What would you like AOA to be?

aoa logo circleAOA is coming up on its 5th birthday this spring (yeah, crazy). And as we approach that mile marker, we're thinking about making some significant changes to what we do and how we do it -- form, content, schedule... it's all on the table.

We haven't settled on anything yet, and probably won't for a while. This is the second time we've moved in this direction. The first was about two years ago and, well, we learned a lot, but didn't end up making a lot of changes. And we're hoping to build on some of those lessons. (If we ever start the AOAOA blog like we've been threatening, maybe we'll talk about it.)

But here's the thing: we'd like to hear your thoughts. As we always say, the best thing about AOA is the people. And we wouldn't want to make significant changes with your perspective. (One of Paul Ford's many insights is that the web is a customer service medium, and its fundamental question is: Why wasn't I consulted? That is mostly a good thing.)

So... please share. What would you like AOA to look like in the future? What sorts of topics would you like it to cover? What would you like to see more (and/or less) of? What form would you like it to take?

There's no right answer. And while we'd like the suggestions to be realistic (and constructive), it's OK to ask for one or two sparkly unicorns. Also, please feel free to ask questions -- we'll do our best to answer them in the comments.

And, of course, there's no guarantee we'll do exactly what you suggest. But we really are interested to hear your thoughts.

Thank you.

Comments

I almost want to say please don't change! When I lived somewhere else for a year or two, I was actually mad that area didn't have an equivalent. Most of all, I enjoy the pieces about local events and things to do. Pieces on AOA have inspired me to visit places in the area I'd never have discovered on my own - from restaurants to hikes to day trips to unique stores. I look forward to the weekly post about things to do over the weekend and probably would just sit home and wonder where I'm supposed to go if AOA wasn't around with a few good ideas.

Hopefully this doesn't fall under "sparkly unicorn request", but I'd love to hear more from people of color as contributors.

I really enjoy the Ask AOA entries. It would be nice if once a week you posted something like that (best place to get a ____, worst place to go for _____)

I also like your ticket drawings and hope they continue. I won tickets to Roller Derby a couple of years ago and very much enjoyed it.

Your Week Ahead and Stuff to Do this Weekend entries have become essential reads for me. Please leave them untouched.

If I had to make a suggestion, it would be to take advantage of the Cap Region community. Perhaps a classifieds section on the site, where people can post things they don't trust Craigslist for. Or maybe a Top Ten section, where you post the top ten restaurants, pizzerias, bars, etc, and people can vote on them whenever so the list is always moving. This, like your yearly Tournament of Pizza, would give people a list to reference when making a decision. Yes, I think a "Top Ten in the Cap Region" section would be a big hit.

Just some thoughts. Keep up the good work.

This is a tough question, because I like what AOA does now.

One thing I look forward to are those thoughtful posts that dig a bit deeper behind a complicated, Albany-related story. Like the post on the Times Union Realtor(R) debacle. Or the one comparing area college presidents' compensation with student population. Or... well, I could go on and on.

I always feel smarter after reading those posts. And that's a good thing.

Please don't change much!

I love what you're doing, so... umm... keep being awesome? If you can manage to be MORE awesome, feel free to do so! :)

Yeah for 5 years! Aw, they grow so fast.

To be filed under First World Problem: I ended up reading the Times Union during AOA's Supermarket Week, that's how depressing it was. And eat Nutella to recover. Please, no more :) I know it was popular in 2012, but I feel that's were AOA can do it "The Right Way (tm)", you guys don't indulge in "Top 10 Lists", "Best Of", "Commenter Awards" and other "Caption This" silliness, this whole supermarket war is becoming pretty much as cliche, would you take a stance and ignore it, for the greater good of humankind? Or for the children? We will get over it. Promise.

Maybe dusting up the commenting system, add a "Notify me on reply" capability, or a proper login to access previously contributed posts?

More charts :)
Where is Pantaloon?

I really like the Sunday Soapbox feature (when it is run) - I know that's content driven, and I don't know if people know you accept outside submissions (exclusively, at that) for this feature, and because it hasn't run in a while, I wonder if people forgot about it? I was just thinking about this on my way to work today (not sure why ... I think because I was reading FUSSYlittleBLOG on my walk and he referenced AOA).

Aside from that, I am echoing the above - you're Doing it Right, and while I respect wanting to change for the better, don't just change to change.

The more important question: 5th birthday is approaching, and Inquiring Minds Want To Know: WHEN/WHERE IS THE BIRTHDAY PARTY?!

The only thing I can think of is I would love it if you had a colander of events so you could see upcoming events for the next month or so. This would help people to plan things further in advance than waiting for the stiff to do this weekend to pop up on Friday. I love everything on your site right now. I use this unconsciously when I get up in the am or home from work.

How about letting me design you a new logo?

A separate RSS feed that doesn't include the Craigslist posts.

I like your site a lot; thanks for all your good work. I would love to see a roundup of high school "entertainment" in our area: theater productions, music performances, basketball games, etc. These are all fun, inexpensive activities to go to that could always use extra attendees. I never know where to find this information elsewhere. Thanks for considering.

I second Gina's comment and would take it a step further: stop being white, middle class centric because that's not what the demographic makeup of Albany, Troy, or Schenectady is - it's diverse unlike this website. They don't care about a Whole Foods opening in Colonie because there isn't a grocery store accessible to communities in Arbor Hill, etc.

Please don't get too political or make AOA a soapbox for issues - that is why I seldom read Metroland . I enjoy AOA just as it is.

Interesting you should raise this; I was just thinking you folks must be getting a little bored with the format, as it has gotten a little settled over time. That's good but doing something new is good too.

