Hope folks like the new look of Soul Sides. It’s not like I hated the previous incarnation but I wanted to switch things up a touch. More to the point, I just completed graduate school (Soul Sides is academically certified now – wrecknoize, suckas). Meaning = I have a LOT of time on my hands (until late January).

Having a lot of time on my hands, I’ve finally caught up with about 6 weeks worth of audioblog updates that I had to put on hold to finish my dissertation. One thing I want to get out of the way is this:

Soul Sides’ Links Policy: I’m not trying to be a tight-ass about sharing links but here’s the deal: I only link to sites that I actually visit. Otherwise, I end up with a blog roll that just runs on and on and on and frankly, I’m not a fan of those. For example, the good folks at Music For Robots have a blog roll that’s eight sites long. That’s it. This tells me that whatever sites these dudes like, must be pretty damn good if they’re that select (either that or they’re getting paid under the table. Check’s in the mail, fellas).

However, I really do make it a point to visit all the sites who email me, asking to share links. This is my criteria as to whether or not I’m hip to the idea.

    1) The Music (duh). You could theoretically violate every rule that follows this one and I’d still be into your site if you’re hepping me with some great tunes or putting me up on artists I didn’t know before but damn well should. Obviously, my favorite genres tend to mirror what you see at Soul Sides: soul, funk, hip-hop, jazz, Latin, with sprinklings of pop, rock, world and “other.” I try to keep an open mind though and if you have a great site in other ways, I’m definitely into swapping links even if the music you deal in isn’t my particular brand of tea. Yaoming?

    2) Do you have a site feed Atom, RSS, otherwise)? This might seem highly technical but seriously, if you’re not rocking a site feed that I can easily subscribe to via Bloglines or a similar program, I probably will only visit your site once in a blue moon. Any blog created through Blogger or Movable Type or otherwise should have a setting where you can turn your site feed on – you don’t have to know jack about HTML or scripting to do this. Ok?

    3) Content. I’ve said this before, but how you present the music on your site is as relevant as what you present. Well-written sites that are informative, funny, provocative, etc., get people’s attention and help distinguish your material above the pale.

    4) Design. Personally, it’s tiring looking at dozens of sites that all use the same three blog templates. Don’t get me wrong: I can appreciate that non-web designers like the ease of using one of Blogger’s many templates. I’ve used their “Dots” one for a long time (and my current template design is still based on that model even though I’ve modified most of it beyond recognition). So frankly, I’m not that mad at people who don’t have the time or interest in playing around with their template design but those who do, definitely get my attention.

Speaking of design… There’s some basic aesthetic suggestions I have.

    A) If I never see anyone using Blogger’s Herbert, Sand Dollar or Split Pea designs, it will be too soon. They’re uglier than Reebok Ice Creams (and that’s pretty damn ugly). Also, I don’t know why anyone likes the “Dots – Blue” template in Blogger. The blue on blue type is hard to read and there’s something about it that feels cluttered and claustraphobic about it to me. I think the “Dots – White” design is far cleaner. Actually, I find sites with white backgrounds, on the whole, to be cleaner and easier to read. Purely a personal preference.

    B) However, if you have a white background, make sure all your text – including links – are readable. For example, flourescent green on white is kind of cool for sneakers but it’s straining to read off a computer screen. Likewise, if you have an all-black background, white and yellow text is actually a little glaring, red is hard to read. Go with a light blue or orange.

    C) target=_new. Learn to love that HTML tag like family. You add it to the end of one of those A HREF= tags and what it will do is open your link (i.e. soundfile) in a new window. For multi-taskers like me, that means I can click on a soundfile, listen to it but still surf your site. Otherwise, I have to wait for the song to play through (or else close it early) in order to go back to your site. Some folks, who use Real audiofiles or similar formats, don’t have this problem but if you’re using MP3s, you can definitely incorporate this tag into your sites. Just think about it?

    (Note: users can also do the same thing through a keyboard/mouse button combo but I think it’s more considerate to do it for them).

    D) This is a personal preference, but I like it when people put the song/artist info up FRONT, rather than buried into the middle of text or at the end. Again, that’s just a personal preference but I think it’s better organized that way.

    E) If you know someone with just some basic artistic/graphic skills, ask them to make you a custom banner. It doesn’t have to be tricked out, but it gives your site an identity, you know? Here are a few examples of what I mean.

Actually, here are a few sites whose overall designs I think are simple, clean and effective, making them a pleasure (or at least, not taxing) to look at.

  • Of the Mirror Eye. Super clean, uncomplicated. It wouldn’t kill him to ease up off the e.e. cummings lower case type though.
  • Royal Music. The green gives it a nice splash of color and the way everything’s organized into boxes helps organize the content.
  • Funk You. This uses a triple column design but it’s done effectively, maximizing content without feeling too cluttered. I’m not a big fan, however, of his “listen to it here” style of linking (see D) but he does put the artist and title at the beginning of every post.
  • Number One Songs in Heaven. Super, duper clean.
  • Aurgasm. Hands-down, one of the best designed sites out there.

Most of you probably could care less about all this but for those who are serious about making their sites matter, I think it matters. After all, it’s not like musicians put out their albums with generic sleeves, right? (Ok, not excepting those who recorded with Century).

In any case, getting back to the point: I’ve reorganized my blog roll (now on the right). If I didn’t include yours, don’t take it personal and feel free to hit me up a few months down the road for a reconsideration if you want.

Some new blogs I’m feeling:

By the way, having a lot of time on my hands. I’d like to punch out a few Soul Sides mix-CDs for everyone before things get crazy in a month or so. Be on the look-out. I know I’ll have at least two CDs rolling out: one will be the resurrection of an old hip-hop mixtape from 1997, the other will be a new dance mix, similar to my Adventures in Rhythm for those who have that. For doz who slept, no worries, in about a week or so, I’ll have my mixtapes site all reorganized.