Tweaking the blog

Thanks, everybody, for your kind words and what I think is a pretty successful launch in the Patheos big city (as someone called it).

The comments on the “introductions” post offered some suggestions, and I want to follow up on that. First, what is your opinion of posts that only show the first six lines on the main page and then you have to click “read more” to get the rest of them?

That’s the basic format Patheos uses and, I was told, for good reason. I guess when there are lots of posts on the front page, webcrawlers can get to them easier, visitors can browse earlier posts they haven’t seen yet, it looks better with the web design, and I don’t know what all.

I felt my posts were more long form, so I asked Patheos if they could make the text box bigger. They put a larger character limit, but that hid the formatting (paragraphs, block quotes) for some reason. Where it stands now is that we have formatting, long posts, and I said I’d put in my own page breaks.

But I don’t know. . . .Maybe there is nothing wrong with the six line teasers, though maybe I should change my writing so that I start off with a journalistic “lede” (journalese for “lead”), a snappy summary that makes you want to read on. You readers are the main consideration. Do you mind getting only six lines before you have to click “read more”? Or is that some of the only exercise you get and so you are all for it? (Let’s see if you mind this jump:

The Patheos template has quite a few features that it will take us a while to discover and appreciate. For example, a post on a particular topic may conjure up links to earlier posts on the same topic. There are links to other Patheos blog posts, which may prove interesting and which I’m sure will bring more traffic here. If you’ve noticed other good features, please let the rest of us know.

But also, what features would you like to have? Perhaps there is a way to get them. I heard a request for comment numbering. Also for e-mail notification for comments. What else? Have you noticed cool features on other blogs that we might replicate here? I’ll ask the wizards behind the curtain if some of them might be possible.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    Definitely the comment numbering in lieu of nesting. Though I can see having an available nest option may be a useful feature if and when some of our theological discussions take their inevitable digressions and overly long disputations.

    I don’t mind teaser ledes.

  • Pete

    Ditto, the comment numbering.

  • Kempin04

    Yes, yes, comment numbering! Please!

    Also, since you asked, I enjoyed the way that you could read through the posts in the old format, and then if you were interested in commentary you could click in, but that is probably more of the “change” joke coming in to play.

    You don’t mention nesting, so i gather that it is not on the table. I think it could work, though, if there was some sort of “code” for usage–perhaps nested comments for a personal remark, joke, or one liner, but new comments if you are speaking to the topic. (Or attempting to generate a new one, as sometimes happens. Ahem.) In any case, comment numbering would be immensely helpful for sorting it out, assuming that nested comments do not get numbered.

  • Leah

    I don’t know how long I can stand the ledes. It makes my blog reader almost useless, as now it tells me there’s a new post but I have to go to the webpage to read it. As I read blogs on my phone, this is a big problem. It takes longer to load a website than it does to have a blog reader load it for me in the background and have it waiting for when I have time to read it. And this website doesn’t look nice on my phone, and as I type these comments the cursor skips around so I’m suddenly typing over an old word, plus I can’t see the entire comment box at once and it doesn’t correctly follow when I scroll. I know they want me to see the website so I see their “ads”, but it’s basically a very anti-smartphone set up that is surprising to find.

  • http://ladydusk.blogspot.com dawn

    I will probably unsubscribe if there cannot be a “full feed” for Google Reader. I don’t mind ads in the post if that’s what it takes, I don’t want to have to click through to read the post.

  • HC

    Ditto on the “my blog reader almost useless, as now it tells me there’s a new post but I have to go to the webpage to read it.”

  • Tom Hering

    1.) Comments should not have nested replies, and …

    2.) that would be the only reason to number comments, i.e., so replies can reference them.

    3.) Everyone would appreciate a time-limited editing option (say, five minutes), so “duh” type boo-boos can be fixed. A time limit would keep people from changing their comments over and over again, as that could make a lot of people replying to comments look stupid.

    Before we reinvent the wheel, the community at this other blog was offered the option of nested or non-nested comments, and they did a pretty good job of going through all the pros and cons of both formats. For those who don’t want to read the whole thing, the overwhelming majority voted for non-nested.

    My own argument is as follows. Nested comments (what we have here on Patheos now) is fine – visually – for short conversations, because short conversations can be easily scanned, i.e., it’s possible to find all the new replies quickly.

