The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.

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We're launching our new website next week!

Back in July, we shared a preview of the new site design. After considering your comments and feedback, as well as invaluable input from our editorial board, we've finalized it and we're rolling it out at the end of next week!


Our new site.

As you may recall, we're seeking to accomplish several things with the new site. First, we wanted to transfer the site from the homegrown code that David Alpert used to build the current site to a content management system that more people can access. Second, we wanted to make the backend easier to use for the more than 140 contributors who used it to submit posts this year. Third, we wanted to create different ways to read the content on our page, not just in reverse chronological order.

Our designer and site builder, Derek Hogue, has done a great job translating these goals, guided by your recommendations, into a new site. Here's a sneak peek. The photos are just screen shots, so you won't be able to interact with the site just yet.

Take a look at our new homepage

The homepage will present posts in reverse chronological order, but will also feature popular stories, recent comments and upcoming events. We've also decided to give daily Breakfast Links a new format. Instead of flowing through the post slots, Breakfast Links will permanently live in a bar just below the most recent posts and trending posts side bar. Please note, we're still making some last minute tweaks to the homepage, but this captures the general look and feel.


Our new homepage.

Comments will allow threaded replies

Readers had a lot to say about ways to improve comments when we asked for your input back in April, and more recently, through our reader survey.


Comments

You generally wanted a platform that would allow threaded comments, but did not want us to use Disqus. So, we splurged and designed a custom commenting system that is responsive to the feedback we heard from readers and commenters. We think the tool that Derek designed fits the bill.

Posts will have a new look, but keep their old format

The structure of the posts hasn't changed much. We added more ways to share posts on social media, and also included suggestions for similar posts. Readers seemed to generally like the clean design of the current site and we wanted to translate that to the new site.


Posts

Here's the launch timeline

We'll transition from the current site to the new site next weekend!

Starting on Friday, December 9th, we'll freeze the soon-to-be vintage site. That means when you go to ggwash.org, you'll still see the old site, but you won't be able to interact with it. For example, commenters won't be able to leave comments and editors won't be able to make edits to live posts. Don't worry, we won't publish any new posts that day, so you won't be missing out!

Over the weekend, Derek will sync the old site and the new site, and switch the DNS for ggwash.org. That will trigger a slow roll out of the new site. Some of you may see the new site bright and early on Saturday morning. Others may not see it until later in the day on Sunday. The rollout will be complete by Monday morning, December 12th.

We expect some growing pains

Inevitably, the first week with the new site will reveal some glitches. Just like readers will be getting used to consuming information from GGWash in a new format, contributors and editors will be getting used to a new backend of the site.

In a normal week, GGWash publishes Breakfast Links and at four posts per day. During the first week after the launch, we're going to aim to publish Breakfast Links and three posts per day. If you don't see Breakfast Links at the usual time in the morning, don't panic! We didn't cut this feature. We just probably ran into a glitch and are working our butts off to get it fixed.

You can help
GGWash values open, participatory processes. You, readers, will play a big part in the transition to the new site. Here's what you can do to help:

  • Be patient. We expect there will be some hiccups and want you to be prepared for them, too. Staff will be working really hard to minimize them. Frustrated, angry comments won't help things, but words of encouragement might!
  • Report any bugs. If you see any bugs, glitches, or really annoying things you come across, email newsite@ggwash.org. We'll triage the issues you report to the developer and get them resolved as quickly as possible.
  • Don't stop reading! The face of GGWash is changing, but our content is not. Our articles and Breakfast Links come from volunteers among you, our community, and the site is only valuable if you enjoy reading it.
Share your questions or comments below.

7 things we learned from this year’s reader survey

Back in September, we asked readers to fill out a survey to help us get to know who makes up the Greater Greater Washington community, learn how and why they read, and identify areas for improvement. 1,041 readers completed the survey. This is what we learned and what we (and you!) can do with this information.


Text analysis of respondents' open-ended comments.

