New look to Locally Grown, now in process

If things look like they’ve gone to hell in a handbasket, they have.

It’s late Sunday night (10:50 pm) and we’re whacking away at some big changes.

Give us till 7 am Monday before you start asking questions. Thx!

107 comments to  (Including 4 Discussion Threads) New look to Locally Grown, now in process

  • 51
    Charlene Coulombe-Fiore says:

    Just an FYI…
    Randy’s was the one I was hovering over (to see what it would do) and it jumped from 1 to 4 so there is a cliche there or perhaps 4 people were voting all at the same time???
    Not sure.

  • 52
    Tracy Davis says:

    Randy et al, the idea behind rating both comments and posts is to see what type of content “we” (LoGro readers and commenters) value.

    The platform is egalitarian -- anyone can comment -- but as we all know in real life as well as online, not all comments are equally valuable. Some have real content; others are just static. That’s what I meant by boosting our signal-to-noise ratio. (Please ignore all my mixed metaphors, I’m trying to communicate in the vernacular, not write a thesis.)

    The way I’d envision it working, ideally, is that each post and comment would include the means to give it a 0-5 numerical ranking. An unranked item would by default have a neutral or average rating. We all have the opportunity to rate and item; considering human nature we’ll probably only do so if we really like/agree with the item or strongly dislike/disagree.

    Over time, we could develop the personality of the LoGroNo community by seeing what kind of contributions get the most favorable ratings from the rest of us. Of course it’s subjective, but after a certain point of critical mass it can have real value -- like the consumer ratings of products, services, or reviews on sites like Amazon or TripAdvisor.

    On the other hand, maybe all this rigmarole is just a thinly disguised way for me to try to convince Griff to discontinue his faux news pieces. :-)

    The thumbs-up-only model isn’t just Minnesota Nice. There may be better WordPress plugins we could use but this is what we’ve found so far.

  • 53

    Yea! I am tied with Kiffi and John T. with 3 thumbs up. Randy has 4 (but he has a poll going on). Watch out, Leonard Witt, with 5. We’re gaining!
    But I still do not like this rating idea at all. And adding a thumbs down would just add a new level of discouragement for people who contribute opinions and get no thumbs up.
    In today’s economy, who needs that kind of negative assessment? Julie is right that one can disagree by commenting, not anonymous thumbing.

  • 54
    Tracy Davis says:

    I forgot to add the obvious -- one significant advantage to ranking posts and comments is to provide an easy way to give voice to LoGro’s very own silent majority. People who comment online here represent only a fraction of the people who read in a given week.

  • 55

    Update: Randy has now surpassed Leonard Witt with his clever polling idea. Will Leonard try the same ploy? Stay tuned.

  • 56
    Randy Jennings says:

    Can we take the scoreboard down now? Even though I shamelessly pandered for votes, I’ve picked up 11 thumbs and I’d really like to close out as the all-time thumb leader. As far as I know, none were from members of my immediate family.

    On a more serious note, is it possible to restore the numbering scheme and the time stamp feature? The post numbers were useful in referring to others’ comments, and I actually found it interesting to see who the insomniacs are.

  • 57
    Sarah Hale says:

    I know I’m jumping into this conversation a little bit late, but I’m so confused by this new design that it took me a while to find the thread regarding the design change. (Are the “featured articles” the most recent? The most read? Griff’s favorite?)

    I think my biggest complaint is that the site is just so busy that my eye doesn’t know where to go or what to look at. I enjoy reading LocallyGrown, but am disappointed to see the site take a step backwards in design. The old design looked professional and unique; this looks generic.

  • 58
    Tracy Davis says:

    Sarah, thanks for the feedback and the specifics. You’re right, the look is “generic” (it’s a WordPress template) and we’re working on customizing it to provide both the look and functionality we need.

  • 59
    john george says:

    Tracy- Thanks for the inside info on the template. The site is much like many other sites I have visited, so they are probably using the same template. I have to agree with Sarah’s evaluation. Also, I don’t particulaly care for the white letters on the dark blue field. My personal preference is dark lettering on a light background, and I think someone else mentioned this, also. Perhaps this is just familiarity with newspapres and periodicals. I suppose that just because everyone else is doing something some way, it doesn’t make it more correct. I do believe there must be some logic in the consistent way print media is presented, though.

  • 60
    Tracy Davis says:

    John, I don’t like the dark background sidebar either -- it’s just buried too deep in the code for me to easily find it. As soon as I can spend time poking around to find out where it is, I’ll change it!

  • 61
    Bright Spencer says:

    I just discovered I can thumb score my own posts.
    Neat.

