Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Arborweb gets a makeover

31. December 2008 • Nancy Shore
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For those of you who like the print version of the Ann Arbor Observer but wished the articles were also online, wish no longer.

Arborweb.com, the Observer’s online presence has recently been updated to include some of the articles in the current edition, a food blog by Bix Engels, the Ann Arbor Crime Map, and even an RSS Feed (scroll down to the bottom of the site to see a link to it).

Now it will be even easier for us at Arbor Update to reference an Observer article on this site. Good or bad? You decide.



  1. Why would it be bad?

    It certainly is ironic that the two leading print publications in Ann Arbor have been such dinosaurs in moving to the Web.


       —Fred Zimmerman    Dec. 31 '08 - 05:46PM    #
  2. I think the new ArborWeb is a great step forward (at least some of the content is online) but there are several technical problems that hinder its usability.

    - The top article’s headline isn’t clickable. I had to hunt around to see the “read more” link.

    - Feature articles are split into dozens of pages, each with only 3-4 paragraphs. This is a common technique used to inflate the number of pageviews a website has (now one article suddenly equals fifteen different advertising opportunities!), but it’s very annoying for readers.

    - The article doesn’t include any of the art or photos found in the original. It also doesn’t link out to external websites.

    - The Comments function seems strange — the interface (a new blank window, instead of associated with the comment) and the help text makes me wonder if I am commenting or writing a letter to the editor.

    - Articles on the homepage and “archived articles” don’t have a datestamp, so I can’t see what issue of the observer they come from.

    There is a feed for articles, Awesome! (it’a a small link at the bottom)

    It is very nice to see ads from local businesses on the site, though.


       —Matt    Dec. 31 '08 - 06:07PM    #
  3. It is certainly about time, and much appreciated!
    I’ve been using it lots over the last month. Mostly linking to articles for out of town friends. I haven’t navigated around much, but it has also been easy to find the articles I want with Google. I do have an article up, so I’m not with out bias.
    http://arborweb.com/articles/thirty_hours_on_the_huron.html
    If you don’t like how an article is chopped in to multiple pages, choose print and it is all one page.


       —Linda Diane Feldt    Dec. 31 '08 - 07:21PM    #
  4. “If you don’t like how an article is chopped in to multiple pages, choose print and it is all one page.”

    They should take a page from the NY Times and provide a “single page” view. As Matt noted, this might cut down on page views for advertising purposes but would make life easier for actual readers.


       —John Q.    Dec. 31 '08 - 08:45PM    #
  5. The AA News and AA Observer are both terrible publications, and I pray that they manage to adapt rather than die. The Observer is a ghastly, unreadable, irrelevant product. If not for the listings and real estate map, you could ignore it entirely.


       —Cooler heads    Jan. 1 '09 - 03:16PM    #
  6. That’s funny, Cooler heads, I like the Observer and often read it cover to cover, with the only consistent exceptions being … the listings and real estate map. To each his/her own, I guess.

    Rather than “pray” that they adapt, you might offer constructive, objective suggestions for improvement directly to each of them.


       —Steve Bean    Jan. 1 '09 - 06:47PM    #
  7. Hah, I agree completely with Steve! The Observer is consistently able to turn out well-researched articles on topics I’m interested in. Of course, I skip the real estate, because I’m far from able to own or lease a house.


       —Matt    Jan. 2 '09 - 12:27AM    #
  8. I think it’s highly appropriate that Arborweb is making the leap to online relevance with an issue that quotes Parking Structure Dude! in one of its articles.


       —Murph    Jan. 2 '09 - 06:23PM    #
  9. I thought that was funny too, but it does raise a question about anonymous posters. A couple of years ago I asked the AO editor, John Hilton, whether I could cite AU comments as sources for a story. After some consultation, the answer was no, because anyone could post under a particular name, not just the “known” poster. So I was told that I would have to contact the individual in person if I wanted to quote him/her.

    Here is a question for the administrators of this site: do you verify that people are not posting under others’ names or handles? Or could Parking Structure Dude! actually be a committee?


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jan. 2 '09 - 08:54PM    #
  10. “So I was told that I would have to contact the individual in person if I wanted to quote him/her.”

    That makes sense. If you’d like to contact someone, let us know (arborupdate at umich.edu).
    We won’t give out the email addresses that people leave with their comments, but we could pass on your request and let them decide what to do with it.

    “Here is a question for the administrators of this site: do you verify that people are not posting under others’ names or handles?”

    We try to catch any really obvious abuse. And outside of that, I think it should be obvious that most of the folks here are great—thanks to all of you for contributing!


       —Bruce Fields    Jan. 3 '09 - 04:46AM    #
  11. “… an issue that quotes Parking Structure Dude!”

    Yeah, but they misspelled his name—where’s the exclamation point!?!


       —Bruce Fields    Jan. 3 '09 - 04:51AM    #
  12. A couple of years ago I asked the AO editor, John Hilton, whether I could cite AU comments as sources for a story. After some consultation, the answer was no, because anyone could post under a particular name, not just the “known” poster.

    Interesting, because I often see an attributed or non-attributed quote from AU in the Observer, including some non-attributed things I wrote. Maybe John has gotten over it. I find the desire to know people’s “real” names strange. I am no more or less a person if I choose to use my full name or my pseudonym. I could post as Julie Wilson and everyone would be happy, even though that isn’t my real name. Parking Structure Dude! has been a long-time consistent poster to this site. He is no less a contributor than anyone who signs their supposed real name.


       —Juliew    Jan. 3 '09 - 05:35AM    #
  13. Julie, the belief that people shouldn’t use their “real” names is strange. What do you think names are for, anyway?

    I give a lot less weight to comments from anonymous posters than I do to comments with real names attached.


       —David Cahill    Jan. 3 '09 - 02:36PM    #
  14. On a similar topic, I have moved some of my Ann Arbor commentary to AnnArborForBetterOrWorse.com.


       —Fred Zimmerman    Jan. 3 '09 - 10:40PM    #
  15. To clarify: AAO is relentlessly boosterish. Have you ever read a restaurant review that pans the restaurant?

    It does hard hitting investigations of things that don’t rock the boat.

    The layout is terrible. The type sizes are strange and hard to read. The cartoonist is not funny.

    Plus it has this weird, precious approach to coverage. I have the sense it is edited by people who want AA encased in amber. The same people who love fairy doors.

    Although I must say that the article about bad architecture was pretty good. But over the course of a year, that’s about it.


       —Cooler heads    Jan. 4 '09 - 02:29PM    #
  16. Re #15, I think it’s fair to point out that compared to most free-circulation advertising-supported local papers, the Observer is a paragon of journalistic excellence. And I usually read most of their profiles. With regard to “encased in amber” charge, I’d agree there’s some justice to it… although it’s ironic that it would come up here … ;-)


       —Fred Zimmerman    Jan. 4 '09 - 04:31PM    #