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Migrations and Musings... Death by BETA.

After two weeks of pleading, begging and emailing Blogger Support, Cowboys has come back up - albeit on the OLD version of Blogger. After I've stopped leaping around the office in feigned glee, I thought I should take a moment to reflect on what just happened... and perhaps why.

The Scene:
We're looking to start a blog, about 6 months ago. We're looking for a free platform, no traffic worries, no hosting worries (we're a .NET development firm anyway, even Ubuntu is proving quite a learning curve), easy indexing and a fairly stable GUI posting interface. Who better to turn to than Google - the behemoth of fantastic free services.

The Story:
It went like clockwork. Signup, team blogging, posting, indexing and starting to grow an audience. Until the tantalising hint of a "shiny new upgrade". Blogger Beta. Showdown at High Noon - to speak metaphorically.

Foolishly (I seem to remember Brett saying: "Do it! We're on the cutting edge aren't we?") I clicked MIGRATE TO BETA. I have three blogs at the moment - one went over perfectly, one migrated but never moved off the old platform, and the other, Cowboys, died.

For more than two weeks, even after carefully migrating every one of the 4 team bloggers, we were faced with a BLOG NOT FOUND when trying to click the post button. And that was it. No links anymore to settings, templates, managing posts...

Just that eery silence of a database not talking to a function.

What did we do?
3 emails to 2 submissions to Blogger Bug Report. About 6 posts to the Blogger Support USENet Group (surprisingly useful actually, you should check it out). Discovered and trawled a great unofficial Blogger Support Blog - The REAL Blogger Status. Har. Har. Hoped. Prayed. Dreamed.

What happened?
We were down for two weeks until a Blogger employee picked up the cries for help. Took about 5 days for them to fix - and voila. Now, to top it all off, we've been asked to try migrate again. What was that story about a kid getting his hand burnt on the stove?

I've realised a couple of things from this (and let's hope it's over - second migration still to come) incident.

  1. Any kind of mass upgrade, with large amounts of previous data, formatted for a previous platform is going to cause problems. Perhaps the best way to deal with this is to be honest and upfront - something Google usually are. "We're going to screw up a couple, we're really sorry - but it's a free service and we're trying to make it better for you".
  2. I'd be scared, if I was making a living out of blogging - and didn't have the opportunity to call in a tech expert to quickly fix my blog. You can't do that on free platforms - no access to source. WordPress a better alternative in this case? Perhaps. Hark, I hear the sound of Mike Stopforth and Scott Gray laughing. :)
  3. As great as free services are (and the entire Google offering, from search to spreadsheets fits in here) - you will ALWAYS battle with support. And it's understandable. Honestly. There's a reason you can't easily get hold of a Google Support Telephone Number. It's a numbers game, and the numbers are too big.
  4. I've had to put a damper on plans to start testing Google Apps for your Domain - a programme where you can say goodbye to Outlook, Exchange, Office etc. - and migrate the entire company to a Google platform - for free.
  5. Finally, even though they were painfully slow (bearing in mind getting through even 10,000 buggy blogs must be hard) - Google were always friendly, hip and conversational in their interactions. I guess the brand stays alive in the end...

Sigh. Feels good to hammer a keyboard again.

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