11.13.2011

Ah. The friendly advice. How to improve my blog....


I ran into a photographer I know at the Austin Photo Expo and we spent a few minutes catching up.  He's a nice guy and fun to talk to at parties, etc.  But after five minutes or so of comparing notes he smiled and told me he was glad I'd decided to get back to blogging.  That felt nice.  But then I left myself wide open.  He asked me if I wanted a little advice about improving the blog.  I should have said, "no!"  but instead I politely nodded and said, "sure."  And he proceeded to give me the same advice that I've heard from every "blogexpert" and web source you can imagine.  I tried to will my ears to close and my brain to shut down but it doesn't really work that way.  Damn primitive human physiology....

In a nutshell his advice was this:  1.  Many of my blogs are too long!  He felt that I should work on trimming down the content to make it more manageable.  He added that he has twenty or so blogs that he reads everyday and that the length of the articles means that many times he can only skim them so that he's able to get on to the next blog.  Hmmmm.

2.  I shouldn't post so frequently.  He suggested that, if I felt compelled to be.....productive (like a cough) that I might want to warehouse the overflow and dribble out the content in some sort of "just in time" delivery scenario like a discount warehouse.  Again, if I post more that once a day this puts a burden on the reader who, with twenty or so bloggers on his radar,  gushing forth a torrent of somewhat disconnected content, may not be able to match pace.  Interesting leap of faith here.  That I can write faster than my audience can read.....

So, I'd like to address this as it may further focus my intentions as a "blogger."  Or even better, my intentions as a writer.

First of all,  I use just enough words to get across the message and the inflections of my messages.  No more.  No less.  While breathy and gushy quick hit blogs may be just the thing shallow readers crave, like Hallmark Greeting card sentiments,  I only want to write for an audience that's comfortable swimming in the deep end.  If a paltry 2,000 or 3,000 words is more than one can handle in a few minutes, with coffee already coursing through the system,  then the length of my blog is not the only problem bubbling to the surface.  We must, as a culture, be  developing an epidemic of ADHD.  

If my writing is too long and vapid to hold your attention then, by all means, give yourself permission to change the channel.  But in various chats with lots of followers, the majority indicate that they like the meaty, chewy and satisfying length we at VSL give to a fair number of our articles.  Like a juicy, marbled Ribeye, hot from the grill....  And let's be frank.  If everyone is following the "web savvy" advice and writing, like, two paragraphs,  where are all the people with "abnormally" long attention spans going to go for their photo reading enjoyment?  It's an ethical conundrum for sure.

As to the second point.  The frequency of posting.  That is even more interesting to me because it indicates that my web educator might not be fully aware of how the world wide web works....  It's like a giant capacitor.  You can keep throwing information at the web and it will keep storing up the charge. And when you aren't reading it the web (through the magic of Google, et al) will patiently sort it, rank it and even vet it for you.  Then, just like Tivo, you can come back at any time and enjoy it on your own schedule.  BUT....big news flash!!!!!  We annoying artists and writers don't work on a schedule, really.
We write stuff when it comes to us, post it and move on.  Clearing our palettes for the next thought.  We are NOT administrators.  We are not we traffic managers.  Managing your dosage is your responsibility. I ain't gonna start spreadsheeting my writing on some punch clock schedule just so you can use the web in "live mode" only.....

So, in a nutshell,  I will write as long a post as I'd like and as many posts as I like AND I will post them all willy-nilly and leave it up to my peeps to learn how much they can drink in at one sitting.  But I'm not dumbing it down any further than it is right now because I don't want to lose the kind of readers I'm happy with in the pursuit of gaining a class of readers I am less happy with. (And the second group is certainly more numerous....)  Some people shop at Walmart and I'm okay with that but I like a different experience and I'm even more Okay with that.  (Too bad I can't "smarten it up" but this is all I've got.  Just like power to the warp drive engines on Star Trek.  I can hear all the Scotty's in the brain engine room yelling into the intercom:  "We're giving her all we've got, captain!")

