09 January 2012

Some housecleaning for the new year

Happy 2012 everyone! I am sure the end-of the-world jokes will get old fast enough, but in the meantime have fun with them.

I have two major things I'd like to discuss today: an announcement and a thank-you.

Announcement: Launching a new blog series

Tomorrow, I am launching a new blog series here: Garret Tour Tuesdays. Unsurprisingly, these posts will be running on Tuesdays. This is my first time committing to a posting schedule of any sort, so we'll see how it goes. Garret Tour Tuesdays will be a post each Tuesday profiling the writing space of a different writer. I have four lined up so far.

I've got a great person to share with you tomorrow -- the first writer I connected with in the blogosphere, which is an appropriate first guest for my first blog series. Stop by tomorrow to check out the space! I'm very excited to learn about the space other writers work in. These posts will continue until I run out of people to profile or get bored of the topic. If you are interested in volunteering, contact me at CallieLeuck [at] CallieLeuck [dot] com

Thank You: Laura Barnes, marketing consultant

Laura Barnes is a marketing consultant who blogs on building author media presence. She offers blog critiques as part of her blog series From a Marketing Perspective. I've been slowly and steadily learning blogging over the course of the last year and, of course, have read dozens and dozens of "Things that make a great blog" and "List of reasons why I hate your blog" posts: therefore, I learned to have an RSS icon visible, a profile/contact page visible, my name visible, and not to use obnoxious fonts/colors and not to use human verification in the comments (because it is really annoying, and can discourage people from commenting).

So I felt I was ready for a critique. Even though I was actually quite nervous. And thought about emailing Laura back a few days before and saying "You know what, never mind, I don't really want a critique, no thanks." But I didn't. And so today Laura posted a critique of my blog on her site. Go ahead and check it out.

And it ended up being the same experience as a critique of my writing: lots of last-minute anxiety on my part but ultimately very great, useful feedback that I never would have reached by myself.

I have made several changes already based on Laura's feedback:

  • I was surprised that she was so amused by my "I like Leuck" field on the bottom, so I did incorporate that (rather terrible but apparently pun-ny) joke in a much more obvious place.
  • Made headlines larger -- I had noticed that the headlines didn't stick out very much, but I hadn't realized I could change them. D'oh. Done.
  • Added tab for writing samples that leads to my personal website.
Other feedback from Laura was not as immediately fixable:
  • Sidebars -- Laura thinks that two sidebars generally gives a cluttered feel, although she did note that I've done a good job with keeping it clean.  I'm going to disagree with her on the two sidebars issue. I see the benefit of only having one sidebar (more real estate for the actual post) but I intentionally chose two sidebars so that the sidebars don't go on forever and so that the RSS icon and other "subscribe to this blog" paraphernalia are easy to find (they're right up near the top) but not too distracting (they're off on the left). And I keep the blog navigation things on the right bar. However, I did clean up some of the things in the sidebars and made the left one slightly smaller.
  • Labels/tags -- mine are a mess. I have gajillions of them. However, going through and fixing them and cutting them down is more of a project than I have time for right now. In an effort to make the most-used tags helpful, I have a list on the right sidebar for "popular subjects.
In conclusion, it was a lot like pretty much any critique. I agreed with some parts and disagreed with some parts, but it was a very useful experience. Thanks so much, Laura!

Don't forget to come by tomorrow for the first Garret Tour Tuesday!

Now You!
What do you think about critiques in general? Have critiques been useful for you?