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We're sending the blog in for a tune-up. We're planning to tidy up the side-bar, make the "search" function easier to find, and do a few other small tweaks.
What changes (if any) would you like to see?
Posted by Frances Woolley on November 20, 2011 in Frances Woolley | Permalink
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I don't know about tidying up the side bar. On some other blogs there are times when the main text extends underneath the side bar. And then there are times when even reducing the text size to its smallest still doesn't bring all the text into view.
I don't know exactly how you planned to change the side bar, but please be aware of that potential problem. Thanks. :)
November 20, 2011 at 10:03 AM
Although I'm equally interested in all your posts, there are times when I'm looking for a particular post by someone and it would be helpful if I could just click on a name and get say Nick's posts only in chronological order.
Jim Sentance |
November 20, 2011 at 11:02 AM
Yes, that would be a priority of mine as well. I can use my admin powers to do an author-specific search by the back door, but it would be good if others could do the same.
Stephen Gordon |
November 20, 2011 at 11:26 AM
So a "search within" would be ideal, right?
Frances Woolley |
November 20, 2011 at 12:27 PM
I'd vote for less truncation on the main page.
You go to some blogs, DeLong or Scott Sumners and you can scroll down the main page and read everything. Worthwhile and Crooked Timber for example requrie you to click through to finish reading a post. I prefer the former to the latter.
Left Outside |
November 20, 2011 at 01:52 PM
That was the subject of a certain amount of internal debate. Our posts are generally pretty long, and there's very little coordination - sometimes there are three or four in a day. The one who posted first would immediately get pushed way, way down to the bottom of the main page.
Stephen Gordon |
November 20, 2011 at 03:08 PM
I started a bit of a thread in another post...*
I am not a huge fan of keywords, but one-line of context at the top (for interested amateurs) would be great. Something a little more than Krugman's "wonkish" warning and less than two sentences.
*For the record Steven, I remember associating your name with posts about the business world interacting with macro policy. I am an amateur and apologies to you for mis-reading if I have done. And more apologies to Mike.
I learn alot about policy from this blog and am very glad it is here. I am grateful that you accept amateur questions.
Chris J |
November 20, 2011 at 07:16 PM
More a request than a desire for improvement, but would Frances, Mike or Livio be interested in a post on Pooled Registered Pension Plans? The federal legislation was just introduced and it seems topical. Could be a nice segue into how it fits into our entire retirement system.
November 20, 2011 at 10:08 PM
Use wordpress instead of typepad.
November 20, 2011 at 10:49 PM
Make sure not to wreck it.
Blogs often "improve themselves" by making themselves worse.
Just don't do that.
This is already a great blog.
First, do no harm.
Greg Ransom |
November 20, 2011 at 11:41 PM
I think wordpress allows latex as well. So you could get some math in here.
November 20, 2011 at 11:45 PM
It would be nice to see a 'tree' of comments, so if bill posts a comment replying to adam's comment, and if carl and dave post comments replying to bill's comment, then the reader can preview a sort of family tree giving an overview of the replies, with a few words of each comment displayed in an overview of the tree.
Mike Sproul |
November 21, 2011 at 01:11 AM
In the spirit of the view-by-author requests, it would be super great to get separate RSS feeds for each contributor.
google reader user |
November 21, 2011 at 01:12 AM
On more than one occasion I have found myself searching through old blog posts looking for some gem of logic or erudite figure to show to someone else -- it would be great if searching the archive was improved (although probably not worth the required effort). But on this note, keywords in future posts might improve archive searching.
One of the best features of WCI his how quite educated debates break out in the comment section. These debates might be improved, and made more readable, by improving the comment box to facilitate quoting of previous posts and insertion of hyperlinks.
November 21, 2011 at 01:14 AM
Thanks for all the feedback.
Does anyone know of conversion software that can automatically convert a typepad site to a wordpress site? My guess is that if we switched to wordpress we'd have to restart the site entirely. So we'd have 2005-2011 in an archived typepad site, and 2012 onwards in a new wordpress site, and it wouldn't be possible to search the two simultaneously. Or we'd have to hire someone to manually move over thousands of posts and comments.
Also all of us would have to learn new software.
My sense is that the marginal improvement offered by Wordpress isn't worth it.
I agree that the tagging of posts could be better. Stephen and I have tried to tweak the categories before but with limited success. I've never found that the categories work particularly well for me, though the addition of "everyday economics" which captures about 90% of my posts helps. If we redid the categories we'd have to go back and retag several thousand old posts, but if someone was willing to dedicate a week to the task it would be possible.
