Site Redesign Leads to Discovery of Comment Gold

9 November, 2005

So, you may have noticed that, suddenly, things look a lot different around here (if not, you may need to force refresh your browser so you get the new CSS -- or click out of your newsreader for once, I mean, gawd!). I've been wanting to do a pretty thorough site redesign for a while but a couple of things had been standing in my way: the baroque inner-workings of the Moveable Type templating system and the profound (almost spiritual) mystery of Floats.

The second of these got solved when I happened across a great tutorial on making three column layouts in CSS. It's the first CSS walkthrough I've done that left me with both some working markup to copy and a greater understanding of how this crazy stuff actually works -- exactly what I want from a learning experince. MT on the other hand turned out to be an even worse muddle than I'd feared. I really have to edit 8 different templates if I want to change one link in my sidebar (and through a web form no less)? Maybe I'm missing an easier way to do this, but as it is the process was pretty miserable, not to mention highly maintenance unfriendly.

On the upside, while mucking around in the guts of the site's backend, I found a bunch of interesting comments I hadn't noticed on their way in (if anyone out there knows how to set it so that I get email notifications on the occasion of new comments without having to subject them to approval, I'd really like to hear about it). One thrilling comment for me to see was from Doug Kaye, founder of the great tech podcast network, IT Conversations. Doug commented on my entry about Hyperlinks for iTunes. Unsurprisingly, he's way out ahead of these issues -- IT Conversations already puts URLs for each of their shows in the Comments field of the ID3 tags. So, at least for their shows, someone could totally come along and build the iTunes plugin I was imagining in that entry.

Another fascinating comment that I'd missed came from Cobalt whose collage The Next Katrina I used in my entry on Flickr's Interestingness feature. Apparently Cobalt's had 10 of her photos featured in Flickr's Interesting pool, which is impressive. Another picture of hers which landed in that pool caused some controversy:

Imagine my surprise again, when it [the photo I linked just above, not the one from my original post -- ed.] was REMOVED from flickr temporarily, and replaced with another image from a widely-seen photo of the WTC Towers being hit by a plane. This was directly on 9/11/2005. I titled mine "Memorial to 9-11 and Katrina" and outlined my thoughts on that sad anniversary. This situation lead to a critical overhaul of "Interestingness" on flickr.com, which had been brewing for a while. I also documented the removal of my image and the replacement image and questioned "Why?"

Stewart Butterfield (CEO of flickr) came to post in my comments on this documentation and then reported back that my images had now been restored to public view. They had been removed from public view by anonymous members who marked them "may offend". Little did they know that their temporary sabotage did the most possible to insure my "fame" and following within flickr.

The Flickr Central debate that surrounded this episode is still some pretty interesting reading for anyone curious about the way a big and active community like Flickr polices itself on the fly in public. You can see from the comments on Cobalt's screen capture where she documented the removal that this scuffle over the "may offend" flag and Interestingness is part of a long running debate on the site about censorship and political expression.

Anyway, let me know what you think of the new design (and, especially if you come across any little bits that seem like I may have missed them in the transition -- like the search results page, goodness gacious, will someone tell me how to style the search results page?!?). And keep those comments coming! They're the best part.

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