State of the Site - 2003
May 27, 2003
Regular readers of The Common Voice will note that I have not contributed a column for some time. I hope that the reason for that absence will be evident as they take a look at the new layout and functionality of the site! Over twenty hours has gone into the rework in order to bring the site to a higher level.
At first glance it only appears that it is the look that has changed. While we are excited about the new design and the direction in which it will lead us, the most interesting changes have come in the way the site works. This “State of the Site” column will review some history of the site, explain some of the changes and inform you of where we plan to take CommonVoice.com in the future.
Much has changed since that first column on May 2, 2001. While the site had existed for several years before that date, this was the first column in what would become the CommonVoice.com of today. If you want to have a laugh, take a look at the original mockup for the site. One thing has remained consistent—the desire to create a news and commentary site that was controlled by the readers.
The first mockup did not last very long. As a matter of fact, the first public display of the site looked quite different. Some things have disappeared—such as the calendar. At that time, it was hard enough just figuring out how to get the headlines up on the site. While the desire to give the power of headlines to the reader was there—it was not a realized dream.
Enter a design that might look more familiar to recent visitors to CommonVoice.com. Now two things were added to the site to bring it closer to its original intent. The readers could now submit their own headlines and comment on them. Not only that, but the site would check every fifteen minutes and find the top headlines from South Carolina’s top online media outlets. The actual official time and weather (for Greenville) were some of the experiments that appeared on this version.
While the first version of the site focused only on Greenville and the next few versions progressed from an Upstate focus to a statewide focus, it became clear that many of the topics being discussed went beyond South Carolina issues. CommonVoice.com is now making the leap to continue offering access to South Carolina stories AND ALSO opening the way to a broader audience. Not only that, but the desire to make a completely interactive site where the readers drive the headlines is a reality.
The new graphical and layout design of the site reflects the new broader appeal of the site. The new headline features make the original dream a reality. The Common Voice now really is the site where the readers make the headlines. Here is how it works:
All headlines are now reader submitted. The purpose for adding a headline to share with others news stories that are important to you while at the same time giving you a platform from which to share your own opinion (thus the “start a ripple” slogan). Once you throw your pebble in the pond, you can sit back and see if you make any waves. There are two ways this can happen. First, others will join you in your discussion thread. Second, and not so obvious, is what happens to your headline. As readers begin to read the headlines the most popular headlines will move to the top.
We plan to make more refinements over the summer months to make the process more fun and helpful. Of course, there will still be the regular contributors. What would people do without their regular fix of Jimmy Moore?! Future plans include an “American Idol” style columnist lineup. You can join CommonVoice.com as a columnist and then you have to earn your way to the top by amassing a readership following. If you get read, you stay around. If you aren’t read, then you’ll go the way of some off-key blues singer. We’ll also be adding a book review section soon.
Farther into the future the site will begin to break down headlines according to local. For instance, if you will be able to choose to view only headlines associated with South Carolina and national issues. You would not see headlines added by someone in Alaska regarding Alaska specific issues. Ultimately, we would like to also break down headlines by issue as well. You will be able to choose between business, religion -- and the list could go on. So, while CommonVoice.com may begin to grow beyond the borders of the Palmetto State, we certainly don’t want to lose that local connection.
You can help. As we continue to head into new territories, this site absolutely cannot succeed with YOU. First, I give you a personal invitation to join in the fun. If you have never submitted a headline, do it before the week is out. It’s easy! Go ahead and comment on a headline. Most likely, no one will know who you are. Of course, a great way to help is to Tell-a-friend. It doesn’t hurt at all. Finally, if the site is to grow, it is going to take some funds. Advertising does not come cheap. You can help us in two ways: One, buy an ad on CommonVoice.com. It’s a way to help out the site while getting a little something back (not as if you aren’t getting something now!) Two, why not make a donation to the site. It is very easy. You don’t even have to have a Paypal account. You can easily give using a credit card or debit card using our secure process.
Finally, “thank you.” It has been a great two years. I can’t wait to see them many years to come. What is the state of the site? It’s great!