Monday, July 23, 2007

Blog Review: Modern Musings

The Blog: Modern Musings by Danielle

The Reviewer: Liz Medwid from ThreeBrightStars

First impressions: The overall style is appealing, but lack of consistency in format and content is an irritation throughout the blog.

Also, when a writer expounds about something important, such as society or politics, I want to know why I should bump someone off my daily reading list to add them, in particular: what gives them authority in their subject area. It could be education, experience, family history, peer accolades, success in their field, or anything else.

Danielle doesn’t reveal her background in politics. She calls herself “a woman, a mother, a wife, a student, a writer, a poet, a seeker and a member of the global human society” yet she wants “to facilitate grassroots ‘Intelligence Gathering’ concerning prominent issues facing America.” I’m just one of those people who needs to know where a writer is coming from before I can take them seriously. (Note: In an email, Danielle revealed that she has her associate degrees in history and anthropology, and this detail would help the average reader.)

Design: Online readers have short attention spans: readable lines should be short, and blog conventions like hyperlinks should be clear and predictable. Musings doesn’t have a right margin and as a result, the blog entries are a bit too wide for on-screen reading. In-text hyperlinks are also too long, so that although the choice of hot pink is eye-catching, the goal of each link is hard to determine.

Formatting between blog entries should also be consistent, but Danielle is guided by some mysterious outside force from entry to entry. Some entries are left-aligned, some are centered, some have adequate inter-line spacing, some are spaced to make you squint at the screen from a foot away, sometimes font size looks normal, and sometimes it screams at you – and none of these variations seem deliberately chosen to illustrate a point.

The sidebar contains some interesting accolades and endorsements, which add notions to her otherwise mysterious identity, but organization and restraint would improve things here as well. Danielle forces the reader to slog through seemingly random links before a clear picture emerges.

Content: Modern Musings is a mess of memes and quotes. For the first-time reader, it can be difficult to ascertain whether the voice is Danielle’s or a Center for American Progress Action Fund talking point. Readers expect the hyperlinks to imply a single reference, with the remaining text being the blog author’s – and in Musings, this is usually not the case. The reference is there, but until you hit on it, nothing in the formatting suggests that the interstitial voice is not Danielle’s. I’m sure this effect is unintentional, but in a political blog, sloppy references seriously undermine the author’s credibility in the mind of the reader.

Best and Worst: The overall style, including color choices and base font, give it a fresh appeal. Danielle’s raw enthusiasm is also winsome.

Improvement tips:

  1. If you want a general readership to take your social and political commentary seriously, you need to abandon the shield of anonymity and reveal all relevant credentials.
  2. Format your blog with relentless consistency. Readers love that.
  3. Your picture and profile should top the sidebar, since they are the most interesting and important aspects of your profile. Then, organize your charitable or political endorsements beneath one heading, your accolades and accomplishments in another heading, etc, to help readers visualize you more quickly.
  4. Use clearer formatting to distinguish between your own analysis and that of other writers. Also, let us hear more from Danielle, and less from memes and quotes!

Blogroll worthy? Not yet.

Overall Score:


The Farmers Wife said...

umm, this is a difficult blog to read isn't it. To be honest, when I come across a blog where I can't get an idea of who the person is and what it's all about i don't stick around very long.

I am sure i miss some very interesting stuff because of this but it is true what you say, us readers are a fickle bunch.

nutmeg said...

An honest and useful review, Liz. I've learned a few things here for my own blog. I hope the author takes your suggestions and re-submits down the road!

Dirk_Star said...

I enjoy her blog and visit on a near daily basis.

I believe you should worry about some of the beams in your own eye before worrying about the splinters in the eye of another.

Heather from TopBlogMag said...

Sorry folks, the formatting issues that this post was having were my fault and not that of Liz.

Don't know what the hell was going on there but hopefully we have them all sorted now.

I think Liz makes some useful points in this review, I did find Modern Musings confusing to look at which is a shame as the content can be good (when it's not memes and such like).

A simple rearrangement of things will certainly help here.

Dirk: The point of the review is it. Which the writer asked for. I think you'll find it a fair and honest reflection of the blog in question.

Mama Zen said...

Very thorough review. I'm checking my own blog . . .

Liz said...

A big thank-you to everyone who supported this review. It's actually quite stressful giving someone an honest negative review. I fought with my husband about it, and edited it several times before submitting it with apologies to Heather. Given the length constraint and the material I felt I had to cover, there really wasn't space to equivocate. I was quite worried about the reaction I might get, but you have been more positive than negative, and I thank you!

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