Site Notes

RTH Retires Blog Entries, Continues Articles

For years we have had separate articles and blog entries without a particularly good reason for the distinction.

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 02, 2014

Back when we created Raise the Hammer in 2004 (10 years ago!), we were caught up in thinking of the site as a publication. When we launched in December, we published our articles in monthly 'issues' like a print publication. We even had an ISSN: 1715-1554.

Almost immediately, we found ourselves chafing to post things in between issues, so we added a "Hammerblog" to the site in January 2005, less than a week after our second issue came out.

That still wasn't flexible enough for us, however, and by mid-year we were publishing issues twice a month.

The thing is, there is no good reason to publish articles in batches when you're online rather than in print. It took us a surprisingly long time to figure this out, but by March 2009 we bit the bullet and started publishing articles as we received them.

This presented a conundrum for the blog, which we had created in order to publish stuff between issues. What was the point of having two separate types of content on the site - articles and blog entries - if there was no real difference between them?

The blog pivoted slightly to become a place where we published things that didn't quite feel like articles: letters, very short pieces, off-topic musings, and so on.

However, the distinction between an article and a blog entry has always been fuzzy at best, and at times it has felt downright arbitrary.

We have also noticed that blog entries don't have as many readers and don't generate as many comments as articles. This seems to be in large part because people don't notice them.

The site has had two menus on the right side of the page: a menu of articles and a menu of blog entries. Anecdotally, I've talked to several people who didn't even notice the blog menu.

In addition, as the culture and language has evolved around us, people have taken to referring to the whole website a "blog", which makes it all the more confusing that the blog has a blog.

So as of today, the Hammerblog is officially retired. We've removed the second menu of recent blog entries and moved the upcoming event link over to the remaining menu.

All the old blog entries will remain on the site. You can still browse the Blog Archive by month or category, linked from the bottom of the menu, and of course you can still find them via the search bar on the top right of the page.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

11 Comments

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By Melissa (anonymous) | Posted July 02, 2014 at 10:50:12

While you're making changes, you should add social media links so articles can be easily shared and followed on facebook, twitter, reddit, etc.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 02, 2014 at 11:34:16 in reply to Comment 102957

The problem with social sharing buttons is that they're traditionally implemented as includes - that is, the button actually is hosted on Facebook or Twitter's server and then baked into your page as part of the request. Which means every time you view a page on RTH, you'd be getting tracking cookies and performance delays related to Twitter and Facebook.

There are ways to work around this, of course, but that's why many blogs are resistant to including social sharing buttons.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 02, 2014 at 12:59:04 in reply to Comment 102958

We had a row of social media buttons under each article for a few years. Rather than using includes, we did it with locally-hosted images linking to pages on the respective social media sites where you could post a status. Where applicable, the status input was pre-populated with the title and URL of the article (i.e. where you could send the status text to the server via a querystring in the URL).

We ended up removing them because our records indicated that almost no one was using them. We decided that the marginal benefit of their rare use to share links did not warrant the added visual clutter.

If it turns out that the social media environment has changed and a lot of people would now like to be able to use them, we'd be happy to consider re-implementing them.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 02, 2014 at 23:35:34 in reply to Comment 102959

I think a "tweet this" link might be useful. It wouldn't even have to be an image.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted July 02, 2014 at 15:12:16 in reply to Comment 102959

I commonly post RTH articles on my facebook to share with friends. Although I don't mind simply copy and pasting the URL of the article into facebook, I certainly would use a more convenient, one-click share button. I'd put my vote forward to at least bring it back as a trial for a little bit.

Comment edited by MattM on 2014-07-02 15:12:36

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 02, 2014 at 23:33:37

Good move imho!

Now the "recent comments" section needs a revamp, since you must be looking for some more work to do ;-)

Wish list:
0. "Latest comments" should be a tab along the top.
1. no limit to the number of comments listed in "recent comments" - it should be a list of every comment on the entire site in reverse chronological order, paginated in groups of 20 or 30.
2. tracking which comments have been "read" based on logged in user, so you could display "new comments since your last visit".
3. another toggle option for threaded comment view at the bottom of an article to float the most recently commented thread to the top of the comments section.
4. threaded view for recent comments page

Comment edited by seancb on 2014-07-02 23:36:16

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 03, 2014 at 06:51:01 in reply to Comment 102963

#0 is already done. The others will take a bit longer but I like where you're going.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-07-03 06:51:15

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 03, 2014 at 08:56:37 in reply to Comment 102965

boy that's great service!

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By adrian (registered) | Posted July 03, 2014 at 15:23:10

Congrats on this change, Ryan. It makes a lot of sense.

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By Kaiser (anonymous) | Posted July 05, 2014 at 12:15:18

As a less frequent visitor I wouldn't mind a home page with a featured article or featured series. Or perhaps categories that help me navigate past articles/series that I may have missed but could still benefit from.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 05, 2014 at 17:20:49 in reply to Comment 103008

The home page could definitely use some sprucing up. In the meantime, you can browse articles by category or month.

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