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Two New Features—Let’s See How They Work: A Search Engine for the Blog and A Related Posts Feature

May 30, 2010

I’ve added two new features to the blog.

Yesterday I added a couple things to my blog. I'm not sure how either of them will work out. If you are a long-time reader of the blog you'll have one set of thoughts. New readers might feel differently about the new features. I'm still torn.

First I've added a search engine which I wanted to do ages ago (and even held a contest for suggestions for search engines). Well I went with Ligit as suggested by Rhomany and so far it seems to be OK. I've searched some things and it doesn't do as good a job as my faulty memory, but in some instances it found things that I'd rather read anyway. It searches my blog and International Fake Journal Month's blog, and Urban Sketchers—Twin Cities (of which I'm a contributor). (I've also got it set up to search my website, but so far the search isn't doing well on that and it's my fault I'm sure, based on how I set the site up. Just don't count on it to find stuff on my website right now.)

Try out the search engine and look for something you know I've written about, like "palettes" and see if it gets you want you want. Let me know whether or not you find it helpful.

Second I've added "Linkwithin." This feature falls at the end of a post and has 3 little links, with images, to previous posts that are supposed to be related in some way. I added this feature because I'd seen it on other blogs like Making a Mark, and I find that I really like it on those blogs. (Also I think that Katherine Tyrrell always makes reasonable and well researched decisions in her technology, so I wasn't worried that my blog would blow up.)

Initially I wasn't thrilled with the feature because it rotated 5 recent posts into those three spots, even on articles where I knew there are better matches. (And I'm tired of seeing 3 of those 5 thumbnails at the bottom of all my posts.) The LinkWithin site says that it may take a couple days for them to search my site completely and that these selections will become better at that time. With that in mind I'll give it a week or so and see what it's doing—after only about 40 minutes I noticed there was some improvement in links for posts outside the "page makeup series." So I'm hopeful. (For a post on drawing faces it linked to three IFJM posts because I mentioned my fake journal in the post—that's a case of their linking software being fooled, badly. That's why I'm wondering if it's worth it? But maybe these selections won't be static, which would be a good thing if you wanted different links, but a bad thing if you were trying to find the link you had the first time you read the post! On the other hand, I did find a post where showed me I'd  titled two posts as journaling superstition #12—with a different subtitle of course. I'll have to look into fixing that.)

I can't get away from the fact that it adds another font to my blog (I wish it were customizable in that regard). And I'm wondering if it is irritatingly intrusive because it is the same of only a small selection of thumbnails/posts or if it will always be that way—i.e., always irritatingly intrusive. (Again, I'll have to wait and see on that aspect.)

Imagine that Linkwithin has completed the whole blog search and is able to post more closely related links at the bottom of each post—in that perfect world would you find it interesting as a reader? Too distracting? (If you respond to this query let me know if you're a long-time reader or not as I think this will make a little difference on how helpful you view these links.)

In the process of writing a post I do try to cross reference that new post with other related posts by including embedded links in the text (e.g., the mention of the post about my request for search engine suggestions in the first paragraph of this post). I think this is helpful to people. And it's fun for me. If the LinkWithin widget seems intrusive and doesn't come up with a host of solutions I'll simply rely on my memory to link you to other related posts. For now I'll wait patiently for it to do its thing. It's hard for me to be patient with blog-related stuff. One of the reasons I like the blog is that everything is immediate.

Let me know what you think of these two additions.

  1. Reply

    Roz, please forgive me if this is a stupid comment but I can’t find the search engine link on your blog.
    As ever I love having your posts to look forward to each day.

  2. HI Roz!

    As a ‘newbie’, I’m delighted to see the addition of a search engine, though I seem to have already incurred the wrath of Ligit & Linkwithin; I have this effect on things. I believe it’s called ‘Klutzism’!

    I spotted a Linkwithin which I wanted to follow up – but I wanted to check something else first and lo, as you describe in your blog, when I returned, the link had disappeared. I then tried to search for what I remembered of the title ( a false economy?), but alas, thus far I’ve not been lucky enough to locate this entry.

    I hope these are just teething problems because both elements are of considerable benefit to me as I root around your archives.

