Why I don’t read Public Address

Via Not PC I see that there is a top NZ political blog ranking system.

That’s interesting.

Well not really – but I do like to read a range of views, and follow No Right Turn (#6, blogspot), Kiwiblog (#1), not PC (a rabble rousing #3 – also on blogspot) and The Visible Hand in Economics (#13). I also occasionally read Whale Oil (#8),  Roarprawn (#13 – blogspot) and rising star Offsetting Behaviour (#23 – blogspot)

I’m amazed at the number of blogspot hosted sites. I just don’t get it. WordPress is not only a far simpler platform to use, but it doesn’t show the blogspot toolbar on the top, and it makes it trivial to buy and host the site on a personal domain name.

Surely it is time for the better sites to move from something like norightturn.blogspot.com to norightturn.com?

I don’t read number 2: The standard, 4: Public Address or 5: No Minister. The Standard and No Minister have never compelled me to stay (especially versus No Right Turn and Kiwiblog – who really are excellent) while I have issues with  Public Address.

Let’s work through those personal issues I have with Public Address, because it is a much read and loved site by others, and people get really engaged there. Here are the top ten issues

  1. The front page has snippets of articles only. Reading shouldn’t be an active sport – but on Public Address I have to click multiple times to read the posts on the front page
  2. The articles are, well, articles. They are far too long for the internet media – seeming more suited to magazines.
  3. The articles often contain more than one topic – this one contains about 4 different thought streams. That may work for an email newsletter, but in a blog (or indeed a newspaper) the expectation is one story per story.
  4. Actually that link isn’t to one post – but to a series of posts (I was referring to the one on 7 July) on the same topic. That’s just weird.
  5. The link buttons and so forth under each post don’t look quite right – they are not standard and so I am not sure how they function.
  6. The comments are somewhere else – so you can’t read the article and see the comments straight underneath without clicking yet again
  7. Once you are in the comments section you can’t get back to the main Public Address site – there is no home link.
  8. It’s http://publicaddress.net – that’s weird. I still think of .net sites as being technical ones to do with running the internet. What is wrong with .com or .co.nz?
  9. The RSS feed is clipped. This is important as everything above is forgivable if I can read entire articles in my RSS reader. However like the homepage you can only see a few lines of the hundreds in each article.
  10. Overall it’s just too hard – the site makes me think too much about how it functions, and not enough about whatever it is they are talking about.

The solution is easy – move the site over to WordPress. There are plenty of people in NZ to help with the transition and even a WordPress camp coming up in Wellington.

None of these issues are to do with the actual content of the site – which is apparently very good. It’s a classic case of the usability getting in the way of the product.

I often wonder just how much traffic Public Address would get if they adopted standard usability and technology.

So is this just me – or do others have the same issues?

About Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs
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73 Responses to Why I don’t read Public Address

  1. brenda says:

    Actually Lance, I think you’re being a tad precious.

    I think the content on Public Address is predominantly excellent and personally I find the RSS feed more than adequate. I can see in one easy glance who has written an article and whether I might be interested. I have no problem clicking through – understanding that the likely relatively scant income that may be derived through advertising would require eyeballs, that having the feed allin RSS would not support.

    I know already that anything Russell writes is likely to have multiple points and that makes it interesting. It is totally not magazine content. You know this is coming and you choose to open and read it.

    If the reasons above prevent you from reading Public Address then I think it’s you that is losing more than them.

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    • Lance Wiggs says:

      Of course I am being precious – but at most other sites I don’t have these issues. Why should PA be different from everywhere else?

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      • Lance, what you are forgetting mate is that Public Address is aimed at New Zealand’s intellectual elite. It’s supposed to be hard for us plebs to access :-)

        The PA folk do seem conflicted; they wanna keep out the riff raff but do want to make money. To make money you gotta make your content easy to find and easy to read. It seems a classic left wing intellectual conflict; they want to be financially recognized for their cleverness without coming down and playing in the muck.

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        • Paul Williams says:

          Bryan, why so pissy? Informed and reasonable discussion, even polite discussion, doesn’t make it exclusive… unless you simply want to be a smartarse that is.

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        • Paul – yes of course I am a smartarse. However my experience as an adult student completing a degree fine arts at Auckland University a few years back after 20 years in the rough & tumble of electrical engineering led me to conclude that left wing intellectuals sometimes like to make stuff unnecessarily complex to keep out the common folk and raise their own sense of value.

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  2. Agreed, I don’t read Public Address because the articles are way too long to fit among my other online activities.

    I only read Kiwiblog as an RSS feed because I detest the trolls that inhabit the comment threads. David needs to sack a few of his persistent offenders i.e. Redbaiter,D4J, Philu. Given his membership of an advertising network (along with PA, Scoop etc) he clearly wants to make money. Until he cleans up his comment threads he won’t.

