The redesign continues...  NOV 18 2003

The incremental redesign of kottke.org continues today with a bit of tinkering with what is possible with the weblog format. If you scroll down the front page of the site, you'll notice that sprinkled in with the regular posts are remaindered links (the 1-line, 1-link posts that have formerly lived in the sidebar), movie "reviews", book "reviews", and excerpts from comments I've made on other sites. Five types of content, one list.

Each post type requires a unique "vocabulary" and a design/layout to go with that vocabulary. For instance, a movie post includes a title, a link, a rating, a photo, and some text and looks like this:

a movie post on kottke.org

By default, most current weblog software, including the package I use, doesn't allow for different data for different post types displayed with different designs in the same list. Typically what people have done with their disparate data is to display them on separate pages or in separate locations on their site...so you need to visit the book page to see if there are any new book reviews or scroll down to check if they've added a new album to their "now playing" section.

To me, that seems not so optimal. A post is a post is a post. The newest content should appear at the top of the list of posts regardless of whether it's a short movie review, one-line link, latest photo, or any other type of update to your site that doesn't fit the typical title/text/category weblog paradigm and each type of content should displayed appropriately. And then if you want to view the complete list of movies, books, or all the remaindered links, you can.

So that's what I've done here. Sort of. What I've actually done is created 5 separate weblogs with MT and, using a bunch of MT plugins (MTSQL, Compare, MTAmazon, ExtraFields, etc.), have aggregated the 5 weblogs on the front page of the site. Which sounds complicated (and is!). But only in implementation (due to the limitations of the software). Really it's just the appropriate data presented with the appropriate design(s) in the appropriate context(s). One site, lots of content, many ways to view it.

Anyway, it's a start and we'll see if it works or not. I have concerns about displaying so many different types of posts in one list (especially with the minimal amount of information)...people are used to all the posts looking more or less the same. I've dealt with that somewhat by visually separating the posts to a greater degree than I have been. But who knows, maybe having a separate display for the remaindered links in the sidebar is a better way to go. We'll see.

Constructive feedback is welcome, as are bug reports, design critiques, etc.

Update: looks like the movie pages are a little funky on Mozilla, but not consistantly so.

There are 106 reader comments

Kati48 18 2003 5:48PM

Hm, at first sight it looks as if the style sheet didn't load properly o something, sort of a disarray of chunks of content. But maybe it just needs getting used to. I can certainly see the point of including everything in one single location, but maintaining the individual formatting.

I'll see if my eyes get used to it in the next few days. (Interesting self-experiment in usability and user's adaptation to unusual formatting.)

dowingba50 18 2003 5:50PM

I think it's a great idea. It makes the main focus of your page (ie: the "weblog" part) more of a metropolitan adventure. You can start at the top, read a couple of "normal posts", then as a change of pace you come upon a block of remaindered links, a movie review or two, some more "normal posts"...and so on.

Will the remaindered links still have their own archive or will they be intertwined with the main post archive?

Dave S.51 18 2003 5:51PM

"... doesn't allow for different data for different post types displayed with different designs in the same list."

So tell us what you really think, Jason.

jkottke53 18 2003 5:53PM

Yeah, the remaindered links are still on a separate page with a separate RSS feed.

Richard54 18 2003 5:54PM

Have you considered the GlobalListings plugin to aggregate multiple weblogs onto one? I realize it might be difficult if you have different rules for posting to each weblog (I imagine you have different rules for Remaindered Links, say, putting simply a URL in the Main Entry with a description in the Extended Entry, whereas in the main weblog the fields are used as by most users or MT).

I'm going to be using the GlobalListings plugin for my site soon, so that while the posts look the same and use the same format, they will have different URL structures due to each weblog having a (slightly but still significant) different Archive File Template.

jkottke55 18 2003 5:55PM

So tell us what you really think, Jason.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that the above post is slightly *cough* muddled, but I figured you'd get the jist if I hand-waved enough.

jazer10 18 2003 6:10PM

Shockingly original. Or, I don't get around much. Either way, it's a change for the better.

Tom Dolan12 18 2003 6:12PM

Interesting, and I give your effort high marks thusfar — I'm going to live with it for a couple days and then comment again (if you're comments are still active!). Combining multiple blogs on the same page is what we also did at AIGA-LA, but it's a bit of a hassle. It's too bad you can't just assign template styles to categories, eh?

Geof17 18 2003 6:17PM

I'll also be trying the "take it as it comes" approach, although a FAQ entry about this would probably be appropriate as things mature.

There are other visual cues that come to mind [minor background color shifts for your varying post types, explicit declarations of post type ("Weblog:" "Book Review:", "Movie Review:", "Remaindered:", "Elsewhere:") or icons for same (with mouseover goodness?)], but they'd probably clutter your design past where you want it to be.

I applaud you trying to stretch the presentation of the media.

Steven Garrity19 18 2003 6:19PM

Interesting changes.

My initial impression is that I very much like the distinct format of the image and title/extra-info for the movie and book review posts (both the idea, and the execution).

I'm right in the middle of shamelessly stealing your remaindered links concept (I'll give it my own unique but clever name) – so now you've thrown me for a loop!

Having two streams of posts that move at different speeds (occasional normal posts vs. frequent remaindered links) in the same place strikes me as a little odd. I'll have to see how it works over time - like you said, separating those two might make sense - parallel streams, moving at different speeds.

Geof19 18 2003 6:19PM

And in looking at it more, I realize that you've done just that for the excerpts.

:oops:

Greg21 18 2003 6:21PM

About time somebody figured out the next step in blog layout. Nice work Jason.

Gene30 18 2003 6:30PM

Nice. I like the look of the movie posts, though the lazy side of me thinks it must be a lot of work find and crop those images. Also, what Steven said about the remaindered links. One request: would is be possible to collect all (five? six?) of your RSS feeds on a single page?

Edison33 18 2003 6:33PM

I liked the remaindered on the side. All the remainders from the various days displayed as a list allowed me to skip the rest of the blog verbosity and just scroll through the one-sentence lists. Please bring it back.

Carla36 18 2003 6:36PM

Looks really nice. If you ever feel like releasing templates for those topics, I'll use it. ;)

1122044 18 2003 6:44PM

looks tops to us. just the sort of thing we're interested in and would try too, if we had the time/expertise.

