Noteworthies: Tying the Past to the Present

Not days ago, Jonas Rabbe put out a challenge:

On the subject of redesigns I put it to the great minds here to consider a design (both visual and structural) which ties the past of the blog better into the present without being too cluttered. (Source)

Not only do I accept his challenge, but I pass it on to you too!

1: Visual Noteworthies

My first response to this challenge is to bring noteworthy entries back to the top. See the index page:

“First time here? Read noteworthy entries or view illustrations.”

Now move your eyes to the top right of this entry. See the ♥? Just like all other weblogs that make good use of “noteworthies”, I now visually distinguish material worth reading/watching.

2: Noteworthies to the Top of Categories

Categories have been refined following Mr. Nielsen’s advice:

On the main page for each category, highlight that category’s evergreens as well as a time line of its most recent postings.

Have a look at, for instance, the Usability category. Notice how noteworthy posts are topmost, and full-text? That’s right, posts not deemed noteworthy are limted to excerpts in the bottom.

Bottom-most posts are now also dimmed in style.

3: Ultra-short Excerpts

Following advice from Giles, I’ve added ultra-short, visually distinct excerpts to articles. These excerpts will be visible on archive pages.

Right now it’s only added to the article you’re looking at, but I hope to write excerpts to all articles in the future. Hence, you can expect the current styling to be refined a bit.

4: Less Focus on Timestamps

Based on discussion elsewhere, I’ve chosen to put much less focus on post timestamps. Timestamps is now only visible on the main index page and in the sidebar as meta information. Category archives no longer show time-stamps—it’s an archive after all.

5: Show Post Updated Timestamp

I have added a timestamp to post meta information that shows the date when the article was last updated. Take a look.

Wishlist

I have further ideas on how to bring activity to past entries. The following is a list of things I believe could help, but are currently (to my knowledge) impossible in WordPress. If you are a plugin author, feel free to pick up one of these ideas and realise them:

  • Subscribe to Comments 2 feature: Notify Who?
    People won’t join a discussion they think is dead. Add the ability to display a list of people who are currently subscribing to a particular entry. I believe that showing this list near the comment form would increase transparency as to who would be reading a comment left on a past entry.

    Update: Mark, the author of Subscribe to Comments 2, generously granted my wish. For the end result, look right below the comment “Post” button.

  • “Since Last Visit” Plugin
  • Track weblog “activity”. Track new and/or updated pages. Track entries with intermittent comments. Track new comments to entries older than x days. Let each tracked item have a configurable value (i.e. I would value updated material over comments), and save these values in end-user cookies. Use these cookies to compile a list of changes since that users last visit.

  • Ability to edit comments (without the need of login)

When a user leaves a comment, save a cookie for that user that contains the privileges for him/her to edit or delete his/her last comment. The idea that what you say will stay there forever, is haunting.

Your Move

Can you tie the past to the present? Do you dare pick up the challenge? If so, then it’s your move!

Related

27 thoughts on “Noteworthies: Tying the Past to the Present”

  1. I’ve been using noteworthy’s for a while now, and I can only recommend that you (being anyone reading this) tag your evergreen entries in some manner. It increases ones self-esteem and is good for the days where you wish you didn’t have a blog. Go to your your noteworthy archive, pick an entry.

    It’s a great way of remembering why you’re blogging in the first place.

    And I’ll just throw a pimp bone out and say that K2 already has preliminary noteworthy support 🙂

    Either way, I’m already on it with Invader; but there’s a bit of way to go still, as I learn to employ my new structure in the best possible way.

  2. Joen says:

    I?ve been using noteworthy’s for a while now, and I can only recommend that you (being anyone reading this) tag your evergreen entries in some manner

    I do think tagging might be the solution. Especially if I am to make category specific noteworthies (i.e. all noteworthies filed in Usability, etc.).

    And I’ll just throw a pimp bone out and say that K2 already has preliminary noteworthy support 🙂

    Jeez is there anything that theme won’t support? 😀

    Either way, I’m already on it with Invader; but there’s a bit of way to go still, as I learn to employ my new structure in the best possible way.

    I was going to link up your “Daydreaming” article, as I remember it as being noteworthy, but I couldn’t find your heart illustration, so I gave it up.

    Looking forward to seeing your solutions.

  3. Jeez is there anything that theme won?t support?

    I’m afraid we’re unable to support the republicans or Danske Folkeparti, but other than that, no 🙂

    As for the ‘tagging’, I probably used the wrong word, it wasn’t meant as in ‘taxonomy’. But yeah, tags could do the job.