1. You appreciate the content and think we should keep up the good work!

Overall, your feedback was positive and supportive and many of you told us to "keep up the good work." i

Our goal is to publish at least 18 posts on normal weeks (when there isn't a holiday or another reason for us to run a light schedule). Most of our posts are around 700 words long.

The overwhelming majority of respondents thought that the current number of posts and post length are "just right" (93% and 98%, respectively.) So, we'll likely keep up that frequency and length based on your feedback.

Generally, most respondents (71%) felt that the geographic focus of our coverage was on point, as well.


Responses to current coverage of specific geographic areas in the region.

But, nearly a third (32%) want to see more coverage of areas east of the Anacostia River in DC. Respondents would also like to see more coverage of places in Northern Virginia and Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in Maryland.

If you live in or know about urbanism issues in these places, please consider writing for us!

2. You don't have a clear desire to see GGWash experiment with other forms of media

Staff and the editorial board have been wondering if we should test out new forms of content other than the short, written blog posts published on our website that readers have come to expect from GGWash. We wanted to hear readers' thoughts, specifically about podcasts, videos, and printed materials.

Generally readers were ambivalent about whether GGWash should produce or feature other forms of content. Nearly a quarter (24%) recommended that we "definitely" produce or feature podcasts, but about the same number (23%) said we should "definitely not" spend our time on podcasts. You had similar thoughts about videos; very few readers seemed to think that printed materials would be a valuable use of our resources.

Especially since readers' feedback was inconclusive, we're going to explore new media further to learn what it would take to produce regular audio or visual content.

3. A personal interest in urbanism and a desire to be more knowledgeable about your community brings you to GGWash on a regular basis

The majority of respondents (62%) read the blog every day. Readers seem to be most driven to GGWash because of a personal interest in the topics we cover and a desire to be more knowledgeable about what's going on in their community and the region.

Most of our readers have been reading for years. More than one quarter of you (26%) have been reading for more than five years. Thanks for sticking with us! But we're still attracting new readers. We hope that the 11% of you who have been reading for less than a year will become long-time readers, too!

It's worth noting that these data points are likely skewed in favor of frequent, committed, long-time readers. For example, since the survey was only open for a couple of weeks, people who read less often were probably less likely to see the survey opportunity. Similarly, people who have been reading for less than one year may not have been as inclined to complete the survey as those who have been reading for years and feel a deeper connection and commitment to the site.

4. Comments are an important part of GGWash and you want to see them improved

In an era when many media outlets are shutting down their comments sections, GGWash is committed to keeping a respectful, safe space for constructive dialogue about the issues facing our region. So, we wanted to learn what motivates people to comment and if there is anything we can do to encourage more people to comment.

Most people told us they read comments. Half of all respondents read the comments occasionally, when they're "very interested in a post." About a third (36%) read the comments more frequently. The remaining 14% of respondents rarely or never read the comments.

Only a small percentage of readers actually post comments, though. The 278 people who indicated that they comment "frequently" or "occasionally " do so for a variety of reasons ranging from a desire to provide additional information ("educational"), to an intention to poke holes in the post's arguments ("contrarian").

Among readers who don't comment, some (23%) would consider commenting if we made it easier to reply directly to others' comments. Good news! Our new site will allow this, so we hope new voices will come forward in the comments once we roll out the redesign.

5. You are aware of our political endorsements and advocacy coverage, even if you don't engage in it

Most respondents (71%) are aware that GGWash makes political endorsements. Of those, nearly half (49%) indicate that our endorsements have influenced their decision about who to vote for. Given that our survey went out shortly after the contested primary race between Vincent Orange, David Garber, and Robert White, many respondents referenced our endorsements in this race.


Text analysis of respondents' comments about which GGWash endorsements influenced their vote..

The majority of respondents (71%) felt that GGWash is doing just the right amount of advocacy on the blog. Only 11% indicated that they think we're doing too much.

Turning awareness into action has been trickier, though. Of the 71% of respondents who have seen our calls to action on the blog, only 27% have actually participated by sending an email or sharing information.