    But it’s a major pain when you have to scroll through a whole, long conversation to find all the new replies – something you’ll have to do every time there’s a new reply, even if you’re following the conversation throughout the day. Yes, there could be the option of being e-mailed new replies, but unless the reply includes a reference to its location on the page (the person replying remembers to include a reference in their text), you’ll still have to scroll up and down a lot if you come back to the blog to read the reply in context.

    Finally, while nested replies encourage short, snappy exchanges (which some sites prefer), they do nothing to encourage long, involved conversations (which we have here often enough). Quite the opposite. As replies get into the dozens, never mind hundreds, they’ll appear as increasingly narrow text boxes to the right of the page, to the point where they’re extremely narrow horizontally (one or two words wide), and nearly endless vertically. Imagine Frank or Larry making reply #100! ;-)

    4.) Finally, we need a preview feature back again.

  • Kempin04

    May I call for a question of privilege and request that the gracious chair henceforth ban the use of the work ‘lede” in this discussion? I’m all for vocabulary, and this blog occasionally sends me to the dictionary, (one of many reasons I love it), but “lede” for “lead” is just pretentious. Is it just me? (“Journalese,’ hmmph. I thought journalists were the ones who were good with words.)

  • SKPeterson

    Dan – As a lawyer, you know that is a ledeing question.

  • Tom Hering

    One thing I like about this site is we finally have a “Recent Comments” feature, so you can jump right to them. But it only includes the most recent of recent comments. And so it only partially solves the problem of having to scroll up and down through a page full of nested sub-discussions.

  • Kempin04

    Tom,

    Where is that recent comment fearure? I don’t see it,

  • Serenity

    I agree with HC and Leah on the new RSS feed making “my blog reader almost useless, as now it tells me there’s a new post but I have to go to the webpage to read it.”

  • Terry A.

    I MUCH prefer your old format to the “lede”. I am not a fan of clicking through to read the post.

  • SteveD

    I prefer not having to click to read the whole post. I wouldn’t care as much if an ad didn’t pop up over the post every time I clicked. Also, I can’t read the posts in Google Reader, now, which makes it useless. I have rarely commented, but have followed this blog for a while. It would be a shame to lose such wit and insight just because Patheos is driving the car, now.

  • Gary

    It’s probably fine for a browser. But for readers like Google’s it’s not so great because I have to go to a browser to read the article. Don’t know if this is a problem with all readers.

  • kerner

    Ditto on the nested comments. For short discussions they may be fine. Here, they become a major impediment to our more thorough discussions.

    I don’t like getting a short “lede” (sorry Kempin04). But I don’t use google reader, so I’m not sure what the effect is on that.

    Now that I am attempting to use gravitars, the small size of the gravitar makes many of my favorite choices too small to be seen clearly. Can you make them bigger?

  • http://www.adcrucem.org Peter Slayton

    Add me to the list of people who find the new “read more” option useless for my feed reader! I like to come to the page to read the comments, but I want to be able to read the full article in my reader without coming to the site. I won’t unsubscribe, but it is highly likely that I won’t read nearly as much of the content unless it really really interests me.

  • Cameron M.

    I’ve been following your blog for the last year or so and have found your commentary and questions intriguing, but I don’t know how long I’ll continue “listening in” if the RSS feed is simply a teaser. I don’t want to sound like some random, negative commenter, so let me explain.

    I’m a little embarrassed to say that between personal interests and work duties (I work in IT) I have about 100 blog feeds in my feed reader. Out of those feeds, though, only a handful of them use the teaser format in their feed. So, clearly I have a time-management issue to deal with, and having to click through to read the full post works against me. On the homepage design, the presentation is critical to making the site work well, so I don’t really care too much about that. But in a feed reader, I just want the content.

    Again, I’ve enjoyed your blog, so I’m hoping Patheos can work with you on the feed format.

  • Tom Hering

    Dan (@ 9:37 am), I see it in the gray column on the right, but I guess that doesn’t mean everyone does.

  • nqb

    I have the same complaint about the blog readers displaying teasers, but I just want to point out that it might not be directly related to the main page issue. I noticed the teaser on the main page is different than the teaser in my reader.