    Currently all of my noteworthy entries aren’t being shown as such due to them having been tagged with an old plugin. I’ve since started using another plugin, which instead of using the custom fields places the entry in a specific category.

    I just need to find a solution for porting them from the old to the new.

  4. Joen says:

    I’m afraid we’re unable to support the republicans or Danske Folkeparti, but other than that, no 🙂

    I’m liking it more and more 🙂

    As for the ‘tagging’, I probably used the wrong word, it wasn?t meant as in ‘taxonomy’. But yeah, tags could do the job.

    Well, mostly I’m looking for a way to make an entry noteworthy, without simply filing it in a category called noteworthy… I want to be able to just “check a box” and make it noteworthy.

    Currently all of my noteworthy entries aren?t being shown as such due to them having been tagged with an old plugin. I’ve since started using another plugin, which instead of using the custom fields places the entry in a specific category.

    Yep, it’s a brave move you made there, and it’s all starting to look pretty great. It’s the most interesting “live redesign” I’ve seen.

  5. The plugin I’m using (which still hasn’t been released) puts a small ‘+’ next to all my entries. Clicking it will place the entry in the Noteworthy category. I then use in_category() function to display a Noteworthy icon.

  6. Sujay says:

    Quite an interesting task. Yeah, the only way I can think of is really tagging specific noteworthy entries… my brain is completely fried with this question.

    Also, what does the term “evergreen” entries refer to?

  7. Sujay says:

    It’s great how I was just clicking the heart and reading all your great past noteworthy entries that I haven’t ever seen before…

  8. Giles says:

    I was giving some thought about this recently and went looking at how ‘mainstream’ media tackles the issue of its most interesting content and extending its shelf-life.

    The one major thing I noticed was that with blogs, there are two components to an entry: the headline, and the body of the article.

    With something like nytimes.com or eurogamer.net, there’s a third piece of info: a handful of words, a subtitle or short summary, that go the extra distance of describing what the article’s about.

    My feeling is that this is what would be of most benefit to revisiting old entries. Right now, archives are a very dry place. You have two formats – either a list of titles, or big entries where you can only see one to the page. Neither of those formats lend themselves to scanning down the list and picking out something that seems like it would be interesting to read.

    A third format – a list of headlines accompanied by subtitles – seems like the most pleasant way to present old content that the author feels would be worth the reader’s time and interest.

  9. My flavour of this adds a new column to the post table post_rating, which allows you to set arbitrary numbers for each post.

    That way I can have more than one type of ‘noteworthy’ post. It also allows for end users to vote on the worth of a given post.

    You can see it in action with user voting on lifehut and you can see the author version running on my site. All of the posts on the front page are marked ‘Noteworthy’.

    I opted away from a category to keep the clutter down; I also don’t think that a category is right for this kind of thing. Tagging could be a solution, but I think that has the same sort of problems that using categories has since they are two roads to the same end.

    In my mind the only correct way to do this is through meta data, or as I have done with a ‘noteworthy’ column in your post table.

  10. The reason?in my humble opinion?that using a category for noteworthy’s is a good idea, is because you already have the functions and tricks you need to handle the content. If you add a new column to the db, you suddenly need new code to deal with fetching and displaying them.

  11. Max says:

    Those lucky enough to be using WordPress can of course use the custom meta fields for this kinda thing. Making a list of noteworthy posts would the be a, say, 10 liner plugin, without the need for severe table hacking.

    That being said, I personally would go for the category option. I don’t use tags myself, just categories. I, like Chris in comment 9, feeld that tags and categories are basically the same. That, and I’m too lazy to code the 10 liner plugin, of course.

  12. Joen says:

    Sujay,

    Also, what does the term “evergreen” entries refer to?

    Well, I guess it’s just something that never grows stale… “Ever Green”, so to speak 🙂

    Giles,

    A third format – a list of headlines accompanied by subtitles – seems like the most pleasant way to present old content that the author feels would be worth the reader?s time and interest.

    Very insightful. I think I’m in complete agreement with you.

    And seeing as I’ve never used excerpts for other than my installments page, it would be the logical next step to write excerpts for noteworthy entries.

    Chris,

    I sort of solved the problem today. The “Noteworthy” category is now more of a tag than a category, and I use the in_category code to trigger noteworthies with it. As such, I can now show noteworthy entries for each category.

