Blogosphere

Recommended reading

My weekly roundup of blog posts: a sure sign of higher civilization.

Seth Godin points out that most people want to work with familiar people doing familiar tasks, and be praised for following the rules. He argues that this is why so many workplaces resist change. Perhaps, he wonders, whether we could become familiar with the feelings of the unfamiliar. Perhaps that would allow change. Read In search of familiarity

I never actually saw the photo of our President’s severed head (in effigy) that features comedian Kathy Griffin. Thank heavens. But Scott Adams has an interesting take on it: how your reaction to the photo reveals which movie of the United States of America you are currently watching. There are two, and they aren’t related. Read The Kathy Griffin Controversy

Stephen Dowling has slowly been cataloging all the films still available to film photographers, and he’s issued Part 2 of his list. Read All the 35mm films you can still buy: Part 2 – Fuji to JCH Streetpan 400

I work in the software industry, albeit in the Silicon Cornfield of Indiana, not the Silicon Valley of California. I don’t see the traits and behaviors here Aaron Renn calls out as endemic of Silicon Valley. And he paints an unflattering picture of those traits. Read The Silicon Valley Mindset

This week’s film-camera reviews:

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Blogosphere

Frustrating experience with WordAds

This blog has been in the WordAds program for nine months now, which is why you see one or two little ads at the bottom of each of my posts. I signed up to help offset the costs of running this blog, as I explained when I joined the program.

This remains a personal blog, not a bigtime commercial enterprise. I feared that if I crammed the place with ads, or if the ads were abusive (popovers, slide-ins, videos that play automatically, and the like) it would drive you away.

wordadsWordAds promised one little static ad placement at the bottom of each post. That sounded perfect. It wouldn’t generate much income (I’ve earned about 50 bucks so far), but it would protect your experience here.

It turns out I’ve had little control over ad placements and behaviors, despite the WordAds site’s original promises to the contrary. And the ads have been buggy. It’s been frustrating and occasionally infuriating. I’m losing patience with it, and if the challenges continue I’m likely to withdraw from the program.

WordAds worked as promised for a while. There were a couple strange issues: empty ad boxes, or a database error appearing instead of an ad. I dutifully reported those bugs to WordAds Support.

And then one day a second ad appeared next to the first. I inquired of support. They explained that the program didn’t actually specify the number of ads that would appear. What? I went back to the WordAds site to check, and it had been redesigned with new copy that mentioned nothing about a single ad placement. I was sure the site had been very clear about that! I felt gaslighted.

And then a large video ad appeared below the two static-ad boxes. After processing some unhappiness over how the ad pushed the comments section so far down the page, I decided to let it ride because I figured it would increase my earnings. But soon a reader contacted me to say that the video sometimes automatically played, and while he enjoys my blog, if that continued he would reluctantly stop visiting.

That’s ad abuse, and I wasn’t going to have it. I contacted support again. The support tech explained that WordAds uses dozens of ad partners. Reading between the lines, I guessed that they just pass ads through from those partners, and don’t themselves have full control of them. The WordAds software probably limits some forms of ad abuse, but an ad partner who codes around it can get by it. The WordAds team finds out only when users complain. In the end, they were not able to fix it. They offered to manually disable those video ads on my blog, and I took them right up on it.

And then the two static ad boxes started occasionally showing video. It was strange stuff: tourist scenes from Morocco, men riding lawn mowers around a field. Text at the bottom said “your ad will play in a moment” but no ad ever played. And occasionally the audio would play for a second or two, and then silence for several minutes, and then play for a second or two again. The only way to stop it is to reload the page to get new ads. I didn’t bother to report this to support. Through writing and previewing posts, I visit my blog far more than anyone, and I see this only infrequently, so I figured you probably never saw it. And conditions you can’t reproduce at will are nearly impossible to troubleshoot. And, well, a man does grow weary of support chats.

