More Reader Queries

I’m a bit stymied in my desire to get moving on a site redesign. It is not the dearth of reader input in the comments section (you’ve been generous on that front) so much as quite a bit of the input is one-offish in nature. There are some feature changes that are clearly needed, such as having adding an edit or preview function to comments and having a proper contact page (although I perversely find it useful to force readers to work a tad to find my e-mail address; I’m swamped as it is, and lowering the barrier to e-mailing me will likely result in an even more overloaded inbox, with the side effect of even more messages from people I consider to be pretty high priority getting missed). The “Contributors” section in the right column probably gets moved to a click-through button in a bar across the top.

The first thing is to figure out feature changes. It may turn out that we stick with ones that are obvious (an elaborated version of the list above) plus ones that will help site performance.

Cody Williams has volunteered a couple of times in comments to give substantial input on a site redesign, and I’ve been super remiss in not following up. I wonder if another reader or two who also has some experience or a strong point of view in this area is game to join in a round robin (for instance, Psychoanalytus has a user interface programming background and has a strong point of view as well…). There are probably elements of Sven Franck design that are worth incorporating (I liked his “Explore” button, but it may be more straightforward to have the more conventional bar across the top. We have that now with the “[ Subscribe | Blogroll | Topics | Archives | Videos | Contributors | Site Statistics | Search ]” above the banner ad, but it is easy to overlook that. I’m also not sure re how much redundancy to have, since some of the things now across the top are replicated in the right column).

That is a long-winded way of saying I’ve gotten some non-converging reader advice, and having a small group help me sort it out would be very much appreciated. Ping me if you are game.

Another query is I need a teeny bit of graphic arts work done (changing text in an existing design + a new small design task). Need quick turnaround, will pay.

Thanks a ton!

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  1. psychohistorian

    I have offered before.

    If you make a serious contact page I would suggest you include a “purpose for contact list” to help with your email mgmt. and prioritization of reading/response.

    Readers (including myself) occasionally miss who the contributor of the posting is, so some in your face difference between your posting and other contributors might be useful to keep us retards from embarrassing ourselves more than normal.

    Please keep the indention of comments and reply options like they are. I don’t like other sites where following comment threads is difficult or impossible.

    IMO, your site should continue to appeal to reason and not emotion/glitz.

    Given your one-person-show situation and quality of postings, IMO, your humble readers should be willing to work a bit harder to use your site if it makes your management of it easier.

    Keep it simple……the appropriate application of technology……you can’t please all the people all the time……remember that it is your content that we come here for, not so much, if at all, the looks.

    1. Foppe

      Disqus (or something similar) also offers indentation, though it loads a bit slowly compared to the current system.

        1. Black Smith

          The only trouble I have with Disqus is that they track everything. They _probably_ (no proof) track your IP (even if you aren’t logged in to any commenting system) by noting the other Discus-enabled sites you run across.

          Functionally, I think they are awesome. Never had a problem.

  2. bear_in_mind

    I agree with ‘PsychoHistorian’: focus on functionality for your needs; and focus on content for users while keeping layout & graphics concise, direct, classy.

    I haven’t kept track of all your parameters, but if you’re poking around for a web development firm, you might consider Creative Suitcase in Austin TX. (

    Keep up the terrific work and good luck on your new design!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks! Will contact them. Do you know if they are good at text layout? As much as some streamlining of the frame would be good, I also think there are text layout changes that would increase readability.

  3. spc

    I do like mobile version nr 1.
    It’s crisp and simple and it does look good on my desktop.

    How about using Google Web Fonts API:

    Your code monkey could embed webfonts easily within your website.

    My favourite is ubuntu font.

    Golem XIV uses it as default font and it looks very elegant.
    Ubuntu font in action.

    1. howard g

      Is there a link to the mobile version of this site? is not reachable for me.

