asking for feedback

All right.  That’s enough.  It’s been over a week on this blog with no flowers, far too long in my opinion.  I may be primarily a vegetable gardener, and it might be cold and dreary outside.  Still, that’s no excuse.  It’s time to pretty it up around here.

How about a sunflower and bumble bee from last August?  The detail of that photo that catches my eye is the hint of another sunflower in another row.

We all could use a little flower therapy now and then, especially in the middle of winter.

A good friend of mine sent me a box full of gorgeous sunflowers last February, and I will never forget it.  She knew that I was having a rather down moment psychologically.  It was less than two months after the move, and I had almost no acquaintances yet in my new location.

Plus, I was suffering lifestyle readjustment stress (from a big, classic house in Midtown in a city of 5 million+ to a small duplex in the woods on the outskirts of a town that has yet to break the 10,000 mark).  I still don’t know why I thought that would be an easy transition.  Perhaps, excited as we were to be moving in together and newly engaged, I was seeing everything through the eyes of love.

Yes, I’m pretty sure that was it.

That and a hefty dose of ignorance about life in a small town.  Despite having visited plenty of small towns, and spent some time in a rural setting with my relatives, I really was ignorant.  Actually, change that “was” to “am.”  I remain ignorant about a lot that I would need to know to truly assimilate here.

However, I am keeping an open mind, and I’m slowly learning.  Last night I found myself arguing with a city friend that a certain small-town behavior was not backward or stubborn or old-fashioned, but might have a discernible, reasonable purpose, not obvious on first viewing.

My understanding of this new milieu continues to grow every day.

And you could say the same thing about me and blogging.

I mention this because there are going to be some changes around here fairly soon.  My developing picture of what a blog is, how it interacts with an online community, and what features are available in its design have been shaping an internal vision of what I’d like my blog to be.  My own evolving conception of what I would like for myself and my writing and photographs is certainly a factor, too.

Almost six months ago, I knew zilch about blogs and blogging.  I didn’t realize I’d need a blogroll or a sidebar for widgets.  (And if you had told me such things, I might have fizzed with laughter over the term “widget.”)

I didn’t realize I’d want to have easily accessible archives, possibly searchable.  (And if you’d told me I’d have hundreds of posts by now, my crazy radar would have been alerting.)

I’d never heard of a service for subscription by e-mail or an RSS feed, and certainly could never have imagined I’d want to have both available to anyone who dropped by, or that both would be a feature of my daily life as I interact with so many other bloggers.

The need for multiple photographs in a post never occurred to me, and I hadn’t yet discovered sticky posts, nor come to the realization that I might really like some of my posts more than others and thus wish to hold onto them for longer than 24 hours.

I chose a super-minimalist, Zen-like photoblogging theme, which can be beautiful in its simplicity, but can also be dog ugly, as when the program chooses a “matching” color based upon some esoteric detail in my photograph, and it turns out to be a hideously bright, unreadable color… or even just an unpleasant shade of mustard.  (Yech!  Why not the soft blue-green of the leaves in the background?  I ask you….)

The spare design which so appealed to me for its initial user-friendliness has now become downright limiting, and my frustration with these limits has inspired me to begin designing a better blog for the long term.

So things are going to change around here.  I’m not sure exactly when.  I’d wanted to have at least some of the improvements ready in time for the blog’s half-year anniversary in just a few days.  But now it looks like that’s just not going to happen.

Nonetheless, y’all will be ready when they occur.

While I’m still in the design phase, I would like to open the floor for your suggestions and critiques.  Is there something that’s definitely missing from Victory Garden Redux?  Perhaps you think there’s something that’s rotten and ready to be composted immediately.  Is there — dare I hope it? — anything that’s so great it should never be put on the editing/chopping block?

Really, I’d like to know if there is anything at all you think should be different about your experience here.  I am open to hearing anything and everything, and I’m especially interested in hearing from those regular, long-term readers who’ve been so encouraging and inspiring to me.  (Y’all know who you are.)

You can leave me your comments in the section below, as always, and/or you can e-mail me your ideas, concerns, and wishes for the future of my blog.  Send e-mails to gardenforvictory <at> live.com.  (Replace the <at> with @.)

I’ll tell y’all in advance, I do appreciate all of the input.  It will be part of my ongoing education in blogging.

