WordPress.com versus Blogger

Like rats from a sinking ship, bloggers seem to be fleeing in droves from Blogger to WordPress.com.

I think this is such a good thing.

WordPress.com beats Blogger hands-down on a number of fronts. WP generates much cleaner code. WP sites load faster. WP allows you to create multiple — infinite! — pages on your site. WP’s text editor gives you many options, including one-click insertion of weird symbols (like oh for example pilcrows) and proper headings. Even better, WP’s text editor is typographically correct, creating em- and en-dashes and curly quotes to your heart’s content.

Even if WordPress.com did none of the above, however, it would still beat Blogger hands-down.* And that’s because of the way WP handles spam. Both WP and Blogger do an excellent job of preventing spam comments from showing up on your blog. But they do it in very different ways.

Blogger uses something called a CAPTCHA, which stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” I’m sure you’ve seen these. The way it works is, you are given a challenge that is supposed to be easy for humans but impossible for computers to answer. If you respond correctly, you are assumed to be human, and your comment will be posted. If you don’t respond correctly, you are assumed to be a “spambot” and you comment is assumed to be spam. On Blogger, like many other sites, the challenge is to type in the random distorted letters shown in an image:

And yes, challenge is the operative word here. Personally, I am rarely able to type in the letters correctly the first time. Sometimes I misread the letters (is that a g or a q? an l or an I?). Other times I mistype the unfamiliar combination of key strokes. Very annoying.

Worse than the annoyance, though, is the attitude it implies. It doesn’t seem fair that the burden is on us to prove that we are human! As if the spammers, phishers, and hackers haven’t caused us enough trouble already! Not to mention the accessibility problems it causes for the visually-impaired. Grrrr!

WordPress, on the other hand, uses a completely different model. Nobody has to prove anything. Instead, every comment is run through a service called Akismet, which checks to see if the comment meets any of a number of criteria that are suggestive of spam (e.g. multiple links, certain keywords which I’m not going to type here, particular IP’s, etc.). If the comment meets the spam criteria it gets placed in a “holding tank.” You can check the holding tank to make sure no legitimate comments slipped in, and after a while the spam is deleted. And if a spam comment happens to slip through, you simply tag it as spam and Akismet learns from the mistake.

Akismet is extremely effective. In the two or three years that I’ve used it I have never had a legitimate comment get trapped. Occasionally I’ve had spam comments come through, and while that is unpleasant, if you’re paying attention to your blog you’ll catch the error quickly. And if you’ve enabled comment moderation the spam won’t appear on your blog, anyway. In my opinion, the simple courtesy of assuming your commenters (commentators?) are human and not making them have to prove it is well worth the unpleasantness of the occasional error.

So, if you’re contemplating switching from Blogger to WordPress.com… I say go for it!

* * *

*In fairness I must mention three areas in which Blogger may, arguably, have an advantage over WP.

First, Blogger allows you to make whatever changes you want to your theme. You can get your hands delightfully dirty in the HTML and CSS. Some may not see this as an advantage, though, because it allows people to create some pretty crappy designs. WordPress.com, on the other hand, makes you pay $15 per year for the privilege of touching the CSS, and you are not under any circumstances given access to the HTML/PHP files that make up your theme. However, this is why all WP blogs look so nice.

Second, Blogger’s ridiculous practice of enclosing the entire post in a single <p> tag and making you create “paragraphs” with forced line breaks means that it’s much easier to post poetry.

And third, WP doesn’t allow any advertising — not one tiny Google Ad — on its blogs. Which, again, is why they all look so nice.

If any of WordPress.com’s limitations bother you, remember too, you can always host your own. In which case, the sky’s the limit.

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