On the Eve of #LeagueFest 2012

So the time has finally come. A dozen or so Gentlemen and spouses will be converging upon the City of Sin in the next 24 hours or so. Some of the more intrepid among us are already there.

I’m looking forward to some time off – something I almost never take – and to meeting everybody. It’s long overdue.

Of course, not everyone can make it and certainly not every reader can make it. So now seems as good a time as any to discuss the site itself, how everyone is feeling about the direction the site has taken. In particular, I want to know how everyone feels about the sub-blogs. Are they working? Is there anything we can do to make them better/more useful?

Anyways, consider this an open thread.

 

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195 thoughts on “On the Eve of #LeagueFest 2012

  1. I wish I could have made it. Someone drink a Bloody Mary and a shot of Guinness for me.

    As for the sub-blogs, I will just re-post what I have said in other forums recently. It becomes a nuisance to click away from the main site or to have eleven different sites to monitor via my Google Reader account. The sub-blogs made sense when the League was more politically-oriented but I think great work has been done in the last year to change that (I don’t think it was a conscious decision on anyone’s part – it just happened). Whereas a year ago Tod’s awesome second date story might have seemed out-of-place or off-topic from the theme of the main site, now it seems totally natural. In my opinion, there’s very little being posted on the sub-blogs that would not be appropriate for the front page. And if there’s any doubt, make it an off-the-cuff post. If I was the decider, I would kill all of those sites and bring the content to the front page where it belongs.

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  2. I don’t want to give up Tom’s and my sub-blog, but I don’t have a particularly good response to Mike’s well-taken points. I’m conservative in all things, perhaps.

    Well, maybe I can think of a couple rebuttals:

    I prefer the idea that the main site be limited to a half-dozen or so more thoughtful pieces. I’ve never understood the delineation between an Off the Cuff post and a sub-blog post.

    Also, I know that I sometimes will not have the time to read and respond to the volume of comments a post will likely get on the main page versus the sub-blog. And sometimes I just prefer to post things among closer company for whatever other reasons.

    Like Mike, the many sub-blogs become impossible for me to follow. I won’t click on them each every day, and it becomes unwieldy to manage in a reader. I remember there was talk a while back about a master RSS feed. Is that still a possibility?

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  3. I’m hoping there will be more League Fest’s so i can attend one. I think the LOOG, in general, is as good as its ever been and moving in a good direction. I like that the sub blogs are moving in various directions and not just the same political discussions. They have made the site much richer. The sub blogs have a lot of great content but i’m not sure the layout is working that well to track all the subs and the good content they have. Of course people reflexive hate any site redesign and complain about it….so there you go. I don’t think there is a need for the front page, off the cuff and sub blogs. That seems one section to much. Off the cuff should sleep with the fishes.

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  4. I guess I’ll just be the token guy to speak up in defense of Off-the-Cuff. I know that I only use it sporadically, but I do like knowing that there’s a bit of a sidebar where I can link to something interesting, but without needing to offer much, if any comment on it — and also without cluttering up the main section of the front page. I’ve always thought of it as a place to point people to something interesting, without needing to engage it.

    I agree that the sub-blogs are a but unwieldy — and must confess to not having all of them in my Reader feed. (I try to keep the clutter there down, so I can navigate the clutter that remains a bit more easily.) From the ones that aren’t included, I found that what I read was primarily what was cross-posted to the front page anyway. I don’t quite know how much say I have, as a non-sub-blog-holder (THAT much blogging? Oy…) but I do like the concept of them. And if the sub-bloggers still like having their own little niches, then maybe this entails some sort of practical solution rather than just jettisoning them?

    As for the overall direction of the site, I’m pleased. What I’ve always liked best about the League is its ability to surprise me — with content, with perspective, with whatever. There was a point, I’ll confess, where it seemed to have lost much of this quality — but over the last 6-12 months, it’s done this better than it ever has. (At least to me.)

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    • I’ve frontpaged mebbe 3 times in my tenure here; Cuffed mebbe 15. I enjoy the exchange of comments more than monographs and manifestoes.

      Tim’s & my subblog Dutch Courage is sort of an inside joke: Reagan’s nickname was Dutch, and Dutch Courage is getting a load on and getting the nerve up to speak the hard-to-say truths. As it turns out, Eddie Van Halen’s dad used to get him likkered up to play a gig, so I’ve been wondering if we should go with EVH as our patron saint instead, as a more universally beloved figure than RR. ;-)

      But like Tim, the sub-blog has been useful for me to get into slightly more boring stuff on the philosophy of morality, and the handful of discussers who wend their way down into the bowels of the LoOG tend to be the type who sustain rather than disrupt what’s admittedly rather dry stuff.

