Blogger Titans Interview #2 : Chuck Croll

Second in the series of Blogger Titans Interviews , this time we have with us Chuck Croll , better known as Nitecruzr on the Blogger Forum. He has been an active contributor on the official forums from the year 2006 and has by far the most comprehensive knowledge about Blogger Platform. His blog , The Real Blogger Status , is an extensive resource for Blogger related tips and tricks as well as documents all the news and issues regarding Blogger. Now lets get started with the interview

Stylify Your Blog : Hi Chuck Croll , Can you introduce yourself to our readers ? 



Chuck Croll : I’m a Networking / Security Consultant, who started using Blogger because publishing my notes, online, was what everybody else was doing. And because some of my advice was provided in online forums – and my Blogger blog was a good place to park my more complex forum references.

See #4 for the complete chronology of my life as a Blogger Blog*Star.

SYB: In these years that you have been using Blogger , why do you still love to use it ?


CC: Blogger gives the world (of many cultures and languages) an opportunity to communicate – with an amazing selection of accessories and self developed options.


You are the largest contributor in the Blogger Forum with posts in over 41500+ thread and averaging around 50 posts a day . How do you manage this much dedication to Blogger while balancing it with your day-to-day life ? 


 Multitasking – and virtual living – is the key. And, sleeping odd hours (a side effect of virtual living).


You have been a Blogger Top Contributor for over 7 years and have seen many updates in the Blogger Platform , Can you possibly take us chronological through the major updates that, you found ,took Blogger to new heights ?


As a MicroSoft MVP, I started my first blog, PChuck’s Network, in 2005. The first post in my blog, “The NT Browser“, was my collection of advices that I provided to computer owners, to explain why they couldn’t see all of their computers from each other, through their home networks. Note here that the term “browser” is significantly different than what is used, today.

In 2006, PChuck’s Network was down for over a week, with my first experience with “403 Forbidden” (a condition about which I have since learned a lot) – and the Blogger Help forum was full of reports from other angry blog owners, reporting the same. With no answers from Blogger, including in their highly publicised blog “Blogger Status“, I started “The RealBlogger Status”. After Blogger brought PChuck’s Network back a week later, I kept “The Real Blogger Status” going – and started giving advice in the forum.

My first few blog posts, in “The Real Blogger Status”, targeted the spammers in Blogger Help – which then contributed 75% of total forum content.

On Thanksgiving Day, 2006, I got my first email from Blogger, thanking me for my contributions – and my life as a Blogger Blog*Star started.

In January 2007, Blogger started issuing bX codes to identify problems – MHO, a true genius concept. A month later, they introduced the Custom Domains feature, which gave the ability to publish blogs to non Blogspot URLs – a second true genius concept. Later in February 2007, “The Real Blogger Status” was recognised as a significant complement to “Blogger Status“, as part of the bX-sp4hmm error diagnosis and resolution process.

Also in 2007, Blogger changed their template structure from plain old HTML, to dynamic XML, and introduced the Layouts class of templates. They gave us the “Page Elements” wizard (now the dashboard “Layout” wizard), which lets us add accessories to the blog without having to edit HTML.

In January 2008, Blogger started an organised determined effort to rid the Blogosphere of the rampant spam content. Later in 2008, we added more Blog*Stars to the group – and Blogger Help really took off as an effective source of advice, to Blogger blog owners everywhere.

In 2010, Blogger added the Stats feature, a visitor meter which lets blog owners measure visitor activity, without requiring any installation – a third genius concept. Also in 2010, they ended FTP Publishing, a feature made redundant by Custom Domain Publishing. And, they introduced the Designer class of templates – and gave us the “Template Designer” wizard (now the “Customize” option in the dashboard “Template” wizard), to let us mix and match template backgrounds, layouts, and styles in infinite variety, without having to edit HTML.

In February 2011, we saw the first referer spam, an organised attack against our Stats logs. In March, 2011, Blogger added the “Dynamic” class of templates, to give our readers the choice how to view our blogs, when they view them. And later that year, RBS was honoured, by the spammers which I have been fighting since 2006, with a “Joe Job” attack delivered using referer spam.

In the months and years since, we’ve seen other, interesting experiences. In truth, there is always something going on – though without comprehensive forum experience, much of the ongoing activities won’t always be apparent, because of normal forum activity, at any given time.



Blogger has entered into its 14th year of operation , Which breakthroughs are needed in terms of features or innovative approaches that will make sure it continues like this ?


Right now, MHO, their most urgent need is more flexible support of “mobile” / “small” computers. The option to publish comments against Blogger blogs, using “mobile” computers,is not a well supported feature – though the problem is compounded by the owners of the “mobile” computers. The current “one size fits all” approach, applying a common “mobile” template to all “mobile” / “small” computers – regardless of computer ability and features set – is not sufficiently granular.

