Five Years Old

by Kieran Healy on July 19, 2008

Crooked Timber is five years old this month: our inaugural post was on July 8th, 2003. That seems like a long time. Why, I remember when all this were nowt but HTML text fields. Seeing as five years is a long time to go without getting a haircut, we’ve revamped the layout — hopefully for the better. I await reports about how the new look is broken in Internet Explorer.



George 07.19.08 at 9:14 pm


[No problems so far in IE.]


Matt 07.19.08 at 9:14 pm

Congratulations! On the “new look”, it’s been flicking in and out for a few days, has it not? I though it was an error at first but I guess not. It’s getting slowly better, though, and hopefully will be smooth and happy soon. At first I thought you’d deleted Matthew Yglesias from the blog roll but now I see you’ve just moved him (and some others) around. Don’t forget he’s moving to a new URL soon.


Benedict Eastaugh 07.19.08 at 9:14 pm

Been waiting for this for a while. Nice one, Kieran.


sg 07.19.08 at 9:21 pm

where’s the thingy for going to previous and post posts? It was sometimes useful.


voyou 07.19.08 at 9:23 pm

I don’t know about IE, but it’s a little broken in Firefox; it’s about 130% the width of my screen. Well, actually, looking at the CSS it’s kind of fundamentally broken, by virtue of using a stupid, but unfortunately common, bit of cargo-cult CSS whereby the font-size is initially set too small, and then scaled up in the hope that it will end up the right size, rather than just being left at a reasonable size to begin with.

Anyway, that aside, it does look pretty. And congratulation on five years.


Jacob Christensen 07.19.08 at 9:43 pm

I wondered why you didn’t celebrate on the day, but this must be the answer. Having the main posts on the left is a Good Thingâ„¢.

I’m not quite sure if it is a good or a bad thing that the categories and tags have left the stage. The big risk is that a blog gets too many silly categories so perhaps a clean-up was due.


Roy Belmont 07.19.08 at 10:06 pm

Left margin is awkwardly narrow in both IE and FFx3.
Still no preview function, which is a complaint by many long lodged yet never assuaged.
And that back/main/forth thing was useful and friendly.
Maybe someone could meditate on the difference in affect between “Publish” and “Submit”?
Despite recent current events lacunae and obvious editorial decisions to withdraw from certain serious controversies, Crooked Timber is consistently a ready lesson in clear rigorous thought and prose, and an important whatever-it-is.


abb1 07.19.08 at 10:17 pm

Same as #4 – the page is too wide and huge font size in firefox.


Kieran Healy 07.19.08 at 10:19 pm

FF3 on a Mac or PC? I’m using it on a Mac and it’s properly-sized. Same for the left margins.

Other things will be added gradually, I think. But this cross-browser/cross-platform compliance stuff … argh.


abb1 07.19.08 at 10:23 pm



tom s. 07.19.08 at 10:30 pm

Well it looks just dandy on my Firefox on Windows. I wonder if blogrolls server a purpose any more? They seem a bit ’04 to me.

Congratulations on the 5 years. You folks do keep being interesting.


aaron 07.19.08 at 10:31 pm

I’m using Firefox on a mac and everything seems to be working properly. Congrats on the new layout, but to be nitpicky I’ll point out that I liked the way the blog was in the center of the page (rather than on the left) in the old layout.
Also, my wishlist for changes would include some sort of interface for the seminars/book events. Maybe if we were confronted with some sort of index, rather than an unordered series of blog entries, they would be much more accessible. A great example is Quiggin’s index of “The Republican War on Science”.


Eric Rauchway 07.19.08 at 10:39 pm

Congratulations. I eagerly await the iPhone-optimized layout.


voyou 07.19.08 at 10:53 pm

I’m using FF3 on Linux, but I’ve just noticed that the problem only appears when I have a minimum font size set. I think this is an outcome of the stupid font-sizing hack I mentioned in my previous comment – the layout is specified in terms of base units of a very small font; if your browser won’t let the font size get that small, the layout ends up too wide. Unfortunately, this initial idiocy ramifies throughout the whole theme, so I suspect it’s a not so eady to fix (I’m a bit depressed to see that a theme which is as fundamentally flawed as this one can be sold for a really fairly significant amount of money).


