Oh no, not another redesign…

A number of reasons drove me to redesign the site, in part due to frustration with the existing one and inspiration to try something different.

My main frustrations were due to the fact I was posting a wide range of material whose messages I felt were getting mixed up.

One of the criticism’s people had of my blog was that it jumped around between high (detailed overviews of UK Gov. G2G sysetms) and low brow (going for a walk) too quickly. It had been my original intent to go with this, and that’s why the blog was originally called ‘eclectic’, but I’ve found it’s a little too jarring for people to handle, and I suspect was turning them off. By getting them to choose between different categories I’m hoping that they’ll pick up on that ‘channel’ and become familiar with it before trying the others. I think of this issue as one of signal to noise, however I suppose different readers signal is another’s readers noise.

Most people who have been through this learning curve move to multiple blogs, but I wanted an aggregated page, plus I had fun overloading some of the Roller macros to allow category specific functionality.

My frustration is that I’m sick to the gills of Facebook and the ilk, they are all just so much lock in to closed systems. Frankly I want all of these social applications to integrate. Now. For instance rather than have LinkedIn, Namyz, Xing, etc. keeping records of my professional contacts I just want a blended service where all my professional contacts are visible to me in a single data set, even if they are actually separate and multiple data sources (and wherever the data might actually be).

And I don’t want this applications to be shunting my data around in a haphazard manner, I’d rather just be able to view the information as a unified stream.

Just because the big three of MySpace, Facebook and Google have said that they will ‘play nice’ they are all, to a man, going to be ring fencing their user populations. They will attempt this with guile initially, then with ‘attractive’ *new* features, and finally with strong arm tactics. Eventually they will lose out, because if it’s not open, how ‘social’ is it really.

I’d started to feel that what was needed was a non-Facebook Facebook profile page, and once I’d seen Cal Henderson’s ‘iamcal‘ it all started to fall into place. Cal’s page was a real source of inspiration, and I hope that if he sees my current design that he likes it.

What I’m effectively going for is ‘Radical Transparency‘, mainly as put forward by Clive Thompson’s Wired article “The see through CEO“, and by Chris Anderson’s blog ‘The Long Tail‘ (in fact check out this recent article “You may be on Facebook, but the money’s in the Long Tail“).

Last week I was coming back from London on the late train from Euston and bumped into Chris Loughran from Deloitte, who was also doing the London to Birmingham trek. I was really pleased when, after showing him the new design, he immediately said ‘Radical Transparency’, because I knew I had ‘hit the nail on the head’ as it was obvious to him what I was trying to achieve.

You can see what I mean if you have a look at my new front page over at: http://blogs.sun.com/eclectic/

You should be able to see that I’ve collated recent blog entries, by ‘Category’, over on the left hand side (each of the Categories loads a different look and feel, which I’m hoping won’t be too disturbing for the readers, but will keep the separate nature of the contents in mind).

The centre is taken over by a tag graph combo, along with stuff I’m doing (including books I’m reading, music, films, all via All Consuming, sms via Twitter, online ‘radio’ via Last.fm, and a photo stream from Flickr).

Over on the right are some contact details, about the site, upcoming talks and presentations, and other pages accessable via the site.

The last section is a rss feed of the last blog post of my four favorite blogs, those of Alan Mather, Bill Vass, Mick Farren, and Tim Caynes.

I hope you like the new design, it appears to be popular, in that I’m converting more hits to page reads and multiple pages too.

There are a couple of things to complete, such as tidying up some of the code, finish re-implementing the multi-locale aspects of the site (although I doubt I’ll post machine translated blog posts again anytime soon), and finishing off a sitemap.