They also need to step up integration of Community Building (“Google+”), Photo Serving / Sharing / Storage (“Google+ Photos” / “Picasa”), and Video Serving / Sharing / Storage (“YouTube”) And other Real Place / Real Time concepts like Events, Places, and Maps – details which right now are only found in Google+ – need to be better integrated into Blogger, again to support “mobile” computer type applications.

Contrarily, they need to be aware that not every Blogger user is madly impressed by Google+. Blogger should not become “Google+ Blogs”. Google needs to improve Google+, so people want to use it – not tweak products like Blogger and YouTube, and force people to use it.

And again (see #12), they need to improve the quality and reliability of third party accessories, gadgets, and templates.


Blogger has started the Hangout on Air series  which has received great responses from users , Do you think more audio-visual and interactive content from Blogger would be useful in driving higher user adoption and spreading more general awareness about the platform ? 


I suspect that AV content can be used, to accompany hypertext based documentation. I don’t think that AV content will replace hypertext, in driving higher user adoption and spreading more general awareness about the platform.

  • Much of what we do, in maintaining and publishing a Blogger blog, involves text based processes.
  • Whenever Blogger changes their processes, a generic hypertext based description of what needs to be done will be much more accurate, than a series of pictures that have changed completely.

I use screen prints, to illustrate my documentation. I don’t think screen prints, or videos, will ever replace properly written documentation. Look at the Blogger Help library – every week, we get a new report of some key Blogger Help document, that is unusable, because it’s out of date. And Blogger has a full time engineer, who does nothing but write Blogger Help pages.


Blogger Templates combine with the Blogger Template Designer make it easier for users to customize their blogs. Recent updates to the Template Editor have made it even simpler. What do you think are the Plus and Minuses of the Blogger Templating system ?


+ : Anybody is allowed to customise their own template, or to use a custom template provided by a third party.


: Anybody is allowed to customise their own template, or to use a custom template provided by a third party.
Template customisation is both a good, and a bad, feature. Blogger lets blog owners make their own boundaries, in customising their blogs – and some decisions which are made by some blog owners are not always good decisions. Then, they post in BHF, demanding that a Blogger Engineer fix their mistakes.

Witness right now, the problem with “dynamic” templates and missing updates. Template customisation is truly a plus and minus, at the same time.

But, it’s like parenting. You have to let the kidz make their mistakes – then they grow up, and teach their own kidz.




Your Blog is aptly titled the “The Real Blogger Status” and gives ample information about current issues and general tips and tricks related to Blogger. You have actively maintained it for nearly 8 Years now. When do you think that it is time to make a post ?


Much of the content – original and updates – start with questions answered in the forum. RBS is simply my way of identifying significant Blogger issues – and providing my advice which may be found without requiring exhaustive effort, by the blog owners and readers, in combing through forum topics. It’s a stream of consciousness effort. As soon as I feel that I am repetitively stating or restating an issue, in the forum, I write a blog post.

Many of my posts write themselves. Some time ago, I wrote about the schizophrenic nature of the “HTML” / “Text” gadgets, and how easy it was to confuse them. Today, I wrote a companion article, which focuses on one cause of a current problem – broken Text gadgets. Both articles discuss the same subtle peccadillo in Blogger design – but approach the subject from different directions.



Currently Blogger is experiencing a lot of issues. Many users are curious to know why are the current problem is occurring ?

Blogger is always experiencing a lot of issues – though at any time, not every blog owner or reader may necessarily be aware of each issue. There will always be issues – as long as people use their own computers to publish and read Blogger blogs. You may see my answer in #8 above, for an example of how subtle one possible cause, of one specific current problem, may be.

WordPress and Tumblr are actively involved in supporting as well as organizing events where people using their platform , come together and interact. Do you think similar community building activities should be supported & encouraged by Blogger as well ?


Blogger is a blogging platform. For community building activity (such as organizing events where people using their platform, come together and interact), Google provides Google+ – just as they provide complementary Google components.

  • GMail, for email.
  • Google Groups, for forum based communication.
  • Picasa, for picture serving and sharing.

All of these services – GMail, Google+, Google Groups, Picasa, and other Google services – are separate from Blogger. The Google platform provides more services, better integrated than any competing web based product.


Many Pro Blogger state various reasons like lack of flexibility , Google’s control over data ,etc for using other platform rather than Blogger. What do you think is lacking in Blogger which is keeping professional bloggers from adopting Blogger platform ?


True professions – for instance legal, medical, real estate sales, and such, require

  • A legally recognised organisation, which provides standards for the profession.
  • A rigorous certification process, which all “professionals” undergo – to prove their worthiness as a “pro” lawyer, doctor, salesman, etc.