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  3. Craig Ranapia says:

    First, Full Dislcosure: I’m a frequent commentators over at Public Address System, and Russell Brown is a friend and effectively my employer. (I contribute to Public Address Radio, which RB produces and co-hosts. 7pm. Sundays on Radio Live, folks. :)

    I’m not competent to geek out on how the site works, but a good critical principal is not to criticise people for failing to achieve what they weren’t trying to do in the first place. From the beginning, PA was intended as more regular extended ‘essays’ than traditional blog posts — which tend to be (relatively) short, focused on one topic and updated several times a day. If that’s not what you’re looking for, fair enough. You try being all thing to all people, you end up being nothing to nobody. But there you go, and here we are.

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    • Craig: surely it’s possible to do both: publish extended essays and be easy to use. Most of Lance’s criticisms have nothing to do with the length of the articles. They are how we (fail) to access that content and then respond.

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  4. I agree with you on the RSS feed. These days I typically read on my iPhone (whenever I have a few dead minutes to spare) and having to click through, wait for the page to load, and then resize the text so I can read it on a small screen is a painful user experience.

    (Are you listening Natalie? You don’t even have the excuse of ad impressions to not include the full text in your “Simple & Lovable” feed)

    But, I think you’re wrong about the content on Public Address. Yes, they are typically longer posts. But, they are also generally well written and I think there is a place for that. Perhaps you’ve been spending too much time on The Twitter?

    http://thisisindexed.com/2009/07/information-overload-andor-closet-organizers/

    I also think that having different writers on one feed is a good model. I wouldn’t be surprised if more bloggers go down this road in the future (e.g. imagine a collection of web/tech bloggers all on one site, with a business model!)

    My 2c…

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    • Hi Rowan

      You can include advertising on an RSS feed using Feedburner,Pheedo etc though the click throughs seem tiny.

      I don’t have an iPhone but do filter my RSS feeds on my phones Opera browser using Google Mobile. I can mark the stuff I want to read again later by marking as unread or catch up with content while walking to work or waiting somewhere. PA needs to get into the 21st century and publish full feeds.

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    • Lance Wiggs says:

      100% agree Rowan – the articles are great (as I said – this isn’t about the content), and RSS feeds (including on iPhone) are also how I read my content these days. Without the RSS feed PA just loses audience. You can slip advertisements into the feed as well.

      Craig – I’m fine with the magazine format – but the rest of it doesn’t hang together. Fix the RSS feed and most of these issues will go away.

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    • Seth Wagoner says:

      Rowan: “I also think that having different writers on one feed is a good model. I wouldn’t be surprised if more bloggers go down this road in the future (e.g. imagine a collection of web/tech bloggers all on one site, with a business model!)”

      – Uh, you mean like Techcrunch, or RWW?

      Frankly I prefer personal blogs with no business model apart from gaining the respect of their peers and the valuable spin off effects that come from that. The business imperative to push ad impressions usually leads to sensationalist headlines and a gradual dumbing down of the content (not that I think speaking purely in industry jargon is a good idea either).

      FWIW my current favourite Kiwi blog is this one, followed by yours.

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      • @Seth: I totally disagree that a business imperative dumbs down a blog.

        At interest.co.nz we have just done a ten minute unedited interview with Bill English (Bill English talks to Bernard Hickey about tax reform, interest rates and the government guarantee http://bit.ly/EyXkE)published on our blog. We publish high quality analysis of issues affecting borrowers and investors on a daily basis and regularly take a stand for and against issues of importance.

        We do all this and still employ a team of highly skilled staff funded out of advertising revenue. It can be done.

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        • Seth Wagoner says:

          @Bryan – I did say “usually leads to”. I guess it depends on the audience one is aiming for. If the business imperative is to attract more people who are interested in cogent analysis and nitty gritty details, then sure, it’s likely to have the opposite effect. But my experience with multi-author tech blogs is that as they’ve grown larger and taken on more authors, they have started aiming for a more mainstream audience, which means I’m less likely to find them interesting. Shrug.

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  5. Craig Ranapia says:

    Bryan:

    You said you don’t read PA because “articles are way too long”. As for the technical aspects, I don’t intend to rise beyond the level of my competence before lunch. :)

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  6. OMG I don’t include the full feed???? That will change immediately!

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    • Lance Wiggs says:

      The main point of this post is that despite the great content Public Address is only fourth on the list. The writers deserves a lot better.

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      • mawgxxxxiv says:

        Lance – the Tumeke ranking system is bullshit. It puts a lot of weight on comments, that favours blogs like Kiwiblog & The Standard that have a resident gang of trolling thugs who make a lot of short, pointless comments that add nothing to the discussion.

        From my experience at interest.co.nz I know that a lot of comments doesn’t equal a lot of views.

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    • Lance Wiggs says:

      I see that it did in fact change, to my RSS reading pleasure. Thanks Natalie!

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  7. James says:

    Ads in RSS feeds are basically worthless to publishers in my experience. One page view on a web site is generally worth more than 10 times as much.

    Thus, I have to side with Murdoch on this one, why should professionally written and edited content (which public address generally is as opposed to just stream of conscious blogging) be given away free or ad-free?

    If web publishers had to rely on income from just RSS feeds, most of the useful original content online would disappear or at least not be updated and kept current.

