Blog site under the microscope: ConversationBlog

This continues my efforts to help some lesser known weblogs gain additional visibility. These sites are either splendid examples of the state of the art, or works in progress, in which case I will also point out areas where I believe they can be improved, hence “under the microscope”. I hope you continue to find this informative!
One of the most interesting facets of the blogosphere is that there are people who are really into the communication side of things, there are people who are really into the design and layout side, and rather astonishingly few who are somewhere in the middle.
This blog site under the microscope, ConversationBlog, is an example of a weblog written by someone who clearly has lots of interesting things to say, but just hasn’t done everything needed to have a readable and understandable weblog within which to say it.
The author, Belgian Philippe Borremans, describes himself as having “more than a decade in Public Relations, specialising in crisis communications, media relations and, since 1996, in “online PR”. A public relations person who blogs, that’s cool, there are lots of really good PR people in the blogosphere.

But go and check out his weblog for just a second. Go on, I’ll wait.
What’s the first thing you notice? I bet it’s the impressive overwhelming stack of subscription buttons on the right side of the page. What the heck? First off, I didn’t realize that there were that many different ways to subscribe to an RSS feed, but more importantly, there’s a fundamental problem when your attention is drawn to the colorful array of buttons rather than the content that should be front and center in the design.
My recommendation: chop this down to just two or three buttons, at least one of which is the common “RSS”, “RDF” or “XML” white-on-orange medallion. More and more, Web browsers are going to autodiscover RSS feeds anyway (Internet Explorer 7.0, Firefox, Apple Safari, etc) so I look forward to a day when all of these buttons are obsolete.
I’m definitely intrigued by the navigational links – frankly, I wish these were the categorizations that Philippe used with his postings – letting us learn about his take on the industry conversations. Instead, his blogging tool uses the oh-so-subtle “in XX” notation in the small print, letting me know that his categorizations include “Workshops”, “Interesting Blog Postings”, “Events/Conferences” and “Journalism”. And yet, these categories don’t show up on the right navigational sections, something I find a bit confusing.
More good stuff: I really like that Philippe uses the slick Qumana tools to help produce entries too. Maybe I’m biased because I think so highly of Tris Hussey at Qumana, but I really feel like they’re one of the good guys in the blog tool space and a lot of my favorite bloggers use Qumana tools. I also applaud his use of Technorati tags on his blog. It’s another nice way to help people find relevant content (though a slight CSS tweak to have the tags quite a bit smaller than the main text of the blog entries would be a nice tweak)
Overall, I really like ConversationsBlog, and find that Philippe is an interesting commentator on the state of public relations, blogging and RSS, particularly from a Belgian perspective. I’ve subscribed, and there’s perhaps no greater endorsement than that in this new blogging world, is there? 🙂
But, Philippe, please, is it “ConversationsBlog” or “Conversation Blog”?

3 comments on “Blog site under the microscope: ConversationBlog

  1. Hi Dave,
    Many thanks for your recommendations… I knew not listing my categories would come back to me one day 😉 The change is on it’s way !
    About the subscription buttons… I am hesitating there.. A lot of PR people do not know what RSS is so I want them to click on these buttons and learn… Maybe you’re right, too much of the good stuff…
    It is Conversationblog, one conversation at the time… Thanks for subscribing to the feed, my next post is my first podcast interview on the of “PR, Media and Democracy”, a whole program.
    Re: Qumana, love the tool but the latest version has issues with Windows XP and can’t configure my blog…So that’s why not all postings are through Qumana.
    Again, thanks for the feedback.

  2. Thanks, Dave, for this reasonable critique of this blog. I was having difficulty putting my finger on these things, and you did so fairly. I am always a bit confused by blogs outside of Typepad and wasn’t sure what it was that confused me at this ConversationsBlog. I love the fact that bloggers such as Philippe welcome suggestions and are always looking towards better blogging.

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