      I’m browsing now on a palm pre which has a generous display if you have a 20 year old’s eyesight (detected as a pad device by some sites). It’s tough to read on the pre compared to for ex. Edward Harrison’s site which emits a mobile version with narrower columns more suited to reading on these tiny displays.

  4. tm

    (although I perversely find it useful to force readers to work a tad to find my e-mail address; I’m swamped as it is, and lowering the barrier to e-mailing me will likely result in an even more overloaded inbox, with the side effect of even more messages from people I consider to be pretty high priority getting missed

    Umm..I think it’s typical to provide a generic email address for “generic” people to contact you. If there are a specific few that are very high priority (or who in your opinion become very high priority after a set of email exchanges), you provide them a second email address to reach you, and you prioritize through that email address.

    I assume you must already do this (?!?), so I’m not sure I understand the above comment…

    If you make a serious contact page I would suggest you include a “purpose for contact list” to help with your email mgmt. and prioritization of reading/response.

    IMO, two entries on that “purpose for contact list” should include contributions to “suggested links of the day” and “Antidote du jour”. I suspect that this would likely further streamline a large chunk of the email you go through.

    FWIW, I rarely go through Denninger’s site, since the times I went it seemed to be more targeted towards day trading, but I absolutely love his layout–very clean, very fast loading. the message boards are separated from the posts, and there’s a slight but not terribly onerous barrier to entry to actually post there (not that I have ever bothered). That likely drastically cuts down on the stuff he has to sift through and respond to. Perhaps you could ask him to just copy his technology (?) if that’s at all appealing.

    1. Diogenes

      I agree with YankeeFrank that it would be helpful to have better, more flexible access to prior posts. It is a rare day when I don’t go digging for something you wrote a few weeks or months ago. Because I have your email feed, I can search the stored emails (if I am in my office), but it would be really helpful to have broader searching criteria at the website and the ability, for example, to sort search results by date. For example, if I want to go to your links from August 8, 2011, the only way I can find to get there is to go to your August archives and then select “older archives” repeatedly. (This might just be me of course.) Also, tm is spot on to say that you should have multiple email addresses (they can all be mapped to the same gmail account or whereever) for your private and public personas. The best approach would be to establish a new address which you give only to your regular contributors and trusted sources. Even if they come into the same gmail account, I am guessing you should still be able to segregate them upon arrival by using a filter keyed of the addressee field in the incoming email. (Another approach for public contacts is to have a web based contact page which avoids giving out an email at all; this is actually what I do at my websites.) Finally, while it may be beyond the limits of the software you use, if it were possible to allow commentators to preview and edit their submissions prior to posting it would be a huge boon. For reasons that I don’t really understand, errors that simply don’t pop up when I am typing a comment and reading it over become immediately apparent once I have hit the dreaded submit button.

      1. ambrit

        I second Diogenes suggestion concerning a review and edit function for comments. For those who aren’t simply reacting viscerally, an edit sharpens the message. It would make commenting less prone to error and subjectivity bias. (I shudder to think how mant times I’ve suddenly recognized an error or simple stupidity in a just submitted comment.)
        Also, an extension function for the Links Immediate Archive would be helpful. The above suggestion of twenty links back sounds right. I’ve noticed that lots of commentariat back and forths go on for several days sometimes. Getting to those earlier posts can be a real hassle. (Click on NC on the favourites bar, scroll down with the side cursor, click on the desired post. Then, for a shift of post, start out from the beginning all over again. Time consuming and off putting.) Perhaps the ability to access a Links Listing function as a side bar? If you’re involved in a controversy yourself, a ‘Remember this Link” function keyed to the user?
        Sorry if I’m coming off like a Dinosaur but, we did rule the Earth for Aeons.
        Your humble and obedient servant, ambrit.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        The search options suck. I can search adequately in the WP backstage (I like it less that Blogger, I can only view 20 posts at once) and Google (which has gotten worse over time) is the only option for outside parties.

        I agree re an edit or preview for comments, that is a must for the new version.

