Skip to content
Welcome guest. | Register | Login | Add
About | Wiki | Legacy

Has Libervis Network gone too static?

15 replies [Last post]
memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 2 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12

Remember last year? What about 2005? We were in a constant state of flux, revision after revision. A feeling that something is missing or simply that a lot could yet be achieved was constantly driving calls for changes, re-thinking and subsequent revisions of this site.

But around the end of last and beginning of this year things just settled in. I did feel that we have found a formula that works sufficiently well and made peace with the success that we already achieved so far, not looking for something much more because it may not be what this kind of site can or should do (for example, forums which are buzzing with activity in terms of hundred posts a day might not be something *any* site of this nature would usually achieve, and hence I lowered my expectations a bit closer to this reality).

The formula ended up being quite simple, and all it takes is maintain it. Occasional interesting article on a modern topic, featured news with brief commentary, discussions in forums and comments and additional "features" to enrich the site such as the link blog, newswire and the wiki. Articles were bringing in some readership and traffic boosts, and even controversy as well as sometimes new valuable members who just discovered the site and decided to engage in forums too. Featured news kept the site updated sufficiently frequently to warrant checking out for at least a couple of times a week for the least active genuine readers (my assumption). It works alright. There are ups and downs, as always, and we seem to be in a bit of an activity down on forums right now, but we could in general keep this up, right?

However, if that was the only question I wanted to ask with this post it wouldn't make a lot of sense. When one would look at the Libervis Network today and try to guess its purpose, I think it wouldn't end up being anything more than "participating in the dialog for the cause of Free Software, Free Culture and digital freedom in general". The keyword is "participating", not driving it. Taco said long ago that we should be the news, not talk about the news. It's a concept which is very easy to agree with, but hard to put to action. I think that the closest that we've got to making the real news was perhaps through some articles which were interesting enough for some people to willingly link to them and discuss them, articles which, though, we alone submit to few starting sites anyway, like LXer.com.

It's hard to conclude anything else. We are merely participating and among the participators I doubt we are even among the bigger and more influential players. And who would that be? Well look at LXer.com, the Tux500 project, even our friends at GetGNULinux.org and PolishLinux.org. Compared to them Libervis Network is mostly just support that goes around fueling the talk, but not much more than that.

Now I'm not saying this is all that bad. There is only so much space for the big works. The rest simply have to be the ones doing the talk, discussing, supporting, advertising, just carrying over the voices, but the inevitable question must creep in: can we do more? Can we become one of the movers and shakers?

There have been a certain amount of ideas on both Libervis.com and Nuxified.org, our current flagship sites, of which most were left as nothing more than ideas. Why does that happen is probably a topic for a whole new thread. It can be anything from simple lack of genuine interest and enthusiasm for realizing them to lack of means for realization, but it's not that simple.

I have to admit that the staticism that infected Libervis Network very much did coincide and was partly caused by a certain stage I personally went through, when I was a bit more easily annoyed, disillusioned and distracted. I feel I am exiting that stage now though, or am largely out of it. I think I can re-charge and finally kick in some major gears around this network. I believe, though, that the biggest enthusiasm pumper is yet to come when I go to iCommons in just three weeks!

Anyway, I have created and attached a mind map which presents the way I currently see Libervis Network. It is roughly a complete picture of which each detail can be discussed specifically. The reason why I'm sharing all this is no different than before (back in the time when I was constantly ranting about reforms of the site). If I lay my thoughts down someone might have something insightful to say about it, which I can learn from. As community oriented projects, this all very much depends on how well tuned I am with the community here after all.

Thank you

Danijel

AttachmentSize
Libervis_Network.png80.36 KB
__________________

Daniel Memenode signature

dylunio's picture
User offline. Last seen 5 years 39 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2005-05-08
Hmm, too static? Erm maybe,

Hmm, too static? Erm maybe, we could always do with more articles, but I think that the subject matter may limit this, which is no fault of the site nor it's stratagy. You mention that we are mearly 'participating' in the community, true, we are participating in the larger Free Software community, but the other projects you mentioned are too. Admittedly we do not go out and paint cars with Tux etc. instead we think. The thinking we do and discussion we have are valuable imho as they alow a discussion among FS people which are independant of institutions such as the FSF - we can challenge the ideas of the FSF and offer our own ideas and conclusions. In a way I've thought of Libervis.com as a thinktank - currently our articles are small and not very influential, but they should grow in depth and influence (well I hope the latter, as I cannot guarentee it). What I'm trying to say is that we participate in our own unique way. I'll not comment on Nuxified, as my ideas on it are not totally clear in my head currently.

