The early news was that President Obama is going to announce a small tax increase that will mostly affect the very wealthy. Kevin Drum thinks this sort of thing will play well and Obama's approval rating surge is likely to continue. Meanwhile, after we pointed out some of the problems with the Spanish-language version of the GOP's rebuttal to the State of the Union being a literal translation of Iowa Senator and English-only advocate Joni Ernst's planned remarks, the party is now saying that Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) will give his own, unique Spanish speech. So that happened. Here's everything you should probably know about Joni Ernst.
And, on cue, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is already making an ass of himself.
Stick around after the speech for David Corn's wrap-up article. They're usually really good.
About a week ago, after many months of planning and executing the new design you see today, I took a journey into the recent past of MotherJones.com via Archive.org's excellent Wayback Machine. The tool allows you to view websites as they appeared at specific moments in the history of the internet, and I wanted some context for this homepage redesign, my first. We were, after all, the first nongeek magazine to go online way back in 1993, and I was nervous for the launch.
Looking back over the last four designs, they tell a story that you, dear loyal reader, probably know by now. It's the story of our rapid recent growth, from a great little magazine to a high-powered 24/7 news org. My bosses, Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffrey, recently received a major award and the committee put it rather nicely:
Mother Jones under Jeffery and Bauerlein has been transformed from what was a respected—if under-the-radar—indie publication to an internationally recognized, powerhouse general-interest periodical influencing everything from the gun-control debate to presidential campaigns. In addition to their success on the print side, Jeffery and Bauerlein's relentless attention to detail, boundless curiosity and embrace of complex subjects are also reflected on the magazine's increasingly influential website, whose writers and reporters often put more well-known and deep-pocketed news divisions to shame.
Close observers of online media are well aware that homepages just don't matter as much as they used to. Facebook and Twitter send us enormous amounts of traffic, and all those folks skip over the landing pages and go directly to the stories. Nevertheless, 1 out of every 6 pageviews to the desktop version of MotherJones.com is to the homepage. It's still important.
So what are you getting here, exactly?
Bigger images. Much of the new design is informed by a desire for more, and larger, images on the site. Images are the killer app of the internet and the big boys—Facebook and Twitter and the rest—are becoming increasinglyvisualmedia. We now feature much larger images at the top of the homepage, channel pages, and topics pages. We've replaced the old five-item slider with a striking new treatment that doesn't bury stories behind each other and stops autorotating when the reader takes control. The same large images are now displayed at the top in the default layout for our articles and blog posts. They're also being delivered at a new aspect ratio that's designed to pop on Twitter and in the Facebook news feed. We've also added a very large image to the homepage to promote our high-quality photojournalism.
Better-organized contentthat reflects the growth of what we do. Scroll down past the new slider and you'll see that we've organized our content in a number of new ways. Established MoJo brands like Kevin Drum, David Corn, Econundrums, and Tom Philpott now have dedicated spaces where readers will always be able to find their latest stories. We're also choosing to focus on the many different ways we now tell stories. There is a video section, an interactives section, a longreads section, and the new, larger treatment for photojournalism. Lastly, the bottom third of the page is dominated by a rotating selection of topics. Here we'll present the latest stories from a curated list of nine topics showcasing the breadth and depth of our coverage. You can click through to full verticals, including the archives, for all of these.
Revamped channel pages. Our three main channels of Politics, Environment, and Culture have finally gotten the landing pages they deserve. These pages really serve as alternate portals to Mother Jones for readers with specific interests. In addition to the latest stories from our reporters, we've added a column to these pages that highlights our recent visual journalism—charts, maps, interactives, photo essays, video, etc.—in the channel.
A corner for the Climate Desk. This journalistic collaboration (learn more about it here) has really taken off in the last year, and it was high time it got some permanent real estate on our homepage. You'll see a list of the latest headlines from the Climate Desk, along with the most recent episode of our fast-growing Inquiring Minds podcast and the next event listing in our Climate Desk Live series.
Over the next year, our supertalentedtech team will be building an elegant new backend for the site. After that, we'll do this again, and I promise we won't wait three years next time. In the meantime, we'd love your feedback on the changes in the comments below.
The folks over at Twitter have culled their massive data set of user reactions to the State of the Union and put together this nifty visualization of last night's speech. On top, you'll see a timeline of the speech with the volume of tweets at any particular moment reflected by the width of the color bar. The big spike in the middle is for Twitter users' apparent enthusiasm for the President's Mad Men reference. The timeline is divided into nine different subject areas (health care, budget, jobs, etc.), each of which pull from a set of keywords germane to that issue. You can also take a deeper dive by scrolling down the speech text to see which moments of the speech resonated with which parts of the country in the map to the right. In other words, see how Idaho zigged when the rest of the country zagged! And don't fret, once you're through playing here we've got some old-fashioned punditry from Kevin Drum and David Corn to soothe your Twitter-addled brain.
Front page image: Larry Downing/Pool/Cnp/Prensa Internacional/Zuma
Regular readers will know that here at MotherJones.com we use a third-party platform, Disqus, to host our lively comment threads at the bottom of every blog post and article. Overall, Disqus has been a great solution for us: Commenting activity is at a record high and spam has all but disappeared. Of course, this being the internet, we still have some trolls. But as much as we hate what comment trolls can do to the discourse, most of you end up being pretty nice once we get to know you.
We think this upgrade will make everything—from logins to commenting to following the conversation—just a little bit easier. If you're someone who picks up new interfaces quickly you can probably stop reading here. It's still Disqus, after all, and it's mostly the same.
You can no longer comment with your old MotherJones.com login.
There are a handful of you who comment using the MotherJones.com logins left over from our pre-July 2010 commenting setup. The last remaining holdouts, about 1 percent of our total commenters, will need to make a Disqus account or use Google, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, or OpenID to sign in. You can register a new account with Disqus at the top of any comment thread on this website. Once you're in, follow these steps to make sure all your old comments are merged into your new account.
You now write your comment at the top of the thread.
You can still reply to other comments inline, but the form for new stand-alone comments is moving from the bottom of the comments to the top. The form also looks a little bit different:
Now you can vote!
You can now vote comments up and down. Upvotes are a nice way to acknowledge a fellow commenter and they'll be able to see that you liked their comment by hovering over the vote button. Downvotes are anonymous and really don't do anything. While we're sticking with a chronological comment order as the default display, you can also switch to a "Best" view where the comments are ordered by the net upvote/downvote count.
Replies to your comments are a lot easier to find.
Logged-in folks will notice the Community and My Disqus tabs at the top of the thread:
The My Disqus tab displays all the replies to your comments in one place, along with the recent activity of commenters and conversations that you've signed up to follow. The Community tab allows you to see the most active discussions on the website, as well as the top commenters. I'd expect old standbys like Marcus_From_The_North, Clemans, and Nancy P to show up there.
It's easier to follow specific threads.
It was always possible to subscribe to a thread via RSS or email, and buttons for those options have just moved from the top of the thread to the bottom, but you can now choose to "Star" a comment thread. When you click the little star button at the top of every thread you'll receive notifications about that discussion on your My Disqus page and in your email inbox. More on managing notifications here.
It's easier to share on Facebook and Twitter.
Every single comment now has a "Share" button next to the "Reply" button. You can also share an entire discussion via the button at the very top of the thread.