What I appreciate most about the site is the community you've curated. I feel like it's possible to have a dialogue here, whereas on most other local sights I've had to adopt a strict "don't read the comments" rule. There's give and take but you don't let it get ugly. That keeps me reading, even when a lot of the topics aren't of much interest to me.

You've also made a nice little specialty out of finding an interesting angle to otherwise stock stories . . . such as teasing interesting information out of numbers.

For folks who think the site's too white: offer to contribute something.

Much less Daniel B. His recent review of Fin excepting, his tone is almost always condescending and insufferable. Maybe find out where Celina Bean has been hiding and get her to write reviews???

And yes, more on the activism front as Sean has suggested. Less about where the finest chocolates are located and more about local political issues. Heck, maybe bring someone on staff to report on local issues?

I have been reading AOA for all five years, to me it is a necessity to keeping in touch with what's going on in and around the Albany area. It is so hard to go out and discovery it yourself and AOA is an irreplaceable resource for all that is great about the Albany community. Whether it is local history, local shops, local crafts, and just cool stuff being done around town, AOA is the only place to find this stuff. I love the condensed news. Everything you guys find interesting, I find interesting! I have recommended the blog to literally hundreds of people and almost everyone wonders how they lived without AOA before that time. Seriously, you guys are indispensable, don't change (except maybe the Craigslist posts).

Echoing Gina and Sean, I'd add that this site could do a lot to broaden its sense of Albany culture. While it's always good to hear what's at EMPAC and the Egg, there are also organizations like the Social Justice Center, Holding Our Own, The Sanctuary for Independent Media, and others, all of which are active in organizing performances, films, lectures, etc. that foster discussion and collaboration across the many different communities in the area. Tune into what is happening with those organizations, as well.

Also, on the question of covering of Albany food culture, I like the site's attention to this, and I learn a lot. But I think that you would do well to move beyond boosterism to cover questions of food politics like Sean mentioned: who is being served by the grocery store boom and who is being dis-served by it? What does it mean to the city that a community-owned store like the co-op is expanding and moving further out of downtown -- and that it is using non-union labor for its new building?

It would be really nice if Morning Blend came out closer to 9am. News junkies are jonesin' for the run down well before 10!

Authors should sign their articles. I'd like to know who's writing I'm reading.

The digest posts have become rather stale. (Morning Blend, Craig's List, Recap of the week, This week event). They could use some reworking. I regularly skip them.

Rather that listing every possible event that is occurring in a weekend (This week ahead), consider pick only a few to highlight. There are a million places where I can get the same information that is in those posts. I have Friday night free. I just want to know what the one or two unique indie (ie, not at The Egg or other big cultural institution) events are that are worth my time.

I feel bad for suggesting it; but I agree, news round up by 9:00 would be really nice...I'm assuming that the reason it comes out at 10:00 is because the editors also start their work day at 9:00 also; so I apologize for how that might come off. (I know if anyone suggested to me I start working earlier I'd have some choice suggestions for them).

Why fix what isn't broken?
Your site is lamost perfect!
Well, a couple of things
more food postings.
,and me winning something for once.
Being able to e-mal, or post your stories to FB without cut,and paste.
Luv ya Mary, and Gregg!

I love everything about AoA. I'd like to see an organized page of links to all of your Ask AoA posts, a place where it's easy to browse the topics. It's great that you guys will dig through the archives to pull out a link when someone (sometimes me!) asks a question on Twitter, but a well organized page would probably be my starting place before throwing something out on Twitter. It also may encourage people to continue to add comments to older posts to provide newer relevant info. Ask AoA proved really useful to me as I was doing home repairs last year!

I appreciate some of the other comments here about diversity. I am white, middle class and interested in Whole Foods, and probably a good majority of your readers are in the same demographic, however, that doesn't mean that more diverse articles and perspectives wouldn't be appreciated - they would! There are a lot of things going on in the Albany community that aren't covered here. You have a great audience here and AoA is well-respected - this would be a great platform to generate discussion and highlight the goings on ALL OVER Albany.

I have to say, I really don't love living in Albany, but AoA does so much to promote the great stuff in this area and make me better appreciate this place I call home.

i love and look forward to your daytrips, things to eat, & stuff this weekend, you could always throw in more of that. but otherwise don't change! you are beautiful just the way you are.

I like AOA a lot. You've forged a unique personality which is well supported by the third party contributors. I like learning about area trivia and being directed to experiences I would never discover on my own and, if I don't actually get there, enjoying them vicariously.

So, my first recommendation would be to expand the panel of third party columnists as long as you can find folks that share your quirky inquisitive gene. Since I'm mostly oriented toward food-related events, I'd also like to see more coverage of upcoming special dinners, church-sponsored feeds etc. Although Tablehopping does this, your coverage is generally more interesting and thoughtful.

I could do with less of the wrap-up posts where you simply summarize what you've done or describe what you're about to do in a week to come. I understand the purpose of those but they don't rank as "real" posts to me.

Oh god, please do not bow down to the activist types in this thread. I do not come to AoA for social activism. There are plenty of strident, self-righteous wind bags out there on the Internet doing a fine job of it (I feel some of their wind blowing in these comments).

I would encourage you to use your reach to encourage more real world gatherings/events. Albany is great in that it is small enough where (with a little nudging) wonderful little networks and communities can spring up.

I love the idea of a calendar and easy to find top tens for all kinds of stuff. Morning Blend and What's Up in the neighborhood are also essential reads for me. I agree that it can be a bit food-centric on this blog but I also agree that's more about what other local bloggers/writers are contributing to the site. Yay AOA! Happy Birthday!

@Katie: Thank you.

@Gina: That's not a unicorn request, sparkly or otherwise. We are always looking for writers, so if you have someone in mind, please send along their contact info, or ask them to contact us.