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32 Responses to “asking for feedback”

  1. Well, everyone is entitled to my opinion…:) Just kidding!

    These are the things I like in a blog:
    Somewhere on the header or sidebar is the location of the blogger. I like it when I know immediately where the blogger gardens.
    I like simple, easy to navigate and read blogs.
    I think Nell Jean did a post about this subject and she listed some great points! I have changed my blog so many times. 🙂 I like your header…very pretty!

  2. I think you’ve hit on most of the things I look for in a blog. A nice archive function is great, as is a feed – which makes it easier for your followers to, well, follow you! If you knew zip about blogs 6 months ago, I think you’ve done a GREAT job so far!

    On another note, I used to live in a town of around 500 people. I grew up in a place of around 100,000, so that was a big adjustment for me. When I moved away 25 years later I was still an outsider, but at least a welcome one. Folks there were friendly and helpful, I will say that for them.

    • Thanks for the compliment, villager. I’ve got to get going on the feed and archive pronto. 😉

      500 people might be too much of a transition for me. And how frustrating to still be an outsider after 25 years!! Folks here are quite friendly, as well. But then, I thought they were pretty friendly in Atlanta, too, or at least in my area of town. In fact, now that I think about it, everywhere I’ve lived I’ve thought the people there were friendly, making me wonder if maybe it’s my perception that decides the friendliness quotient and not an actual objectively observable measure….

  3. I find blogging a delightful way to keep an online journal of my garden reflections and wildlife observations, but it’s not a forum (for me) for personal reflections, particularly, unless they’re environmental or sustainability-related.

    But, I certainly connect with your thoughts about being in a small town.

    Many years ago, a wise friend (when we lived in a small college town in Georgia) told me being in a small town in the South should be a cultural experience. It is and it was. But it doesn’t mean it’s always easy!

    Also, I don’t know about the wordpress format, but the blogspot experience is certainly OK, and flexible.

    Best,
    Lisa

    • Oh, yes, yes, yes, it is a cultural experience, for sure! My writer self, who observes everything and is too curious for her own good, loves all the material she’s storing up here. But my regular, everyday social self still struggles.

      I began this blog, as the tagline suggests, intending it to be my “journal” of a kitchen garden in progress. I truly didn’t even expect to develop regular readers at first, but just to put some thoughts down, and if someone came across them, fine. The way I journal is rather personal, I think. Although I do try to limit myself to things that would not compromise the privacy of anyone in my life.

      I did think about switching to blogspot, Lisa, and I appreciate the recommendation. I’ve heard it’s a lot more user-friendly overall, and is basically plug-&-play if you don’t know what you’re doing at the beginning. But now I’m pretty used to wordpress, and it does allow for great flexibility if you don’t choose a very limiting theme. 😉

  4. And here I thought you were cleverly choosing background colors to go with your beautiful photographs. This is the first time I would have thought you’d sort of picked the wrong shade – lol! So I’m relieved to know it’s been generated by your blog program cuz I know you have great taste and this shade of mustard yellow is really hard on the eyeballs. If any background colors are seriously ugly on mine, it will be because I chose it – lol!

    I really like the zen-like quality of your blog, Meredith. I have no suggestions or complaints. How’s that for being easy to live with? 🙂

    • LOL, Talon, I wish! So many times I’ve wished I could choose another color. 🙂 I especially hate all the drab olives and browns and rusts I’ve been getting lately in the background lotto. And during the summer I was a little frustrated by the variations on a green theme for 40 days in a row. 😉

      I hope to keep some of the Zen-like quality in future, at least in my words and photographs. The format may have to change, though.

      You’re so sweet. I like how easy to live with you are. 🙂

  5. I am still in search of my perfect blog. I add and delete things. The blog started as a class project, turned into a way for our children to see what mom and dad were doing, and finally a “real” garden blog. I got a lot of good ideas from a fellow Blotanist, Sylvana from “The obsessive Gardener” http://obsessivegardener.blogspot.com/
    had a great how to last Nov1, 09. Check it out. I think a blog should sound like your voice. pat says my writing style mimics my voice.
    I’ll read your blog no matter what it looks like. jim

    • Jim, that last line was the nicest comment I’ve ever gotten. I’m touched. Thank you!