  • 62
    David Henson says:

    Griff -- you might be interested in this show on Ted TV http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/scott_mccloud_on_comics.html The speaker talks about the concept of bringing old forms to new media. My take on the site redesign is that the look and feel is more like a newspaper than the previous design.

  • 63
    Griff Wigley says:

    David, yes, we were seeking a bit of a newspaper/magazine look to the new look… most obviously the advantages of a ‘front page’ in which the editors select what’s most important. That’s the purpose of the ‘featured articles’ section at the top so my fluff posts don’t force them off the front page.

  • 64
    Griff Wigley says:

    I’ve added a Possibly Related Recent Posts plugin that automatically displays (at the bottom of the post) links to other blog posts that it thinks are similar.

  • 65
    Griff Wigley says:

    By Jan. 31, there should be an upgrade to our Vybe theme that fixes the paged-comments feature and adds numbers to comments to make it easier to reference other comments in a thread.

  • 66
    Tracy Davis says:

    Yay.

    I don’t like the Possibly Related Posts. The plugin doesn’t seem quite ready for prime time, the posts it references are much more ‘possibly’ and much less ‘related’.

  • 67
    Griff Wigley says:

    Yeah, I think you’re right, Tracy. I’ve deactivated it.

  • 68
    Griff Wigley says:

    I’ve deactivated the Top Comments plugin (rating system) and I’ve removed the Top Commenters widget from the right sidebar (a listing of all the commenters during the current month).

    I’m going to explore using the Intense Debate system because it has a Reply-By-Email feature and ‘Reputation Points & Comment Voting’ among other features. It’s now an Automattic project (the WordPress creators) so I’m relatively confident it won’t break anything.

  • 69
    John S Thomas says:

    Griff,

    Again, I am not going to sign up to a third party website to comment.

    Please review that model.

    -J

  • 70
    Griff Wigley says:

    John, with IntenseDebate you don’t need an account to comment. It’s optional.

  • 71
    John S. Thomas says:

    Thanks Griff. I opt out. 8-)

  • 72
    John S. Thomas says:

    Griff,

    Your Twitter states that as of 15 hours ago, you are uploading 20,000 locallygrownnorthfield.org comments to the IntenseDebate website.

    I have a problem with that, just as I did with the other plugin you were attempting to utilize, as I brought to your attention earlier.

    I like participating on Locally Grown, but some of the directions you are moving it concern me, and I am wondering if I need to rethink my participation.

    Please advise.

  • 73
    Griff Wigley says:

    The upload didn’t work, John, so I’ve uninstalled it. I’m mainly looking for a reputation management tool and ID looked like it would work while at the same taking into consideration your concerns.

  • 74
    Griff Wigley says:

    As per popular request for a preview to comments, I’ve installed a comment editing tool here called WMD using a WMD plugin.

    As you type and format your comment, there’s a Live Preview window below that shows you what your comment will look like.

    Hopefully, it’s make commenting and linking easier for everyone. It also allows you to include images as long as the image exists on the internet.

    Let me know what questions you have about it.

  • 75
    John S. Thomas says:

    Griff,

    I appreciate your efforts, and I don’t want to be a nagging nelly. I am just concerned about privacy issues.

    I know that as soon as you hit “Submit Comment” a comment is in the public domain. However, it is nice to not spread it around.

    Can you explain what a “reputation management tool” is, and why it needs to be on Locally Grown? What is the value add for having it? Is the intent to give folks that do not want to post a mechanism to agree or disagree with a poster anonymously?

    I think it would be easier for me, and possibly others, to embrace the changes if we know a bit about the direction and intent of the new technology?

    How about a posting with the “Locally Grown goals of 2009″ and within that, a discussion of the new technologies you would like to bring in.

    Just curious.

  • 76
    John S. Thomas says:

    I like the wmd comment plug-in, and the ability for folks to call out to image files. I think this one, or something similar is a keeper.

  • 77
    Griff Wigley says:

    John, I’m interested in a more sophisticated reputation mgmt tool so that ‘quality of participation’ is encouraged (both content and tone/manner). Participants’ reputation ranking would be displayed (sidebar? with a comment?) along with the ranking on an individual. I don’t know that we can ever deploy the sophistication of Slashdot’s Karma or similar reputation management tools (wikipedia link) but I’d like to head that direction.

  • 78
    Griff Wigley says:

    I’ve added the Gravatar plugin which allows for more features with Gravatars. For example, your photos are now linked to your websites. If you don’t specific a link, it defaults to LG. I found a setting that allows the photo to NOT be linked to anything if a commenter doesn’t add their own website to their comment.

  • 79
    Griff Wigley says:

    I’ve tried to make the 20 blog posts currently showing on the home page consistent:

    • every post has a break/More Tag
    • single thumbnail image above the break, aligned right, 5 pixels horizontal space/margin, 75 pixels high
    • text at a line or two below the image and then a break/More Tag
    • categorized and tagged

    I’ve also turned on the automated rotation for the Featured blog posts at the top.

