02/02/12 230 W - + 8 - 4 Exploding This Blog

Open question for morning consideration. If we could explode this blog and remake the thing, would should it look like? The blog as blog has worked fine, so we'll keep that. The blog as discussion forum has had mixed success. Maybe if readers could start their own topics? Or maybe a Facebook interface, that required all participants to be known entities? But how about blog as content portal. That's my real question.

We're pushing six-plus years of postings, and there have been good and even great gems in there. What single or multiple postings are worth setting aside? And maybe making them easier to find. Either through a set of links, or perhaps a graphic treatment of some sort. What are those pieces of collections content? Here are some thoughts:

Note that you search for these topics, using the Search box in the upper-right corner of the home page. There are often multiple postings for even single incidents or events. Thus we'd want a landing page for some of them. As for, say, Raleigh Fire Department history bits, those number in the dozens. Tagging or categories could help there. Food for thought. One more future project.

Kind of confused about what you are really asking.
2redline - 02/02/12 - 14:26

Interesting question in terms of how to manage user/reader interaction. I use Drupal in my day job and freelance Web development work and it’s a great framework (content management system) for handling blogs, forums and other types of interactive content. So you may want to look at using an open source CMS framework that contains various functionalities like blogs, forums, user generated content feeds etc. You may already have these elements/modules as part of this framework. I’m not totally sure I’d go for a Facebook integration since FB seems to be so over-used lately for content … of course you can build a readership by integrating with FB more. Good questions there. I read a bunch of other fire service related blogs (Mass Fire Trucks, CMD FD) that all use Facebook pretty heavily for content now. So it is an interesting dilemma to be in.

I will say that I go to your blog daily to get your latest headlines and read through the content and view your images. I’d love to see more image work – maybe a larger scale image treatment or some type of dynamic slideshow on your blog’s home page? Just thinking out loud here. I do like how you handle the image galleries.

Expanding your site’s search functionality may also be good – another nice thing you can do with a CMS like Drupal is more faceted based searching. You may want to see if you can implement other types of search options on your site’s main blog home page so people can drill down more. Like I could search by apparatus type or fire incident date & location. More facets.

Hope this helps. Again all of this is just my humble opinion/2 cents.


Trevor James (Email) (Web Site) - 02/02/12 - 19:57

Redline, my question more simply stated is this: should this blog be anything else, or anything more than what it is? And in particular, is there content that’s buried here, that would benefit from any repackaging. Such as, say, fast links to the TriData studies. Or maybe an easily scanned list or compilation of all the RFD history bits.

Trevor, thanks for the thoughtful feedback as well. I have been pondering a move to Wordpress, at some future time. Or even the second-generation version of Pivot, which is my current platform. Maybe someday. For now, it’s just some navel gazing about the content and the pathways there.
Legeros - 02/02/12 - 20:19

Now I’m supposed to try and get a good nights sleep after reading the words “navel gazing”?

C’mon, this should be a family-safe blog….
harkey - 02/02/12 - 22:35

Be careful, it’s Groundhog Day. You might repeat this moment for eternity, or at least until you woo Andie MacDowell.
Legeros - 02/02/12 - 22:37

I believe like Trevor that you could benefit from the ability to go in different directions. I know you prefer the minimalist design and many open source platforms could provide that. Most of your current site could done in WordPress and it would look the same but with the functionality to expand using plugins. One area that might help users is ability to add tags to articles and well as posting to your Facebook site when articles are published to the site. There is almost always a plugin to do whatever you want.

As far as buried data, yes things are lost in the expanse of your site. Tags and related link type options would be great. This would allow visitors to move around your site finding relevant content as well as organize it. Some people will hop from one post to another just with related links listed under the articles like WRAL.com does. The extra long right column with all the archives from Dec 05 to Jan 12 is impressive but I would love to have a drop down instead, just too much scrolling just to click on Lee’s and your photos link. The 200+ hyperlinks in the right and left columns of the current site might be added sensory overload making information even harder to find. That might be something to think about also.
2redline - 02/02/12 - 23:27

Great feedback, Redline. I have modified the right nav, and moved the Archives listing to the bottom. Good call there. I also added a Top Links widget near the top.
Legeros - 02/03/12 - 08:44

Mike, Being born and raised in eastern NC, formerly in the Fire/EMS service, and having a son in RFD. I read your blog and check for new incident photos on your site multiple times daily, and I LOVE your site, It’s the only blog I’ve ever seen, or posted to. Up here few folks "blog" and I suspect most of them are under 21. I ain’t never read a face book, So I am totally in the dark when you refer to "exploding the Blog" I ain’t got no idea what wordpress,pivot, or drupal is. I guess what Im trying to say is, Some of us are old, we live in a world thats simple not filled with all this tech. stuff. So whatever you do, PLEASE, keep it simple.
Galax,Va - 02/03/12 - 22:55

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