    Note I am distinguishing between content here and opinion which people (like me now!) will always be happy to give to anyone who cares.

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    • James – before you can make money out of advertising you need to get a decent number of page views. RSS feeds are one way of building readership.

      In my experience at interest.co.nz RSS feeds are a tiny fraction of the sources of traffic. The 2nd biggest source is Google search – the biggest source is direct traffic i.e. people who have bookmarked your site and check it regularly.

      The problems that Lance has outlined probably lead to many people who have found PA’s excellent via Google search not coming back due to frustration with it’s atrocious design.

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  8. Dave Sparks says:

    The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.

    If I remember correctly PA was built before the WP revolution, and the comments/threads were an addition to the original original build. I could be wrong, but there was not the expectation or support at that time for all this free infrastructure we grift off now ;). Not saying they weren’t around, just they weren’t pervasive.

    So why not shovel it all over to WP now? Hmm, cost of change would scare me. Even though WP is free, I wouldn’t want to lose the archives and momentum and the habits of a loyal user base. Those things aside I wouldn’t look at moving without a couple of weeks and some $000s to hand.

    As for the mutli-topic content style, and front page snippets, I believe there was a sense of homage to suck.com at play. That was the first best website ever, ever!

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  9. Speaking of usability Lance why don’t you ditch top posts from your sidebar and replace with recent comments. Far more useful to readers.

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  10. Dylan Bland says:

    The only reason I don’t read public address is because it’s too hard to read. I’m glad Lance wrote this post because it’s been on my mind for quite some time and I hope they fix it. I’m also the kind of guy who avoids books with tiny fonts and small pages for the same reason :) ps: Russell Brown rocks and I’ve always loved his work.

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  11. brenda says:

    RSS, while an awesome tool that probably a high percentage of the readers of this article use, is actually incredibly low in terms of users in general – less than 2% of web users use RSS.

    Also, I would propose that if the PA articles are too long for you to read in the time you have in your day then you’re not the target – or, you seriously need to look at how you spend your time. Good writing, interesting points, are always worth the time.

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  12. Don says:

    Lance, I agree that the writers “deserve” to be higher than 4th on the list. They are all a lovely read, even Craig :-)

    PA is split in two. The pure articles site and “system”. Once in system commenting and getting involved in the PA community is kind of addictive. I do like the way the articles with the most recent comment are ranked in PA system. It drives participants back to the threads and to respond to the responses (check out the now infamous “Copyright Must Change” thread http://publicaddress.net/system/topic,1494,speaker_copyright_must_change.sm.)

    But the transition between the two sites is not seamless and a little UI work would go a very long way.

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  13. From an interested party, thanks for the feedback. Dave Sparks is right on the money with his appraisal of the site’s history, established archive and so forth. I don’t think RB would mind me saying that things are in the works and that WordPress is not the answer.

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  14. Jason says:

    Lance,

    Good to raise these issues. It is actually getting much easier to migrate content than it was. Public Address (PAS) is actually a collection of multiple blogs rather than 1 blog with 10 posts on the front page.

    I should note that I’m a frequent visitor there and like PAS. I never even visit Ki$#blog and most of the other political blogs including the Standard because shouters of any persuasion are no fun.

    Some of them had zero budgets when they started which is why they were on blogger or similar platforms. They lose a fair amount of page ranking value by being there as a sub-domain which should be a reason to move.

    There is a huge amount of momentum and google juice / SEO to think about when switching platforms. CactusLab built the CMS for The Listener and PublicAddress pretty much at the same time.

    For a long time (several years?) PAS was sans comments. Search engines rank comments for weighting purposes. But comments were added later and re-factoring the code wasn’t an option at the time.

    Most s/w projects can do with a rethink on information architecture but remember some of the choices we have now and this doesn’t just apply to online.

    I always like Borland SE for special Edition less bloated software line. Something that 37 Signals with their simple is best approach agrees with.

    Have a look at your own sitemap lancewiggs.com/sitemap.xml to get an idea how that works.

    Public Address is a community with many regulars and I like reading there when I get a chance exactly for most of the reasons you seem to dislike.

    All of those comments tho help with page views and advertisers. PAS ad policy is a pretty restrained one. (S stands for System meaning comments & debate)

    What I do find a bit of a drag is trawling through several hundred comments to find the ones that are on the topic but at the same time there have been enormously important threads like the one on copyright.

    Although of course I can’t find that exact discussion which is one of the search issues.

    External comment systems like Disqus and Intense Debate have their place but just annoy me.

    Now I sometimes read Public Address precisely because I’m going to disagree with the bloggers and other contributors there but for the most part the wordflow is witty and brightens my day.

    I also like reading your blog for very similar reasons.

    From a technical viewpoint PAS could be migrated to WordPress but its a big project and budgets for time and $ need to be found.

    I say enjoy Public Address for what it is – not what it isn’t.

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  15. Hi Lance,

    I don’t know have time right now to reply in detail, but:

    – As others have noted, we predate the major blogging platforms, at least in their mature forms. This means time and money for upgrades. If we were starting today, it would be on WordPress, of course. But on the other hand, I quite like not looking like everyone else.

