You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
When I changed my blog format, I eliminated much of the stuff that was sitting on the sidebar, convinced by my blog stats that very few of my readers clicked anything on the sidebar. This of course brought out of the woodwork those folks who really liked having that material around. I’m still considering adding a page that holds a list of recommended blogs and some other side-bar like material. That way, the links will still be around for those who want it – just a click away. If you would like to see a blogroll back, somewhere around this joint, comment and let me know.
Meanwhile, I thought I would occasionally make posts pointing to blogs I like for one reason or another. Today, I’m going feature two blogs I came across early on. Many of the bloggers I stumbled across when I first became interested in blogging have moved on to other interests. On the other hand, a handful of them, like the two I’m featuring today, are still going strong. They’re comfort food blogs for me, always there, dependable, always interesting, ever eclectic. Both these bloggers are tour guides to fascinating and unusual corners of cyberspace.
After mulling it over for some time, I’ve made some changes to this blog. I may make more adjustments to it in the coming days. For instance I want to get my brain around what to do about a blogroll. I could create a page and make the page a menu item and maintain a list on that page. When I went through my blogroll before I made the changes, it was obvious that I hadn’t updated it in some time. There were a number of blogs on there that simply aren’t active anymore and haven’t been active for some time. Nobody has complained to me about that and I suspect nobody has noticed. I need to chew on how I’m going to approach links. One of these days I’ll get around to making a custom logo….but not today.
I hope you like the renovations.
I was initially drawn to blogging because I was fascinated with the idea that I could quickly publish posts in my own little corner of cyber-space in a chronological format. I jumped in with the blog I called Mister Anchovy.
Later I tried an experiment in making it into more of a group blog in which a number of individuals could post. Mister Anchovy became Mister Anchovy’s. That experiment was not so successful. I think that approach can work with a group of people interested in the same topics or ideas. For instance, I can imagine a mushroom hunting blog in which several foragers post photos of their finds, stories of their adventures in the forest and so on. Mostly people who want to do that kind of thing set up forums rather than blogs, in order to bring in a larger number of people. Those forums can become like online communities, such as the Banjo Hangout and the Wild Mushroom Hunting forum. Forums are fine, but I think blogs are more interesting. An example of a group blog that I think works very well is Garden Rant.
Somewhere along the way, blogging, which seemed early on to be mostly some variation of on-line journals, became a possible space for some people to make money. Thars gold in them thar hills. There are some very popular blogs that are full of ads, connected to online stores and so on. For me, Mister Anchovy, Mister Anchovy’s and now 27th Street have never been about making a living (although my blog does have a link to my mosaic work, which is for sale and occasionally to my paintings which also are for sale). It’s always been an expression of what is interesting me at the time. Over the years, I’ve blogged increasingly about my interests in folk music forms – from accordion music in all it’s variety and splendor to old time music and even videos of my own attempt to squeeze out or pick a few tunes.
I’ve never found a blog theme or template that fully satisfied me. Regular readers will by now be used to showing up here to find that the joint looks different from time to time. Sometimes it’s just a matter of refreshing the look, but more recently I’m finding the form to be kind of clunky.
I’ve been toying with the idea of adopting a slightly different form, more of a tumblog type approach that is a simple flow of posts. With this approach the here and now is what is important. I suppose this approach is somewhere between Twitter, which is all about this tweet now and the older blog approach in which the blog is a self-contained unit with categories and tags and side-bars and blogrolls and whatever else.
I have a question for you. Do you care a damn what’s on the sidebar of my blog? Do you do searches? Do you look at the blog by category (I suspect I have way too many categories and might have been better served limiting them to half a dozen treated as menu items). Do you use the blog roll? I used to use blog rolls a lot. If I liked a blog, I’d investigate the blog roll and find other blogs I liked that way. I found some blogs run by people who have become good friends that way. People occasionally come to my blog because of a blog roll. For instance Gerard Vlemmings has my blog listed on the recommended blogs list on his remarkable and popular blog, The Presurfer. I’ve had many visitors over the years thanks to this listing. Overall though, I get a lot more hits from comments I make on other blogs. People read my comment, and click the link back. Far and away though, most of the hits on this blog come from people searching for content on one subject or another.
