not where I intended it to go.

The other night, as I wrote my beer blog, I tried to drag one of the photos into the blog (the first photo) and the strangest thing happened. I touched the photo I wanted, and as I dragged it I could see it on the screen. But as soon as I released the photo, the image changed to the second photo in my tray (the second photo in the blog post). I repeated this process several times with the same result, and often the photo would appear at the top of the page, not where I wanted it to go. I finally had to start with a fresh page, pull the photo into the body of the blog, add a paragraph above the photo, and then paste my text above it.

When I tried to import the second photo into the post, I grew frustrated as I lifted my finger and found the first photo in its place.

I also don't like that Blogsy only lets me reduce my photo sizes to a maximum of 60 percent. Sometimes, I like to go smaller, especially when the photo is aligned to the left or right. I don't want my text to appear scrunched. If you look at my previous beer review, you can see what I mean.

Overall, I do like Blogsy. It is much better than Blogger on the iPad. And when I'm travelling, carrying something smaller than my laptop is nicer. I can sit by the pool and type my blog post (this post, as a matter of fact). But Blogsy is not perfect, and I'm not happy with how it formats for indented, single-spaced blocks (in a word, it doesn't). I'm not crazy about how it imports photos into the body, and I don't like the limitation for reducing the size of the photo.

Yesterday's blog post should have taken me less than an hour to put together. With the issues I faced, I had to restart my post twice and it took me more than two hours to create and publish. And I don't like how it appears on the page. It looks amateurish.

So for the next week or so, while I'm travelling, I hope the look of my blog posts doesn't turn you off. I hope that you keep coming back.

Having written this post, I just found the button to switch from a WYSIWYG environment to HTML. While this discovery will most likely solve my formatting problems, it remains to be seen how the photos will be affected.

No comments:

Post a Comment