    – Public Address System has all the same content as “classic” PA, and then some, along with high-quality discussions. I’d like to integrate the two, but I’m not sure when I can do that.

    – Our posts have always been longer (and in general, better written) than most blog posts. It’s part of the culture of the place. They’ve also often had more than one topic. Is that really so traumatising? (It’s often actually fun to watch the interweave of the topics in subsequent discussions.)

    – There are two links from every discussion page to the original site. (“View original blog post” and “View Public Address Blogs”)

    – It’s publicaddress.net. It sounds nice when you say it (and .com wasn’t available). Are you seriously raising this as a reason why you don’t read the site?

    – Clipped RSS feeds are hardly unusual, and it’s very hard to sell advertising in feeds. I’d rather you came to my website.

    – Tumeke’s blog rankings are complete nonsense. I have a fair idea of the traffic of the major sites, and while Kiwiblog is still number one, we’re second and the gap has closed this year. But I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it in those terms. We did 100,000 page views in a week last month, and we’ll generally log between 4000 and 5000 user sessions per weekday.

    – Our audience is different too. We have far more women reading (and participating) than any of the other sites at the top of the Tumeke list. Many of the readers aren’t techie or even political. But Nielsen tells us they are high-earning (more so than Kiwiblog’s, on a par with NBR’s) and highly educated. The sense of community is very strong, and I devote a lot of pastoral attention to maintaining that.

    – We do some cool stuff. David Haywood built an app to export PA blogs into latex for books. His collection has done really well, and Jolisa Gracewood, Emma Hart and Graham Reid have books to follow. My Great New Zealand Argument book of prominent essays by New Zealanders almost all appeared online first (and is still available) free online. We host the only transcript of David Lange’s Oxford Union speech, plus a freely-available aydio recording of the speech, and a musical mash-up. I’ll often post MP3s from local artists (with permission). There’s a podcast based on our weekly Radio Live show.

    I would humbly submit that if you stay away from us because the buttons look funny to you, you’re missing out.

    Gawd, that was quite long, wasn’t it?

    Cheers,
    RB

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    • Paul Williams says:

      The sense of community is very strong, and I devote a lot of pastoral attention to maintaining that.

      Just to pick up on this one aspect of PAS appeal. There have been remarkably few ill-tempered or divisive discussions on PAS. The group of regulars may well share many similar views but their is tolerance and acceptance of alternatives, particularly those reasonably put (Craig occupies an important and valued position, he’s often got an alternative perspective and I’d say many thoroughly enjoy reading it). I read almost all of the content, all posts and all comments. Compare this with kiwiblog, I’ll read David’s posts but usually skip the comments except for those who’re inclined to make reasonable contributions (ok, I like to bait red too…).

      I think most of the regulars at PAS take significant care and pride in the community. Russell’s right to note the significant number of women who post their too. The PAS Womens’ XV is a fantastic team. Perhaps the format could be improved, but it hasn’t apeared to be an impediment to the development of a rich and rewarding community of readers and writers. I wonder if this aspect of PAS has been adequately understood by you Lance.

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  16. Jason says:

    What David, Matt, Russell have said. History is a fine thing.

    Lots of options but most of them were not around. WordPress just turned 6 but only got serious traction 3 years ago. Drupal & djangoproject could also be options but what ever the Site platform, architecture, SEO and usability they are all considerations.

    Melanie over on www2.mercedes-benz.co.nz is also very sweet and local

    infogridpacific uses Django and is partly NZ / global

    PAS even has its only cactus markup code / syntax / a bit like wikid pedia:) instead of “blockquote”

    “David Haywood built an app to export PA blogs into latex for books” is very cool also kinda fun

    The export / publish content to LaTEX is very sharp and some work has been done on WordPress side to get that cranking but one of 4000+ extensions and probably get it sorted sometime soon

    but plenty of other ways to go.

    Cu you all at wordcampnz.

    Like

  17. Actually that link isn’t to one post – but to a series of posts (I was referring to the one on 7 July) on the same topic. That’s just weird.

    No it’s not. The link leads directly to the post. There are several posts on the same page (not on the same topic, just posted on sucessive days). Again, your objection seems to be that it’s not exactly like WordPress.

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  18. Lance – the Tumeke ranking system is bullshit. It puts a lot of weight on comments, that favours blogs like Kiwiblog & The Standard that have a resident gang of trolling thugs who make a lot of short, pointless comments that add nothing to the discussion.

    Oh, we have plenty of comments — I’ve seen 300 for a single post in a day, some of them very substantial. The Tumeke rankings are wrong because they begin with the Alexa rankings (essentially a string of random numbers) and pour on various flavours of arbitrary special sauce.

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  19. Sam says:

    The one thing I find really frustrating with PA is how all the authors appear in the same RSS feed. Since I’m only interested in one or two of the writers,I’d like a specific feed for them so I could pick and choose.

