Recommended reading

It’s Saturday, and time for my regular roundup of all the blog posts I read and liked that were published this week.

πŸ’» Google is now far less a search engine than an advertising engine. Organic search results are increasingly being pushed farther and farther down the page, says Ben Thompson with some data to back it up. That’s not a good thing for independent small-time sites like mine. Read The Google Squeeze

Yashica-12, Spiratone Close-Up Kit, Kodak Tri-X, Rodinal 1+50, 2019.

πŸ“· Hamish Gill takes a look at the Pentax MX, which for a while was the finest Pentax SLR you could buy. Read The Pentax MX – My Nuts and Bolts Review

πŸ“· So many old folding cameras, so little time. Dave Donnelly came upon one called the Balta Baldix and gave it a quick review. Read A 1950s Balda Baldix mini-review

πŸ“· Gerald Greenwood put some Polaroid Originals film through his SX-70 Sonar recently and got some of the best results I’ve seen on that so-so film. He understood the film’s color palette and simply chose subjects that worked with it. Read Polaroid SX-70 Sonar & My First Pack of Polaroid Originals


Recommended reading

Welcome to my Saturday roundup of all the blog posts I enjoyed reading all week.

πŸ’» Nadezhda Kutepova grew up in Ozersk, a Russian city marred by nuclear accidents and nuclear waste. She fights for the people of her city, and Leah tells her fascinating story. Read Nadezhda Kutepova: the white crow of a nuclear city

Ellicott City, MD
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom, 2009.

πŸ’» I often share posts from N. S. Palmer here. But I don’t think I’ve ever shared that he and I know each other as friends and colleagues — I met him when I hired him as a writer a number of years ago. He read some of my posts this week about forgiveness and wrote his own take on the matter. Read Forgiveness Can Mean Freedom

πŸ’» I sometimes fall into the trap of comparing what I’m doing here with other film-photography blogs. It’s a losing game. Famous photographer Edward Weston agrees, as Maria Popova reminds us this week. Read Edward Weston on the Most Fruitful Attitude Toward Life, Art, and Other People

πŸ’» I knew nothing of the story of Queen Victoria of England until reading Alex Luyckx‘s terrific story of her life. He tells it briefly, but powerfully. Read Project: 1867 — Queen Victoria

πŸ“· It’s pretty rare now that someone reviews a camera I haven’t heard of. Mark O’Brien managed it with his review of the Ricoh XR-M. Read The Ricoh XR-M SLR

πŸ“° Ellicott City, Maryland’s main street is the National Road. After two major flooding events on that historic street, in 2016 and 2018, the town is trying to figure out what to do. Their current plan involves demolishing four historic buildings on that historic road. NPR has the story. Read After The Water


Recommended reading

It’s Saturday again and time for my roundup of the blog posts I liked best this week.

πŸ’» The trick, according to David Cain, to experiencing deeper pleasure is, paradoxically, to experience less pleasure. Read How to Make Life More Pleasurable

Black Dog Books
Argus Argoflex Forty, Kodak Ektar 100, 2019.

πŸ’» Everything does not happen for a reason, and bad things happen to good people. But believing that the world is just anyway is key to our mental health, says Carla Akil. Read The Just-World Belief System

πŸ“· Simon King writes a solid essay on displaying documentary photography in a way that shares the context necessary for best interpretation. Read The Underrated Art of the Photo Series

πŸ“· Olli Thomson reviews the Minolta XD (or XD-7, or XD-11, depending on what part of the world it was sold in). Read Minolta XD


Google giveth and Google taketh away

My blog’s stats are essentially meaningless. I’ve said it several times to you that engagement with you is far and away the biggest joy of this blog for me. I love it that I put my thoughts and photographs out into the world and people like them enough to keep coming back.

Yet it bugs the tar out of me that my pageviews are way down this year.

If my average daily pageview rate holds this year, Down the Road will net about 216,000 visits by year’s end. In 2018 it was about 245,000 visits. 2017 was Down the Road’s best year ever at 288,000 visits.

I’ve written before that search is driving fewer and fewer visits to my site. In 2017 search brought 10,000 to 20,000 visits each month. Now it’s no more than 4,000 monthly

I think this is in part because many others have started blogging and YouTubing about film photography and the more crowded field has diluted my blog’s influence.

But I see now that I may also have shot myself in the foot in June of 2018 when I completed a large project to change this blog’s tagging scheme (announced here). Tags are little keywords that further describe the post. You can click any tag to see all of the other posts I’ve written that use that tag.

When I started this blog, an old friend who works in advertising gave me some search-engine optimization (SEO) advice. A key piece of his advice was to tag posts with good synonyms for the post’s main subjects so search would have an easier time finding them.

