Ten Years of Down the Road

Longtime subscribers to this blog: I’m making changes to my subscription services and they might affect you

When this blog was young WordPress didn’t yet offer good options to let you subscribe to my posts. So I turned to Feedburner, which hadn’t even been bought by Google yet, to provide that service. Feedburner gives you an RSS feed for your favorite feed reader, or lets you subscribe by email.

I’ve grown unhappy with Feedburner and am considering getting rid of it. So hang with me through this post, as it could affect you.

A few of you, anyway. My Feedburner stats say that 14 of you use Feedburner’s RSS to follow this blog, and 27 of you get a daily Down the Road email from Feedburner.

I’m sure you have no idea whether you used Feedburner to subscribe to Down the Road. For those of you getting my posts in email, here’s how you can tell. If you subscribed through WordPress, the emails look like this:


If you subscribed through Feedburner, the emails look more or less like this:


Here’s why I’m ready to get rid of Feedburner. When I started Down the Road I set all photos to be 500 pixels on the long edge. It made sense because back then we were still using 4:3 CRTs set to as little as 800×600 pixel resolution. But technology has marched on and we’re all rocking widescreen LCD monitors and those 500-pixel images look tiny. So I’ve steadily increased image width, first to 640 pixels, then to 700, and just recently to 1024.

The WordPress email service adapts beautifully, shrinking images to fit your display. Feedburner, however, is stuck in 2008. That’s why the photo in the image above dominates and the text is so small. In your email program, it might even cut off the images. Horrors!

You will have a better experience with the WordPress email service. I’d like to ask you to unsubscribe from the Feedburner service (use the Unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email) and follow me via WordPress instead. Just use this handy subscription widget:

Join 8,387 other subscribers

(If you see “You are following this blog” above, you need do nothing! You’re already set.)

I’m not sure when or even whether I’ll do away with the Feedburner service. It depends on how many of you actually unsubscribe there and how I feel about that, and how frustrated I remain seeing my own daily Feedburner email with its cut-off images.

Thank you for your kind consideration!

Ten Years of Down the Road

The whole point of blogging today is to build community

I had dreams of being well known, maybe even famous, when I started this blog. I hoped I’d say things so interesting, even so profound, that my words and pictures would go viral.

We all see how that worked out.

Me at Crown Hill
Not famous.

WordPress says I have about 2,500 followers. But realistically I think that if you read Down the Road at least semi-regularly you number among a couple hundred people worldwide.

There are two ways to look at this.

One: This is a pretty good result. The Internet is cram packed with voices hoping to catch your attention. You have only so much attention to give. I work hard to deliver good work here and an interesting way of looking at life, but so do many thousands of others, many of whom have better skills than me.

Two: This is a terrible return on investment. I spend an average of ten hours a week in front of the WordPress editor to deliver words and photographs to you Monday through Saturday. Those hours come only after the considerable time I spend out with my cameras and just thinking about what I’ll write here. That’s an awful lot of work for, frankly, such a small audience.

But this presupposes that the point of blogging is to reach a very large audience. I think it’s not. At least not anymore. As I’ve written before, the era of hugely popular bloggers ended a long time ago. If you start a blog today, unless you’re already famous for some other reason it’s never going to find a huge readership.

To find blogging satisfaction, you have to redefine the investment.

At Down the Road, you regular readers have become a community. A loose one, anyway — it’s not like Down the Road Appreciation Societies are forming, or all of you are secretly conspiring to fly to Indianapolis to take me out for a beer. (But if you do ever show up here, I prefer whiskey.)

But your interests overlap mine, and what I say and show are interesting enough for you to keep coming back. If you have a blog, too, I check it out sometimes and perhaps even include it in my regular reading list. We have conversation, here and on your blogs. We encourage each other and share our perspectives and even sometimes offer constructive criticism of each others’ work. I am absolutely a better photographer thanks to you. I hope you learn from me as well.

Community. That’s the point and purpose of blogging today. We might search for and never find that kind of community locally; few people around us might share our interests. But the Internet opens us to a much larger portion of the world. With a little effort, even the most esoteric interest can find community online.

I’ve put in that effort over the past decade, sharing my posts on social media and seeking out your work and interacting with you over it. And now here we all are, doing what we do and sharing the results with each other.

I still harbor a faint fantasy of fame. It’s incredibly unlikely ever to happen. But that’s OK, because this community is plenty satisfying. It takes the pressure off — I don’t need to be a guru or go viral. Nor do you. We can relax and just continue to share our mutual journeys of growth and fun.

Ten Years of Down the Road

So… tell me a little about you

Today I’d like to turn it over to you.

I’d love to know who you are, where you’re from, how you found my blog, and how long you’ve read it. Especially if you’re a new reader or a longtime lurker. Please leave a comment and tell me!

My blog - Down the Road

Also, I’d love to know what topics I’ve covered that you’ve enjoyed, and which ones you skip over. If you’re a longtime reader, have I left any topics behind that you miss?

This is ultimately a personal blog. I can write whatever I want because this doesn’t pay any of my bills. But I also want to be read. The surest way for that not to happen is to ignore my audience!

Ten Years of Down the Road

Ten years of Down the Road

Today marks ten years of this blog.

Down the Road, v. 1.0

I’ll spare you the usual blogiversary gushing and just say that I love doing this. It’s my favorite hobby. I can’t imagine not doing it.

I started this blog to scratch my itch to write. I had written professionally early in my career, but ten years ago my work had long since evolved away from trading words for pay. I missed the process of expressing myself.

But I didn’t know what I wanted this blog to be. My first post was essentially a sermon. I tried a little diary-style blogging, and I wrote articles about old TV shows. I’ve left the proselytizing and most of those other topics behind. I kept one element that has characterized this blog from the beginning: stories from my life.

Masthead banner from Down the Road, v. 2.0

What I could never have predicted, however, is that this blog led directly to my love of photography. I’ve collected old film cameras since I was 8, and even put film through a couple of them to see what would happen. But when I started reviewing cameras from my collection on this blog, you photographers found my work and offered encouragement and constructive criticism. Bit by bit, in no small part thanks to you, I came to care more about photography than the cameras, and now I’m a devoted amateur photographer interested in doing better and better work.

Masthead banner from Down the Road, v. 3.0

And so now this is a photography blog with the occasional story from my life thrown in. Will it stay that way? Who knows. Probably for as long as you keep enjoying it.

It turns out that’s the whole point of blogging: interacting with you. What writer wants to send his words into the ether, never to be recognized, never to be praised, never to be cursed? (Well, hopefully seldom cursed.)

I have a lot more to say about ten years of blogging, and about writing and blogging in general. I’ll share those thoughts in several upcoming posts.