So you may have noticed a little change around here. The homepage has been redesigned extensively to showcase more clearly what Libertarian Home is for, it’s purpose and goals, and to create certain incentives for the people who contribute. Other pages, including article pages like this one, category, tag and author feeds are lagging behind. I would prefer it wasn’t thus, but I do not want perfect to become the enemy of the good. As Brian Micklethwait keeps saying, it is better for things to be done imperfectly and soon, than not done at all or done slowly. This is the wisdom that helped to double, and then some, the size of the libertarian movement within Brian’s lifetime.
It is important that the incentives created by the new layout are understood, or they won’t be effective. I would also like to explain them because I think they are interesting to a wide audience, especially technical people and content strategists.
Each feature is an example of me (me personally) typing commands into my computer and hoping that the world changes slightly for the better as a consequence. This feels rather empowering, and so I want to show off, and I also want there to be a discussion about what was done so that I can be confident – through your bug reports and your frank, blunt and fearlessly harsh criticism – that the stuff I’m doing is real, and that it works.
The new homepage is refreshed every 5 minutes and all the calculations, image selection, and sorting is automatic.
The authors bar
This appears in the corner of your monitor on the right side bar and across the middle of your phone or tablet screen, though I may swap it with the advert space. It shows who has contributed recently, and forms a kind of horizontal league table. The goal is to ensure contributors are showcased and empowered.
The authors bar rewards people who have posted recently with prominent exposure of their face, name and links to their personal feed of articles.The count shown is the number of their articles from a sample of the last thirty or more posts on the site.
I believe that the people who write here want, primarily, to be read. This feature will ensure that visitors know who has written something that can be read. User’s who want to catch up with your work will click on your name or your picture. The best way for you as a contributor to make sure a user is able to see what you wrote last week, is to add something new this week so your face is in the authors bar.
It will be a little competitive. For example, Ben and Richard are drawn on one post each. If either post again, or anyone else posts, then they will lose out. This is rather brutal, especially given the consistent quality of Richard’s posts and his relative tenure on the site, but this is necessary if the feature is going to work consistently.
Participation is opt-in and a manual process is needed. It is open to anyone who dislikes taxation and is tolerant of alternative lifestyles. I do, primarily, want it to feel like it’s easy to break through on merit.
Image led top-post
The top article space works similarly. It shows the latest single post with a large landscape image. If the most recent post has a featured image that is small, or portrait then the next post is checked. The manual white-listing of featured posts is gone. The idea is to reward people who use good large images. I want to incentivise this because they look great when the article is shared on social media and it creates a vibrant and characterful experience for users. The end of manual steps here will also ensure freshness.
This feature also creates an incentive to not post more than daily, so that the content available in a week is not consumed before Friday. Posting too often will push articles out of the top slot and down the page. The most constructive approach is for authors to keep in touch and take turns at this space.
Technically the approach is somewhat novel, and required the creation of a new bit of kit to measure the dimensions and brightness (actually the median luma) of image pixels. The brightness is used to choose between black and white headline text. That measurement kit is now available for public use on trial and on subscription terms.
By incentivising beautiful images and regular contributions I hope to get regular compelling content that drives up visitor numbers and improves the platform for everyone. This is especially true now that individuals can earn a prominent spot that works hard for them. I really enjoyed working on this and hope the experience is rewarding for contributors and readers alike.