Monday, February 19, 2007

Birds & Bills redesign!

If you usually read Birds & Bills on a feed, surf on over to the site today -- it features a massive overhaul. The best new element is a gorgeous new logo, designed by artist Renee Thompson. Lacking any design skills myself, I'd been hunting around for an artist to commission a design from. When I found her work on deviantART, I promptly fell in love. And, she specializes in birds! Such a perfect fit! I was really delighted she took the commission, and I'm blissed to be ditching my old off-the-shelf template for a lovely custom design. If you like Renee's work, you can find more in her Etsy store.

The new design also features long-overdue tags functionality. I've added a list of the tags I use to the blog sidebar. That should make it easier if you're hunting for posts on a specific topic, like retirement planning or credit cards.

What other features should I incorporate? Speak up, if there's some site-navigation element you find lacking. For instance, should I compile a "table of contents" with links to significant posts (like the one on 401k strategy, or the article about How FICO scores are calculated)? Does anyone need/want a search box?

While I'm in a bit of a relaunch phase, this seems a good time to mention Birds & Bills' editorial policies. Flipping through (a great blog aggregator) a few weeks ago, I was surprised to find a handful of posts tagged [PayPerPost]. I've heard about this insidious little outlet before, but I hadn't previously run across it in the wild.

I don't consider blog ethics completely interchangable with my day-job, beat journalism ethical practices. (To earn my paychecks, I write about software over at CRN.) I'm a lot more opinionated here about issues and financial services vendors and than I would be about companies/topics on my beat. However, I do consider blog ethics akin to the responsibilities of a columnist: someone whose job is to provide opinionated, personal, but independent views. "Transparency above all" is my policy. If I try out a service I've been given free access to, or review a book from a publisher that has sent a free copy, I'll mention the freebie. If I don't add that kind of disclaimer, you can assume I'm paying the going rate for any goods or services I comment on.

When it comes to advertising, my views nicely coincide with what John Scalzi wrote in the Whatever a few weeks ago: I get approached every so often about running ads here, and I don't take up the offers because, "One, I don't wanna. Two, I don't wanna. Three, I don't wanna." I'm not opposed to ad-subsidized media. Advertising underwrites my paychecks and keeps the magazine I write for in business. But I don't have a pressing need to run it here, and I don't like the cluttered look it gives so many blogs. I've run the math; putting AdSense or whatever on Birds & Bills wouldn't generate enough income for me to consider it worth the visual clutter. So, now and for the forseeable future, no ads.

Finally, while I'm rambling on blogging topics, thanks for reading along over here. Birds & Bills recently had its one-year anniversary. I don't have a good stats tracker (the kludgy one I used broke in today's redesign), so I have no idea how many people are out there, but I'm happy a few people are following along as I thrash out financial matters.