    Having said that, if Patheos allows for a full-content RSS feed, I would love to have that back. I don’t really care what the main page looks like because I rarely get that far.

  • Kempin04

    Oh, there it is. Thanks, Tom.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Hmm. I subscribe to the RSS feed via Firefox’s “Live Bookmarks,” which take me directly to the long-form article. I don’t see the “Read more…” version. So, it doesn’t matter to me…
    The one thing that I really, Really, REALLY would like is email notification new comments, like we had at the old place. If that’s possible.

  • Abby

    It would be good if the Issues, Etc icon/link could be provided here as well. Extending the reach to a wider audience for them!

  • tODD

    Veith asked:

    First, what is your opinion of posts that only show the first six lines on the main page and then you have to click “read more” to get the rest of them?

    Might be some confusion here. On the homepage of your blog, it shows quite a bit more than six lines. But yes, it does insert a “read more” jump at an arbitrary point. I think this is reasonable, because it turns your homepage into something more easily skimmed, such that one can see what you’re all about. Personally, I almost never look at your blog’s homepage, so I don’t care what it does, really.

    There’s a different level of truncation going on in the RSS feed, showing just a few lines before you have to click through. I can understand why many people — notably, the lurkers — would prefer the old way, but I highly suspect Patheos will not change this, since that’s their (and even Veith’s) bread and butter. They want you to click through so that you incur a page-view and maybe look at some ads. They don’t want you reading for free on your reader. Again, personally, I’m not affected by this because I’m not a lurker. I’m a commenter, so I always have to go to the site anyhow to write a comment. (But, shh, like Tom, I also have ad-blocking software, so I have no idea what the ads on the site look like.) Of course, advertising and pageviews are probably the impetus behind the truncations on the blog’s homepage as well. They want you to click more.

    Point being: to me, what matters are the posts themselves. I’m going to end up reading them on their own pages, so I don’t much care how the posts look elsewhere. I’m a little baffled by the people who only want to read Veith’s words and not, you know, my brilliant response to those words (I suppose there are other commenters, as well), but I’ll try and take it in stride.

    The “you may also like” feature is a bit bizarre right now, as it appears to be pulling almost exclusively from your blog’s first posts when it switched from World to your own WordPress installation on GeneVeith.com (around 2008). Most of those posts — indeed, most of your posts in general — had no accompanying text image, so the “you may also like” feature comes up with its own generic backgrounds. I like your blog, but I don’t really care much about what you had to say in 2008 at this point. The content decays fairly fast (not the ideas or the writing, but the germaneness of the topics).

    In the sidebar, I don’t think I’ll be reading “More from the Evangelical Channel”, though I’m sure there’s some good stuff there. “Most Popular” apparently tells us what’s being read the most, not commented on. I guess that’s interesting. “Recent Comments” is more interesting, but has too few data points to really give a sense of where the conversation is happening.

  • SKPeterson

    I did not have an ad blocker originally, but I did put one on when the banner ad (it comes up next to the patheos logo at the top of the page) had a repeatedly running advertisement for Tarot card reading. Not exactly appropriate. Maybe if patheos would put appropriate ads on the blogs channels, I will deactivate the adblocks for Cranach and/or patheos. Until then, leave the pagan ads for the Pagan, Spirituality or Progressive channels.

  • SKPeterson

    One other thing that might be helpful, but maybe not possible, would be to have a listing of the other Patheos Evangelical or Catholic blogs that might be of interest to Cranach readers. Perhaps, a Veith-inspired Patheos blog roll, with some article/post headline “ledes” for us to peruse. Euangelion might be of interest, but some of the other Evangelical bloggers are decidedly alien in many respects. Then again, they are Reformed, and one knows nothing good can come from that. ;)

  • tODD

    After the regulars kicked the tires on this thing yesterday, I think we definitely need comment numbering, and I know it’s possible on Patheos. That was just a way many of us talked to each other, not only to reply directly to someone, but to reference earlier statements. And, sure, I mainly mean that I used those numbers. But others did as well.

    I think I’ll revise my stance a bit from yesterday, though. I’m not sure the Reply thing is totally useless. But I don’t think we — at least, the regulars — should use it as it is intended. In general, the best conversation seems to flow from a linear set of posts, so that one can easily find the newest comments and see the topic develop over time. Because, yes, it is a real pain to have to scan a list of 100 comments, trying to find some nested comment you didn’t see last time.

