Gold Below the Fold

Where do design blogs go when they die (besides Facebook or Twitter)?

Over the past several months, my research assistant Jessica Miller and I have been scrolling through archives to identify specific types of design blog content. This has not been a search for posts with sexy titles or award-winning authors. Instead, it’s a hunt for needles in haystacks, or more appropriately, digging for gold: the design blog posts with debates and potent exchanges showing up in the comments sections below the fold.

Below the fold” is an expression from newspaper days. Striking headlines and major news called for prime real estate on the front page, which would be visible when the newspaper was folded in half for sale or delivery. Stuff below the fold was secondary. The term applies to websites, too. Anyone who has taken (or taught) a web design class knows that the important stuff should be visible without the oh-so-tedious act of scrolling.

Blog comments are supposed to play second fiddle to their parent post. In the tradition of printed publications and whatnot, site design draws attention to posts and their authors. Finding the gold below the fold has been a slow and steady process. It’s involved recognizing each blog’s community, noting topics of interest over time, and spotting all the signs of a great online conversation.

There’s a chance that the Wayback Machine took a few snapshots of bygone blogs during their lifespans. If we’re lucky, the archive has complete pages of comments, too, as if preparing for this very project to come along. I explained this to a colleague who thought a particular design blog of the past had indeed departed. A few ownership issues, they said, had been a concern. Someone deleted everything on the server and it all vanished. Then I reminded them that design blogs (and their dis/contents) never die. Instead, they leave the beaten path and retreat to the corners of the internet, waiting for someone to find them again.

I’m grateful to Jessica for her work and keen insights on data collection for this ongoing project. Thank you. Congratulations on your graduation and upcoming grad school adventures!