Website Renovation

Thomas Fleming

By

May 10, 2018

We are very grateful for the continuing loyalty of our subscribers in the face of delays, irregularities, and lapses.  I won't bother to offer my usual apology--the lack of staff--but I do want to alert you all to an upcoming renovation of the site.   Planning this renovation and getting up to speed on some of the technical processes has taken a good deal of time and partly explains the slower pace of my posting.  While the basic form will be retained, including the featured articles on the front page, we are making a number of  changes that should enrich the experience and facilitate use.

First, we are removing most of the small feature boxes on the left and bottom and replacing them with categories linked to content:  Autodidact, Poetry, Podcasts, etc.  Two significant additions will be a section called something like "A Walk in the Forum," which will be an open forum in which subscribers can raise issues, respond to each other, pursue threads, with minimal editorial intervention.  As a parallel to this, the editor (me) is going to monopolize one of the spots for brief comments.  This will make it possible for me to sound off on the news of the day without committing myself to hours of study, reflection, and writing.   In the near future, I hope to make some of these commentaries in audio form.

We also plan--though this will take some time--to interlink the Reading List with relevant articles, e.g., if you see a title like Euripides' Hecuba highlighted in the reading list, the link will take you to a podcast or article.

With the help of Rex Scott, we have rapidly improved our capacity for audio recording.  At last, I am in a position to record, on a regular basis, telephone interviews with colleagues and friends.  (The problems have been with the irregularities of Skype and Facebook, glitches in a canned podcasting program that did not keep up to date, and--worst of all--the insane malice of Apple that designed the past 3 versions of the iPhone to make recording impossible.  We have, in despair, reactivated an iPhone 5 which works like a charm with our recording system.)

Why am I nattering on about technical changes?  Because we are looking for suggestions and criticisms.  For example,

1.  Now is the time to tell us what you don't like about the website--and what you especially like.

2. We are looking for names for the Forum section and for my column.  We want to use the image of the Forum, although it is a bit of a cliché, because it is part of our logo and, indeed, our identity--seeking beauty and sanity among the ruins.  As for my column, I have experimented over the past year or two with one or two names, for example, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place"--a somewhat silly title I used at The Southern Partisan,  and the somewhat inscrutable "Ransom Notes.

3.  Are there are any features you would really like to see?  For example, we have been talking about a rubric for popular culture, which now gets put in Best Revenge or some other grab-bag.  Several people have asked me to do an explicitly "Paleoconservative" column or feature, which I have been loath to do.  Perhaps I could kill two birds with one stone by using the Simple Simon rubric--giving realistic definitions of political terms.

So, please tell us what you would like to see as we step by step improve the site.

 

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

19 Responses

  1. Allen Wilson says:

    I suppose that you could just have a column called “My Column” and use a picture of a column, perhaps Ionic or Composite. Seriously, I’ll try to come up with some ideas.

    The Simple Simon rubric sounds good. For the forum, I know a website dedicated to learning Greek and Latin which has a section, among others, call the Agora. Maybe we could plagiarize name?

  2. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    I don’t think a Hellenist can be accused of plagiarism if he adopts a common Greek word.

    Actually, “My Column” is not the worst idea I’ve heard today.

  3. Allen Wilson says:

    I just visited the site I mentioned for the first time in a long time. The agora is for communication in Greek and Latin. They also have an Open Board for more or less free discussion.

    What did the Anglo-Saxons call an assembly, or a marketplace?

    If enough of us knew enough Latin, a Latin Forum would be nice, but of course that’s unrealistic.

  4. George Bagby says:

    I especially enjoy your podcasts, and I have made very valuable use out of your essays on ancient writers.

  5. Harry Colin says:

    A column name idea…”O tempora, O mores!”

  6. Curtis says:

    If you want to attract new readers/eventual subscribers there needs to be some steady stream of free content that keeps people coming back. People need to be able to read this content and share it on other social media platforms where it can go “viral” without having to create a pointless “bronze” account first. A regular column offering brief but insightful takes on the news of the day would fit the bill. Call it “Broadsides” or what have you. Have all these “Broadside” columns on one discrete page within the website that people can bookmark and keep coming back to, and update it regularly.

    This stream of free columns gets shared across the web and brings in people. Some eventually sign up for a premium tier that gives them access to podcasts and all the articles that go beyond the news of the day to discuss philosophy, history, literature, etc.

    People who don’t know your past work are not going to fork over money for a premium membership until they have gotten in the habit of valuing and relying on your opinions, and want to know more.

  7. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Thanks for the observations. We put up a great deal of free material, much of it open to anyone. But your suggestion of having a regular column, even a page, makes a great deal of sense. If we constructed a page, it could have the column you are suggesting, whatever the name, plus we could amalgamate whatever else we have free that week.

  8. Curtis says:

    I see that one no longer has to register to access the free content, and that it is all now aggregated under one tab, that’s very good.

    I won’t try to convince you to create a Twitter account, though that’s where all the personalities of the Anti-Establishment Right congregate these days to gather followers.