Keith48 18 2003 6:48PM

I like it. I've mulled over similar issues with my site and still have yet to come up with a solution I think is perfect. There is the issue of layout and then there is the issue of content.

My latest attempt was to create a separate RSS feed (the "no play" version) for those folks who just wanted the "work related" stuff.

What you here seems to work. The only bit that threw me off was the off-site comments, but I think I could get used to that.

Anyway, as one who is constantly tinkering with my own site -- via progressive "enhancement" (yeah right) -- I'll be very interested to see how this ends up working out.

evan51 18 2003 6:51PM

Wait a second - you do movie reviews? and book reviews as well? Well, I'll be shuggered.

Personally, the redesign's cool to me - though like others have said I'm unsure about the remaindered links in the main column. But who am I to fight change, really. Go for it dude.

Matt Haughey54 18 2003 6:54PM

It's too bad you can't just assign template styles to categories, eh?

Sure you can, by creating custom templates and setting them to just one category of post output.

Matt Haughey57 18 2003 6:57PM

Also, I like the remaindered links in the main area. I use blo.gs to track site updates and I'd often see the remindered links bubble up to the top as updated and I'd read the archive page for it, missing many posts on the front page of kottke.org in the process. Plus, if you're constantly rechecking the site for new remaindered links, you don't care about the list of older stuff.

I think it'll work out perfectly, letting me keep up with both the main blog and sideblog in one place, without having to look at old stuff very much.

Stewart Butterfield58 18 2003 6:58PM

I like it a lot, especially the remaindered links inline - the main posts and the links mutually give each other context. Don't take them out.

Rich59 18 2003 6:59PM

What I like:
1. It's different and very original
2. If I was a first time visitor, I like that the site is simple and coherant, without the distraction of a Remaindered Links section.

What I don't like:
1. Forget about #2 above, I don't like that Remaindered Links is no longer available in it's classic form... I miss it.
2. Entries seem to just run into each other without clear seperation.

Anyway, keep going... I'm really interested in how it turns out. Are you doing this by the seat of your pants or do you have a grand plan for how this redesign will turn out?

David Jacobs05 18 2003 7:05PM

I like that your film ratings scale goes to 100 - a few friends of mine have thought of building a film ratings engine that works 0-110, with the space between 100-110 reserved for only absolutely classic films (Rushmore, etc.)

I like the layout as well.

Tom Coates15 18 2003 7:15PM

Have you considered making them all the same weblog and using the category stuff to style each one differently?

dtetto16 18 2003 7:16PM

I think I'm going to hate to see the remaindered links gone from the right sidebar. Unrelated lists of links included inline with each days post? What is this, a weblog?

In all seriousness, I feel like remaindered links (though it does have it's own new page), deserves that leftbarspot a lot more than your recommended links. Not that I don't love what you're doing here otherwise, but why can't the remaindered links stay?

Anil16 18 2003 7:16PM

I've been really interested to see the blog format evolve, especially as we're presenting different kinds of microcontent. I'm not sure the current display provides sufficient distinction (or identification) for unique types of information, but you've always tended towards understatement in general, so that could be a legitmate stylistic choice, not a shortcoming.

The larger question, of course, is how personal publishing tools should evolve to manage specific types of microcontent. Our decision on TypePad, which I agree with, is that auxiliary info (TypeLists) are page components, but are subordinate to primary posts. Thus, link typelists (remaindered links), reading lists (books), and movie links would be items on a sidebar. You're asserting that they're peers to primary posts, and ought to be displayed inline.

Setting aside people who read this content in syndication clients (a pronounced minority, even now) I'm not sure I agree with the thesis. Your media consumption, while interesting, valuable, literate and (in the case of the movie reviews) quite attractively presented, is ancillary. If the movie reviews were your primary content (as on your movie blog), I'd go there independently just to see that content.

In a larger sense, do we want the main weblog to just use categories to indicate these different types of information? Or should we have specific fields for each content type (as we do with TypeLists, or as people suggest for reviews as in the RVW format?) and make the template output system an order of magnitude more complex?

Honestly, I think there might be some middle ground here. (Speaking personally, not officially in regard to TypePad or Movable Type.) CSS and content-specific styles might allow us to do a lot of the formatting without needing a lot of new data fields or plugins.

The last step is creating a list of data types that people would want to present. Movies, books, music, weblogs, etc. Those things are easy to anticipate. And things like the web services from Upcoming show that events are important to list. But some people would want to have a record of their recent athletic accomplishments, others would want to catalog their pez dispenser collection, and I'm not sure there's even appropriate metadata standards for those items, let alone generic ways to present this data meaningfully within an application.

In short, this is great work at presenting this data on Kottke.org. But I want to make it easy for anybody to present this data in the way that makes sense to them, and I think that is more likely to be accomplished with the content treated as ancillary information, as most bloggers prefer to do, than inline with the major content.

Rich22 18 2003 7:22PM

One more thing... I dig how comments you've posted elsewhere appear here. How are you doing that... manual entry?

Frank Showalter26 18 2003 7:26PM

I've been doing something similar with my site www.fshowalter.com for a while now. Except I'm highlighting the latest post from each blog in reverse chronological order by showing it in full (with appropriate formatting ie reviews are formatted different than weblog entries), with just the excerpts for the rest.

Jason Kilpatrick29 18 2003 7:29PM

I'm a fairly new visitor to the site (only reading for a couple weeks) and I think the redesign, while initially confusing, is quite very original. Personally I'm a fan of the remaindered links separated but at the same time the content section of integrated posts makes for interesting flow. The reader follows Kottke's progression of posts, if they are all chronological. It's like following a blog author webtrail. Just a thought.

Andrew31 18 2003 7:31PM

This is very slick. I've been thinking about the same idea, just with no idea how to actually go about doing this...

1122033 18 2003 7:33PM

we've never really been a fan of slicing off 'interesting' links and dumping them in a separate column. go go one coulmn content! back to the old school.

jkottke36 18 2003 7:36PM

Have you considered the GlobalListings plugin to aggregate multiple weblogs onto one?

Yeah, but the problem there was not being able to make each type of post look different (although, now that I think about it, it might be possible...). Plus, the MTSQL approach was a bit more flexible.

I like the look of the movie posts, though the lazy side of me thinks it must be a lot of work find and crop those images.