The blogging “profession” requires none of this. Merely calling oneself a “pro blogger” does not make oneself a professional – just as not calling oneself a “pro blogger” makes oneself an amateur.

My suspicion is that there are far less “professional” bloggers using non Blogger blogging platforms, than those who title themselves “pro bloggers” – and there are far more “professional” bloggers who do use Blogger, than those who title themselves “pro bloggers”.

Many so called “pro bloggers”, when attempting to advertise in Blogger Help, are easily identified as spammers.



There are over 7000 developers in the official Blogger Developer Group and Blogger API v3 has really good cross-platform support. How do you think that Blogger/Google can attract more Developers to develop creative and ingenious Gadgets and Applications for Blogger ?


Blogger / Google will continue what they have been doing, for more years than I have been working with them.

  • Develop an industry leading blogging platform.
  • Develop an industry leading online products suite, to complement their blogging platform.
  • Let market forces bring developers to develop creative and ingenious applications and gadgets, for Blogger.

The challenge is not attracting more developers – it’s encouraging more honest and productive developers. And it requires prevention of the ongoing installation of devious, malicious, and misbehaving gadgets, by naive blog owners.



Medium was launched last year by Evan Williams , one of the person who co-founded Blogger. It has a minimalistic interface and is very focused towards Blogging alone. How do you think Blogger can compete with Medium and upcoming platforms like Ghost ?


Here, I’ll reference my answer in Question 10, to start. Blogger is a blogging platform – but it’s part of the Google applications suite. People like Evan Williams can construct more blogging platforms, as they like – but can they provide complementary features like community building (ala Google+), email (GMail), photo sharing and storage (Picasa), and video sharing and storage (YouTube) – in a minimalistic interface?

Only time will tell whether single purpose focused blogging platforms will be useful, to the world in general. I don’t see any need for Blogger to “compete” – just to continue to develop complementary features, that produce no “drag” when not in use. And more selective integration with complementary services like Google+ will help.


There are more than 300,000 users in the Official Blogger Support forums ( All languages combine ) . What are your thoughts on supporting people outside the forums like via Social Media channels like Google+ which have a much larger user base ? 


Right now, Blogger blogs are updated in a text mode interface. I, personally, will continue using Blogger Help Forums, simply because the GPF(Google Product Forum) infrastructure provides the necessary features and options which make a good forum structure. IMHO, neither Google+ or Twitter will ever provide a good technical forum infrastructure, which works for giving advice about a complex product like Blogger.

Google+ and Twitter provide a good environment for sharing content, and casual interaction. Neither gives any type of documentation structure, to compete with the FAQs or discussion topics, which we have in Blogger Help Forum. We’ll use Google+ as a complement to BHF – not an alternate, by any means.

As an example, try to imagine this interview being conducted in Google+. I’ll write more detail, on that thought, another time.



How can our readers find you on the web , contact you and hire you ?

My Google / Google+ profile (which links from and to my Blogger Help Forum profile) provides a point of contact, an introduction to my areas of expertise and personality, and a point of reference back to anybody trying to contact me. 

Thanks Chuck Croll for this in-depth and enlightening interview , I am are really grateful that you took out time for this interview from your schedule.

Readers feel free to ask questions or share your thoughts about this interview in the comments

Blogger Titans Interview #1 : Andy Page

Blogger Titans Andy Page

From today we will be starting the Blogger Titans Interview series. As the name suggests , we will be interviewing people who have unparalleled expertise and understanding of the Blogger Platform. From Blogger Forum Top Contributors , Template Designers to Gadget Creators , we will be hosting everyone who has extensive experience with Blogger. To kick things off our first guest is Andy Page , Blogger Forum Top Contributor as well as the owner of one the most visited site on Blogger platform , SpoilerTV. Let’s dive straight into the interview



Stylify Your Blog : Can you introduce yourself to our readers


Andy Page : Hi, I’m Andy the owner of SpoilerTV and a Blogger Top Contributor (TC) in the Blogger Forums.
Been a computer programmer and project manager for various companies including Price Waterhouse, IBM, Western Geophysical, Unilever, Cygnite/Unipower


SYB : Since When have you been using Blogger and what has been your experience with it so far ?

AP : Been using Blogger since around 2005 when I started the LOST Site, DarkUFO (darkufo.blogspot.com).

I really enjoy using it find it’s a fantastic way to create a web presence with 0 cost.
The Blogger servers are very fast and reliable and can handle any huge spikes in traffic. As they are hosted on Google Servers they are available worldwide and we don’t have to worry about any server issues, hacking etc. It allows us to concentrate on making posts and articles rather than fixing server issues.

Being a Blogger Top Contributor, what does a normal day look like ?


Basically I first check each morning to see if any of the support tickets that I’m working on have been updated/replied to. If so I go through and work on those posts.