Frances Woolley |
November 21, 2011 at 08:05 AM
Install a hot tub and a sauna, and maybe those little wafer cookies with the gelato.
November 21, 2011 at 08:37 AM
The "Posts on Other Blogs" section grows stale, I think. For example, Stephen recently wrote a post about Miles Corak's blog which has since then had lots of really excellent posts, none of which were linked to in that section. If it's not possible to maintain, maybe get rid of it?
The "Recent Comments" section is really important because the discussions are such a big part of what makes WCI great. Anything that could be done to improve that section would be great, though I have no idea what is technologically possible. I would love it if comments could be grouped by post. This would allow comments on slower moving threads to stay visible on the home page. This section could occupy significantly more space at the expense of the "Posts on Other Blogs" section and probably also the "Categories" section which I doubt anybody ever uses (maybe I'm wrong).
I'd add a few entries in the "Other Economics Blogs We Follow" section (but then, maybe you don't follow those blogs): Free Exchange, Interfluidity, Noahpinion, Matt Rognlie, and Macroresilience are all consistently excellent.
November 21, 2011 at 09:43 AM
My vote goes to search by topic tag. Otherwise, this is a fantastic blog--one of the best--and any amenities added will be trivial compared to the intelligence and helpfulness of the authors.
November 21, 2011 at 09:44 AM
Frances: You can import the current content (text of posts and comments) into Wordpress, but you'll lose all media, for example, pictures won't transfer. I think you'd have to pay someone to do the transfer for you, manually fixing links.
edeast: "I think wordpress allows latex as well. So you could get some math in here."
Wordpress.com does, but it's fugly, see for example this post with some math on my blog. If you set up a blog on your own server using wordpress.org software there are much better mathematical typesetting options, but then you have the hassle of installing and maintaining the blog software.
Chris Auld |
November 21, 2011 at 01:24 PM
Chris: "I think you'd have to pay someone to do the transfer for you, manually fixing links."
Well, we could pass the hat around and test the free-rider hypothesis ;-)
Honestly, the lack of mathematical notation capabilities doesn't bother me greatly -though it's much more important for a blog like yours (www.chrisauld.com).
Frances Woolley |
November 21, 2011 at 01:41 PM
You don't have to write it yourself, but even a glossary with links to wikipedia is better than nothing.
November 21, 2011 at 02:02 PM
I often find myself confused by the use of separator lines in the comments. You have a separator line between the post and the poster identity -- but there is no separator, online whitespace, between one poster and the start of the next comment. Moreover, you don't allow for titles on comments.
The net effect, particularly in long runs of short comments, is that it looks like the name is *above* the comment -- which is, of course, wrong.
Chris S |
November 21, 2011 at 03:56 PM
Move "Recent Comments" to the top of the RHS.
Prioritize the user.
November 21, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Mike Sproul: "It would be nice to see a 'tree' of comments, so if bill posts a comment replying to adam's comment, and if carl and dave post comments replying to bill's comment, then the reader can preview a sort of family tree giving an overview of the replies, with a few words of each comment displayed in an overview of the tree."
Please don't do this. It is a benefit the first time one starts reading the comments, but if one comes back to a post later looking to read the later comments, comment trees are a real pain.
Seamus Hogan |
November 21, 2011 at 07:51 PM
You might try to make the blog more robust for mobile users. Maybe it's me, but I sometimes have trouble reading it on my blackberry (the page goes blank once it loads, although it works if you click a link while it is loading). It could just be that my blackberry browser is primitive. I don't know if there's a quick fix (or if there are enough blackberry readers to make any fix worthwhile), but for what it's worth.
Hey, I'm a go-train commuter. This is great blog for a long ride home. Take it as a compliment, the posts merit responses typed by thumb.
Bob Smith |
November 21, 2011 at 08:03 PM
JKH: "Prioritize the user." Jeez. We spend hours providing you with excellent (o.k. sometimes mildly interesting) free content. All we want is a little bit of recognition in the form of having our names on the top of the sidebar. And you figure we need to be told to prioritize the user.
Seamus, thanks for the thoughts on the comment tree, I tend to agree with you. I don't know if comment trees are even possible in Typepad. Our choice will probably be determined by what is feasible and what Nick wants.
Frances Woolley |
November 21, 2011 at 08:05 PM
Against comment trees. I think they encourage bickering between commenters, which is annoying to skim through.
I would also add that simplicity is best for these kinds of blogs. Blogs that are heavily blinged out with social networking functions, search boxes, etc., are slow to load.
November 21, 2011 at 08:25 PM
Bob: The fix is to hit the menu button and choose "Column View". You're probably using a Bold or earlier, OS V5.x?