GGWash's mission is to build informed and engaged residents of the Washington region. We give you information, analysis and opportunities to take action to influence decisions. It's up to you participate!

6. You help keep our local and national economies running

GGWash readers are a well-educated group of people. Nearly 93% of respondents are college graduates and have either started or completed a graduate degree!

You put your skills and education to work in a variety of jobs that keep our communities, local and national, moving forward. Approximately one third of respondents are employed in government jobs, those focusing on computers or technology, or work in business or finance. The remaining respondents hold a wide variety of jobs from transportation, urban planning, and engineering, to education, social sciences and nonprofits. Our readers are lawyers, caregivers, journalists, artists, students, and economists.

Nearly half (44%) of readers work in a job that is focused nationally, while a quarter spend most of their professional time working on local (13%) or regional issues (14%).

7. Our readership is diverse in some ways, but more homogenous in others

Our readers span generations, but nearly half (47%) of readers are under 35. Many of you have spent decades in the Washington region, while others are relative newcomers to the area.

Most readers identify as Caucasian or White (83%), while 5.4% identify as Black, 3.5% as Hispanic or Latino, and 3.3% as East Asian. Nearly 7% of respondents preferred not to respond to this question. More men (71%) responded to this survey than women (25%) or gender non-conforming individuals (.7%).

Although our readers reflect a variety of different backgrounds, we would like our readership to better reflect the demographics of the region. We have some ideas for expanding our readership in the coming year, but we'd love to hear your thoughts, too.

You can help us keep up the good work and make improvements!

These survey results generally suggest that you think we're doing good work and appreciate GGWash as a resource. But, there are some ways we can improve.

Greater Greater Washington staff and the editorial board, can keep us moving forward, but we can't do it without you. Here are two important ways you can help us make Greater Greater Washington...greater!

  • Become a contributor and provide the coverage that you wish you saw on the blog. Be one of the voices you think is missing from the discussion on GGWash, particularly if you share our love for the region and desire to make it better, but don't think you reflect the names, gender, and/or races and ethnicities you find on the blog. Your voice is welcome, too! Need a hand getting started? Come to Wednesday's blogging workshop in Arlington! RSVP here.
  • Make a donation so we can keep bringing you a reliable stream of information about the Washington, DC region. Even though our content is written by volunteers, it costs money to keep the site going. From paying our staff editor, to covering for hosting and server costs, your donations help keep the site running. Will you make a donation today? It's #givingtuesday after all!
Thank you to the more than 1,000 readers who completed the survey! Pat Q., Reema G., and Timothy B. were the lucky winners of a $25 Starbucks gift card, which we offered as an incentive for completing the survey. And, a huge thanks to volunteer contributor Mike Lloyd for analyzing the data!

Want to write great blog posts? We'll teach you how!

Blogging is a powerful way to share what you know. On Wednesday, November 30th at the Arlington Central Library, we'll train you to write blog posts that effectively and persuasively share your ideas with the world.


Our last blogging session was a huge success! We'd love to have you at the upcoming one in Arlington. Photo by Kelli Raboy.

The session is from 6:30-8:30, on the second floor of the library (1015 North Quincy Street). The goal is to help you expand your writing skills by teaching you what works and what doesn't in blogging! Here's some of what we'll cover:

  • Three fundamentals that any blog post should have
  • How to pick a topic and write an introduction that will grab readers' attention
  • The strengths and weaknesses of a sample GGWash post
We'll also have plenty of time to answer your questions.

If you want to attend, please let us know via this form.

We plan to host more of these sessions all around the region, as we're constantly looking to grow our community of writers—so don't worry if you can't make it to this one. Also, let us know if you'd like to host a session; we'd love to come to your neighborhood or group!

Meta


Alienation and inclusivity

This year's campaign season and election have been very divisive, and has left many members of our community feeling alienated. This includes people of many races, national origins, sexual orientations or identities, religions, or other qualities. Our hearts are with you today.