@Est: I like the idea of lists. And we've kicked around the idea a few times before. We'll have to give some thought about how to do that.

@Bob: Thanks for the feedback on those analysis type of posts. Some of them are a lot of work, so it's good to know they're appreciated.

@Albert Gnidica: We appreciate the sentiment! But we gotta evolve.

@Andy: Heh. Thanks.

@irisira: We liked the Soapbox, too -- but it was a strain to have one lined up each week. Managing a rotating lineup of people takes a lot of time. But we've been thinking about bringing it back, so thank you for the feedback.

Re: the birthday party. We talked about it just this week, but we don't have anything nailed down.

@Elwyn webb: We've resisted doing a calendar because of the administrative resources it takes. And we also didn't necessarily have an approach that would be different from the many other calendars that exist. But the fact of the matter is that we are already doing a lot of this sort of work behind the scenes to generate some of our other stuff, so we might be headed in that direction anyway.

@Greg Matusic: Thank you, that's nice of you to offer. You're right -- we do need an updated logo. And, really, the entire site needs a makeover. We've been wanting do that for what seems like forever now. The current version looks like a sweater that someone's worn too long.

@Craig: Believe it or not, a lot of people like those posts. Which it too bad -- because I don't like compiling them.

@nan: Thanks for that suggestion. It might not be possible given the resources we have, but we'll give it some thought.

@Sean Collins: As always, we welcome specific suggestions for story ideas.

@Eric Scheirer Stott: Thanks for the input.

@Carl: Thank you for the comment about community. We appreciate it.

@B--: We know where Celina's at, and if it afforded her the opportunity to write for us (and she were willing), we'd jump at the chance in a second.

As for bringing someone on to write about local political issues, it's a matter of resources -- and we're already scraping by. But thank you for expressing the preference. We'll think about what we might be able to do.

@Jim: Thank you. That's awfully nice of you.

@Jen G: You're right, we could probably include more stuff like that. And I'd like to get more into some of the food/political/economic issues. But they're not going unmentioned now, either. One example:

http://alloveralbany.com/archive/2012/03/08/where-the-supermarkets-are----and-arent

@Natalie: Morning Blend is one of the things we'd most like to change. We're not happy with its current big blob of text format. And frankly, we don't like writing it. We'd like to find a way to better organize and contextualize the stories -- though some of that is more of a technological issue
than a content one.

Another reason to love AOA: you actually took the time to write us back, kindly and thoughtfully. We will be loyal forever.

please don't get rid of Craig and His Wonderful List or the MyExit profile.

I think a "Who's Who" of the Capital Region would be kind of awsome... maybe keep some pics and short profiles on some of the better-known people in the area. There could be some bruised egos left in the wake of putting this together, but I think it would be nice to have on place (besides Google) to learn about some people who's names keep popping up both on AOA and around the Cap. Reg.

Otherwise, you guys are doing a great job!! Keep it up!!

I use the site as a filter for cool things to do and see around the area, not as a political blog. I realize that there is some overlap with local news etc., but I'm not interested in more politics. This site is a great way to highlight the cool, unique things about the Capital Region that might entice someone to live here or be happier about choosing to settle here.

Could you try to develop a relationship or two with weather people? There's a lot of great meteorologists at UAlbany's atmospheric sciences department and I'd really appreciate a post from time to time that talks about the forecast a little more in depth and with some actual science in it. There's a times union weather blog, but it's rarely updated - maybe there'd be motivation to post on AOA where the audience would be bigger.

I agree with Gina, Sean, and Jen G's request for more diverse voices. And while I agree with the widely shares sentiment that AOA doesn't need to get more political-the dialogue in Albany is very robust and AOA offers something different-I would like to cast one vote against publishing posts that are just about one person's little pet peeves. We can read Kristy Barlette for that :-)

One thing I love and would enjoy seeing more are the historical posts. This is an old place, and there are plenty of stories to be heard.

Finally, congratulations! AOA is really a good thing for the city, and props to you for taking a leap and starting it from scratch. Pop a bottle!

This is a more technical issue that you probably have a good reason for, but it drives me nuts that links don't open in separate windows/tabs. It prevents me from browsing some of the compiled pieces like Morning Blend and is especially troublesome on my phone/ipad. Speaking of... how about a mobile app?

Hey guys!

I'd love to see some integration between Facebook comments and story comments. I know I see stories on Facebook first, and often resist comments since I don't feel they'll be part of the conversation.

Obviously, this doesn't help with ad impressions on the site, but I like to think I read the "this week brought to you by" posts anyway :)

You guys know I love the snickers out of you, and I'd fine if AOA stayed the same forever and ever, but since you're asking:
--Since people receive their information in different ways since you started, I'd love to be able to subscribe to RSS feeds for specific content areas on your site--Ask AOA, Morning Blend, etc. (I know this limits pageviews for advertisers, though, so that might not be realistic);
--It's dorky, but could you set up your links to outside sources to open in new windows, rather than the same one? I often follow links to learn more, then forget about the three other AOA pieces I wanted to read after I finished the original piece (I also have the memory of a goldfish, so that might be partly responsible for my inability to remember to hit my "back" button once I'm done reading);
--This is going to sound weird, but maybe less food reporting--I love food, we all love food, and we have a lot of great food around here, but occasionally, AOA feels like it's slipping into foodie blog territory, rather than the comprehensive local information site it is;
--When it comes to resources, would you consider a model where you pay your contributors based on page views of their pieces? Forbes.com uses that model, and they said it's created a culture where contributors promote their pieces very actively (so they get paid more). It might help broaden your audience overall, too.

