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August 20, 2009

Ouch.

Back in May, Megan over at Reflections in the Snow-Covered Hills posted about her review from Ask and Ye Shall Receive. AAYSR is a service that reviews blogs and makes suggestions for improvement.

I was curious, so I submitted my blog for a review. Yesterday, it finally happened.

With eagerness, I started reading. Inside, I started getting a feeling that can only be described as...

Ouch.

I admit, it was hard to read, but I agree with most of it.

My template was boring because, two weeks ago, for some inexplicable reason, the background photo stopped displaying in some browsers. The blog's title text didn't show properly in IE and it didn't link back to the main page (which it did in most other browsers). There was a lot of useless stuff along the sidebar. My posts stretched on forever, and I had too many posts showing on the home page. Some of my sentences are long and clunky.

The reviewer, Posol'stvo the Medved, likened my blog to looking at someone's vacation slideshow. Well, that's mostly what Michael's Meanderings is; a record of trips that I've taken and things that I've seen. In many ways, this blog has become a resource for people who are interested in that very thing.

Posol'stvo also isn't interested in reading about "other people's ailments", like our experiences dealing with my daughter's epilepsy (although there are readers who come here for that very topic). All of that is fine. The content on Posol'stvo's blog doesn't do anything for me, either.

The topics on Michael's Meanderings aren't going to change, but I think Posol'stvo brought up some excellent points about how I deliver that content. As a new reader, it must be painfully difficult to figure out what the heck has been going on here. If you're a long-time reader, you might have to scroll through a lot of "crap" to get at the subject you're interested in. In short, I can make Michael's Meanderings easier to navigate and easier to read.

I can do that by telling readers up-front what this blog is all about. I can provide better history and context. I can make it easier for readers to select the content they've come here for. I can be more selective in what I post, and I can make the content snappier and more engaging. (Sorry. I've been lazy on that front, lately. It's summer.)

All of that is good advice.

Because I care about you, dear reader, I am attempting to make some changes around here. As I do, I hope that you will provide some of your own feedback about what you like and don't like. Don't worry about hurting my feelings. If you've read Posol'stvo's review, you know I can take it.

13 comments:

Marian said...

I know I'm biased, but I like everything you post. I want to see your travel photos and read your stories, and, of course, I'm especially interested in the kiddie updates...as often as you have time!
The only thing I don't like is that every time you change the layout/set-up, I have to figure it out.
Love, Mom

Posol'stvo the Medved said...

Michael -- just so you know, I don't think you should stop blogging about Jade's epilepsy. It's important to you. And it's important to other parents out there who's kids have epilepsy and need to know that they are not alone and that there is alternatives to medications.

Just because it isn't my cup of tea, doesn't mean it isn't worthy. No one can write a blog that EVERYONE likes. So be it.

The new layout is much more interesting. But I couldn't read your content on my iPhone -- the boxes your content is in never got their background color in, so all I saw was the background image. Just check it out in a few different browsers if you can. (It may just be an iPhone bug -- they've been known to happen.)

- Pos

Posol'stvo the Medved said...

I believe in being as thorough as possible. Safari on a PC has the same issue as Safari on my iPhone. So it's a Safari issue.

Do you have any idea how much easier my life would be if all browsers rendered things the same?

Meandering Michael said...

I'm not sure what's going on with the background. I think it might have something to do with where the image is hosted, since sometimes it seems to work in Safari and Firefox and sometimes it doesn't. I'm going to take the pictures and host them elsewhere and see if that does the trick.

Megan said...

I'm glad you took it so well. I've seen people totally lose it over what I considered fairly flattering reviews on that site.

Sure, it's just one person's opinion, but it's nice to have a totally unbiased, thorough review. I've been reading your site for so long, I couldn't be trusted to know what works and what doesn't work for a newcomer.

dogsled_stacie said...

I thought it was a great review!! For the most part. And partly because I could kind of see the same mistakes in my blog, lol. I always make the mistake of thinking I have the same old readers for 5yrs, and they should ALL know exactly what I'm talking about at any given time. Great point about reminding readers who you are and what you're about.

