Pine Tree Republic’s Recent Facelift

Good morning, Pine Tree Republic citizens! Whether you have been part of the community since the inception of this blog two months ago, or just recently visited for the first time, you may have noticed that Pine Tree Republic has gone through a facelift. The intent of this post is to summarize some of the changes so far, provide a sneak peek of what’s ahead, and solicit feedback from you on how to make this even more useful for our community.


What’s Changed

1. A New Logo for a New Blog

Ever since the idea of Pine Tree Republic was born on a cold February day, I have wanted to brand the site with a logo that would reflect the vision I had for this community. Luckily, I was able to call upon the services of my friend, Sead Tokalic, and his graphic design business, Tokalic Grafix. We worked together on a few different designs, and ultimately came up with the logo at the top of the page that now defines Pine Tree Republic.


We chose this logo to symbolize the key aspects of this blog, including: conveying the metaphor of “seeing the forest for the trees“, while hinting at the global nature of this site’s content; and identifying this site as a news-driven blog, while striking a modern and fun appearance (we also blog about world music, after all). No easy task to fulfill all of these considerations!


What do you think of the new logo? Please share your feedback in the comments below. And if you’re looking for graphics help, I’ll happily vouch for Sead’s work. (Fun fact: Sead was featured in the Calgary Herald for the “Have You Looked in the Mirror?” T-shirt he designed, based on an infamous gaffe by then-Alberta Premier Jim Prentice. Some may claim he single-handedly brought down the province’s Progressive Conservative government.)


2. More User-Friendly Front Page News

Perhaps the most common feedback I’ve heard since the start of the blog is that the initial design of the Front Page News posts was a bit too long and cumbersome. The initial idea behind this series was to summarize 3-5 key news stories every week, and provide a bit of context to better understand the significance behind these events. However, it was difficult to strike a balance between brevity and depth using this format, and to properly “tag” these articles for readers browsing for a particular topic. For example, a post tagged “environment” may only have an environment-related story at the bottom of the page, after several stories on other topics.


The new format (e.g. these recent posts on Alberta’s election and the EU plan on migration) sticks to the principle of “one post, one story”. As such, it allows me to go into more depth in summarizing the main news story and exploring some of the context behind it, while keeping each post to a manageable length, and allows for easier identification of what each post is about. It also enables me to include more photos to illustrate the key locations, people, and ideas behind each story. The tradeoff is that I may not touch on as many different news topics – though I’ll try to post on at least 2-3 topics each week.


Again, please let me know in the comments if you have any feedback on this change – do you like it? Do you prefer the old format? If there’s enough interest, I may try to still include a “round-up” style post with summaries of multiple stories from time to time.


3. Social Media Presence

As you may have noticed, Pine Tree Republic has grown past Internet infancy and is now on social media! That means there are even more ways to stay on top of the top news of the week and discuss the broader context shaping our world. You can follow Pine Tree Republic on Twitter and on Facebook. I intend to use this not only to promote new posts, but also pass on interesting takes on world news and culture that don’t always make it to the blog. And don’t be shy about posting your own takes and interesting links on our pages; that’s what they’re there for!


Where We’re Headed

1. “The View From…” Series

The inspiration behind Pine Tree Republic has been to share my passion for global culture and international affairs with an online community that is equally passionate about understanding our shared planet. I’ve always intended for that relationship to flow both ways, and I’m excited about launching a series of posts this summer that will help expand our connections. Tentatively called “The View From…”, this monthly series will feature guest articles from friends and readers living around the world, with diverse interests and perspectives. These articles will provide an update on the most significant news coming from a particular region of the world, or topic area, and provide perspectives on global issues from media that doesn’t typically get covered on Pine Tree Republic.


It’s my hope that this new series will help our community further broaden our understanding of the fascinating and confusing world we live in. If you would be interested in contributing a guest article, please don’t hesitate to let me know via the Twitter and Facebook pages!

2. Mid-Year “Best Of” Lists

In my initial “About Me” post, I mentioned that I was an incorrigible list-maker. I’ve been working on those lists since the beginning of the year, and the mid-point of 2015 is already fast approaching! Keep an eye out over the next month for lists or “round-ups” on the top news stories, songs, and world music albums of 2015 thus far. And of course, please do share your “best of lists” and engage in the debate on our Twitter and Facebook accounts.

3. More Feedback Opportunities

Fostering an ongoing discussion on the events shaping our world is a key part of fulfilling the vision for Pine Tree Republic. To date, this site has included suggested questions at the end of each post to spark ideas for discussion, and some posts have included polls on a particular issue. How useful have you found these in shaping your own thoughts on these issues? Are there any other ways that would help promote discussion? In the near future, I plan to include more ad hoc questions and prompts on our social media accounts; I’ll also be constructing a “Contact Us” page with a submission form to recommend any news articles that you’d like to see covered on Pine Tree Republic.


Thanks to everyone who has read, shared, and discussed posts on Pine Tree Republic so far. As always, please don’t hesitate to suggest any other ideas for what you’d like to see on the site. It’s been a blast to set up, and I look forward to growing the community even more in the coming months!


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