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Poll
Question: Should we close the blog section?
no - 1 (14.3%)
yes - 5 (71.4%)
not sure /  don't care - 1 (14.3%)
Total Voters: 7

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Author Topic: Close the Blog Section?  (Read 4877 times)
mouser
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« on: November 02, 2005, 05:28:35 AM »

I've been giving some real thought to whether we should close the blog section.

nudone and i were recently discussing it and he said it was ok if i pasted our email conversation:

i'm actually thinking about whether the blogs system as it is now is
in need to refinement.. what do you think?  my original idea was that
it was most important for the blog columnists to have their own mini
site, for their own complete control.. but sometimes i wonder if it
wouldn't make more sense to just have the blog content be posts on the
forum, where people wouldn't have to go to a separate page.. i don't
know - some people really like the blogs, as its a special place to go
and read things that isn't lost within the depth of the forum, but
others i think would rather not have to go to a separate page every
day to see if there is a new post...  maybe a special blog section of
the forum? still thinking about the best long term solution.. what do
you think?


> There are certainly posts that have been made on the forum that would have
> made good blog articles and likewise there have been blogs that would
> probably have been served better on the forum - for the amount of extra
> attention they would receive (I'm guessing that the forum is read by a lot
> more people than the blogs).

> Maybe it's meant to be this way but I get the impression that visitors are
> more eager to reply on the forum (that's what it's there for, of course)
> than what they are prepared to do with the blogs. I tend to read absolutely
> everything on donatationcoder so I do notice that the replies to the blogs
> tend to be from the small clique of authors that are writing the other blogs
> (and Zaine). This does make me wonder on whether anyone else is reading them
> other than the columnists themselves (maybe you know from server statistics
> the true nature of visitor variance). Now I'm also aware from looking at
> other blog sites that there aren't ever that many comments left to a blog
> post, so I understand that blog/columns are treated in a different way to a
> forum - I'm just wondering what exactly is going on in the donationcoder
> blog area.

> I really don't know what the best option is.

> Not entirely sure how to put it but I respect all of the columnists at
> donationcoder. I don't respect them merely for being columnists, I genuinely
> respect them for what they have wrote. It's clear that they are all erudite
> and entertaining authors and that their posts are worthy of a special blog
> section and yet I know that I would feel equally impressed if their blogs
> had been posted directly to the forum.

> I'm sort of wondering what the point of the blog/columnist area is for when
> there is room on the forum for similar styled posts. Is it just an ego
> thing? This partly sums up why I've not been entirely confident in blogging
> anything over the past few weeks. I have felt out of my depth in some ways,
> many of the things I could have blogged would not have been much different
> to things on the forum - which does make me question on whether I have
> anything worthy of writing about that needs the 'blog/column' special status
> attached to it.

> I'm probably thinking a bit too much about it all. But it seems to be a
> dilemma with the blog thing in general. An interesting author definitely
> deserves an outlet and a blog can be a good place to do it. It makes 100%
> perfect sense that you should have a blog on donationcoder - it would be odd
> if you didn't. I just wonder on the validity of someone like me when I could
> just as easily post something in the forum. As I've said before, there are
> better qualified forum members than I that are writing about interesting
> software.

> I apologise if this has degenerated into a moaning session. Blogs are a
> funny thing for sure. I really don't know what I make of the concept to be
> honest. The only ones I take the time to read are those on donationcoder as
> I feel like I'm reading the opinions of people I know something about (as
> much of an illusion I know it is).

> Getting back to the point of do they need moving to a different area of
> donationcoder, i.e. onto the forum.

> I'd probably say no as there needs to be some differentiation between them
> and the forum otherwise they aren't 'special' in anyway. But, of course, if
> they are currently heading into some dark cul-de-sac then there is little
> need for them also. Only you know how well they serve donationcoder - are
> they bringing visitors back to the site or doesn't that matter.

