Spiffy New Digs, Suggestions Wanted

So, as you may or may not have noticed, ScienceBlogs has gotten a makeover. If you read via RSS, you might not notice anything, but if you come to the blog itself, you'll see a new look. The previous three-column layout is gone, and posts on the front page now show only short excerpts and "featured" images. This makes us look more like the blogs at National Geographic, the new Corporate Masters (for a good while now, actually, but they only just did the redesign). On the back end, we've changed from Movable Type to WordPress, which will take a little getting used to, but which lots of people think is an improvement.

All in all, I'm reasonably happy with it, but for one thing: The new front-page layout defaults to putting a user picture next to every post, over on the left. This is a little silly for a single-author blog like this one, where there really isn't any question about who wrote the posts. As a result, when I look at the front page, I see a big collection of mini-me's staring back at me, and I find it a little creepy.

I'm not sure what the best option would be, though. But I know there are people reading this with better aesthetic sense than I have, so, I throw this to you: What should I replace that little picture of me with? Or, on the technical side, does anybody know enough about WordPRess to know if I can rotate those images somehow, so it's not always the same picture? That'd be kind of LiveJournal, I know, but if there's a way to change the picture to something appropriate for the subject of the post that doesn't require an inordinate amount of work on my part (that is, something I can do without needing to log out of WordPress and back in as a different fake user, which is the only thing that occurs to me), that might be cool.

Anyway, as I said, suggestions are welcome in the comments. Which will also let me figure out if the comments are working properly...

More like this

As you can see, Scienceblogs.com has a new look. There is no more left sidebar and the right sidebar looks different, the cute banners different blogs had is replaced with a new standardized banner usually with a picture of the blogger. The 24 hour page and some other bits are (depending on when…
Looking all shiny and spiffy today are our colleagues over at the blogging network hosted by Nature. After some downtime to install a new blogging platform, Movable Type 4, Nature Network blogs are back with a much more pleasing aesthetic and a more user-friendly interface. For those readers who…
You might have thought we'd have a new study for you to participate in this week. You're half right. If you've read CogDaily, Terra Sigillata, Uncertain Principles, or Chaotic Utopia in the past two weeks, you've actually been participating in today's non-scientific study. ScienceBloggers have a…
During my winter blogging break, I thought I'd repost of few of my "greatest hits" from my old blog, just so you all wouldn't miss me so much. This one is from September 24, 2007. This post follows up on my initial 2007 post which I reposted yesterday. It's worth noting that the blog has evolved…

I suppose you could leave it blank and simply say it is the latest Hubble view of dark matter.

By Wally Meyer (not verified) on 23 May 2012 #permalink

Is there really no way to tell how many comments a post has from the front page?

By Kate Nepveu (not verified) on 23 May 2012 #permalink

Second Kate's suggestion about number of comments. That was a handy way of knowing whether there were any new comments on a post since my last visit/comment. The old "Recent Comments" listing helped somewhat, but the new incarnation lists only about half as many "Recent Comments" as the old one, so they are more likely to fall off the end of the stack.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 23 May 2012 #permalink

There's a lot of feedback about the new layout over on Respectful Insolence (by Orac) by a number of his long-time commenters.

While poking around on the main ScienceBlogs page, I realized that the main "Recent Activity" box (with the usual two out of three links to to the prolific Pharyngula) actually takes you to a Facebook login page, rather than the specific articles the links appear to take you to. I don't like Facebook tracking me, so I won't be using that at all.

Also, the main-page links under Channel Surfing are only moderately correctly categorized (not sure if it's some automated system, or a manual thing) - your pointer to the NYT review of How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog is under "Physical Science" and your "we've moved" article is under Humanities.

Any way to lengthen the short excerpts before the cut? Four lines doesn't give enough space to tell if the post is going to match my interests. Since clicking on "read the whole post" takes you into a separate page for the post and comments, and doesn't just expand out the post in the context of the main page, it then either requires a back button to get back to scrolling through the front page, or opening in a new tab that I then have to click through. This makes it feel like I'm expending a lot of effort to scan the blog.

The lack of a comment link is also annoying.

One thing I miss about the old version is the longer post previews. I check the blog every day, but I admit that I only click the "Read More" button if it's a post I think sounds interesting (most of them are!). The current preview size hardly gives me an idea of what the post will be like. Not that I think an extra click is a lot more work, it's just that with the current state doesn't really tell me much. See the "Republican Brain by Chris Mooney" preview for what I'm talking about. The old version told me so much more!

P.S. - The longer previews also greatly helped me to see from the main page if I wanted to click on some of your links-dump links. The way it is now I might just skip those.

. . . you might also pass on that the "recent comments" sidebar also would be a lot more helpful if visited links changed color. Which is web design 101 and basic accessibility, as well.

By Kate Nepveu (not verified) on 23 May 2012 #permalink

The "Last 24 hours" link is inoperative now, too. It takes one to the ScienceBlogs home page.

What RBH said - the Last 24 Hours link is always the first thing I head for, and now it's not working.

With RBH and Flora, I have always used the "Last 24 Hours" link -- in fact, it had a dedicated tab in Firefox for me. I'd like it back.

