Review 2398

My initial instinct with regard to this blog is that it’s very simple. There’s nothing out of the ordinary, unless you count the “parental advisory” logo at the top of the blog. While I take this with a grain of salt, this may be forewarning for visitors that are faint of heart to not venture this way.

I avoided the recent entries in hopes of getting a feel for the author from the previous archives. I started with the very beginning. It is right for him to put the warning on his site, as there is a bit of language. For the most part this author sounds like your typical teenager with normal dislikes and likes. He talks about a concert that he went to and all the fun stuff that he experienced when Kid Rock came on stage, and the closing number with Aerosmith and Run DMC. This author speaks about how he’s “bored” more often than not, and he uses a lot of slang, so if you’re not up to speed on the language of the youth today, you might need a slang dictionary to decipher what this author is actually getting at.

Some of the entries are interesting enough that as a reader you’re not bored as well, but a lot of them are the same “hum drum” that most younger bloggers write about. He’s not a bad author, he just has a tendency to write as though he’s talking to one of his “homies,” and while some are “down wit da lingo” other’s might not understand.

The design is very basic. It’s black with white text and red links. A visited link turns blue so you can’t read what it is after you’ve clicked on it. The titles are bouncing marquee’s which is annoying for most people who want to read some content. The archives, however, work, and so do most of the links (though there aren’t many of them).

There aren’t many bonus features on this site, which is kind of sad. There’s no “about me” page, there’s nothing to give you a little more understanding of who this author really is. If you hope to find a little bit more based on the entries, then you might find yourself reading an awful lot for nothing in particular.

The good content is hidden somewhere, but it’s rare and quite far between. The bouncing text is distracting, and the language is often hard to get around. Lucky for me I understand what most of it meant, but even then he used the strange spellings. I would’ve scored higher if there was something more to make this site worth a visit. Without being trite, this site is hard on the eyes, in more ways than one.The Illusion of Safety

Review 2367

Right away, I wondered how I was going to enjoy or even relate to the weblog of Jeff, who just happens to be the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Illinois. I didn’t struggle with that worry for very long, though, and thus began my reading of Random Act of Kindness (RAOK).

Jeff links to his “about the author” section in a fresh manner – he includes it in his list of archives, giving it the month and year of which he was born. Obviously, weblogs weren’t quite the happening thing in September 1970, so when I saw a link for that timeframe under the archives, my curiosity was piqued and I had to check it out. There, I found a very extensive autobiography that really let me learn a lot about the author, and really find out where he’s coming from with the things he writes about from day to day.

The layout is the typical three column layout – weblog in the middle and two columns of informative links on either side. The links that Jeff does feature on both sides of the main text, aside from the Blogroll that’s a mile long, are all helpful links in understanding where Jeff’s getting the information he uses, as well as sources that would appear to come in handy in any type of research.

Being so heavily involved in a political party, naturally the majority of Jeff’s entries relate to politics in one way or another. He’s often focusing on the happenings in Illinois, simply because that’s where he’s based out of and that’s what’s familiar to him. From time to time, he’ll share a personal anecdote with readers, which often tie in very closely with the political arena, but yet his storytelling capability ranks pretty high in the keeping attention department.

The archives are only available through May of 2003. According to Jeff, this site has been around much longer than that. Reading from the beginning is always fun to see how far a site has come, but even from just the few months that are available, the writing standards and output of Jeff’s thoughts have been done consistently well.

RAOK isn’t a weblog that will be something average readers will grasp or really want to grasp. I’ll quickly admit that politics are not something I follow closely, nor are they something I find myself wanting to read more and more about. Amazingly, Jeff keeps his writing basic enough for even those that have no political background can follow and still find interest in.

RAOK is probably best suited for those web surfers looking to get more personal, in depth information about the political happenings in Illinois. If that’s the case, Jeff’s Random Act of Kindness to those people would be this weblog.

Random Act Of Kindness

Review 2364

Wow. See, when a weblog that I’m about to review first loads is when I start forming my initial opinions. Maybe the site loads slowly, maybe the layout is a very crisp and well done design, or maybe it’s just your average every day weblog. When the Catalyzer Newsroom started to load, I honestly had no idea what to think. Just “wow” was about all I could come up with, and it wasn’t necessarily a “wow” that would indicate any type of amazement or long lasting positive impression.

The layout just baffled me. How anyone is supposed to be able to make heads or tails of where things start and end is beyond me. It’s a standard three column layout, but the different colors, the random images, and extra tables that have been added and slightly altered just give it almost a nauseating appearance.