Also remember what time of year it is - currently it's early summer, which is the time of exams. Many people who participate in LN are students, thus their output and participation may not be very constent, as their exams are more important to them than LN even!

I've no idea if what I've said makes much sense, ask questions if it hasn't, rebut me if you think I'm wrong etc.

dylunio

memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 2 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12
Yes it does make sense. And

Yes it does make sense. And yes I do completely understand that studying and exams trump LN in importance, as they should. Smiling I have guessed, after you also said that you have exams, that this might be influencing the activity so I am not too worried about that.

My post above isn't motivated just by activity or lack of it, but by a lack of bigger events and progress on Libervis Network in the last few months and my desire to possibly change some of that in the future. We did launch MobiLiberty.com, but it wasn't nearly as successful as Nuxified.org for example (nor nearly as motivating actually), and the two existing sites were more in a continuity rather than rapid evolution. I don't consider this necessarily a big problem. I'm just wondering if it could be pushed to a new level, and if we should even be doing that.

But you said it well about us being a think tank and an independent voice. Maybe I should be more appreciative on that and emphasize that much even more than before. We probably can't miss by striving to make articles of even better quality and even more influence. Maybe my articles should step up a bit further to being not just reactive commentary, but a bit more strategic, attempting to precisely insert a new kind of argument into existing Free Software/Culture debates. The goal would be to be novel, highly enlightening and hence attractive to other freedom thinkers. Smiling

Also, I think it would really be good to devise a system of incentives for recruiting new writers. If money is not an option for that yet (and I think it might not even be the best way to provide incentive in all cases), something else should be found.

I'll be thinking about it.

__________________

Daniel Memenode signature

User offline. Last seen 6 years 11 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10
I know your post from 2004

I know your post from 2004 is old, but don't get too down. In fact, don't slow down. The site has great, original content on important topics. Spun in a slightly different light, the site could rock and you could be getting a lot of traffic, linking, and hopefully ad revenue. Since you're asking for how to spice things up, here's what I would do. (Of course, I should talk, right? I mean, I'm not lucky enough to have a site like yours -- I have no forum sites yet. Affiliate Marketing is in my future, but not just yet. This is just my opinion about where I'd go with sensational content like this.)

1. I'd switch the CM + forum system. The CM is blocky and overwhelming and doesn't use white space on the home page pleasantly. Check out something hip and new like "http://forevergeek.com/"? I mean, check out the daring colors, good use of white (grey) space, and interesting use of CSS. However, forevergeek.com, as well as news.com.com, get it wrong, in my opinion. They don't realize that the first impression is most important and that first impression goes into the first 800x800 pixels on the site. In that space you obviously need your banner logo, your menus, and some sort of creed. But you also need to show at least 5 top new things on your site every 2 days along with photos. The photos and article leadins need to be paramount, your logo taking a second to that, and the menus and creed taking a third to that. Then, let users scroll for the other new articles beneath the top 5. Another thing I like about forevergeek.com's look and feel is that they use a two-column + margins type of look on the homepage, which is fast to read for us skimmers.

2. I'd get a fresher forum system. Have you considered Vanilla (http://getvanilla.com/)? It looks and feels really cool. It's also got lots of add-ins. It's FREE.

3. I'd find a programmatic way to hook in photos. Photos are important. For instance, I'd take a bunch of abstract photos, and some appropriate photos. I'd use my own camera. I'd make certain I didn't have anything in the photos which could be construed as trademark infringement or libel. I'd upload them and tag them in a database by certain keywords. When you as moderator want to post an article to the home page, you could have the script that does this to automatically pick something like 10 appropriate photos to choose from. You then click on that photo and *bing!* it appears on the homepage with the article very nicely like you see at news.com.com, which seems to understand that photos are important for us skimreaders out there.