I do approve of what seems to be a larger default font for posts.

You need a height scale behind you in your photo to complete the sense that it is a mug shot.

By CCPhysicist (not verified) on 23 May 2012 #permalink

One more vote for the 24h channel. It seems to have returned from death, but at this moment are only two posts. Hopefully that isn't a built-in limitation.

By Lassi Hippeläinen (not verified) on 23 May 2012 #permalink

This is not a comment on you, but just in general. Science blogs has been going downhill for some time. Giving it a new look won't change the content: there used to be a lot more science, and I was sorry to see that slip.

I used to visit daily and look at the "Last 24 hours" listing so I could see what's been posted since I last visited, but today, that button doesn't even work!

It's becoming harder to find any benefit in visiting science blogs. Yes, a blogger can blog whatever they want, but unless they're blogging primarily about science, I don't see why they would want to blog at a site specifically called Science blogs!

Within certain limits, I really don't care how a site looks - I care about content. That's what makes me come back - or drives me away.

Add me to the list of people who used to head for the "24 hours" page first. I miss it, and I probably won't read ScienceBlogs if I can't get to it easily.

Does WordPress have a mobile-friendly interface? I would be a happy,happy reader if you'd implement it, especially on the "24 hours" view.

The RSS feed doesn't work for me. The links look OK, but clicking one takes me back to the ScienceBlogs home page.

One more vote - list of activity by date on 24 Hr page was how I entered science blogs. Site is much less user friendly without that.

I also am a last 24hrs user. I think it was the best interface that I have used. Please bring it back/

They have already been mentioned here, and on various other scienceblogs, but I thought I'd reinforce 3 major missing features.

1) Numbering of comments. I just came back to a thread I was following lastnight and had to hunt for the last comment I read, rather than think "The last comment I read was ~42".

2) The number of comments should be visible on the front page.

3) It would be nice to have some way to preview your post before posting.

By stewartt1982 (not verified) on 24 May 2012 #permalink

Add me to the list of those who find the "last 24 hours" feature essential.

By Stan Polanski (not verified) on 24 May 2012 #permalink

Having to click open a new page to read beyond the first few lines is terrible. I really like this blog, but most likely I will hardly read it in the future. Not out of protest, but having to open a new page for each post is way too unpleasant. Might not be so bad if it just expanded the same page, like Andrew Sullivan's blog. I'm really sorry to see this happen.

I'd like join in with the others that say the preview snippet is way too short. It's incredibly annoying to have to go to a new page just to read the most recent posts.

I will pass these comments and requests on to the Corporate Masters, as will several other bloggers, I'm sure.

The Last 24 Hours thing is probably related to the breaking of all the RSS feeds, as I think it was cobbled together from RSS stuff. That will probably get fixed in the near-ish future. When they do get that sorted, the RSS feeds look like they'll be full-text, so if you don't like the tiny little excerpts, you can always use RSS to get around it.

Right at the moment, I can't even reliably get to the back end to moderate comments-- three out of every four attempts to do something throw an error-- and I'm sufficiently annoyed at this that I'm declaring an early start to the weekend. I'm not going to attempt to post anything new or tweak the look of the site (within my limited ability to do so) until next Monday at the earliest. I'll continue to (try to) free comments held for moderation, though I can't promise it'll happen all that quickly.

If numbers help, I'll n'th the requests to make the comments font darker, fix the Last 24 Hours page, and make the preview size/length flexible. Also, in the right-hand bar on the main page, I currently have no entries under either Archives or Categories. I'm guessing that's related to the update, but just in case. Firefox 7, in case it matters.

By fizzchick (not verified) on 24 May 2012 #permalink

"Last 34 Hrs" link still, as of 1830hrs 05/24, just goes to main page. That, and either the posts aren't showing up on the main page or there are few posts. A few have popped up but few, very few.

This is putting a crimp in my internet habits. If this keeps up I may be forced to interact with neighbors and family.

Also, the main-page links under Channel Surfing are only moderately correctly categorized (not sure if it’s some automated system, or a manual thing)

Check out the earlier entry under the orange "Jobs" tag. I don't think that's what the semantics are actually supposed to be.

On a typical visit to sciblogs, I would peruse the summaries of the latest posts and read those that caught my interest. As other commenters have noted, the last 24 hour feature no longer work and the summaries are too short to be useful. That was the perfect layout for capturing a quick snapshot of activity since the last visit.. I hope your corporate masters re-instate that.

Wasn't there a "Most Read" and/or "Most Emailed" section, before? Or maybe that's the "Last 24 Hours" thing that other commenters are missing -- I don't pay super-close attention. But I used to like that as a place to find other science blogs to visit on a one-time basis. I'd prefer having that back over the very long list of categories.

I miss having the chance to preview comments, too. It's my last chance to scan for typographical errors, which I care about.

By Elizabeth (not verified) on 26 May 2012 #permalink

Not to sound creepy or anything, but I think your picture is fine as is

Is the Canon ad supposed to appear as an unreadable vertical red-brown smear that obscures some of the text in the first 2 paras of your post?

The RSS seems to be working again. The last 11 posts showed up in my Google reader.

By Tom Singer (not verified) on 01 Jun 2012 #permalink