Estimated reading time: 9 minute(s)

Spring transitioned to summer, and The New Leaf Journal made it through June 2021 without any of the technical issues that haunted it in June 2020. In fact, I can happily report that our humble magazine received more visitors than any month except March 2021. We had plenty of site improvements and new and exciting content to greet our new friends.

In this post, I will review some of our content highlights from the month that was, list the most-read articles of June 2021 and Q2 2021 (April-June), discuss some of the improvements we made to the site in June, and look forward to what promises to be an interesting July.

Notable Content from June 2021

This is our 24th and final article of June 2021. I recommend taking the time to browse through all of our June 2021 content in our monthly archive. Below, I will list a small selection of our June content that warrants special mention.

First Half of June

On June 5, I published an article about a remarkable model rail system built in a Windsor backyard in the 1890s. This may have been the best story I came across in an old magazine. The content includes the original black and white photos of the model rail system.

My colleague Victor V. Gurbo made his return to article publishing with a June 8 piece on his grafting a brass bird’s head handle onto a wooden umbrella. Although his effort was successful – the task did not transpire without some difficulty.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, temperatures grow warmer as we move into the heart of summer. But on June 10, at least one fictional New Leaf Journal character made the case that feeling hot is nothing more than a state of mind. His dialogue partner was less than fully convinced.

On June 13, I published a non-exhaustive list of alternative privacy-friendly search engines. In so doing, I listed many search engines for you to try, explained where they draw their results from, and made the case for diversifying search sources.

Photo of a bench on a triangle on Hamilton Avenue.
Full version of a photo of a bench on a triangle in Carroll Gardens. I used a cropped version of this photo on a June article on Ms. Meghan Markle’s audio children’s book.

Second Half of June

For June 17, I posted an article about an 1897 magazine offering a reward to those who could refer new subscribers. We examine two classic Kodak cameras that were on offer, with additional information and links included.

On June 20, I invited readers to join me for a walk across Brooklyn’s small Summit Street Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that links two halves of Hicks Street over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. I photographed each step of my journey.

For my June 25 article, I reprinted a hauntingly pretty portrait of a modest cemetery in Tchernigoff (located in modern-day Ukraine) from John Thomas James’ travel book in the early twentieth century.

Finally, I closed out June with three articles on Independence Day as we look forward to July 4. First, I published a humorous dialogue on Fourth of July grilling. Second, I reprinted an 1882 Independence Day poem for children. Third and finally, I reprinted and discussed a 1923 Fourth of July oration by Charles W. Lyons, a Jesuit priest who served as president of four universities over the course of 19 years. I also created a new Independence Day Series which also includes my 2020 articles.

The Newsletter Leaf Journal

While posting content, I sent four Saturday newsletters to our Newsletter Leaf Journal subscribers. The newsletters not only recapped content from the previous week, but also recommended articles from around the web and included original, newsletter-only content. You can catch up with our June newsletters below:

If you like what you read, consider subscribing. Since it is an email newsletter, you can subscribe by email. But we also offer RSS subscriptions – something I recommend for those of you who use feed readers. Learn about our sign-up options and see our full archive on our Newsletter Sign-Up page.

A Brief Look Back at June 2020

We did not start our month-in-review series until August 2020. Since June 2020 was neglected, I thought that it would be both fitting and proper to note some of our June 2020 content highlights one year later. You will find our full June 2020 archive here.

On June 4, 2020, Victor wrote an article about his original music composition, “After the Death of Boo Radley.” In addition to providing insights into the mind of a songwriter, Victor included a recording of the song accompanied by his original artwork.

Two days after Victor’s composition, I published an article on a story from my high school days. My teacher told the class that one should always watch the end credits of a movie. But what if the movie is bad? He said that one should then leave early. I build on his humorous quip, drawing lessons for consuming content and discussing interesting thoughts from John Ruskin.

On June 14, I listed some U.S. President birthday facts. Here is one fact: Calvin Coolidge shared a birthday with these United States.