I'm certainly not angry or upset that my photographer friend offered me his opinion but I'm sure pissed at myself for agreeing to hear it in the first place. Everyone who comes to photography from the real world of business is hobbled because they see photography through the constructs and vicious metrics of profitability.  Photographers who came to the business because of their love for art and expression may be hobbled when it comes to making the maximum financial profit from each effort but at least when we are at work we're not looking at our subjects through layers of spreadsheets.  We run unfettered.  (maybe there's a class on creativity stuck in there somewhere....we expunge the math brain, the profit brain and the judgement brain and send people out to shoot things that are pleasing to themselves...).

You may have noticed a scant number of ads on the site.  As the VSL becomes more "popular" we've been getting approached by more and more companies which would like to advertise on our site.  And it's tempting but there's a trade off for everything.  And I know I would not be above the subtle, subconscious manipulation of a vendor's gracious largess.  And then you'd have to "read between the lines" (which would double the length of the articles).  When people write novels they don't sell ad space between the pages.  I know I'm not writing a novel here but every time I sit down to write something I like to start with a clean "piece of paper."  I think I'll keep pitching my books here, toss in an Amazon link for a product I've bought myself and leave it at that.  Then, at least my motives will be above reproach even when my grammar and spelling is not.

Finally,  everyone over thirty who thinks they know dick about how things "really" work on the web is full of crap.  Marketing on the web is a constantly moving target and all the metrics in the world will only tell you what worked yesterday, not what's going to work tomorrow.  Every site is different.  Every demo absorbs the web in a different way.  We use a proven method at VSL.  It's called, "Throw it at the wall and see if it sticks."  Our only metric is:  "Did Kirk want to write this?"

The above photo was taken in a studio, under a .25 Watt light bulb with the V1 at 1600 or 3200 ISO. 

(Can he write, "dick" on the web????)

60 comments:

Malcolm said...

Kirk,

I love reading about your view of photography from any angle, be it gear or philosophy or psychology. And new stuff every day is perfectly fine by me!

Richard said...

I like your blog and style. Only make a change if you want to make a change. I have time to read your blog because I am not reading dozens of blogs that are "like Hallmark Greeting card sentiments" to quote you.

Wil said...

I think that was the guy that spoke to you just before I did.

(Long time reader, first time commenter.)

*Shrugs*

If a blog entry is too long, anyone can leave, skim, move on, edit their browser bookmarks.

If it's too short, you've left something out. Simple as that.

Rob said...

Where is that damn like button :-) As someone with an attention span longer then a nat, please write however much you like whenever you like.... I will read it, think about it some or more and take what I can.

christian said...

"...Finally, everyone over thirty who thinks they know dick about how things "really" work on the web is full of crap...." I love that statement, and I am WELL over thirty!!! :)

Christian said...

Kirk, I love the fact that you actually have something to say in more than two paragraphs. Maybe I'm old school, but I don't mind reading well-written, well-thought-out words on an interesting subject. In fact, my attention span can be measured in hours, when I'm interested. Seems healthy to me and I'm glad you cater to my tastes!

As for the trafic management: yup, I'll gladly do that myself and one of the best things about the web (and email, incidentally) is that it empowers me to consume and produce on my schedule.

All that said, I do have to say that I find it ... interesting ... that your friend is offering you advice on blogging, of all things. Seems to me that you are a tremendously successful blogger and most people could learn from how you do it, not the other way around. Just sayin' ...

DrMickey said...

Kirk,
Write whatever you want. I don't think any of us need to dictate to you how to communicate. You have an innate ability to deliver your thoughts in a way that is easily grokked. That's why I read your blog.

cjpatrick said...

Count me amongst the silent majority who like the style of your posts as they are. Worse than that, I enjoy the posts on actual photography more than the posts about cameras. Keep doing what you do!

Cameron

James A Bishop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Dill said...

I find your posts are exceptionally informative, apt, interesting, and dare I say, generous.

I admire and appreciate the obvious care (or the natural writing talent, or both) with which they are created.

All in all, they are a great treat.

