Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

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February 27, 2010

Today is the long-awaited site upgrade. It’s long-awaited in my books, anyway. I designed this new version of the site several months ago now. It has taken a long time to come to fruition, primarily because I’ve been so busy with the rest of life.

First off, if you are a RSS subscriber, you will probably not notice much of a difference except that you may find that the feed has “reset” meaning that it says there are twenty or more unread items. I do apologize for this; it should just happen this once.

As much as the site has received a visual redesign, there are even bigger changes behind the scenes. I’ve upgraded from Movable Type to Drupal as the backend software. That has given me infinitely more options and abilities.

September 20, 2009

It must be a year or two now since I first began running a bit of advertising on my web site. Initially I did so because the costs of running the site were increasing and advertising offered a means of offsetting those costs. As time has gone on, it has continued to cover the infrastructure costs and has also been able to go toward some of the books I buy to review and, when it exceeds that, to support my family. It has proven a real blessing to us in many ways. And, I hope, it has allowed you, the readers, to get your eyes on some worthwhile products. I’ve always sought to be careful with whom I allow to advertise, only allowing those whose products I find biblical. To be honest, I’ve always hoped that somehow along the way I’ll find a model that will allow me to dedicate much more time to writing in general (and the blog in particular) and while advertising has certainly not approached this level, it’s shown me that at some point it may be a far-off possibility.

I say all this because I want to alert you to something new. I am going to run a trial of a slightly different approach to advertising. To this point advertising has consisted of the banner ads in the right sidebar and the banner at the bottom of the RSS feed. I’ve often had several advertisers posting ads at the same time. And it has generally worked out quite well. But I am always trying to look ahead a little bit, to find other models that may work. In the coming weeks a couple of advertisers will begin a trial program in which they will be the exclusive sponsor of the site for a week at a time. There will be just one banner ad in the site’s sidebar in a given week, but a larger one that we’re accustomed to. There will be one banner ad in the RSS feed. And here’s what’s new: the advertiser will also provide a single “sponsored post” over the course of the week. In other words, at some point during the week there will be an article on the site that will be written by the advertiser and directed to you, the reader. It will be clearly marked as a sponsored post so there is no concern, I hope, that it will seem under-handed. This program will only be offered to advertisers who are interested in letting you know about products that are good—biblically sound and appealing to the kind of person who reads this blog.

The purpose of these sponsored posts is to alert you of interesting products but also, hopefully, to build a bit of a bridge between the companies or ministries and the readers. As I’ve traveled around over the past few years, and as I’ve gotten to know the men and women behind the scenes at ministries and conferences and publishers and so on, I’ve so often been impressed by their desire to serve God in the vocation he has given them. And I think through these posts we can probably do a bit to put a human face on the books, the conferences, and any other product.

Or perhaps not. I am always concerned that advertising will somehow cheapen the rest of what I do on this site. But we’re going to give it a shot regardless. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks and we’ll learn as we go. Feel free to offer feedback if and when you think it would be useful to me.

November 12, 2008

I spent some time this morning writing an article for a magazine. They had requested a 600-word article on “What is the greatest hindrance to the gospel today?” I’ve found that articles like this pose a special kind of challenge to me. While I take time to write every day, far more often than not I am writing about what I want to write about. I set my own topics and write about whatever interests me that day. Writing for magazines, on the other hand, forces me to be a little bit more disciplined and forces me to think in whole different ways. It is a good discipline, I think, and a good challenge.

It occurred to me this morning that it might be fun to solicit article ideas from the people who read this site. I do receive occasional suggestions from readers who find their way to the contact form, but never have I actually asked for you to send me potential topics. So here I go, trying something new. If you can think of something that I could or should write about (an article, a series, etc), if you have a question you feel I could answer, simply fill out this form (RSS readers may need to actually visit the site) and send your suggestion(s) my way. Obviously I cannot promise to respond to all of them, but I will attempt to write articles or responses to at least some of them. Note that the email and “how many words” fields are entirely optional.

My name is:
My email address is:
I think you should write about…
It should be about this many words long…
October 03, 2007

As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, I’ve begun to do a bit of advertising through this site. I have added spots for three 125 x 125 banner ads in the right sidebar and have also opened up a bit of space for some text ads. Though I’m somewhat leery of doing this, I explained last week that the time has come, I think, to attempt to monetize the blog just a little bit. I think it offers a good platform for a variety of advertisers and hope to provide advertisements that will serve the readers.

If you are interested in doing some online advertising through this site, I’d be glad to send you the appropriate information. Simply contact me and I’ll send you a rate sheet and other information.