4. I'd remove homepage clutter. Think whitespace, but done right. For instance, I don't need a login box on the homepage (let them see that on the forum page). I don't need a Community Voices, Libre Music, Who's online, member count, save this or that, ads, sponsor links, or shared links. Sure, those things are appropriate in their own place, or reduced to the fewest readable pixels as possible. Move the ads on every other page. If you have to have ads on the home page, then yeah, put them at the bottom. But every other place -- I'd put those ads right below the banner and make them appropriate like the way Google Ads does theirs. I also don't need the "Submitted by on " under the headlines. Just put the author's name and the date without the words -- we just "get it".

5. I'd speed up the site. I don't know if you're getting decent traffic or if there's just some sort of latency from your hosting plan. Is there anything to be done affordably to improve it? For instance, some sites don't use enough CSS, or have a TON of Javascript, and that slows down pages. Some sites don't realize they can turn on HTML compression in their Apache settings file. AJAX, as well, will definitely speed up page downloads because much of the Javascript (not all, though) will be kept up on the server.

6. If you read someone's blog that's linked in through your site, or some kind of forum item, and you think with a little bit of help this could be recomposed into an article on the homepage, then go ahead and let that person know. They might have a little time.

7. If you didn't read this clearly, I'd skip the ads on the homepage. Let them see ads on every other page. It's more inviting that way and people are more inclined to click.

8. Watch those fonts. People who read web pages all the time, who get little sleep, especially the type of audience that reads your kind of content, are the type who may have bad eyes. So I wouldn't go with anything less than 9pt font.

9. Dare to go with rounded corners here or there like you see at http://getvanilla.com/ and http://forevergeek.com/.

memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 2 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12
Wow, thanks for taking the

Wow, thanks for taking the time to make these suggestions. There's some really interesting stuff in there.

At least some of the things you suggested should be viable and some others might not be, but I think we could make some improvements overall. I'll re-read your suggestions, observe ForeverGeek.com and news.com and see what can be done.

What I can say from the top of my head though is that the first suggestion, about switching CMs would largely depend on how well can the current content be migrated and how well would the chosen new system integrate (one of the biggest reasons for using Drupal is that everything is smoothly in one piece and still quite flexible and modular). Also I agree about images and photos, and we have actually been using those in articles lately, most of the time, although sparingly. About homepage clutter you're probably right, and some blocks could be removed in favor of a more streamlined solution or doing without completely.. but I'll still have to see what and how..

Regarding site speed, I know what you mean.. This is shared hosting so there isn't as much under control as would be on a VPS or dedicated. I have a VPS, but I haven't decided to move yet and the current host promised some lucrative changes.. so I'm still hesitant to move anywhere.. Some optimizations can always be undertaken though.

About ads, you mean google ads? If yes I'd be willing to give your idea a try. I am not, actually, relying too much on google adsense anyway so I'm inclined to experiment with it. However I don't have as much flexibility with the subheader text links. I'm afraid those will have to stay anywhere within a header area and sitewide, because that's how they are sold.

As for bigger fonts I fully agree. I instinctively opted for smaller fonts because they kind of fit in more tightly and more text can fit in less space, but then again this might be due to design deficiencies.. In any case making fonts bigger shouldn't be a big deal. And yes, I would dare to play with rounded corners on some elements, but that would depend on a design (which might be changed).

Anyway.. everyone please feel free to comment on these suggestions and add your own if you have them. If we're to do some changes it's better if they're supported by more people. Smiling

Thanks!

__________________

Daniel Memenode signature

User offline. Last seen 6 years 11 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10
You just might find that

You just might find that changing the way the site looks so that it's faster for skim readers (like me -- man, I'm so bad at this!), and using HTML compression, and then expanding the libervis network of sites such that people on other sites may be drawn to news that takes them back to libervis.com -- doing all of this may drive up Google AdSense such that you start to see a nice uptick. Of course, I'm one to talk -- I have zero AdSense ads, so far. (That's coming.)

memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 2 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12
Makes sense. I'll see what

Makes sense. I'll see what can be done.