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  20. The only reason I don’t read public address is because it’s too hard to read. I’m glad Lance wrote this post because it’s been on my mind for quite some time and I hope they fix it. I’m also the kind of guy who avoids books with tiny fonts and small pages for the same reason

    Are you referring specifically to text size Dylan? There’s a “change text size” panel on every page — left column of System, right column of PA. I always have mine set on maximum.

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  21. Bryan …

    Correct Craig, I don’t read them BUT other people might if they could access them easily.

    I really feel you’ve been unnecessarily pissy, especially here:

    It seems a classic left wing intellectual conflict; they want to be financially recognized for their cleverness without coming down and playing in the muck

    That’s just plain dickish.

    For the record, we’ve won the best blog category in the NetGuide awards in all but one year since it was created. That’s a public vote, so it would seem that ordinary folks have no trouble finding the content.

    And the best thing we’ve published all year (and maybe ever) is David Herkt’s brilliantly-realised story of suffering and recovering from a stroke, at 6000 words.

    If you don’t have the attention span for that, I hardly think it’s our problem.

    Righto, off to visit someone now …

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  22. @Russell

    “It seems a classic left wing intellectual conflict; they want to be financially recognized for their cleverness without coming down and playing in the muck

    That’s just plain dickish.”

    Yes but might there be some validity in it anyway in spite of it being dickish ?

    “If you don’t have the attention span for that, I hardly think it’s our problem.”

    Bit of a covertly phrased insult there mate.

    I think the most important points that Lance makes about PA aren’t to do with the length of the articles, they are to do with the design of the site. We have started putting a lot more formal focus into measuring how our readers interact with our site over at interest.co.nz.

    It has been interesting to observe how things we thought were important/useful to our readers aren’t. This is allowing us to modify the layout in such a way that improves ease of access for our readers.

    One thing to remember is that people generally have a set time available each day for internet access. You are competing for a slot of that time. The faster you can deliver content the more page impressions you can generate in that slot.

    To increase the speed you deliver content you need to have a fast web server, well optimised pages and a design that gets people to the content as quickly as possible.

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    • Paul Williams says:

      Bit of a covertly phrased insult there mate.

      I’ll help decode it Bryan. A blog doesn’t have to be exclusively comprised of the brief and superficial. It appears you’re critical of PAS because the posts can be long, complex and involve multiple ideas. Any defense of the legitimacy of that approach you declare leftwing intellectualism. What rot. It’s patently clear that there’s an audience for PAS; it’s loyal, diverse and enthusiastic.

      Wanting to understand why and how it works isn’t best achieved by comparing it with your preferred approach and noting the deficiencies. It’s strengths are the points of difference compared with other blogs and chief amongst them are the quality of writing.

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  23. “- Clipped RSS feeds are hardly unusual, and it’s very hard to sell advertising in feeds. I’d rather you came to my website.”

    Read Write Web offers full RSS feeds, perhaps the most successful blog ever to come out of this country.

    Offering clipped RSS feeds is purely motivated by fear that people are getting something for nothing. All you end up doing is pissing off the small percentage of people who use them. It’s plain unprofessional to offer clipped RSS feeds.

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  24. Bit of a covertly phrased insult there mate.

    Bryan, I don’t know what’s brought this on, or what your problem is, but your first contribution here was a pointless insult directed at my colleagues and me.

    I don’t really feel like having this sort of conversation on someone else’s blog. Or anywhere, really.

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  25. @Russell: fair enough. I was probably being a little naughty when I said it. That is however the rough and tumble of blogging: in fact a bit of blog biffo is good for business.

    I do think you might however do yourself a favour by considering some of Lance’s points. Reading through the comments from you and your colleagues it looks like you are fairly defensive in your response.

    Can I suggest that you have to be more open to feedback ? Lance has given me feedback about the blog that I manage a couple of times in the last few weeks. I may not always agree with it but I always consider it.

    The way that I look at it is that Lance is a highly successful, highly paid consultant who is offering me FREE advice. I would be a fool not to at the very least consider it.

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    • Paul Williams says:

      @Russell: fair enough. I was probably being a little naughty when I said it. That is however the rough and tumble of blogging: in fact a bit of blog biffo is good for business.

      Familiar with the concept of incommensurability Bryan? You just perfectly demonstrated it.

      You appear to understand PAS only in terms of what you aspire too. Can I suggest you not assume everyone shares your view. Actually, I’ll elaborate. I love a bit of biffo, it’s why I’ll visit blogs where that’s expected. However, the value of PAS is that biffo is uncommon and when it does occur it very polite and/or excruciatingly funny. Moreover, it’s not necessarily intended to change minds, rather clarify the difference of views.

      Like

  26. Can I suggest that you have to be more open to feedback ? Lance has given me feedback about the blog that I manage a couple of times in the last few weeks. I may not always agree with it but I always consider it.

    It might have been nice had you simply offered an observation in good faith, rather than kicking off with an unwarranted political snark, then proceeding to fuliminate about how “unprofessional” my website is.