      I so appreciate the link and references, too. Sylvana’s post was/is fantastic, and I’ve bookmarked it for future reference. Many of the things she listed were ones that have been part of my slowly-developing new vision, and I found myself nodding as I read, “yes, yes, I want to do that, too.”

      How interesting that your blog has had so many identities over the course of its existence! I love that it began as a class project. 🙂

  6. I am surely not one to consult here as I set up my blog fairly lame-ly and have left it as is despite many issues (ex: my blogroll disappeared a while ago for no discernible reason – huh??). I will tell you that for me, a brightly colored background is harder to read off of, and having a narrow column for the text makes one’s eyes have to jump a lot, which again might just be my middle-aged eyes talking! I think we all sort out eventually what is comfy for us and sometimes people give feedback about the photo sizing and so forth but it can vary depending on their computers. I agree with Jim about voice, that’s something that comes through and is what makes blogs stand out, that and great photos or just a fellow feeling a reader has with the blogger. Hope you have fun with your tweaks!

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, greenwalks. I think narrow columns are not my favorite, either. 😦 It reminds me too much of my days at the newspaper. One of the difficulties of this format has been the fact that portrait-style photos (longer than they are wide) automatically create a very narrow column for the text below. I really think this theme was designed for a photo and a cutline… whereas I want to write more than photograph. I’m learning.

      Jim’s comments about voice are very wise. And all of these various voices are one thing I adore about the world of blogs. 🙂

  7. I’ve no words of wisdom to add, I haven’t been around anywhere near long enough. But I will ‘ditto’ Jim’s last line above! Heidi.

    • Aw, Heidi, thank you for adding your ditto. 🙂 As my mom says, Ditto Ditto! It’s her own creation which roughly translates to, “Right back at you!” To put it another way, I feel the same about your blog.

  8. Dear Meredith, Being much newer to blogging than you, I have even less idea than you about some of the points you raise here!! What I do find so refreshing about your postings, which are always filled with such informative and engaging writing, is the restricted amount of visual imagery which, personally, I find can sometimes dilute the written word.Whatever, keep going!

    • Edith, would you believe I had no idea you were new to blogging? You write so well, and with such smooth poise, I’d never have guessed. But I suppose writing well can come from many areas of life, and the talent and skill may just be imported into the blog. 🙂

      I would like the ability to post more photographs for certain stories that seem to require them, especially if I am describing how I’ve done something. But you’ve definitely given me food for thought with this suggestion. One thing I’ve enjoyed so much about this blog is carefully writing the posts to evoke certain moods or impressions, which seem to be less ethereal than the pictures. (Perhaps we all are bombarded with too many visual stimuli to remember one for long, unless it is shocking?) I do believe you are right that this effect might be lost were I to emphasize more visual elements over text.

  9. WordPress is a great blogging platform, (But I would say that as I have quite a few wordpress blogs). If / When you change your template, look for one that will accept big images – as I do like your photographs. I had a link somewhere to this – I will see if I can find it.

    Otherwise, just keep on doing what you are doing, it works
    K

    • Karen, I will definitely try to keep the big images, if possible. As long as they are not causing people to wait for long while the page loads. I like them, myself. Let me know if you find that link.

      Thank you for the compliment, too. 🙂

  10. I echo Talon’s comment / feedback – I like the Zen-like quality of your blog. There are some blogs I frequent that are like a happy festival of widgets and gadgets, but your blog is quite beautiful without all that. So widget away, but know that I wouldn’t expect any of that. I have your blog linked and see when you update, so there is no need for me to have a RSS feed or anything like that.

    • I don’t see myself ever becoming widget or gadget happy. No music or pop-ups or flash animation for me. That stuff turns me off. (Remember this is the woman who finds television to be too intense and overpowering…)

      I love how easy to please you are, Lynn. I know for a fact that extends beyond the blog-world, just in your attitude toward the beautiful and joyful details in your life and how you choose to approach everything. It is so refreshing! Your kind words made me smile. 🙂

  11. You have a wonderful header photo~~and the simplicity of design is fantastic….perhaps tabs that link to those widgets would work. I am not offput by the mustard yellow…but then I totally love The Susans (Rudbeckias).

    gail

    • Well… if I could figure out how to do those tabs, I would, I assure you. It seems to be a rather rigid theme that I selected. I mean it was perfect for my initial foray into blogging, because I really couldn’t screw it up. 🙂

      I’m glad someone likes the mustardy screen, Gail. I’m afraid that it hurts my eyes.