    But! I feel like the Reply feature might be useful … to bring about my old (unpopular) idea of posting a quick reaction to someone’s post — e.g., “+1″, “LOL”, or “great idea”. Those don’t need to be part of the linear flow, and are, indeed, perhaps best left out of it. I think that’s how I’m going to start using it, anyhow.

  • Tom Hering

    I agree with Todd’s slightly revised view (@ 4:07 pm). If we keep the nested format, it would be nice if all the sub-conversations were collapsed by default. In other words, you’d have to click to expand them and see all the nested replies. Yes, that’s a little unfair to the people involved in those sub-conversations, but it would maintain the flow of the main conversation, visually. Then again, maybe each of us could be given the option of choosing the default view we prefer – collapsed or expanded.

  • Kempin04

    +1

  • SKPeterson

    Heretics.

  • tODD

    Honestly, Kempin (@4:42 pm), where were you when my comment-voting proposal went over like a lead balloon?

    Also, no disrespect, but I have to call you Kempin now. If I refer to your given name, only those who have been regular readers will have a hint that I’m talking to you. So now we’re on a high school basketball team together, Kempin.

  • tODD

    Boooooo!

  • Gene Veith

    Thanks, everyone, for the ideas. I’ll submit them. What I really need right now is feedback about the six line limit. Right, Todd, it doesn’t have that now, since they changed it for me. I can presently make the posts showing as long as I want, but I am inserting page jumps at my own volition. But it would be easier and more standard for Patheos to have just a home page, as it were, with six lines and then a jump, whereupon you can see the whole thing. I’ve since noticed that other modern blogs are pretty much that way, including Steadfast Lutherans (so it couldn’t be unorthodox to have that format). I can see that the ability to scan lots of posts could, in fact, be helpful, and then you could click to read the ones you want.

    So do I gather that some RSS feeds (Firefox) gives the whole post, whereas others (Google’s) just gives the first few lines? Not the lines on the opening page, however many there are of them, but less than six?

  • tODD

    Veith (@5:11 pm):

    So do I gather that some RSS feeds (Firefox) gives the whole post, whereas others (Google’s) just gives the first few lines?

    No, the RSS feed for your site comes from Patheos, and Patheos only delivers a few lines of each post.

    In Mike’s case (@1:27 pm), I believe Firefox doesn’t even show those few lines of the post body. It might just show the title, and then you click on it to be taken to the post page.

    I’d be really surprised if Patheos budged on the RSS, though, allowing your feed to show the full posts. They want people viewing their site.

  • Kempin04

    I won’t complain, whatever you do, (well, except when you ask for it, like right now), but I would vote against viewing many posts with short leads. (Ha!)

    I will explain my vote by saying that my experience with your blog in particular–which is probably why it is the only blog I frequent–is one of quality rather than quantity. I like to absorb the two or three posts you put up each day precisely because I am NOT overwhelmed with a torrent of options. It’s it like you are saying, ‘Here’s something I picked out of the information stream and this is what I thought. What do you think?” And so I do think–if it interests me, which it often does, and if I have time, which I sometimes do. It is pleasant, and I think it is fairly unusual internet experience. Compressing the posts to titles and blurbs and cramming the home page full, like steadfast lutherans, would be more frenetic and lose the feel of “a few thoughts for the day.”

    Or so I think. For what it is worth.

  • Kempin04

    I forgot to address this to Dr. Veith, 5:11. ( I hope this is an appropriate use of “reply.”)

  • Kempin04

    tODD, 4:56,

    I’d prefer if you’d call me “Obi-Wan Kempinobi,” but I give you license to call me whatever you like.

  • Tom Hering

    Old Dan Kempinobi

  • kerner

    I’ve been on that basketball team for years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    You mean a lede balloon?
    Wait. Now I’m confused.

  • helen

    You guys get it sorted out. I use my browser so it’s all the same here. :)
    I read “steadfast” at least daily… but down in the lower part of the right hand column, (under Grandpa) they have a list of the latest comments. So I look at the topic & who’s talking and click on it there. If you don’t comment, the back button will take you to the list again.

    [Sometimes all the comments are on one topic,
    then I might check the home page to see what else is up.]