I love all your photos, the kid stuff, your adventures, your LOVE for adventures and how you're passing that onto your awesome kids... BUT! I may be biased because I do think you are lacking in the Nanuq posts! :)

I'm on safari and see everything fine, don't see a photo at all though?

Meandering Michael said...

I'm experimenting with templates right now, so what you're seeing isn't what the earlier readers saw (or didn't see, as the case may be).

Stacie, the lack of Nanuq photographs has been duly noted.

Elizabeth said...

Your layout experiments are not working for me in Firefox (though I haven't installed the latest update), but I generally only read blogs through Google Reader. I do that partly because I want everything in the same place and partly because I want the content without lots of different styles and ways of navigating.

I've been reading (and not normally commenting, sorry) for a couple of years. I live in England, and I don't have a child, let alone one on a ketogenic diet - I don't read your blog for information, or to feel that I'm not alone. I read your blog because I'm curious and your life is very different from mine. (And I think that from the small, apparently irrelevant details we often learn most about the writer.)

If I had a suggestion, it would be to try fewer, larger photos in some of the travel posts.

suzanne said...

I don't know if you haven't had time to fix this, but I thought you would like to know that I can't see anything on your site except a bunch of gravel. The type is either blue or gray (which blends in wonderfully!) so I had to scroll over all the type to read it. I'm using firefox too.

I actually preferred the older style, which is more like a blog in my opinion. The squares aren't doing much for me.

That being said, I have gotten confused sometimes when I miss stuff and have to scroll around to see what's been happening, but I have to do that on the other blogs I read. I figure it's the price you pay for not reading regularly.

Sarah said...

Hey Michael -
I don't see much reason to change. I like the old blog! I love the photos... and lots of them. I like the parenthetical style of your writing (and the detail that your reviewer does not!). Not to say there was no room for improvement... but I think the reviewer was unnecessarily harsh. I love the trip reviews... the photos... the silly asides when you find a fun link. The blog is a glimpse into your life.
And a newcomer can just stick around for a while to see what's up!

Gen said...

Hi Michael,
No offense but I find the new layout kind of sterile and generic and I don't like the little bonhomme in the header (I do like the font, however, but bonhomme just doesn't match the font in my opinion). I don't know, somehow the lay-out, the new (and the removed) elements don't reflect the blogger I've come to know.
Personally, I enjoy the timely process of learning about a blogger, post after post. I don't think you need to cater to the "new reader", it's their job to discover you and to find out if you're worth following or not.

It depends what you want - a service-oriented blog or a personal one. I think trying to achieve both, dilutes each.

Keep trying thing though.

Scientific Chick said...

Michael,

I really like the new layout. I'm always in favor of sleek and simple designs, so it works for me. And thank you for the post, it inspired me to work on my own blog, to move away from the generic templates (though the one I ended up choosing is almost as boring as the old one).

I enjoy your writing style, and it's great to follow your parenting adventures alongside your outdoor adventures. You have a great sense of humor, and it does wonders for keeping everything in perspective.

Keep it up!

Chris said...

Michael, I recently canme across AAYSR and I thought about submitting my site as well. In the end I decided not to because I don't think I'll get a good review there. The draw of the blog lies in that they totally tear apart other bloggers and their blogs. That's what the site is all about. I'd much rather rely on all of the great e-mails I get from my readers telling me they love my blog. I'm a little blunt in most of my posts, and I use profanity sometimes and "tell it the way I see it." The point I'm trying to make is that a blg should be for you. I know I could care less about what other people think. I'm going to write what I'm feeling. Your blog is great. If you're happy with it, that's all that matters. Don't get me wrong, AAYSR is a great blog, but it should be taken for on face value of what it is, and that's a satiric comedy blog. I loved reading it and I even added it to my blog roll, but I'd never take anything they say about my blog with any degree of seriousness. It's strictly a blog for laughs, and it does a good job of it. I'm a little scared for them, however, because I don't understand how Google doesn't shut them down. They should seriously consider their own domain and some hosting, at the very least they should buy a $10 domain from Google. It would be a shame for Google to put them under review. Google is funny like that. You have a fantastic blog. Keep it up.