Also, I think AOA does a MUCH better job than other local media outlets covering some of our area's more complex issues (zoning issues, analysis of demographic info, political kerfuffles, etc.). I'd love to see even more pieces where AOA fully explains complex issues. Like Bob said about the "Ask AOA" posts, I always feel smarter after reading your in-depth analysis pieces.

1. Spotlights on community leaders and organizations (not the Mayor or DA, but civillians that contribute to important causes in the City).

2. A monthly calendar of events that can be updated easily by the editors.

3. Stay away from highly political stories, as one person said, it seems to be Metroland's territory and it's getting old.

4. DO NOT change the Week Ahead or Stuff to do this Weekend columns. They are essential for most everyone I know.

This is likely in teh unicorn department, but how about something book related?

A not-too-often-but-semi-regular AOA group read? This could be followed by a gathering perhaps?

Please, please do not make comments a bigger part of the site. Don't become a glorified chat room, like most Times-Union blogs now are. More comments means more time moderating and responding to them, which means less time spent on content.
I also like that comment sections are generally not conversational, with only relevant comments posted. That way if interesting comments are posted, they're not burried in the middle of an argument about everyone's opinion on the article.

I agree with the idea of a little less foodie-ness, and more history. Historical places to visit? I'd visit some for you.

I also think that some of the simple technical items (default target to new window/tab, add back in a share function) as well as perhaps gussying up this comment section would be great ideas. Letting us see and search on tags/categories might be an easy way for people to find helpful stuff like old Q&As, etc., rather than digging through a chron archive.

AOA is a great resource and I don't know what I would've done had I not found it -- even before I moved to Albany you guys helped make up my mind. Well done, you! Happy birthday!

@jackers, @nathalie: "news round up by 9:00 would be really nice...I'm assuming that the reason it comes out at 10:00 is because the editors also start their work day at 9:00". Boy, I'd be really surprised if the editors didn't have to wake up WAY earlier than 9am to get the news round up by 10am. That's a lot of work.

@Erin, @Sioghan: curious about this whole "have the links open in a new window/tab". It's very easy to do it yourself, key + click usually, or long-click on touch devices, and at least people have both options. Once you force a link to open in a new tab, it's "Game over, Man" for the rest of us, as Bill Paxton would say.

@Tim: "the digest posts have become rather stale. (Morning Blend, Craig's List, Recap of the week, This week event).". I'm confused, how can they be stale? They are, by definition, a compilation of new things, be it news articles, ads, posts, events. "consider pick only a few to highlight. There are a million places where I can get the same information that is in those posts.". Million? This is not a trick question for you, but I'd be really curious to know where, because I find it particularly useful. "This week ahead", or "Stuff to do this weekend" are some of the most comprehensive weekly local lists I've seen, you'll find imitations (say, on KAB), or art complements (say, on Nippertown), but I think AOA is where it's at, pretty invaluable tools to me. Pop your Google Calendar on one side, "This Week Ahead" on another, and in a few mins you are likely to have filled your week with good stuff. Update on Friday with "Stuff to do", boom. And since you can't please everybody, it's the fact that it's not "a few events to highlight" that is appealing to me.

I truly enjoy your blog and normally read it first thing in the morning. A few ideas:
1 - Ask people who read your blog to subscribe to it with a nominal fee (funny how people love to read it for free, which does not help expansion and/or more subjects);
2 - Do not be tempted by politics. Albany is disgracefully unattractive on that subject;
3 - Do profile more regular folk (business owners, charities, civic leaders, etc);
4 - Open the blog to more contributors;
5 - Without going into the "politics of diversity," perhaps exploring the issue through the lens of food, restaurants, activities, etc, would be interesting (or a contributor who writes about it).
Everything else is nearly perfect. Awesome job!
P.S. - Went to The Ruck for wings following your advice. The blue cheese dressing was delicious, but I wasn't totally impressed with the wings... Any others? I'm the wing king!

Maybe it’s the political junkie in me, but I’ll add to the chorus of AOA’ers that support more in-depth political/social commentary on AOA. While I appreciate that many, as they have commented here, get annoyed with these type of pieces found elsewhere (e.g. Metroland, TU blogs) and the associated vitriolic comments that pile up, I do think the community of folks who visit AOA would bring a much more sophisticated, intelligent and diverse view point, which we can all gain from and which I find lacking elsewhere. Furthermore, I think we can all agree that those who frequent AOA are mature enough to just scroll past the posts that tend to promote a debate, allowing those interested to engage in informative discussion with their peers. Whenever AOA has offered such posts in the past, I’ve found myself having a greater appreciation of my community and a renewed hope that the informed citizenry is not outnumbered by the obnoxious trolls you find littering blogs elsewhere.

I love AOA. I can't say this enough. I think you are a vital part of my and many people's experience in the Capital Region.

I'd ask that you don't change the week ahead and the weekend plan posts. I use them often to plan my daily life activities.

Thinking about it more, please don't change your daily news story posts either. Most of my daily local news is from AOA's daily post (and Jordan Carleo-Evangelist Twitter feed).

Your coverage of politics should be more focused on diving into issues that shape our area. I am not going to give a detailed list of stories I would like to see but your coverage about what happened with Ravens Head Brewery is a good example or why Whole Foods (and other grocery stores) choose to locate in the areas suburbs and not in our region's cities.

AOA, to me at least, gets to the point of what is fun and exciting about this area and I think getting a little political, or exploring these issues and talking about barriers to creating a better community are important conversations to have on here.

Thank you for all your hard work on creating and managing All Over Albany. We all really appreciate it.

First off, happy birthday! Second off, thank you so much for all of the great information. My husband and I moved to Albany four years ago and would never have experienced half of the amazing activities/events/restaurants without you.

