Blogosphere

Recommended reading

πŸ’» I like to think I’m a writer because I write six days a week on this blog. I’m also a photographer, and a software developer. But Jacob Falkovich says that we all might be better off not pinning ourselves down to such identities. Read Predictable Identities 24: Anti-Identity

πŸ’» The media are reporting how cars are crazy expensive now. Paul Niedermeyer has done the research and shows year by year since 1967 how car prices (adjusted for inflation) have trended. Cars cost only a little more now than in 1967. It’s CUVs and SUVs that are crazy expensive. Read Everybody Is Bitching About the Rapidly Increasing Price of Cars But They All Have It Wrong – Here’s a List of New Car Prices Going Back to 1967 and 2020 Is the Cheapest

πŸ’» Alister Scott worked from home for over three years as part of a company with workers all over the world. This is a growing trend in tech companies. He writes an experience report that sheds important light on why this life is hard and can be unrewarding. Read The future of work? An essay.

Maker's Mark Distillery *EXPLORED*
Nikon FA, 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 AI-s Zoom Nikkor, Arista.EDU 200, 2018.

πŸ“· Hamish Gill shoots the new Ilford Ortho Plus film and is surprised by the lovely results he got. Read My first two rolls of Ilford Ortho Plus

πŸ“· I like Arista.EDU 200 (aka Fomapan 200) for everyday black-and-white use. Michael Nguyen, writing for Japan Camera Hunter, reviews this film. Read Film Review: Arista.EDU Ultra 200

πŸ“· Ashley Pomeroy gets around to reviewing the Olympus E-PL1, a micro-four-thirds digital camera from 2010, late in her blog post. Read Olympus E-PL1

πŸ“· Street photography without faces — Steven Lawrence framed around interesting details of people in his town, and got brilliant results. Read olympia, january 5, ektar 100.

Standard
Blogosphere

Promoting your creative blog in social media: for now, the key is Facebook

Promoting your blog and its posts is work, and it takes time. If you want to put your blog in front of more people, however, you have little choice but to invest the ongoing effort.

Facebook has proved the most valuable way for me to promote this blog, which is a creative and personal blog. I don’t know what’s best for other kinds of blogs. I’ll explain how I do it, and why I think it’s the best option for creative/personal blogs like mine, in this post.

In case you have negative feelings about Facebook

Welcome to the club. I may quit Facebook someday as I think it has become a net negative for society. But until then, I’ll milk it.

Be realistic about your prospects

Despite my promotional efforts, Facebook drives but a fraction of total page views. In 2018, Down the Road gathered 212,035 page views. Only 14,815 of them came from Facebook. In contrast, search engines delivered 57,965 page views with no effort on my part.

None of my other deliberate promotional efforts have been as effective as Facebook.

Creative blogs have legitimate, but limited, appeal. Facebook may be the best way to reach people who will enjoy your work, but it won’t unlock Internet fame.

However, sometimes one of your posts will really resonate. My post about Traders Point, Indiana, (here) got a lot of traffic after I shared it on Facebook in a couple Indianapolis and Indiana history groups. It turned out lots of people were curious about that former town’s history. Every now and again someone will reshare it and it’ll get another couple hundred views. Most of its 7,300 all-time page views have come from Facebook. But that’s about as good as it gets.

Why other social media is less helpful

I also promote my blog on Twitter, but to little effect. I think it’s best for echoing outrage, and I don’t post anything outrageous. I admit I haven’t worked very hard to build a giant Twitter following, which would help. But I’ve talked about it with fellow photo bloggers and we all have the same experience. Twitter just doesn’t generate engagement with creative content.

I used to use Instagram to promote my blog, but because you can’t put links in posts it did little good. That limitation is by design — Instagram wants you to keep scrolling to see the ads. I built a decent following by seeking out other film photographers and following them. A good number of them followed me back. I put a link to my blog in my bio. I’d post a photo there from every new blog post, tell about what was on my blog today, and added “link in bio.” Almost nobody bit.