    What I would LOVE to see is a hardcopy of your work which I know would be a faithful friend to me. Might you ever consider writing a book?

    Best wishes,

    Jennifer

  3. Reply

    Robyn, no it’s not a stupid question—You have to scroll down in the blog to see SEARCH bar that is beneath the recent posts list.

    I debated on where to put it and decided it was most useful down there because people would see it when they went to look for recent posts. (And above archives) I may need to move it up a bit.

    Search for something and let me know how it’s working for you!

  4. Reply

    Sarah, he, he, we need to write a thank you note to Katheryn over at Making a Mark! I found that it is getting better over time and I’m happy with most of the connections it’s making!!

    So glad you found it fun! Glad you’re going to use it too.

  5. Reply

    Know Jennifer, it would have to be digital klutzism or internet klutzism! But never fear, you are not alone! I think I will have to write a little intro post to keep at the top that tells people, if you see something in linkwithin then note it down because when you come back…It is always dynamic as I’m finding.

    I use the term False Economy(ies) all the time so I don’t understand why stuff doesn’t show up but the most recent post. I think it hasn’t finished crawling through all my messages yet!

    But I do know I wrote this post with FE in the title
    http://typepad.rozwoundup.com/roz_wound_up/2008/12/false-economies.html

    Maybe that was the one you were looking for?

    It’s about buying pencil cases to protect your pencil investment.

    Other than that it could be a lot of things I rant on about—I have particular ideas of what is a waste of time, and why people should use quality art materials (false economy to use cheap stuff with student grade pigments for instance).

    Try searching for “false economies” again in a week or so—by then surely they will have crawled everything on the blog.

    The other thing you can do is start at the beginning of the blog and read a new post every day on days I don’t post a new post. That will give you a sense of continuity and a chronology that you didn’t get originally. (I always have to start reading mystery series with the first in the series!)

    I am usually frustrated by all things internet and so I’m happy that I can at least get something out of the search feature at this point—we’ll see.

    I would love to do a book and need some time off to organize it. I actually have several books I want to do. I have to convince a publisher that what I have to say about journaling is different from what is in all the many books (many of which are lovely and excellent) out there. We’ll see. Keep your fingers crossed. Thanks.

    • elizabeth
    • May 30, 2010
    Reply

    Roz,

    I am so glad you now have a search button. I spent hours the other day looking at your old posts for something because the tags weren’t working. As someone who uses the search function in almost every site I visit (I research EVERYTHING!), could I make a suggestion? Most websites place the search feature at the very top of the page, so most people have been trained to look there first. When I come to a blog/website that does NOT have the search feature at the top of the page, then my anxiety/frustration level (and blood pressure?)jumps up several notches as I try and search for the Search feature… which is a daunting task on some sites.

    As for the other feature, that’s great too!
    Cheers,
    elizabeth

  6. Reply

    Elizabeth, I’m sorry you spent so long looking for something !!!! Eeek. You should have dropped me a line.

    Eeek again, I don’t want to have your blood pressure go up. Let me think about how far up I want it to go. I think it needs to be up a little higher since Robyn’s probably not the only person who couldn’t find it—but I don’t know if I could live with it at the top. We might have to go there in stages. It’s about the hierarchy I like that is in my brain. So we’ll move up a bit next week and then maybe some more—I appreciate the feedback and will look at my favorite sites to see where they put it—problem is many of them are 3 column so having it at the top of one column works for them and they still have the other column.

    Maybe I’ll have to think on that too.

    I really appreciate your note and advice! Just be patient as I become comfortable with it. Thank you so much!

    And don’t let your bp go up!!!

    Thanks.
    Roz

  7. Reply

    Elizabeth—here’s a question for you since you use the search features on other blogs all the time—do you find it helpful at all to have the “popular searches” feature which lists things other have searched?

    I’ve set it to 20 terms and it seems to take up a bit of space. Maybe if I didn’t have that it would take up less space and I wouldn’t mind having it higher up in the column?????

    Do you find those past searches helpful to you? Is it something I could lose?

    Thanks.

  8. Hmmm … I’ll start with the more negative response first. I can see good points about LinkWithin, but I have been frustrated by it on other sites for the reason mentioned above – that if you see more than one link you want to follow, when you return the second link has gone. I wish it would allow a right-click “open in new tab”, which would resolve that problem.