After that I check to see if there appears to be any wide scale outage or issues affecting lots of users.

Finally I look at any new support tickets that have not been replied to by other TC’s.

What do you think are the biggest Advantages and Disadvantages of Blogger over other blogging platform ?

Advantages
– Free
– Fast
– Unlimited Bandwidth and a huge amount of space for Photos and Videos
– Ability to Customize the full template
– Managed Security
– Very Reliable, 99.9% up-time.
– Deep integration with other Google Products, eg. G+, Photos etc
Disadvantages
– Can only have 100 Max Authors
– Can only add 20 Labels Max to a post
– No built in Author Profiles

How do you picture Blogger 5 years from now ?

I don’t see it changing that much to be honest. I think we’ll see lots of small incremental improvements. I hope that we get to see some of the following.

– New and Improved Templates
– Provide Templates that provide the ability to easily make a blog be responsive.
– Improved G+ Comments
– Improvements to the Android and iOS apps.

With new features being released in Blogger nearly every month , Any specific feature that you want in Blogger and why ?

Here are a couple of things I would like to see.

– Provide a new level of Security access. Currently we have Reader, Author and Admin. A new level would be Editor. An Editor would be able to edit existing posts but not be able to make any Admin Changes.

– I would also like to see a Special Level of Security called “Owner”. Only the Owner can add and remove Admins. It would stop rouge admins from deleting other admins.
Categories , I would love to see the introduction of Categories into Blogger. Currently we can only assign Labels to Posts, it would be great to have Categories and that we can use those to remove certain Categories from displaying on the Homepage.
– Improved support for Multi-Author blogs so that Authors can create a custom “footer” for their posts.
– Allow blog owners to have a central place to see all their comments they have left on other sites
– Provide the ability to “undelete” a post or comment that was accidentally deleted.
Do you think Google+ poses any risk to Blogger’s existence ?

Personally, No . G+ is great but not for everyone. G+ only has a small subset of features that can be found in Blogger and provides very little customisations.
Recently there have been many reports of errors in Blogger Forum , is this normal or something uncommon ? ( Recent errors with Text Widget , Post Editor , Template Designer )

These things seem to happen from time to time which is unfortunate. Blogger releases new code/fixes/optimisations on a weekly basis. It appears sometimes that bugs slip through the QA Process. Normally they get fixed within a week, or in some cases work-arounds found.

Your site Spoilertv , which has grown tremendously after your LOST fame , is in many ways the best example of what can be achieved using Blogger platform when its taken to the extreme , How have you been able to do that ?


Thanks 🙂

Lots and lots of hard work and help from a lot of people. I started the site as something to do once LOST was over, and the site just grew slowly. As we grew we added more helpers and writers to help us post content, and reviews.

We expanded the number of shows we covered, added our Episode Database ( www.stvplus.com ) , plus our own Image Gallery ( spoilertv.co.uk/images ).


One of the key things was to build a great community and we use the Disqus commenting system. It really helps us control the spam and keep trolls at bay 🙂
You can see our About Page here for some stats/info

Like many Professional Blogger , why have you not made a Switch to WordPress ?

Very simple really. The amount of traffic we get would mean we would have to purchase a very large and expensive server, along with a monthly bandwidth fees.
Also, I would have learn a whole new templating system and reconfig over 150 RSS Feeds and 50+ twitter accounts.
I just don’t see the benefit in using WordPress over Blogger.

What are your thoughts on Blogger allowing developers to add templates in the Blogger’s centralized Template Gallery ?

I would love to see more professional themes added to the standard gallery.

Why are there less developers developing widgets and templates for Blogger than other platform ? ( Bad publicity or no extensive promotion by either Blogger nor any person or any other reason)

Good question. I think mostly because developers have more control and better to understand features in WordPress. Plus developers can charge for their widgets if they want.

Blogger Widgets seem like a bit of an afterthought and not very well supported or easy to create/maintain.

What do you think will be an instrumental move by Google to make Blogger once again the champion amongst CMS’s ?

I think Blogger need to make it a little simpler for first time bloggers. eg. Tumblr is very quick and easy to add content. Blogger can sometimes seem a little daunting and over complicated to new users.

But apart from that I really can’t think of much. I don’t think Blogger will ever overtake WordPress in terms of userbase/ecosystem but I don’t think it needs to. Both can co-exist quite happily.

WordPress is great for some people, whilst Blogger is preferred by others.

How can people follow you , contact you and give you money ?

We don’t ask for money 😉
darkufo [at-the-rate] spoilertv.com
www.spoilertv.com
plus.google.com/+spoilertv
www.facebook.com/SpoilerTV
spoilertv.tumblr.com

This was a insightful and interesting interview , we would like to thank Andy Page for taking out time for us. Do not hesitate to share your thoughts , questions and opinions about this interview in the comments .