A few times, Reddit has brought a lot of visitors to my blog. Reddit has subreddits about anything you could ever blog about, and offers a vast audience. But Reddit aggressively frowns upon all but the most occasional self-promotion, and bans users who flout the rule. I’ve gotten traffic from Reddit only when someone else shared one of my posts there.

I know some people find Pinterest to be a good way to promote their blog. From what little I’ve seen, blogs about crafts, interior design, fashion, and the like do best there. I know little about Pinterest otherwise.

The key to Facebook is Groups

Your best bet today is to promote your creative blog in Facebook Groups, given the sheer number of people on Facebook.

Join Groups related to things you blog about. I’m in a bunch of film-photography and film-camera groups as well as groups about old roads, roadside architecture, and roadside attractions. I’m in groups for the Indiana cities and towns I’ve lived in or visit a lot. I’m even in a couple groups about heartfelt personal writing. That covers my blog’s subjects! To find groups, type keywords related to your blog’s topics into the Facebook search box and see what turns up.

Read and heed each group’s rules. A few forbid posting links, especially to your own blog. Some groups don’t mind if you share links to your blog if you participate in the group otherwise. Some groups are happy for you to only share links don’t as long as they’re directly related to the group purpose and are interesting to members. In all cases, it’s good etiquette to Like and comment on other posts in the group. And don’t carpet-bomb any group with your links. You’ll be seen as a gadfly.

You can also create your own groups, although it takes some work to promote them to build a following. Whatever you blog about, others are interested in it too. A couple other film-photo bloggers I follow created a group where members share photos of the old cameras they buy (here). The group creators use it specifically to share posts from their own blogs, and encourage shares from other bloggers (like me). I’ve used that group to share every last one of my film-camera reviews. It’s helped bring people to the blog, and some have subscribed.

Even if groups already exist for your favorite topics, you could create another one anyway. There appears to be room for many similar and overlapping groups. I’m in a bunch of old-car groups, for example. Some are general and some are specific, such as the one that’s for photos of entry-level models only, with no chrome and dog-dish hubcaps.

How to share a post in a Facebook Group

First, create a Facebook Page for your blog (instructions here). My blog’s page is here. Link your blog to your Page using WordPress Publicize (instructions here), so that each blog post automatically posts to your Page. This makes it easier to share your posts to groups.

You can also build a following on your Page, which can lead to new blog subscribers.

From there, here’s how you share a post in a Group.

  1. On your Page, find the post you want to share.
  2. Click the Share button. A menu appears. Click Share in a Group.
  3. A popup opens. In the Group box, type letters from the group name. A list of groups appears. Click the Group you want.
  4. Click the Include Original Post box until a checkmark appears. This shares your post with a link to your Page, which helps build your Page following.
  5. In the “Say something about this” area, type a custom introduction to the post.
  6. Click the Post button.

As group members interact with your share, it’s a good idea to respond, at least by clicking Like on comments. That encourages them to keep interacting with your shares.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Blogosphere, Road Trips

What to do with aging Web content that is still important?

I’ve had a Web site since about 1995, when the Web was young. The Internet crackled with excitement and openness and promise. Nobody could imagine that it would turn into an advertising and surveillance engine, as it has.

I coded my original site by hand in Notepad, created a simple logo in Microsoft Paint, and uploaded it all via FTP to the free space my ISP gave me. My original address was http://members.iquest.net/~jimgrey. I submitted the URL to Yahoo! in hopes they would include it in their original human-indexed search engine, and to my delight, they did!

The Jim Grey Page, jimgrey.net, last updated in 2014

At first it was a site about me and my family, like we all used to do then. But shortly my wife objected to me sharing family info online, so I turned the site into an info resource about central-Indiana radio stations. I’ve always had a deep interest in radio and it was fun to catalog local stations while teaching myself advanced (for the time) Web development techniques.

