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Welcome Back Mark Pilgrim

Someone got the lights all mixed up over at Dive into Mark it appears Mark Pilgrm has returned to the blogosphere. For those of you who don’t know who Mark Pilgrim is. He is the somewhat controversial IBM staffer. It only seems right that about the time Dave Winer exits that Mark Pilgrim would return. Ahh the internet remains unboring. I think.

WordPress.com unveils unlimited blogs

I’ve had a couple of wordpress.com accounts and guess what its about as annonying as having 10 gmail accounts. We all have to go over and thank Matt Mullenweg and the rest of the Automattic staff for setting this up. If only Google would allow us to do the same thing.

I mean its truly annonying to have this many different accounts for the same purpose. The best part is you can even virtually merge accounts.

I was laughing a little too much as Matt sounded British when he made the announcement.

9Questions with Chris Pearson

Bloggers in Kentucky went mainstream this week as one of the owners of The Blog Herald, and Blog Louisville Chris Pearson was featured in a news story in the Courier-Journal. Chris is one of our lead designers and has been hard at work working on a new set of clothes for this site as well as a few others.

Recently David Krug sat down with Chris Pearson and discussed Blog Design

deuce 9Questions with Chris Pearson

David: What are the essential ingredients to a good blog design?
Chris:For me, good design is about the clarity of individual elements on the page. Good designs are smooth. Easy on the eye. They show a clear focus on essential elements and they use form to highlight the content.

David: Let’s take a look at a site you redesigned recently. The SEO Book(aff) a blog to promote Aaron Wall’s book and his consulting services.
Chris: Fortunately, we already had both a header graphic and a defined color scheme on seobook.com…Even a simple starting point such as this serves as a nice foundation upon which to build a design. Aaron’s primary goals were to achieve a very clean, professional look that would help him sell his ebook, cleverly entitled (not surprisingly) the SEO Book. The idea was to provide pre-defined areas to promote the book, but to seamlessly integrate these promotional areas into the blog design. Also, one of the goals of the design was to provide a framework within which the content and breadth of the site could later be expanded depending on the direction Aaron wanted to go. We started with Photoshop comps and quickly progressed into coding…The rest was history.

David: Do you think good blog design helps market the blog, and promote it? Or is it just prettiness?
Chris: I think there’s a threshold where your content can be so good or you can be so interesting that the design matters less. For most of us anonymous Joes out there, however, the design is a promotional vehicle that serves many purposes. First, a quality design can define a “mood” for a site…Be that professionalism, humor, girly stuff, a journalistic slant – whatever. Second, a great design can serve as a linking tool. If people like your site, you are bound to get some referral links on the strength of that alone. This is probably most noticeable within a community like 9rules, but I think it works across the board in varying degrees. Also, a savvy promoter can always submit a killer design to CSSbeauty, CSSvault, Unmatched Style, or any of the other promotional design sites out there.

David: Talk to us a little about inspirations in the field. Who has inspired some of your work?
Chris: I am quirky about my inspirations. Typically, I’ll take bits and pieces from sites I find when I’m just chasing down links, hopping from one site to the next. I might like the way a sidebar was done here, or I might like the way a post was structured on a different site…Or perhaps this one site had a header that was just wicked – you never know. Inspiration is everywhere on the web. So, I guess you could say that I’m inspired by everyone who has ever produced something that I liked :) I also take a lot of inspiration from magazine publications. They’ve been in the business a hell of a lot longer than web designers, so there are tons and tons of design elements to be had out there.

David: I see a lot of slick sites out there. What will encourage bigger sites to move towards more standardization, and is standardization important?
Chris: Well, to start with, standardization is huge. The growth and acceptance of things like RSS and microformats will basically force the larger online media outlets to adopt standards-based designs, so I look at this as an inevitability. In design, one of the biggest ongoing concerns is that of cross-browser compatibility. Acceptance of standards will mean that browser software will now have a basic foundation upon which to be built. Instead of all this “IE 6 blows, and I can’t get this crap to look right in Opera,” we’ll have harmony all over, and people can use whatever browser they please without fear of missing something due to standardization or interpretation differences. Peace of mind is huge. Standards are a must.

