I’m going to be working to update Crossroads Arabia over the next week or two. There will be some design changes and perhaps some new functions for commenters. It would be very useful if I could have all the changes done at once, so I’m interested in collating suggestions.

I’d like to ask readers what they’d like to see in terms of functionality. I know that text formatting and editing comments are something people are asking for. I intend to accommodate you!

I’m also concerned, of course, about how you think Crossroads Arabia would be more interesting for you. If there are particular topics you think I’m not covering adequately, please let me know. If you think there’s too much of something, I’d like to know that, too.

If you would, I’d appreciate your leaving comments to this post, tagging them either FORMAT or CONTENT.

Thanks very much!

July:18:2008 - 12:36 | Comments & Trackbacks (17) | Permalink
17 Responses to “Blog Redesign”
  1. 1
    AbuSinan Said:
    July:18:2008 - 13:27 

    I think it is pretty good on the whole. Maybe more in the “Links” section. In the past I have found some pretty good sources of information from seeing that the webmasters/site owners are looking at and reading.

  2. 2
    Saudi in US Said:
    July:18:2008 - 14:28 


    As you know I am a fan of your distinguished blog and think it is fine the way it is. Some ideas that may help bring more interest are:

    - You have good commentary on each article you link to. I think that is valuable and would like to see it continue. I also think you have a wealth of experience and knowledge. It would be great if you would share those on a weekly column that is not news driven, but based on topics that you would like to share your views and experiences on.

    - The look of the blog is conservative for a good reason as it implies serious topics. However, I think you may want to choose a design that is a little more colorful to attract less sophisticated readers to the great topics you write. I think some of that is OK as they will get the benefit of the education you provide here without the initial view that may overwhelm the average reader. Along those lines you may try inserting some stock pictures with topics to make the blog look eye pleasing. American_Bedu made some changes to her blog along those lines, which helped I think. Your blog is more politically focused so the design should be more conservative.
    - May be a few less serious stories will also make it interesting. A few diversions on topics of Arts or even oddity stories may also help. Obviously you do not want too many of these as not to dilute the message of the blog.
    - You have a good sense of humor. I see that in your comments, but rarely in the post. A little more satire will be fun.
    - An occasional youtube video of public flogging of a religious police man will be great. OK that is a wish not a serious suggestion…
    - And last but not least. More Sparky comments. She does get us going :)

  3. 3
    John Ballard Said:
    July:19:2008 - 07:55 

    I agree with saudi. Yours is one of the most reliable sites on my blogroll.

    Layout and design are okay, but about half of my reading is done in the Blogroll panes so for me content trumps everything else. (There are a couple of sites I check that have typefaces so small that I can actually read them better on the aggregator.)

    I very much like that you remain on task, keeping close tabs on the KSA and related media. (My blog tends to be scattered all over the place with little or no theme, which is probably why I have so few readers.) You fill an important place in the mosaic of reporting from that part of the world. Keep up the good work.

  4. 4
    John Burgess Said:
    July:19:2008 - 08:35 

    Thanks for the compliments, all. I’m happy to receive them, of course, but I also appreciate criticism in order to make this a better site.

    Because there are few blogs about Saudi Arabia that I consider even-handed, I do try to keep the focus of this one narrow. There are a multitude of interesting things going on in the world and I read a lot of blogs about the things that interest me outside of Saudi Arabia. I’m not sure that blog rolling them would be terribly helpful for most, though there’s usually some way it connects in my mind with the Kingdom. For instance, I read a lot of ‘blawgs’–blogs focused on one or more aspect of American law. This is handy for me because Saudis do seem to keep coming in touch with American courts in one way or another… Suits on 9/11, libel suits, slavery suits.

    If you think you want to peruse the sources that get my mind going, I’m happy to accommodate. You might find the linkage tenuous, however. For example, I just finished reading an excellent book on the development of the English Enlightenment, London Rising: The Men Who Made Modern London.

    Now what does this have to do with Saudi Arabia? Nothing, directly. But one of the book’s focuses is on the philosopher John Locke. He had to flee England for a while when he got crosswise with the religious authorities in London. He found a breath of fresh air in a more tolerant Europe. He argued that kings were not kings by divine right, but by the will of the people to support them. He was lucky enough, in a manner of speaking, to live in a time of true ‘fitna’, when the currents were changing frequently and lethally for those who found themselves on the wrong side of a religious question. The English form of ‘takfir’ was in fine fettle. Sound familiar?

    He was truly lucky in that the currents of change finally settled in a new channel that had room for his philosophy–and that espoused in various ways (commerce, architecture, science)–that led to a new understanding of man’s place in the universe.

    So, do you want what goes through my head when I read things that interest me? Do you want links to it all?

    My concern is, like that of John Ballard, that I might dissipate the import of what I’m doing. I may be too conservative about it, so your feedback helps enormously.

    Another issue I’d like to ask about, particularly of those living in the Kingdom: What’s the most common type of Internet connection in use by Saudis? When I left, it was still dial-up, metered by the minute of use.

    Metered dial-up access has consequences. One is that I decided to make this blog ‘flat’… not much in the way of graphic images that take time to download, no Flash animations, no embedded video. Not only are those things time consuming to open on a page, but they cost readers money. Is my perspective out of date?

    If it is, then that opens some new doors for both look and content. If that’s still accurate for the majority of Saudi readers, then I’m inclined to stay ‘flat’.

    As always, your suggestions are both welcomed and appreciated.

  5. 5
    AbuSinan Said:
    July:19:2008 - 10:50 


    I know that type of link has nothing to do with Saudi but it is just the type of thing I like to read! Thanks!

  6. 6
    John Ballard Said:
    July:19:2008 - 13:12 

    So, do you want what goes through my head when I read things that interest me? Do you want links to it all?

