Tuesday, July 3, 2007
New Design and Move to Blogoscoped.com
There’s a little surprise here for you today – Google Blogoscoped is now available on http://blogoscoped.com
and it has a new design as well, along with a couple of new or modified features! Please click through a bit here to give this a try, as your feedback is very much appreciated, and please update your bookmarks or links (while I’ll probably spend the remaining day working through technical quirks there may be).
Here are some of the design, domain & feature considerations behind the changes... but please remember your gut feeling on what you see before you read the explanations, as this new design is by no means completely final, and gut reactions are very valuable feedback!
- The old design was available for over 2 years now, and I felt it’s time for a change. I wanted to give the dual nature of this site – both blog and forum – stronger emphasis. I didn’t want the forum link to be “one of many” links easily skipped by navigation blindness. For that reason, I collapsed much of the navigation by default (depending on the location of the page you’re on; the latter was Tony’s idea). I also wanted to have the layout feel more fluid, even when the content area is still fixed (I can see almost equally many reasons for having a full-fluid layout, by the way, as I think either approach has pros and cons).
- If you’re a frequent forum user here, you know how blog posts interact with forum posts... that is, a blog post can trigger comments and a forum thread can trigger comments, and sometimes a forum thread is connected to a blog post after some hours. However so far, the comments weren’t fully dynamically merged, so I’m trying how that fares by using a comments structure in the style of “Comments (4+5)”, and you should be seeing that in action right now on this post. Tony Ruscoe was still skeptic about the latest way this was implemented (he helped a lot during beta testing), so I’ll keep watching this in particular. Note that posts not merged with the forum will naturally keep their syntax of “Comments (5)”.
- The new domain is blogoscoped.com (no “www” to that, I think “blogoscoped” is already on the longish side). For a long time I resisted moving; at first, some years ago when I had the chance to reserve the then still-free domain, I didn’t feel like reserving something just to give in to domain squatters, as back then I didn’t feel like moving... mainly because of that old Tim Berners-Lee guideline “cool URIs don’t change.” Then again, “blog.outer-court.com” probably wasn’t the most cool URI to being with, because it’s so hard to remember (not to say that “blogoscoped” is easy to type either, but at least that’s the name of the site!). So now, what started out as a Geocities homepage in 1997, then moved to www.outer-court.com some years later (“court” was taken!), and spawned a blog in 2003, is now available on its own domain. Phew!
- How did I get the new domain? Well, it was taken. A while ago, it was actually a discussion board for domain
squatters , which was almost flattering. After deciding I want to go for blogoscoped.com (with a little push from Danny Sullivan on that one), I hired a domain broker. Bad move: this wasn’t totally cheap, and all they did was to return some semi-automated analysis of the domain’s worth, and then in subsequent emails, tell me how they were unable to contact the current domain owner. But then Matt Cutts, who Danny CC’d in the previous discussion, came to the rescue with a simpler solution: just contact the guy in the Whois. I did, the domain owner Jimmy replied to my email, and we made a deal (nothing that emptied my bank account, but certainly a very expensive lesson). The payment was transferred in two parts – one before Jimmy initiated the transfer, which means I was provided with an auth-code I could enter in my own hosting interface, and one today after completion. I asked Jimmy how he got hold of the domain after the deal went through, and he told me, “as a domaineer, I create names in my head....’blogs’ were growing in popularity at the time, thus ’blogoscoped.com’, and quite a few other ’blog’ related domains”. No comment on that!
- All old URLs now have a permanent redirect to all new URLs. This is a good test case now for me to watch what long term effects that has in regards to PageRank, search rankings, RSS subscriptions, the Google News crawler and so on. For instance, maybe some RSS readers don’t understand the HTTP redirect header that’s being sent, so I plan on doing a temporary non-redirect for the RSS feed, just so that at least this post about the move will be shown for sure (still figuring that one out). The domain change brings with it some technical “issues,” including the (at least temporary) loss of good PageRank. The only real side-effect that might be having is that blogs copying all Google Blogoscoped content automatically (as there’s a full content feed here) could now rank better, which would mean a drop in people visiting from search engines. But Danny Sullivan’s smooth transition to SearchEngineLand.com a while ago made me feel more optimistic about a domain change.
- The archive page has been overhauled and now shows a different (hopefully quicker) way to navigate old posts, and it’s also displaying a tag cloud based on Tony’s idea. Actually, it’s a semi-automated keyword cloud (as posts here aren’t tagged) which links to a search... give it a try and you’ll see what I mean. Speaking of search, I’ve replaced the former Google Custom Search Engine search with a modified Google AJAX API search; it’s not perfect I think, but at least you won’t be immediately leaving the context of the blog when you use it. While I could create a database-driven search that wouldn’t have a “lag” as the current one does, it would also never reach the level of ranking quality (and would never support all the same syntax we’re used to) a Google search using the “site” operator has (though I might be able to combine the two, to show a straight database result when there’s no AJAX result found).
- There’s a new ad format to the right side. All in all, the current design contains less ad space than the old, but more ad space if you don’t scroll. As you can see I’m playing around with Google’s new rounded corners format, which I think looks kinda neat (
though I’m currently only getting public service ads and normal corners – I’d like to know what you see ). For the current ads, I turned off the image ads option, though I will play with turning on images at a later point. The last time I turned on the image option for a banner in that position though I quickly disabled it again because Google served an animated “free smileys” banner, which IMO ranks right about with Viagra popups and probably already reserved its place in ad hell. Depending on how the AdSense goes I might also try a homemade ad system again, but in the meantime I’m happy that my other site, gamesforthebrain.com, goes a long way in paying the rent.
- The Chinese posts from the friendly crowd at google.blogoscoped.cn are now integrated on the site as snippets, using Google’s client-side feed API. (Working with UTF8 when you parse XML in PHP is quirky, so I went over to use Google’s parser instead.)
[Thanks to those who provided early feedback or helpful tips, like Tony Ruscoe, Danny Sullivan, Matt Cutts, Ludwik Trammer, Colin Colehour, Ionut Alex. Chitu, and thanks to everyone who reads & writes along here!]
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