Kieran Healy 07.19.08 at 10:58 pm

You’re depressed?


Nitish 07.19.08 at 10:59 pm

Nice clean look, and I’m using Opera for the Mac. Congratulations on the anniversary!


abb1 07.19.08 at 11:01 pm

Ah, that’s right – minimum font size controls it. I have it set to 18 and everything looks fine, except this site. If I set it to 14, this site looks OK, but everything else is too small.


Delicious Pundit 07.19.08 at 11:10 pm

Hey, it even remembers me, like an old bartender would! Sad to see Ted Barlow slip off the masthead — he was like a guy with a show on the DuMont network, I guess.

Font size is OK, I need my glasses for everything these days (stupid reading).


Steve LaBonne 07.19.08 at 11:14 pm

Looks quite lovely in FF3 on Mac. Well done.


James Wimberley 07.19.08 at 11:16 pm

Whoever came up with the idea of printing quotations and draft comments in grey? Some eagle eyed, eagle-brained 20-year-old no doubt. Read up on what happens to visual acuity when you age. Please go back to a colour contrast.
I agree with others on the waste of scarce screen real estate.


lindsey 07.20.08 at 1:02 am

Can we bring back the link(s) to posts written by specific contributors? (or is it here and I missed it?)


grackle 07.20.08 at 1:21 am

Looks good to me, but since I’m also in Tucson, it might only be proximity.


grackle 07.20.08 at 1:21 am

Oh, and congrats!


Ross Smith 07.20.08 at 1:37 am

I’m also using Firefox 3 and also have the problem described above — your page layout is too wide for my browser. If I disable the minimum font size option, it becomes too narrow — now there are big ugly black bands down both sides of the page.

(Also, I’d like to second the call for comment previews.)


joejoejoe 07.20.08 at 1:41 am

I have FF3 and a good CRT monitor and things look great at 1152×864.

I see narrow black stripes far left and right in the layout — things might get a bit too white if you had to increase font size and those black stripes disappeared.


joejoejoe 07.20.08 at 1:42 am

Ross Smith – I like the black bands!


Kieran Healy 07.20.08 at 2:04 am

The black bands are there on purpose, fwiw. They’re supposed to frame the page and integrate with the banner.

I think we could probably move over to a two-column layout, and I’ll try that out when the underlying theme gets that ability (which will be soon). I don’t like main-text columns spread too wide, as when there’s more than about 18 words in a line of text it becomes unpleasant to read.

Other things:

– Quoted text and text in comment input boxes is now colored black.
– Link to each contributor’s posts (the ∞ symbol) is back.
– Recent comments feed added.


Adam Kotsko 07.20.08 at 2:27 am

We do seem to be in sync in a weird way. I started my blog 5 years ago, a few weeks before you guys — then I redesigned the site recently as well. (I used to redesign every six months or so, but this time it had been years.)

Of course, we’re also out of sync in the sense that The Weblog is not being named one of the world’s most influential blogs, etc. — though if it was, I would fear the direction the world was taking.


geo 07.20.08 at 2:48 am

I liked the old layout; but then, I’m clinically change-aversive.


Bruce Baugh 07.20.08 at 3:38 am

Seems fine to me in Safari 3.1.2., Max OSX 10.5.4.

I would like the masthead to be clickable as a way back to the home page, though.


will u. 07.20.08 at 3:43 am

It looks good even in Mozilla 0.9, which I must use with my ancient Red Hat installation at work. I’d prefer two columns or, barring that, having the post column second, but I suppose I’ll get used to it.

I’m mostly grateful that it’s much, much better than yesterday’s hideous revamp.


Nick Caldwell 07.20.08 at 3:50 am

voyou seems to misunderstand the function of the 62.5% font-sizing style — it’s actually meant to establish a standard baseline, so that individual sections of the design, such as the primary content area and the navbar — can be set in simple increments of a theoretical 10px base font size. So, if you set your body copy font size to 1.6em, you can be pretty sure it’s going to render in most browsers at 16px in height.