      Productive discussion becomes more possible and frequent. So structurally, the sub-blog’s semi-obscurity works great, form meets function.

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  5. FWIW, if my sub-blog were to go, I would post much, much less. I would be very reluctant to clutter up the main page with the stuff I write daily, and would only post when I had something I thought was truly general-interest.

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        • I was more referring to the fact that, historically speaking, when a relatively prolific blogger would surrender his/her personal blog to start blogging at the League more or less full-time, they had a tendency to either: (a) suddenly write an awful lot less than they used to write, or (b)get rapidly uncomfortable with the feedback they got, to the point where they’d resign.

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          • I definitely write way less but I actually love that. I put waaaay more thought into my posts (whether or not that is reflected in my writing is subject to opinion) because I don’t feel like a slave to traffic. I like not feeling that pressure to write daily. For those of us not named Kain, blogging is a hobby and it is always beholden to the rest of my life.

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          • I’ll echo Mike’s point. I write a lot less than I used to when I was primarily blogging at my other site (still active but with contributions from me few and far between), but this is more to do with forces having nothing to do with the League. And, I put more time into my League posts because the greater readership means more scrutiny.

            I sort of occupy the center here I think, so I hardly ever feel uncomfortable with any feedback I get, unless it’s crickets, which has definitely happened more often than not with my more esoteric or obscure stuff. Unlike some of the contributors who’ve left, however, I’d prefer if commenters challenged me more often. I’m a big boy, and the probability that I’m just going to take my ball and go home because of pushback is nil. Nor can I really sympathize with bloggers who want the League commentariat to be an echo chamber.

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            • I’d rather have insightful blogging from someone who doesn’t want negative feedback in his comments than have a vocal comment section on fewer and less interesting ideas.

              I came to this site with the Positive Liberty merger. Shortly after, a few of the PL guys left, at least partly because they weren’t used to having mostly non-libertarians in the comment section. I think they were wrong to not engage their less receptive audiences head on, but I’d rather have kept on thinking they were wrong as they posted in subblogs than have watched them go.

              Also, more than anything else, it’s the sheer number of comments that get to me sometimes. When I get home from work at night and see a 200+ comment post, I’m less likely to read the comments, and less likely to add my own. It’s nice to have spaces that are a bit quieter.

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              • “When I get home from work at night and see a 200+ comment post, I’m less likely to read the comments, and less likely to add my own. “

                Amen to that. Usually if there’s more than 50 comments, I might read through but I rarely jump in. It’s the price of a healthy readership though. I’d rather deal with that than come home and have two comments on a blog post, one of which was my mother.

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              • a few of the PL guys left, at least partly because they weren’t used to having mostly non-libertarians in the comment section. I think they were wrong to not engage their less receptive audiences head on,

                As the guy responsible for that, I agree with you.

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    • I would also be reluctant to post as frequently on the front page, especially because my interests are so idiosyncratic (aesthetics, special needs parenting, bioethics, etc.). I am interested in politics, but there are people who are real specialists here and I don’t need to tread on their toes. My blog posts are also a leisure activity, and are never as well thought out as I’d like them to be.

      Although it’s certainly not the case that it’s a cozy little it’s-all-in-the-family experience at Blinded Trials. I’ve had far nastier comments on the sub-blog than the main page. I also generally get more comments on the sub-blog than the main page.

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  6. Well, for those of us unable to make it to Vegas, I suppose now is as good a time as any to start talking about Leaguefest: East and/or Leaguefest Midwest.

    Sometime in September would seem to be a good initial target. As for the locale, things are a bit trickier, though NYC or DC would seem to be the obvious choices.

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  7. What about the idea of having a few tabs here on the main site? I’m spitballing here but I’m thinking something like :

    – Politics and Policy
    – Off the Cuff (quick posts, links to other sites, jukebox, etc)
    – Kitchen Sink (everything else)

    That creates three reader fees instead of 12. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but I follow the Pioneer Woman’s cooking blog. She divides her site up by subject-specific pages. I have just the cooking page in my reader so I don’t get bogged down with her tails of ranch life and homeschooling her kids. It works for me.

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    • That’s a good idea.

