A few quick words over my experience so far with BlogEngine.NET

I don’t know from where to start. :)
About an year and a half later, over 100 posts, more or less comments, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of spam comments.

When I’ve looked for a blogging platform for my personal blog, I wanted to avoid using something like Blogger, etc., not that is something wrong with them, but sometimes they can be quite restrictive. The web server on which the main carbonwind.net was hosted was using Windows, so the first thought was a blog that runs on Windows, a .NET one.

Something fast, stable, open source, free, easy to use, easy to deal with and to maintain. BlogEngine.NET seemed to fit in there.
It was quite easy to get it started. And to keep it going, sort of.

Now looking back, do I think the same ?
Is BlogEngine.NET something fast, stable, open source, free, easy to use, easy to deal with and to maintain ?
Well, to be honest, for the fast, stable, open source, free and easy to use, an yes.
For the easy to deal with and to maintain, a so-so. Depends how much free time do you have to spare for blog maintenance.

Easy to use ?
Your mileage might vary. I know that’s a personal opinion.
For my personal needs, to mention a few:

- Pros:

  • easy to add/edit a blog entry, either online, using the default editor, or offline using Windows Live Writer(WLW).
  • get comment notifications over email, so you know someone just posted a new comment.
  • has categories and tag cloud.
  • the text widget is very useful when you want to add easily something, like I did with the Book Shelf.
  • easy to manage(view/edit/delete) comments in the latest version.
  • nested comments.
  • RSS/Atom feed.
  • plenty of themes, and a theme is relatively easy to customize. I keep a low profile on this, slightly modified the default theme.
  • it has a search feature.
  • trackbacks and pingbacks.
  • it’s fast.
  • if you have time, it may be easy to add a plugin.

- Cons:

  • is not particularly well suited to deal with spam comments(a polite way to say it’s rubbish). The latest version indeed is greatly improved in this area, however there are multiple levels to fight on. For automated moderation, you can have manual rules, use Akismet, and stopforumspam.com database.
    I’ve set it to manual moderation, as any of the combination of the three with automated moderation did not do well for me.
    It completely lacks out-of-the-box the ability to reject spam comments.
    The invisible captcha is, well, let’s say not the most fortunate idea(my oh my).
  • small issue with images location when using Windows Live Writer. I use a lot of screen shots here, and when posting with Windows Live Writer, out-of-the-box, they all go in the same folder(this not happens if you post directly online from BlogEngine.NET). Also there might a little bit of a trouble with images if you view the posts over HTTPS and you posted with WLW.
  • BlogEngine.NET is not necessarily a bliss when it comes to SSL(the Metaweblog API does have support for SSL connections, that is to enforce SSL for your Metaweblog connection). However, for example, you cannot, from settings, force the login page to be available only over SSL, etc.

As said, some may have other needs and may disagree with me.

Stable ?
Personal I had little stability problems with it, even when running builds from the source code.

Easy to deal with and to maintain ?
The so-so part.
It’s easy to get it going, you have documentation available for that. You can run it on many web hosting providers, some even include their own setup for this.
In the latest period of time, the BlogEngine.NET project feels a little chaotic, of course IMHO. Maybe it’s just due to the global economic crisis.

- Pros:

  • it’s easy to get it going.
  • it has a support forum, you can get in direct touch with developers and with the coordinators. There is a small but passionate team of developers.
  • the project is very active, there were committed many many bug fixes, and some big improvements are present in the new version(1.6).
  • the developers and the coordinators run their own blogs, with blog entries about BlogEngine.NET, and so(if you are aware of those blogs) you have another opportunity to get in touch with them, find out new things about BlogEngine.NET.

