April 17, 2005

A blogging software feature I would love.

You know what would be a really nice feature in blogging software? Text files made to order. Today, I was interested in collecting everything I'd written over the past year on a topic that I want to write an article about. In Blogger, I could go to "edit posts" and enter my search word and get a list of all my posts with that word, but then I had to individually view fifty posts and cut and paste each one into a Word document. It would have been great if I could have had an option to make one text file, and I'd like to be able to reorder them with the oldest one first.

Blogging software ought to take into account that a lot of us -- probably most hardcore bloggers -- are using blogging as a rough draft of our thoughts -- daily notetaking and idea-generating. We'd like this material to be accessible and manipulable. Don't just help us blog, help us write, in the broader sense.

And surely, it ought to be possible to press a button and get the entire text of your blog as an oldest-to-newest journal. I know there is a service somewhere on the web that will do this for you at a price, but why isn't it just part of blogging software?

So, that's what I want. Does it already exist? Can I get it?


Dave said...

I don't know if it exists in blogger, but something like that exists in Typepad. The ability to create such textual archives of my blogging was one of the (many) reasons for switching from blogger to typepad.

Ann Althouse said...

Are you able to limit the search of your archive with particular terms or must you create the whole archive?

As you might imagine, I'm not eager to change my URL. I want Blogger to get better, and I'm betting it will.

Paul said...

Ann--why not use google's site feature? using syntax such as (ahem) site:althouse.blogspot.com "american idol" returns -- quite a few -- useful results...

Paul said...

ah, sorry--misunderstood what you wanted the end result to be.

Dave said...

What I've done with Typepad is put all my posts into a huge Word file. Then I've done text search strings for different topics.

But that doesn't sound quite what like what you're looking for. It sounds like you're looking for a sort of database, in which you enter a search string and all the posts that contain that string of text are returned.

That would be useful search tool. But I don't think either typepad or blogger has that feature. I'm sure someone could create a database of all your posts though.

Ann Althouse said...

Dave: I can already do the search within Blogger, and get a list of the posts, which can be separately viewed, but what I want is for Blogger to aggregate all of those posts into one big page or document and to reorder them for old to new. Basically, to find all my posts on a subject and bundle them into a set of notes that I can work from.

Dean said...

I don't know if this will help (or is what you're after), but did you know that if you click on the right-pointing triangle on your "edit posts" screen, it opens up your whole post. You can cut and paste from there.

You can also click on the links (although I would suggest right-clicking on it and choosing "Open in New Window").

Ann Althouse said...

Dean: I know that, and have already done that. But I want a feature that automatically aggregates the posts into one document. I had 50 posts that satisfied my search. That was a lot of cutting and pasting!

Dean said...

Indeed! I'll keep my eyes open.

Jeffrey Boulier said...

Well, this is relatively simple. In Moveable Type. Well, simple if you are familiar enough with databases to be able to log in and:

select entry_text from mt_entry where entry_text like '%your_search_term_here%'
order by entry_id

A plugin to do that from a web page wouldn't be all that hard to develop. But that probably doesn't help you much!

Sketching out a (relatively simple) program capable of doing it with blogger:

0. You enter a search term.
1. The program fetches all your archives.
2. The program processes the archives and breaks them apart into individual entries.
3. The program searches the entries and outputs ones that match your search term to a file.

Let me think about it. It doesn't seem all that difficult, but it's not a problem I've ever tackled before.

robert said...

As with Moveable Type, WordPress is based on an open MySQL database. With open blogging software like this, you can do anything ... well maybe not you, but some nerd who knows SQL, who you can hire or con into doing it for you. If I were putting as much work into something as you and other bloggers are, I wouldn't want my stuff held hostage by a closed proprietary system like Blogger.

Ann Althouse said...

Okay, as I read this Jeffrey and Robert are in disagreement about what can be done through Blogger! Jeffrey makes it sound as though someone could write a little program that would let me extract what I want easily and Robert makes it sound as though Blogger is hording secrets that will make this impossible. So which is it?

Dave said...

Ann: it sounds like Jeffrey is suggesting a browser-based plugin that could perform those searches for you. In other words, you load up althouse.blogspot.com and search through your posts via a small program that scans the content of the web page.

The only drawback there is you would have load every single blog post into your browser to do a full search. A search capability like this that is integrated into the blogger software would be more efficient.

So, Jeffrey and the other guy aren't really contradicting each other but talking about different methods.

Ann Althouse said...

Dave: as I've noted already, there is no problem doing the search. The problem is aggregating the material from the search into one document.

brian said...

Jeffery and Robert are both correct, but are talking about different things. Jeffery is referencing Movable Type, which is blogging software that you must install onto a webserver and database. Then, if you know SQL (a database interaction language) you can easily pull all of the data (e.g. your posts) from the database at your whim.

The problem here is that Blogger does not let you access the database directly, and therefore there is no way of using SQL to pull your posts directly out of the database. You are constrained by what tools Blogger offers you. That is what Robert is talking about.

In sum, if you had access to the actual database Blogger uses to store your blog data, any "geek" who knows SQL could get what you want in a heartbeat. However, Blogger keeps this access under wraps (which is a good idea from their standpoint) and you can only tinker with your blog from the web interface they provide.

So, unless you want to hire a good programmer to construct some sort of hack/workaround, you're stuck using the tools that Blogger currently offers.

Bryan said...

If you have access to a website where you have access to the actual html files, you could temporarily alter your Blogger settings to publish to that site.

Most ISPs provide a free website that would be suitable for this purpose.

You could then download all of your posts and alter/combine/search them using whatever tools you prefer.

Ann Althouse said...

Why do people keep explaining to me how I could do a search?

mingchern said...

hi althouse,

there's alot of free blogging software out there for example like wordpress.

I used to blog under blogspot but later switched to wordpress for various reasons.

1) The information belongs to me
2) I have full control of my blogs
3) I can do my own categorisation
4) I brand myself.

There's sooo much more in wordpress that can be explored. :)

Visit www.RisingIMStar.com to see what i mean.

Cheers to Wordpress. :)