  5. YankeeFrank

    I don’t really have time to contribute in a more meaningful way but one request I have is that there should be a navigation list for prior posts, in chrono order, just below the recent comments section on the right. Obviously it could not contain all past posts but it would be helpful to be able to easily navigate the last 20 or so.

  6. fiscalliberal

    I go to your site evey morning because you address the topics at a level I can understand. For me, there is no change needed. I would wonder why you are whipping a winning horse.

    It might be usefull to get a good insight to your readers. You might consider having some form of button allowing your readers to identify themselves. I would suggest the following: Blogging name, real name, age, gender, zip code and one of thre levels of understanding: very knowledgeable, meadium understaning and new learner.

    To characterize myself, retired engineer with minor in economics, I have purchase about 26 books on the Financial collapse since 2008. You really fill in the gaps of understanding.

    could you consider a spell checker in the response text

  7. Diotima Booraem


    Just a couple of quick thoughts from someone who has shepherded many clients through the process of web site redesign and email organization:

    1) Don’t give your email address on a contact page. Use a form. The form’s results will be delivered to you via email. You can create a separate email address for those forms, or, if you use gmail exclusively — I think you said you did — then create a label for those emails using Gmail’s label function

    2) Find your site designer now (considerable due diligence in this selection will save you a LOT of time and heartbreak in the long run) and let them help you make these design choices right from the start. A good web crafter is a designer, not just a code jockey, and knows how to organize a web site for practical useability as well as aesthetic appeal. They know what’s possible and what’s not, and can keep you from wasting a lot of time down blind alleys.

    3) Use your email client to flag mail from certain people as it comes in, so you don’t miss it. As others have noted in the comments, you may well already do this, but my experience as a virtual assistant is that email handling is where most people really bog down in their personal productivity, and it’s usually because they don’t realize what tools are available to help them. Properly utilizing various tools and techniques for organizing email can really free you up. I’d be happy to consult with you pro bono about organizing your email if you’d like some help with that, simply as a “thank you” for all the insight I’ve gained from this blog over the years, and the antidotes that have given me a smile every day. You can contact me through the form on my website. :-)

    1. Charles Yaker

      Thunderbird allows for multiple email addresses and gmail allows you to use your browser.

      I would ask that your new design provide for trackback so commenters can see who replied to their comment and subsequent comments

  8. Saintgermane

    RE E-Mail overflow:


    Re your concern that you will ‘miss’ high priority e-mails, it should be possible to establish filters for your inbox, or even several boxes to which mail is routed by criteria of your choice.

    I note that a commenter suggested a ‘topics’ field for e-mail submission; this, in combination with filters that sort mail into different boxes, could assist in sorting your mail.

    High priority submissions and specific topic submissions could be sent to specific boxes for priority review; all others would route to ‘general mail’.

    This is similar top Diogenes’ post suggesting multiple e-mail addy’s, but differs in the selection of filtering process.

    TM has some good suggestions on filter categories.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m not going to filter. I get too many messages from new people over the transom for me to filter. Some of them turn out to be very important.

      I’d never never get to anything that was filtered as secondary.

  9. jest

    Yves –

    I think the “perversion” of locating your contact info is great! Not perverted at all… I would only spend the time to find your contact e-mail if I had something really important to say.

    Otherwise you’d get drowned with a lot of comments, quite a few antagonistic ones I’d imagine, every time someone felt the need to say something.

    I guess that’s what twitter is for.

    In terms of the overall design, I love the simplicity of it. No graphics, just the raw facts. It seems to suit your style. The orange on white is pretty cool too. (What’s with the tombstone favicon though?) I hope the new launch stays gimmick free.

  10. lambert strether

    1. For the iconoclast, this may interest:

    Does design matter?
    So for the sake of argument, I will make the following claim: Graphic design on the web is dead. User choice and user freedom is in the process of killing it, and will kill it. Fancy graphic designs will eventually fade out the way table-based layout did, because they will become increasingly irrelevant to most users. Users will circumvent them or simply ignore them, and it will eventually become simply not worth the investment to bother designing something that fewer and fewer users will ever see.