Whatever happens in years to come, we want to emphasize at this moment in history that we strongly believe that being inclusive and welcoming to everyone is a big part of why our region and nation are great, and it is important to making them even greater. It's something we as a Greater Greater Washington community, and we as a country, don't always get right, but we want to keep working on it for ourselves and our society at all levels.

Our volunteer contributors and staff are working on posts about election outcomes, from transit ballot initiatives to ANC races to the bigger implications of the urban-rural divide. As we write those pieces in the coming days and weeks, we're excited to share them with you. Tomorrow, we'll be back with the first of those posts, as well as our traditional urbanist coverage, including WhichWMATA and other local issues.

Moving forward, no matter who you are and whom you voted for, we hope you will continue to live and work here if you can, and collaborate with us to build informed and civically engaged communities who believe in a growing and inclusive Washington region for all.

875 readers have taken our reader survey already. Have you?

Each month, nearly 200,000 unique people visit the blog. We want to hear from all of you! If you haven't already, please take five minutes to complete our reader survey.


Photo by stevebustin on Flickr.

By sharing your thoughts about Greater Greater Washington, you can help us continue to improve the site and make it a place where people come to learn about and discuss issues affecting the region. The survey should only take between five and ten minutes to complete.

Congratulations to the first winner of a $25 gift card, reader Pat Q.! There are still two more $25 Starbucks gift cards up for grabs. Enter your name and email at the end of the survey to be considered. Don't worry, your responses will remain anonymous!

If you don't see the embedded survey below (or prefer to take it in a new window), you can take it here.

Create your own user feedback survey

Meta


Will you take 5 minutes to fill out our reader survey? You could win a $25 gift card.

Readers like you are an important part of making Greater Greater Washington greater. To make sure that we continue to provide a valuable space to learn about and discuss issues affecting the region, will you fill out our reader survey and share your thoughts?


Photo by Bloodwise on Flickr.

The survey should only take between 5 and 10 minutes to complete. Your responses will help us get to know who makes up the Greater Greater Washington community, learn how and why you read, and find ways to continue to improve.

Three lucky people who complete the survey will win a $25 Starbucks gift card. Enter your name and email at the end of the survey to be entered. Don't worry, your responses will remain anonymous!

If you don't see the embedded survey below, you can take it here.

Create your own user feedback survey

Meta


Do you know a student looking for an internship for college credit this semester? Look no further!

This spring we (unexpectedly) welcomed two fantastic interns, Megan and Skyler, from Arizona State University. Now, we're looking for two more interns for the fall.


Interns Skyler Daviss (left) and Megan Kelly (right)

What our inaugural interns did

During their two months with Greater Greater Washington, our interns conducted an analysis of our 2016 reader drive, assisted with grant writing and data analysis, and learned about housing policy in the Washington region.

They also each published a post, sharing advice for other out-of-town interns who find themselves learning how to get around and securing housing while they are in DC.

Skyler and Megan were so great, we decided that having interns in the future could only make GGWash stronger! And, they confirmed what we already suspected: GGWash is a great learning experience for students who have designs on influencing public policy, be it as an urban planner, a journalist, or advocate.

Unpaid internships ≠ free labor

These internships are unpaid. We wish we had funding to provide paid internship experiences, but we don't right now. Since these are unpaid internships, the focus is on student learning rather than providing labor support to GGWash.

So, we are especially looking for students who can receive college credit for their participation in this internship experience.

Spread the word

We see this as an opportunity to help mentor and train the next generation of leaders who will advocate for smart urbanism in the Washington region and beyond. If you, or someone you know, is a college student looking for a stepping stone into a future career in public policy, journalism, advocacy, or nonprofit management, check out the two job descriptions below.

The Communications and Media Intern will learn about and support GGWash's efforts to maintain and grow the blog. Through this internship a student can expect to improve their writing and editing skills, enhance their data analysis skills by working with staff and volunteers to analyze site data, identify trends, and make recommendations for enhancing our content. They will also have a chance to participate in discussions and decisions about GGWash's website redesign, which is underway.

