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Laurie Niles

More information about the redesign

November 10, 2008 at 6:42 AM

I'm sure that everyone has noticed by now that has been redesigned, with a new flag and changes in just about every section. I'd like to say a big “THANK YOU!” to my husband, Robert Niles, who lent his considerable talents to designing the flag and to custom-writing the software that renders this entire site. We had been talking about these changes for a long time, and so let me tell you about them.

First, our flag. We simply wanted to make it a little more colorful and appealing. For those of you who don't know, our little violin guy in the left corner is actually a Native American fertility god called a “kokopelli,” who normally plays a flute-like instrument and can be seen on every mug, rug and totebag in Arizona (I exaggerate only a little). Growing up in the American Southwest (Colorado) I've always liked the little guy, and so I put a violin in his hands with a little drawing I made some 12 years ago, and he's been dancing up there on ever since. Robert made him a little bigger and put him in the spotlight, at my suggestion.

Our blog section now will include featured blogs, and then all remaining blogs will go up on the right side of the page. As the editor of, I'll choose which blogs will be featured blogs, and here's an idea of what I'll be serving to readers of our blog page. The featured blogs are those that I feel are of general interest to our audience of violin performers, students, teachers and fans.

A lot of things could fall under this category, but here is just a little list of what kinds of topics might appeal: technique, performing, performances, how to practice, violin making, violins and their stories, various genres of violin music (classical, fiddle, celtic, pop, klezmer, Indian, mariachi, etc.), teaching, and of course, many other things. Various kinds of blogs are likely to be featured could include a personal discovery or story; technical advice; a description or review of a recital, concert or master class; an interview; obituary; book, record or DVD review. And then there are random things that I'd love to see: really good writing about just about anything, really good photographs of Alaska and Canada ;) lists of viola jokes; outrageously funny stories; one poignant moment, etc.

Many people use our blog feature for personal journaling, and that is a wonderful thing to do, especially if it helps you in your journey on the violin. So if you are blogging for personal enjoyment and motivation, without any journalistic aspirations, I encourage you to continue doing so. Sometimes those blogs are of general interest and will be featured, and sometimes not. But those blogs will still be available for people to read, for those who have been following your personal journey. Also, I'm not going to feature everything I just listed every time, and also sometimes a blog will be up for hours before I do the featuring.

Our discussion board now has links to all the topic categories on the right side, as well as the “create a discussion” buttons on the upper right site of every discussion page. The “News” section is now folded into the discussion board, so if you have a news item, please submit it to the discussion board under the topic category “News.” News topics will remain at the top of the discussion board for 48 hours after they have been approved, then after that they will go into regular rotation with the other topics.

For the Violin Shops page, we brought some of the content from “About the Violin” to help people who are looking for a violin and are new to it.

Also, interviews with noted violinists are now linked on the Violinists directory page. In the (hopefully near) future, we are planning to make the membership database searchable by name on the Directory page, so people can find each other more easily.

Audio and photo uploads will be re-enabled this week; needed to prevent files uploading to the server while we were changing things around, but now that we're finished, we'll restore that.

Again, a big thanks to Robert, and thanks to you for your patience during this process and for your openness to ...CHANGE!

From Frank Self
Posted via on November 10, 2008 at 10:56 AM

Excellent work, Laurie and Robert.  The new look is attractive and I look forward to settling in.  One thing I miss: an easy way to email an article to a friend.  For example, the  article on arts education Karen wrote, along with the comments.  Am I just overlooking the email thing?

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted via on November 10, 2008 at 12:19 PM

What do you think about bringing back some sort of central blog page with all the names of the current bloggers and where they are from?  It would be similar to the right-hand side of the page in the old format.  It would enable people to find their favorites, browse, read archives, and highlight the diversity of bloggers here. 

As I blogged, I'm more of the "personal journey" type of blogger and I appreciate that that sort of blog is welcome here.  That's also the type of blog I read most often.  Another thought I had for that page was if people wanted to, they could write a little summary of what they see their blog being about, or have keywords.  Is the blog about teaching, performing, concert reviews, etc.?  Again, this could help readers find what they were interested in. 

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted via on November 10, 2008 at 12:30 PM

Frank, just to clarify, I didn't write that article, I got it from a friend who got it from an email list she subscribes to.  I think you can subscribe to that email list yourself by going to the group's website:

Click on "stay informed" and "news you can use."

From Royce Faina
Posted via on November 10, 2008 at 4:57 PM


What an upgrade! I get back after being retreated for mania related to affective disorder (relapse a few months ago) and what a wonderful surprise! I've been spalunkin the new sight and just love it!

From Pauline Lerner
Posted via on November 10, 2008 at 6:47 PM

On the palette for writing blogs, what does 'Source' mean?

I like to write my blogs in Word on my PC so that I can tweak them to get just what I want.  Then I  would copy and paste to the box for writing blogs.  This worked in the old format but not in the new one.  Can that feature be r estored?

We're still in the early part of  the learning curve.  Thanks for your latest article that explains more of the new system to us.

From Robert Niles
Posted via on November 10, 2008 at 11:00 PM

There now is a "Share" button at the upper right of each Discussion Board thread and will be on all Blog entries from this point forward. You can use this button to e-mail that page to a friend, or to send the page via Facebook or Twitter, or to bookmark it via Digg, or Google Bookmarks.

As for the text editor, the "Source" button shows you the raw HTML code for your entry. That's nice mode to switch into when you are pasting a YouTube, Picasa or Flickr embed code.

The little eraser next to it is very handy. Highlight your entry and click the eraser icon, and that will strip all the formatting from your entry, getting it back to "normal" text. So if you mess something up, that'll get you back to square one on the formatting.

If you are cutting and pasting from Word, I'd run everything through the eraser once to strip all that icky Word formatting out, so the post will appear clean on That's what Laurie did last night with her blog entries.

Finally, if you like to "hard code" hyperlinks by hand in your entries, or you paste a YouTube embed, without going into "Source" mode, you might find that you need to submit the entry, then edit it again immediately, in order to get the text editing window to "take" your HTML code. 

From Mendy Smith
Posted via on November 11, 2008 at 6:05 AM

If the general blog page format is here to stay, I would make one small suggestion...  give a "previous blogs" link at the bottom.  I'd like to be able to peruse non-featured blogs after some time away from this site, and with that functionality gone, well, those blogs are just gone. 

From Pauline Lerner
Posted via on November 11, 2008 at 11:42 AM

Robert, my experience with Word was quite different from what you described.  If I copy and paste something from Word into the box on the screen and hit Post Entry, nothing appears on the blog page.  When I use the back button to see what happened, everything I wrote is gone.  This can be very distressing because I have no record of my blog entry and I have to re-create it from memory.

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