On October 1st I left my job as the University of Tennessee’s lead web designer and moved across campus to Alumni Affairs, where I’m now serving as Communications Manager. When I interviewed for the position, we talked generally about the rapidly evolving world of electronic communications, and I used my friends in the film blog-o-sphere as an example of what most excites me about the field right now. Although we see each other only once a year in Toronto, on any given day we exchange emails, pass notes in Facebook, comment on each other’s sites, chirp in Twitter, text message, discuss ideas on forums, listen in on podcasts, instant message, and, occasionally, when the mood strikes us, we even call each other on the phone.

The variety of communications tools would be overwhelming but for the fact that my friends and I are engaged in what is essentially a single, extended conversation. It’s all come to feel perfectly natural. I suppose some tools (forums, long-form blogs) are more suitable for, say, serious debate than others, while Twitter is obviously more immediate and superficial. And Facebook — wonderful, addictive Facebook — is so damn good at social networking that it’s changed the way I use the Internet (despite my long-held resistance to it). Perhaps we could draw an analogy between these tools and the various types of conversations we have with local friends when we go out together for a long dinner, sit side-by-side at a book club meeting, or run into each other at the grocery store.

Long Pauses version 11 is a snapshot of how I’m currently using the Internet. It’s almost literally divided down the middle, with frequently updated microposts on the left and occasional, more thoughtful bits of content on the right. Feel free to interact with it however you like. Here’s a breakdown of the web apps (all of them free) I’ve stitched together for this strange patchwork of a site:

Blogger
Because Long Pauses predates blogging, I jumped on the first free, viable tool that didn’t require a locally-hosted database. Seven years later, I have nearly a 1,000 posts in Blogger and, both out of familiarity and laziness, have resisted moving to a more robust CMS like WordPress or Expression Engine. Frankly, I kind of enjoy solving the problems associated with building an entire site from a single template.

Haloscan
Early iterations of Blogger didn’t include a commenting feature, so my first add-on was Haloscan. Again, by the time Blogger caught up, I had a deep archive of comments that I was hesitant to abandon. Until now. Because Haloscan uses a pop-up window, the advent of tabbed browsing has made it a major pain in the ass. I’ve officially made the switch to Blogger comments, which will hopefully prove to be more user-friendly and readable. However, the old archive still exists. At the bottom of each post, you’ll notice a small, grayed-out discussion icon. For a trip down memory lane, click that icon on old posts to read past comments.

Twitter
I resisted Twitter until the Facebook addiction kicked in. Once I figured out how to synch Twitter with my Facebook status, it was all over. I’m hooked.

Tumblr
The front page of Long Pauses version 10 was actually built from two Blogger blogs — Long Pauses and Miscellaneous Debris. It was an ugly and unsatisfying hack involving a PHP include, but it was the best solution I could come up with at the time. And then I found Tumblr and its embed javascript. Miscellaneous Debris has become a kind of Siamese Twin — a separate blog with a unique purpose (collecting random oddities from the web) but still joined at the hip of Long Pauses. You can leave comments there and subscribe to its feed. The ten most recent bits of debris will display on every page of the main site.

Disqus
Tumblr doesn’t yet have a built-in commenting feature, but Disqus can be added by copying and pasting two lines of code into a Tumblr template. Added bonus: Disqus publishes an rss feed.

Let me know if you find anything broken.

4 Responses to “Long Pauses Version 11”

  1. Darren, I like this. The various material on the side (Twitter updates, Miscellaneous Debris, embedded video, etc.) enhance the “activity” of the site, and then I noticed something else … is this the first time you’ve used a serif font for the main blog entries? As a long-time serif-font user myself, I do like the shift here, although the integrated sans-serif fonts of your previous designs were always beautiful too. –Michael

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  2. Yeah, Michael, it’s my first serif font (Georgia), and it’s slightly larger than what I’ve used in the past. By moving all of the more ephemeral content into Miscellaneous Debris, I’m hoping to use Long Pauses proper for longer, more text-heavy pieces. A serif font seemed appropriate, especially now that modern browsers and monitors display them so well.

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  3. Very nice evolution of Long Pauses, Darren.

    I started using Tumblr not long ago, too, although not for its embedding features but because it’s so clean and simple. I wanted to keep track of the music I listen to with Iris — and share those daily playlists with family, etc — and Tumblr is an almost absurdly easy way to throw up miniature blog posts. Created an account in seconds, added Disqus (which probably won’t be used, but what the heck), done. Also, I must admit, big fat buttons are fun to push.

    At a previous job I worked with a designer who predicted the return of serif fonts on the web and always lobbied for them in his designs. I loved them until I looked at them on a Windows XP machine. Gah. But luckily those folks are catching up, too. Good call.

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  4. Great design Darren! I always look forward to the re-inventions of your blog, as it is one of the few websites that always challenge and question my notion of what a blog or website can be. I think this ranks up with your experiment with widescreen format as the most conceptually interesting versions of Long Pauses.

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