Check out the full job description here.

The Development Intern will primarily learn about and support fundraising efforts to maintain and grow the organization. Through this internship a student can expect to conduct donor prospecting research, participate in granting writing and editing, learn to use DonorPro and SalsaCRM to track donor activity, and participate in trainings and workshops related to fundraising.

Check out the full job description here.

How to apply

Candidates should send their resume, cover letter, and short writing sample to jobs@ggwash.org by Friday, August 19th. We expect the internship to begin the first week of September, after Labor Day.

Meta


What do you think of this design for our site?

We're rebuilding our website on a modern platform and redesigning it in the process. Here's what the design may look like. What do you think?


Keep reading for a link to see the whole thing.

An open, participatory spirit is at the core of Greater Greater Washington. Our articles and Breakfast Links come from volunteers among you, our community, and the site is only valuable if you enjoy reading it and sometimes take action.

That's why we discussed logo options and got your input on the winning logo (including feedback from the comments which led to tweaking the tagline and making it even greater!) It's also why we collected your input on what you like and hate about our current site.

While many websites hunker down to redesign their site and suddenly bust out with a new one, we wanted to hear from you at key points along the process. Our designer and site builder, Derek Hogue, has done some great work and put together a homepage design that we think has a lot going for it. Before we move further, we wanted to hear your thoughts.

Before you look at it, a few important caveats

This is a mockup, not a live site. It's trying to establish the overall design. Many minor details will still change—we're showing this to you early, which means it's early.

A lot of content is placeholder. For instance, the category section for "Maryland" has many non-Maryland posts, and so forth. That's because which post goes in which section isn't what this is focusing on.

The "Greater Washington Essentials" section at the bottom doesn't have the actual categories or posts that it would really have (that'll be an area for "evergreen" stuff that's always good to read if you want to learn more about the region).

Therefore, some things might not be clear from the static version and/or the one with the posts in the wrong places, but will be clearer later. Feel free to note anything that's confusing to you, however—it could be valuable to know.

You're just seeing a static image. If you have a smaller screen (or are on mobile), you won't see it all at once. It'll definitely be a responsive design that shrinks and ultimately condenses into one column for smaller screens and mobile devices; that's just not something you can see at this point.

Now that you've read all that, check it out!

Why we have to do this

"But everything is fine," you might say (and some of you did on our survey, though many said the opposite). "Why does something need to change?"

A few reasons:

  1. The site runs on code I wrote entirely myself, which has built up over many years. I know how to add features (and have a lot of flexibility), but I'm the only one, and that's no way to run a real organization. Since I wrote most of it, these new blog platforms have arisen that are much more maintanable.
  2. The backend needs to be better. Our contributors have to write their posts in HTML and use somewhat clunky systems to import images. Modern blog platforms make this much easier. I initially wrote the code for my own use personally, so it wasn't a big deal if some backend features were hard for others to use, but now we have about 80 people writing articles in the last 3 months.
  3. The "reverse chronological" format works well for frequent visitors who want to read everything and know what's new since they were here last, but it's not great for occasional and new visitors. These folks want to be able to see, at a glance, some articles they may want to read. If you just show one, it's not necessarily the right one. We spend too much time worrying about what order and time to post articles because of this.
  4. We're growing to be more than a blog. We have an organizer advocating for more market-rate and affordable housing. Can you tell from reading the site? We need to better convey the range of our activities (while still keeping a focus on the content every day).
  5. Relative to our traffic, not a lot of people sign up for the daily email. (You might have said, "what daily email?" Exactly! It's here, for now.) We need to be doing better at telling people who visit the site how they can keep in touch, if they're interested.
  6. There are many other things people have learned about designing a good site since 2009, when Joey Katzen kindly devised our current site (and did a great job with it!) Anyway, it's just been a long time now.
What won't change

We've decided not to switch to a third party comment system like Disqus. Many of you said you thought it was a good idea, but many also said it was not. While it'll cost more to rebuild on a new platform (and won't be exactly the same), the comment system is working pretty well and we don't want to mess with something that isn't broken.