> Regrettably, my tone probably sounds rather pessimistic. It's just my way, I
> never believe there are great numbers out there and yet all evidence is to
> the contrary. It still amazes me how the automobile industry survives as I
> don't know anyone who has ever bought a new car and yet I know there has to
> be millions of customers out there somewhere.

> Short answer is 'blog' equals 'confusion' to me.

> If I have a bit of divine inspiration on the matter I'll let you know.

> I suppose the bottom line is - if people enjoy reading the blogs then leave
> them as they are. Maybe you should hold a poll on the forum (and on the blog
> intro page) and see what the thoughts are for the voting visitors.

> What were your thoughts on the matter?




your thoughts on the blog were extremely good - and almost exactly
match mine.  i'm tempted to make a post on forum about blogs and ask
you to just post your email message exactly.  it really sums up my
feelings too, plus add to that the fact that they are a little bit of
a pain to move around and keep configured, and difficult to keep the
columnists posting regularly..

the forum and the blogs are different things, with slightly different
audiences, but there is so much overlap that one really has to ask if
its worth it having a separate blog section..  as you say, blogs only
rarely get a lot of comments, but it seems to me that you are also
right that the audience reading the blogs are much less than those
reading the forum, for a variety of reasons.. and wouldn't it be
better to have a bigger audience and more comments?

at the time we started, there wasn't that much conversation on the
forums, and the blogs seemed an ideal way to have some new regular
content on the site - but now the forums are just overflowing with new
stuff every day to read, so that issue is gone.

the case for the blog columns now probably is that
for those who like having a blog/column where people can go to read
their stuff, and see a nice archive of their posts.  it's hard to do
that in a forum, where posts just get lost..  one way around that
would be to make a special section of the forum, if one wanted to keep
a collection of such things.  i don't know if that really makes sense
to do..

maybe an alternative situation would be to try to identify a few best
threads/posts each week and list them on a special page.. or maybe
there's another way to figure out how to highlight some regular posts
to make them stand out..

the one thing that has been nice about the blog columns is reading
some extended thoughts, and looking forward to a column on a regular
basis.. but maybe we could figure out a way to encourage that on the
forum and find a way to keep the best part of that in the forum...

i guess i'm leaning towards finding a way to remove the blog section
of the site and if possible capture the best parts of it in the
forum..

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mouser
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2005, 05:31:08 AM »

bottom line for me is i'm concerned that the blog section of the forum is too much trouble to maintain and too much trouble for the bloggers to keep posting, while being more difficult for people to read and comment on...

it's quite nice to have a place where you can go to read all of the posts of a given columnists in a nice clean organized way.. but i just don't know if having 2 separate places (forum + blog) is the way to go.
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momonan
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2005, 06:52:40 AM »

I'm really glad you raised this because it's perfect, since the site is making other major changes.

When the site began in March, it consisted of a review, a couple of columns, some software, and a forum waiting for visitors.  This made the blogs so important that they were expected to change daily.  Things have changed dramatically since then.  The forum is dynamic and a "must read."  The blogs are sporadic and probably suffering from lack of readership and blogger exhaustion.  The comments aren't widely circulated and, after a few times clicking on "latest blog" to find I have already read it, that feature is easy to forget -- in spite of some excellent columns.

So..I think we could do without something called a "blog" (which may be an outmoded term anyway), and settle on a compromise.  Here are a couple of suggestions to get the conversation going:

1.  Relieve the current columnists from any commitments they have made to provide regular blogs.

2.  Continue to provide some kind of special space for larger writings, such as reviews, how-to-do-something, how-I-did-something, what-to-avoid, latest thinking on a subject, etc.  Then have an announcement of it on the forum, including a thread for comments and continuing discussion (not at the bottom of the column).

3.  These larger writings would come on inspiration, and not obligation.  We all know how easy it is to respond to a request, or continue with a conversation, with a full exploration -- no matter how long it takes.  Yet, how very hard it is -- and time-consuming -- to deliver on a promise to write something by a deadline.

