Thursday, September 23, 2010

Open Thread Thursday: Genealogy Blog "Bling"

The Open Thread Thursday theme at Thomas MacEntee's Geneabloggers poses four questions this week:

1.  What do you consider essential in terms of widgets, sidebar items, etc. for a genealogy blog?

Judy Webster of Queensland Genealogy in Australia (the inspiration for this topic) considers the following as “must haves” in a genealogy blog:
  • About me - I agree.  I also added an "e-mail me" image link.
  • Subscribe option - definitely!
  • Follow option - I agree, although I think Subscribe can suffice, and I don't think "Follow" is an option on Wordpress. I do like seeing the little photos of followers on Blogger blogs.
  • Labels/Tags (as a cloud or list, with or without numbers?) - agree, and I don't think the format really matters, although a cloud without numbers is easier to deal with for lots of labels.  I think the labels used should be minimal - surnames and places at a minimum, and maybe daily blogging themes or other labels you use frequently.  I'm a co-administrator on a team blog at work, and I need to get in and clean up our too-numerous labels as they have become a hindrance rather than an asset.
  • Blog archive - yes.
  • Links to other blogs - depends.  I have one of those widgets that highlights the five most recent posts from the genealogy blogs I follow, but that's about it.  Oh, and of course I link to my own book blog!  I think, like labels, this is something else that can get too lengthy. 
  • Links to Websites about related topics - I don't do this, but I could see why others might feel these are essential.
    DearMYRTLE suggests some things I like, such as PrintFriendly to allow easy printing of single blog entries without all the sidebars and bling.  I've thought about  removing the banner, except that I often use it myself to navigate to the Dashboard!  I use AddThis with each blog post to allow myself and others to share to Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, and other social sites. And I will have to explore her suggestion about using Odiogo to translate text to podcasts.
      Kerry Scott of Clue Wagon suggests an option to subscribe to comments, which I think is a good idea and something I will add.  I don't agree with her about a big picture of myself on my About Me page, but that is because I don't photograph well. :)

      D. Kay Strickland of d kay s days also recommends a copyright statement or Creative Commons badge.  I have a copyright statement on each blog post, but I think I'll add it somewhere on the main page as well.  She also has pages for annotated family trees or Ahnenfatel charts (the latter is what I have - I borrowed that idea from Tina Lyons at Gen Wish List). 

      Geniaus says it's important to ask first, "Is the blog for entertainment, education, advertising or promotion?"  I think this is key.  My genealogy blog is just a place to record family history for my relatives and friends, who I think would prefer my simple layout that emphasizes the photos I post.  I can see where professional genealogists and others using their blogs to advertise or promote their services or abilities might want a little more "bling."  Geniaus also recommends a search tool (I use Google Search) "so that the blog can be searched by keyword, and [that one] provide a link for the reader to contact the blogger," although the latter could go in the "About Me."

      Finally, I think it was my old friend Amy Coffin of We Tree who convinced me you should list all surnames you are researching right up top so browsers can see if they have any names in common.

      2. Have you taken steps to minimize or streamline your blog in consideration of dial-up and even mobile users?
        No, I have not done this intentionally, but I feel my blog is pretty minimal/streamlined as it is.  To be honest, the issue is more that I don't have TIME to play around dressing up my blog that much anyway!
          3. Where should the “bling” be placed – sidebar, header, footer, other location?

          I think this depends on the layout of the blog.  If it's truly "bling" and not really essential, I'd rather see it in the footer or additional pages.  I'd really rather only see the essential stuff in the header and sidebar(s).

          4. What about other blog template items such as font size, background color, etc.?
            I HATE blogs with light-colored writing on a dark background.  I can't read them!  Fortunately, I have not encountered many (any?) genealogy bloggers who do this.

            Kerry,  D. Kay, and I all agree about a clean look, and "less is more."   I think my blog fits that criteria, although I would like to dress up the header a little.  I went with a template that uses the width of the page as I like to have plenty of room for the photos I post.

            Like me, Kerry prefers "comment spam filtering that happens on the blogger side, not the reader side. I get frustrated with all of the Captcha codes, etc. that are required to leave a comment."  My blog is not very popular and I don't get a lot of spam (or many comments), however.  Blogger does have a spam filter, though, and it has been catching spam on that team blog I co-administer.  I have the settings on both set to moderate comments on posts more than 14 days old, as I really don't want to discourage conversation on more recent posts.  I'll be interested to read what others think about this.

            © Amanda Pape - 2010


            1. Great input and ideas Amanda!

              One suggestion on removing the Blogger navigation bar: I removed it only so that my blog looked more like a website. I simply make myself go to each time I want to access my dashboard.

            2. I have enjoyed reading everyone's ideas (some of which I have already implemented today - eg, I have turned off Captcha). My main blog (the Queensland one) has a search tool, and when there are a few more posts in the other three blogs I will add Search to them too. I want to play around with different layouts, stand-alone pages etc. to see what works best. (So much to learn.. so much to do.. so little time!)