It is, but I like the creativity involved. I do a lot of reading and writing for this site...the photo selection for the movies is an attempt to throw some regular design play into the mix. I just started doing this so the results are not what I'd like them to be yet, but the goal is to choose images that will allow people to quickly identify the movie (without needed to read the title if possible) without really hitting them over the head with it. My favorite photos thus far are for Punch-Drunk Love and Kill Bill.

One request: would is be possible to collect all (five? six?) of your RSS feeds on a single page?

That's on the way. As are a lot of other finishing touches (and a major redo of the archives page).

All the remainders from the various days displayed as a list allowed me to skip the rest of the blog verbosity and just scroll through the one-sentence lists. Please bring it back.

You can cut the crap by going directly to the remaindered links page.

Sure you can, by creating custom templates and setting them to just one category of post output.

How do you mean, Matt?

Have you considered making them all the same weblog and using the category stuff to style each one differently?

Same for you, Tom...how exactly would this work? I could see it working on individual category pages, but AFAIK, it would be difficult to specify different layouts for posts from a particular category for the main weblog (i.e. the front page) or monthly/individual archives.

I like it a lot, especially the remaindered links inline - the main posts and the links mutually give each other context.

Yeah, I like that too. I never liked them sequestered over there in the sidebar.

jkottke52 18 2003 7:52PM

Your media consumption, while interesting, valuable, literate and (in the case of the movie reviews) quite attractively presented, is ancillary. If the movie reviews were your primary content (as on your movie blog), I'd go there independently just to see that content.

But everything is my primary content. Prior to this, I reviewed books and movies all the time (well, less so lately, but a couple years ago, yeah). And you can stilll go independently to just the movies and just the books. Why should it be either/or? Why not both? I want the weblog on my front page to list all of the significant content that's new on the site, not just long text ramblings with a title.

I think that is more likely to be accomplished with the content treated as ancillary information, as most bloggers prefer to do, than inline with the major content.

But is that really what most bloggers would like to do or is it what the software allows them to do? Back in the Blogger days, the more keen users created separate weblogs for things like music or movie reviews that they stuck into their sidebars using SSI or PHP. Subsequent weblog CMSs (GM, MT, TP) solidified that behavior...you want another list-like thing? Make it another weblog and put it in the sidebar. If the tool made it easier for people to define their own post types (with associated metadata), maybe they might not choose to separate things out.

But you're definitely correct about the increase in the level of complexity. Trying to figure out an interface for defining stuff like this would be tricky and would not necessarily work for the Basic/Plus user you're trying to attract with TypePad.

Rich55 18 2003 7:55PM

Same for you, Tom...how exactly would this work? I could see it working on individual category pages, but AFAIK, it would be difficult to specify different layouts for posts from a particular category for the main weblog (i.e. the front page) or monthly/individual archives.

I know I'm not Tom, but seems like what you've done is entirely doable with one weblog instead of five. Using MTFilterCategories, you can filter out individual categories and add different style rules to each one. Maybe I'm wrong... just seems like a lot of work to put together 5 types of content that can be sourced from one place.

Tom Dolan01 18 2003 8:01PM

I'd like to hear a bit more from Matt and (the other) Tom about using 'category' calls to assign posts different template layouts (which would then all appear within one blog). Do you have an example online? The more I think about it the more doable it seems, but I don't have the time to poke around inside MT right now. Jason: upon living with (just a couple hours) I think my feedback bits are: 1) the Movie headers feel a bit 'bannerish' and I tended to jump past them (missing the title) and look for content underneath, and 2) the inline remaindered links are great, but perhaps feel a bit connected to the post above them, as if they're a new type of comment link or something. Perhaps you need a more burly separator with this 'all-in-one' layout?

akstki06 18 2003 8:06PM

Anil said,"... I think that is more likely to be accomplished with the content treated as ancillary information, as most bloggers prefer to do, than inline with the major content."

I completely agree with this. I don't see what is achieved by mixing the content types all together in a jumbled list. It's disorganized. That's never good.

xian12 18 2003 8:12PM

I think the decisions about TypeLists in TypePad were valid choices but as always it's nice to have the option of doing things in a different way. As it is, I'd like to see the TypeList elements have more bloggy attributes, such as RSS feeds of their own, at least as an option.

To some extent the choice is between a kind of "pure" blog in the sense of a single chronological list (note that Dave Winer just took the sidebar cruft off of Scripting News as well) and more of a portal approach (sorry to use that word) in which numerous locations on the page each get their own stream of content, typically sorted reverse-chron, but perhaps otherwise (alphabetical, or by category?).

It would be nice if MT (or MT Pro?) were to offer at least the option of a Link/URL field associated with a post. For now, making a link log involved some kind of hack or another, usually designating one of the main entry boxes to hold the URL, and creative use of template tags to make useful RSS, etc. For my own link log, I made the main entry box the link field, but put the description not in the extended entry (as many people do) but in the summary/excerpt field, where I think it makes a wee bit more sense semantically. In the rawest sense, the link posts are the links and the summaries are the description of the link.

But the problem is that there is no standard way to do this, and TypeLists actually take the data one step away from being blog entries, sequestering them outside the normal stream, albeit with more tailored metadata, depending on the type of list, which is cool.

Contrats that with Dylan Tweney's approach in which he uses a separate weblog and categories to drive his link log.

I think for most people the most sophisticated weblog tools still provide more than enough power and flexibility, but it's fun to watch others struggle with the limitations of the current models, and pine for facets or custom metadata, or what have you.

Brian Breslin32 18 2003 8:32PM

so how is it that you pull your comments from other sites? I am extremely curious.

I am definitely intrigued by this whole topic though, keep up the good work.

Tamara45 18 2003 8:45PM

I think it's really really cool that you're experimenting with this. There should be lots of room for different interpretations of data. Just because bloggers have always done things certain ways doesn't mean that those are or will always be the best way. In the interim, and maybe always, it is a great idea to have the information available in a multitude of formats, by category or all together, which it sounds like you've done.

I hope that as you figure this out, you will go into more detail about how you got Movable Type to perform this way.

Adam Rice47 18 2003 8:47PM

To style based on category in MT, wrap each entry in
[div class="[MTEntryCategory dirify="1"]"]
in your MT templates.