That doesn't mean nothing will change with comments. We're looking into some level of threading and other changes to make them work better. We're not up to that yet, though—we'll talk more when we are.

Also, if you like reverse chronological posts, there will still be parts of the page that show all the posts, and a separate page to see everything just in that order as well.

Finally, we certainly hope the quality of content and our other activities will only get better!

How we'll use your feedback

You can say whatever you like in the comments (as long as it complies with the comment policy, of course). But while we want your thoughts in this process, it's not going to be a vote. A site designed by too many people ends up being very uninspiring. And keeping the old site is not on the table.

However, there are a lot of smart folks out there and there's a good chance you might think of a point we hadn't considered. For example, commenters duncan, Kevon, cyco, and Jasper had suggestions to improve our tagline after we published the new logo. We changed it from "The Washington, DC area is great >> but it could be greater." to "The Washington, DC area is great >> and it can be greater." A small thing, but I think meaningful, and something that came from you.

That's why we wanted to show this to you before it's very far along. What would you change? We sincerely hope you point out things we didn't think of and make this even better. Check it out and leave your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!

Meta


Thank you to these GGWash supporters!

Without financial support of foundations, readers like you, and local businesses, Greater Greater Washington couldn't keep building informed and civically engaged communities who speak up for livable places for all. Thank you!


Image by Moeez via Wikimedia Commons.

Foundations

With funding from the Open Philanthropy Foundation and McIntosh Foundation we're increasing the number of posts about housing, creating maps to help visualize the housing affordability problem, and launched a book club to read and discuss DC's Comprehensive Plan to prepare for the upcoming amendment process.

Readers like you

So far this year, 295 readers have donated $29,000! Kyle M. and Melissa J. starting giving $5 and $10 to GGWash every month. Elizabeth W. and William H. made one-time donations of $25. Robert W. contributed $500. We'd love to recognize each and every of the 291 other individuals, but we just don't have space.

Reader donations help make sure GGWash can publish the information you rely on like updates and analysis about Metro, endorsements to help you cast your vote in support of transit-oriented policies and candidates, and stories like this one and this one that capture the experience of living in the Washington DC region.

You can make a donation anytime! Please consider making yours today.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Corporate sponsors

So far in 2016, Chevy Chase Land Company and EYA have provided $3,500 in sponsorships to support GGWash's activities. Capital Bikeshare, goDCgo, Island Press, and TransitOriented donated goods including CaBi memberships, books, and posters to use as prizes for our 8th Birthday Party in March. Tate and Tryon provided pro-bono accounting expertise to help GGWash file its first tax return.

Read about how GGWash will and won't work with corporate sponsors here.

Volunteers

Last but not least, we couldn't be Greater Greater Washington without the more than 125 volunteers who donate their time to bring you thoughtful, data-informed information about the forces shaping our region. Community volunteers write the majority of the posts that appear on GGWash. Each year, our volunteers donate tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of time to Greater Greater Washington.

The Washington, DC region is great, and you all help make it greater. Thank you!

If you would like to support Greater Greater Washington through a corporate sponsorship or by volunteering, I would love to hear from you!

Want to write great blog posts? We'll teach you how!

Blogging is a powerful way to share what you know. On Thursday, June 23rd at 2001 L Street NW, we'll train you to write blog posts that effectively and persuasively share your ideas with the world.

The session is from 6:30-8:30, in room 222. The goal is to help you expand your writing skills by teaching you what works and what doesn't in blogging! Here's some of what we'll cover:

  • Three fundamentals that any blog post should have
  • How to pick a topic and write an introduction that will grab readers' attention
  • The strengths and weaknesses of a sample GGWash post
We'll also have plenty of time to answer your questions.

If you want to attend, please let us know via this form.

We plan to host more of these sessions all around the region, so don't worry if you can't make it to this one. Also, let us know if you'd like to host a session; we'd love to come to your neighborhood or group!

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