Recommended reading

Welcome to March, at last, Roadies! Maybe the weather will start warming up so I can get out and make some photographs.

💻 I’ve had challenges most of my life with depression and anxiety. So this post from Kim really resonates with me: you have to have a baseline level of mental health to be able to improve your mental health! Read My Mental Health Is Good Enough That I Can Continue To Improve My Mental Health

Clabber Girl
Kodak EasyShare Z730, 2007

💻 The worst boss you ever had? S/he is still with you, in more ways than you think. Claire Lew explains. Read The Anti-Mentor

💻 Mr. Money Mustache and some of his friends and readers have dreamed openly of a car-free city. One of those readers designed that city, and it leaked, and suddenly the press thinks this pipedream was a real thing. It offers lessons in how to make ideas come true. Read How to Create Reality

💻 Theodora Brack tells the fascinating stories of Louise Weiss, instrumental in winning French women the right to vote in 1945, and of Marie Marvingt, the first woman to compete in the Tour de France. Read France: Two Tales of Tenacity

📷 We have photographs from the Civil War thanks largely to Matthew Brady, who made daguerrotypes of soldiers and battlefields. Jeb Inge, writing for Casual Photophile, tells the story and shares some of the images. Read Five Favorite Photos – Mathew Brady & Co. Shoot the Civil War

📷 I’ve read many posts about photographic exposure but none so clearly written as this one by Hamish Gill. If f stops, shutter speeds, and film ISO is any sort of mystery to you, do read his post. Read Understanding Shutter Speed, Aperture, Film Speed (ISO) & the Relationship Between Them

📷 James Tocchio reviews a quirky SLR, the Wirgin Edixa Reflex B, which has a TLR-style waist viewfinder. It looks both charming and frustrating. Read The Wirgin Edixa Reflex B is Everything I Love and Hate About Film Cameras


Recommended reading

It sure was cold all week! Fe-brrrrrr-ary! Warm up with these best blog posts from around the Internet this week.

💻 The President of the United States didn’t have an official photographer until the Kennedy Administration. That first photographer was Cecil Stoughton. Writing for KEH Spotlight, Luca Eandi profiles him. Read The First Official White House Photographer: Cecil W. Stoughton

Model T truck
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom, 2007.

💻 Here are some terrific photos of families coming to a community clinic in Zambia, by Dr. Alfred Prunesquallor (a pseudonym, if it wasn’t obvious). Read Community Child Clinics

💻 In my line of work (software development) there’s a lot of talk about being passionate about what you do. Seth Godin adds a good dimension to that idea: that rather than having a passion and finding something to do with it, instead find something to do and through engaging with it, become passionate about it. Read Work before passion

📷 Mike Eckman not only reviews the Zeiss-Ikon Box Tengor (arguably the sturdiest box camera ever made), he tells its complete history. Read Zeiss-Ikon Box Tengor


Three tips to increase engagement with your blog

As a veteran blogger and a veteran reader of blogs, I want to share some key things I’ve learned about how to encourage readers to keep coming back.

Your readers have only so much attention to give. Your blog is part of a wide stream of information swishing past everyone you hope will read your writing. They, too, quickly decide what to read and what to pass by.

Here are three things you can do now to help readers not pass your posts by.

Write descriptive titles and strong opening paragraphs. This lets everyone know why your post is awesome, and gives them a good reason to keep reading.

I used to write clever or obscure titles and then ramble in early paragraphs. I thought I was a witty raconteur but in reality readers didn’t track with me. When I started writing simple, declarative titles and got to the point in my first or second paragraph, pageviews and comments began to grow.

Doing this well takes practice. I don’t always succeed! But I keep working at it. You can too. For good examples by other bloggers, check out this post and this post.

Share complete posts, not just excerpts, in your feed. I buck conventional wisdom with this recommendation.

Before I explain, here’s some background. Readers can find out if you’ve published in several ways. They can always just come to your blog. Or they can follow you on social media if you share new posts there. Or they can subscribe to your blog and get an email every time you publish.

They can also follow you in a feed reader like Feedly or Bloglovin’ or NewsBlur. These services work by picking up your blog’s feed, a technical name for the way your blog alerts these services of new posts.

WordPress, and I assume most other blogging platforms, give you an option to share only the first paragraph or so of your posts in your feed. The idea is that this entices readers to click through to your blog to read the rest.

If your excerpt doesn’t strongly communicate why your post is interesting, most readers won’t click through. (Unless you’re a celebrity and people hang off your every word.)

If you get good at writing compelling titles and opening paragraphs (or custom excerpts, a WordPress feature; more here), you should improve your clickthrough rate.

But so many people read on their phones now. If they subscribe via email or feed reader, the phone opens your posts instantly. But if you make them click through they have to wait a few seconds for the post to load in the phone’s browser. I think this is a strong deterrent. I know it deters me. I think it’s better to not throw up this barrier.

To turn off excerpts in WordPress, click My Sites in the upper-left corner of your blog and choose Settings. Click the Writing tab and scroll down to Feed Settings. Click the slider next to “Limit feed to excerpt only” until the white dot moves to the left and the control turns gray. Click the Save Settings button.

Enable, and reply to, comments. Comments are the last key to engagement with your blog. Once they’ve read your post, let them respond.

