I received an email from Ken Crawbuck at Microsoft asking how I was finding SharePoint as a blogging platform so thought it would make the good basis for a post. If you don't already know, I am hosting this blog on Windows SharePoint Services v3 using the standard blog site template that comes out of the box.
Overall, it’s not too bad as a blogging solution but it is very apparent that the WSS blog template is intended for simple use within a corporate environment and is a version 1 release (maybe not even that).
As a public blog platform it does have some limitations which I have had to work around and, therefore, customised things for my own needs - I have blogged about these before and SharePoint Designer really comes in to its own here.
A quick for and against list
I have ultimate control as I host it myself
Post and comment integration as you would expect
Built in RSS feeds
The ability to customise SharePoint to your own requirements
Difficult to customise certain aspects
You’re going nowhere without SharePoint Designer
Little thought to the extranet/internet
No easy data portability
RSS feed issues
Windows SharePoint Services and MOSS 2007 are designed to be usable over the web – hence the options to have different URLs to access it via the intranet/extranet but I would still consider there to be bugs in the implementation. One specific example is with the RSS feeds and how they handle images. Image links within blog posts are made relative when processed by the feed and this causes a number of feed readers (RSS in Outlook included) to not be able to display them due to broken links. Personally, I get round this by having all images addressed with the www prefix to force an absolute link rather than a relative one.
Another RSS issue is that items show in RSS feeds before they are approved - this is not desirable and usually means I have my comments feed turned off as I don't want it filled with the spam comments I haven't gotten round to deleting yet.
Comments in general are an area where SharePoint lacks over the internet. Obviously, all your readers are no going to have Active Directory accounts so they access the site anonymously; as such they are not identified and you are forced to add custom fields for visitors names/URLs etc. Not a problem you might think except that the default comments view will not allow you to customise it via the normal means in the UI. To get the custom fields displayed your are forced to edit the comments web parts manually in SharePoint Designer - not good.
It may sound like I’m being negative but I understand that I’m trying to use it for things that it wasn’t really designed to do, it’s then down to me to tweak things and get it running how I like. The very fact that I have been using one SharePoint product or other for the blog for over four years should say something, though. I’m generally very happy with it.
Avoid the hassles
Should you be looking to host your own blog on SharePoint but don't want to have the added hassle of customising various aspects just to get them to work as you would expect then you would be wise to go for the "Community Kit for SharePoint: Enhanced Blog Edition" - a custom site template which has a lot of what I have had to do built in with the added bonus of Akismet comment spam detection.