I have mentioned many times that I have a thing for blogging. I spend time here, I spend time on my kid blogs and I spend time encouraging a lot of other people to use blogs to reawaken their conversational writing voice. A while back I used to encourage newbies to blogging to hop into Blogger. It was simple, intuitive and it helped people who have a fear of online tools get the job done without needing to ask me many questions. But in the last few years, I've started encouraging more people to use Wordpress.com and those who are willing to purchase server space of their own, I send them down the Wordpress.org path. (The difference? The .com version is hosted by Wordpress and it isn't as customizable or as easily tinkered. The .org version gives you total control of the look and content you place inside the blog system.) I get a few more questions when my colleagues, students and friends use Wordpress, but it's become an industry standard in some ways. I don't want my friends and students to miss out the knowledge of using a tool that is helpful in their careers.
But after SXSW, I'm starting to think a little differently. I was walking around the Google booth on the trade floor and started talking to the cool folks that work in Google-land. First I explained to the woman working at Google Voice how my whole brand (@jenleereeves) is based on the Gmail I picked up back in 2004. I also explained how Google Voice has changed my entire life workflow. (I actually return calls... I was terrible about that before that time.) Then I walked over to the Blogger guy thinking it wouldn't be much of a conversation... but then he shows me this:
I looked at him and said: "When did Google start thinking about Blogger? I might actually recommend this again."
Why is the new version of Blogger so cool? The design is customizable in ways I've never seen in a blog tool. You can change the width of the main section and the sidebars. You can choose how the widgets will look and where you can place the elements. You can even add static pages - which I really love with my WordPress sites.
I might have to answer a few more questions when someone builds a Blogger blog and uses some of the extra features, but I won't mind helping. I'm curious to see what can come out of the new version. If you want to check it out, visit Blogger in Draft (http://draft.blogger.com). You can sign in with your normal old blogger accounts that you left a while ago and tinker around with those sites. That's what I did!