Sumana Harihareswara 07.20.08 at 4:51 am

Thanks for the five years of fantastic posts, all. Keep it up! You bring analytical frameworks and systematic thought to bear on all sorts of subjects and policies, and this non-academic appreciates it thoroughly and often.

Is the RSS feed going to be fulltext or truncated intro with a “more” link?


voyou 07.20.08 at 4:58 am

Nick, I think I do understand the 62.5% thing – the problem is that it’s stupid. 62.5% might be 10px, but it might well not be; when it isn’t, the design is likely not to work. It’s particularly likely not to work well when you do things like the current theme here does, such as setting the width to 100em, on the assumption that that will be 1000px wide, and so a reasonable size.

So, if you set your body copy font size to 1.6em, you can be pretty sure it’s going to render in most browsers at 16px in height.

This reveals the central mistake underlying this 62.5% nonsense: it’s an attempt to lay out a web page in terms of pixel dimensions, without actually specifying pixel dimensions. This is just a fundamentally misconceived project: it encourages CSS authors to think of their web pages in terms of pixels, which would be a mistake even if it worked (because, how is the author supposed to know what pixel text size and width will look good to me?), while implementing that in a way that doesn’t even work.

There’s a perfectly adequate standard baseline already: 1em and 100% font size. If you design in terms of that, your page is much more likely to work for different users.


bad Jim 07.20.08 at 5:09 am

Happy Birthday to you…

Looks good in Opera. Easy on the eyes. I like the privileged blogger block in aqua.

(I’m aged and myopic, and I’ve given up the fight. On my optometrist’s advice I take my glasses off and keep my face within a foot of the monitor. Everything is readable. I’d prefer a sans-serif font, but I then I’m a (type-)facist.


notsneaky 07.20.08 at 5:30 am

Congratulations, and well, thanks for the 5yrs.

I’m not sure I like the new layout either but that’s just probably aversion to change.


Abi 07.20.08 at 7:13 am

Congratulations on five years of great blogging.

I’m not sure how to the site’s redesign. Overall, I like it; however, it poses a problem for me: when font size is increased (on Firefox 2.0 / Linux), so are all the column widths, with the result that the post area becomes just too wide. Please choose fixed width in your CSS (at least for the posts for which it should preferably be less than 700 px).


joel turnipseed 07.20.08 at 7:46 am

Congrats. Main column (LH) seems a bit narrow. Given the usual length of posts, maybe you could use two column format (you’re in WordPress now, right)?

Anyway, here’s to another decade or so of excellence: CT’s the best blog in the world, hands down (with apologies to any pals I may offend with that appellation).


Katherine 07.20.08 at 8:14 am

Well, at the risk of sounding all reactionary, I did prefer the previous look. It was different. This looks a bit like lots of other blogs. But hey, it’s not mine. Can I ask why you’ve changed it to this format? If there are advantages, I’d love to know so I can use ’em. Thanks.

And big congratulations on 5 years’ blogging.


abb1 07.20.08 at 8:45 am

Where do I apply to join the “back to the old format” club? Same reason – being a natural-born reactionary.


conchis 07.20.08 at 10:08 am

congrats! i too am lame, and prefer the old layout… but then, i read most everything as an rss feed, so it’s probably not going to make that much difference anyway.


Martin Wisse 07.20.08 at 10:18 am

Five years old? N00bs!

On the theme, I don’t like the column layout or the black vertical edges, but than what do I know?


steven 07.20.08 at 11:33 am

$164? Holy crap.

I like that commenter names are now at the beginning rather than end of comments: makes it easier to follow discussions. They’re a bit huge w.r.t. the text though.

I would prefer light grey for the background of authorial comments: the blue looks a little unserious, somehow.


chris y 07.20.08 at 12:16 pm

Have you abandoned your archive?

Another vote for preview.


agm 07.20.08 at 12:34 pm

Wow. This design is nowhere near as pleasant as the previous version.

Congrats on the 5 years, especially on generating new content. I largely stopped having any serious content after 3 years, with occasionally document recipes and lapses into personal documentation for the 2 or 3 people who ever read it and my own rememberance in the future


Ray Davis 07.20.08 at 2:23 pm

Happy anniversary, and please do move to two columns instead of three. Given the (pleasant) length of most CT post-and-comment threads, we end up with a narrow strip of text teetering on the left-hand bank of a Mississippi-wide river of blank.

