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  1. #1
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Just went Over 1500 entries at biketouringtips.com!

    Sorry for the self-promotion, but I wanted to celebrate the 1500 entry milestone. In addition, over 500 locations and 154 categories are covered. It has taken close to 3 years to find and enter all of these.

    Also, I wanted to announce a major upgrade to my website. I've completely redone the interface, added journal photos, and a new section on articles.

    I'd be interested in any feedback you might have.

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  2. #2
    Silly Party Member
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    .............

  3. #3
    Senior Member xilios's Avatar
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    Very nice.

  4. #4
    Old, SLOW bike rider! ;)
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    Looks good, a bit busy but lot's of info. for sure! I signed up, hope you don't mind journals from us beginners doing "mini-tours" for 2010!
    Take care, RIDE SAFE, have FUN!
    B.J. Ondo
    1993 Mongoose Switchback MTB, being converted to a "comfort bike"! :)

  5. #5
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Quote Originally Posted by bjjoondo View Post
    hope you don't mind journals from us beginners doing "mini-tours" for 2010!
    I'd be delighted!

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  6. #6
    Training Wheel Graduate twodeadpoets's Avatar
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    Excellent! All it needs now is the ability to be read as a news feed
    "Ride Like an Orca!" ~tdp
    "People who enjoy waving flags, don't deserve to have one" ~Banksy


  7. #7
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Quote Originally Posted by twodeadpoets View Post
    Excellent! All it needs now is the ability to be read as a news feed
    You're right! I plan to work on it as soon as I understand how to do it!

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  8. #8
    Senior Member mattbicycle's Avatar
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    I am having lunch now and reading the article now about ultralight touring. It's a fantastic read with excellent information, ideas and pictures. I like the colours/font and look of the homepage. I also agree though that it's a bit busy. I feel that way also about the adventurecycling.org web site; so perhaps it's just me. Congratulations on an excellent site and thanks for providing the link.

  9. #9
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Two of you have mentioned busy-ness of the home page. I was concerned about this myself.

    On way to reduce all the clutter was to remove the single sentences from the Tip listing on the left side and put some space between the headlines. While that looked less busy, it means more clicking just to see what each Tip is about.

    If you have any other ideas for making it less busy but still having all three components on the home page (Tips, Articles, and Journals), please let me know.

    And, thanks for taking the time to provide me some feedback. It really helps!

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  10. #10
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    @raybo Looks like there's a lot of good reading in there. But even prior to reading all the comments i had a similar thought to others... which is it's hard to get ones head around what's available.

    Have you ever thought of using a blog system?

    I ask because most of my recommendations are going to involve things that are inherent in blog systems like wordpress and blogger.com.

    1) you could use an RSS feed or several so people can subscribe and view the latest journals and tip posts... this will also aid in search visibility

    2) you could use a small search box someplace on the homepage

    3) tagging navigation... you could use a keyword or subject based browsing mechanism... i.e. most blogs systems allow you to tag posts with keywords. These keywords then can appear as a "tag cloud" on the homepage so people can see what sort of stuff you're posting about and sift through posts by browsing by tag.

    4) move everything into the same stream... consider putting all the content... journals, tips and other into one single stream newest post first to simplify the homepage. Instead use tags as mentioned above to break the site down categorically.

    99% of the time people just want to see what's new... The intermixing of tips, journals and other content in this reverse stream will be enough to give them a well rounded idea of the types of stuff you post. Better so then your current homepage.

    Anyway, there are a ton more inherent naviagational aids contained in blog systems... and a ton more flexibilities. Indeed blog systems are like mini-cms (content management systems). I can't begin to list all the advantages.

    All I can say is blog systems have evolved over many years with the backing of thousands and thousands of programmers and millions of users through the bubbling up of best practices with an eye toward the most effective methods of communicating and sharing writings. It's hard to argue with that sort of development.

    I don't suggest scrapping all your content or moving it all into a blog system.

    Nor do I suggest moving all your content into a blog system in its entirity... at least not to start with.

    However, I would recommend leaving all your current content in place and replacing your homepage with a blog and directing all new pages for that blog into a fold called /archive or /blog off the root so they won't interfere with old pages.

    Then you could use a general google search box limited to your domain to accomidate / let people discover older content.

    Over time you might slowly rehash or move bits of that older content into the newer system.

    I think by switching to a blog platform you'd gain much more visibility and hence much more traffic. Indeed I think if nothing else you yourself would find your site serves your own needs much better.

    -mike
    flickr.com/photos/mmeiser2
    mmeiser.com/blog
    flickr.com/groups/ultralightbiking
    flickr.com/groups/stealthcamping
    Last edited by mmeiser; 02-23-10 at 03:50 AM.