In about 2000 I got Microsoft FrontPage and Corel PaintShop Pro and redesigned the site to the design it still wears. I switched my ISP to Comcast and therefore my site’s address to http://home.comcast.net/~jimgrey. In 2006 I got proper hosting, registered the jimgrey.net domain, and moved my site there. I wanted jimgrey.com but someone was, and still is, parking on it and I didn’t and don’t want to pay them to get it.

I’d started my road-trip hobby and began to write long-form reports of those trips on my site. They’re still available; see them all here. When I started this blog, my original vision was that my main site would stay about road trips and the blog would be about everything else that interests me. By 2010 the blog got way more traffic than the main site, so I started writing road-trip posts here too. They’re all under the Road Trips category; see them all here.

In 2012 I stopped adding content to jimgrey.net to focus on the blog. In 2014 I made a few code changes to make it more compatible with mobile phone browsers. Since then, I’ve ignored jimgrey.net.

Three things prevent me from killing it. First, I’ve had it in one form or another for 25 years, which makes me a genuine Web old-timer. I like having the evidence to prove it. Second, since 2011 my blog address (blog.jimgrey.net) has been a subdomain of jimgrey.net; for that to keep working, I need to keep owning the jimgrey.net domain. It seems silly to keep it and not put anything on it. Third, those road-trip reports are now historic records, as much has changed along those roads over the years. I don’t mean to be grandiose; the Library of Congress hasn’t come inquiring or anything.

Here’s just one example. Here’s the Michigan Road, the Dixie Highway, and US 31 southbound, 6 miles north of Plymouth, Indiana, as it looked in September, 2007. US 31 curves off to the left under that overpass, and the Michigan Road follows that one-lane ramp toward Plymouth. That overpass is northbound Michigan Road, which merges with northbound US 31 to the left just outside of the photo.

Southbound

Since I made that photo, US 31 was rebuilt on new terrain from South Bend to a point a few miles southeast of here. From Google Street View, this is what the road looks like from about this same spot today.

Β© 2019 Google

Former US 31 was removed from here to where it meets up with the new-terrain US 31. The overpass that carried the Michigan Road was removed and the road rebuilt in the same place at grade. The four-lane former US 31 still exists from South Bend to here as a county road.

Off the top of my head I can think of six other major changes to roads, or to things along the roadside, from what I documented long ago! I’ll bet if I repeated all of my old road trips I’d find scores more major changes.

It’s a head scratcher, what to do with all this interesting content I created so long ago. It deserves to live on as a sort of historic record, for the small audience who finds it interesting or useful. It’s heavily deranked on Google now, I assume because of its age and because it’s on straight HTML pages. I’d like to make it easier for that audience to find it.

I could recreate it all here on the blog. It would be a massive project, and I’d be sharing now information I gathered as long as 14 years ago. I suppose I could title posts to reveal the year I made the trip. It would enhance the ability for interested people to find this information when they search for it. But I’m not sure it would interest most of my regular blog audience.

Another option I’ve considered is blowing away my old HTML jimgrey.net site, setting up a self-hosted WordPress instance there, and moving all of my old road-trip pages to it. It would still be a massive project, and it would still make that info more searchable, but it would remain a separate site to maintain.

I’m not sure what’s best! But I do know that it’s time to stop putting this off.

Standard
Blogosphere

Recommended reading

πŸ’» Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are the Ford, GM, and Chrysler of the technology world, says Ben Thompson. Just like the automobile industry, which had hundreds of players in its early years, matured into The Big Three, the tech industry is maturing now. Read The End of the Beginning

1970 AMC Rebel The Machine c
Canon PowerShot S95, 2014.

πŸ’» Longtime readers know I worked in radio in the 1980s and 1990s. J.R. Smith started his career in radio — and it was the best job he ever had. He describes well how good radio used to be. Read The Best Job I Ever Had

πŸ“· A Pentax MX is on my must-try list of cameras. So it’s great that arhphotographic explained some quick fixes this week to the MX’s number one bugaboo: a meter that doesn’t register. Read Powerless Pentax MX

πŸ’» This is a time for optimism about our future, says Courtney Martin — even more optimistic than we were when things were going well for us in the world. Read We Are Not Doomed

Standard
Blogosphere

Recommended reading

Welcome to the first Recommended Reading of 2020! But don’t be disappointed when you find posts in it from the very tail end of 2019. They’re still fresh.

