Coding Horror

programming and human factors

Excess Blog Flair

I recently happened upon Tom Raftery's blog. I'm sure Tom's a great guy, but what's up with all the visual noise on his blog?

Bookmark at these sites

I count 24 pieces of flair in the bookmark section alone.

STAN I need to talk about your flair.

JOANNA Really? I have 15 buttons on. I, uh, (shows him)

STAN Well, ok, 15 is minimum, ok?

JOANNA Ok.

STAN Now, it's up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum. Well, like Brian, for example, has 37 pieces of flair. And a terrific smile.

JOANNA Ok. Ok, you want me to wear more?

STAN Look. Joanna.

JOANNA Yeah.

STAN People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, ok? They come to Chotchkie's for the atmosphere and the attitude. That's what the flair's about. It's about fun.

I only recognized a few of these bookmark icons. For reference, here's the complete list of sites represented in that set of 16x16 icon noise:

  • blinkbits
  • blinklist
  • blogmarks
  • connotea
  • del.icio.us
  • de.lirio.us
  • digg
  • fark
  • feedmelinks
  • furl
  • linkagogo
  • ma.gnolia.com
  • newsvine
  • netvouz
  • rawsugar
  • reddit
  • scuttle
  • shadows
  • simpy
  • smarking
  • spurl
  • tailrank
  • wists
  • yahoo

The users of the above social bookmarking sites surely know how to bookmark a site without these "helpful" icons. Everyone else is befuddled by 24 meaningless icons.

And if you were thinking of subscribing to Tom's feed, he has you covered there too:

Feed subscription service buttons

Why do people want their blogs to look like NASCAR vehicles?

Closeup of advertising decals on NASCAR vehicle

Blogs work because they're simple. Adding a bunch of flair just makes them harder to navigate and more difficult to read.

Take Tom Sherman's blog, for example. Great content. But navigating his blog is painful:

  1. I have to click "continue reading" to see the rest of the entry. Why? Are we afraid the main page is going to grow too long and break my scroll bar?
  2. The "websites I've linked to" and "websites I've cited" sections at the bottom aren't particularly helpful. And they obscure the links to browse more entries, which is the most natural thing to do at the bottom of a page, assuming the reader gets that far.
  3. I can only view 15 more entries, then I'm shunted to the monthly archives.
  4. While viewing the monthly archives, I couldn't figure out how to see more than one page.

I'd love to browse the rest of Tom's entries, but he's made it awfully difficult for me to do so.

And then there's Scott Mitchell's blog. Scott's a fantastic writer with a long history in ASP and ASP.NET. But do we really need to see those daily comment statistics and hourly hit statistics along the right side of the page? I'm sure Scott finds them interesting, but they're just noise to me.

Perhaps this is really an argument in favor of RSS-- all of the content with none of the excess flair.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: http://twitter.com/codinghorror