Anyone else is welcome to share opinions on this too. Smiling

Thanks

__________________

Daniel Memenode signature

memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 2 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12
Alright, I'm looking into

Alright, I'm looking into this and here are some of my thoughts so far.

supermike wrote:

I'd switch the CM + forum system. The CM is blocky and overwhelming and doesn't use white space on the home page pleasantly.

We would really need a big reason to do something as drastic as switching a CMS. The thing is that Drupal (which we use now) is actually flexible enough to allow a whole redesign without changing a CMS, so the clutter, blocky feeling and whatever issues remain can be fixed without switching CM systems.

supermike wrote:

Check out something hip and new like "http://forevergeek.com/"? I mean, check out the daring colors, good use of white (grey) space, and interesting use of CSS.

Indeed, hip and cool is what I've been moving at for a while. I guess I wasn't too successful at it so far, but we can improve. ForeverGeek.com certainly looks quite pleasing, as well as many other Web 2.0 kind of sites.

supermike wrote:

They don't realize that the first impression is most important and that first impression goes into the first 800x800 pixels on the site. In that space you obviously need your banner logo, your menus, and some sort of creed. But you also need to show at least 5 top new things on your site every 2 days along with photos. The photos and article leadins need to be paramount, your logo taking a second to that, and the menus and creed taking a third to that.

I'm not sure I can properly visualize what you mean. I agree that most recent relevant content should be prominent, but a little marginal space on top for a logo and a fairly prominent yet not intrusive space for navigation must be somewhere... I think on Libervis.com the biggest improvement that could be made is in what is currently a center column of the homepage + featured news, to make it more appealing and readable. Feel free to point to examples of what you mean.

supermike wrote:

I'd get a fresher forum system. Have you considered Vanilla (http://getvanilla.com/)? It looks and feels really cool. It's also got lots of add-ins. It's FREE.

I've taken a look at it and it does look nice. But I have a little secret to tell you, which is not really a secret. Smiling Drupal forums (which we use) by default actually look more similar to Vanilla than what you see on Libervis.com. At Libervis.com making them look more flat (more like old phpbb) was deliberate. Take a look at Drupal forums and you'll see it's much more similar to Vanilla. So perhaps only changing the appearance and functional design of these forums would achieve the freshness you're talking about. Smiling

Anyway, that's it for now. I might directly comment on some of the other suggestions you made later. I am dissecting your post and some changes will definitely be made, even if subtle.

Also, doesn't anyone else have any opinions? Do you agree with supermike's suggestions? Have any of your own, while we're at it? I'm all eyes. Smiling

Thanks

__________________

Daniel Memenode signature

memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 2 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12
A quick thought regarding

A quick thought regarding forum re-design. I think it would be much more efficient if we dealt away with that internal sidebar on thread view. This is what I mean:

The number of posts and the date of joining can be displayed in a profile page. I'm not sure how many people on Libervis.com would really care about this info anyway. Maybe on Nuxified some would, but not here. Smiling

This would allow the text to stretch to the full width of the column and as we make the font larger it would greatly enhance readability.

In addition we could make colors and post handles a bit lighter and happier. Thoughts?

__________________

Daniel Memenode signature

memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 2 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12
At least for a test run I've

At least for a test run I've done a couple of changes here. I made fonts of main content (including comments and forum posts) bigger and I removed the forum sidebars so that actual content takes all of the available space. I think this should be better, but you'd be the judge.

As for any greater changes in design and homepage I'll consider it, but I have to come up with a solid idea and I'd also need some feedback as always.

Thanks

__________________

Daniel Memenode signature

User offline. Last seen 6 years 11 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10
A More Thorough Review

Starting from the upper-left to the right and then down on each part of the homepage, I'll give you my opinion. Let's try not to focus here and think I'm harsh. Obviously there are wonderful things about this site and I see promise here or I wouldn't be posting this. Let's just realize that I'm pushing away all the good stuff for now and kind of focusing on the negative a bit more so that I can suggest change in the least words possible. However, saying this, please feel free to give your opinion and I won't do anything to counter it.