The other format that has become more and more popular, especially with the popularity of tablets and smart phones is the magazine style responsive theme. I’ve looked at 27th Street in this kind of format, but I think it loses the regular journal-like aspect, which I still really enjoy. On a desktop you see a group of post blocks in one format or another, with various levels of fancy design. They look slick, but I haven’t found one of these formats that rings true for me, at least for my blog as it exists now. I might feel differently about this if I re-invented my blog – kind of like Dr Who morphing into a new actor.
So I’m torn. I can carry on as I’ve been carrying on. I’m happy with the community of people who visit. I find that most people who comment on my posts tend to comment on facebook (I cross-post over there most of the time), and I think I’d prefer the comments live on the blog, but that’s no big deal. My blog does not attract the scads of comments that many other blogs do in any case. Alternatively, I can apply my 27th Street content to a new format, and if I do that, I’m leaning toward a tumblog format, perhaps like Shelf. Or perhaps I could engage a blog designer to make something specific for me. If I go this route, I would strip it bare, and eliminate the trappings of the sidebar altogether. This would really change the feel of this blog. I’m interested to know your reaction to this idea – in particular, as readers/viewers, does the sidebar matter? Does the format matter to you? I’d appreciate it if you’d weigh in on this and let me know. What do you like or hate about this blog (I have thick skin, and I won’t take it personally).
Perhaps I’m thinking about these things because my problem with the format isn’t so much the format as it is a desire to somehow reinvent what I’m doing with my blog. If that’s the case, maybe it is time to retire 27th Street and move into Son of 27th Street or whatever it might be called. A wholesale change opens up lots of new possibilities. Would I lose you? Or would you be excited to come along for the ride?
Blogging remains an activity that is still important to me. I continue to post, if not daily, close to daily. Yes I’m on Facebook but barely. It helps me keep in touch with people but on the other hand, I see blogging as more of a work in progress. It has a look, a feel, a cadence, character and so on. I haven’t fallen in love with Twitter, although for certain things, it’s fantastic – like following breaking political events for instance, or getting news as it happens. If I used a smart phone, I might find Instagram to be an interesting community, but blogging opens up so many more possibilities.
I can’t help but notice that many of the people I know through blogging are blogging much less than they used to or not at all – yet I find myself more interested than ever in continuing to explore this kind of online presence. I think there is technical pressure for blogging to change (and of course that makes the old-school blog more interesting to me). For instance, Google abandoning Reader is significant. I use the WordPress Reader now and it works fine, but at risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I feel like the form is being pushed to something that is easier to use for mass marketing. On Facebook, at every turn, you’re asked if you’d like to give up some personal information. Want to play a game, ok, here’s the rules. I keep changing my settings to “most recent” and it keeps changing it back to “top stories”. I hate the idea of Facebook telling me what I should want to look at and how I might want to look at it.
I haven’t decided where this blog is going to go or how it’s going to develop or morph or reinvent itself. I am feeling a certain restlessness that I’m sure some other bloggers can identify with. I continue to love the idea of the personal blog, and I appreciate the fact that on a few topics, people contact me with questions and so on because of what I’ve posted.
Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts about blogging and formats and themes and approaches and all that jazz. At the same time, if you’ve been saving up comments about what you like or hate about this blog, this is the time to unburden yourself. I’m not going to promise I’m going to do what you tell me I ought to do (one of the things I like about blogging is that in the end I get to decide), but I sure am going to think about what you have to say.
I made a brief post on this blog – you can see it here - it’s an update about the health of our dog Ellie Mae – it showed up for a second and then disappeared. It isn’t on the blog and it isn’t in the drafts yet it exists at the permalink I pointed to. I found it because I cross-posted to Twitter at the same time and the Tweet with the link was right where it was supposed to be.
