The winner from last week’s competition about TaiChung is Michael Turton who guessed correctly that I was taking the picture from the 25th floor of the Splendor Hotel in Taichung. We actually stayed in the more affordable rooms on the other side of the main entrance, but we both like the hotel and the rooms quite a lot, especially for its location.
The competition itself attracted a bunch of entries, with floors ranging from 25th to 70th and even 80th floor! One of the nice points about Taichung though is that it isn’t really a high-rise city yet, so many of the guesses were overly ambitious! Sorry, guys! When we came back from Taichung, the north of the island was plunged into the Taiwanese equivalent of the Big Freeze, the BIG CHILL. Temperatures in Tamsui where we live have plunged from pleasant mid-teens to 6~8C in the last few days.
Oh, well. I just hope that Michael forgives any splling mstakes as my frozen finggers strugggle over the keyboarrd.
The View From Taiwan
The blog is simply the view of one Michael Turton who has lived in Taiwan for many years. It was difficult to find much biographical information about Michael himself. But I did find a picture of him! So, if you see him on the streets of Taichung, say hello from Kenneth!
The primary blog that he runs is The View From Taiwan supplemented by other HTML pages that can be found on his own website, named www.michaelturton.com. The View Blog is full of posts that explore life in Taiwan: Politics, Society, History, Economics, etc. His posts are always well informed, well-written, and interesting reading for those of you interested in Taiwan in many ways. I also love the way his posts always contain large numbers of photos: he has quite an eye for catching simple things and focusing on them in such a way that they becoming interesting – his blog, Flickr, and HTML sites are all replete with photos taken with one of his three cameras. Also, the sidebar is a tremendous resource of blogs and photoblogs, most of which are related to Taiwan. It’s quite a wonderful resource.
The Challenge: Blogger’s limitations
The challenge that Michael faces is mostly Blogger itself. Blogger’s interface, presentation and theme limitations all impede the appearance of an otherwise excellent blog. While the themes aren’t particularly ugly in Blogger/Blogspot, out in the world of self-hosted blogs the options for improving presentation are just THAT much greater. There are plugins and themes that can turn his blog into a full CMS system or even simply the unruly first page. But given the size and depth of his blog, migration to a non-Blogger system would likely prove to be a HUGE headache in itself.
I will instead offer three suggestions that Michael can use if he wishes:
1. Usability: Trim the length and size of your first page on your blog. I saved the page to my desktop and was shocked by the size: it’s 8MB of files. Cut it down by at least 90% so that pages load for people who don’t have such speedy connections. Can you imagine how long the page would take to load on DialUp? So, you need to cut the number of posts to five longish posts or ten medium size posts (a rule of thumb!). I’ll lay odds that your page views are VERY limited possibly only 1.x or similar. In other words, the length of text of the first page is a huge turn off, and you provide little or no means by which people can click through to other pages.
2. Navigation: With so many posts on the front page, navigation, focus and depth become serious issues. Users can’t click on a single post title entry easily or obviously to read a post (I had to click on comments or links to get to a specific post). Navigation by mouse is clumsy even at the best of times, but today I have frozen fingers; and I find it really a burden to have to click and drag, or use the roller in the middle of the mouse, even clicking on the sidebar in the window means that scrolling isn’t smooth particularly and at times you miss important stuff as you skip quickly down the page. With so many posts on one page (is it 25?), it’s difficult for the reader to find the most important posts, the most popular posts, or the posts with most comments. In fact, it’s difficult to find out what the blogger thinks is important. In many ways, it resembles a street market in Taiwan – it takes time to wander through as you search for the fresh, the most delicious, the best value or the newest produce. But it doesn’t make shopping easy. There is a full-archive date by date; as well the archive is topically (and manually) organized. One of the archive links doesn’t seem to work. But a CMS or WordPress platform would make such management much simpler and more effective to the archive problem and help keep the archive uptodate.
3. Sidebar: The sidebar displays the same problem as the main posts column: too much, too disorganized (from a navigation point of view), and clicking on the shortcuts at the top (it works well) takes you to the sidebar area you want to go, but (BUT) there is no way to go back except by scrolling or hitting the back button. It would be much better to offer a separate page or pages with the same information and extract random sites for posting on the front page. With so much information on the sidebar, should he shorten his frontpage to five posts or even ten, then using a double sidebar on the right might be a good solution to the overhang!
Wonderful resource: needs an overhaul
Overall, Michael’s blog is a rip-roaring success with wonderful photos, detailed posts, and good writing. He’s cracked the hard part of blogging: the content. But his blog is in need of an overhaul: one that will improve the design, making his blogging easier and help his readers tremendously. At the very least, he should consider a new blogger theme, even if he doesn’t want to change the CMS he is using (Blogger), especially one that makes navigation easier for readers. And it’s been a privilege to write a review of his blog. Thanks, Michael. And when I’m in Taichung next time, I will look you up!
To my readers, if you are interested in knowing about Taiwan, reading about its culture or politics or you would like to come here to live or travel around the island, Michael’s website and blog both will provide you a lot of what you will need to know. And if he can’t, one of the blogs, forums, websites or resources he has linked to WILL likely have the answer you need! Now, my fingers are frozen. …
Addenda: I will add any missing information here.