  12. AHHH. What a lovely sunny bright summery looking blog! Perfect for a cold miserable Winter/Spring day in Ireland. Thank you, I feel a little better now 🙂

  13. Hi Meredith, I started blogging about two weeks after you did, and I’ve found the learning curve has been pretty steep. Of course, being an academic (a type I know you’re familiar with :-)), I did a bunch of research and read up about blogging before I started. Several garden bloggers have written posts about what they like to see in a blog — Jodi at Bloomingwriter did a series several years ago; Nell at Secrets of a Seed Scatterer has also done several. One of the resources I’ve found most helpful is the Garden Blogger’s Idea Gallery at Gardening Gone Wild, where Nan Ondra has tried to collect these tips and ideas in one place.
    Things I would like to see in your blog: An easier archive, where I could see dates and not just photos, a description of who and where you are on the front page (I used the WordPress gravatar widget for mine), and, although you started this as a photographic journal, I love your writing and am always happy to see more words. I would also be happier with a theme that gives you more control over colors; I found this background color really hard on the eyes. BUT this is your blog, and you can’t possibly please all the people all the time (thanks, Aesop), so you shouldn’t be afraid to reject advice/suggestions from others that don’t fit your own vision for your blog. It’ll be fun to see what you decide to do with all these suggestions.

    • LOL, Jean, you’re so right. I am quite familiar with academics. 😉 I’m more of a jump-in-feet-first kind of person, but I’m sure F. researched blogs like crazy before he stuck a toe into the pool. I will take a look at the wordpress gravatar widget. The problem is that this theme literally does not have a sidebar — so where to drag and drop it? (I think it is becoming clear that I need a new theme.)

      And I couldn’t agree more with you about this background color. Yuck!

      As for pleasing all the people, well, I have to be honest and say that I’m amazed I pleased so many already, that I have regular readers. Jumping in with both feet as I did, I don’t think I ever imagined that development. It’s humbling.

  14. Hi Meredith,

    Wow…you have received a lot of great comments. I for one, enjoy the simplicity of your blog – but my favorite part is your changing title photo. I am always pleasantly surprised to see a new looking blog. I hope you keep on changing your title photo for each post.

    • Isn’t it amazing, Noelle? People are very generous with advice. 🙂 (I include myself, of course.)

      I think what I will attempt to do is have a featured blog post at the top of the page with a large photo, so that on every visit the photo changes. But I’m finding it difficult to locate a theme that changes its look completely every visit and yet maintains certain standard features which I now want (such as a sidebar). No matter what happens ultimately, I really do appreciate your compliments and suggestions!

  15. Have only recently discovered you. I’m also about 6 months old, at blogging. Give us a fresh post, picture and colour please? One large photo is fine, but I tend to abandon blogs that make me wait, while nothing happens, and nothing happens again, and then I get ‘pretty wallpaper’. I do enjoy your words, keep them coming!

    • Oh, yes, EE, long load times are a killer for me, too — a killer of my interest, that is. Thank you for the compliment on my words. I’m not quite sure what you meant by a “fresh post” and would be delighted if you’d clarify. (I may e-mail you for follow-up.) Picture and post here change every single day, since I write once a day. The color I may or may not be able to alter every day as it does here, for the same reasons as stated above in responding to Noelle’s comment. But I can assure you it won’t be this hideous mustard shade. 😉

  16. Meredith, I like your blog layout. It is simple and the colour changes to match your photos. Your photos are gorgeous and your writing skills excellent. What more could I ask for? I believe there is beauty in simplicity.

    • Oh, Autumn Belle, that is very sweet and kind of you. I did choose this theme for its simplicity, which attracted me. But I do so want to have a blog roll, especially so that I may return the kindness so many others have done me, and there are a couple of other features which I feel would make it easier for people to know me and follow along easily with the blog. I regret that I probably won’t be keeping the simple format long term, especially since you enjoy it… but I’ll still be taking the photos and writing the words, same as always. I sincerely thank you for your compliments on both counts. 🙂

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