But then a couple weeks ago a banner ad appeared at the top of my blog. This infuriated me. Not only did this go against the promises I believed had been made when I signed up for the program, the ad pushed the masthead way down the page. It looked like crap. I immediately contacted support and was clear and firm: this was unacceptable. They explained that ad placement is automatic, that they have no control over where ads appear. I explained that this didn’t even match the behavior their own Web site describes: that this particular placement was supposed to be controlled by a setting on my WordAds dashboard, and I had that setting turned off. Long story short, support manually turned off the banner ads. They do have control after all, glory be.

All I wanted was to have a quiet ad placement on my blog and make a few nickels. Instead, I got a comedy of broken expectations and time lost in support chats. My patience with this is about exhausted. What keeps me hanging on is that WordAds pays only in $100 increments, and I’m only about halfway there. But one more infuriating unexpected ad placement and I’m walking.

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

Blah blah blah blog posts from this week.

No prejudice is ever the “last acceptable prejudice,” because no prejudice is acceptable. So argues, and argues well, Emily Sullivan SanfordRead Never Call Something The Last Acceptable Prejudice

David Heinemeier Hansson (writing for Signal v. Noise) has an axe to grind about typical corporate America and its inherent paranoia. It’s really a way of promoting the way he runs his software company, Basecamp, as what he calls a “calm company.” Read Paranoia won’t save you in the end

This week’s film camera reviews:

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Blogosphere, Photography

Hard lessons learned writing for PetaPixel

Last week I posted my updated list of film-photography blogs I follow. Stephen Dowling, the force behind Zorki Photoshared a link to it on Reddit. Thanks Stephen! From there, DPReview.com linked to my post, too. Boom! My stats spiked instantly.

StatSpike

Guess which day my post appeared on Reddit

PetaPixel noticed it too, and asked if they could republish it. An honor, right? Lots of people would see my work on that well-visited site, right?

I didn’t say yes right away. On the one hand, I wanted my list of blogs to be seen far and wide, and I knew PetaPixel had giant reach. On the other, I wanted my blog to get all the visits, not somebody else’s site. Also, if PetaPixel ran my post just as I wrote it here, Google’s search algorithms would take a dim view and downrank my post in searches.

But I hoped perhaps for some new readers who clicked through from PetaPixel, so I said yes. But I rewrote the post first.

PPByline

Get out your magnifying glass to find my name

When it went live, my poor little byline was in such tiny type I doubt anybody noticed it. There were two links back to my blog, but my stats say that only four people clicked them. And while the post got a lot of shares, the ones I saw invariably went something like this: “Hey, check out PetaPixel’s list of film photography blogs!” Or: “My blog made PetaPixel’s list!” Argh! It never occurred to me that people would attribute the list to PetaPixel and not to me.

Here’s something else I didn’t see coming. My original 2014 post of film-photography blogs had long been at or near the top of Google’s results for searches like “film photography blog.” That drives a steady stream of traffic to this blog. But within two days, the PetaPixel post outranked it. Arrrrrrrgh!

Downranked

Cue the sad-trombone sound effect

I love experimenting. I’m always excited to see what happens when I try something. Well, I certainly got a faceful of “what happens” from trying this.

I’m not sure I’d start this blog today if I had it to do over. Rather, I’d seek to contribute to an established site that already has good traffic, and build my name that way. As an individual blogger who works at something else for a living, I can’t devote the time and effort it takes to build an audience as large as PetaPixel’s.

But here I am, ten years into this blog, having built a respectable audience as an individual blogger. I’m not going back now.

And so, here are my lessons learned.

  • If you want to republish my content, the answer is no.
  • However, let’s talk about something different and original I could write for you.
  • If your site is owned by a profit-making company, I expect to be paid for my work.

There is an upside to this experience: several of the blog owners from my list told me that PetaPixel sent them a ton of traffic. That’s why I wrote the list in the first place: so more people could find those blogs!

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Blogosphere, Photography

Film photography blogs you should follow (freshly updated for 2017)

Hi! This post has been very popular since being shared on Reddit, DPReview, and PetaPixel. If you like it, subscribe to my blog to get more in your inbox or reader six days a week.    Click here to subscribe!

(First published 5 May 2014.) When I started blogging about film cameras several years ago, I searched for other blogging camera collectors and film photographers, hoping to find community among others of like mind. I found several and have been amply rewarded by sharing in their adventures.