Victor posted our first-ever review article on June 25, 2020. In the review, he covered three boutique guitar strings and included photographs of some of his most aesthetic classic guitars.

On June 25, I discussed a heartwarming and meaningful scene of a small family from the classic video game, Persona 4. The post includes some of my better original New Leaf Journal photography.

Finally, on June 28, I wrote a philosophical examination of why some men use so much water when washing sidewalks.

Ten Most-Read Articles in June 2021

  1. The Mystery of Sōseki and Tsuki ga Kirei” (No Change)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. March 14, 2021.
  2. Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook Review (Steam)” (No Change)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. November 15, 2020.
  3. A 2021 List of Alternative Search Engines and Search Resources” (NEW)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. June 13, 2021.
  4. An Early Review of Pixelfed – Instagram Alternative” (Change: +1)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. November 13, 2020.
  5. The Last Stand of Constantine XI” (Change: -1)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. May 30, 2020.
  6. A Follow-Up Post on the Meaning of ‘Blob Dylan’” (Change: +6)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. April 12, 2021.
  7. Reviewing the HALOmask and är Mask” (Change: -4)
    Victor V. Gurbo. December 2, 2020.
  8. A Miniature Article About a Miniature Stop Sign in Brooklyn” (NEW)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. June 24, 2021.
  9. Blob Dylan(?) Seen in Bushwick” (No Change)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. February 5, 2021.
  10. Around the Web 〜 RSS as a Facebook Alternative” (Change: -4)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. February 21, 2021.

Twelve Most-Read Articles of Q2 2021

  1. The Mystery of Sōseki and Tsuki ga Kirei” (Change: +19)
    Monthly Ranks: April (6), May (1), June (1)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. March 14, 2021.
  2. Persona 4 Golden Digital Artbook Review (Steam)” (Change: +1)
    Monthly Ranks: April (3), May (2), June (2)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. November 15, 2020.
  3. Reviewing the HALOmask and är Mask” (Change: -1)
    Monthly Ranks: April (1), May (3), June (7)
    Victor V. Gurbo. December 2, 2020.
  4. The Last Stand of Constantine XI” (Change: +2)
    Monthly Ranks: April (4), May (4), June (5)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. May 30, 2020.
  5. An Early Review of Pixelfed – Instagram Alternative” (Change: -1)
    Monthly Ranks: April (5), May (5), June (4)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. November 13, 2020.
  6. Around the Web 〜 RSS as a Facebook Alternative” (Change: -5)
    Monthly Ranks: April (2), May (6), June (10)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. February 21, 2021.
  7. Blob Dylan(?) Seen in Bushwick” (Change: NEW)
    Monthly Ranks: April (16), May (9), June (9)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. February 5, 2021.
  8. Usagi Drop 〜 A Complicated Anime Pick
    Monthly Ranks: April (12), May (8), June (11)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. January 19, 2021.
  9. A Follow-Up Post on the Meaning of ‘Blob Dylan’”
    Monthly Ranks: April (25+), May (12), June (6)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. April 12, 2021.
  10. The Awful About Page for Sara Tirschwell’s NYC Mayoral Campaign Site” (Change: NEW)
    Monthly Ranks: April (8), May (16), June (17)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. March 26, 2021.
  11. A 2021 List of Alternative Search Engines and Search Resources” (Change: NEW)
    Monthly Ranks: April (N/A), May (N/A), June (3)
    Nicholas A. Ferrell. June 13, 2021.
  12. Why Vintage Guitars Sound Better” (Change: -7)
    Monthly Ranks: April (9), May (10), June (13)
    Victor V. Gurbo. January 4, 2021.

Thoughts

Had I made predictions for what would be our most-read articles from April to June, I can assure you that I would not have predicted that both of my Blob Dylan posts would feature in the top nine. Save for my post on the meaning of “tsuki ga kirei,” which broke out in May and has been the strongest-performing article for 2/3 of the quarter, the top six featured the usual suspects from Q1, 2021.

I hope to see some of our fresh new content attract readers in the weeks and months to come.