The sidebars do have some helpful and informative links about current events, such as “current campaigns” and “presidential endorsements”. They have a section where they’re “always seeking submissions of opinion pieces, original writing, etc.!”, which does feature some nice viewer submitted pieces.

Only about two weeks of archives are posted on the front page of the site. The entries are typically quite lengthy, so this is close the perfect amount of writing to leave on the main page. It doesn’t take forever to scroll down to the bottom, but it also gives newcomers to the site a chance to get some background on how the entries are written and what the primary focus is of each of them.

Each post features a headline type table at the top of the post, giving the title of what’s about to be written, the time and date it’s posted, and a method of contact for the author. While reading each post, you realize that the majority of what is being written is just copied and pasted from the actual article that is being linked/discussed. The opinions or thoughts of the people behind this weblog would be a great addition to this site. Readers connect better when they get even the slightest bit under a writer’s skin and not just reading the surface, which is just information that’s taken from one source and regurgitated to sound as if it were ones own.

I wish I knew why the Catalyzer Newsroom was started – what inspired the creators, what motivates them to continue providing content, and what classifies an outside link as one they want to list on their many sidebars. It’s obvious that it does take a lot of time, hard work, and research to find all of the links and information that they provide their readers. The authors of this site certainly know where to find the information they’re searching for.

This weblog is geared on current events and the thoughts/opinions that the publishers of this website have on them. If you can manage to find a method of reasonable navigation through the site, it might be worth a visit or two.

Catalyzer Newsroom

Review 2405

If you’re a Californian, or at all interested in local politics and the effects of celebrity, you should certainly head over to James Norwood now; leave a comment or contribute a new topic to the forum. This is the kind of site that could really prosper with enough visits; it speaks to a niche audience like the best sites try to do, and provides opportunities to add feedback and spark discussion.

James’ site has something I haven’t really seen anywhere else, and it’s quite nifty: down the left hand side of the page are headlines from a few other blogs that share something in common with this one. It’s a good way to lead the reader to other sites of interest, rather than simply providing a links list (although that too is present). Of course, if you have an RSS reader you’ll not need any of this.

Posts are grouped by category. The politics section is added to most frequently; reaction to Arnie’s decision to run for governer in California is one example of a recent post, and it’s easy to work back through and see the story progress.

The only problems with this site are the relative lack of content (although on that point I’m not terribly concerned – and neither should you be – since this is a site that will grow), and the design. The layout is fine, but the colour scheme and lack of any eye candy leave the site looking plain and a little unwelcoming.

You can easily read the entire site’s contents in a single sitting, getting completely up-to-date with happenings, and leaving you in the useful position of being able to voice your opinions immediately. Get started on some political debate: if you disagree with James’ opinions I’m sure he’ll be interested in knowing how and why.

All About James – The Forum

Review 2405

My first impression of this site was that it was a fairly run of the mill, fairly average weblog with nothing that would provide much of a challenge for me.

I have to say that my first impression was right, astonishingly right in fact. The site design is (I guess) taken from a template. If it isn’t taken from a template then it is certainly very simple in terms of visual design, being simply plain dark blue throughout. Yes, it is easy to read (the main requirement in blog design if you ask me) but not really anymore than that.

There are a few “novelty” gizmos to be found on the site, which didn’t really enhance the content much – for example each post could be spoken orally by some kind of speech program via Windows Media Player (at least on my browser). Admittedly very useful for the blind or illiterate, but I suspect there are not many of these people who visit the site, and the speech was too artificial and stilted for regular readers to use the feature often. There was also a webcam which was switched off when I visited. Also included on the front page were various buttons, none of which I found it necessary to use – “email this post” for example.

There were a number of links to other sites – Google seemed popular, a few other blogs and something called GGSearch, which I didn’t really understand, or appreciate the relevance of.

As for the content, well, yes there were archives going back to May, but May only had one post and June a mere 3. Comments were there and had been made use of. Most of the subject matter covered the Californian political situation in great depth and a few other religious/ general news stories.

There were some quite nice posts about the author’s life and general bio information, but I would have liked to have read more of these and in greater depth. I gather the author is involved with the church, is training to be a teacher and possibly homosexual (at least according to June 2). These things would have been much more interesting to read about than whether Arnie is running for Governor.

There were links to the author’s home page which contained a few photos but not much other revealing information, as well as a forum which contained four posts, none longer than a line.

If I could give some advice to the author, it would be to spend more time writing some content and less time on gadgets. Including the photos of the family gatherings in the main blog (or at least linking to them) may also have helped fill out the gaps a bit more.

All About James – The Forum