    However, I do see your point in several levels of noteworthies… the thing is, some of my entries are noteworthy (i.e. worth reading), but some are way more noteworthy than others (stuff i’m proud of). It seems redundant to create an extra category, “Super Noteworthy”, and escalate the filtering code.

    So, while I lean towards agreeing with Michael that the category solution is simple and elegant, I do see the point of making several levels of noteworthy. Hmm.

  13. Max says:

    Like I said: the custom fields. You’re running WordPress, take advantage of what it offers you… =]

  14. Joen, just for you (hehe), I’ve re-enabled the old noteworthy detection code, so now you can go to for instance the Another World entry and see the star, which is the current indicator of an entry being noteworthy.

  15. Giles says:

    Some more thoughts at this late hour:

    There’s a second potential category that I think is maybe worth having. The inverse of Noteworthies. Rather than picking out what you think are the best, why not have a category where you trim anything that you feel has a limited shelf life/is a bit crap, but leave everything else in. Ageless, or something. Anything that you think would still be interesting one year, two years later.

    What could you do with that category? Maybe have a small section somewhere on the main page that picks a random post out of this category (new one per day? new one per user?) and displays it in full or in summary. Maybe you could do that with the Noteworthy section too, come to think of it, but that might get a bit stale a bit quickly (depending on how much of your writing you think is Noteworthy, I guess!).

  16. khaled says:

    I like that a lot. I remember that there are like 2 plugins that make it relatively simple to do the noteworthy thing, however for the life of me I can’t find them right now (Mike, Chris you guys know what I’m talking about).

    Joen: In terms of what you’ve done on the index page, dunno if you should make it more punchy for people to see straight away. Also I LOVE the idea of putting the noteworthy ones in the category as larger posts and the rest as excerpts. Very cool idea. Definitely going to try and implement this when I sort my archives as well (nicking ideas from here for sure 🙂 ).

  17. Mark J says:

    Add the ability to display a list of people who are currently subscribing to a particular entry. I believe that showing this list near the comment form would increase transparency as to who would be reading a comment left on a past entry.

    Wish granted. It’s a little bulky, but I’ll put a function into the next revision of Subscribe to Comments that generates the unique subscriber array in one go, so you can just do something like:

    <?php foreach ( $sg_subscribe->unique_subscriptions() as $comment ) { // loop stuff here } ?>

    But in the meantime, stick the code in your comments.php template, and customize the second loop to display to your liking.

  18. Joen says:

    Wish granted.

    Fantastic. 10 points. Superb.

    I have added it already, as you may notice from right below the post button.

    I’ll probably try and move it to the right of the post button, but now it’s no longer a technical problem: incredible.

    Thanks a lot.

  19. Matthew says:

    Sorry, how do I implement that listing of subscribers?

    I tried pasting that line in my comments file and also putting that php file in my plugins. No doubt Im doing (or not doing) something obvious.

  20. Mark J says:

    Matthew,

    That line was merely an example of what the code might look like if I made a function to handle it in a future version. I checked some code in earlier today and will be testing it out. In the meantime, if you click the link in my first comment, you’ll get a block of code that will work with your current version of Subscribe to Comments.

    So take “so you can just do” in my comment and mentally change it to “so you might be able to do, at some point in the future,” and dock me one point for writing so loosely.

  21. matthew says:

    Ah got it, cheers

  22. Jamie says:

    Hi guys, Michael pointed me towards this post as I’m the creator of both Noteworthy plugins he refers to. I agree with Chris that it would be logical to store the noteworthy status as meta data for a post – that’s really what it is after all. That’s how the first plugin started off, I used the extra fields available in WordPress to store the data. However, I went down the route of using categories simply because of the main requirements of the plugin – enabling you to display the Noteworthy entries in the same format/layout as the rest of your categories, eliminating the need to write special templates/code. Also, I wanted to keep the installation as simple as possible, by utilising existing core functionality that already existed in WordPress it was very easy for non-codie types to get the plugin working.

    Having said all that I’m open for suggestions and new ideas for the upcoming release of the latest plugin. Currently it will simply allow you to specifiy a category to store your noteworthies in, provides a simple interface for marking posts as noteworthy and displays an icon next to each noteworthy post.

  23. Jamie says:

    Right guys, I’ve finally released the plugin. You can grab it from here

  24. Joen says:

    Thanks Jamie, the plugin looks great. While I think it does the same as what I’ve done with WordPress code, it would be nice to clean things up a bit and separate out some of the uglier code.

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