In your stylesheet, produce a different style for each category-class (plus any subsidiary styles in context, of course). So,
div.movie {...}
div.movie p {...}
div.rem {...}
div.rem ul {...}
div.rem ul+li {...}

As to the redesign in general, it's an experiment worth trying. If all content is "primary content", it all deserves to be flowed together. My own feeling is that remaindered links really are different from more in-depth posts, and spatial segregation makes sense for that in particular. Comments from other blogs? Gets a little trickier, since some comments are of full post quality (but for those, why not write in your own blog and track back, when possible?). Reviews? Well, I flow mine inline in my blog, so obviously that's the right approach for them.

ste08 18 2003 9:08PM

In theory, the idea of putting all content in the same flow sounds great. And while I like your implementation (no really, it's nice), I have a few questions. Instead of going to all the trouble of mucking with plugins, multiple blogs and whatnot ... why not simply create separate categories and use some server-side processing to change the presentation for certain categories (like say movies, books, links, quotes)? It seems like quite a bit of overkill for something that could be achieved rather simply another way...

Also, personally, I like the quick links on the sidebar - unless you're planning on pinging Weblogs.com or Blogrolling when you post new ones. I like being able to come to your site randomly to find new quick links and don't want to hunt for them. ;)

Oh, and one other thing ... what if visitors didn't want to see all of those different posts? What if they just wanted the usual weblog and not the movie reviews? ;) (Not that I mind - just food for thought. I think I'll keep my various weblogs separate for now, but then I've always been more of a stickler for compartmental organization...)

Dave32 18 2003 9:32PM

I like the use of different metadata for different types of posts. Weblog software should allow for entries to bear information relevant to their type. Reviews of media should allow for cover thumbnails, ratings, author, publish date, etc. Photos should have information on location, time of day, camera settings, etc. Done properly, one could go to your movie rating page and view the posts by rating or year or according to any attribute one chooses. TypePad's TypeLists add appropriate fields, but don't allow for weblog interspersement, nor do they generate archives or have syndication feeds.

So while I like the integration of your movie and book reviews into the rest of your posts, I don't think that your remaindered links quite fit in with the rest. I'm guessing that you have a quick test in your head when you run across a webpage for it it gets a remaindered link or a full post. If it piques some interest, you might write an entry about it with your personal interpretations and comments, but most of the time you'll just put up the link with a one-line intro. This makes a distinction of "hey look at this thing" and "here's what I think about this thing." By putting the two together, you're conflating this distinction and on some level implicating yourself with the remaindered links.

On a design note, I like the header images, but they look a little jarring. The design of your site is wonderful, and much of this is because it's mostly white, split up with some striking red and a sharp yellow. But mainly it's whitespace, and this is good. The big dark bars at the top of each movie review disrupt it all. I'd guess that toning them down in Photoshop somehow would do the trick.

Graham39 18 2003 9:39PM

I'm in the minority here, but I'm not a fan of the New Way. It seems like a step backward, in terms of communicating with the reader. I understand that it's important to show that you're interested in lots of things, and have several ways of expressing those interests, but lumping them all together like this doesn't let you convey any of that -- it just says that there's a big jumble of things you like. The visual cues you're relying on to set them apart from each other don't do the trick (for me, anyway, but I've never been accused of subtle sensitivity).

If you're feeling pressed for real estate on the front page, I think you'd be much better off deleting the blogroll. Again, the question is: what are you trying to communicate, and are you doing that effectively? A big list of other sites says "Here are some things I like", but, well, isn't that what the whole site is supposed to say? If you use it for your own convenience, clicking through to all of them every day/week/month, then the space-saving technique of the javascript "more links" is a drawback, not an advantage, and a separate links-page would serve the same purpose; if it's for other people, well, what's the point of that? Is it the reason they're going to come back and read your front page time after time? No, they could just lift all the links and put them on their own page, or bookmark them, and achieve the same purpose.

I won't presume to tell you why people come to your site, but I think that the old way did a better job of communicating with *me*, conveying to me the things that I wanted out of it. It may in fact not have communicated what *you* wanted, but I doubt that this new version does that any better, or even as well.

Anil12 18 200310:12PM

I don't want to get too far off topic on what Jason's doing, but I wanted to address this:

As it is, I'd like to see the TypeList elements have more bloggy attributes, such as RSS feeds of their own, at least as an option.

Syndication feeds for TypeLists are coming soon, I think we'll put official word out about that in the next few weeks. And, as I've been playing with TypePad in advance of my conversion to the service, I think it may be possible to have TypeList data appear inline with regular blog entries, which would make a system exactly like what several people have mentioned; Microcontent-specific entry fields generating output that could all be viewed inline on one page.

In a larger sense, what Adam mentioned about styles seems the most obvious short-term fix. a .movies class with a background image set to [moviename].jpg could pretty easily do what jason's doing for reviews now.

Donnie16 18 200310:16PM

Where's the Paris Hilton movie review?

bradley s. felton19 18 200310:19PM

ugh. one area, one kind of post -- bring back apartheid! there's a time and a place for segregation, and this is one of them -- separate but equal :D

jkottke22 18 200310:22PM

Where's the Paris Hilton movie review?

I haven't gotten my xxx movie review weblog set up yet. But when I do, watch out Fleshbot!

To style based on category in MT, wrap each entry in
[div class="[MTEntryCategory dirify="1"]"]
in your MT templates.


I don't think this will work exactly how I would want it to, but I'd love to see someone prove me wrong.

Allison30 18 200310:30PM

What, no movie review of Seabiscuit? ;)

I liked the remainder links over on the side, allowed me to track which links had threads as well.

Tom Dolan35 18 200310:35PM

Right, I'm agreeing with Jason on this (I'll try some experiments before Thanksgiving — hopefully). I think we're using the word 'style' too liberally. In order to accomplish what Jason has done you need to be able to assign category-specific meta-data, include a specified image (or not), etc. I guess you could build one uber 'entry' format, and then hide and reveal components via CSS as called by category, but seems almost as much of a hassle as building an include to suck different blogs together.

Patrick48 18 200310:48PM

I like the remaindered in main column, I dont necessarily like it better but it works.

Also like the headers for the movies although I'd prefer smaller ones as in the books page.

Keeping your own comments made elsewhere is also a good idea. Were you doing that before?

When initially seing the remaindered that are sometimes bunched together I thought you were just posting them all at once but they have seperate comments which means they are all individual entries in another blog, like before. I'm guessing they are included in the page only once a day? How do you "trigger" that? Or is it something completely different?

Mena Trott05 18 200311:05PM

Anil writes:

...I think that is more likely to be accomplished with the content treated as ancillary information, as most bloggers prefer to do, than inline with the major content.