  11. #11
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    Been further looking at your site.

    Yeah... it's a cool site. I didn't realize journal entries aren't just yours.

    It's similar in nature I guess to crazyguyonabike. I assume this site predated crazy guy though?

    Anyway, love the journals, but yes, there's definitely still a lack of means to browsing them.

    To reiterate.

    I see three forms of content on the homepage:

    1) tips
    2) articles
    3) journals

    I do think it'd be find to leave these separate as is. But at the very least these three forms of content each need.

    1) an rss feed

    2) a way to browse them in reverse chronological order

    3) good search means... or even better a tag or keyword based browsing means.

    Quick question, are you using some sort of open source software or did you code this site yourself?

    If you coded it yourself it shouldn't be to hard to ad keywords to tips, articles and journals. You could then selectively use those keywords as navigation.

    For example right now you have this (please don't take this the wrong way) obtuse search that is sort of complex and clunky. I.E. I can select to view journals covering a certain country and 80% of the countries will return no results. When you add in the four other variables you can see that 95% of all possible search queries will return no results.

    By switching to a tag browsing, or tag cloud approach you can direct people to places where there are good results.

    In summary, upon further inspection, while you might consider some more creative customized solutions you could still use a blog systems like wordpress or moveable type to accomidate the journals.

    The big question is do you intend for this site to compete with something like crazyguyonabike.com... in other words, do you intend to be a technologist and keep evolving the code base.... or do you want to simply focus on the content and leave the technology up to others... in which case you really should find an open source solution.

  12. #12
    Senior Member mattbicycle's Avatar
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    I've just read Meiser's comments. There is nothing I could add to compete with how thorough he has been in giving advice. He seems to really know his stuff and has given advice well beyond my understanding.

    I'm not technologically minded. I just like to see a clean, simple homepage with a menu which takes me through different branches/submenus, logically, until I arrive at something specific.

    Again, I really like the colours you've used. The font is crisp, clear and easy to view. I like the double-spacing. The logo at the top is great. Not too distracting/big and not too small either. The site looks modern, appealing and inviting.

    I'm at a loss to give any useful advice. I'd never seen this site or heard of it until today. I almost with I hadn't looked at it though. I 'wasted' two hours this afternoon with that ultralight article. Gave me heaps of great ideas (bubblewrap for a sleeping pad!). I plan to spend a lot more time in the future looking through it.

    I guess you could devote the homepage to say, two or three dedicated, feature articles on each of the three main sections. Then have a section with the top ten most viewed articles on one side of the screen. Then have a box/tab/whatever for each of the sections which takes the visitor through to either tips, articles or journals. It's a big 'could'. It would no-doubt create as many new problems as it solves and alientate as many frequent visitors as it appeases. I don't envy you. It would be like the job of a junior football coach -- you can never please everyone (players, parents, committee members, sponsors) regarding players' game time!

  13. #13
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Thanks for your detailed and insightful comments.

    Let me try to answer some of your questions.

    First, I have written this whole thing from scratch, which is part of my motivation for creating the site in the first place. I like to program as much as take bike tours!

    The main motivation for creating this site occurred when I pulled up to a campground that a book said had a hiker/biker site only to find out that the h/b site had been closed 2 years earlier. I posted this information at bikeforums and then realized that once it scrolled off the main page, it would be lost in the fog.

    I had hoped that given the chance, other bike tourists would help fill up the site with useful local tips that they discovered on their latest tour. But, I built it and no one came! Instead, I have been slowly adding content to the site. Thus, it slowly transformed from that idea into "my" site. It was never intended to be a blog, it just turned out that way!

    My original idea was to "tag" every entry with both a topic and location, which is how the database was set-up. Since some entries, like touring bikes, doesn't involve a location, about 1/3 of the entries only have a topic. As an early design decision, I only allow one topic/one location per entry. This made the original design and implementation much easier. Some of the entries have been entered more than once in order to assign multiple tags to it, though this is rare. I would be willing to modify the system to add multiple tags to entries but if, in reality, I am the only one to add content, then the current system works fine for me.

    In previous versions, the search menu was listed on every page. In my new design, I didn't want to have a fourth column (the current three and a search menu), so I created a menu that "pops up" when you click the "Browse" link. This my not be obvious enough and may need to be changed. As for it being "clunky," can you be more specific? Or, it is more that it isn't like a "tag cloud" and so you find it less appealing? That said, creating some kind of graphic representation of the site's content is something I should be able to do and will think about how to do it. Thanks for a great idea I wouldn't have thought of!