Yes, readers still have to click through. But just as most of us are faster to speak than to listen, a reader’s desire to have a say is likely to hurtle them right over that barrier.

Several blogs I follow don’t allow comments. It’s super frustrating when they write a good post and I want to offer a perspective or praise! I assume they disable comments because so many comment sections are cesspools, full of pointless arguments and nasty insults.

Yours doesn’t have to be this way. You get to decide the the tone of your comment section. Just delete anything that crosses your line. You don’t even have to warn an erring commenter if you don’t want to.

My blog generates little controversy. But trolls, jerks, and people having bad days do show up from time to time and say unkind things. When it’s a regular commenter, I ask them to tone it down. Otherwise, I just delete the comment and move on. If you do the same, you’ll shape a pleasant comment community — one that your readers will be glad to join.

Respond to at least some of the comments you get. Readers will see that you’re willing to engage, and it will encourage them to come back.

To enable comments on your WordPress blog, click My Sites and choose Settings. Click the Discussion tab. In the Default Article Settings area, click the slider next to “Allow people to post comments on new articles” until the white dot moves to the left and the control turns gray.

Do you have any other thoughts about how to increase engagement with your blog? If so, share in the comments!

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


Recommended reading

January and February are the coldest months in Indiana, and on this Saturday we’re about three quarters through. Snuggle in and enjoy this week’s best blog posts.

💻 Paris streets have seen several protests recently against the Macron government. Photographer Clement Marion has been making stunning photographs of them on black-and-white film. Stephen Dowling interviews Marion and shares several of his photographs. Read One photographer’s atmospheric images of the Paris protests, captured on film

Olympus XA, Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800, 2013.

💻 I remember when the Internet was young. It was a place where ideas flowed freely, and all at no cost to you beyond whatever your ISP charged for the bandwidth. Fred Wilson remembers it, too, and has some pointed things to say about the state of the paid Internet today. Read The Free And Open Internet

📷 Semi-pro auto-everything 35mm SLR bodies are available today used at bargain prices. Now is the time to buy them. Many of them, like Nikon’s F100, are truly outstanding cameras. Jeb Inge, writing for Casual Photophile, reviews that particular camera. Read Nikon F100 Review – The Ultimate 35mm Film SLR Value

📷 Alex Luyckx writes a terrific review of the Kiev 19, a Soviet 35mm SLR. He says such nice things about it that I’m interested in trying one. That’s saying something, as I’ve deliberately stayed away from ex-Commie gear. Read Camera Review Blog No. 102 – КИЕВ-19

💻 Fellow roadgeek Richard M. Simpson, III, has started a blog to make permanent the great research he’s done on the Indiana Transportation History group on Facebook. One of his first blog posts is a short history of the U.S. highway system — and how the states actually pay for them. Read US Highways: They are actually State Roads

📰 You might not fully realize how deeply Amazon, Google, and Facebook are rooted in our lives — until you try boycotting one or more of them entirely. If you want to live an Amazon-free life, you might be surprised just how much of the Internet will be unavailable to you. This story on NPR explains. Read Why We Can’t Break Up With Big Tech


Recommended reading

Happy Saturday, Roadies!

💻 It masquerades as a photography post, but instead it’s deeply personal, and poignant. James Tocchio tells the agony of trying, and failing, to have a child and how he dealt with it. Read How I Improved My Photography in Five Simple Steps

💻 Carl at Milwaukee Notebook tells the story of the Milwaukee Clipper, a giant passenger ship that was built before the Titanic and sailed the Great Lakes for many decades. Especially fun: a story of illicit gambling and how the slot machines were almost successfully shuttled off the ship before anybody could be caught. Read The long season of the Milwaukee Clipper

Clip-on keyrings
Canon EOS Rebel S, 35-80mm f/4-5.6 Canon EF, Fujicolor 200, 2016.

💻 The evidence is clear, posits Scott Galloway: men who are engaged with other people — especially wives and children — live longer, happier lives. Despite our desperado natures, we’re better off involved with others. Read Engaged

📷 W. Eugene Smith’s most famous photo essay was of the human tragedy at Minamata, Japan, where illegal industrial waste dumping fouled the water and disfigured scores of people. A new film is being made with Johnny Depp as Smith. Josh Solomon has a preview. Read Johnny Depp to Play W. Eugene Smith

📷 Dan James loves a bargain. In this post, he lists some great cameras (film and digital) that he picked up for chicken feed. Read Chance Encounters In The Cheap Seats – My Favorite Photography Bargains

📰 My hometown of South Bend has its most visible and dynamic mayor of my lifetime, Pete Buttigieg. Maybe you’ve seen him on TV lately, as he is running for President. I’m hometown proud, but I agree with Aaron Renn, he ain’t got a chance. But he probably knows that and is using this run to be on the national stage. Read Let’s Hear It for South Bend


I’m making it a tradition that on my blog’s anniversary I ask you — especially those of you who seldom or never comment — to delurk and chime in.

How did you find my blog? (Do you even remember?)
What do you enjoy most about my blog?
What kinds of posts are you most likely to skip over?

It’s a rich reward to me to hear from you in the comments anytime, but especially on this day as I think back over the blogging years gone by.

Tell me a little about you!