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Posted in Sports

The Daily Gazette Reloaded

October 20, 2008

Over the past weekend, The Daily Gazette got a new look.

This revision marks the second site change for the Gazette in the past 18 months. Our first update introduced comments, RSS, and individual article pages, changes which have been enormously popular. The Gazette has had more than 2,000 comments, and circulation has risen markedly.

Most of the changes in this second update are cosmetic. Every page of the site has been rebuilt in response to reader feedback. There are more stories on the front page, and more photographs directly related to our articles. Many readers told us that our archives needed work, so we changed our whole approach.

The biggest change is to our commenting scheme. Starting yesterday, comments are placed on the site immediately after you click the “Submit” button, instead of hidden from view until approved by a member of the Gazette’s staff. We’ve implemented a community moderation scheme—our readers can vote to hide comments they believe are inappropriate.

The Gazette has also taken over responsibility for the Reserved Students Digest, as we announced, here. The new Digest is fully automated, with forms for announcement, event, and job submissions. Just as importantly, all of our Digest issues will be available online in our archives—you won’t have to save Digests in your Inbox just to know what is going on at Swarthmore.

The newest revision was created by Gazette Technology Director Dougal Sutherland ’11, building off of the popular internet framework, Django. In the long term, this revision will make it easier for the Gazette to create specialized tools like our restaurant guide (which will be returning shortly), or the Screwdriver.

For the Class of 2009 especially, it’s exciting to think about the changes the Gazette has undergone in the past four years, from a basic one-day, one-page site to something much more dynamic. Take a look:

The Gazette in 2005.

The Gazette in 2008.

If you have suggestions, comments, or critiques, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • anon


    Maybe I missed this, but can you explain how to vote to hide comments? I was looking at the buttons on the upper left of every comment and was a bit confused.

  • Miles Skorpen

    You would use the up and down arrows on the right side of the gray bar above the comment.

  • Alex Glick ’06 (Gazette Managing Editor, 2005-2006)

    I have tried posting this comment a few times using internet explorer on my pc and it hasn't worked. Here's hoping it goes through this time using firefox.

    After checking the new history page, I would first like to congratulate Miles on receiving the Pearson Award. I didn't realize that they awarded it to non-graduating seniors. I'm sure that it was well deserved and know that you must have put a ton of work in.

    Overall I like the new look of the history page. I think it is a good balance of what we used to have back in the day (i.e. excessive name dropping) and what you guys had last year. That said, I thought I would mention a couple of important pieces of history that I am aware of. Pei Pei's Pearson award win, Micaela's complete revamp of the Arts section (bringing in fine arts coverage in a way that was never done before), and the big surge in sports coverage we had back in the day (mostly due to the awesomeness of Andrew Quinton and the long period of time we had when we had a reporter at every home game) are all kind of important at least in my mind (especially Pei Pei if you're going to mention the other people who received the Peason Award). Here's hoping that you guys get a new sports editor in next year's first year class to bring back memories of Andrew's glory days and some new staff overall to balance out the great technical, news, and other staff you guys currently have.

    I also really like what you did with the archives. I think that organizing in the calendar format is a great idea. I think it might be a good idea to be able to view a whole issue at once (not just the headlines and the lead-ins with a links but actually the whole issue that can be viewed at once by just scrolling down the screen…I think that this was the best thing about the old format we had back in the day). Also it would be awesome if you would some day be able to get the remaining archives back up on the site.

    Another possible suggestion would be to have an overall comments section somewhere on your site (in addition to the comments that go along with individual articles), so this way readers can give general feedback.

    I think that the new look of the website looks really good. I think that you guys are doing a great job overall so far this year. I'm not sure if you guys saw the format from pre-2005 when it was just plain text; things sure have changed. While the new site looks pretty, I think that more importantly that you guys have been having a lot of good "breaking news" and features coverage this year. You've brought a lot of interesting and important news to everyone's inbox this semester, and hopefully now that the format change is out of the way that you'll have even more time to put into even more great articles. Good luck with the rest of the semester!

  • Simon Nin Zhu

    I don't really like it: it's too messy and disorganized, but not in a good, hip way or anything. Everything looks like it was cut and pasted with no adherence to lay out. The size of photos seems arbitrary, as does the position of text next to photos.

    The little feature/column scroll bar in the middle is a neat display of web-savy programming, but is also useless. It too seems randomly positioned in a manner that is intrusive and unwelcomed, much like the "Newest Columns" box at the top left: by all means a neat and useful feature, but looks like it was just pasted there. Ditto for the search bar, but when Google Search comes along maybe that'll be taken care of.

    The new commenting is very nice, so good job on that section, but I feel iffy about the floating "Related Stories" bar. On the one hand it's neat, useful and convenient, on the other I feel like I'm being stalked by a floating window– which, let's face it, I am. I could see that being solidly placed at the side.