I don't think that it has to be a black or white issue since I do see what Jason is doing as a logical evolution in the way we handle ancillary content. With TypePad and TypeLists, we're seeing a number of subscribers asking us how they can flow their sidebar content into the main content area on an item basis -- basically, some reviews and sidebar content merit inclusion in the main area of the site, while other sidebar content is intended to stay in a clearly defined "ancillary" space (the function the sidebar serves now).

I see Jason's new homepage list of entries as a "view" over all of the content he's posting, where you can drill down to each type of content individually. That's definitely along the lines of where we see weblogs in general, and publishing tools like Movable Type and TypePad in particular, moving.

jkottke09 18 200311:09PM

What, no movie review of Seabiscuit? ;)

The Biscuit is right here. :) I still need to get the monthly archives for the movies and books linked in somewhere. This is very much a work-in-progress....

Keeping your own comments made elsewhere is also a good idea. Were you doing that before.

No, I started keeping track a few months ago (I've been tinkering with this idea for awhile, on and off). Matt Haughey uses Trackback to do this (as detailed here by Joshua Kaufman)...I'm using MT's bookmarklet to do it, much like I would post a remaindered link (link, title, some copied text). Takes two seconds.

I'm guessing they are included in the page only once a day? How do you "trigger" that? Or is it something completely different?

I have a bit of logic in my MT template (that is really, really ugly and cringeworthy in the extreme) that groups them together when no other type of post intervenes.

Oh, and I'd just like to point out that I'm not bashing any current weblog software for not being flexible enough or being wrong or whatever. As Anil has said, it's harder than just saying that a particular tool should do this or that. In fact, I love MT (not to mention the army of plug-in developers who put out these fantastic plug-in for free) more than ever for the amazing amount of flexibility and control that is possible (with a bit of work).

jkottke13 18 200311:13PM

And the last thing for a bit...now that I'm trying to use the front page, I'm not so sure I like the inline remaindered links either....it's hard following all the conversations in those threads. Perhaps a "last 10 remaindered links commented on" listing in the sidebar would help matters...or confuse the hell out of everyone.

Brian Hess16 18 200311:16PM

But is that really what most bloggers would like to do or is it what the software allows them to do?

Right on, Jason. Look at how readily you can tell an MT weblog from a Radio weblog, for example. The software definitelly exerts its own design influence, for better or worse.

Come to think of it, our ability to do things differently in terms of how the content is displayed is usually the result of a plugin like MTSQL or MTAmazon, isn't it?

The larger question...is how personal publishing tools should evolve to manage specific types of microcontent. Our decision on TypePad... is that auxiliary info (TypeLists) are page components, but are subordinate to primary posts.

Anil, are you saying that your role as a software publisher is to envision every possible permutation of microcontent, decide for the user the content's appropriate role as part of the overall content, and then design your software accordingly?

James25 18 200311:25PM

Couldn't you create a style sheet named for each category, and use the category MT tag, to create style links to include the category CSS where needed?

[MTCategories]
[link rel="stylesheet" href="[$MTBlogURL$]/[$MTCategoryLabel dirify="1"$].css" /]
[/MTCategories]

Or am I missing something?

matt pfeffer31 18 200311:31PM

There're a few different threads here.... The technological side of things is more or less a means of creating hierarchical categories, no? (Plus some ways of generating pages based on given categories you can't so easily do with a standard MT install as yet.) But basically what you have is structurally equivalent to a single weblog with various overarching categories (in this case, movies, books, comments, remainedered links, etc.), each of which has further-categorized posts beneath it, it seems. (Is that a good thing? Yes -- and it fills a genuine gap in MT's current offering.)

Then there's the question of whether this is the best way to present everything. From a reader's point of view, having it all on one page is better than dividing it among many, I also think, but not so much having it all in one long column -- it tends to be confusing to jump between different kinds of content, and requires greater attention and effort (even when there are sufficient visual cues that a user doesn't have to actually read text to determine what it is). It really does help to have different sorts of content in different places on a page (spatial location being an especially powerful organizational device, of course).

It also seems a bit like you've built this incredibly robust back end, rich with structural information about all your content, only to strip out all that richness in the content's main presentation. If a post is a post is a post, creating 5 separate blogs to structure them seems a little disproportionate, you know?

Greg34 18 200311:34PM

Perhaps a "last 10 remaindered links commented on" listing in the sidebar would help matters...or confuse the hell out of everyone.

Considering how much traffic and comments you get I think this would help out a lot.

As for the inline links, I think it's a great idea. They are only slightly confusing right now because they look like trackback links. Maybe if you used a stronger bullet image, like the one used for the quotes, it would feel better.

~bc43 18 200311:43PM

Preferred the remainders in the right hand column. That's all. Granted I usually peruse those from NetNewsWire anyhow...

a.huff04 19 200312:04AM

I like this a lot, and have wished for a way to do it on my own site -- but I'm a writer, not a coder, which has kept me from even trying.

It would be great to see a write-up of this for us not-so-techies. (Or perhaps Six Apart could incorporate some of the capabilities into MT. Anil?)

t00 19 2003 1:00AM

I use blo.gs to track site updates and I'd often see the remindered links bubble up to the top as updated and I'd read the archive page for it, missing many posts on the front page of kottke.org in the process.

But since 99.9 percent of the net population even know what blo.gs is it really becomes a choice of pleasing .1 percent or taking it down a notch for the rest of the population.

Everything makes sense except the remaindered links. They're better off to the side. They're far more different from a normal post than movie or book reviews. If you keep them in the big pile they will be lost on most people. They're my favorite part of the site but I can't picture scrolling for them each visit.

Anil48 19 2003 1:48AM

Anil, are you saying that your role as a software publisher is to envision every possible permutation of microcontent, decide for the user the content's appropriate role as part of the overall content, and then design your software accordingly?

I'd say that's a question for Mena more than me. :) But to address your point, of course no software developer is going to try to envision and build for every application of their software, and judging by how excited and motivated we get by the incredibly creative and unexpected ways people use MT and TypePad, I don't think we'll ever be able to say (or ever want to say) "we've covered everything people are going to do."

It's just that we want to be responsive enough to make sure people can do what they want, and that's a perpetual process. That's something I should have made clearer above when I said that right now TypeLists are displayed on a TypePad site's sidebar by default; That's just the view of the data, and that's just the view of the data right now. Experiments like Jason's (and thousands of others) let us know if there are other ways bloggers want to present that data or access it or style it. I've been struggling with the presentation of my blog myself for a while, and I want some good influences.