      I like the sub-blogs, but it’s mechanically painful to check them all. It would be nice if there was a way of consolidating the most recent posts from the sub-blogs onto a single page for review and browsing, aside from the LoOG front page. And an “Off-the-Cuff” section of fun stuff, trivia, and recommended reads would invite a wider community.

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  8. Have a good time, Erik.

    I (obviously) like the sub-blogs, but I take Mike D’s points. I also very much like ‘Off the Cuff’, but Greg makes a solid point that maybe of the front page, OtC and the sub-blogs, one has to go (and not the front page, obviously). I would be ok with the loss of my beloved little corner, if it’d be the best thing for the site, but I’d vote against losing the sub-blogs and Off the Cuff.

    I think, overall, the site is going well. I have been skeptical of some of the changes in the past (like, actually, the sub-blogs), but things have tended to work out. So, I trust the judgement of the leading Gentlemen.

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    • I always defer to Erik and Mark’s judgement since they are OG Gentlemen. Some of the arguments people have made about not wanting to pollute the main site with their musings, etc now makes me feel like I have been a *ahem* polluter. Still though, I think for me I would rather see more content than less and with the sub-blogs I feel like I’m missing out on something.

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      • I wasn’t fishing for compliments but thanks none-the-less guys. I guess at the end of the day my whole thing is that I am a serious League zealot. I have loved this site since the day I discovered it and for me there is no place else I would rather blog. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE seeing my name on the front page. For an amateur blogger it feels like this is the brass ring. If i am being honest it’s hard to get my head around the thought of having a sub-blog when you have front page privelages. But these comments have certainly shown me that some of the contributors here probably feel the same way about their sub-blogs, so to each his own.

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        • Mike:

          1. “Some of the arguments people have made about not wanting to pollute the main site with their musings, etc now makes me feel like I have been a *ahem* polluter.” No way, dude. No way. Your posts are among my faves, especially the ones that are more personal essays.

          2. “I have loved this site since the day I discovered it and for me there is no place else I would rather blog. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE seeing my name on the front page. For an amateur blogger it feels like this is the brass ring” +1, many times over.

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        • I certainly don’t think you’re a polluter! Nor am I saying I am :). It’s that some of my posts are on topics that are more orthogonal to what I gather FP readers are looking for. This is mainly a political blog, and I only hit those issues tangentially.

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  9. I like the sub-blogs; in particular I think the character of Mindless Diversions makes it decidedly different from the front page. Not that we’ve ever had to strictly enforce the “no politics! no religion!” rule (except once, really).

    As a matter of taste, I would say that posts that go in both places should be open for comments here at the FP and closed for comments at the sub-blog, but that’s a matter of taste; people who follow the front-page but not the sub-blogs don’t necessarily want to subscribe to comments everywhere. I do think that when it comes to “both places” posts, we should all do them the same way, though.

    Actually, on meta-posts like this one, we always seem to talk about the same stuff and it’s always the same regulars.

    What we really need is better feedback from the silent readers. Not sure what to do about that one, though.

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    • “What we really need is better feedback from the silent readers. Not sure what to do about that one, though.”

      As an ancillary thought, is there a way to track traffic via feed readers? Is the assumption that the ratio of reader traffic vs. click-to traffic 1:1 or is it different? Someone told me that they double their traffic number to get an accurate idea of how many total reads they are getting. I don’t know if feed readers facilitate sub-blogs or make them more cumbersome.

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    • “we always seem to talk about the same stuff and it’s always the same regulars.”
      There is definitely a feeling that many discussions have happened multiple times. I’ve had a many discussion deja vu’s where i feel like i’ve read the thread before. that is usually because i have had that discussion multiple times. Most often those are about politics or libertarianism vs. liberalism.

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    • As a (mostly) silent reader – I follow a few of the subblogs steadily, whereas my reading of the main page tends to be a lot more haphazard and infrequent (and is often a result of browsing over from one of the sub-blogs). This is even more the case when I get more busy and have less net time. I really like it that you have sub-blogs (or at least I really like those subblogs I read most often :) ), and I think I would read less OG stuff altogether without them – they draw me in.

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  10. I think off the cuff could move to the front page but with a special heading or tag as an off the cuff post. Busy blogs with significant front page posts can still have short notes or “here look at this weird thing” posts mixed in one section. That would free up more space for the sub blogs, which i think most of us right thinking people agree are rockin.

