posted on January 13, 2008 12:17
In the last few years it has been as clear as crystal to me that there were - and continue to be - so many things that CLUAS needed to do better (or, for that matter, just simply start doing). Finding time to do them for me has always been a problem.
Thankfully 2007 saw some essential building blocks finally get put in place - the launch of the CLUAS blogs, rolling out the ability for writers to directly publish reviews to the site themselves and optimisation of the site for search engines (one result of which is that Google now features new CLUAS articles usually within - literally - minutes of them being published). The last 12 months also saw CLUAS secure thousands of valuable new links to the site (of which several hundred links were from authoritative international websites).
Important and all as it was to make these advances - and those that I mention were were only part of the site's 2007 story - there remains a ton of stuff that needs to be done. 2008 should see us make many necessary strides.
Building on the solid foundation we now have following the progress made in 2007, CLUAS' goals in the coming year include getting the following (non-exhaustive) list of things sorted (and many of them are already getting off the ground). Read on...
Increase the number of interviews of Irish bands on the site: It's a bit of an understatement but CLUAS needs to greatly increase the number of interviews of Irish bands that we do. Up to now it has been a bit ad hoc: a writer decides of their own initiative to interview an act and goes and does it. The CLUAS writing team needs to get more systematic about this. First step towards this is to get someone to take on the role of coordinating all our interview efforts. I am not talking about someone who actually does all the interviews but someone who ensures that writers are systematically identifying interesting bands to interview and organising the interviews (with the interviews being done in the main via email considering the amount of time a face to face or telephone interview can take to finalise for publishing). Ken Fallon, who recently interviewed God is an Astronaut for CLUAS, has since agreed to take this coordination role, starting in February. Nice one, Ken.
Ensure we review every Irish album of note released in 2008: We need to be sure we are systematically reviewing all Irish album releases of note. This is something we have - alas - not been doing well enough. Some basic steps towards achieving this are already taking shape behind the scenes.
Get more copies of albums to review: We need to get more albums to review than we did last year from labels and PR companies. A number of initiatives on this front have already been taken in the last week.
Review more gigs: In 2007 CLUAS writers Steven O'Rourke & Daragh Murray set things up so that CLUAS writers can get press passes for CLUAS writers to most of the quality gigs happening around the country. Problem has been that CLUAS writers have not taken full advantage of this. Steven has plans to sort this out in the coming year. Encouraging music nuts to go to quality gigs for free shouldn't be too difficult a task, should it?
A new blog focused on the most interesting corners of the Irish music scene: This is something that has been in the pipeline for a while - a new blog about interesting acts on the Irish music scene that all the CLUAS writers can contribute to (with Anna Murray overseeing it). This will finally happen. Watch this space.
Refresh of the website's look and feel: CLUAS could do with a new wash of virtual paint, a freshening up of its look and feel, however one that does not abandon completely the look and feel that has got us to where we are today. This will be a fairly major project and is one I have already started doing some ground work for. For example you may have noticed a change in the last week to the CLUAS home page. In techie terms I migrated the layout from a "table-based" layout (i.e. what should really be called "web layout for the lazy") to a pure "CSS positioning" layout. I plan to elaborate on this in more detail in a seperate blog entry as what I did brings many, many advantages and improvements to the single most important page of the site. Anyways, this shift to CSS positioning is one I want to (nay, need to) spread over the rest of the site before slapping on a new look and feel. (Aside: an additional consequence of this shift to CSS positioning is that the full CLUAS site will, in due course, be browsable by the iPhone and other cutting edge phone-based browsers as they emerge).
Regularly upgrade the technology the site uses: I'll share a dirty little secret. When over a year ago (at the end of 2006) I migrated the site to the new technology we use (DotNetNuke) I had some doubts if it was the right choice (there were many other Content Management Systems I could have chosen, DotNetNuke was not the perfect fit for us but it seemed to be 'good enough' and I had to stop waiting for perfection and just pick a system). One year on I am now convinced it was not only the right choice but - long term - the best choice for the site. DotNetNuke has really matured since we first started using it in Nov 2006. There is an extremely busy and skilled community of volunteers that are constantly improving the core technology and adding useful new functionality. The following are just a few of the improvements you can expect on CLUAS in 2008 thanks to advances in this technology:
- Improved interface to the CLUAS blogs: a new version of the blog module we use has been released. I have not yet installed it on CLUAS but, as you will see, it makes for a more attractive blog interface (and it also sorts out the issue of carriage returns in any blog comments being ignored).
- Ability for writers to directly publish features & interviews: new functionality scheduled for Spring 2008 will allow us to have writers publish interviews & features direct to the site without any need for my intervention.
- Improvements to the discussion board: A new improved version of the discussion board will be out in the coming 2 months, another update is then foreseen 6 months later.
Securing more links to CLUAS: On the WWW one of the most valuable currencies for a website is links. 2007 was - without doubt - our single most successful year ever in securing links, both in terms of number and quality of links attracted. However a fair chunk of our future success depends on not just continuing this but also increasing the number of links we attract. We're on it.
Increase the use of polls on the Discussion board: Towards the end of 2007 we tested the waters with the poll function of the CLUAS Discussion board. Used properly it can be a nifty little addition to the board and in 2008 we should use it more often (but not over do it). The most recent poll we added to the site is for who you think should win the Choice Music Prize from the shortlisted albums (be sure to vote!) Expect more of those in the coming year.
Finally.... preparing for CLUAS.com's 10th birthday in 2009: CLUAS will be 10 years old in 2009. The plan is to mark the occasion in an ambitious fashion. There are a number of possible routes we could take but as the year progresses we should have a clearer picture of what we'll be doing. Once again, watch this space.
Would you like to be part of all this? Then all you need to do is submit an article, even a 200 word review of an album or a gig will do the job! You can then expect to receive free albums to review and access to press passes to gigs around the country of your own choosing.
In a nutshell, we're in great shape but - as you excuse the cliché - the best is yet to come.More ...