Thanks *very* much!

Cycling past forty said...

Like all the other comments so far, I disagree with this 'keep things short and punchy' approach. I have an attention span (slightly) longer than a goldfish and appreciate reading your blog because I actually have to think about it.
Please, please ignore the advice and carry on doing what you do.

Dan Dill said...

"The above photo was taken in a studio, under a .25 Watt light bulb with the V1 at 1600 or 3200 ISO."

0.25 Watt incandescent? LED?

I am considering at the V1 for low light work and so am curious about how you handle(d) noise reduction in this example, if at all.

John Ferguson said...

Don't listen to him!!!
Keep on writing and posting whatever and whenever you want.
Count me as one who'll happily lap it up.

raingeek said...

Kirk, thank you for thoughtful and thought provoking pieces that are the length they need to be. Your blog is one of the highlights I look forward to every day.

Craig Yuill said...

The comment about your blog posts being too long reminded me of a scene from the movie "Amadeus", where a courtier criticized one of Mozart's works as having "too many notes". Mozart's reply was similar to yours - it has just the right number of notes. I like your blog posts, long or short. Please continue to write them as long and as frequently as you see fit.

Peter F. said...

Kirk, I have about 120 blogs and Websites in my "feed reader". All but a handful are about photography or fly fishing. Yours is the most unique and remarkable (i.e. worthy of remarking about). Your posts are a joy to read. And your photos ain't half bad (LOL) either.

James Kingdon said...

Excellent. I'm new (since the TOP post), and I'm liking it more here every day.

Thanks,
James.

Radu said...

Thank you for writing as you do and please keep doing it! Most of your posts are very interesting, thought-provoking, educating, inspiring and sometimes hilarious. Your blog is the one I am most interested in reading when I open up my reader.

Even if I am generally silent here (as many readers said they are), I am still thoroughly enjoying reading what you write. Keep doing it!

Jon said...

I vote for posting often, like you do. Also, don't take what others on the web say personally. You know the old saying...opinions are like rear ends, everyone's got one :-)

mshafik said...

I hate it when my favorite writers write short posts, it's like when Harry Potter is about to end and you want to keep enjoying it.
I love long, well-written articles, I usually press the read-i-later button, whether it's on my computer's browser, android phone or iPad. Then I prepare some of my favorite drinks at the end of the day and start reading the favorite articles from the day, while tastefully sipping my drink.

Thx Kirk for the blogs.

andrewt said...

I subscribe to well over a hundred blogs across a range of topics. I always slow down for the the VSL. Keep going, keep being you.

Social marketing "experts" creep me out!

SoldierMonkey said...

Ignore the experts and keep doing what you are doing. I also follow a large number of blogs, podcasts, and Youtube channels. If I get too busy, I just delete stuff and go back to it later when I have time. For your blog, I make time.

Thanks for all the effort you put in.

Andrew Cox said...

I think you've got it right overall with the way the blog operates now, and more importantly you've got it right for the way you operate. Isn't the whole point of a blog that you get to express yourself directly, freely, and for free? There can't be a template for that.

Keep being yourself and doing it your way. How can can you go wrong, really?

Wayne said...

I appreciate your comment on "metrics." Oh, the times I have looked into the uncomprehending face of an MBA type and related "statistics are history, nothing more." I know, I sound like a Philistine, but I really believe it.

It is upsetting, but not surprising, that the web, originally seen as new tool to facilitate individualism and creativity, also serves as an ammo dump for those who thrive on conformity and statistical analysis.

Steve said...

I even like the posts about swimming. As long as there are pictures with them, anyway.

kirk tuck said...

Thanks. I thought the same stuff as all the rest of you.

Jeff E Jensen said...

Keep throwing it at the wall, Kirk. I'm more than happy to see what sticks.

Rene said...

Hi Kirk,

Started reading you recently based on the TOP piece; now I'm addicted. In fact, I was suffering withdrawal symptoms when you didn't post for a few days:)

hbernstein said...

I liking VSL more and more. Guess I must have long attention span disorder.

