Sunday, March 07, 2010

Changes: A web store and research area

I like shiny things, and I won't lie, I've been jealous of my fellow blogger over at The Bumblebee Blog for some time. Her blog is just so snazzy. Just look at it!

I would probably have its babies. Okay, not really... but I think you get the point.

Given that, I've been working over the last couple of days to update the look and operation of the site. (I slept 13 hours last night because I stayed up all night the two nights prior working on this and various other projects.)

Hopefully you like the new look. It's much brighter than the last look, and a lot less dreary to look at during all of these dark and rainy days. Also, it features plant life, which seemed appropriate.

I'm also test driving a few new services. They haven't seemed to cause any issues yet, but if you find any bugs or anything, let me know.

First of all, I got a legitimate hit counter. I was just getting stats from Feedburner about the number of subscribers I have, but lets face it, most people don't actually subscribe to blogs. They poke around in a search engine, find something that sounds interesting, read the post, and move on. Hopefully the new stats I'm collecting will help me make sure my site is relevant for the people that are actually reading it.

Speaking of subscribing though... at some point Blogger enabled "pages" (I obviously never got the memo) which are static pages--unlike blog posts which include comments and what not--that you can link to from your blog and provide relevant information, such as information about the author, etc. Naturally I included a subscribe page which conglomerates all of those ugly links I had floating around. From there you can add the feed to your feed reader, subscribe by e-mail, follow Going Backward, Moving Forward on Facebook, follow my personal twitter account,  and a few other popular services.

I also made options for sharing individual posts stick out more while simultaneously reducing the number of options. Who really needs 50 options? Now at the end of each post there are big shiny buttons allowing you to share the post on Digg, Twitter, Facebook,, and by email.

I've also added a guestbook page. This is just a test, and if it doesn't get used I'll probably take it down. But, my thought is, many times you want to ask a question or make a comment about a blog that isn't relevant to any of the posts. This guestbook pages allows you to leave feedback or ask questions on any related, tangentially related, or unrelated topic you can think of. Please do! I want to know if you think I'm too wordy, not wordy enough (unlikely!), should include more pictures, should write on a specific topic, have recommended good books, etc.

The last page I've added for the time being is a store page. If you've been reading for a while, or have gone back through and read my older posts, you know that I'm a pretty avid reader and that I'm also eager to recommend books on subjects I'm familiar with. This is mostly because this is how my gardening mentor learned and how she teaches us to learn. If something interests you, read about it! Not that reading is always a good substitute for hands on experience, but it can still lay a lot of the groundwork. So I've compiled most of the books I've mentioned throughout the life of the blog, as well as some that I haven't mentioned yet, but that I've either read and think worthwhile, or have had recommended to me by resources I trust... and I've put them all on the shop page.

What's in it for me? I get a small commission (6%) for each book that sells. I don't have my own land, so most of the gardening I do is volunteer work for local organizations like the B Street Permaculture Project. All of the reading and research I do is on my own time and any supplies I buy to run experiments (like the dorm room garden) are purchased with money out of my own pocket. I love to do it, but we live in a society that revolves around money... and I like to be able to afford my rent. Book sales, as insignificant of an income as they may be, help compensate for all of the time I spend researching and sharing that research with others. And you get sweet books in the process!

Other services I've added include, which shows stats about who's currently on the site, and Tynt Insight (via, which tracks things that are copied from my blog. That's not to say that you shouldn't copy things from my blog, but I like to know where I'm ending up. And Tynt will conveniently add a link back to anything that is copied from the blog for those that "forget". This will help Going Backward, Moving Forward get noticed in search engines (not that you really care, I'm sure... but I do!). Try it out now! Copy and paste something from this page! (The nerd in me is practically exploding with the awesomeness of it.)

Another service I've signed up for, which I'm not too sure about yet, is MyBlogLog. You can see the gigantic widget for it in the sidebar. Not only is the widget obnoxiously large, but the site is also obnoxiously disorganized. But, I've had people swear by it, saying that it brings relevant readers to their blogs. I'm not holding my breath, and if it doesn't seem to be doing much after a month or so I imagine I'll be ditching it. Note to service providers: if your website is going to suck, then your service has to be good enough to make me stay.

All of that said, I've still got a lot of additions that I'd like to make to the site. For starters, I want to be a resource for those specifically in the Pacific Northwest for creating forest gardens. As I start experimenting I want to create an additional page that will be specifically for species that work well here and what species they work well with. That way anyone could come to the site, find a plant that they want to grow, find the plants that grow well with them, and mimic the same planting I've already had success with. This section of the site is still in the planning stages, but I'm really hoping it pans out.

I also want to get my posts tagged better so people can find relevant posts more easily... I'm just really bad about coming up with relevant tags... and then following through with using them. There just never seem to be enough, or the right ones. I'll try though!

I've also got other little ideas floating around in my head, but nothing that's really concrete yet. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Also, speaking of hearing from all of you (especially now that I have a sense of the number of people that are actually visiting the site) what're you up to? I want to hear from you! I've noticed that some of the books I've mentioned have been purchased... so what do you guys think of them? I like to know that I'm doing my readers good.

I hope you guys enjoyed the post on the Human Habitat Project which I notice posted today. I've had a habit in the past of thinking of about 20 different things I could write about but then picking one and writing about it and then forgetting what the other 19 were. So, I've started writing them all as I think of them and then scheduling them to post in the future so that I get them all written, but don't have 20 posts all at once. Next week you'll be getting one that I've already written, which includes a video of the amazing success PRI has had with forest gardening in the desert. And now I'm getting ready to go write one on composting indoors, which I'll probably post on Monday or Tuesday.

Wish me luck.

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