David: A little off topic but let’s talk about the NY Times Redesign. What’s your opinion?
Chris: The most interesting thing to me about the NYT design is the fact that they’ve chosen to go with a layout that is 975px wide. I am such a huge fan of the growing trend towards wider viewing panes, and I think in the case of a major news outlet like the NYT, that extra real estate is a must. On a more critical note, I think they could have used vertical spacing between articles and teasers a little more liberally, as the content appears very dense on the front page. That said, I think the bottom half of the home page is where they’ve really hit a home run. The incorporation of video (which CNN recently added as a homepage feature) is awesome, and the “Inside NYTimes.com” scrolling browser is an amazing feature. I am a big proponent of the use of pictures to tell a story (and to define a design), and the lower half of the NYT website accomplishes this with a bang. The upper half leaves a little to be desired, IMO. The internal pages are great, and the use of different headline and text sizes depending on the site navigation echoes a very strict attention to detail. Header is nice and clean, too. I hope other national newspapers take notice.

Onto blogs and the NY Times
As far as blogs go…I think the main influence can be seen in the video. I think video is the hot button right now in the blogosphere, and I think the NYT is totally keen on this fact. Then, of course, you see things like “blogged, emailed, and searched”. in the “most popular” section, and these are things that you often find in the sidebar of traditional blogs – ie. posts that have received the most comments, etc. So there are definitely “bloggish” elements in the design and they enhance the overall user experience.

David: Let’s talk about working for yourself (entrePersonified) vs Working for a firm. What are the pros and cons?
Chris: I see the whole experience as a huge positive. I have all the lateral mobility I want (in terms of investments, ventures, etc) coupled with projects that tend to be both exciting and cutting-edge.My clients are typically passionate, creative, talented people whose businesses are really in traction, so it’s just a total joy to work with them. In addition, I am able to dictate both my time and projects according to my interests and goals, and that kind of freedom is priceless.

David: So do you see advantages of being a designer, who’s also involved in a blog network?
Chris: I hate to sound like the happy ending of a children’s book, but there just aren’t a lot of negatives when you’re doing what you want to be doing. Or, perhaps it’s that those negatives simply don’t matter as much when the overall picture is so digestable. Well, this is where that lateral mobility thing comes into play. I have career/project/interest ADD in a big way. I like to learn new things, so when I exhaust a particular area, I usually move on to the next in an attempt to get my learning fix. Being involved in a blog network means that I can focus on other tasks as well, such as application or content development. I’m learning new things in new areas every day, and that’s infinitely rewarding. I don’t see myself as just a designer. Design is merely another skill that I want to master along the way, and I like to think I’m at least moving in that direction. Being in a blog network has opened the doors for me to try and master new skills without fear of a crushing financial blow from a lack of work. Then, there’s the whole exposure thing. It’s much easier to launch new projects if a lot of people know who you are. Enter the blog network :)


David:
Ok, you’ve got the audience with your great answers. Let’s take this last question and just open it up. I’m a sucker for folks who want to self promote. Pitch us a softball.

Chris: Head on over to The Indie Virus, it’s a new experiment that I’d like to have some fun with, but there’s a catch – I’m going to need some help from you, my critical-thinking, curious readers. Essentially, I want to launch a viral linking campaign with some pretty loose guidelines for the links. I’ve constructed this in such a way that I (or anyone else who’s interested) will be able to monitor the progress of the experiment as it (hopefully) spreads across the blogosphere.

David: Thanks Chris. Always good to yak at you.

Lycos and Qumana Partner up for bloggers

Lycos and Qumana, the desktop blogging client with contextual advertising integrated has unveiled a partnership. One of the things I really have enjoyed about Qumana is being able to recommend this to friends who use WordPress.com because this is the only way I know how to advertise on any WordPress.com blog. On top of that the folks over at Qumana are friendly and seemingly answer questions in a timely fashion. I’m excited to see how this partnership grows and helps bloggers make money, and utilize easy to use tools.

Lycos, Inc. (http://www.lycos.com), a leading media destination for creators and consumers of quality content, today announced a new desktop blog editing tool, powered by Qumana, making blogging easier and more profitable for bloggers everywhere.