  9. Allen Wilson says:

    How might the older podcasts that are available on sound cloud be used as a means of bringing in new people? Having them on sound cloud is great but how do we make people aware of them across the web?

  10. Charles L says:

    I have several prosaic recommendations regarding site navigation, not content. Should those be addressed here (may help any readers suffering from insomnia) or is there a webmaster I should contact?

  11. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Charles L. Please put your comments here, and I’ll forward them to the webmaster, who is working on the website.

    Allen W. We have been thinking about posting pod casts, after a year, free on the site. If we follow Curtis’s plan of creating a Free Page, then it could have the column I contemplating plus other free articles and podcasts.

    What about including, on such a page, some “half-gated” pieces, i..e. things one can read half of. We’ve discussed it but I wonder if it isn’t a bit of a bait-and-switch. Would it be better to make the first part of a two or three part article available free to all, but one would at least have to register for free sub to read the rest?

  12. Allen Wilson says:

    I’m no expert on this, but multi part articles probably would be better, and some articles that have three or more parts could require free registration for the second part, and a paid subscription for the last part or two.

    It would be interesting to see how well the half-gated articles would work. Perhaps both approaches could be given a shot?

  13. Vince Cornell says:

    A very minor thought. To promote discussion in the comment section, perhaps expanding the “Recent Comments” block on the main page might be helpful. I’ve seen on other websites where the first few lines of the comment in addition to the commenter and associated article are listed in the Recent Comments section. It would also help to make that block longer to accommodate more comments. This enables folks to get some idea of where the “current discussion” is taking place and if they are being specifically addressed (the current acceptable shorthand is to put an @Name at the beginning of a comment to indicate who one is addressing). An example of this might be found on the right hand side of Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s blog (wdtprs.com/blog/).

    I would imagine this would be different and separate from the general comments in the Forum section. I imagine the Forum section having its own “section” on the website similar to other online forums I have seen. That front page would have categories and recent posts summarized independent from comments made on articles on the main website.

  14. Vince Cornell says:

    Some ideas on a Forum name:
    The Rabble in the Ruins
    The Front Porch
    The Town Square
    Speaker’s Corner
    Chats After Midnight
    Forging Foundations
    Idle Threads

  15. Ken Rosenberger says:

    I think Ransom Notes is quite good actually . Or perhaps Poison Pen or Poison Pen Letters.

    I think Pot of Message has already been used to death.

    For the Forum (continuing in the great Southern Writers vein) how about Love in the Ruins. Or the Waugh variant Love Among The Ruins.

  16. Allen Wilson says:

    Random ideas for naming the column: Curmudgeons Corner may be over used. How about In the Tunnel Dark? Dark Age Diary. Notes in the Night. Among the Ruins. Desolation Diary. From Out of the Darkness. A Cry in the Night. Surrounded by Savages. The Last Citadel. From the Hermit Cave.

    For the forum: Fugitive Forum. Remnant Retreat. The Hideout. The Catacombs.

  17. Dot says:

    How about The Grapevine?

  18. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Thanks for the many good suggestions both for the Forum and my own column. Please keep them coming.

    So far “Ransom Notes” and “Love in the Ruins”–a title I have alluded to a number of times–seem good. We could also transfer From Under the Rubble and dedicate to this purpose or, if Russian titles are appealing, “Notes from the Underground.” I always thought Nock’s “Memoirs of a Superfluous Man” a wonderful title.

    If, as it is said, “A good cry is half the battle,” I think we have to keep thinking.

  19. Charles L says:

    Sorry for taking so long getting to this, work has been chaotic, to put it mildly. But anything worth doing is worth doing poorly, so here goes:
    1) Navigation: Easily the biggest problem. You cannot get better content than Dr. Fleming, but it is hard to read his articles because the arrangement is chronologic. If I am reading say Part 4, on that page I would like a link forward to Part 5 and back to Part 3. Instead the forward and backward buttons go to the next posted article, which is usually on a different topic altogether. Ideally it would be nice to also be able to go to a heading where there is the article with all the parts underneath it hyperlinked.
    2) Hyperlinks: speaking of hyperlinks, I recently read an article where hitting the hyperlink took me out of the webpage. If possible (I’m not sure it is) it would be preferable to have the hyperlink first open up a new window/tab in the browser so that I stay on the FF webpage.
    3) Sign in: still a little awkward, it is not clearly evident to me if I am signed in or not. Once I am signed in, the Sign Up / Sign In / and Why Subscribe buttons should no longer be visible; they are now unnecessary and just confusing.
    4) My Profile: not sure why there is both My Account and Edit My Profile under this; having both seems redundant.
    5) My Account: it would be nice if this told us how much longer we have in our subscription. When I go to Membership Management looking for this, it just has N/A under Access Expires and Next Payment.
    6) Avatar under My Profile: I’m not sure why this is there. When I click on it it goes to en,gravatar.com, so I am guessing this is a work in progress? Trust me, my face is not worth looking at.

    Okay, off to the daily grind.