(And another vote for previews, of course.)


seth edenbaum 07.20.08 at 4:55 pm

The new format is too high contrast, making it very difficult to read. The frame and center column push back at one another. It works as a piece of op-art but not something you’ll want to stare at for an hour or two.
Maybe dulling down the white would be enough.


engels 07.20.08 at 5:16 pm

I liked it better before you changed it. I don’t like all the clutter at the top of the page.


Ben 07.20.08 at 9:21 pm

Congratulations on five years – I came across Crooked Timber only recently, after reading an article on the web’s best blogs in the Guardian, and have plumbed the depths of interesting information and opinion ever since.

The new layout does seem a little oversized on my Windows FFx3, and has quite a lot of ‘defined space’.


Ben 07.20.08 at 9:24 pm

Just looking over this page again now, and have a suggestion that may or may not be heeded – how about not having the Lumber Room in its entirety (just a link) on the comments pages, with the same going for the list of contributors?

At the moment, the layout squashes the comments into a half-page space; this seems a little unnecessary seeing as the whole purpose of this page is for comments and reader opinion.


harry b 07.20.08 at 11:14 pm

Celebrate by listening to this song:

It was written for Martha Wainwright, not us, but that’s the way it goes.


Aidan Kehoe 07.21.08 at 9:31 am

I like the new format, and I don’t see any problems with Firefox 3, neither on OS X nor Windows XP.


James Wimberley 07.21.08 at 10:29 am

Bad Jim in #35: “I like the privileged blogger block in aqua.”
Shouldn’t they be in pinko?


James Wimberley 07.21.08 at 10:32 am

Oh, and thanks for fixing the horrid pale grey citations (my grouch in #20) already. The left-hand bar does the job just fine.


James Wimberley 07.21.08 at 10:51 am

New grouch. The links to the previous/next posts have disappeared from the heading, so you have to navigate with the browser arrow or go back to home, which may be some way from the post you were reading. I appreciate the desire to avoid clutter, but surely three navigational arrows would do the trick:
You see , I don’t have to explain them.


James Wimberley 07.21.08 at 10:52 am

Blast, the central quartet of carets “^^^^” disappeared. Bring back preview.


Anderson 07.21.08 at 3:02 pm

Looks good — a definite improvement. Even in IE.


Doug 07.21.08 at 7:58 pm

Also congratulations, also looks good. Glad you’re numbering the comments!

Wish list: previous/next post; illustration also links to homepage; some way to access the old wood.

I rather liked the categories and tags, though Lawyers Guns & Money is the champion of the artful tag set.

Am also ruminating on the differences between “publish” and “submit.”


W. Kiernan 07.21.08 at 10:20 pm

My ideal of a good great looking weblog is your man Davies’s blog, D-squared Digest. Much less fluffy stuff, infinitely more comment preview. Focus, focus!

Disclaimer: I haven’t gotten a haircut for at least the last fifteen years.

I’d also like to point out to those who don’t know this yet, that users of Firefox 2 can make almost any web page nearly as beautiful and eyeball-friendly as D^2’s by View pull-down menu / Page Style / No style.


Kenny Easwaran 07.22.08 at 2:43 am

Can you please please please bring back the links to previous post and next post? It’s so much easier to go to a live bookmark for the oldest post I haven’t read, and then just use “next post” to scroll through to each new post, rather than going to the home page, expanding links for ones that are continued “below the fold”, and reading things in reverse temporal order.

I think that’s my biggest pet peeve about any sort of blog layout. Maybe there are better ways to read blogs where the next and previous post buttons aren’t quite as important?


Nabakov 07.22.08 at 3:04 am

Doesn’t work in Mosaic.


Eszter Hargittai 07.22.08 at 2:30 pm

I’m going to add myself to the list of folks requesting the previous and next post links.

Thanks for all the work on this, Kieran!


lemuel pitkin 07.22.08 at 3:27 pm

Very small request: The logo should link to the homepage.

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