    Bi-co news is nice. So are the very top and bottom of the pages.

    In terms of RSS feeds, I use to enjoy being able to read an entire Gazette article in my RSS reader, but the truncation to headlines is actually also okay.

    I realize it's very easy to critique something than construct a lay out, but, as it is, it is my personal opinion that a number of considerable revisions are required.

    Nevertheless, good effort, and, as a daily reader of the Daily Gazette, I hope to see the same commitment to improvement.

  • Simon Nin Zhu

    On a side note, what's the deal with the rating system? My post comes out with a +4, while the one before me arrives with a neat plus infinity. By all means impressive, but ethically questionable, given the 'Managing Editor' position.

    Also, I thought registering (an account) was supposed to allow me to post with approval. Not sure if that's actually the case.

  • Simon Nin Zhu

    Ach, without* where I wrote with approval.

  • Miles Skorpen

    Simon—what "Newest Columns" box are you referring to?

    In response to some of your other comments:

    "Everything looks like it was cut and pasted with no adherence to lay out. The size of photos seems arbitrary, as does the position of text next to photos."

    I'm not sure what you mean, exactly. As the site is designed now, the top three stories are all accompanied by photos/artwork which need to be cropped to one of a handful of sizes (mainly vertical vs. horizontal). Their size isn't arbitrary, but instead intended to balance with the text. If the photographs were much larger (or smaller), there would be a lot more blank space on the page.

    Our index is dynamically generated from whatever content we submit, but this also means that the content has to fit the template we've created.

    "The little feature/column scroll bar in the middle is a neat display of web-savy programming, but is also useless. It too seems randomly positioned in a manner that is intrusive and unwelcomed,"

    That bar will allow us to highlight bigger stories which aren't time dependent. The rest of our front page is refreshed every 2-3 days of publication—but there are a lot of things that should stick around longer than that.

    Also, as for the search bar … I'm not quite what you are looking for. Even when we attach Google, the search box probably won't change. Perhaps you have any more specific ideas about what it should look like?

    "but I feel iffy about the floating "Related Stories" bar. On the one hand it's neat, useful and convenient, on the other I feel like I'm being stalked by a floating window– which, let's face it, I am. I could see that being solidly placed at the side."

    Eventually that box will be able to serve content to users based on options selected in their user management page, so it will become a bit more useful.

    At some point, we may also insert advertising in the box—and if we do that, we *want* it to stalk you.

    "On a side note, what's the deal with the rating system? My post comes out with a +4, while the one before me arrives with a neat plus infinity."

    We're still working on refining this. The site currently gives everything an editor votes for an infinite number of votes. Once I've voted for something, if I vote it down, it goes to negative infinity. Which means I can't really take back my vote, sadly enough.

    Our policy page (which needs polishing) outlines the basic idea behidn the system:

    "Also, I thought registering (an account) was supposed to allow me to post with approval. Not sure if that's actually the case."

    You should be able to, and it is a known problem. It should be fixed in the next few days.

    Anyways, if you have more specific/detailed comments (what exactly makes things look copy-pasted?) let me know.

  • Argos

    I can no longer use the lack of a search bar as an argument against the validity of the Gazette's existence.
    Search bars are awesome.

  • Simon Nin Zhu


    I realize I could've been more specific, so here goes a second try.

    First of all, I meant Newest Comments, not Columns, and on the top right, not left. Sorry about that. The way it's placed over (on top of) the main beige bar at the top seems almost accidental, it seems like it should go underneath it, in line with all the other photos and titles. Furthermore, the way the dark brown is above the beige but so is the beige of the Comments box adds to that 'accidental' effect (not sure how else to express this, but I hope you see what I'm talking about).

    Now as for my 'cut-and-paste' complaint. If you look at the major media websites such as NYT, CNN, or Reuters (which I might presume the Gazette did to provide a reference when designing their own layout), one thing you notice is that you always know where to look at: there's always a 'top story', so to speak. There's no combination of horizontal vs. vertical, as you do, but one, main standard photo (usually of a more square shape), and then text. Other photos are considerably smaller. If you go to the home page of the Gazette you have three different photos and stories calling for your attention, and it's hard to even tell where one story ends and the other begins. Hence 'cut-and-paste'.

    Another factor that contributes to this feeling is the lack of defining dividers, whether through lines or color changes. Again, look at NYT, CNN, Reuters, WSJ, etc. With NYT they use thin, gray lines: unobtrusive, but clear and definitive. CNN uses a different shade of gray for it's main story, barely noticeable, but good enough for when you're just browsing or catching a quick glance. Reuters uses a bit of both, and WSJ uses a variety of different colored or dotted lines. But there's barely any of this division in the top half of the page where there are four different 'boxes' (three main stories, and then the summary of links). Adding a few thin lines or shades might help to make things feel more organized. In this regard the News/Features/etc. pages do a better job, but the way the top two stories and the bottom three don't match up throws it off just a little.

