Monday, February 25, 2008

The Andean Observer

It's taking a while, and involves more work than you might imagine, but I'm gradually putting together my website, the Andean Observer. The site has several purposes, reflected in its different sections:

1. To bring together my dilettante-ish collection of writings on Latin America, including travel stories, accounts of life in Peru, vaguely journalistic pieces of reporting and opinion, and retellings of the strange and spooky stories told by local people.

2. To be a showcase for the susbtantial collection of photos from Latin America, and also to use them as a basis for commenting on the strange and wonderful places, people and things that don't necessarily fit in the confines of a story or article.

3. In due course, to provide a section giving travel information and advice, in a similar, though perhaps slightly less irreverent, fashion as my 'guide to New Zealand'. This would include the kind of material I've been asked to provide on several occasions by people who've wanted some background before travelling to Latin America, which I've ended up squeezing into one or more lengthy emails.

4. To be a platform for new blogging, stories and photos when (let's rule out the 'if') I make it back to spend more time in Latin America.

Some people have commented to me that I can't really claim to be interested in 'Latin America' when Peru is far and away the dominant topic. That may be fair enough, but some of the stories and photos do (or will) touch on Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil and Guatemala, so I defend the description of the site as covering 'Peru and beyond'.

The site is still a terrible mess of bits and pieces -- there are dead links, fragments of text, photos missing or in the wrong place, unformatted screeds of text, and so forth. Most of the stories and articles aren't even up yet. It will be a while before I even get around to my intended task of sprucing up several of the more prominent stories to make them punchier and more interesting. It's also true that the site has a very, very basic design, and still retains aspects of the template that was the original homepage (the site is hosted on my own server space, but the blog content is sent there through Blogger). I may try and make it a bit prettier at some stage, although that's not really my forté.

When the site close to being acceptably complete I will pester readers of this blog to check it out, and make a serious effort to attract wider attention through link exchanges and other methods. In the meantime, I'd welcome any constuctive comments on ways to make it more attractive and accessible -- for example, are the resizable thumbnails on the 'images' pages a good way of presenting these photos?

Also, far be it from me to solicit ad clicks, but if anyone were to visit the site and become interested enough in the products advertised in the Google AdSense spaces to follow those links, I would be credited with a few cents for each 'click-through', which would in turn go some tiny way towards making the whole effort sustainable.

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