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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Need Input

Dear Readers,

The platform this blog is on is Blogspot.   It is an extremely easy format to use but, as many of you know, it has some real drawbacks.  Therefore we are going to overhaul the blog.  Here's some things I have thought we need:
  • less touchy spam filter
  • a "most read" counter
  • a "lightbox" link so you'd have a window that hovers over the page you are on so you can e-mail us (without opening a new window or leaving the site)
  • a documents area
But I wanted input on what would make this an easier and more useful site.  For example, should we list all the topics on the homepage as we have now or have them in a separate link? 

A big question is...the name.  Beth Bakeman started the blog when school closures were occurring so hence the "save."  And even though in some ways I feel we are trying to "save" Seattle Schools, we don't want it to sound like a crisis mode.  So, what might be a good name? 

One caveat is that this discussion is NOT about the writing.  I say this upfront because I don't want to digress off into a discussion of what we write and how we write it.  Charlie and I have our styles and they aren't going to change. 

Any suggestions you have about the look and use of the blog would be appreciated.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa & Charlie,

I'd think twice about changing the name to something other than SaveSeattleSchools...

It has gained quite a bit of traction in "brand appeal."

ken berry
SpEd IA Van Asselt Elem

Jet City mom said...

I would have the topics either at bottom of page or elsewhere, I like many, read this on my laptop which has a fairly small screen and there is a lot of scrolling just to read one thread.

Perhaps change the name to SSScommunity. Something that retains the name, but that acknowledges that this is going to take more work than stepping in, in a crisis.

earleybird said...

Regular reader, first time commenter. I'd love a link to a list of commonly-used acronyms. I sometimes have no idea what your abbreviations mean. Love the blog though!

mirmac1 said...

Having a docs section is a great idea!

Anonymous said...

1) most recent comments links
2) i don't mind a change of the name -- I'd like it to be changed to reflect the news source it is independent of any need for saving. Yes, we've had our share of crises, but I still hope that some day we'll be reading to learn, rather than to "save"
3) archives list -- blogger does this nicely.
4) a prominent email link -- I think it would help with people not hijacking threads, in order to send you information.
5) the spam filtering hasn't been affecting me, on the whole, and I think it's OK, though it does confuse people who think that a post of theirs has been swallowed, especially if they post infrequently.

(zb)

kb said...

Yes on the commonly-used acronyms
I am a long time reader and have trouble from time to time remembering what ABC... represents.
KB

Michael Rice said...

I agree with Mr. Berry. Do not change the name.

mirmac1 said...

Maybe something like this link on the WS blog, were people can start their own discussions.

WS forum

Melissa Westbrook said...

You know, Earleybird, I had suggested this to the Board for the district's web redesign. Tell every department to put up a commonly-used acronyms ares. Didn't happen so yes, that's a good thought for us here.

anonymous said...

Though I think there could be a better name, I wouldn't change it at this point. People who are not regular readers may not be able to find the new site when they need to.

A documents section would be great! That way when they disappear from the district website there will still be an easy and reliable way to access them.

Anonymous said...

Ken is right about branding. Keep the name. A change now could cost momentum. The awareness of this blog in the community is wider than you might think. There is no compelling reason to change it, especially while we continue to have schools that really do need saving in one way or another.

open ears

WV says subdu. Don't subdu the impact with a name change.

RosieReader said...

I'm bad at names, but still, here are my two suggestions:

SPS Gadfly

Keep 'Em Honest: SPS Edition

someone said...

I totally agree that you should retain the name - it indeed has a track record associated with it that's useful to maintain - it's ok that it doesn't quite equate with the mission anymore - the recognition it provides is way more important.

Documents would be great -
As someone who often reads via a bberry - the more simplier, easy to navigate design, the better.

Charlie Mas said...

I would like a way that we can keep a thread near the top even after a lot of other posts have come after it chronologically.

SP said...

Charlie- Check out the West Seattle blog. There are some things I don't like (their log-on system for comments is horrible) but there are some features I like, such as on the top right side there are the "most recent/most viewed" strands. So if I am following a subject it seems easier to track many of those issues.

Also, a documents section would be great, but a tremendous amount of work to link them in. The SPS website seems to have deep sixed more documents that even search doesn't locate- really frustrating and it makes me think it was an intentional move to make a historical search not possible.

sally said...

- Reorganize the labels/categories so that they are broader. Right now the list is too long and specific to actually be useful. Try to use categories that would help visitors find something in a way that searching the site would not. For example, people can search for Eckstein and find lots of posts, so that's not a necessary category, but they are less able to search usefully for "teachers/teaching issues in middle schools" or "parent activism" or "high school testing" or whatever.

- If you want to keep a links sidebar, group the links into labeled categories so that easier for people to find a specific item (and so it's clear why you're linking to any particular item in the first place).

- Add a sidebar with names and brief bios of the blog contributors (maybe even with photos?). That would help make the blog feel like something established and reputable, not just the ramblings of random anonymous internet people. :-)

wave said...

A good example of a brand-name that's been kept despite not applying anymore: MoveOn.org, which I believe started when Clinton was getting impeached. They wouldn't dream of changing their name now.

Po3 said...

Keep the name; we're not out of the woods yet.....

Bruce Taylor said...

I like the name Save Seattle Schools.