    The fact is, there hasn’t been a demand for full RSS. Our advertising partners Scoop and Throng don’t do it, and neither do the newspaper sites. Salon, or a bunch of my favourite sites. I personally strongly prefer to read content of any length on the page itself. I don’t really need your first response being to scream about how “unprofessional” I am because I don’t act exactly like you.

    The way that I look at it is that Lance is a highly successful, highly paid consultant who is offering me FREE advice. I would be a fool not to at the very least consider it.

    Bryan, I’ve been writing Hard News since 1991. I’ve created a community of which I’m deeply proud with Pubic Address. When Lance says “there is an expectation” that I shouldn’t mention more than one topic at a time, I believe I’m entitled to think; uh, yeah, whose expectation would that be?

    I’m enjoying most of this as a robust debate. But it’s not a debate if I don’t get to disagree.

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  27. D’oh!!

    Meant to italicise the para beginning “The way I look at it …”

    Lance, could you do that for me? done Promise not to nag about your lack of an edit button ;-)

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  28. @Russell Isn’t there a danger when we having been doing something a long time that we become set in our ways ? or we think we know everything about an endeavor ?

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  29. Rod Drury says:

    Wow, this is an interesting discussion because I know and respect the participants – and there is conflict.

    Lance, when I read this I was thinking ‘ouch!’ but yeah.

    I don’t read public address much either (though I subscribe to the RSS) and it’s always slightly bothered me as I have so much respect for Russell and the rest of the Public Address gang. I’ve never really thought about it but now you have raised the issue I must unconsciously find PA just too hard to digest.

    If Public Address is too long for my web attention span then maybe I’ve been dumbed down so that I can only tolerate byte sized chunks of information.

    That does not mean that PA is wrong or bad, but the effort threshold is above what I can commit to – that does not mean there is a place for it and those that can stretch a restaurant meal out for 2 hours probably revel in it’s length.

    Are WordPress sites the fast food of blogging?

    So I found this an interesting post, as I learnt something out about my reading habits.

    Rod

    Like

  30. stuartm says:

    First, I just wanted to point out that WordPress is not just a blogging engine. It’s matured into a full-featured CMS – in fact, I’m sure the current Public Address site could be completely recreated in WordPress and it would look and feel exactly as it does today. A WordPress site doesn’t even need to have a blog, it can even be used to create a ‘static’ website with regular-looking home|products|services|about|contact tabs.

    My biggest complaint with Public Address is the clipped RSS feed. I don’t subscribe to any sites that clip RSS feeds, and because of that I hardly ever visit Public Address.

    I’m willing to bet a cold beer that Public Address’s traffic would actually increase over the long term if they published full RSS feeds. The articles that I have read have all been thoughtful and well-written (esp. David Slack’s articles) and I would definitely engage with the site more if I could read the articles in my RSS reader first.

    Have some faith Russell – if you publish it, they will come….

    Like

  31. Alex Fala says:

    Lance,

    Couldn’t agree with you more, especially re points 9 and 3 (in that order). I subscribe to PA but rarely read it (currently 31 unread posts) because I never see anything of interest in the tiny snippets that come through. This isn’t a case of short attention span or wanting to read McBlogs. Its that I want to spend the time I have reading interesting content, rather than finding it (isn’t that the whole point of the RSS reader?).

    Alex

    Like

  32. Dylan says:

    @Russell. Yes I was referring to the text size. Didn’t notice the “up size” option but that is something I’d use! I’m sure you have reasons for making the default so small…but I wonder if your site might be more enjoyable to read if it were a bit bigger? I think people prefer to read larger fonts. Do you track how many people (say, long-time readers) move away from the default size? Anyway, this is just nit-picking. The fact you have so many readers and this post has attracted so many comments proves you’re clearly doing something right! Keep up the good work :)

    Like

  33. First, I just wanted to point out that WordPress is not just a blogging engine. It’s matured into a full-featured CMS – in fact, I’m sure the current Public Address site could be completely recreated in WordPress and it would look and feel exactly as it does today.

    I guess so. I could also integrate PA and PAS in a way that would answer some of Lance’s issues. But that would require time (mine and the developers) and money. Would it be justified when we already have a CMS?

    As it is, we have our nice, simple wikicode — so people who wouldn’t know HTML if it bit them on the ass can do blockquotes and links. That’s a really good thing. And it’s (almost) impossible to break.

    But guess what? I actually listen to my readers about what they want. The forums upgrade that’s coming (isn’t it, Matt?) adds features they want, and which make it easier for me to manage discussions.

    I could spend money integrating PA and PAS — and I will at some point — but no one has asked for it. So it’s not a priority right now.

    Some of Lance’s other criticisms were a bit hard to understand. There are four links back to PA from every PAS page. The link he thought was “weird” actually worked fine. And having been writing my blog long, long before there were blogs, I’m going to pay precisely zero attention to an “expectation” that I should never mention one topic at a time.

    Couldn’t agree with you more, especially re points 9 and 3 (in that order). I subscribe to PA but rarely read it (currently 31 unread posts) because I never see anything of interest in the tiny snippets that come through. This isn’t a case of short attention span or wanting to read McBlogs. Its that I want to spend the time I have reading interesting content, rather than finding it (isn’t that the whole point of the RSS reader?).

