Blog Look, Blog Feel

I want to talk about the look and feel of this blog and, therefore, to some degree any blog using Apache Roller blog software. And come to think of it, any blog design in any way, anywhere. Sun bloggers use Roller as do thousands and thousands of other people. And it seems the number of bloggers using Roller will increase dramatically in the future.

In my February 18, 2007 blog entry, Getting Even More Identity, I implied that I'd like to discuss some of the items that I've added to this blog. For this entry, I want to talk about the three following links, which you should also be able to see somewhere in the right column of this blog (Again, if it's something like 2046 don't expect those links to be in the right column in exactly the same fashion, if at all, as shown below):

Cool Sun Blogs:

I'm not sure “Cool” is the correct adjective here or not. They're cool to me in that they help me decide what I want my blog to look like and they help me understand the possibilities. Each is important to me for different reasons. Each blog is a result of some sort of customizing of templates:

Dave Johnson:

He keeps his blog looking simple. Though he's a Sun employee, his blog is not on blogs.sun.com. Dave created Roller blog software. Yes, he created it (at least, that's what I read). Therefore, if his own blog appears simple, it's no mistake (of course, what do I know). His blog has a tag cloud. Other than that there aren't too many buttons, widgets, or gadgets about his blog. The truth is that his blog is more complicated than it looks. I'll discuss the look-of-simplicity below.

An Entry:

A blog entry of Dave Johnson's that helped me tremendously in understanding the look and feel of blogs in general is as follows:
http://rollerweblogger.org/roller/entry/approaches_to_blog_customization

I really loved that entry. I truly felt less intimidated about blogging after reading it.

Tag Cloud:

A tag cloud is a list of tags. For Dave Johnson's blog it includes words, such as Roller and Sun. Usually tag clouds have words of different sizes: the bigger the word, the greater the number of times the blogger has tagged an entry with that word. For his blog, I'm not sure if he's listing all tags there or just the more recent ones.

I don't get the tag thing completely myself. I use tag tags in conjunction with Technorati:

Technorati Button

If you click the words “View my profile,” just above the Technorati button in the right right column (no, your other right), you'll get a list of some of my tags. Here's the link to the Technorati page that's all about my blog:

http://www.technorati.com/blogs/http%3A%2F%2Fblogs.sun.com%2FJohnD

Eventually, I'll add a tag cloud, but one step at a time. One thing I do know about tags is that you can search all the entries that I've tagged with a particular tag or all the entries that anyone at Sun has tagged with a particular tag. I demonstrate that with the following links to the tag “accessmanager” (if you visit one of the links below, click the back button to return. I'd hate to lose you now.):

That way you can view blog entries that have the “accessmanager” tag in my blog or all of Sun. I think it's one of those things that's more useful as lots of people use the feature.

Key Point:

To me, a key point about Dave Johnson's blog is that it's not as simple as it looks. For example, if you move your mouse over the links near the top of the page (rollerweblogger.org Weblog About Archives Links Login) you'll notice that the addresses (which you can see in the status bar. That's at the bottom of the browser window) aren't of categories, but pages. For example, you'll see that the “Links” link goes to http://rollerweblogger.org/roller/page/links. The word page in that URL means it's a separate page. I created a separate page for my blog Policy Agent 2.2 Page, but I provide a link to it in the right column of my blog. Only his Weblog link shows the tag cloud; the other pages don't. So what's my point? I think that's my point. I'm not sure what it all means, but I think it means something.

If you experiment by looking around the Archives and Links pages you'll see that you can find stuff that's he's blogged about or linked to in the past. Then there's the Del.icio.us thing, which is social bookmarking. They've got there own tags. Yeah, I'm going to get around to figuring that out one of these days.

Dave Levy:

I came across Dave Levy's blog early after starting my blog. I liked it because he always seems to be experimenting with how to present as much information as possible without overwhelming the visitor. He'll even add an entry saying that he's changed this or added that.