November 21, 2011 at 08:39 PM
Mandos, much obliged, It is a bold.
Bob Smith |
November 21, 2011 at 09:00 PM
jkh: but the ads on naked cap take up more room then the individual names do.
chris auld: your blog didn't look that bad. but my sense of aesthetics is non-existent. the latex was too small for my resolution.
frances; the lack of pretty math isn't holding the blog back. but sometimes the posts, and more often in the comments, people try to communicate, through fancy symbolic manipulation. Some of the math blog's comment sections hosted on wordpress.com seem to support latex as well, but it was more of an aspirational request, not necessary.
November 22, 2011 at 01:56 AM
Edeast -You raise a good point.
There's a couple of issues here with the math.
One is the more general issue of the ease of inserting symbols using Typepad. The one that I encounter all the time is the issue of putting accents on es, also often it would be nice to have a quick way of inserting a pound sterling or a euro symbol. There are ways of working around this, e.g. using the Alt codes on a PC or the mac equivalent, but it's not easy. Quite often I end up writing the phrase that I want in Word and then cut-and-pasting. Perhaps if we listed the most common alt codes under the comments it would help.
The other is the more general issue of users knowledge of html. E.g. lots of people try to insert hyperlinks, but few people remember the code - and I can't type it here, because it will automatically get converted into mark-ups and not display. Again, we could replace the text "You can use HTML tags" with some more specific instructions.
Frances Woolley |
November 22, 2011 at 07:38 AM
My point related to the polar opposite positioning of the comparable list of bloggers - not to copy the exact format of the NC blog otherwise.
BTW, that blog is authored by somebody with a not so small ego.
A business department marketing prof might have something interesting to say about what you see on the first page right margin when you land at WCI.
November 22, 2011 at 07:46 AM
What does "prioritize the user" mean?
Stephen Gordon |
November 22, 2011 at 07:52 AM
It's my coinage for putting the customer first.
People who read your blog are interested in you to be sure, but they don't need to see your list of names every time they open up the first page. The point is that it's recurring and it doesn't need to be there all the time. A simple "about" should do the trick, and you can use that space on the right for new info they might immediately be more interested in. My preference is to see comments first, then latest posts, but that's just me.
November 22, 2011 at 08:07 AM
As a matter of fact, the plan all along has been to put a navigation bar at the top with an "about" page. After reading the various comments, I'm thinking that we should display each person's names somewhat more prominently beside each post, though we'll have to talk this through together and see what would work.
We are marketing two things: ourselves and our ideas. If information about ourselves is not instantly visible, the blog fails. Remember that the majority of our customers are infrequent users. They need the about us information, and don't want to have to search to find it. The regular users know where to look for the recent comments, and their eyeballs should by now be trained to look in exactly the right place.
But let's make one thing clear - we don't make any money from this blog. We actually pay to maintain it.
My adage is: the one who pays the bills calls the tune.
And that's us.
Frances Woolley |
November 22, 2011 at 08:32 AM
"I'm thinking that we should display each person's names somewhat more prominently beside each post"
The "about" link could be prominent up front as well; but doesn't necessarily have to be a list to be so.
"My adage is: the one who pays the bills calls the tune. And that's us."
November 22, 2011 at 09:03 AM
Tweak the charts so that they don't get chopped off on the right side when printing
November 22, 2011 at 10:38 AM
Some quasi-empirically-backed suggestions: The Incidental Economist, my other favorite blog, did a reader survey back in September.
At the margin, the most valued components of the blog were the quality of the posts, and the quality of the comments. I think the comment quality on WCI is very high--bickering is low, there is no shrieking, and no Hitler comparisons. That puts you in the 1%, by the way.
They too were given a zillion recommendations for technical improvements, and they are a very research-oriented, chart-loving group. But Frakt et al have made very few technical changes, and instead they added different writing features, like daily empirical commentary on news stories. However, they post like hell and I don't know how they find the time.
I won't comment on the math bits, I usually skip them.
November 22, 2011 at 10:55 AM
And a hilarious blog that shows you why you want high-quality comments, and why you need to make commenting something that requires effort: spEak You're bRanes
Make people do their own html. I do mine.
November 22, 2011 at 11:01 AM
Jacques: "Tweak the charts so that they don't get chopped off on the right side when printing"
Can you point to any posts in particular where that's a problem?
Shangwen: "Make people do their own html. I do mine."
Agreed. But people can't always remember that the correct code is openbracket a href = ... so it would be helpful to have that particular html tag, plus a couple of the other most commonly used tags where it says (You can use HTML tags...) right now. Perhaps also a couple of the most commonly used ALT codes.