Ken Norton - Image 66 Media said...

Yup, he's totally correct.

For HIS blog.

Keep wasting my time with the long postings. Between VSL and TOP, I can consume a good cup of coffee.

Chris C said...

Art, Craft, Tech, Gear, beautiful photos, interesting photos. That's why I enjoy reading the blog. Advice? Not from me. I'm here because I like the blog.

Glenn Harris said...

Why do people assume everyone has a a short attention span? Sad, but then I don't have 20 blogs on my must read list each day. And publish when you have something to say, and if that is daily at times then why should that bother others.

louisjkim said...

I like VSL the way it is. There is always conventional wisdom but it's just an average of diversity.

C Contant said...

I have also discovered your blog reading about it on theonlinephotographer. I'm very happy you resumed posting articles as I enjoy reading them. I'm just sorry I didn't discover your blog earlier.

Paul Glover said...

Its notable that the blogs I gain most insight and enjoyment from reading (and feel most compelled to comment upon) are known for producing longer, in-depth articles with equally in-depth and usually intelligent comments.

The attention-challenged types who get overwhelmed by anything that won't fit in a tweet are free to go elsewhere, where they can just skip straight to the comments without reading past the first paragraph (yeah, I've seen articles online where some commenters obviously just read the headline).

mactheweb said...

I think we've all made the mistake of listening to well meant but inappropriate advice. I assume that your regular readership likes the blog the way you've been dong it. I certainly do.

Jim A. said...

Another vote for your specific style. I respect your judgement on how your site gets populated. It is after all your own damn blog. ;) Viva la long posts!
P.S. Your wry commentary occasionally makes me laugh so hard I have to stop reading for a minute to regain my senses.

http://richardbarron.net/ said...

I have talked about this at length in my own postings: substance. There will always be a place on the web or in print for substance. For everyone else, they can have their Twitter and miss out on the good stuff.

Phil Service said...

Kirk,

I see a trend: I'm at least the third person in this comment thread who has started reading you since your TOP piece. I love your blog. Do it your way.

ezpoppy said...

I like the juxtaposition of the first two articles today: the top one about how old style iron is out of synch with the hip, young who want quick, fluid, intuitive cameras and how you agree with that and see the wave coming - and the second one about how a friend suggested, basically, you write a lot less, shorter, quicker articles that require less time, are more quickly to the point, and don't require constant monitoring.

Just saying there's an odd inconsistency in your reaction to these very similar ideas. The young are into quick, intuitive, responsive, immediate in ALL areas of their lives, photography and blogs included. I am not sure you can have one without the other.

Really enjoying your blog, which I found out about through TOP. Will be coming back, and don't worry: Not only do I LOVE my old iron, I enjoy a well-thought out, deliberate and insightful blog such as yours - even if I have to come back more than once a day.

Tofuphotography said...

I like your long posts and the more posts the merrier. In your case, quantity does equal quality :-0

Tom Swoboda said...

Before I stopped reading newspapers I felt that articles were becoming shorter and shorter leaving me with more questions than answers. Then I started getting my news from the World Wide Web and articles were even more sparse with information.

Earlier this week I was thinking where do you get off by not writing for a few days just so you can earn money to support your family. You hooked me and now you leave me with withdrawal symptoms. You can double your output and it will be OK with me.

Thomas said...

Yawn, I lost interest after the first paragraph. Just too many words.

CarstenW said...

Well... I don't know what to say to people like that. First of all, I don't think you were wrong to hear him out. I think your answer should have been along the lines of this post, however. No need for regrets.

I like reading people writing the way they like. I don't enjoy people squeezed into whatever formats the reader wants. Free-range Kirk (and TOP) for me :) I also don't try to read dozens of blogs every day. At the moment I read you and TOP, and I might consider adding a third, but that is about it.

John Sarsgard said...

I read it because it is the way it is. I don't require myself to read any quota of blogs...just the ones I like. Sharing your thoughts, not just techie directions, is what makes VSL interesting and valuable.