An Entry:

I thought the following blog entry was cool:
http://blogs.sun.com/DaveLevy/entry/changing_my_version_of_the

To save room, he moved the tag cloud right onto the header image. He's changed the image since then to try to make the words and the image play nice. I think the image/text match is still not perfect, but he's given himself more real estate without making things feel crowded.

Powered by Snap:

Dave Levy's blog has a lot of features to slightly boggle the mind. There are plenty of bloggers out there doing the same things, so it's not that mind boggling, but it's still impressive. One of them is that you can move your pointer over an icon, such as this Technorati icon:

Technorati Icon

Then, you will see a medium-sized image appear for a Technorati web page, such as the following image:



Technorati page shown by Snap

In a frame at the bottom of the page (but not shown in the image above), you'll see the words “Powered by Snap.” You can click that medium-sized image to get brought to the actual Technorati page. This feature, “ Snap Preview,” is available to the likes of you and me, I guess. I visited the link in the sentence above just long enough to copy the link and read five seconds worth of info. It's another one-of-these-days things.

Key Point:

To me, a key point about Dave Levy's blog is that you can find anything you want in about 19 different ways. The links Yesterday's Words & More Tags & Links (Beta) provide lots and lots of links. You'll notice that there are more tags available on the Yesterday's Words page than in the cloud tag on the main page. I think I read somewhere that you can show tags for a recent period of time, maybe six months, which might be what he's done for the main page. I'm not sure of any of this.

Like Dave Johnson's blog, Dave Levy's blog has an archive with all the months listed one by one. Actually, Dave Levy's blog has that in the right column in a slightly different way than he has it on the Yesterday's Words page. I like having access to the listings by month, but I'm not sure if all the availability is too much. Truth is it's probably fine. I can just ignore the extra pages unless I'm really looking for some information that I just can't find. I don't think I need to understand how all the info overlaps or whatever. If I think about it, my head hurts. It seems I'm taking this too seriously.

Gregory Reimer:

Somebody knows a thing or two about web design. Gregory didn't exactly use one of the themes provided by Sun for bloggers (well, sort of in a break it down, build it back up kind of way), he didn't use one available out on the web either; mostly, he just pieced one together (at least, that's how I read it).

Three Entries:

I couldn't do just one entry for this blog. It just wasn't possible. While I don't fully understand these three entries, they are very, very exciting (like watching Pulp Fiction only completely different).

  1. http://blogs.sun.com/greimer/entry/blog_redesign

  2. http://blogs.sun.com/greimer/entry/how_this_blog_design_was

  3. http://blogs.sun.com/greimer/entry/where_s_the_calendar

Can anyone read those three entries and tell me they aren't cool? I mean, is such a thing humanly possible?

The Calendar:

There is no calendar! Get it? That's the interesting feature or lack thereof. You'd have to read entry 3 above to understand why he doesn't use a calendar. I didn't agree with his theory the first time I read it. Now, I feel like I'm not worthy. It might just work out fine not having a calendar. In fact, it might just be brilliant.

Key Point:

To me, a key point about Gregory's blog is what he calls the “four-layer approach.” Again, he explains this in the entry numbered 3 above. For this approach, it seems that the following page of his is pretty important:

http://blogs.sun.com/greimer/page/Archives

I'm not sure if such an approach will hold up if there are hundreds of entries. But, like I implied before, I'm not worthy of critiquing such a well crafted blog at this point.

Conclusion:

Basically, these bloggers and I are in different leagues; different games perhaps. Still, there are things I can pick up here and there by looking at/reading their blogs. My main conclusion is that it's too early to conclude anything. Some things about blog design are probably a matter of personal style. Some things are probably hard-wired facts about how humans best interpret information. When will I be ready to make some conclusions? For lack of any idea whatsoever, I'll say 2046. That seems to be as good a year as any.

If anybody reads something in this blog entry that is absolutely ridiculous, or brilliant, please let me know. I'd like it better if you said it nicely, but whatever works for you is fine.



The opinions expressed in this blog entry were stolen from various people, but are not necessarily opinions shared by my employer.


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