  • 80
    Griff Wigley says:

    There’s a new version of the WordPress Vybe theme we’ve been using and I’m installing it now. There’s likely to be some temporary glitches.

  • 81
    Griff Wigley says:

    The revised theme, Vbye 1.1, is now turned on and we’ve upgraded to WordPress 2.7.1. We’re going to try to live with the ‘timber’ color with some minor changes that Tracy will alert you to.

    Paged comments are now working. Yay! And the background color of each comment alternates to make it easier to distinguish from one commenter to the next. Now I need to figure out how to number the comments.

    Let us know if you notice any weird things happening.

  • 82
    Tracy Davis says:

    And look, everyone, the sidebar isn’t dark anymore!

    As Griff mentioned, I’ll be tweaking fonts and link colors just slightly, so please hold off for a few hours before commenting on specifics.

    • 82.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      And I’m still messing with comments, specifically threaded comments. And this comment is an example, as I’ve attached it to Tracy’s comment above.

      • 82.1.1
        Tracy Davis says:

        This is how the threaded comment works. I posted this on Wednesday 2/18 at just before 11a, but it doesn’t display chronologically in the entire list of comments -- it displays under the specific comment I replied to. The comment numbering shows the difference also.

  • 83
    Griff Wigley says:

    Okay, numbered comments are working.

    And I’ve turned on threaded comments, but just three levels deep for now. I’ve never been a big fan of threaded comments as it’s so easy A) to get confused (it’s not like F2F conversation); and B) to miss comments.

    But I’m willing to experiment. Feel free to attach comment to this one and then one to that one and… well, you get the idea.

    • 83.1
      Randy Jennings says:

      Thanks for restoring the numbers and the time stamp. Point B seems especially likely. On a topic that draws a flurry of responses, the additions linked to the earlier posts will disappear.

    • 83.2
      Patrick Enders says:

      It’s also very confusing trying to follow the thread of comments with these nested responses. The order of comments in the body of the page is now different than that in the preview pane in the right column.

  • 84
    norman butler says:

    Much, much better, Griff. More readable by far.

  • 85
    david beimers says:

    This is much easier to read. I have to say I’ve been staying away over the past month because I didn’t like the layout. Thanks for the improvements.

  • 86
    Paul Zorn says:

    Much, much better. No decimal points, please.

  • 87
    Griff Wigley says:

    If no one really wants to have nested/threaded/decimal-pointed comments, I’m happy to turn them off.

    Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?

  • 88
  • 89
    Tracy Davis says:

    I prefer them off, too.

  • 90
    Patrick Enders says:

    Off.

  • 91
    Griff Wigley says:

    Okay, I’ve turned off threaded comments. It’s renumbered the comments above. Let me know if you notice any weirdness.

  • 92

    Tops of numbers are truncated, but we can pretty much guess them!

  • 93
    Griff Wigley says:

    Yeah, I noticed that truncation too, Susan. Doesn’t happen with Firefox or Google Chrome… just Internet Explorer. I’ll put it on my to-do list!

  • 94
    Griff Wigley says:

    I’ve added a “search everything” plugin to the WordPress search feature in an attempt to improve it. The WP search box is still in the far upper right corner above the photo banner.

    I’ve also added a Custom Google Search widget to the right sidebar, just above the Comments. The main drawback is that it generates typical Google ads on the results page.

    Hopefully between the two of these, it’ll be easier to find what you’re looking for here. Let me know how it goes.

  • 95
    Griff Wigley says:

    I’m hosting a live chat tonight at 8pm, to include feedback on the new look of Locally Grown:
    http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/9472/

    Chime in, puhlease!

  • 96
    Patrick Enders says:

    Griff,
    On the confusing nature of nested posts: just try to follow the last few comments on the ‘atheism’ thread.

    In particular, try clicking on the comment on the sidebar that reads:

    David Ludescher: Jerry: My purpose in bringing the issue of same-sex marriage into this post was to lend some…

    I think that the feature should just be disabled.

  • 97
    Patrick Enders says:

    Or, click on the one:

    Jerry Friedman: David: There is no universal atheist creed, except that atheists do not believe in a god….

  • 98
    Jerry Friedman says:

    I think the nested replies are easy for a thread’s new readers, but for its active participants, it does get confusing.

    When I want to reply to a recent post, sometimes I have to search quite a bit to find it, if it was nested.

    I can cope either way, but I think not nesting is easier. However, if you use a split screen and have the nested subjects on the left, and the selected subject’s body on the right, the nesting works much better. Nesting the whole message is the difficult part.

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