πŸ’» There’s a spectacular nine-span rainbow concrete arch bridge in Caledonia, Ontario, and Doug at Gribblenation shows some photos and tells its story. Read Caledonia Bridge – Caledonia, Ontario

πŸ’» Gerald Greenwood writes a short but insightful personal essay on tradition: what it’s really all about. Read Christmas 2019

Kodak Retina IIa
Canon PowerShot S95, 2012.

πŸ“· Aly Chiarello gives a nice short review of the Argus Argoflex Seventy-Five, which punches above its weight class in image quality. Read The Argus Argoflex Seventy-Five

πŸ“· Chris Sherlock is the premier Kodak Retina repairperson in the world, and Mike Eckman interviews him. Read One Hour Photo 3: Chris Sherlock

πŸ“· I shared my ten favorite photos the other day. A fellow film photoblogger who goes by fishyfisharcade shared his top 12 — one from every month. His b/w work is so cinematic! Do have a look. Read Day 365 – Twelve favourite photos from 2019

πŸ’» Just to make you feel old(er), here’s a post from Tim Urban that shows us just how far away 2020 is from events that don’t seem all that long ago. Read It’s 2020 and you’re in the future

Standard
Blogosphere

2019’s greatest hits

At the end of each year I look back at how this blog performed: raw stats and popular posts. It’s a chance to revisit the best of what I published this year.

Pageviews are down in 2019, largely due to search driving way less traffic, as I wrote about here. Search started driving big traffic here in 2015 (about 138,000 views) and continued through 2016 (127,000) and 2017 (also 127,000). It started to fall off in 2018 (96,000), and dropped sharply this year (60,000).

If you subtract search-driven views from the last five years’ total visits, you get 132,000 in 2015, 124,000 in 2016, 160,000 in 2017, 149,000 in 2018, and 152,000 in 2019. 2017 remains this blog’s best year in terms of pageviews, but overall I think Down the Road is still growing, slowly.

Here’s a far better measure of this blog’s success: comments are way up. (About half the comments represented in this count are mine, as it’s my policy to respond to nearly every comment.) I blog because I want to engage with people like you, so thank you for every comment!

And now, the traditional Top Five lists. First, my five favorite posts. If you click no other links on this page, click these. I put my whole heart into these posts.

These are 2019’s five most-viewed posts, thanks largely to being shared widely on Facebook. I don’t much like Facebook anymore, but it’s hard to ignore how powerful of a platform it is for promoting little blogs like mine.

  • Welcome to New Carlisle — A small town on the Michigan Road in northern Indiana, New Carlisle retains considerable charm.
  • The giants at Bernheim Forest — You can still go see these remarkable wood sculptures at Bernheim Forest in Kentucky.
  • A 1989 photo ride — I took my camera out on my bicycle in the Terre Haute neighborhood where I lived after graduating from college.
  • Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model F — This 90-year-old box camera still has the touch. It’s a decent camera even today.
  • Recommended film labs — Do you have film you’d like to have developed? These are the labs I recommend.

This year I decided to teach myself to develop my own black-and-white film, and scan it. You all taught me a lot in your comments — thank you! Three of the top five most-commented posts relate to that project.

I appreciate it when you click Like on one of my posts when you don’t have a comment to offer, because then I know you’re still out there. Here are the five posts that got the most likes this year.

Thanks for reading Down the Road this year! Now on to 2020.

If you’d like to see my Greatest Hits posts from past years, they’re all here.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Standard