    Instead, we should be focusing our efforts on things that will matter: Solid IA; Natural and obvious navigation structure; Content people actually want; Semantic indicators, be it HTML5, Aria, RDF, microformats, or whatever is cool this week; And just enough layout design so that those users still using a desktop browser don’t think we forgot about them entirely, even if they will be a minority.

    In short, focus on the data, not the presentation. The user will control the presentation, not us.

    2. Getting involved with companies that provide web services is a policy matter. I’d avoid both Disqus and Google (their fonts) because I don’t want to be dependent on them. Also, on NC, the comment threads are of great value, not to be owned by a third party.

    2. From an IA (Information Architecture) standpoint, yes, the current design allows readers to confuse the author (content) with the poster (administrivia). As an occasional author, I don’t think this is a trivial matter at all; I don’t want to besmirch Yves’s brand!

    3. Again as IA, the comment quality here is far and away the highest of any site I regularly visit. My only thought is that the site designer must understand this, and time be set aside specifically for thinking through comment IA. My thoughts FWIW: (1) Sometimes links to comments don’t work, or work too slowly, so I have to search the page for a remembered phrase; (2) Comments threads have threads within threads, and I wonder if retreiving subthreads would be useful; (3) it would be nice to sort for comments that had links; (4) it would be nice to sort for comments by author. Sometimes comments are seen as appendages to a post, but here things are different….

    4. Keep It Simple! Like now! (Though maybe faster).

    5. How about a faceted search?

    NOTE Also, too.

    1. Michael

      One thought/response Lambert…

      As to 1): It comes as no surprise that a (mobile web) developer would have a jaundiced view of design and desktop-based web traffic.

      An expressed opinion that becomes doubly questionable when one considers that the relatively graphic-less mobile web makes up (at most) 10% of the web traffic an average site receives, and at current rates, will not be a majority of traffic for another 25 years (minimum).

      Otherwise, directing the user to the appropriate content as clearly as possible – one of the four goals of graphic design – is still going to be necessary for quite some time.

      No matter the means used to access that content.

      As to 2) through 5), I absolutely agree…

      1. lambert strether

        It was “fancy graphic designs” — eye candy — that hit my nerves, not design as such. (I agree the headline is overly provocative.) I think you are in agreement with paragraph 2, as am I.

  11. Jessica


    I’ve been an avid reader for a long time. I’m very grateful for your fearless analysis of what’s REALLY going on (vs. what the pundits want us to believe), and your willingness to speak out.

    We would be happy to assist with this, and can turnaround VERY quickly:

    “Another query is I need a teeny bit of graphic arts work done (changing text in an existing design + a new small design task). Need quick turnaround, will pay.”

    We’re a small NY web design firm with extensive Wall Street programming and consulting experience.

    We may also be able to offer some good suggestions for tying all of these site design issues and questions together for you – that’s our specialty.

    Please feel free to contact us.

  12. ndallasj

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Present site is well organized, easy to navigate, loads quickly and isn’t cluttered with a bunch of junk. Spend the time and money on content (maybe even an occasional conservative viewpoint for balance).

  13. Joe Rebholz

    Please, whatever you do, don’t change your black print on a white background. Grey on grey or colored text on colored or patterned background is not good design. The purpose of text is to transmit information through human eyes into human brains and not all humans have good eyesight.

    1. Lambert Strether

      I’d generalize that to say that readability is the key requirement, especially for a blog justly famed for the long-form post.

      So here what NC absolutely must do, it already does very well.

  14. Siggy

    Less is more. Present the day’s material in a nice clean fashion and limit all the other stuff.

    You have to make a choice, too many buttons that are redundant. Take a long look at Google.