4.  By continuing something special (no ideas on what it should be called), you could continue to archive the comments, as you do now with the blog columns.  There have been some very memorable blogs, which are great to be able to recall now and then.  It would be a shame to lose this (yes, I know, there have been memorable forum posts, too, but that's another story).

At least two problems I see with this, though:

1.  Probably this feature should be open to other users, in addition to the current regulars.  There should be some criteria developed for this, though, in order to keep it special and appropriate for the feature.  At the very least, this feature should only be open to members.  In addition, perhaps proposed columns should be passed on by the administrator before posting?

2.  Right now, the columnists have the possibility (however remote) of getting donations for their writing.  Could that still be available?


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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2005, 07:08:37 AM »

I don't know about others but I tend to read some of the blogs as they are written, have made the odd comment here and there and then tended to forget about them.

If there was a BLOGGERS section to the forum where columnists (and anyone that requests one) gets their own board to spout off at will, it would have the advantages of

  • keeping the 'blog feel' in that it consists of longer 'articles' rather than quick notes and question like most of the forum
  • new columns flagged up with all the forum links (Unread Posts / Recent Posts / Since last visit) which I would guess are widely used
  • searchability
  • interactive response ... the current blogs have to be read to see the comments left - there is no interaction, or encouragement to send others back to have a look.
  • the current blogs could be retained (cut and paste into new board messages, if current bloggers want to do that)
  • easy to backup with your existing DB backup system
  • do away with Moveable Type (did I hear Mouser sigh)

Can I be even more radical and say that the reviews could do the same too (for pretty much the same reasons). However, you might want to have some control there otherwise everyone will be writing two line reviews and it would get too cluttered. But it would be nice if revies were searchable, and the responses interactive. It might also be useful to have a standard layout for reviews - inc. review date, and review updated date (w. change log) ... perhaps the first three posts in the individual review forum could be:

  • Date of review - overview / review update/change log
  • Main Review
  • Conclusions
« Last Edit: November 02, 2005, 10:51:16 AM by CarolHaynes » Logged

mouser
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« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2005, 11:03:12 AM »

very good points...

and these are all issues i've wrestled with -
one of the real appeals of these all-encompassing cms systems is the idea that a single search searches everything, and a single login handles everything..

my biases are similar to carol's in terms of thinking the forum is a pretty nice solution for these things and as much can be put comfortably in forum the better.

i'm not sure the reviews would work here though - it would certainly have some advantages as carol says.. though we would lose some screen realestate and some control over formatting..

it needs some more thought..
i'm open to having a blogger section of the forum - though we'd have to figure out how to advise people on how to decide wheter a post belongs in blog section or living room.. there is a big overlap..
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2005, 12:20:47 PM »

Re: Loss of formatting in the review section if it were moved to the forums ...

Actually there is no real reason why this should be true. SMF supports limited HTML and BBC inc. tables, embedded graphics, attachments and easy editing.

Surely there is sufficient scope there to present reviews just as neatly as they are currelntly displayed?

Review topics are decided upon - they aren't whims, and there is already a mini review boards. So it would make sense to have a Review Forum with child boards - one per topic. Make the author based review posts sticky and editable only by you and the author, and then let people have their say below ...

This would make browsing reviews quick and easy, and searching would pop up all sorts of related stuff too.
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« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2005, 08:34:58 PM »