    I realize that the sites I mention are major news sources that publish much more than you do, but I have to say that in this regard the Phoenix website does a better job (obviously the new website, not the old one).

    Of course on the other side you don't want to come out with too much of a 'square', bland or monotonous design, but a blend between the two, and moreover a design that more appropriately guides the reader's eye is definitely manageable.

    As for the scrolling bar in the middle, maybe it's just too foreign to me at the moment, what with it being new and all. Having said that, however, I think I have two major complaints with it: 1) It's placed randomly (this is more the cut-and-paste complaint). 2) Things seem ordered randomly (column, feature, photo spread, feature, column, etc…). It isn't conducive to telling the reader just what's going on.

    You might consider putting it somewhere else (making it vertical, so as to contrast from 'regular' news?), you might also consider getting rid of it, by which I mean, Do we need a scrolling thing? Why not just have a separate section (i.e. you could put it in what could correspond to the left column of the Phoenix website, or something similar).

    As for the Search bar: I like it more on article pages (such as this one) than on the main page. My problem with it on the main page is that it looks as if, like the Newest Comments box, it was placed casually. Not to point to the Phoenix again, but look at where they put it: it's obvious and natural, deliberate, if you will. Maybe you could line it up with something (the comments box, once it's lowered, maybe free up the entire top bar completely…) So not so much _what_ it looks like as _where_ it is.

    As for the floating related stories bar, just the following two thoughts: keep in mind the space that it's using (and what could potentially go there), and, this is probably asking too much, but it looks so static when you scroll up and down. Couldn't you make it so that there's a slight delay between scrolling on the page and the box following you? That way it might feel more like a cute puppy trailing after you rather than an imposing gorilla that refuses to go away. Just a thought.

    It looks like you guys are on to everything else, so I'll end it here.

    Obviously this is all largely subjective and my personal opinion, but it looks like no one else is speaking up about it (which, admittedly, may very well mean that it's fine as it is).

    Let me know if there's anything else I need to clarify.

  • Simon Nin Zhu

    Oh, one last thing: the Archives page? Might I suggest

    Week/Day/Monthly Calendar

    where each segment is a link that open up a drop-down column, or

    Term (Spring/Fall)
    Month (Calendar)

    Just a thought, to clean it up a little.

  • Miles Skorpen

    "one thing you notice is that you always know where to look at: there's always a 'top story', so to speak. "

    Interestingly, if you look at the NYT right now (and this might change by the time you read this), there are multiple top stories—there is one with large text, and another attached to the large photograph.

    But yes—I agree that there are sections of the design that need to be polished off. The divider lines, in particular, are things that might be worth looking in to.

    The top bar is something that has inspired a lot of debate within the Gazette. Personally, I'm a big fan of both the bar, its consistent location across the site, and the way the newest comments box breaks its line.

    The point of the search bar is the be as obvious as possible. You point to The Phoenix's site as a positive example—I think it is too hidden on their site. Look at CNN or the NYT. The search box has a dominant position. (though the styling on ours code be improved).

    That said, the newest comments box does need revision (it looks sorta bland now)—within the next few weeks, it should change to be more similar in design to the menu/weather box below it, with tabs for other types of ordered content.

    The scrolling bar was modeled on the NYT's. Check their homepage, about 1/3 the way down (Inside I imagine ours playing a similar role. Now, theirs is further down the page, but I don't think we have enough content to merit such an enormous index.

    Finally, as for the related-stories bar. It wouldn't be hard to delay its movement … but it would require animating that movement in javascript where now, it is a simple (and very small, kb-wise) CSS element. I don't know if the animation is worth a performance hit.

    (If this comment doesn’t make it clear … a lot of the Gazette’s site is very very loosely modeled off of elements from the NYT site.)

    (PPS — the Archives site is high on our list of pages to refine.) (PPPS — You can now comment without our approval.)

  • Simon Nin Zhu

    I think what I meant by one 'top story' was really one main photo, and I've never seen any of the sites have more than one main photo. Not that the Gazette has to follow this method, but worth considering.

    As for the scroll bar, now that you mention it, yeah, I do see a similarity. I'm willing to see what you guys can do with it, but for now it just feel a little uncomfortable. And as for the search bar, I suppose it could work either way, so that's okay.

    I look forward to any changes that may be upcoming…

  • Confused about voting arrows

    What? How did Alex Glick 06's comment get deemed offensive?

    Sorry Miles you probably already explained this before, but how does it work? We can click on the arrows at the side… up arrow meaning "I like it" and down arrow meaning "offensive" … and then the number in parentheses shows how people have been voting… and then if it gets to negative some number it gets hidden?

    Can you clarify when readers should vote something up or down? Should I vote something down if it's annoying / irrelevant, or only if it's offensive / spam ?