    And if you want to spend your whole day in your RSS reader rather than becoming part of a reader community, fine.

    But I would point out that there’s more to it than the kind of technological determinism I’m seeing here. If all you want is 150-word drive-bys for your feed-reader, you’re probably not going to get that with us.

    And there’s more to it than software. I spend hours every day in our forums, contributing, managing, moderating. I’ll occasionally sort out disputes by email. I try not to ban people. We give stuff away, I stage sponsored real-world events, we media-sponsor other people’s conferences — all in pursuit of community.

    Anyway, I’ll look at full feeds in the next couple of days, as an option. Because if I simply switched to full articles, I would be deluged with people complaining that the feeds were unusable because some of the articles were too long …

    Like

  34. Sigh …

    this should have been in itals:

    Couldn’t agree with you more, especially re points 9 and 3 (in that order). I subscribe to PA but rarely read it (currently 31 unread posts) because I never see anything of interest in the tiny snippets that come through. This isn’t a case of short attention span or wanting to read McBlogs. Its that I want to spend the time I have reading interesting content, rather than finding it (isn’t that the whole point of the RSS reader?).

    If Matt gets me my edit button before you get one, do I have bragging rights?

    Like

    • WP Ajax Edit Comments (for WP 2.5+) allows users and admins to edit comments on a post. Users can edit their own comments for a limited time, while admins can edit all comments. http://bit.ly/SUhm1

      This is what we use at interest.co.nz. Took me less than 5 minutes to find, download & install.

      Like

    • Lance Wiggs says:

      updated the italics. Sadly as I am on WordPress.com I can’t add the edit your own post plug-in. Happily I don’t have to think about servers, upgrades or pretty much anything but writing.

      Like

  35. Ooh. Thanks Lance. Matt’s now been moved to do a draft design for a new, more integrated homepage. Not the same thing as actually having one of course, and the forum upgrade comes first, but, yay …

    Like

  36. Bill says:

    Very interesting debate.

    How many readers of PA know what an RSS reader is, let alone use one?

    It is too easy for us in the tech industry to forget the lack of technical know-how of most of our customers/readers.

    Rowan Simpson eludes to that with his recent post featuring the Google “What is a browser?” question. If your readers can’t even distinguish between a browser, the OS, and a search engine, how many of them will use RSS?

    Russell, in my opinion you would be better off fixing the abysmal SEO on the site :) You only have limited time and resources, so focus on what will bring you the biggest return. Having said that, when you do have time, allowing users that do subscribe to your RSS feed to have the option of a full feed would be a “nice to have” feature.

    Like

  37. brenda says:

    As I said earlier – RSS is great if you have it and use it, however as Bill outlines above, it’s pretty low down on the list of ‘things readers use’.

    To illustrate, NZ On Screen has 1-2% of its audience using RSS. Due to the nature of our content we can’t exactly publish full context, but from what we publish we have maybe 1-2 click-throughs a day. This is in the context of 500-1500 UBs. I would say that’s not really worth paying too much attention to at this moment in time.

    Like

  38. Lance Wiggs says:

    On the other hand the stats for this site signal in the other direction, with a third of readers of this particular post (190/594) coming from RSS feeds. That’s interesting given the make-up of the audience that this post attracted.

    There were another 300-500 readers each day that visited the homepage – the stats per post only show those people that click on the post itself.

    However you look at it the RSS feeds deliver a substantial proportion of readers to this site.

    The more technology focused sites have an even greater percentage of RSS readers (I’ve heard of over 50%), while those sites without an RSS stream that is the same as their site will miss out on an important, and growing, segment of readers.

    Like

  39. elliot says:

    Common theme – people do what it takes to get to good content… just look at amazon, its a shambles, but no one cares because the content is king.

    So PA, good on you for good content.

    But I agree its to long for web. Like way to long.

    I also agree the site layout is odd, hence why im not a reader listening to Russell on bfm is much easier.

    And I totally agree worpdress rules.

    Like

  40. There are ways to workaround the lack of a full content feeds for individuals authors:

    http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.info?_id=1707a190fd6034b360f90bce3c56c943

    ;)

    Like

  41. Russell, in my opinion you would be better off fixing the abysmal SEO on the site :) You only have limited time and resources, so focus on what will bring you the biggest return.

    That’s another one to add to the list. But I think it’s important to note that my “greatest return” might not necessarily be a financial one. There are cultural dimensions to the whole thing too: not every decision is made in the interests of maximising revenue or even traffic.

    That’s why I spend so much time in our forums. (As impressive as Bernard’s or DPF’s workrate is, most days I’ll write more in discussions than they write in actual posts.) That’s why I’ll feature something like David Herkt’s essay, at any length he needed to say what he had to say — it won’t help you run your business better, but it might nourish your soul.

    But I am grateful that this discussion has helped me focus on things to do next. The site especially (PA “classic”, which is in its seventh year) does need a refresh, and I hope we can get that done in the next few months. It just isn’t going to stop being slightly different.