A lot of my comments here are me reacting personally to Jason (we were talking about this stuff the other evening and it's been on my mind) as opposed to if Mena or Ben or one of us at Six Apart formally documenting our broader conclusions on these ideas, so you might want to take several grains of salt with the things I'm writing here, since I'm basically thinking out loud.

What I'm more interested in, separate from the tools and tech, is whether someone who's never seen a weblog before (and I suspect that Jason's site is still disproportionately read by people who are not familiar with other weblogs, or don't know much about the weblog realm) would understand that each visually distinct post is shifting mode. I feel like that's a big leap for the non-blog-savvy to make, and perhaps an amibitously aggressive change in reader experience.

Tamara38 19 2003 3:38AM

In response to "t", the remaindered links are still available on their own page, as Jason notes in the sidebar of his main index. He has done a pretty good job of making his entries available in different ways for different people, although as he admits, the archive links are still not updated so it's harder to see the new structure.

Tamara43 19 2003 3:43AM

Scarily enough, I think this might be a lot easier to do in Blosxom. MT's interface is more complex and that is both its gift and its drawback. Blosxom is much more flexible, also its gift and drawback. Blosxom by itself is very simple, but with two plugins, one for adding meta-data and one for interpolating variables, I think a lot of what Jason has done here could be reproduced. Of course, the Blosxom interface (well, actually the fact that it doesn't really have one) is not as nice as MT's. Sorry if this is off-topic, but it's kind of interesting how different blogging tools can adapt. Of course, if I use Blosxom or MT, I still need somebody else to do the dirty work of writing a plugin.

Beau45 19 2003 3:45AM

I haven't read the rest of the posts here, but have you checked checked out blosxom?

It might do what you want and there are a stack of different plugins available to do all sorts of things. Probably the biggest things it's lacking comapred to MT is a fancy interface for editing posts (altho there are a couple out there such as Pollxn).

Tomas16 19 2003 4:16AM

Once in a while, someone does something really different, something really innovative. Upon closer inspection though, it seems like the most obvious thing in the world, you can't for the life of you understand why it wasn't always like this.. I mean, this is how it was supposed to be, all along.

Hossein Derakhshan31 19 2003 4:31AM

I always wanted to do the same thing with my Linkdooni (or sideblog in Persian). So I guess it's the right thing to do.

The only thing is that I guess you should bring back the date headers so the posts are logically and visually separated a little bit.

I'd also suggest to move the remainder links on the top of everyday's posts, right below the date header (if you put them back).

Tamara33 19 2003 4:33AM

I just thought of one thing that blosxom doesn't have that mt does. A plugin that accesses Amazon's XML web service to get all the data that Jason is using. Shame.

Jason Fried43 19 2003 7:43AM

I'm not sure what I think yet. To me it's beginning to look more like a traditional editorial or newspaper or newsletter layout. Different types of content being integrated on the same page. Only difference is that this goes on and on and on in a single column.

Philippe35 19 2003 8:35AM

I have sometime trouble seeing where each post starts and ends. There seems to be a very light dotted separator between the posts, but it is so light I can barely see it (I use Safari). Makes it a bit hard when I nvigate up and down the page...

Sunil35 19 2003 9:35AM

this is too much to digest at the moment. evolution is good. evolution at kottke.org, not so sure.

Joerg54 19 2003 9:54AM

- The movie pics are jarring to the eye. It's like banner advertising.

- Can't believe you saw/reviewed Seabiscuit.

- 'Funky' means cool/good/hip etc in the rest of the world.

- I like the idea of all your content flowing on one page. Anil mentioned that it would be a challenge for a less savvy person to understand wtF! is going on. I don't think so (as long as there is a better visual separation cue) ... it's like a stream of ideas filtering through to the reader. It's ok that this stream is totally disjointed, like walking through Piccadilly Circus or Times Square or watching MTV or CNN (with tickers, and video insets, and presenters and livecams all on one screen) - I mean we're all used to fast film editing and cut&paste - we can handle it. I don't come to kottke to find calmness.

- kottke.org is still in the metaphorical topthree sites of the world (along with at least ten others).

Ben09 19 200310:09AM

I think the thing that I don't like about the überblog is the definition of/between entries. For one "type" of post, it is screamed at you (movie reviews); for afield quotes, it is a smart little suggestive icon ala wired's category widgets; the old-school regular posts and the linklists both have not much style to them (which is fine, except they are different types of content, so you don't know how to expect where they start.) Basically it is hard to digest because you don't know what to expect. My terrible analogy: nuts and gum. Some people are eating it, wondering why the two are mixed, and wondering what chunk they will hit on the next bite... some people people are saying "together at last!"

Scrivs20 19 200310:20AM

Maybe I am missing something here, but really how is this an evolution of blogs? It seems that Jason has simply melded all of his content into one column now. This works out great if the message to the audience is that "I talk about whatever, so go explore", but it doesn't work out too well if you wish to have people find specific items on your site.

I do not blame Jason for this, but a lot of the people on here who like to proclaim this as a solution to the problems they have been having really are not using their minds and imaginations too well it seems. This is really not that much different than Shea, Haughey, or Budd posting different topics on their blogs.

I do commend Jason on taking the approach that different subjects need to have different styles, as from a usability standpoint this is very important. I would say it could be done better, but I can't since I can offer no better solution at the time. I have always like the site and with Jason's sense of design I shall continue to like this site, however let's all realize that for a while a blog will always be just a blog and nothing more. It seems we are trying to make them into portals and we all know we have enough Yahoo!s in the world.

Yoz46 19 200310:46AM

Jason: I think you need the Switch plugin to test on MTEntryCategory in your main MTEntries loop.

The code would look something like this:
<MTSwitch value="[MTEntryCategory]">
   <MTSwCase value="movies">
      (movie blog entry template goes here)
   </MTSwCase>
   <MTSwCase value="books">
      (book blog entry template goes here)
   </MTSwCase>

... etc.

For my own blog I use categories to separate it into three mini-blogs - Leader, etc. and pics. (However, my template doesn't need MTSwitch, since the front page is divided by category - it's all doable with basic MT tags. But it still makes it considerably easier than arsing about with various external aggregation methods and what-have-you.)