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  11. As a reader, I like the sub-blogs, because they allow me to filter. I rarely go over to Dutch Courage or Kyle’s stuff, just because they’re not really my cup of tea. Different strokes and folks and all. If I came to the FP and it had 20 posts a day, 1/3 to 1/2 of which I had little to no interest in, it’d take from the experience. As it stands, I can go to those places if interested and pretend they don’t exist if not.

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  12. I love my sub-blog. When I was invited to join the League, it was first and foremost an invitation to move my personal blog to the League and turn it into a sub-blog. Joining the League has been a fantastic experience that I value greatly, and Jubilee is a big part of the reason why.

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    • Everything Elias said, mutatis mutandis

      I love my sub-blog. When I was invited to join the League, it was first and foremost an invitation to move my personal blog to the League and turn it into a sub-blog. Joining the League has been a fantastic experience that I value greatly, and Jubilee Not A Potted Plant is a big part of the reason why.

      …plus this:

      I love posting on the front page too, even if I’ve never articulated or adhered to formal rules for when I do a front page post versus one on the sub-blog.

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    • Elias, now that you (obliquely) brought it up, can you explain your reasoning for putting your posts on the front page but only allowing the discussion in Jubilee? The posts certainly seem front-page worthy, but I rarely delve into the sublogs because they are like youtube, I find myself trapped there for seemingly days on end.

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    • I echo what Elias says. I haven’t had this much fun blogging…well, ever. My productivity has increased tremendously. The League community has been wonderful, and I seem to have retained my old readers. I’ve also had my ideas challenged from a wider variety of viewpoints, which I appreciate immensely. So, personally, I’m against getting rid of the sub-blogs.

      More importantly, however, it would be a shame to lose the distinctive character of Blinded Trials (the space-awesomest place in the ‘sphere), Mindless Diversions, Not a Potted Plant, and all the other excellent sub-blogs. Each of these brings something unique to the League itself and make the site something of a neighborhood or city square instead of just a single locale.

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  13. One thing we need to do again is the “Everybody write about this!” kinda thing. I think the last time we did this was the 9/11 essays.

    5-10 of us all writing an essay on the same subject? That’s something that shouldn’t be done *ALL* the time but should certainly be done more often than we’ve done it.

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  14. I can’t follow all of the suggestions, but I will say this- I’ve been spending a lot of time in the library lately and, when I take breaks from my “serious” work, I read old 70s issues of the New Yorker, from back when Pauline Kael did the movie reviews and George W.S. Trow wrote the Talk of the Town pieces. I’m convinced that *that’s* where the site should go- that general tone, tenor, and prose style. I think we can get there. If anyone has no idea what I’m saying, please go read that magazine in the 70s and early 80s.

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      • I guess it doesn’t really matter, but that Kael story’s always retold incorrectly. She was commenting, somewhat ironically, on the political cocooning of New Yorkers and, as an example of that, she said she didn’t personally know anyone who had voted for Nixon but had a vague sense of them being out there when she was at the movies. She was not expressing shock and disbelief that Nixon could have won, which is how the dumb-fishing-liberal-said-dumb-fishing-liberal-thing version of that story always has it.

        Not that it matters to the people who tell that story either, but Kael was one of the most lucid, intelligent, engaging, and, most importantly, critical writers on movies, and art in general of that era. I disagree with about 50% of her writing, but it’s impossible to read her writings on film and not be dismayed at the school of trite well-this-thing-happened-and-then-this-other-thing-happened school of film “criticism” that wastes pixels and ink now.

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        • Pauline Kael is the entire reason I started reading the New Yorker. I often disagreed with her, but she was one of the most passionate and lively writers in the culture, and she taught me to see many things that I would have otherwise missed.

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        • 90% of the articles on film I run across there days aren’t even plot summaries; they talk about how much money various movies made. Apparently John Carter was an abject failure, but it might redeem itself in the home video market.

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  15. Oh and i should have mentioned that adding FP’s from outside the US (and Canada) is great. That brings fresh perspectives and good voices. Few blogs have that, which is another big plus for the LOOG.

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  16. I’ve already said a bunch of this behind the scenes, but I’ll weigh in here in public. I am OK with getting rid of Off the Cuff if we are going to make more sweeping changes, but if not I like there being a place for the one paragraph tosser.