I was inconsistent and sloppy with it, and I wasn’t sure it was helping bring people here at all. Then I decided to add tags to my photography and road-trip posts to help organize that content by cameras, films, and places. Now when you click a tag for a camera, film, or place, you see every post I’ve ever made related to it.

Then I deleted scores of what I thought were useless synonym tags. The decline in search visits roughly correlates to the time I did that.

Correlation isn’t causation. I did that synonym-based tagging scheme from 2007 to 2018 and it wasn’t until 2015 that search started bringing people here in any real numbers. So I can’t say for sure that my tagging scheme had anything to do with my search-driven visits.

I blog to connect with people who share my esoteric interests. Some of you found my blog because you searched for something I wrote about, and you liked what you found here and kept coming back.

If search is bringing fewer people in, there are fewer chances for those connections.

Let’s say that search drove monthly visits in 2019 roughly equal to an average month in 2017. That would bring an extra 5,500 visits to my blog every month, or an extra 66,000 visits all year. That would make 2019 Down the Road’s most-visited year ever.

I blame Google in my title because you have to play their SEO game to rank well in search results. But it was my choice to stop playing the game.

Its time for another tagging project, one in which I restore the synonym tags. I can do it in a more organized manner this time.

I’m also going to read up on SEO. The game has changed a lot in the dozen years since my old friend advised me. There may be some simple changes I can make that will help bring search traffic back.

I have also just upgraded this site to Business to gain the SEO optimization tools and plugins available at that tier of service. It’s three times more expensive than the Premium plan I was on. But after this many years it’s clear that this blogging thing is not a passing fad in my life. The connections I’ve made through this blog are meaningful and enriching. I want to keep making new connections. One of the ways I can do that is to play Google’s game on its terms.

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Recommended reading

Every Saturday I share the blog posts I read and enjoyed most all week.

πŸ’» Classical composer and pianist Franz List was as popular as a rock star in his day. Fred Wilson notes that humans have probably always loved incredibly talented performers at the tops of their games. Read Franz Liszt

Freaky fast
Kodak Retinette II, Agfa Vista 200, 2019.

πŸ’» Maria Popova‘s blog turned 13 this week, a milestone my blog reaches in February. She writes about matters of the mind and heart, and shares the 13 best life lessons learned while writing her blog. Read 13 Life-Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings

πŸ“· On a visit to Japan, Ming Thien skied at Hakuba, and made some lovely landscape photos. Some of them look like pencil drawings! Read Photoessay: Alpine

πŸ“· Charlotte Davis writes a lovely essay about Ilford’x XP2 Super film, the black-and-white film that is developed in color-film chemistry. The photos that accompany the essay are crackerjack. Read Ilford XP2 Super – The Film That Saved My Photography


Recommended reading

On Saturday, I round up the blog posts I liked most from around the Internet all week.

πŸ’» Om Malik writes a useful essay about the juxtaposition between big tech companies that might not have your best interest at heart with how much more convenient big tech has made our lives. Read Big Tech & people: a complicated relationship of convenience

Kodak Retinette II, Agfa Vista 200, 2019.

πŸ’» Most movies are shot at 24 frames per second (fps). That’s a holdover from the old days of film. In this digital era filmmakers can shoot at whatever frame rate their hardware supports. The movie Gemini Man was shot at a whopping 120 fps. Film nerd John Scalzi tells us whether this was worth the trouble or not. Read Thoughts on Gemini Man, and its High Frame Rate

πŸ’» A beer brewer has figured out how to make bottles out of paper. This has caused Nick Gerlich to consider the environmental impact of beer packaging. Read Walking On Glass

πŸ’» Maria Popova found a 1933 copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s book Tales of Mystery and Imagination with some outstanding illustrations that you’ve just got to see. Read Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Rare, Arresting Illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Stories by the Irish Stained Glass and Book Artist Harry Clarke

πŸ“· If you’re curious about the Purple film from Lomography, Kathleen Johnson has some advice for you about how to make the most of it. Read Lomo Purple Revisited: Lessons Learned Part II

πŸ“· Shaun Nelson shares his experience with the Camerhack FCK127, a light-tight device that cuts 120 film to 127 size and spools it onto a 127 spool. He then puts a roll so cut into his Kodak Baby Brownie and takes it for a spin. Read 127 Film & The Kodak Baby Brownie

πŸ“· Most SLRs have focal-plane shutters, a big, flat curtain that slides horizontally or vertically to expose the film. A few have traditional leaf shutters. Mike Eckman considers the special challenges of designing leaf-shutter SLRs and how manufacturers handled them. Read Keppler’s Vault 48: Leaf Shutter Reflex