    I value your editorial comments and reflections. That’s central to why we blog. And you’re sometimes a very witty guy.

    Links? Okay, if it’s handy and doesn’t slow you down. But I have found that many of my old links go nowhere with age and I end up doing a search anyway. I only link to give credit, validate my credibility or send the reader off to finish what I don’t have time or space to copy. Anything else they can look it up.

  7. 7
    ratherdashing Said:
    July:19:2008 - 21:49 

    Mr. Burgess,

    I enjoy the blog. It’s like a clearinghouse of KSA news. My main suggestion (a preview button) has been addressed with the delayed posting feature. That helps those of us that too quick to “Submit Comment.”

    The only other thing would be to change the shade of links. They blend in with the color of the page and other font. I have read past them and not noticed a link existed.

    Secondly, I’ve noticed that some blogs have the html codes for italics and bold and blockquote in handy-dandy buttons near the comments section. A commenter can quickly manipulate the appearance of his post without physically typing in the html code for it. I don’t know how this is done since I don’t have a blog of my own. But, it is a neat feature that helps make a point sometimes.

  8. 8
    ratherdashing Said:
    July:19:2008 - 21:50 

    Wait a minute. Where’d the delayed posting feature go?

  9. 9
    John Burgess Said:
    July:19:2008 - 23:50 

    ratherdashing: Your concerns are, in fact, on my list of things to fix. Change the color of links; offer one-button formatting; and get the comment preview thing fixed!

    It broke and I cannot repair it, so I’m getting a complete re-installation done, with changes.

  10. 10
    Carol Said:
    July:20:2008 - 02:42 


    I believe your blog is the best one out there for a wide collection of media articles on KSA and your valued analysis/perspectives are the icing on the cake. I encourage you to maintain that format.

    I like the serious nature of your blog but do agree that occasional incorporation of graphics which further illustrate a point in an article would be appealing and attractive.

    The addition of pages which review books specific to Saudi and perhaps a page which also reviews other links related to Saudi would be a “nice to have.”

    Lastly I comment your dedication and the care you place on your blog. It keeps me from clicking on the link to your blog daily so I have not only the daily dose of Burgess but the broad view of many issues relating to the Kingdom.

    And on yes, in my experience as one living in the Kingdom, most here are likely using DSL although it is still not as reliable or fast as one would like. It should not be overlooked that a portion of users also continue to use dial up. It seems from my experience the minority and elite are the ones using satellite and WIMAX which is fastest speed but also more expensive than the other alternatives.

    Best Regards,
    Carol (American Bedu)

  11. 11
    Sparky Said:
    July:20:2008 - 19:49 

    John you light up my life you give me hope to carry on…remember that song.

    I like the topics you choose to focus on because I always seem to be in the know before others and then I tell them “this is what happened or this is what is going on” commenting on them seems to bring them to life further. I would like to see a section of the blog “Dear John”. Dear John what do you think I should do? Something like that…I am serious…maybe it could be anonymous or something like that. You would write your advice and then other readers could advise or comment as well.

    Hey I am in the good ole USA and was selected and designated told before arriving at Delta for my local flight in the tone of voice that someone tells someone once they have won a raffle, “You have been selected and labelled as a special guest of Delta” and nearly before two seconds had passed before responding in my lovingly voice, “Oh have I? What a treat?” I was frisked. A lady I had met on the plane and befriended was an American was labelled a “visitor”. I suppose being a special guest is better than a visitor especuially because America is my own country.

  12. 12
    Sparky Said:
    July:20:2008 - 19:51 

    Saudi in the US thank you for your comment. I look forward to your comments because they are very accurate and logical and you make me laugh too :-)

  13. 13
    Sparky Said:
    July:20:2008 - 19:57 

    Carol satellite is for the elite. I was elite for a while and loved it until my husband took it away. Now my mother’s DSL in the states comcast is worse than my DSL in Saudi. I guess I was a princess for a lil while.

  14. 14
    John Burgess Said:
    July:20:2008 - 21:14 

    Umm, I don’t see myself in the ‘Dear Abby’ mold, though I do correspond a lot with people thinking of joining the Foreign Service as a career as well as diplomats being assigned to Saudi.

    Don’t sweat the airport stuff. Consider it rain on a day that might have been lovely. Never once in all my travels to/from Saudi Arabia have I escaped going through ‘secondary security screening’ on check-in and arrival. Every time, my baggage was opened.

    You know why I don’t sweat it? Because a very dear friend of mine was killed on Pan American Flight #103 over Lockerbie, when a bomb on it shredded the plane at 30,000 ft. I think, in fact, that if security is the real concern, airports, airlines, and the government could be a whole lot stricter.

  15. 15
    Michel Said:
    July:21:2008 - 06:16 


    sorry I did not have time to review all the suggestions, so I hope my suggestion will not have been already covered; I’ve noticed on several occasions that I’m unable to know on which precise date a comment has been issued (we just see the time), especially for the oldest topics (was it long ago or very recently ?).
    I think that would help, if you can do it.

  16. 16
    John Burgess Said:
    July:21:2008 - 07:39 

    Michel: That’s a good point. Definitely will change that.

  17. 17
    Sparky Said:
    July:21:2008 - 10:06 

    Michel great suggestion. I have thought about that before. Also John I am sorry about your friend. I am happy that they check me and that I feel more secure flying. It was funny how they told me that Ihave been pre selected as a special guest and how cheerful they were in telling me that.It was as if I had won some frequent flyer miles or something. I suppose they are trying to be nice to people.

    I don’t think you totally fit the mold of Dear Abby but I think you help or guide people by providing factual information. Perhaps you could put a part on the blog and make it free for whatever anyone wants to discuss. It could be a source for getting issues out and finding solutions somehow unless that is too radical.

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