On that note, please continue the What's Up in the Neighborhood and the Stuff to Do this Weekend. They are fantastic!

I would love to see the ethnic food map updated and maybe even a local brewery/distillery/winery map added. (Also, even though she moved, please make Jessica Pasko move back to the capital region - she always had great suggestions and a deliciously approachable style).

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." - Henry Ford (attributed)

@-S The digests have not changed in format. On top of that, the info is generally assembled from other sites. If I wanted a summary of news covered by professional news media, I'd go to their sites. If I wanted to see what stuff is on Craig's List, I'd go to the source. If I wanted a recap of AOA, I'd go to the archives. I want original content.

You're right. I should have been more literal. There several independent sources (ranging from facebook to radio station websites) from which you can receive the same information, however in a piecemeal. There's no point in being comprehensive in a blog post. If AOA want's to be a comprehensive calendar, download a calendar app for the blogging tool. I don't want to know everything that is happening this week. I want an opinion. I want an editor to say, "We looked at everything that's going on, and here is the must see event and why."

I'd love to see you integrate FB into the commenting section. Not because I love FB (which I do, and I'm not ashamed) but because I want to receive notifications when people reply to my comments. Also, adding real names can add to the depth of discussion. I feel like there is a real element of community that has yet to be tapped.

My shiny unicorn request is that you folks create some AOA flair to promote the blog. Bumper stickers, buttons. I want to spot other AOA-fans in the crowd.

If anything, I'd like to see more fun facts or interesting tidbits about the area/history, and more about events (but early, so when they first hit a calendar or tickets go on sale). I definitely use Stuff to Do This Weekend all the time, but if it's a need-tickets-in-advance kind of thing that doesn't work out very well.

It would also be cool to have reviews of local events that go on. Like I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to the Mac & Cheese Bowl, I'd like to read a wrap up from someone here perhaps. Instead I asked Twitter and got some good responses.

I love AOA. I don't know what race any of the writers are. Is that supposed to be obvious????

Just thought of something else (and if I missed it in someone else's comment I apologize) - have you ever thought of having a tip jar?

First off - I appreciate AOA and it's staff so much! You guys have opened my eyes to what our area has to offer over the last five years. I love the format, the regular features, the guest bloggers, especially the 'whats happening this weekend/week' posts... everything!

My only suggestions are related to the blogging platform and not to the content itself. You guys have so much great content from the last five years, and it is unfortunately nearly impossible to find old posts. I have been in Hudson and said to the people I was with, 'Oh, AOA mentioned a great breakfast place a while back in a post, I should find the name of it', and have given up after trying everything I could think of to find the post. (I've had the most luck just going to Google and doing a site:alloveralbany.com search!)

Posts are tagged, but there is no listing of all tags. I suspect this is because the full tag list doesn't make much sense. Some of the 'X hours in town X' posts are tagged under 'stuff to do', others the name of the town/city, others 'shopping'. If a reoccurring post becomes a 'feature' (like the 'X hours in town X' posts), it would be amazing for them to have a feature-specific tag, with a list of the features/main tags in the sidebar or header. Clickable bylines to see all posts by an author is another common thing on other blogs that is absent here.

(Last minute edit: While writing this comment, I discovered the /features folder which, despite being a plain-jane directory listing, will be extremely helpful when looking for old posts)

I looooove that most posts are geotagged, but again it's very hard to use this data after the post is 30 days old. There could be a map that displays all food/restaurant tagged posts with no additional work on the post-creation side! The potential downside to this is, yes, a place could go out of business and the post would still exist on the map. But the goal is not to re-create Yelp - I would never go back to old posts to update them with that information - a map like this would just be another way to access older content.

Updates to the comment system would be great, too. I understand why comments are reviewed before going live, and the spam-free comment section is worth it. But a real login system would cut down the comment-screening work, allow for reply notifications, etc.

Probably the weirdest thing about the blog is that there's no next/previous page buttons to simply cycle through posts. It's Front Page->Last 7 Days->The Place of No Return (monthly archives). Clicking 'food' in the top bar shows a small number of posts with no pagination. Searching the site for 'food' returns a small number of posts containing the word 'food'.

OK, I am starting to repeat myself! AOA could continue unchanged and still be the most useful site I visit daily... but these kind of updates would make it even better :)

@Tim: "I don't want to know everything that is happening this week. I want an opinion.". And that's exactly what you are getting. "This week ahead" is comprehensive but is *nowhere* close to list everything that is going on in the Capital District, karaoke parties included. Some editorial process *does* happen at that point to target AOA readers. If that wasn't the case, the page views would be low, and I assume that feature would be ditched, because with limited resources why work on something people don't read? I'm not on Facebook (independent source, really?), I don't listen to radio because the commercials melt my brain cells, so if somebody is willing to spend a few hours compiling precious nuggets for me, and deliver them for free, then I'll jump on the opportunity. Hey, I'll even copy *my* picks from that list to my own calendar, because I'm not that lazy -- how useful is a global, comprehensive calendar if it's full of items I've no intention to catch? But how do I know I've no intention to catch these events if I've not been made aware of them? So I've to thank AOA for doing the legwork,and I'll do the rest.

You can't argue "Craig and his wonderful list" is not saving you the time you would spend (?) reading CL every day of the week, that's just math, so I guess what you are arguing about is the quality of the editors' picks from CL, which is not to your liking. And that's fine... even though that's exactly what you asked for from AOA in your comment: "We looked at everything that's going on on CL, and here is the must see, because it is our opinion that you'll find it funny/quirky/interesting".

I particularly like the pieces where you address more serious political/social issues; I think the dialogue is usually more interesting. I'm sure you're probably friends with Daniel B. but I agree with those who says he's smug, I wouldn't mind seeing less of him. I also like the photography you sometimes include and would love to see more photo-centric posts.