    As you mention, there are lots of topic/location pairs that have no data associated with them. What's more, journals were added recently (last year) and while anyone can add them, the only actual journals on the site are mine. While others have added links back to their personal sites (one of the search topics is Tour Journals with 142 links currently), the only journals whose entries are fully indexed are the ones I've entered. While I want to tour in many places in the world, more journal coverage will have to wait until others enter theirs or I do more tours.

    For the moment, things are segregated into the categories I put them in (tips, articles, journals). However, a search, either by text or indexes, brings up matches found from any content on the site. Now that I have created these content categories, I like the idea of a chronological search and will add it.

    I am trying to create a site that I and other bike tourists would find useful. As such, it will have features that every other bike touring site has. What's more, most of the Tips are links to other sites, so I am really trying to compliment what they are offering. Crazyguyonabike.com has far more content and features than my site (or any other bike touring site) will every have. But, Neil is an inspiration, for sure!

    Again, thanks for taking the time to fully explore the site and make such valuable suggestions. Changes will result!

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  14. #14
    Crazyguyonabike
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    Hi Ray,

    Just took a look and wanted to give a couple of thoughts:

    First of all, I can sympathise completely with "I built it and nobody came"! You may be aware that I built the Resources section of crazyguyonabike with a similar motivation, back in 2004. But nobody uses it. I'm going to be ditching it soon, in favor of a wiki type of thing which anybody (well, any registered user) can edit. I think that will combat one flaw inherent to this type of database - namely, "information rot". Whenever you build a database, it has to be maintained, and (I'm sure you are starting to realize) that becomes a bit of a PITA. Links go bad, websites go away, companies change. Currently, the Resources on crazyguyonabike are "owned" by the person who posted them, and so if someone posted an entry years ago, nobody else can fix it (except me). The Wiki will fix this, and I think it'll make the thing more inviting and interactive for users - anybody can correct a page or add useful info to it. Just like wikipedia, I'll need to build in protection mechanisms against vandalism, but requiring people to be registered will at least slow that sort of thing down a bit.

    On your site, my first reaction when I go to the home page is "Where's the navigation". I think every site should have an easy navbar of links to the major areas of the site. I saw the journals listed down the right side of your page, and my immediate impulse was to go to the journal index. But I couldn't see any link for that. Eventually I scrolled all the way down to the bottom, where there's a "View all journals" link. You should think about putting some type of navbar which has links into the major parts of the site "above the fold", either at the top or down the left side, so people can get around quickly. I also like to have this as standard on every page, so that people can get anywhere around the site quickly from any page. I'm not saying you have to design it like I did crazyguyonabike, but just that the concept of a navbar is good, at least in my opinion.

    I think it's great that you're doing this. How is it implemented? What language did you use? If it was Perl then there are modules in CPAN for doing RSS. All that entails, really, is generating a page which is in a specific format of XML rather than HTML. So whatever you use, PHP or Perl etc, there should be open source modules out there which can act as an easy interface for you to build an RSS page.

    Hope that helps, again - good job and good luck with this project!

    Neil

  15. #15
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Quote Originally Posted by NeilGunton View Post
    ... one flaw inherent to this type of database - namely, "information rot".
    I've written a program that periodically goes out and checks that the links in the database actually retrieve something. Those that don't get checked by hand and removed when no longer active. While it is a bother, it isn't a showstopper.

    the concept of a navbar is good, at least in my opinion.
    I think this is a good point and I will try to design a way to put site navigation into the top part of the home page.

    I can understand your confusion about the journals. At crazyguyonabike.com there are thousands of journals. At my site, there are only 8 and all are shown on the home page. It will be more of an issue when/if more journals get entered then can be comfortably listed on the home page!

    The same goes for the articles. All you see are all there are.

    What language did you use? There should be open source modules out there which can act as an easy interface for you to build an RSS page.
    I'm using PHP and now see that there are lots of RSS stuff available out there. Thanks for the idea!

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  16. #16
    Bike addict, dreamer AdamDZ's Avatar
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    Nice visual verification method, clever

    Adam

  17. #17
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmeiser View Post

    But at the very least these three forms of content each need.

    1) an rss feed

    2) a way to browse them in reverse chronological order

    3) good search means... or even better a tag or keyword based browsing means.
    I have now added an RSS Feed. It turned out to be very easy to do as I found a piece of code that did all the hard work.

    I have also added a "quick" search list of the locations and categories that have the most entries.

    As for reverse chronological order, I'm not sure what purpose that would serve.

    There is more to do but the transition to the new format has mostly been accomplished.

    As always, I am interested in any comments or suggestions, good or bad.

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

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