A User Review of Radio Weblogging Software
For the last month or so I have been writing this weblog with software called Radio, which is sold by a company called UserLand. My free trial period just ended. I decided to pay $40 for the software. Actions speak louder than words, so that may be all the product review you need. But if you want details, here they are.
I'm not a techie. I don't write code. On the other hand, I am a longtime user of Windows, able to dope out most of the stuff I want to do on a PC. I'm not clueless and terrified. So I feel comfortable that if I say something isn't clear on Radio, even if the folks who make it think it is clear, it is probably not going to be that clear to many, many users.
Radio is easy to download and install. Just a few clicks of the mouse and you are publishing onto the Web. Inserting links to other sites is a snap if you are running a reasonably recent version of Windows. One of my computers has an older version that requires a little more work to insert links, but I got going with that pretty quickly, too.
Setting up the basic look of the page is also a snap. Prefabricated "themes" offer several choices of color, layout, and design for your blog. I chose one called Transmitter, and I think it looks pretty cool. It is also easy to slap a name and a tagline on the top of your blog.
So there you go: for $40 any idiot can have a semi-personalized weblog up and running in maybe 15 minutes. You get free space on the UserLand server, too. A good deal and a good product.
What if you want to do more than that? Then it gets more complicated. Radio is a powerful tool, but even some of the stuff you might expect to be simple may not be not simple to the average person.
See the neat "Think! flag" iimage at the top of my page? To put it there was really kind of a pain. It required me to upload an image through a process that is not especially intuitive. And positioning it on the page required me to muck around a bit in the gobbledygook that is computer code. A programmer would perhaps laugh at me for my discomfort and fear about really screwing things up while messing with the code. But the rest of the world would understand. Same for the permanent links you see at the left margin of this page--easy when you know how to do it, intimidating if you don't.
The directions for doing these things aren't that helpful to the nonprogrammer. Step three in editing your homepage template, for example, is this: "Make the change. (It's HTML)." Great. Most of us don't speak code. We see a bunch of mystifying letters and numbers and symbols and haven't the first clue how to make any changes therein.
There is help available. The discussion page at the Radio website is helpful, and people were patient and kind about responding to my email. There are FAQs that you can find via Google. And if you are the least bit adventurous, mucking about in the code gets easier in a hurry.
The bottom line: If I can do the more complex (but still basic) stuff like including images and permalinks, so can most people. It's just not as easy as doing the really basic tasks of setup and writing, or as easy as you might hope.
Radio is a program that lives on your computer. That allows it to be more powerful and complex than a hosted product. But it also means that if you are not at the computer on which you run Radio, you may not be able to update your blog. You can email yourself an update, but Radio has to be running. In other words, you need to run Radio on a computer with an always-on Internet connection to have continuous access. Me, I run it on my laptop, which I take with me most everywhere.
I would recommend Radio to both the power blogger and the hobbyist. And I would recommend it to business users looking for ways to reach their customers, partners, etc. I would also recommend that UserLand continue to make the product simpler and more intuitive, and the help files easier to use for the mass-market audience.