Now let’s see what happens to this post…..
ARRRRGGGHHHHH….of course! When I published this post, the last post re-emerged from the ether and appeared on the blog where it belonged. Weird.
Regular visitors to this here joint know that I’m restless when it comes to the way my blog looks. I change it up regularly. When I’ve used banners, I’ve switched up the banner picture quite often to keep the place looking fresh and interesting. I started trying on a few different themes again the other day because the one I was using was slow to load for one reader who was on a dial-up connection. I hadn’t really thought about that, since almost everybody I know is on a high-speed connection these days, but I don’t want to exclude people who are using older technology just to decorate up my blog. Today I changed themes again after having a look at the one I have now. I love the way words and picture sit on the page, the way the posts are separated and I like how visually spare and elegant it is. I think maybe I can stick with this one for a while.
Apparently, the planned obsolescence model practiced by the IT world has not reached all parts of the fair province of Ontario, and a reader with either a painfully slow computer or a painfully slow connection or maybe even both has complained it took him 8 minutes to pull up this blog. That will never do. So….cut back on the number of posts showing at a given time from 20 to 10. Hopefully that will help.
UPDATE: Apparently this blog is still loading slowly with the changes I made on a computer with a slow connection so I’ve tried a different theme to see if it makes any difference.
Those of you who visit this little corner of cyberspace on any kind of regular basis will have noticed that I’ve messed about with a number of different themes lately. I think that is symptomatic of a general restlessness about this blog.
Since I started blogging, I haven’t exactly had a business plan. What I liked and continue to like about the blog space is that it is possible to claim a little bit of cyber real estate to do with as I please. These days, it seems fewer and fewer people visit regularly. This is understandable. Who would want to endure the onslaught of semi-obscure music punctuated by Newfoundland dog pictures I post much of the time? If fewer people are visiting, even fewer comment. Of course I appreciate those faithful friends who do, a small circle of friends, to quote Phil Ochs.
I’ve been cross-posting from this blog over to Facebook and Twitter, but that has mostly resulted in a few friends catching my posts over at Facebook, a space I’m not so interested in. I’m considering keeping this blog as a stand-alone entity. That of course is not the way the blog space is evolving though, is it? Consider that Google is shutting down Reader. I use that tool regularly to keep track of posts on numerous blogs I like to follow. In doing this I suppose I again find myself to be somewhat old school. I know some people who pick up blog feeds in magazine formats like Flipboard and view them on tablets. That’s fine and looks really nice but I personally still enjoy tracking blogs the old fashioned way. Eliminating tools like Reader (yes I’ll find a different reader until they all disappear) puts pressure on the blog space. Move to Facebook or Twitter or some other popular social platform? It seems we are being herded in that direction.
I understand that sometime soon WordPress is going to stop supporting blogrolls. Isn’t that interesting? There was a time when the blogroll seemed like an important element, but I wonder if I moved to a format that is single column and took out all my sidebar material, if anyone would complain. I’m considering trying that out too.
At the same time as I’m thinking about how my blog space looks, I’m also thinking about the content and what I want to put in this space in the future. I’ve considered a few different ideas and haven’t come to any conclusions. There is a gnawing part of me that wants to make a big change and turn this thing upside down, and another that would much prefer evolving it, adding some new things without making any rash changes. Maybe I should shut down 27th Street and reinvent it as something else?
I’m still playing around with the look of this blog. Sorry about that. It still isn’t quite right.
This morning I started messing about with the look of this blog for the umpteenth time. I guess I have a restless imagination. I tried on about a dozen themes and I’m still not satisfied, so please be patient because I’ll likely make more changes until it feels right. I was looking at one very minimal theme that presented posts as coloured bars – very clean. I almost settled there but it was so minimal it didn’t have the share feature. I share many but not all of my posts on FB so I like to have that button on my posts. I’ve got to go deal with other things this morning, but I’ll be back at this later.