I expect to take some heat for saying this, but I would be grateful for an "ignore" function that allows me to suppress posts from one or two people who drive me positively bonkers.

none1111 said...

A few comments

Whatever new site or software you use, it's critical that people can leave comments without creating an account and signing in. Half the comments and commenters probably wouldn't be here otherwise. I think it's got a lot to do with why the blog has flourished.

- spam filter: This is tricky. You don't want to simply make it less touchy, otherwise it's really easy to get plastered with spam all the time. What you want is to have more control over how it works, perhaps moderation, etc. And there should be a way for a user to know their post was filtered or waiting for moderation! Too often we post a 2nd time or have to litter the thread with other comments asking to undelete a previous comment.

- "most read" counter: not a big deal to me. We can usually see how popular a topic is by the number of comments (although I know it's not exactly the same)

- "lightbox" link: I'm not sure what this is (can you point to an example?), but it would definitely be nice for people to be able to send you info without leaving a given page.

- RSS: I find the existing rss feed crappy, but I'm probably not taking proper advantage of it.

- "Documents" section: YES!!!! This would help so much. Setting up a companion Wiki might be easier than trying to integrate this into the blog, but I haven't been keeping up to date with all the types of tools available in hosted blogs now.

Speaking of which, do you have a particular platform in mind? Wordpress is very, very configurable, with literally thousands of plugins that provide additional features. But I think it's a non-trivial task to migrate old content to a new site, if you intend to do that. It would probably be easier to leave this site frozen as a repository of historic information with a link to the new site.

As for the name, I was thinking it would be nice to simply lose the "Save" and use "Seattle Schools Community Blog", which is a little less antagonistic. That's often how I refer to it when talking with others anyway. You wouldn't lose a single reader because the last post here would just be a link to the new site. Anyone that found the old site via search engine or whatever, would directly find the new site. Easy, done.

That said, it seems there are a bunch of people that prefer keeping the Save, and I don't think that would be a particularly bad thing either.

If you start a new blog, I'll pick a new username ;-)

Marion said...

Keep the name, just add the subtitle:

"The blog wishing to be know as: Seattle Schools Saved"

none1111 said...

I would like a way that we can keep a thread near the top even after a lot of other posts have come after it chronologically.

It might seem like a good idea in principle, but not so good in practice. When do you choose to exercise that feature? When do you turn it off and let the post float back to its natural order? How do you do that without confusing or frustrating your readers?

Blogs are supposed to be chronological, so it feels disingenuous if that timeline is monkeyed with.

What I've seen work better is a way to highlight certain posts, or better yet, to have a sidebar with titles of, and links to, posts that the moderators think are most important at any given time. That gives you the ability to give guidance to your audience without messing up the timeline.

none1111 said...

Speaking of blogging features and spam, could someone retrieve my long-ish post 3 comments back?

StepJ said...

A second for both Bruce and Marion.

dan dempsey said...

Don't change the name ..... Jack in the Box's "Monterrey Jack's" and new Coke ... UGH!!

SSS Blog serving the community for years ... 8 billion posts and comments ... read.

Anonymous said...

I do wish there was a way to know when an older topic has been commented on. I don't know if that is doable without messing up the flow-- I also think it should be in order!!
Love the document idea.
I don't think the name should be changed too much-- if at all, maybe just to "Seattle Schools Community Blog."
And, not the right place, but I just want to say that I love this blog. I have learned so much from it and it has helped me become more of an activist in my kids' school and in Seattle by helping understand some history that happened before I got here, and by giving me some info and bigger picture stuff I didn't have. Which helped me figure out where my own energies needed to go. So thanks.
-ballard mom

Dorothy Neville said...

There IS a way to find out if an older post has been commented on and my biggest fear is that in a move we would lose that.

For instance, some anonymous person chided us today for wanting to ruin MGJ's life, by sending information to Florida and New Jersey. I got a chuckle out of that.

Currently the comments have their own RSS feed and I access them in a single stream. I LOVE that and otherwise would never be able to follow as much as I do.

Figure out how to use an RSS reader (I use Google Reader) and subscribe to the comments as well as posts.

Anonymous said...

I don't think changing the name is a great idea

- unlike the management villains who turned a fiefdom of Ma Bell into U.S. Worst, which morphed into QWEST to try to put lipstick on a pig, and which continuted to treat employees and customers like crap, so now they're changing their names again -

you guys probably don't have the marketing budget to carry off the transition - besides - you don't treat your customers like crap!

youse guyz is da best!

Save_The_Best

basically said...

I just kind of glanced through these comments, so maybe someone touched on this....

A nice feature of Wordpress is that commenters can comment on specific comments, so a 'conversation' can take place without a lot of scrolling.

I like the name, but you could drop the 'Save' and people would still find you if the rest of the words were the same.

Kate Martin said...

I like the idea of dropping the "Save" and just calling it Seattle Schools Community Blog.

Patrick said...

It would be nice if the blog required a nickname of some sort before posting, so that new blog posters don't make some great informative maiden post only to have it deleted.

Mercermom said...

Save Seattle Schools may have brand recognition with current/long-time users, but I'm guessing that something like "Seattle Schools Community Blog" is more likely to be found and resonate with new participants.

Nick Esparza said...

RE Save Seattle Schools Community Blog

Nick Esparza said...

RE Save Seattle Schools Community Blog