Here's a thought,
  Just a heading for a section of the forum "Drop Box" , or something.  A Place where an inspired member could drop off either an article, or How-To or whatnot and let it be reviewed from there, or all the originating posts there could have a poll attached to them asking where users think they belong, or  if they should be stickied.  This way not only the administrators would get a say, nor have to necessarily take the time to review each separate post and make a decision.    Maybe 25, 100 , 500 or whatever.. votes and the topic is moved, if not by an admin beforehand(at the time of move voting no longer registers). It would be good if the topic itself wasn't moved, but Stickied into the appropriate child board, ie.."Articles","HowTo's","Rants", or whatever,   I don't know if this type of automation exists in the forum software, but I would bet most anything that Skrommel could script it.
 If nothing else a centrally accessible place for members and admins to review and comment on articles, reviews, howTo's and the like would take some of the strain off managing your time. An active topic or really good how-to becomes sticky, or gets sent to a sidebar in the front page, or ends up creating it's own child board, or finally ends up dying out and ends up in a "Top Threads of All Times" locked archive. 
  Anyway just a few ideas to play with, I'm rambling now so I'll leave it there and see where it all goes (Oh Yeah, I almost forgot.  Trash Bin should probably not be included in the poll options  ;-)   )
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mouser
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« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2005, 02:27:05 AM »

Ok, i guess the board has spoken.. actually not many spoke but i think that speaks for itself..  I've removed the blog (columns) link from the top navigation bar..  I will find a way to put the past blogs somewhere useful - probably integrate them into the forum somehow.

Maybe a section like "Noteworthy Posts"
which would normally just be weekly list of pointers to the best posts on the forum, but could be initialized with the older blogs..
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mouser
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« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2005, 02:32:56 AM »

Can i take a moment to say thank you to all of the blog columnists who were generous enough to spend time writing columns..

It's hard to remember back 8 months but when we started the site there was very little actual discussion on this forum, and the blog columns were a great source of content on the site.

They were entertaining and informative little articles that were always fun to come read when there was nothing else new, and they really gave the site some personality.  Thanks especially to nudone, jibz, vrgirl, and tensieken who volunteered early and kept the blogs interesting.

As the forum grew in activity, the blogs became more and more redundant, and I think it's natural that as the activity and discussion grows here, the need for an independent blog section decreases.

So let's just view this as a natural evolution of the site; i'll bring the older blog columns into the forum for everyone to read, and we can see what's next in store for us..
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f0dder
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« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2005, 02:44:37 AM »

It probably makes sense to move the blog section to the forum - I'm a bit worried about blog quality, though. It "feels different" to write for a blog than "just doing a forum post". But making a blog subforum might help a bit? Would be nice to still have a centralized place to go, like "blog subforum -> jibz subsubforum"...

I don't think reviews should be moved to the forum. It could probably work okay technically speaking, but it would feel wrong, and might end up with half-baked reviews that are "patched" as time goes. Better to keep them as a "special feature", this looks more professional anyway. But for discussion of a review, make a "Reviews" subforum, and create a thread there for each review, and link to it from the review page. This keeps the distinction between mini-reviews, and larger reviews that require more time and effort.

Just a few stray thoughts smiley
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mouser
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« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2005, 02:47:58 AM »

i agree with your thoughts on reviews (by the way we already do exactly what you suggest with review discussion threads).

as for a special section of forum for blog entries, that was kind of my idea with "Noteworthy Posts" section idea, or maybe we can think of a new name for it.  I was just thinking of using it not just for blogs but for other similar rants and stuff.  Idea would be that we could maybe move a post there (or link from there to it) if we thought it was of special attention.
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f0dder
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« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2005, 03:12:49 AM »

i agree with your thoughts on reviews (by the way we already do exactly what you suggest with review discussion threads).
Quote
Shows that I haven't been paying enough attention lately - I blame the flu  embarassed

as for a special section of forum for blog entries, that was kind of my idea with "Noteworthy Posts" section idea, or maybe we can think of a new name for it.  I was just thinking of using it not just for blogs but for other similar rants and stuff.  Idea would be that we could maybe move a post there (or link from there to it) if we thought it was of special attention.
That sounds like a good idea - a section where people can't create new threads, but where nice threads can be moved (and still replied on). Perhaps previous blog authors (and other people with time&dedication) could be allowed to post new threads directly, so there's still some of the feel of doing a "blog post"?
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mouser
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« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2005, 03:21:22 AM »

yep, that's what i was thinking as well.
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