Self-portrait (crop)

A portrait of the blogger

I follow a ton of photo bloggers, more than my blogroll lists. So for all of my fellow blogging film photographers, I’m going to list all of the photo blogs I follow.

And let’s make this an exchange. If you know of some film-photography or camera-collecting blogs I don’t list, please link to them in the comments!

These blogs are pretty active.

  • 35hunter — Dan talks technique and gear, and shares his work.
  • 52 Rolls — A group blog from photographers who commit to shooting one roll of film a week for a year. Every year the crop of photographers changes.
  • Between light and shadow, a borderline — Roy shares what he’s learned about film photography and shows us his work.
  • Broken Camera . Club — Mostly reviews of mostly obscure gear.
  • burnt embers — “ehpem” has shot less digital and more film since 2013, and this blog reflects that.
  • Camera Legend — Sam collects legendary cameras and writes about using them.
  • Canny Cameras — Gear reviews and photographs. This site explained why the Lomography 110 film I use sometimes leaves light spots on some images. A tip of the hat for that.
  • Captured by Film — Frequent postings of film images.
  • Casual Photophile — This site written by James and his crew sets the Internet standard for vintage gear reviews. Excellent writing, excellent images, great cameras. Highly recommended.
  • Curating Cuteness — Katie shoots film with a small stable of cameras and posts images nearly every day.
  • Daniel J. Schneider — Daniel posts gear and film reviews, as well as writes about his photographic journey.
  • Emulsive — A blog that aims to prove that film photography isn’t hard.
  • Film Advance — Gary shares images from his eclectic collection of film cameras.
  • Filmosaur — A Luddite not opposed to technology, if that makes sense.
  • Film Photography Blog — A straightforwardly named blog from the Film Shooters Collective.
  • Film Photography Project — You gotta include the blog of the FPP gang.
  • Fogdog Blog — John and his Nikons and his Pentaxes and the northern California coast.
  • I Still Shoot Film — A group blog about all things film.
  • Japan Camera Hunter — Bellamy lives in Tokyo and finds lovely old cameras for you. And writes about film photography.
  • Little Black Star – Eric likes expired medium-format film and Polaroid pack film.
  • North East Liberties — Michael shares scenes from the region of Northern Ireland his blog is named after. His specialty is printing.
  • Photobooth Journal — I suppose these are mostly film images, but I know that all of them are from photo booths. Katherine has built a fascinating collection of such photos, old and new.
  • Ramblings from the Carrot Room — SilverFox moved from the UK to the US and records his life on film.
  • Random Camera Blog – Mark shoots frequently with his old cameras and shares the results here.
  • Photo-Analogue – Nicholas shares photos from his 20 film cameras and discusses tech and technique.
  • Shimmering Grains — Marie’s film images. Based in Sweden but written in English.
  • shot on film — New images from old cameras.
  • the6millionpman — Lots of medium format.
  • The Resurrected Camera — Joe proves that film photography doesn’t have to be expensive.
  • Zorki Photo — Stephen dispels the myths about film: that it’s too hard and too expensive.

These blogs post far less frequently, but I keep them in my feed reader hoping for more.

These blogs have ceased posting, or appear to have ceased posting, and I miss them.

  • 52 Film Cameras in 52 Weeks – After 366 weeks, Tony’s blog about shooting a different camera every week appears to have gone silent..
  • Analog Photography At Its Best – Paul Giambarba was the pioneering brand designer for Polaroid in the 1960s and 1970s. He shares his favorite film photos, usually Polaroids, from photographers everywhere.
  • Beacon 225 — Ted collects quirky old cameras and shoots with them. He used to write about them, too.
  • Crossings — A film blog, still up in memoriam of the author, who passed away in 2013.
  • Malkimata’s Camera – Norman shoots his old cameras and shares his wonderful photos.
  • My Camera Cabinet – Reviews of interesting film cameras.
  • Picturenoise – A film photographer who leans toward lomography.
  • The Casual Camera Collector – Jim writes short essays about film photography: gear, processing, printing, and what remains of the film business.
  • Through a Vintage Lens – T. Rand Collins, M.D., and his collection of cameras from before 1950.
  • What Is a Film Camera – Richard reviews the old film cameras he buys.
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Ten Years of Down the Road

Choosing a place to share your content online and why I stick with WordPress.com

If you want to write (or share photos) on the Internet, do it on WordPress.com. If you want to grow your existing audience, do it on WordPress.com.