August 05, 2007

I wrote about my site yesterday and I’m going to do so again today. Please forgive what must appear to be narcissism. I don’t plan on posting about it again for a while after today. But because I added several new features in yesterday’s redesign, I wanted to introduce them to you and show you how they can make your life easier and can make all of your wildest dreams come true. That may be overstating it. But there are some neat features that may help you use this site better and help you enjoy other blogs more as well.

I’ll start with the main page:

main.jpg

There are five things I’ve highlighted here:

  1. I know you already know about A La Carte, but I’ve now made it better, I think, by making the titles more descriptive. If you are a blogger, you’ll appreciate the value of having descriptive hyperlinks to your site. You can comment on A La Carte entries and in the very near future I’ll create a proper archive of all of the previous entries.
  2. I am going to tentatively add a little bit of advertising to the site. Just a little bit. What I’ve added here is just a link to a pay-per-click kind of program with Westminster Books. I don’t ever anticipate allowing the kind of overwhelmingly in-your-face advertising that a lot of blogs have! But this gives you a way you can support this site and support a good online retailer. And it’s as easy as a click.
  3. The Subscribe/Bookmarks/Tools area will let you subscribe to the site via RSS or email, add the site as a favorite at Technorati or Del.icio.us. And, of course, it the font is too small you can adjust it there. If you have never used Technorati, you may enjoy visiting it and perhaps making it a regular stop.
  4. The Recent Comments area will show you a list of the most recent comments, showing who made them and the topic of discussion.
  5. Finally, the Active Discussion area (which was at the top of the page in the old design) will show you a list of topics that have seen recent discussion. This tells you which topics are generating the most discussion.

Now we’ll turn to the interior pages.

interior.jpg

I’ve highlighted five things.

  1. These links are a simple way of navigating from one post to the next or previous one. Pretty simple, I admit, but handy if you want to read a few pages or want to catch up with discussion on multiple articles.
  2. One of the most interesting aspects of blogging is how one blog influences others and how bloggers interact with each other. This Technorati link is a simple way of seeing what other bloggers are saying about a particular story. If you are a blog reader, you can click this link to read other opinions on the article I’ve written. If you have a blog of your own and link to an article I’ve written, it should automagically appear here and allow people to navigate from my site to your own.
  3. I’m a latecomer to the tagging game, but have finally added them. Tags allow a simple method of marking the content of a post for later reference and of building relationships between various posts. Clicking on a tag will take you to a search function that will find a list of similarly-tagged stories. Because I’ve only just begun tagging it will take a bit of time for the full power of this feature to become obvious.
  4. The Related Entries area uses a database search to come up with stories that are somehow related to this one. It is a bit hit-and-miss at times, but typically does pretty well with coming up with related entries. So if the current article interests you, you can click on the tags or on the related entries to read more.
  5. If you are a user of social media, you can now link any article to just about any social media platform. Alternatively, if you want to subscribe to the RSS or email feed, you can do so here.

And one bonus feature: the “Submit” button should now be disabled as soon as you post a comment, meaning that we’ll see fewer double posts. The server is still a bit slow but at least we should no longer have multitudes of repeated comments!

So there are ten features, some new and some merely redesigned, that I hope will make browsing this site more enjoyable. Tomorrow we’ll return to more normal programming.

August 04, 2007

The site gets its annual design update.

The upgrade went fairly well, as these things go. If you are still seeing the old site or are seeing a messy hybrid, trying hitting “Refresh” in your browser a couple of times. That should clear things up.

Whenever I change the look of the site I am always asked why (and tend to receive plenty of negative feedback as well!). There are a few reasons for this upgrade. As I explained a little while ago, there are three main ones: a) I am easily bored with my designs, b) the sites serves, in part, as a gateway to my web design company and it is important to keep it looking fresh or c) the nature of the site changes a bit over time and there is something I wish to emphasize that cannot easily be done with the current design. All of these reasons have come together this time. Especially, though, I’ve had to prepare for the lead-up to the book, knowing that I’ll need to make the book available through the site and begin to “promote” it in some way. I think the new design lends itself to that task a little better. I am also considering integrating my company site with the blog.

The new design offers some new features that were also integral to the decision to switch. For example, I’ve now added tags to posts and this should serve as a good way of tying posts together and of quickly categorizing them. I’ve also added more features for those of you who use various social media and who wish to interact with the content a little more. And I’ve transitioned to a better system of URLs (search engine friendly, for those who care). Finally, I’m preparing the site for the release of the new version of Movabletype, my blogging software, and think the new features and new design will work best with that new software.

Anyways, work continues. I’ll continue to find and weed out problems as they occur today. Please continue to be patient with me!

7:06 AM - Today is the day I’m going to be moving to a whole new design for this blog. So please bear with me as, for the next couple of hours at least, things could be a little flaky around here. Images may not work for a while, formatting will be strange, and so on. So hang tight and I’ll post when things are returning to normal.