diamond geezer

 Thursday, April 01, 2010

There ought to be a special April Fool diamond geezer page here today.

There isn't, sorry.

Instead I'm going to sulk about Auto-Pagination, which is Blogger's grand idea to speed up pageloads on blogs. This has been achieved by automatically chopping off pages once they're deemed to be too long, which is shorter than my pages usually are. If your blog has a Layout template, that's fine, because a link appears at the bottom of the page inviting you to click back to "Older posts". But if you have a Classic template, like what I have, there's no way for the casual user to read the missing bit. In my case, about 60% of each of my monthly blog archives have disappeared. You can't read them, Google can't read them, and folk linking in from elsewhere can't read them.

Needless to say, Blogger are delighted. Here's what they said yesterday.
Five weeks ago we rolled out Auto Pagination, a major milestone in our efforts to make Blogger faster for you and your readers. We are very happy to report a ten percent overall decrease in page loading latency across all Blogger blogs and a twenty-seven percent decrease on archive pages. Just how significant is a ten percent latency reduction? It's not often that software engineers get to save lives, yet in just the past five weeks we’ve saved eight human lifetimes spent waiting for pages to load!

Some of you have expressed concern over the change in how Blogger displays your blogs. Without addressing each individual case, the vast majority of blogs negatively impacted were not actually blogs, but were using Blogger as a kind of free web host. As today's post makes clear, Auto Pagination has had an extraordinarily positive impact on how blogs are consumed — blog readers are spending less time waiting for pages to load and more time reading the posts you work so hard to write.
Except, in my case, blog readers are spending no time reading the posts I work so hard to write, because they've vanished. But Blogger's fixed-grin spin fails to acknowledge that. There's not even been a murmur of acknowledgement that those of us with Classic templates are essentially screwed. There's been no attempt to provide some code so that we can add an "Older posts" button to our pages. Instead we either have to upgrade to a Layout template, or lump it, or bugger off some place else. Yesterday's announcement makes it clear that there will be no alternative.

Over the last month one kind reader has been trying to code a "diamond geezer" Layout template in the hope that I could seamlessly switch over and use it. As yet, alas, it doesn't quite function properly because Layouts permit far less control over template coding. Alternatively I could go back and delete half of my photos (but that's not on), or I could go back and add "Jump breaks" to all my old posts (except I've written more than 4000 posts, so no thanks). As an additional problem, since Haloscan's demise my blog now has a bespoke non-standard commenting system which works OK in Classic but isn't necessarily transferable to Layouts. Upgrade now (or transfer to another platform) and I lose identity and comments. Fail to upgrade and I lose 60% of posts. Great choice.

Over the last month, Blogger has been busy eating half of the posts I wrote in March. You'll not find my trip to Shoeburyness anywhere, nor my journey on the number 45 bus. My post about walking through the Thames Tunnel has vanished (much to the annoyance of everyone the Brunel Museum keeps directing here via a link that no longer works). I wrote three posts complaining about Auto-Pagination, each of which got a link on Blogger's official Auto-Pagination page, but now nobody clicking through will ever find them. Most upsettingly, I wrote a couple of posts earlier this month in tribute to my Mum, and they've completely disappeared too. I can't let April go the same way.

So, temporarily, I give up.

There's no point in posting anything in the first half of April, because by the end of the month Blogger will conceal it. There's no point in researching stuff, visiting stuff, taking photos of stuff or writing stuff, because my blogposts currently have a shelf life of only a fortnight. There's no point wasting my life churning out thousands of words that are destined for oblivion, so why bother?

I will continue to explore alternative options. I will continue to play around with the template and see if I can make things work. But I'm not going to post anything else, at least nothing significant, until I have a solution. Or until I give up.

Sorry, no April Fool today. Alas, I think the fool is me.

(April 17th update: solution here)

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