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Feeling lost?

Three years ago (in November 2005, to be exact, according to the Wayback Machine), Investigative Reporters and Editors updated the look and feel of its Web site from something resembling early Craig's list to something looking more like, well, this.

At the time, the site administrators, who no doubt had their hearts in the right place, put this thing on the main page:

Some people are probably looking at the image on this post, which is a snapshot from the old home page (pre-today), and a link to the even older page (pre-2006) and thinking nothing's wrong with that. The other 90 percent of you are snickering (no offense to the non-snickerers, I'm just making a point here).

Not only is this a bad idea from a design perspective (think of what it would be like if the New York Times sent you two copies of their paper every day: one that looks as it does now, another in its pre-1990's black-and-white incarnation, just in case you are "feeling lost") -- but it also comes from a philosophical perspective that no longer makes sense if we want to truly be taken seriously on the Web.

Fortunately, though the past is the past, the future -- the way I see it -- looks bright. IRE and NICAR have some very exciting things planned for this Web site. We'll be offering our members a chance to participate in a more personalized supportive online community (think NICAR-L, but with the messages filtered to the topics you work with every day), the ability to purchase data on-demand and more news about investigative journalism and the people who make it happen.

So with a lot of work, and good planning, IRE staff members hope to make this little space on the Web a better portal to our services for our members and the Web audience as a whole. And although it is easy to feel lost and hard, sometimes, to embrace change, there will be no links to the old home page from the new main page.

All that snickering was getting old.

-- Jeremy Milarsky, Data Libarary Director

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On edit: Just to clarify here, this post is not meant to malign the people who made decisions before on this site. I am simply making the point that what may have made sense in the past doesn't necessarily do so now. I hope the purpose of this space is to discuss ideas -- good or bad -- rather than the people who come up with them.

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