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Your two cents, please

Posted by Thomas Nephew on November 28th, 2006

After five years of writing, I’m finally running out of space on this site — I had to move a bunch of old images and photos to Photobucket — so I’m going to pull up stakes sometime over the next several months and move to a dedicated site, i.e., thomasn528.com or something like that.

I’m also considering sprucing up and improving the look and performance of the site. So I’m looking for recommendations both for hosting sites and blogging software, and/or for online discussions of same. I know that some readers (hi, Gary!) have been annoyed with slow loading times, but maybe that’s not all, so here’s your chance to get it all off your chest.

I’m thinking of going to smaller font and three columns, like most other blogs. I might use a third column for title feeds of other sites like leftyblogs Maryland or of the comments here, some kind of “currently reading” list, and/or a “quick hits” list like “Particles” and “Sidelights” at Making Light. I might like to tag my posts with keywords like “wal-mart,” “germany,” “village idiot,” and so forth. I’m guessing that all suggests a site supporting PHP or something like it; I assume the right software — Moveable Type? — makes that easier than it sounds, but at any rate I’d need some “help for newbies” to make it work. I’m also wondering whether I should set up individual pages for each post, and the “next” and “previous” post navigation aids many blogs have.

While I’m at it: do readers use the “digg,” “del.icio.us,” and other “social bookmarking” tools I’m seeing at places like firedoglake (the colorful row of icons at the bottom of individual posts)? If you blog yourself and include “digg this” etc. for each post, do you see new readership coming from these sources? (For that matter, can you see that? Should I care?) I don’t use them myself, at least not yet, so I’m curious what other people think. What about “spotlight“?

So have at it in comments: what changes would you like? What layouts of other blogs do you like? How absolutely-perfect, wouldn’t-change-a-thing is this one? Etcetera. Thanks!

10 Responses to “Your two cents, please”

  1. anonymousgf Says:

    Please do not use a smaller font.
    Matthew Yglesias has a pretty easy-to-navigate site.
    Love the writing–keep that like it is!!

  2. Teresa Nielsen Hayden Says:

    1. Keep your central column as wide as possible.
    2. Using lots of white space is a waste of eyetracks. Once upon a time, when the use of extra white space was pioneered by various magazine designers, it signalled, “I’m so sure my content is great that I’m willing to waste a lot of space to display it.” After that, everyone started using lots of white space, and it ceased to mean anything. That was why the original Spy magazine’s crowded layout signalled, “We have so much cool stuff to put into this magazine that we can barely fit it in.”
    3. The latest version of Movable Type has a number of irritating features. Talk to Patrick before you adopt it.
    4. The Particles and Sidelights lists are actually separate micro-weblogs inset in Making Light.
    5. If you do a Particles-style list, try to use plain descriptive titles, and come up with an economical way to credit your sources. The former makes people likelier to click through on them. The latter makes contributors likelier to send you stuff again in the future.
    6. IMO, the single most important area on Making Light’s “front page” is the list of people who’ve commented recently, and the thread in which they’ve posted.
    7. More people read via RSS all the time. Enable it if you can.

  3. Dutchmarbel Says:

    I have my blog on siteground and can really recommend them. For 5 dollar per month they give you 40 Gb of space and 900 Mb traffic.
    I’ve been with them for over a year, had 3 hours of downtime, had a problem thrice in that period (=me doing clumsy things on the site…) and longest I had to wait for an answer from their helpdesk was 17 minutes.
    Via a menu you can try all sorts of scripts and software. I tried out wordpress and really liked it. You have stacks of free themes, widgets, features, etc. that you can use without extensive knowledge of php. Things like adding RSS feeds and such.
    I like three columns, wide middle column and please don’t make the font smaller…

  4. Paul Says:

    “I’m thinking of going to smaller font”
    Nooooooo! Do not want.
    “I don’t use them [digg, etc] myself, at least not yet, so I’m curious what other people think.”
    Personally, I’d rather you didn’t add a “digg this” icon, because the last thing digg needs is yet another damned blog cluttering up the useful information. I much rather prefer direct links to information rather than having to click through a needless intermediary.
    del.icio.us would be cool, though. That’s an actual bookmarking service.

  5. eRobin Says:

    I have no advice b/c I’m a technoidiot. I’m with Theresa on #6 especially. And don’t small the font.

  6. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Wow, ask and I shall receive; thanks everyone! I hear and obey: the font will stay at the current size.
    [return to "Your two cents, please"]

  7. Bill Day Says:

    I am pretty happy with Movable Type, although I hear good things about WordPress, too. If you are considering Movable Type but do not want to have to delve into the guts of the thing, you might want to investigate TypePad. TypePad, as I understand it, offers many of the same features as Movable Type but comes prepackaged. (They are both made by SixApart). If you are looking for a hosting site, you should definitely take a look at dreamhost.com, which has an easy interface, lots of features, and a reasonable price.
    Good luck!

  8. paperwight Says:

    I am happy enough with Typepad as a hosted service and would recommend it to others (more at the intermediate $90/year Plus level than at the $50/year introductory level), but I’ve used WordPress for other projects, and I found it easier to administer and work with on my own host than the Movable Type installations I’ve had to deal with.
    If you want to get a rough sense of what WordPress can do and how it works in practice, check out WordPress.com, which allows you to set up your own WordPress blog for free. There is much more that one can do, and wordpress.org explains it fairly well. If you have some specific needs, let me know — I may have run across them myself.

  9. WorldWideWeber Says:

    I’ve been happy enough with WordPress, even hosted on a Windows box. (Can’t get the “pretty URLs” to work, but I don’t really care.) The question is: do you want to get yourself hosted at a place that provides PHP and MySQL and go through the effort (fun, but effort) of setting up your MySQL database, installing WordPress (and upgrading periodically), etc.; or do you want to just use one of the many fine blog hosts (Blogger, TypePad, etc.) and have done with it, losing some control and flexibility but also losing the burden of maintaining the machinery? Do you want a broader website with a blog in it, or do you just blog?
    Regarding design (columns, font size, etc.): the nice thing about WordPress is the abundance of free templates, as Dutchmarbel noted. The bells and whistles (RSS feed, antispam features, etc.) are actually easy to install, and with a little effort at learning CSS, you can futz with the look and feel as much as you like.

  10. newsrackblog.com » Blog Archive » Memory almost full Says:

    [...] (while I’ve said it before) expect a move to a new host in the nearish future, other higher priority chores permitting. [...]

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