    While Comments are often informative they do burn memory. They also take time to read so I spend very little time with them.

    Advertising should be limited to the right sidebar. Blank the Archives to a button, I don’t need to see an enumeration.

    Just thoughts, enjoy your work.

  15. wafranklin

    For god’s sake, and that of anyone else, KEEP IT SIMPLE. I am still pleased that NC is not a clusterscrew of moving parts, multiple colors and flaming titles.

  16. Patricia

    I like the design of this site just as it is — simple, easy to read.

    I would second the comment of the person who said it’s occasionally not clear who is the author of the post. Sometimes Yves posts things that are written by someone else. Not a big deal but it’d be nice to make the authors’ names really obvious.

    Excellent excellent blog, thanks!

  17. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Yves, happy to assist in any way that might be helpful.
    My email may be stuck in your server weirdness, so this comment is backup notification.

    Love the blog.

  18. JB Smith


    Used to run a marketing agency. Still very much involved in the field. Happy to help with advice and comments where and as needed. Just ask.


  19. Michael

    Yves, some minor thoughts to add to those you’ve already collected here.

    First, make sure any designer you choose sees that the “Recent Items” stay right where they are. Seriously. When I first came here, I of course started by looking at the title (the most obvious entry-point), and then for the content.

    Bam! Seeing the Recent Items led me right where I wanted to go beyond the first visible post…

    On a supplementary note, graphic design is still important. Graphics? Meh. But the flow of content in a particular space – which is (to me) the primary definition of graphic design – still important.

    Second, your menu bar – or apparent lack thereof – shouldn’t be presenting such concern. However, the ads being placed between it and “Recent Items” aren’t exactly conducive to focusing on its content.

    I’m not sure if there is some requirement that precludes putting them on the sidebar but if there isn’t I would move them.

    Third – and here I totally agree – it is really difficult to know who has posted what. For the first three years I read this site, I had no idea anyone else posted here apart from you.

    That said some of the choices for making the distinction clearer could cause varying degrees of craptitude (specifically with loading times). Multiple opinions on the possible solutions (CSS versus PHP for instance) would be good.

    Finally, I never use your sidebar, nor usually read the comments. However, I have had cause to use the search function – once, in relation to a comment. Not particularly successfully, but I have used it.

    In other words, beyond the main content, I have nothing of real significance to contribute.

    However, there is a bit of a spacing issue when it comes to the arrangement of the comments and various menu options (especially Reply)… but that’s just me being nitpicky.

  20. ChrisPacific

    After reading the quoted comments in the mobile site version post, I can’t resist commenting myself.

    Firstly: long form text content CAN work in a mobile context. If it couldn’t, Kindle would not be enjoying the success that it has been.

    Secondly: beware of anyone telling you they have best practices for rich media mobile devices all figured out. The state of the market today reminds me very much of the Web during the dot-com era. Everyone was convinced they knew how the future would go, and most of them were wrong (I remember at one point that all-in-one portal sites like Yahoo and MSN were supposed to take over the world). The real revolutions – distributed publishing and social media – were overlooked by most people until they’d already happened.

    That said if people genuinely have expertise in this area I would listen to them, but keep a healthy dose of skepticism at all times.

  21. kielanders

    I really like the site the way it is.

    I spent many years in corporate IT, and among the most miserable experiences were those requiring interaction with ‘graphic designers’ and ‘information architects’.

    They specialized in the addition of unnecessary complexity and aggravation under the guise of an artistic approach and mystical understanding to the end user experience.


    No one knows your site like you know your site, your audience, and your message. And no one is more of an expert in what you like, than you.

    This site is great because it’s about you, and reflects who you are. Trust your judgment and move on it.

    If you need to:

    – find things you like on multiple other sites
    – figure out what you want to see if you don’t see them
    – make a grocery list of those items
    – map out the presentation you’d like to see those items presented if you were the reader
    – then find someone with the skill to help execute YOUR vision.

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