    I’m getting irrelevant links from it (2 out of 3 on this post being to Gigapan posts), but as you said it is probably still too soon for that to prove anything.

    I am so glad you have added the search function. I have a lot of your posts bookmarked, but quite often I remember reading something here and I still can’t find it. It doesn’t seem to pick up alternative grammatical forms like google does, but other than that my test searches have found the posts I expected to find, and I’ve been led down some interesting side-tracks by other posts it found. I’ll give it a big thumbs-up.

    I do have a slight problem viewing the search results on my netbook, which has a 1024 x 600 screen. The search window doesn’t actually sit in front of the blog window but inside it in some way, so the blog page scroll bar almost completely obscures the search scroll bar, leaving just a tiny sliver available to use. That probably isn’t something you can configure yourself, though, so I’ll just have to put up with it. It’s fine on DH’s laptop with a normal aspect ratio.

    Also, I agree with Elizabeth about expecting search boxes to be at the top of web pages. If I hadn’t read this post, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the new search function for ages, and if I was a new visitor in future, I’d just assume there wasn’t one.

    I like your suggestion of catching up old posts by starting from the beginning of the blog on days you don’t make a new post – why didn’t I think of that earlier?

  9. Reply

    Jenny thank you so much for your thorough report on field testing these two new features. I have found the transitory nature of LinkWithin bothersome as well (and I wrote the blog!). I can see the reasoning for setting it up this way, but it’s still frustrating. They want to keep people going to different places, but you should return to the same “position” and selection as before.

    I’m going to move the search engine up right now, but let me know if that “popular searches thing” is interesting to you at all. I guess I’d just as soon leave it off because it takes more room, but if people like it…

  10. Reply

    Jenny and Elizabeth, I moved the search engine thing up to just below the category cloud (I like the cloud first because those are my categories and the popular search feature of the search engine creates another.) I hope you find this placement more useful. Thanks for the feedback.

    • elizabeth
    • May 31, 2010
    Reply

    Roz,

    Well, actually I did go ahead and drop you a line! 🙂 (It was about gouache and maybe some sort of online classes/DVD?)

    When I do a search, the first thing I do is check for my own search term (as opposed to looking at “popular searches” or “categories”). The reason for this is probably due to my temperament and habits (I am a physician…).

    I DO like the “popular search” and “categories” features, because often they can point me in the correct direction when I am at a loss for what I am specifically looking for. These features are also helpful to me because more often than not, they prompt me to search for things that I would have never thought of before.

    The location you currently have the search feature is, in my opinion, still a bit too low. If it were up to me, I would either place it at the very top of the page or below your copyright notice. I tend to get lost in all of the writing on the side bars and rarely look at them unless I cannot find what I want. Once again, this is probably due to my training and impatient nature.

  11. If it works, I would love it! I’m a fairly new reader and am trying to catch up on all the wonderful information you’ve posted, so I’m seeing it as a sort of shortcut to things I’m already interested in.

  12. Reply

    I don’t think I would often use the “popular searches”, as if I am searching I usually know what I want to find and I don’t really care what other people wanted. When I am just browsing I might use it, but the cloud would work just as well for that, and anyway I think I prefer to follow internal links in the posts and see where that leads me (usually a long way!)

  13. Reply

    Found the search engine now. Thanks Roz, I think it is really excellent. Now thinking of swapping it with the one I have on my blog.

    The reason I couldn’t see it at first was because I had zoomed in on the text on your blog to make it an easy read on my 27″ screen. The zoom knocked out half of the search engine icon.

    Wishing you a very productive break and looking forward to welcoming you back on a daily basis when you feel like it.

  14. Reply

    Elizabeth, Jeanette, Robyn, thank you all for your comments and suggestions about the search engine. I’m not sure yet what I’ll do about the “popular search” feature.

    It will be an on-going consideration.

    Roz

  15. Reply

    My final thought on the search box positioning – if you end up removing the popular searches, then I think you could reconsider Elizabeth’s suggestion to move the box itself higher on the page, because it would then be much less intrusive there than it would be now with the popular searches attached.

  16. Reply

    Thanks Jenny, I’m still considering all this.

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