Jacob Martin52 19 200310:52AM

Point One:
I think it's conceptually interesting to assign different styling to different categories of post but I don't think it's revolutionary. In fact, I think most people capable of implementing such a thing avoid it because it has the potential to be tough on the eyes.

Point Two:
I don't see anything new about putting "remaindered links" and movie reviews (etc.) in with other categories of posts. This is precisely what everyone has been doing since year zero, apart (of course) from those people who (in my opinion, wrongy) jumped on the "remaindered links" bandwagon.

Point Three:
Good to see someone who is prepared to take risks and shake things up once in a while. Keep up the good work.

(Point Four: Please fix it so that people can type in email addresses ending in ".info" on your comments form.)

Patrick12 19 200311:12AM

Little note in passing, I see you've changed your links so they become more visible when the cursor hovers over the paragraphs containing them. That hover effect doesn't work in your comments though so links are always the more mutted version and can be hard to spot.

jkottke35 19 200311:35AM

That hover effect doesn't work in your comments though so links are always the more mutted version and can be hard to spot.

Yeah, my stylesheets are a little hosed at the moment. One of the challenges of redesigning in public.

Tony | TwoEyes49 19 200312:49PM

I think this is a superb, albeit subtle, step forward. It gives the site a more multi-faceted approach which, by using a news aggregator, can also be taken individually.

Some slight changes that I feel would help make it even better:

* Differentiate the mini-posts (Remainders etc) using a different mini-icon to the left as opposed to one generic one. Some sort of cue as to whether it's a link off-site, or a comment off-site would be useful.

* Give the mini-posts more of a sense of timing. It's difficult to tell whether the mini-posts "belong" with the main posts before or after, time-wise. I appreciate that it's not hugely relevant which day they were posted and that the main point is that everything is chronological, but I feel that with the increase in the various types of information in the main text stream, some degree of timeliness has been lost.

Adrian29 19 2003 1:29PM

Why dont you write your own custom software with php and mysql then release it open source.

Geof40 19 2003 1:40PM

Adrian: Another PHP/MySQL solution? Do we need another?

Jason: you might not want to monkey with your glorious [said in reverence, not sarcasm] whitespace too much, but a place for a legend would be on the left. Right now, with about seven remainders above this entry, it's slightly confusing, since this entry has a title and the remainders are just links. A suggestion probably worth what you paid to read it. :)

lia43 19 2003 1:43PM

Why dont you write your own custom software with php and mysql then release it open source.

78 whole comments before someone comes and posts the usual boring "why don't you roll your own?" statement! This may be a world record.

eric05 19 2003 2:05PM

If you are going to be put everything in a single column, please make sure we know quickly what we saw or didn't see: tell us clearly what day the content was posted. And that as a whole. The little "Nov 17" isnt enough cause all the content is put together. What you need is a common date for all the blogs together. I like it at Gawker where they have those big date numbers or like Gothamist using those grey boxes.

Seeing how this is evolving, you are going to have to be blogging something everyday and not just remaindered links...

Brian Hess08 19 2003 4:08PM

I find that if I simply look at Jason's home page top-to-bottom, it's a mix of intriguing content. The various visual treatments, to me, add to the "flavor" of the page. Some of the content I want to drill down on, some I'm happy to skim past.

Seems like it's only when I look at it from the paradigm of what I'm used to seeing there, or according to the currently accepted Dictums on the Placement of Ancillary Microcontent(tm) that I would have any qualms about it.

Anil: A lot of my comments here are me reacting personally to Jason ... as opposed to if Mena or Ben or one of us at Six Apart formally documenting our broader conclusions on these ideas, so you might want to take several grains of salt with the things I'm writing here, since I'm basically thinking out loud.

Hrmmm. Food for thought ... Do you still "get" to do that considering your role in the industry? Imagine if Lee Scott were commenting on a new retail format. Because of who he is and who he works for, he could say it in the bathroom and it would still be reported in Forbes as "Wal-Mart CEO says new retail format is..."

Sorry to be so OT. :-)

xian55 19 2003 4:55PM

for the record, "linkdooni" is a great word!

Jacob Martin38 19 2003 6:38PM

Reply to Adrian: I don't think Jason K is reputed for his technical skills (i.e. writing code and releasing it for all to share), but I could be wrong. Rather, he is well-known for being an A-List Blogger who tries hard to herd the masses.

garoo11 19 2003 9:11PM

Ok, that's too many comments to read, so I'll just express my vote: I love this idea.

I did the same on my site before I closed my blog: displaying one entry of links at the beginning of each day, between regular blog posts. It really helps getting them read: as a kottke reader, I hardly ever looked at the links sidebar, and I actually had no idea there was the other contents (movies, comments). This just goes to the bottom of the blog concept, displaying all new contents in reverse chronological order for readers to sample.

Please keep this :)

Jason Fried56 19 2003 9:56PM

I think the big revolution in blog layouts will come on the comment side, not the original content side. Comments are still the long list of random comments that they've always been.

jkottke10 19 200310:10PM

Herd the masses? What does that mean?

patricia40 19 200311:40PM

I've been using php includes to pull the lates post from the different sections of my site onto my home page. I just include titles and excerpts however. Hadn't given any thought to styling each post/category differently. I'll have to think about that.

The only problem with using the include is that one of the sections being pulled sits on a subdomain. If for some reason that is down I get an error message. I may give your method a try... just to avoid the error messages. That's hardly what I want people to see when they hit the site.

Naz55 20 200312:55AM

I like the idea and some of the implementation. I thought the remaindered links looked strange for the early part of today when there wasn't a post above it. I like everything else except remaindered links inline. I know, I know, I can get that on it's own page. But I liked it in the sidebar.

Khoi Vinh of Subtraction.com has an excellent and well-designed weblog which uses a similar kind of Remaindered Links (his are called Elsewhere) which is presented in a usable manner. Explore his site. It's very well-done.

omit55 20 2003 3:55PM

I like this project because it does open a dialogue about what's working and what's not. Personally, I like different content types to reside in different areas. I don't like orphaning the Remaindered Links between longer posts. But I really like the remaindered links page--how posts are divided by date (as noted before in this thread). Perhaps separate every content type on it's own page, but have the home page as well to be browsable to all kinds of content? Or having users being able to style the way that they want to view the content on the home page (thinking of some kind of cross between CSS Zen Garden and the way you can pick the order you want content Typepad layouts) by selecting different options? What if we all set up our content using the same divs so that users could apply their favorite Web log layout style to anyone's page?

