The new Blogger brought a lot of new features. We (the bleet) were a little worried about the future of hacks, and how Blogger's features would make a lot of past hacks useless, and make future hackery difficult. Now that I look back these past 2-3 months that I've been following the new Blogger, hacks for it, and the new generation of hackers, I must say I'm a wee bit disappointed at the situation, and that our fears have come true to some extent.
No longer can I see a Commentosphere, or one to use or extend my favourite hack, the Native Blog Search. One of the best hacks (and I shall call it one), and one of the very few I sincerely revere as a 'hack', has been 'Neo', the complete blog hack by Ramani. There was serious dedication, and work behind it. Not to mention the idea. And 'those' are the qualities that actually make a hack, a 'hack'.
Scripts to clean your room
A lot of hacks today are mere 20 line functions that work on a feed from Blogger, and print out all it's contents. My hacks suffer from this lack of innovation as well, with possibly only the Custom Dates script being something I'd like to call a proper hack. All the asynchronous post and labels loading, fancy pants recent comments or posts, are pretty much commonplace. There isn't anything new, something that would make someone sit back and actually appreciate the work, wonder in awe at the work behind the script.
It isn't the lack of skills, but ideas that I believe should be blamed. That said, I come full circle back to the point I had made back when Blogger went into beta. It'll soon become not what you can code, but what you can think. Coding is just a small aspect of a hack. Coming up with the concept, the design, the functioning, everything, takes a lot more effort than typing out syntax. A hack I'm working on at the moment is seriously taxing my reserves, and with college, it just gets harder. In the end, if it sees the light of day, it'll be worth it though. I can say it's on the same lines as the 'revolutionary categorising hack' that Avatar had revealed to everyone (back when Bloggeratto existed :P). I hope to break my monotony with that!
A little boring
As Avatar rightly said, Bloggeratto went off the stage at a particularly right time, because the entire Blogger scene seems to have been lulled into silence. When was the last time you saw something big pop out on radar that got the community buzzing? More than half a year ago! Isn't that bad? There is nothing worse than having a stagnant community. Here I am enjoying Blogger being ranked the topmost blogging platform, and there Wordpress is celebrating the onset of version 2.1 of their platform, with more improvements.
I have discussed these views with people in the past, and they've agreed that the concept of a 'hack' has somewhere gotten lost. What we come up these days are simply mods (or some other term Avatar came up with :P), where we take an existing source, and just modify it to show something different. It has reached a point where hacks are mere plugins, that people keep adding to their blog to change something or show something. They don't 'do' something, or not something really worthwhile anyway. Also, all the services which were offering JSON(P) feeds, are now also offering widgets for one-click addition into Blogger. This severely reduces things that non-creative hackers can achieve.
We need to 'create' a source, not just use one. Every one of the great hacks in the past has either created the source, or used an existing source in a way no-one thought of using it. We need to look at information from a different angle, look for data where it is least expectedFor example, did you know that the expanding of posts in your 'Manage posts' section is done via AJAX, and that Blogger has makes a call for that? What if one wrote a PHP script to catch that call's data, and use that for something like Asynchronous posts?. Build functionality not ordinarily or easily available. We need to
Put the freezer at the bottom!
The target users shouldn't necessarily be complete newbies who don't know a thing about code. One's code should surprise long time coders into thinking thoughts on the lines of 'Why didn't I think of this?' or 'That's fantastic! This is something I could really use!' And it's not hard to do if you keep your eyes open. I always try to get the method, the way of thinking, or the idea out if I'm not making a hack. By doing that I hope that someone else will catch on, and using my idea come up with a hack for it, or better.
So stop re-inventing the wheel, or even trying to change it's shape. Try and invent a new rim, or an axle! :P The community, I'm sure, is looking out for something absolutely fresh!