But really, you've done a great job with this site. I don't even live in Albany right now, but I still read AOA. Keep up the great work!

I really like Lindsay's suggestion!

What I love most about AOA now is that you are a great source of things to do in the region. I love hearing about time-sensitive activities like festivals, workshops, and the like. I also love learning about restaurants, museums, and places of interest that stick around or are new. This is where I learned about the Victoria Pool, and now I love it! I also love the quirky news stories about local things (flying to get to warmer weather, a video making fun of Daniel's spoon review, etc).

I don't have suggestions on how to change. I just wanted to pipe up about what I love.

I'm going to put this idea out in public which I have floated to Greg and Mary in the past, in the hopes that someone will take the reins:

A series -

"How to Be a Regular at _________ (insert local eatery, café, business)"

Wouldn't it be fun to get an in-depth/regular's look at some of the places we know and love?

My two cents:

-Please don't go down the social activist, forced diversity perspective route. So much about what AOA does is useful to EVERYONE. Yes, the urban cores of some of our cities are more diverse, but the reality is the entire Capital District is very homogeneous, and actually getting more so. Keep reporting on cool events, shows, galleries, openings, etc. and keep it color and socio-economic blind, it's part of what makes AOA great.

-However, adding any new voices to the mix would be excellent.

-My only real suggested addition is a curated "recommendations" area of the site. Yelp and other platforms are ok, but I like and trust the audience here, and it'd be cool to have an easy look up for many of your "where can I get/eat/buy X" question/posts.

Keep up the awesome work!

I don't mind the foodie articles at all- I'd like to see a day when an AOA review is "the thing" to post in a restaurant window.

Don’t Change:
Morning Blend
The Week Ahead
Stuff to do this Weekend
What’s Up in the Neighborhood

I Skip Over:
A quick recap of the week
Craig and his wonderful list (although some seem to love them…)
My Exit

Want more of:
Stories similar to last week’s “No brewery for St Joe’s – so now what?” I think this is what most people mean when they are requesting more in depth analysis of local issues. I felt like that article was something only AOA could write for this area – balanced, informative, not showing your own opinion, and a nice closing summary of a recent important issue. The times when you guys do show your political voices are few and far between (I can’t even remember that last example…), but even those show both sides of the story and let people get a lot of information in one place.

More giveaways!! 

More meetups!

As others have mentioned, more profiles of people. I like the end of the year “Interesting in 20XX” articles, but they get overwhelming to read all in one week. I’d like to see that kind of profiling more often. It would also be more relevant to put those articles closer to the events those people are involved with, rather than all at the end of the year.

I like the Ask AOA articles – I agree it would be good to have those all on their own page somewhere where they could be referenced really quickly

I don’t need to have:
A Top Ten section/”Best of”
An actual calendar (I tried to do something like this just for theater – lots of work! However, if you say you’re almost there anyway, then it wouldn’t hurt…)
A political soapbox

I agree with others – somehow you guys keep comments productive and happy here. I cannot read the comments on the Times Union blogs without getting depressed or angry. I also agree that you have built a sense of community that most blogs do not have. When I meet someone and they say they read AOA, my respect for them doubles because I know they must be cool, thoughtful, political aware, and interested in their community.

I second abby’s suggestion of AOA flair!

First, I love AOA. I have been really busy and haven't been able to visit and when I remembered it had been about 10 days since i visited, I got really excited.

Here are my suggestions for any changes/modifications:
Keep in mind that people come here for relief/hope/ideas. With that in mind, I would suggest maybe more posts helping people find products/services more easily. For instance, I want to find a really good dentist who understands I'm freaked out about going to the dentist.

Another suggestion: one of my favorite blogs is apartment therapy.com and you could copy their very popular "house tour" section...I LOVE looking at the house tours, but would be even more curious to see how my neighbors are living.

That's all for now...thanks for making my days better!

Any excuse to post about dogs, feel free. Best topic ever.

How about adding a Back to Top button at the bottom of each story comments.

"It isn't the consumer's job to know what they want." (sorry right in the middle of Steve Jobs' biography)

anyway, I'm all for more dog posts too. Love Sunday Soap box. Rarely read the CL roundup and My Exit.

The first thought that came to my mind when I first saw the question was don't change, please. I do agree with many people here that it would be great if Morning Blend comes out closer to 9 AM. Other than that, I don't see much need for a change. I can do without some columns (My EXIT, Craiglist), but many people like it. It's just different opinions.

I LOVE the indepth posts about places and things going on around the area. I have learned a lot and have grown to appreciate the area much more because of AOA. So, more of those, please.

As someone who love good food, I appreciate food-related columns. Because AOA and Daniel B., I now have a place to get fantastic macaroon, freshly made noodle, and awesome Mexican food (to name a few).

Opening a link in new window or, better yet, new tab would be fantastic. Back to the top button suggestion is great too.

I second brining Jessica Pasko back or have her write some stories once in a while. I like her writing style and the story she told.

Please don't go down the social activist route. I don't come here for that. I come to AOA to learn what is going on around the region, to destress, to learn about local history/business. I don't come here to hear from people who think the same way I do. I love that AOA allow people with different opinions to post their thoughts and argue.

AOA is the first blog I check every morning and, often, come back to again and again throughout the day (especially when I stress out about work). Keep up the good work!

One last thing. Happy Birthday!

@Tim: As it is now, we are picking highlights to some extent. Part of the problem in that is that everyone has their own highlights, which we're seeing expressed in this thread. But I agree, the target should be making things easy to sift through.