I like The Morning News layout. I know exactly where to look to find the Daily Links, the Features, the CD Reviews, etc. All the latest content is instantly browsable in the top half of the screen. Features are obviously highly valued because they get the top left placement, links are second, albums and people we like third and Archives and other ancillary content are last.

Geof13 20 2003 7:13PM

Jason, I don't know what it means to herd the masses.

All I know is that I'm going to back-kick you if you hit me with that electric prod one more time. All that time away from Wisconsin is going to have dulled your reflexes, and it'll hurt like a ...

[ZAP]

Sorry to be off-topic, sir!

Mike Steinbaugh00 20 200310:00PM

Amazing redesign, Jason. Now you've got me thinking how I can integrate my sidebar content into the entries as well. John Gruber integrated his Google ads into the main content on his site in a similar fashion. I really like the addition of your recently added comments and that your movie reviews contain a rating in the bottom right of the entry.

You've taken Moveable Type to a whole new level.

Ben, Mena, and Anil, if you keep reading down this thread, please include some of these great ideas in MT Pro!

Shannon Clark58 20 200310:58PM

Very nice, though could I suggest a 6th type of content?

Date markers - i.e. starting time sorted sections, as currently designed unless there is a nearby post with a datestamp, many of the posts (especially remaindered links) are not associated with a point in time...

Meaning it is trickier for a person reading archives/catching up to know if something is a recent or an older post,

Just a thought - makes me seriously consider migrating to MT however...

Charles10 21 200312:10AM

I think in the end, the main point it boils down to is that like most weblogs, this is a personal web site. So as far as what content should be emphasised or not and how or how not - that is really a personal decision.

I copied Kittie.org's sidebar remaindered links idea on my own site. I have the main section with posts that have a bit of commentary and/or a thumb. Under the remaindered links I have contact info, internal navigation, links to other sites I work on, then a section with links, a silly feed of my wife's weblog, then my blogroll and other links. The logic being, I don't really think anyone cares much about anything besides the posts. Does anyone actually use another's blogroll? I doubt it. But once in a while someone may want to send me an email or something, so the sections are in descending order of (what I view as) importance to most readers.

Of course, you have many times the number of people reading over here as I do - and your site has always had design and content management as one primary focus. So I suppose in a way, a wider audience can mean (to some degree) that your "personal" site becomes a little less purely personal and more a site people look to for thoughts on these issues.

James Robinson27 21 2003 1:27AM

I've only just started playing around with MT but surely using the category name as a style... so rather than using "post" as your standard style you use "movie" or even "movie_post" by throwing the entry category in?

You could run a wingle weblog and style based upon the category.

michael37 21 2003 9:37AM

I quite liked the remaindered links being separated, less of a jumble. If I wanted content, I could look on the left, if I wanted links for browsing look on the right. I'm sure it will grow on me though.

jk05 21 2003 2:05PM

Visited links desperately need visual distinction from non-visited links. This is particularly evident on the remaindered links page.

Thank you.

Halvard Halvorsen40 21 2003 5:40PM

as the old remaindered links turn up in the middle of the screen
there's too much red in the middle --- red indicating importance and in this case it's wrong as it's "just a sideblog". all that red in the middle of the screen makes the visual focus go to the remaindered links instead of the actual blog.

When you first introduced the remaindered links I thought it was brilliant --- when you later moved it to the side I thought that was even better. As an inspiration for how to lay out a blog kottke.org has always been influental - but I find the new layout more cluttered and not as satisfying to look at . The old layout was masterful in it's zen-simplicity: the new one is not.

Finding space for everything is hard - and it might make sense to put it all in the middle: but I'd like the main bit for the "meaty" bit of a blog.

I admire you for trying to go new places Jason - but this is the wrong path.

Ed27 22 2003 1:27AM

Maxim Magazine meets blogging? I admire the intentions, but , ultimately, I must concede....ugh.... Should we expect sexist blurbs and half-naked pictures of current It Girls?

gobi26 22 200310:26AM

The page is almost completely unreadable. There's just too much going on, and I can't really tell where the content is.

...and, there seems to be a serious lack of sexist blurbs and half-naked pictures of current It Girls.

Tamara05 24 2003 8:05PM

The only thing that I really can't figure out about this format is how you got the remaindered links to be in unordered lists, Jason. Planning on sharing, I hope?

Nick57 25 2003 5:57AM

Very nice! How did you get the remainders to be included in groups? Are they all remainders from day X? ie - remainders from day X always appear at the bottom of the regular posts from day X? Is it necesary to have a separate "remainder-only" blog to do this?

Sérgio N.02 25 2003 7:02AM

Blosxom is a BMS (Blog Management Software) that allows you to customize each post / section with a differente layout.

In few words,

you have directories (categories) that contain text files (posts), and each directory can have a bunch of .html files that are used to design the posts in that directory. If no templates are given, the templates in the previous directory (section) are used.
It seems nice.

I've been evaluting this tool for my own blog.

Greg Gershman23 25 2003 1:23PM

Very cool. I think what we would all like is the freedom to make our blogs look however we want. If you want one integrated home page, so be it; if you want to divide your posts up into categories, that's OK too. The point is that we have to evolve the tools to more easily support this.

Basically, what we need is "post types." It sounds like all this should be doable from your most popular blogging clients (MT, Radio, Bloxsom), so that is good news.

In addition, it would be great if a form would pop up that would ask you for information about each post type. For movies, you get a form that asks you how many stars, etc. Integration with Amazon and other web services would be great, to save the user the trouble of entering in data that exists somewhere else.

Then we move towards each different type of content also externalized in some form of XML, accroding to the type. Movie reviews use RVW format, links could use basic RSS, you get the idea. Hopefully they would be represented as individual items, and not neccesarily trapped inside an RSS feed.

Very cool!

Alex25 26 2003 4:25PM

Interesting idea - but it do think that removing the links list from the side column is a bad idea form the viewpoint of usability. Everyone has different expectations, and so I think that it is wise to provide multiple routes to the same content - so have the links in both columns, keeping everybody happy. There is also the issue of muscle memory; as a well read site, people are used to things being where they have always found them, hence changing things excessively can make you lose readers, not out of any conscious decision of theirs, but via drift through the reduction of the quality of their procrastination, which after all, is what reading weblogs really is.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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