As for inspiration, here's some links:

CSS Remix
Best Web Gallery

Now, the detail:

Overall color scheme. I'm not a big fan of baby blue. It gives an impression to me of a Mother's site about babies. Does it do anything for anyone else? I think a site about digital freedom needs to feel more like digital or more like freedom. Since red white and blue is out of the question because obviously that no longer means freedom, I'd focus on digital. (USA joke in bad taste there, by the way.) As for digital, I think you need to think tech. Many tech news sites are going black/grey with some other neon color or colors. And the more you can pull off with CSS, the faster the page will load.

Overall look. It's link city. It's scary, not so inviting.

Overall audience. It appears your audience is not just tech geeks. Digital freedom is much more than software. It's about free media formats like music and video, as well. There's a whole generation of very young iPod and MySpacers who need to hear your message out there, and the site should look inviting enough to them. If you can get them when they're young, they can grow up in your grassroots movement to actually make a dent in this world.

Libervis Network. Great idea. Tucked away in the upper-left and not occupying much space.

Top Center Network menus. Great idea. I was on Nux* and probably would not have known about Libervis had that not been there. However, I don't know if the IRC link or the "powered by shopcentar.hr" info is necessary so prominently on the page. I'd move the IRC link as one of the main menu items next to Forums, Wiki, etc. And the "powered by" link I'd put at the bottom of the page.

Logo. I think it needs an upgrade. It looks like a sun reading a book (my first thought) or a sun coming out of a box. The image doesn't really grab me and make me think of digital freedom that much because the logo image isn't big enough. I don't know if the oval is even necessary. Take for instance the logo on Icon Buffet. They make the box medium-large and it has a mild shadow right on the page. One thing you might try is to think of a box with digital bits as squares being unleashed out of it and flying away. As for the libervis swath marks, they're okay. You could perhaps stick with the Libervis.com\The Digital Freedom Community thing, or you could go a bit more modern with an interesting font logo like you see here at fontshop.com or like the logo on fluidbook. As for the ".com", that's actually going "old-school" now in the Web 2.0 world.

Big Animated Ad. I'm not a fan of big animated ads right on the home page at all. I like the "sucker approach" where the home page is vibrant and exciting, but the ads are on the subsequent pages or stuck at the very bottom of the home page. I'm joking when I say "sucker", but what I mean is that the home page says "click me, I'm not scary". However, I want to say that you get an A+ at least for not picking Flash for your ad. Not only does Linux Firefox stick CSS menu flyout DIVs underneath Flash, but Flash is proprietary and that goes against the whole point of digital freedom.

Main Menu (Articles, Forums, etc.). Again, baby blue gradient. Don't know if I'm a fan of that. I don't mind a grey, thin, shadow gradient here or there. The gradient is also large, occupying a lot of space. I'd add the "IRC" link here and call it "Chat". What's a "Link Blog"? Even clicking "Link Blog", I still don't get it. As for "Home", I'd remove that and make it such that people click the logo to get to the home page. That's what I do on most other websites, don't you? Also, what's the difference between "Articles" and "News"? And, why is not the home page the place where I read the "Articles" already -- why do I have to click something else? Also, I think the menus need separators between them like "::" and "|".

ADS, Alive Web Directory, etc. I probably wouldn't have put this there. I probably would have had it on subsequent pages, but not the home page. You've stuck it in the precious 800x600 space on the screen and in my opinion on content/forum sites this should be nothing but inviting content and branding space at least on the home page. Let people see ads soon enough as they click on the inviting links on the home page. Also, why do I need to read about "Baby Einstein", "Leather Purses", and "Long Island News" on a technical site about digital freedom? Bit of a stretch.

Contribute About. First off, these would need a | between them or "::", in my opinion. Otherwise it looks like a fragment and you're left wondering "Contribute About ". As for placement, I'd stick them in the same place as the main menu. I'd also change "Contribute" to "Donate". People are also used to seeing the PayPal (or other logo) Donate button -- don't be afraid to use it. As for "About", I'd rename that as "Our Blog".

