On the Redesign

As some of you know, I used to be a technology consultant.  So I have a lot of sympathy to the inevitable problems inherent in launching any sort of a major technology project.  Since a lot of you are, I know, engineers and similar, I'm asking y'all to extend some of that sympathy as well.  Our team has pulled off a massive project on a very short time scale.  There are, of course, some problems, but overall, the redesign is a considerable achievement.

Some of the problems we're having are on the "accidental" level, most notably the RSS feed.  Rest assured, we did not wantonly cut you off in an attempt to squeeze every last advertising dollar out of your eyeballs.  (She said, metaphorically).  It is, in some way that is not entirely clear to my now-atrophied tech brain, simply a side effect of some other stuff we did to the site. Any of you who have been on a product launch can no doubt appreciate that there are a whole bunch of very nice people working on very little sleep as they feverishly attempt to resolve these kinds of issues.  If you can be patient, and click the headlines for a few days, eventually we will restore your beloved RSS feeds to more functional form.

Others are conceptual.  We're trying to build a unified site out of the free-form jazz odyssey that I was hired into.  That involves making choices.  The new channel system makes editorial and technical sense:  it smoothes the navigation, and it bypasses the old jerry-rigged crossposting system that resulted in two separate instances of my posts, with their own separate comment system, that had to be laboriously hand-edited every time I made a correction.

But the end result on this page feels like something a lot less bloggy.  I've been doing this nearly since the inception of the political blogosphere:  I started the predecessor to this blog, Live from the WTC, in November 2001.  And I know that a good many of you have been with me the whole time.  The new design violates a lot of those conventions and I've heard a lot of angry pushback.  Oh, boy, have I heard it.

There's been internal conversation about this, and like James and Ta-Nehisi, I'm optimistic.  The internet is great precisely because it enables rapid experimentation, and failure, and change of the things that don't work.  But there's no way of knowing whether something will work until you've tried it.  Some of the new features are great--there are some hitches in the comment system, but overall, I think most of us agree that it's a huge improvement.  The site as a whole has vastly improved navigation.  But as with all new products, there probably need to be some tweaks.

This blog may never be exactly what you want.  Let's be honest:  I work for a commercial organization, and in order for them to continue to pay my paycheck, this site needs to be profitable.  So we're going to have ads and other features that may well annoy you from time to time.

But you guys are also the lifeblood of the site.  It is overwhelmingly important to me that this page continue to work for you.

So I guess what I'm saying is, help me help you.  User interface design is really hard precisely because there are a lot of you and a few of us.  If there are things that aren't working, you can let me know (politely), and I'll either work hard to get them fixed, or tell you why I can't.

Meanwhile, bear with us.  I promise, I'll do my best to make it worth your while.