- Cons:

  • the update mechanism, err, what update mechanism ?
  • there aren’t(or lately have not been) any minor  releases(maintenance releases, releases fixing bugs or adding minor improvements), although there have been a lot of bug fixes reported in the source code tree. So the only alternative to maintain your version fresh and bugs free, or just fix bugs you ran into, is the manual way. This can be a problem for most users, as you need to get the source code and build it. You can use the latest (free) Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Express Edition to do that(say Microsoft Visual Web Developer 2008), and instructions are available on the forums.
  • from this aspect(no minor releases) various problems arise.
  • -> you may get the impression the project is not active anymore, how many users check the source code versions ?
  • -> for many people, who just want to blog, getting the latest source code and build the latest version is not quite a trivial thing. –> even if you have the enthusiasm, there is the problem in finding some time in doing (repeatedly) so.
  • it’s not easy to know what and when was fixed if you search for something specific, there are no release notes accompanying the minor releases since there aren't any minor releases.
  • sometimes, you cannot just get the source code and build the latest problem.
  • -> because, apparently, there isn’t a separate tree for the latest stable source code with the latest fixes, and one for the latest source code with experimental/in progress features.
  • -> if you locate the version with the bug fix, you might have to manually extract this fix(or just look for a related discussion) and apply the fix to the version you are using, or otherwise you may start using a version with work in progress(not fully functional), a thing not very desirable in production.
  • the road map(as writing) is a dead end.
  • -> you can’t tell where the project is going.
  • -> new features addition looks chaotic, it’s unclear what features are to be added, I’ve noticed on the forum persistent requests for certain features, some were added, some not, uncertain what will happen next.
  • -> can’t tell when a new version, either with major improvements or just a minor version, will be released.
  • the main web site of BlogEngine.NET can be a dead end in certain areas.
  • -> the project misses a a community manager or something similar, someone who's skilled on talking hot topics and is willing to spread the word, absorb feedback from the community in an effort to make things better.
  • -> the main web site(the front page at least) of BlogEngine.NET is rarely updated, so there isn’t a central place from where to keep up with the latest news, absorb feedback from regular users, right now this seems to be done from the discussion lists/issue tracker, and from some efforts on the team members blogs.
  • -> as a result only a limited part of the community participates and you need multiple sources to find out what’s happening with BlogEngine.NET.

Did I ever consider switching from BlogEngine.NET to something else?
Actually I’m thinking at this right now. The thing is that is too much trouble in doing this(switch to something else) for me at this moment, so it won't worth the effort. There was a poll made by one of the BlogEngine.NET’s developers, I took my time and voted there. Personal I’m not surprised at all by the results, after using a while BlogEngine.NET, it’s a natural tendency to desire a blogging platform that is stable, mature and serves the needs of a blogger. You become somehow dependent on that platform if you want to continue blogging. Of course a switch to other platform is possible, but usually this is not quite a straight process, it may require some efforts.

Comments (5) -

  • Funny you wrote this article...  After spending considerable time working with BlogEngine.NET I switched over to Wordpress...  Even though Wordpress is PHP based I am running it on Windows 2008 and IIS 7.5...

    I sure learned a bunch about .NET with BlogEngine.NET but alas I wanted a more stable platform with many more plugins and features.  Overall there were some pain points with setting up the URLRewriter to handle the previous links but I have that all sorted now and could share the configurations with you...

    My overall experience with Wordpress has been extremely positive although I don't really want to wade too deep into the whole PHP development world.
    • Hey Chris, thanks for the input. I've noticed that you've made the switch to Wordpress some time ago. Your new blog looks great by the way.

      Personal I was thinking about Movable Type. I know it can be ran on IIS. But I haven't time to try. And on my current hosting, I don't think it will work, I need a little adjustment here too.

  • DasBlog?  i use it and have had a good experience so far.  there hasn't been an update for a bit but it's stable and runs on Windows / .Net
    • Personal I never really liked DasBlog. Smile
  • I used to use BlogEngine, but I just couldn't keep up with maintaining it and deleting the spam - trying to get reCaptcha working well was just a nightmare. I was really trying to stick with BE, as a predominantly Microsoft/Windows Server blog, but in the end I caved and installed Wordpress on my IIS7.5 server.

    I've not looked back - just the SEO stuff has added 10-15% traffic, I've written more blog posts recently because I know that it's just going to work. Comment spam is handled well, with little or no input from me required. If I want to add some functionality, the chances are that there's a mature add on already out there that will do it for me. BE just can't compete with that!
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