Thanks to the link to the reader survey.
Frances Woolley |
November 22, 2011 at 12:51 PM
Actually, there's already an option to turn URLs into live links. The only reason it's not turned on is that I was worried about spam.
Stephen Gordon |
November 22, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Frances: To show html use < and > for < and >. Eg.
"To post a link:
< a href="worthwhile.typepad.com" > Awesome blog < /a > "
November 22, 2011 at 01:45 PM
WCI has many characteristics of a common pool resource.
Excess entry, effort, and production result. You overwhelmed me with the sheer volume a long time ago. Would guess that there are many in my position.
November 22, 2011 at 01:46 PM
On the topic of comments, it would be handy is commenter could edit or delete comments -- even if this functionality was limited for a short period (such as until the next comment is made) of time it would be helpful.
November 23, 2011 at 07:59 PM
Kosta - Stephen has super powers, but the rest of us can only edit the comments on our own posts.
I don't have time to go in and fix typos on individual comments, but if you say something on one of my posts that you seriously regret, email me, and I can go in and change it.
Frances Woolley |
November 23, 2011 at 08:05 PM
May I make a request that is not about the visual appearance of the blog?
I was thrilled when I posted a comment with a question in it and Nick answered my question. Would the economists posting here be willing to accept questions about economics from us readers and answer the questions they feel like answering?
One of my dreams is to sit next to an economist on a long airplane flight and ask him/her questions, but I realize it may be the economist's nightmare.
Alan T |
November 23, 2011 at 09:39 PM
You can always try. I've done a few 'explainer' pieces, and they're handy to have as references. And if there's one person who wants to see something explained, there's likely to be more than one.
Stephen Gordon |
November 23, 2011 at 09:52 PM
The html way of getting the euro symbol (€) is € or €.
You can also do:
£ for £
¥ for ¥
é for é
Cheat sheet here
November 23, 2011 at 11:00 PM
I just have to say it - just keep up a good work. I stumbled on this blog a few months ago as it was often referred by other prominent bloggers, and it quickly became my #1 daily reading. What makes this blog such an excellent one is openness of its authors to comments and to thinking about new things, and most importantly, thinking about old things in a new way. I can see that authors, but also people in comments come to great lengths trying to understand each other's thoughts and try to honestly reply in the way they understood them. I saw that many such an initiatives gave rise to some of the most interesting while still very polite discussions. This blog provides me with some of the most fascinating reading on economics out there - be it wild thought experiments or writing about interesting areas that are new for me such as Medieval Economic Thinking.
So if there is anything I wish that this blog it is just to be the same. If I could wish for something from the realm of concrete steppes, I could do with more articles and maybe with a tree structure to comments. And if I am at I would like a Pony too :D
J.V. Dubois |
November 24, 2011 at 11:59 AM
Found one of Patrick's comments in the spam filter:
The html way of getting the euro symbol (€) is € or €. You can also do: £ for £ ¥ for ¥ é for é Etc.. Cheat sheet here
Reply | 2 days ago on What could we do be…
Nick Rowe |
November 25, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Reduce the width of the comment column. It is difficult to read. You could then reduce the font size and put more things on the page ( Basic typography).
Put a column with the active thread and the name of the last fwe commenters on each thread instead of mixing them.
Put the names of posters and commenters at the top in larger caracters in some bold way ( not small transparent grey).
Clicking on each commenters brings us to that comment, not the page.
Group the comments in bunch of 10 or 25 (à la Krugman) with a button to go to the desired group so with don't have to scroll through the whole thread.
It would look like Mark Thoma's The economist's view which I find the best organised page.
And world peace. Sane european monetary policy. Miss World asking me for a tutorial on the ECB.
And a pony.
Jacques René Giguère |
November 30, 2011 at 11:40 AM
Do you have any policy about comments and posts in French? It would seem patently worthwhile and Canadian to accept both official languages throughout the blog. Or perhaps this is already the policy, and nobody is taking advantage of it!
And...remember, do no harm--this blog is already terrific. An example to avoid: the NYT has just revamped its commenting system, and there are many howls of outrage over the use of Facebook accounts for authentication of "trusted" commenters.
Gregory Sokoloff |
December 01, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Les commentaires dans la langue de Molière sont le bienvenue - mais assez rares. Les francophones ne peuvent pas presumer que tout le monde les comprendront.
Stephen Gordon |
December 01, 2011 at 05:55 PM
I finally thought of something you could do better. Paul Krugman's RSS feed tells me how many posts I haven't read yet, so that I don't have to open the window if there are no new posts. Yours doesn't.
Alan T. |
December 16, 2011 at 11:34 AM
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