Forget Medium. Forget Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn (all of which allow blog-style posts). And forget Blogger.

WordPress.com is a fine platform on which to publish. It offers a good editor in which you write your posts. It manages images well. It provides a rich community through which you can promote your work and find readers. The good people at WordPress do all the system administration for you – you need configure no servers, schedule no backups, run no maintenance.

And you can use it for free forever. Now, I’ve purchased a couple upgrades that give me my custom blog.jimgrey.net address and let me customize my site’s design. You can buy these upgrades for your site for about $100 a year. But they’re not truly necessary for a successful blog.

I’ve been on WordPress.com since this blog’s birth, ten years and counting, and have no plans to leave. WordPress.com has grown and changed with this blog, adding useful features all along the way. (Blogger, on the other hand, feels like it is stuck in 2007.) For example, as people increasingly viewed the Internet on their phones, WordPress introduced blog themes (templates) that looked good even on those small form factors. I switched to one. It took more time to choose one I liked than it did to make the change and tweak the settings.

And then the WordPress.com community brought me a lot of readers. I’ve been featured four times on WordPress.com’s former Freshly Pressed feature, and once in their Discover feature. And others have found my blog by searching the WordPress.com Reader.

Because nothing’s perfect, there are some challenges. For example, when you need support, your only option is to leave a post in a support forum. The community is reasonably helpful, and if you tag your post “modlook” a WordPress support engineer will respond. I have an open case with them right now. They’ve addressed several problems I’ve reported, but have declined to fix a few others. I get it: in my work in software development I’ve declined to fix some user-reported bugs myself, for solid reasons. But it’s not terribly satisfying to receive that answer.

There are reasons to use other platforms. Medium has an elegant editor and the cachet of being where all the cool kids are. But my experience there is that the platform rewards the already well-known leaving regular Joes like me to languish. And I’m not convinced Medium’s business model is viable long term.

And when you publish directly on Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other social network, those networks are more likely to favor your posts in others’ feeds than when those posts come from other sources. Posts from outside sources are at a distinct disadvantage. But when you write directly on these social networks, it’s not entirely clear how much you control your content. And WordPress.com can automatically share your posts to these networks so you can still reach plenty of readers.

You can choose to host WordPress on your own Web server. Doing so lets you customize endlessly and lets you sign up for ad networks so you can get the most possible advertising revenue. I get enough traffic that I was accepted into the Automattic Ads program. It’s not been very lucrative so far — I could make more through self-hosting and signing up for Google’s AdSense program. But that would come at the cost of doing my own back-end maintenance, and I’m not interested. My buddy Pat, who has caught a tiger by the tail with his The Small Trailer Enthusiast site, self-hosts WordPress. He sells ads directly and participates in AdSense, neither of which you can do on WordPress.com. But his site is lucrative enough to make the maintenance hassles worth it.

Given all of this, when I wanted to start a new blog about software development, I went straight to WordPress.com.

2017-02-14_0725

And when the nonprofit I help run, the Historic Michigan Road Association, needed a new Web site, I turned again to WordPress.com. Yes, Web site. WordPress.com has provided tools for a modern, responsive, professional-looking online calling card for our organization.

historicmichiganroad

Here’s the final reason I stick with WordPress.com. Should I ever want to switch platforms for any reason, I can export this entire site to a set of files, and reimport them into pretty much any other content-management platform. My content is truly mine.

I donate testing to WordPress.com and the WordPress.org open-source project, and through that work have had reason to test site export. I’m thrilled to report that it successfully exports even a blog with this much history — more than 1,600 posts over ten years. But I don’t expect to need to use that feature for real anytime soon, as long as WordPress.com keeps on keeping pace with the Internet at large as it has.

Anytime you choose to publish your work online you make tradeoffs. I think that for most people, and certainly for me, WordPress.com offers the most benefits and the fewest challenges.

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