As for bylines, if there's no byline it was, in the vast majority of cases, written by Mary or me. Contributors get bylines. We don't take bylines, except in a few situations, because we very purposefully didn't want the site to be about either one of us.

@Jackers: I wish. Morning Blend takes a good solid 2 hours to compile and write -- sometimes more depending on what's going on. That's in addition to email, cleanup from the day before, and other first thing in the morning tasks. I try to be at my desk by 7:30 every morning. (Though I admit that I don't always make it.)

@mg: We had a "share" function for stories in the past, but it stopped working properly -- so we just got rid of it in the name of de-cluttering. But I think any new design would probably re-incorporate one.

@Valerae: Better organized of older stuff -- or what we sometimes call "permacontent" -- would be a main goal of any new design. We'd really like better ways to surface old, but still useful, stuff.

@julie: We'd love to do more day trip stuff. I think we'll make those more of a priority.

@Otis: We're always looking for writers. If you have someone in mind, please send 'em along. And as for more stuff about food events, I think a calendar or some other, better "stuff to do" listing thing might be able to address that.

@Mr. Dave: We like having events. A lot. The planning just takes time. But am I interpreting correctly that there could be a Mr. Dave sighting at an AOA event...

@Kizzi: Thank you.

@Cori: We're happy to keep doing My Exit because we like highlighting the people and we're fans of WEXT. And I don't think Craig is going anywhere because it's relatively popular.

@Deanna: That's an interesting idea. We'll have to think about whether there's a way we could pull it off.

@StanfordSteph: Thanks. I don't think we'd ever shift the focus to a lot of politics. AOA will probably always be, at its core, pretty much what you describe.

@Ardie: Interesting idea. We've though about doing some kind of weather "thing," but haven't come up with something that would be different enough. We'll give it more thought.

@lucy: Thank you. And we love the history stuff, too -- it's good to hear that other people do as well.

@Erin T: Our links are "plain" (if that's the word) so that people can make the decision whether they'd like to open them in a new tab or window. It's interesting how many people mention this, though, because personally I can't stand it when sites force that sort of link behavior. But this is why we ask! So thank you for expressing your preference. Maybe there's a way we could set it up so people could choose.

As for an app -- we'd love to have one. It's just that we don't really have the resources to build one. But maybe there are some off-the-shelf frameworks (or something) that could make it more possible for us.

@Joe: We'd like to better integrate Facebook comments, too. We currently use ThinkUp to include FB comments now and then, but there's probably a better way. I don't think we'd every turn our comments over to FB wholesale (as some sites have) -- for both practical and philosophical reasons. (Don't get me started on Facebook.)

@SiobhanGK: Setting up separates feeds for stuff shouldn't be too hard. We'll give it some thought as to the best way to do it.

Re: paying contributors by page views -- I don't think that's something we'd do. There'd be an extra administrative effort for that. And I don't think we'd be comfortable with some of what that might encourage.

And thank you for expressing your preference for more in-depth stuff.

@Dan: We've talked a bit about doing a regular thing highlighting people like that, and based on your suggestion and those of others, it sounds like something we should try to make happen.

@Jay: Maybe. I bet a lot of people in the AOA crowd are also big readers. It's worth some thought.

@anti-comment: Thank you for expressing your preference. If it makes you feel any better, we'd pretty much always prefer 5 good, thoughtful comments to 20 comments where people are just commenting to hear themselves comment.

@apertureamy: I agree, the comment streams could be gussied a bit. Not a lot -- but some.

@Joe Alves: Subscriptions are a topic a lot of publishing people are talking about now. Maybe the best idea I've seen lately are the apps like The Awl's weekend reader. But I don't know how well that would work at this scale.

Re: exploring diversity through other topics -- I like that.

@Rich Pearson-Strain: Thank you. It's just a matter of doing things in a way that's right for us. Maybe that's focusing on possible solutions to problems, and discussing the related politics.

@Lauren: Thank you.

@Lindsay: It always make me happy to hear that we've helped people from other places find their way here, so thank you. (And please don't tell Jess, but we're planning to kidnap her and bring her back here.)

@Rob: Ha. He probably wasn't wrong.

@abby: I touched on FB above, but you also mentioned real names, which I think is an important topic. Just speaking for myself, I think there's something valuable in anonymity online. I realize there are negative side effects to it. But allowing people to have different identities can allow them to express themselves more fully.

Re: buttons and stickers -- noted!

@andrea: We've stayed away from doing reviews, but there might be something to doing them for events that will recur. And as for events, a calendar thing might be able to help with that.

@Mary: We had plans awhile back for a regular photo feature, but the administration seemed a little too daunting. But maybe it's something we should come back to.

@Lauren: Thank you.

@Matthew: I still like that idea! We should come back to it.

@AddiesDad: I like the recommendations idea. Gotta think about that a little bit.

@Eric Scheirer Stott: There are a few places we've seen print outs of AOA! It would probably happen more often if we provided prints to the places, like some other outlets do.

@Jessica R: Thank you for the detailed suggestions and preferences. I think we really are headed to more people stuff.

@joe: You're suggestion about finding helpful stuff matches up well with some other preferences, so I think that's something we'll seriously have to consider.

Re: house tours -- we did Real Estate Week for the first time last year and it was very popular. So that's probably something we should look at more.

@Arielle and Rebecca: It's true. Dogs are the best.

As capital district newcomer, AOA helped me become acquainted with the area and continues to bring me places I never would have found otherwise - I'm so grateful for your website.

There's a great sense of community and neighborhood on this site. I'd love to see more AOA-sponsored events to bring this community to life...

And I second the request for "flare" - thanks Abby!

@Paul: Thank you for the detailed suggestions. You're right about pretty much everything you mentioned. I'd say almost all of that is on our list of things we'd like to fix.

