I feel I should subtitle this post 'Picking mange-tout by moonlight' as I was about to go out and do the watering at 7 O'Clock this evening when I decided to sit down and look at Michele Martin's challenge to her reader to join in a 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge. Four hours and a lot of learning about this blog later, I finally made it out onto the balcony, where I also learned that harvesting the day's crop of salad and beans by night is none-too-easy.
Anyway – onto the challenge. Every day over August, Darren Rowse is posting a suggestion for building a better blog. Michele has challenged reader of the Bamboo Project Blog to join her in taking on the suggestions and documenting their learning. I'm rather late in coming to the challenge, and I'll probably be address it in fits-and-starts rather than as a daily regimine (August is turning into one of those months…) – but I'm hoping to work through as many of the tasks as I can to build this into a better blog by the end of the summer.
So far I've started with Day 4 and 5, interlinking archived posts and conducting an 'about page' audit. In the process, I've discovered that quite a few areas of this blog were a bit broken. Commenting hasn't been working as it should (I spotted some problems last week, but the fix seemed to have started torrential spam, so I've added in a CAPTCHA to blog comment spam…), and quite a few stray menus were roaming around the place. The design also needed quite a lot of work to get things looking properly personalised and more blog-like.
I've realised rarely look at my blog as a reader would. I'm either logged in as an administrator user in the Drupal installation that runs it, so I have permission to do anything and see everything – even if things are hidden for straight blog visitors or I'm writing content on the train offline with BlogDesk and posting it direct without ever visiting the site. I also rarely look at other blogs directly – always reading content through Google Reader. So, I've resolved that I need to be checking the front page of this blog a bit more (hopefully as comments start working, I'll have more reason to in order to keep track of them), and I've subscribed to the RSS feeds from the blog in all possible different ways to check that they are actually working and displaying as they should…
I've rewritten the about page (with many thanks to Michele for a good template to learn from), and have updated the menu's to link to it more directly. And, after much searching through photo archives and settling on some shots from our recent trip to Iona, I've spruced the whole place up to be a bit more graphical. Feedback is most welcome.
For interlinking archived posts, I've take advantage of the very handy Similar Entries module for Drupal which uses text-search to try and match three similar posts on every archived item on the blog. I'll review how well its doing in a couple of days – but so far it seems to be making good suggestions. I've not got all that much archived content yet – but I'll be keeping an eye on old posts that could do with manual links to newer ones.
So – tomorrow I'm going to tackle the trickier stuff – finding out what a new reader really thinks of 'Tim's Blog'…