Ken Driese said...

Kirk,

I'm relatively new to your blog and am really enjoying it. Yours is one of a few that I feel compelled to read in its entirety, no matter the length. Its good writing and thoughtful perspectives, not length, that determines one's attention span and how much they are willing to read, in my opinion. Thanks for your blog.

Orchard Light said...

Well, you made it this far with the blog by doing it your way. People (myself included) were upset when you stopped doing it your way. Why on earth would you change a successful format that you and so many others enjoy?

PeterB said...

I love your writing style and your way of thinking. Please don't change it.
Discovered your blog after your posting in TOP.

Ernest Theisen said...

I like it just the way you are doing it. It is a great blog. I always learn something and/or discover something new. I read TOP and you and that is about all I need to go with my morning coffee. Thanks.

Simon Lupton said...

Just keep on doin' what you like doin' - especially considering the reactions of the 'silent majority' who read about the 'rumours' of your retirement. If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Koen Lageveen said...

If the web needs anything it's less of the 2-paragraph, 140-character tweeting, and more of the lengthy stuff hat's actually worth reading for us that still have an attention span :)

orcasmac said...

Hey, it's your blog! 'Nuff said ...

Dave

Gordon said...

Suffering a bit from the 'tl;dr' attitude that's very common. I see people complaining about that for articles that go beyond two paragraphs.

I like the longer posts. I like Neal Stevenson books too.

I figure you should co-opt the often-misattributed to Mark Twain quote 'I would have written a shorter post but didn't have the time.'

Eddy Young said...

I don't think you need to change anything about this blog. I like your straight-out-of-the-mind style of writing, as there is no decoration of what you intend to communicate.

Xavier Lepaul said...

I follow a lot of blogs. For some, I know that every day will bring its new small, informative and/or entertaining post. I just browse through them on my smartphone during commute, and it's just enough.

For some others, I wait until I'm sitting in a quiet office, in front of a real computer, with a good cup of coffee and time to read them.

The second category (yours falls in this one, obviously) have surely much more impact on me, but I still enjoy both kinds. It's not because the medium is the same that the content should be.

John Krumm said...

Kirk, I read the user agreement and you can indeed write "dick" on the web, but I wouldn't search for it.
:)

I was reading George Carlin's autobiography last night, pretty funny stuff, a guy who had a thing or two to way about saying things his own way.

TriBriGuy said...

Hate to just pile on, but I concur. The style and tone of your blog is exactly why I target locked on it when I found it. It's also why I was sad to see you contemplate letting it go, even while completely understanding that sentiment. I'm glad you're around. I'm glad you take the time to put thoughts to page and share them with us.

Jes said...

It takes me roughly two hours to get through a paperback novel, so as far as I am concerned you could write much, much longer posts and I'd still enjoy reading them! Someone has to cater for those who read fast, after all - everyone else on the web is already covering the niche for the only functionally literate =)

Nicolas said...

Hi Kirk,
I do not have the time to read this whole post...
BUT that is MY problem, not yours ;)
Your blog is great and nothing needs changing, unless you choose to, obviously.
Looking forward to as many posts as you are generous enough to give us!
Cheers,
Nicolas

S said...

"the majority indicate that they like the meaty, chewy and satisfying length we at VSL give to a fair number of our articles. Like a juicy, marbled Ribeye, hot from the grill...."

Mmm... ribeye... *drools*

Totally agree. Most of the web and traditional magazines are comprised of shallow quick-bites or regurgitated content that is devoid of any originality, depth of thought, and generally of minimal value-add.

Most articles and reviews basically describe the topic or product at hand with a summary of obvious do's and don'ts when it's a "how-to" article, or recount the features and specs of a product.

What a waste of space. Common-sense could have given me the do's and don'ts in a typical "how-to" article, and I could have looked up product info myself at the manufacturer's website in lieu of most product reviews.

What i really want to read are informed opinions from someone who can cover a topic or product of interest in sufficient depth. And in photography circles, that basically comes down to VSL, TOP, bythom, and LuLa.