    As for the subs, I think it would be unwise to get rid of them, for a number of reasons:

    1. The subs all have their own distinct personality and culture. Rose & the Doc (which would have been a great 70s cop show name, btw) have made Blinded Trials one of the best places for writing on the inter tubes, but I’m not sure soothing special isn’t lost if they’re just absorbed. Double goes for Mindless Diversions, the entire point of which is to be a welcome change of pace form the FP grumbling.

    2. I am pretty sure they increase readership, especially as they all grow their own dedicated readers. And I think that helps everyone. Every now and then I even see CK Mc’C or Miss Mary over here, even though they are sub regulars.

    3. As I just figured out as we were making email lists, we now have 32 regular writers here, plus all the guest posts. The subs keep everything more spread out, which I think helps with ongoing conversations.

    4. Subjectively, I think the subs just make the site better and more interesting. Though it would be nice to here from those that are regular commenters on this score.

    That being said, I doing use Reader like Mike and others do, so I don’t know how much of a pain it is on those fronts. I just use the regular internet, where a link’s a link.

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  17. I really, really love the subs and I’d be really disappointed if they went away. I could see a re-arrangement or something but I can’t see MD, NaPP, BT or JiA’s character surviving if they got fully assimilated to the main page.

    (On a side note to Rose and the Doc: I finally got Mrs. P reading BT regularly – I doubt she’ll ever comment but she loves it).

    The main site is already really, really busy to me as it is, by the time I can get to forming thoughts for comments, often there are 200 comments and 10 conversations going that I give up more often than not.
    Moving even more posts in would make it harder to follow even as a person who stops by 2-3 times a day – I’m not sure what anyone thinks that only stops by a couple of times a week.

    Now I could see working in a change to make the sub-blog posts more prominent to the main site visitors as a very good thing.

    Regarding League-fest – I’d suggest to take it one at a time. I know some of us bandied about the idea of a Wisconsin-based event given the group with strong ties to the state, but I know I’d try to make one anywhere in the East Coast or Midwest. I was very disappointed the timing didn’t work out this time.

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  18. I’ll read just about everything, main-page or subblog, so the distinction isn’t that important to me.

    But I really wish that you’d switch something around so that the sub-blog conversations didn’t drop out of the sidebar so fast. It’s to easy to miss something cool in a side-blog. Erik, this is especially true when the sidebar fills up with your Forbes posts, most of which seem like they belong in off-the-cuff more than in the sideblog roll.

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  19. Circling back around to the OP – it sounds to me that the majority of the contributors want to keep the sub-blogs. Regarding whether or not they create confusion I am going to point a few web-savvy friends towards the site over the weekend to hear what their impressions are. I would encourage others to do the same.

    It seems like there is some momentum behind killing Off-the-Cuff.

    As a matter of preference I will also just throw out that I think we could remove the middle column on the front page. Does anyone really follow the ‘Gift of Gab’ section to see new comments? I think that would clean things up a bit.

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  20. My twenty cents (inflation, it’s a killer):

    I don’t get the Off the Cuff section. Never have. There’s nothing wrong with brief off-beat posts on the front page.

    Kill the sub-blogs and you kill the League. I’m dead serious about that. Here’s what will happen. There’ll be too many posts on the front page for people to bother scrolling through. The congestion will cause a lot of League posters to quit posting, or to drastically scale back their posting, but there’ll still be too many front page posts. The quality content of those posters will disappear, and the quality posts that remain will be too congested to want to bother with.

    Don’t make any substantive changes unless you have a really clear idea of what your end goal is and just how that change will get you there. The blog’s setup is really damned good as it is. Don’t let the best become the enemy of the good–there is no perfect structure, as all structures have drawbacks to weigh against their advantages. If you’re focusing on what you don’t like about the current structure, do not compare those drawbacks to the advantages of an alternative–that’s just creating a biased comparison. Consider both the advantages and disadvantages of both the current structure and a possible alternative, or you’ll be engaged in an inferior decision-making process.

    Find out specifically what people do and don’t like, and what they would wish for. Odds are you’ll find that what half of us like the other half disliked, and vice versa. But perhaps you find something almost everyone likes and few dislike–mark that down as a keeper. And perhaps you find something for which there is very little enthusiasm–mark that down as a loser. And perhaps you find something that nearly everyone wishes for–see if you can incorporate that without losing any of the things we like.

    But, most of all, don’t spend too much time worry about structure. The structure works, and it’s the content that makes the blog. At this point, the odds of dramatically improving it by changing the structure are pretty slim.

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