Site Improvements in June

I made several important changes to our website structure in June. Below, I will discuss these changes and explain how I plan to build on them in July.

Do note that if you are reading this section well after June 30, the site may have changed from what I describe below.

Category Reorganization Project

I began reorganizing the categories for The New Leaf Journal. I became concerned that our main categories, which generally divided content by style rather than topic, were becoming too big for new readers to easily find content that interests them. For that reason, I added a significant number of topical categories to provide additional ways of sorting content. I modified our Category Directory to reflect the changes.

This project remains in progress. Below, you will find my July goals for building on my work from June:

  1. Add additional categories to subdivide musings articles.
  2. Examine foreseeability of narrow, topical categories in several additional areas in which we expect to publish a significant number of articles.
  3. Re-design category hub page to add category-specific RSS feed links so that people can follow their favorite categories.
  4. Revamp our system of tags and create a page with our most-used tags and RSS feed links for those tags.

I expect to complete all of these goals in July.

Series Hub Page Reorganization

I updated our Series Hub Page and reorganized it. You will now find a well-organized list of our ongoing and completed series

Reorganizing Header Menu

I simplified the structure of our Header Menu in June. I am thinking about the best way to organize it to make it more friendly to visitors. Do note I moved the search bar from the header menu to the footer. Speaking of the footer, I plan to reorganize that menu in July as well.

Replaced Contact Form

I replaced our previous contact form solution with a new lighter weight and simpler one. You will find the new contact form on our Contact Page.

Added Share Buttons

I have had unused sharing buttons installed on The New Leaf Journal for a bit. The reason why goes back to the mysterious Pinterest tracking script troubles of yesteryear. I decided that since it is there anyway, I may as well add it to The New Leaf Journal. For the time being, you will find the following buttons under our articles:

  • Info (links to home page)
  • RSS (links to main RSS feed)
  • SMS (only on mobile devices)
  • Email (uses your default email provider)
  • Telegram
  • Threema (only on mobile devices)
  • Diaspora
  • Pocket (bookmarking service)
  • Wallabag (bookmarking service)

There are a couple of notes regarding the buttons.

First, one of my browsers (Ungoogled Chromium) keeps them from displaying – either on account of my settings or an extension. It is possible some of you may have similar set-ups. If so, you can still share and bookmark our content the old-fashioned way.

Second, I am including the share buttons for now – but I am not settled on this long term. I have disabled all statistics tracking for them, so I will have no way of knowing whether people find them useful. If you have thoughts on the button collection, feel free to tell me in the Guestbook.

Third – why no Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest? While I hope you share any content you like wherever you have a presence – including those platforms, I decided to stick to more local and privacy-friendly services for our share buttons.

Fourth, I highly recommend looking into the Wallabag bookmarking service. Consider my including the button as your prompt to do so.

Removed Estimated Reading Time

I am no longer using the plugin that produced the estimated reading time number on top of our articles. At the moment, I have no plan to re-implement the feature through alternative means. I do not think having an estimated reading time number is important enough to use a dedicated solution. With that being said, it may return in a different form in the future.

Changed Sidebar

I made two changes to our sidebar (this will appear below the content on mobile devices).

Firstly, I changed our “About Us” widget. In so doing, I modified the text and added more clear links to our About and FAQ pages.

Secondly, I removed recent Guestbook posts from the sidebar. I do not think that the Guestbook widget adds much to user experience, and now that we include a link to the guestbook underneath all of our posts, it should be easy enough for new visitors to find.

I am evaluating a modern solution for replacing our current microposts plugin, but I do not have a timeframe for making that change. Once I do make that change, I will reevaluate other elements of our sidebar.

Parting Shots

If you have read this far, thank you for joining me for our month-in-review. We continue to make progress on improving The New Leaf Journal site experience while also publishing new content on more days than not. If you are not doing so already, please consider signing up for our newsletter or adding our RSS feeds to your favorite feed reader.

I hope you join us for more perennially virid content in July, and I look forward to reporting back to you with our next entry in this series one month from now.