    Like

  42. SPT says:

    I read Public Address *because* it has longish and interesting articles. I have never found it hard to navigate although I am sure improvements can always be made. Clipping on RSS feeds doesn’t bother me (either it interests me enough to click through or not). The link button thingies have always looked self explanatory to me. Personally, I prefer comments being elsewhere – much to easy to get distracted by them otherwise. But what would I know – I am just a housewife who spends too much time lurking on the net.

    Like

  43. Rachel says:

    Great discussion here.

    Agree with Paul “the value of PAS is that biffo is uncommon and when it does occur it very polite and/or excruciatingly funny.”

    I think one person’s biffo is another’s trolls.

    Public Address has a higher female readership for a reason.

    There has been discussion elsewhere (Scienceblogs – maybe Sciencwomen or Isis) about women in the blogosphere attracting trolls. I think a study found that people with usernames that are sterotypically female get more abuse than those who are male or neutral.

    Russell has created a site where we can have debates and discussions without being pointlessly argumentative (or where abuse stands in for wit). I for one, appreciate the community feel, the humour, and general all round levels of respect – due to Russell telling people to play nice when needed, and the fact we’re encouraged to use our real names.

    Like

  44. Sandra says:

    Oh dear, sometimes I do feel terribly old.

    I’m one of Russell’s female readers of a certain age … who prints out the blogs I’m interested in! So old-fashioned I know, but it means I can print a swag at once and then sit next to my husband and pass the pages across as I finish (I’m the faster reader).
    Yep, I still like newspapers too, partly because I can fold them into the shape I want and carry them round with me, or easily flick back and forward to find an article or to compare articles/pictures.
    The debate about the brave new world of a blog like this or a blog like that forgets about people like me, who are kind of into new technology (love email, have no Facebook site; participate in a discussion group, but wonder why people blog about themselves), yet still enjoy good writing – and that’s what Public Address offers. Good writing, that’s generally properly spelled and correctly punctuated.
    Oh dear, even more old fashioned …

    Like

  45. Ben Wilson says:

    Only one of the reasons given for disliking PA is compelling. So you don’t like some of the way the site works? Welcome to the World Wide Web, it’s been unstandardized since the year dot. So you don’t like the multiple topics? Then only talk about one topic.

    It’s too hard? That one I can agree with – you do have to actually think when you go there, and abuse is not tolerated. I’ve stopped posting, but only because I actually feel I’m not worthy, that it’s a place for people who take discussion seriously, and these days I don’t have the patience.

    Like

  46. Sandra says:

    3.The articles often contain more than one topic – this one contains about 4 different thought streams. That may work for an email newsletter, but in a blog (or indeed a newspaper) the expectation is one story per story.

    Although ham-strung by my seeming old-fashionedness (see above), even I know that there’s no template for blogs to adhere to. Why can’t they be “an email newsletter” if that’s what the author and readers want? Surely bloggers do what they do and it’s up to site visitors to either keep coming back or stay away.

    I don’t share Russell’s taste in music so I just skip those bits and read the parts that interest me. Outrageous, isn’t it?

    And I thought the whole point of blogs was exactly that they weren’t newspapers! You can’t have it all ways, Lance.

    Like

  47. Mike says:

    I guess I’m late to comment on this, but I’m surprised at the preference for .com and .co.nz. The only reason .com and .co.nz might even seem normal is because so many people mis-use them compared with their original purpose that it’s become generic.

    If that’s your standard, then 95% of the blogs in New Zealand should be .gen.nz or (perhaps these days) .geek.nz.

    Like

  48. R Singers says:

    Using your own domain name with Blogger is trivial to configure. I currently have several blogs using domian names I own. The blogger side of it took less than the time it took to configure the cnames on the DNS hoster.

    Your comment about the .net domain name is also peculular. .net is the appropriate TLD for Public Address. It’s not a company (com or co), non-profit organisation (org), government (gov or govt), military (mil), or educational organisation (edu).

    I certainly agree about the munted RSS feed and the fact that you have to set the site to maximum text size to even make it readable.

    But then again you only have to look at RB’s reply to you here.

    “And if you want to spend your whole day in your RSS reader rather than becoming part of a reader community, fine.”

    PA isn’t a normal blog. It’s Russell’s platform for “people like us”. If you’re not a person like Russell then you don’t much more than the munted RSS feed to see if there is anything of interest.

    And frankly beyond Emma Hart’s stirling posts and the odd time that Damien Christie remembers he’s just a boy from Upper Hutt the major problem with the site isn’t the design but the level of hubris. A long time ago Russell was a decent journalist; blogging seems to have been his downfall.

    Like

  49. richard says:

    I think your point about use of .net domains is a bit weird. Let’s face it the whole name thing is broken. There’s no technical reason we can’t have a million TLD’s and in a sane world we would – the problem is too many people have got too much money invested in the current structure. Use what TLD you can find your domain name of choice I say.

    ps – your link to No Right Turn is broken.

    Like

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