    “Reply” on steadfast is the neatest I’ve used yet. (No nesting) It copies all a writer’s info and the post # to a nice new box, at the end, for you to answer him. I’ve often wished for that over here, where I usually do it by hand, if I also want to copy a fragment of what I’m speaking to in my post.
    Good morning, all y’all!
    I’m for bed! :)

  • Tom Hering

    Dr. Veith (@ January 11, 5:11 pm), since you’re stuck with the format of a main page, where visitors click to “read more,” the main thing to consider is keeping the jump worthwhile. If a good portion of the post appears on the main page, and after the jump, all you “read more” is a paragraph or two, it will feel like kind of a cheat – like the reader has been inconvenienced for no good reason. That’s not a feeling you want all your visitors to experience. Better to have just some of your visitors experience frustration or aggravation, because of the reading technology they use.

  • Polites

    Ditto. Need full feeds to make RSS subscription of any real use, especially to your mobile subscribers.

  • Julian

    As a Card-Carrying Lurker, I almost always click through to the site, because nothing excites a lurker as much as a good old fashioned showdown in the comments.

  • Grace

    Dr. Veith “Perhaps there is a way to get them. I heard a request for comment numbering. Also for e-mail notification for comments.”

    ☀ YES – “comment nubering” and “e-mail notification” just as it was on your blog before.

    Nesting doesn’t flow well, in my opinion – it becomes all jumbled up, when one has to go back and review time and date.

  • Grace

    I too would appreciate having the “preview” feature back again.

    The problem Dr. Veith is this, YOU had a great blog, with all the plus features, (except for a few commenters ;) it’s hard when some of the most important are missing.

  • Katie

    Dr. Veith, I would not mind it if you went back to the six line limit whatsoever, and I think that doing that might be better than having only one paragraph left to read after clicking “read more.” But either way, I sure enjoy your blog and appreciate being able to read it. Thank you.

  • Etz

    I agree with the others that the lead makes my RSS reader useless. I would consider unsubscribing if I had to do that to read all the articles.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    If it’s not too late to add another “request”: put the links for the “next” and “previous” posts down here at the bottom of the comments (as well as at the top). If I’ve just read through 20+ comments I’d really rather not have to scroll all the way to the top again. Thanks!

  • nqb

    For everyone that wants a full-content RSS feed: http://fulltextrssfeed.com/

  • http://gplus.to/jon.luker Polites

    Thanks for the tip on full feeds, nqb!

  • http://www.capstewart.com Cap Stewart

    For what it’s worth (which I know isn’t much, coming from a longtime lurker and an infrequent poster): I’m not a big fan of the six line (or however many lines it ends up being) limit. I prefer to see an entire post without having to click through to another page.

  • kempin04

    I suppose this is the place to register further feedback, but I have noticed that the screen for typing a post uses a font size smaller than the posted text. I assume there is a reason for this, but it makes no sense to me. Depending on the computer I use, I have a difficult time reading the smaller text. (It may give me a good excuse for my typoos, though.)

  • Rich Shipe

    Just experimenting with the comments system. Looking forward to seeing how Cranach expands (hopefully) through Patheos.

    P.S. How does everyone get their photo with their names and comments?

  • tODD

    Rich (@12:20 pm), go to Gravatar.com, and then sign up there with the same email address with which you comment here. Then pick a photo to associate with that account. Now you will have that icon (avatar) anywhere you comment on a WordPress blog!

  • kempin04

    Hey . . . you remember that time when we used to have comment numbers on the blog? Everyone would, like reply, and you could look up stuff with the comment numbers? Remember that?

    That was awesome. (awkward pause) Comment numbers are awesome.

    (It really only works if you visualize me as Chris Farley.)

  • Sean

    I agree with that the new RSS feed is a big step backward. I find that when sites switch to this sort of feed (causing me to have to visit the site rather than read the article in my RSS reader), I am not very likely to click through and tend to stop following the blog after a short time period. I have found the same thing has happened to Cranach since the switch. I don’t know why it happens. Maybe I’m just that lazy. Or maybe I perceive the extra time spent exceeds my brief break’s time constraints. I used to read every Cranach posting before noon. Now, here I am catching up on a posting that is 10 days old.

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