@Rich: A back to top link shouldn't be too much trouble. I'll work on it.

@CVAA: Thank you. It means a lot to us to know that you appreciate AOA.

@Kate: It makes me happy to hear that the site has helped you. And people keep mentioning events, so it sounds like maybe we'll have to put more attention on that, maybe a few things that are little less involved and easy to set up.

I agree with most of the comments directed at leaving the articles about events and activities. I've tried new restaurants and "festivals" because of this site!

I'd like an AOA t-shirt/merchandise section.

I enjoyed the articles about my Del-So neighborhood and wondered if a similar "series" could focus on neighborhoods in Albany, Troy, Schenectady and Saratoga.

I love dogs but don't like reading about them.


I like the week ahead/stuff to do this weekend posts--I don't think a calendar is really necessary. I don't always read Morning Blend but I like knowing that it's there--that I can quickly skim over some local news stories and pick one or two from different news outlets to read.

Love, love, love the data analysis you do on various topics like college presidents' salaries.

During the summer I like reading the articles written by others about their favorite things to do in the summer locally. It would be great if you would do the same for the other seasons.

I like the suggestions others have had about more articles on local history. Also, for improving the ability to search for old posts.

I don't mind the supermarket or other food-related posts--some of them are interesting, but I can appreciate that not everyone might be interested. If you continue to do the supermarket (or other themed) week posts, it might be helpful to balance them out with other content so you don't lose readers during those weeks.

Never read the recap of the week or Craig and his wonderful list.

Really the question is what do YOU, AOA, want to be? If you want to be all things to all people, by all means become another online version of any of the major/minor area media that already exists. And why would you continue to write and compile things you don't like to do?

More local music related awesomeness. There are also many local music blogs where contributors are already doing write ups on local music. I would suggest a relationship of some sort.

Happy birthday!

I moved here from a very different place 3 years ago and have had a very tough time adjusting. But thankfully, AOA has helped tremendously. My favorite thing is learning new places to go. This site has led me to check out restaurants, hiking trails, festivals, dog parks, etc. please, please keep posting these types of things! I'd love to hear more on boutiques and shops that this region has to offer.

As mentioned before, any excuse to post about dogs is greatly appreciated. I'm always looking for restaurant patios that allow dogs, or dog day at TU, dogs parks, etc. I owe you guys so much for introducing me to capital hills in the winter and shampoodle.

I also love when AOA fills me in on what's opening soon, what's being built, and what's closing up shop. It's frustrating to pass construction each day and have no idea what's going on. Thanks for solving that mystery!

Please don't get all political on us. It's a fun site, let's keep it that way!

I second the need for an easy to access tip jar for supporting All Over Albany on a monthly basis. I would be so excited to pay for keeping you full of thoughts and coffee!

Please don't decrease your "voices" in the posts. Reading your pieces is what makes me excited to visit AOA. It's like talking to a friend.

If there was an AOA app I'd put it on the home screen of my phone. :)

What about a post that's just a photo? No need for a full story, just a first person caption that's a few sentences long. Kinda like what the Village Voice and Time Out New York used to have on one of the first pages of the issue.

And an AOA pop-up storefront on a First Friday! Hahahaha! Just kidding!

You know I love you guys. A lot.

But a more mobile-friendly site would be amazing. Doesn't have to be an app, there are ways around that. It would be great to be sitting at dinner and we're debating about what we thought we read about weekend hockey (yes, this happened Friday night, no, sadly, we didn't make it to any games) and finding it on our tiny phones took a whole two minutes. But a mobile site would have made it maybe one minute.

I'd love more family-related stuff. You guys do the right amount of "a reader asks" (please don't become kristi!) and food stuff (linking to Table Hopping when appropriately interesting). You curate when appropriate and don't feel the need to get it all, which is why we love you.

I think its echoing what others have said, but finding stuff isn't intuitive on the site. Maybe a "how to find what you want" page outlining the tags, types of posts, etc.

Happy birthday! Can't wait to celebrate! (And can we bring the kids? :) )

I don't need to read further than the 2nd comment by Gina. Key point. It would be amazing if AOA could make more of an effort to highlight what is going on in minority communities (more than just restaurant reviews).
Perhaps make an effort to recruit contributors with an insider view, or just people who is eager to explore and report.
After returning from a week in NYC, I was reminded of how segregated upstate is. It would be nice to make the cultural borders in our area a little less evident. It would do us all good.

As much as I already like AOA, I do skip the Craigslist posts and the Tournament of Pizza pieces come off as clubby, I'd love to see random civilian readers selected to be judges instead of food bloggers.

Other than that, anything that helps Albany fend off its lousy self-esteem is fine by me. I am particularly fond of the discussions about businesses in and around the area and informational posts about house prices, college president salaries, etc. If it weren't for AOA I would never have taken the ghost tour of the Capitol, so thanks for that.

A weekly reader-submitted photographic feature would be nice.

Links that open in separate tabs are also nice.

Thanks AOA!

Plain and simple : I want AoA to be my e-source for the Capital District. When I'm trying to find information re: restaurants, news, social events, local trips, etc, I want my first instinct to be to come to your site. It's not that you need to have all of the answers, but it doesn't hurt that you know most of them or can shepherd me in the direction I need to go to find them.

I also like to think of AoA as a cool piece of property at a major intersection. You're the point where restaurant reviews (yelp), local news (tv + internet), trip ideas/reports (trip advisor), local voices (blogger), and so forth, all intersect. You're a conglomeration of all of those individual sites, but with credibility that I can see and trust.

So, my abstract request is to continue to be that cool piece of property, but to set your sights on developing into something that capitalizes even more on your unique position in the media.

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