Planned Survey Approach on the Billblog

  1. Read the website slowly and carefully several times.
  2. Initial ‘glandular’ reactions:
    • He’s using a familiar and professional-looking Wordpress theme. The colors are gentle and the font is big enough to be easily read while still being styled.
    • I immediately dislike the header. It doesn’t draw attention the way I’d expect it to and, though the pictures of the blue shoes in various places are cool, it seems unprofessional to me, compositionally. The title is also ambiguous and unremarkable.
    • The posts sound like they’re written by a professional. I initially wondered why they’re truncated on the front page. Each is structured like an editorial and, though clever, each post takes a while to get to the point. Most are truncated before I can figure out what they’re really about.
    • ‘Also relevant’ links at the end of each post reassure me that Bill has put a lot of consideration into each post and is involved enough to provide us with a list of relevant articles.
    • Right-hand column is cluttered. Many of these widgets seem unnecessarily thrown in, and are too far down in the page to matter. Who wants to scroll two page-widths down and try to find the Twitter widget between Flickr boxes and a scrunched-up (and certainly not prominent enough) ‘where to find me’ list? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?
    • Again, the page seems much longer than it needs to be. If you’re following this guy’s articles, you’re only going to read them one at a time, and you’re going to read them completely. Why bunch fifteen up on the same front page?
  3. Map the site. How is it organized?
    • Billblog Organization
    • It was very difficult to map the site conceptually without coming back again and again to the way it adheres to the stock blog design. It’s a familiar way of laying things out, and everyone basically knows how to get around in it. The content is centered on the page and white space is given on either side to allow people with lower monitor resolutions to enjoy the site without having to scroll horizontally. The very bottom of the page is dedicated to a footer which discreetly gives copyright information, while the top of the page prominently displays a header image, the title of the site, and important links. Notably, the title of the site (which links to itself) and the “andfinally” link aren’t particularly outstanding and we’re not initially sure what they do. (“Link to self” and “Link to homepage” on the image.) The meat of the site is in the left column, which consists of one block of content, a post, atop another, atop another. Each post has its information, such as its title, date, poster and comments, at the top and a more discreet section at the bottom entitled “Also Relevant” which displays a date-marked list of links. The meat of each block—the space in the middle—is the actual post by Bill Thompson. Sometimes, this continues on for a few paragraphs before being truncated and capped with a small link to ‘read more.’ Sometimes, it only spans a paragraph before a large block-quote begins. On the right of the page is the ubiquitous sidebar, which contains a stack of various applications either involved in the content of the blog (ie. tags), or involved in other related websites (ie. Twitter).
  4. Devices and arguments used:
    • Bill Thompson’s fame is certainly a strong argument on this site. The header image shows (presumably) his feet in famous locations around the world, implying that he is particularly well-traveled, and that he is so professionally. This is the first major image people see, and see consistently, on his professional blog. His biographies deeper in the site (there are a few) are testament to this as well.
    • Linking, which ties into fame here, is also a big argument. He links to articles frequently, often immediately in a post, using [square brackets], in order to give the reader some background and to show that he has background information. This gives his posts a lot of credibility (especially the “also relevant” section) by providing the readers with easy access to additional information.
    • Images are used frequently, sometimes to illustrate the point/argument of an article (ie. the Facebook alerts image), sometimes as the reason for the entire post (ie. The Dude image), and sometimes as a simple photo to enhance a story (ie. The Twinterval image).
    • Using the prominent, yet easy-to-read, block quotes, Bill Thompson occasionally posts entire articles about him/related to him/interesting to him on the blog, with short introductions in the body of the post. These occur quite a bit.
  5. Devices and arguments not used:
    • The blog doesn’t use any audio or, with the exception of the Flickr widget once and a while, motion. It’s simple and static.
    • There isn’t any one thing in particular which is made to grab our attention. No absolutely giant text. No spinning, flashing image. No real focal point leaps out. This seems to encourage us to browse at our liesure.
    • This blog puts very little emphasis on feedback and user interaction.
  6. Unaccounted-for/other material:
    • Where do the Widgets belong here? How do we describe and categorize these? They’re not parts of the website’s content (some of them are) but are portals to other sites, most of which are related to Bill Thompson’s life, such as his status with Twitter or musical interests with Last.fm.
  7. Re-read and experience.

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