Search & Go. The boxy square for search can work sometimes, although consider alternatives like what you might find at US News Magazine.

Background gradient lower down in page. The baby blue long bars that go down a bit in the page beneath Ads and Search -- I don't think this gradient needs to be so massive. It's distracting me.

Login. I don't think I really need to see the login box with Categories, Contact, My Account, My Inbox, etc. right on the home page. Leave that for the Forums page. I also don't need the square blocks on the left. Squares all over the place on a page seem a bit old-school.

Lack of margins. The left and right, in my opinion, need colored margins or white space in order to be more inviting and to help focus attention somewhere.

Community Voices, Libre Music, Use your voice!, Who's online, Members, Save Internet Radio, Exit Signs, Ads by Google. All of these boxes on the left take up an important white space that I think the home page could be leaving fallow. I also don't know if these boxes add much value on the home page. I mean, you might want to check click rates compared to other parts of the page. The "heat map" on the site may show little to no activity on "Libre Music" or "Use your voice!".

Creed ("Libervis.com is the place..."). I think this thing is waaaay too wordy and a bit too mature (made for adults to read). I think you need to draw a younger crowd here, to help mold their young minds that digital freedom is important. If my daughter comes to this site, it would be great for her to read the creed and just get it and want to participate in the forums with her opinion.

I need to digress here and say that right below the creed, I think you need to have a weekly update on activism. If you're really serious about Digital Freedom, then why not create a small four or five line section, or two sections side by side, that help focus on the digital freedom activism project of the week or month, such as writing your Congressman or Government official, or sharing your opinion as a foreigner to a foreign government, on a particular topic.

Main articles. Fantastic you have these. Besides the activism section, and the forums, I think this is the main point why people come here. Some of these are quite good as far as lead-ins. They probably should change every 2 days, however, if that's even possible. As for images, I'd recommend photos instead of vector drawings, and something to make one thing of the relevancy of the article. Think about what you see on news.com.com. This is where I'd like to suggest some sort of article publishing script that automatically reads the text and suggests just 10 images from 600 images in storage. You could click on the image, or click Browse to upload your new one, and click Publish. However, another thing I'd like to mention is that I think the articles need to have a fair mix of mature articles for older software geeks, mixed with news about where digital freedom effects teens and young adults (especially through music and video) or perhaps shows some diversity such as how digital freedom may help the poor in Africa.

(Digression: You might want to look at the new HTML 5 standard. Talk about digital freedom. If Microsoft IE and Firefox support HTML 5 the way it's designed, website designers will be able to make free media formats (Ogg Vorbis, Ogg Theora) available on their websites in an HTML 5 control that's not Flash or a plugin. The pressure is on both Mozilla and M$ to make this happen, and happen well. However, you know if not enough pressure is placed on M$, they'll break the Ogg formats.)

Another point about the Main Articles. Do I really need to see the "Submitted by" and keywords? Wouldn't "tbuitenh Mon, 2007-05-28 11:22" work good enough? As for the Read More, 2 comments, Write to Author, Quote, Subscribe Post -- I would reason to bet that just providing the Read More link is not only the only thing people will want, but it's probably the only thing on a "heat map" analysis that people actually look for and click upon.

Featured news. I actually don't know what this is doing here. How is Featured News any different than the articles? Is it because these are from a separate site? No, that's not it. I think they need to be blended in with the articles. Besides, the Featured News takes up valuable margin/whitespace on the right.

Boxes on right, beneath Featured News. I don't think a single box needs to be there on the home page.

Supporters. What is this? More ads? Okay, that's fine and well-placed at the bottom on the home page, but probably need to have "Supporters" word removed.

Copyright. This whole bar there is just fine.

Loan | Homeowner Loans, etc. More ads? I'd stick them in the same box where Supporters was and no need to call them Supporters or Advertisements.

Links. I think a Links farm is better placed in the menus and called "Suggested Bookmarks". When someone clicks it, they see a short 3 sentence reason (or perhaps even a website thumbnail) why the website is great and why they should bookmark it.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.