With the new Lycos-Qumana Desktop Blog Editor (http://lycos.qumana.com), Lycos enhances the freedom of blogging, allowing users to publish to their Tripod and Angelfire Blogs on Lycos, as well as to other major blogging sites, from the desktop. Additionally, the Lycos-Qumana Desktop Blog Editor works with Qumana’s Qads, an integrated ad program, allowing bloggers to insert ads into their blogs, while revenue from these ads is shared with the bloggers.

“If you’re an active blogger, the Lycos-Qumana Desktop Blog Editor now gives you the ability to post to multiple blogs with just one click, extend your blogs further reaching more people, and make more money from your blog content,” said Alfred Tolle, CEO of Lycos, Inc. “With this new offering, Lycos continues to reinforce our strategy by offering content creators the tools needed to better showcase and market their independent content.”

Via Yahoo News

Singapore threatens political bloggers

Singaporeans who post political commentary on Web sites could face prosecution according to a recent report at ZDNet.

Speaking in parliament, Senior Minister of State Balaji Sadasivan said anyone using the Internet to “persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues” about Singapore during election periods was breaking the law.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whose People’s Action Party has dominated politics in the city-state since its independence in 1965, is widely expected to call early elections in the coming months.

“In a free-for-all Internet environment, where there are no rules, political debate could easily degenerate into an unhealthy, unreliable and dangerous discourse, flush with rumors and distortions to mislead and confuse the public,” Sadasivan said.

The tiny island-republic’s laws require political parties and individuals to register if they want to post political content on the Net.

While Singapore has oft been known for its strange poitical and legal gestures in the big scope they have been rather mute about bloggers and political commentary. Mostly to avoid international scrutiny. But with elections gearing up to take place whenver the government wants them to. It looks like they want to put a muzzle on the Singaporean blogosphere before the election period.

As Baseball kicked off yesterday I was in a BallBug

It was a little quiet here today. I was busy watching baseball and acting like the blogosphere didnt exist. Some cool things happened while I wasn’t paying attention. Gabe Rivera launched Ball Bug, a meme tracking site that will track the hot stories in the baseball world.

While I imagine it is fairly easy to launch meme trackers around each niche of his choosing. I think its actually a bit harder to keep an eye on them and do it as well as he has. Go Baseball, and Go Ball Bug. Good job Gabe.

The Blooker Awards: Blogs to Books

The Lulu Blooker Prize announces its winner.

What are The Blooker Awards you might ask:

Blooks are the world’s fastest-growing new kind of book and an exciting new stage in the life cycle of content, if not a whole new category of content. Learn more

The Lulu Blooker Prize is sponsored by Lulu, the world’s fastest-growing provider of print-on-demand books, including an increasing number of blooks. However, the judges are independent of Lulu and no favor will be shown to blooks published on Lulu.

The first ever winner of The Blooker is Julie Powell.
Julie Powell is 30-years-old, living in a rundown apartment in Queens and working at a soul-sucking secretarial job that’s going nowhere. She needs something to break the monotony of her life, and she invents a deranged assignment. She will take her mother’s dog-eared copy of Julia Child’s 1961 classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and she will cook all 524 recipes. In the span of one year.

At first she thinks it will be easy. But she soon realizes there’s more to Mastering the Art of French Cooking than meets the eye. With Julia’s stern warble always in her ear, Julie haunts the local butcher, buying kidneys and sweetbreads. She sends her husband on late-night runs for yet more butter and rarely serves dinner before midnight. She discovered how to mold the perfect Orange Bavarian, the trick to extracting marrow from bone, and the intense pleasure of eating liver. Via The Blooker Prize

NY Times to begin linking blogs?

The New York Times launched the grand redesign and I see all a lot of potential. One of my new favorite sections of the Times is The Most Popular. They have a section for most blogged. i think this is key for the Times interaction with bloggers. It’s a simpler design that’s classy. Now they need to move ahead with utilizing and tying in more content directy from blogs.

Six Apart says:

The most prominent change is the new wide page layout, which makes great use of the expanded screen real estate that serious web geeks have available on their displays.

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While that might be a huge change. I think the biggest change is if the New York Times begins linking bloggers. I think you will see a lot more bloggers returning to read that old archaic flagship. One thing mentioned already today by Michael Arrington is that the Times needs to move towards using BlogBurst.