Blogging

Bad Bloggers go to Berlin

Good bloggers go to San Fransico, Bad bloggers go to BarCamp Berlin 3.  At least, I’m hoping that’s what will be written on the BarCamp Berlin 3 T-shirts.  BarCamp Berlin 3.0 is setting up to be the coolest blogging event of 2008, and probably one the best held so far in the history of the BarCamp.  Paris has flair, Zurich beauty, and Detroit has true grit.  But Berlin is one of those unique cities with an excellent mix of history, tech, art, design, and badassness.  In Berlin the people are hip, beer is plentiful, and the clubs get hotter as the night turns into morning.  It’s also easily one of my favorite places for photography in the world.  Berlin is a city in flux, it has a flow, and between new buildings filled with new ideas the old walls give the determined poet inspiration.  I could easily spend a month there, but this is the wrong attitude.  If you spend a month anywhere you run the risk of getting comfortable.  Better to enter and leave the environment as harshly as possible, keep the mind alert and the senses hightened, otherwise you’ll miss what you came for.  It’s all the more interesting when you have to push youself for a few days with little rest.


First, the main deal: there are something like 650 participants from Germany and around the world attending BarCamp Berlin 3 (Oct. 18th and 19th), and it kicks off a Web 2.0 week in Germany.  Two big parties are happening on Friday and Saturday night, with the camp festivities starting Saturday and ending on Sunday. Sponsored by a number of tech companies, including Oracle and Nokia…I’m incredibly geeked about attending.  Of course, to get in, you have to be on the list.


Getting on the list wasn’t easy, the day registration opened I followed the link in my email only to get denied on the spot, because it seems like the available spots were filled up in a near simutaneous flurry of internet mouse clicks.  Fortunately for me, the cool folks at BarCamp Belin had reserved space specifically for international guests.  Since I come from the US and live in Zurich, I seemd to qualify.  This naturally brings up what I would do at BarCamp.  The concept, as with every barcamp is no spectators, you give a talk, volunteer or blog about the blogcamp.  I’m always in the presentor category.  Not because I know what I’m talking about, but some days you like to hear yourself speak, and preparing a talk means you have to have a grasp of the content.  This isn’t like attending a scientific conference where only two people out of twenty will be able to understand the words flowing out of your mouth.  At a BarCamp you want to communicate ideas for the pure sake of spreading knowledge and inspiring people.  My last apperance was at BlogCampSwitzerland3.0, where I rambled on about integrating Flickr and blog content.  As a speaker, I always come out of the process with a deeper understanding of the material and of myself.  Additionally, speaking reaffirms how much I don’t know about the world.  I like to think I offer a unique perspecitve, trained as a research engineer I blog about cameras, photoshop, creativity, phtography and produce imagery for Flickr.  My main interests for BarCamp Berlin are delving into the production process of visual imageray for blogs, and distributing that content in diffenet ways on the web.  My video production skills are improving, and I’ll post my talk in two or three videos after the show.


Now the only question is what to pack?  I’ll take three cameras to Berlin, burn through as much Velvia film as possible in 35mm and 645 formats and try to capture the feeling of the adventure.  Street sounds and poetry will be handled with my Zoom H4 digital audio recorder.  My short list of cameras includes the Ricoh GRD, Contax G1, and Fuji GA645 (wi) cameras.  The Contax G1 might not make sense to some people – who still shoots 35mm in a digital world?  Well, here’s a better question, how can one spend time photographing in place like Berlin and not do it with Carl Zeiss lenses?

BarCamp Berlin 3

Sweet Flickr-Blog Integration

Creating and marketing fabulous pictures on Flickr is more or less the same as producing any fabulous web content. If you produce unique things that people want to look at, then more people will look at your stuff. For Flickr this means producing interesting photographs or engaging images.



Generally, internet users are looking for content which holds value for them. This might be interesting news stories, connecting with friends, getting video/audio entertainment, or just learning about random things. In Search Engine Optimization philosophies, internet pages are designed so that the content, webpage titles, and metadata are all related to one another. So when Google looks at your page about the Ricoh GR Digital, it believes this page will be important for people who are Googling “Ricoh GRD” and as a result many people might find your content via Google.


Flickr operates in a similar manner. You produce photographic content, give it a cool title, add tags to accurately describe it, post it to relevant Flickr groups, and people will find it in Flickr, or via search engine queries (Google, Yahoo, etc.). Additionally, Flickr assigns it interestingness and based on that figure your images can get a ton of exposure on the Flickr Explore page.


Flickr coined (and patented) the term Interestingness as a way of ranking photos. Interestingness has been written about extensively and for good or bad is one of the main factors in determining exposure. Basically it’s the measure by which your photos might be viewed by thousands or only a few. Like all web content, Flickr images don’t have to be “good” in the technical sense, they just have to be…well, interesting.


My Flickr photos are generally not interesting, and instead I just set about producing images that I like and which I find interesting. If you set about trying to crack the Interestingness formula and produce images specifically for their Interestingness value, you’ll just end up diluting your own style. It’s the same reason I don’t write blog posts about WordPress plugins (a popular topic for any search engine).


If I wrote content souly based on how popular the content might be, I’d just be writing the same stuff a thousand other people on the net write about. I choose to be uninteresting and boring and rebel against the idea that blog posts have to be short and near useless updates to generate keywords for Google to follow. However, if you are into the marketing of you creative images and blog content, combining Flickr and blog postings is really a powerful technique.


Flickr and blogs were seemingly made for one another other. There are two things I have a real problem separating in life, writing and photography. With Flickr and blogging, I don’t have to. When I write blog posts they often include some sort of visual content, generally images from photo shoots I’ve done. It just makes sense to attract viewers to my written content using visual images posted on Flickr. Combining Flickr and blogs is painfully easy, and is a powerful tool for satisfying the content desires of readers and image seekers.


Why should you host blog images on Flickr instead of just uploading everything in WordPress or whatever blog platform you use? Because the integration of blog postings with Flickr posts can be very powerful, because by combining the two, you’re essentially expanding and combining two audiences, those looking for written and those looking for visual content.


The Basic Idea:


When people read your webpage and see an interesting image, they should be able to click on that image and be directed to the image hosted on Flickr. Conversely, when people see your cool images on Flickr they should be able to click on the link to your website (which you included in the Flickr description). Then, when people search for things on Google/Yahoo both your Flickr images (via Flickr keywords and tags) and web content will be indexed, and hence the two will increase the exposure of your digital content on the web via search engine listings.


Is Flickr-Blog Integraion Effective?


If you have a Flickr Pro account and a Google Analytics account, you can directly track how many people are referred to specific posts from Flickr, and how many people are going from your blog to your Flickr account. This helps in figuring out who is interested in your images and how that translates into more visitors to your site. This, of course, gives the keen digital content author the ability to optimize written and visual content for their visitors. I mean, if no one wants to read about how I use my Ricoh GR Digital camera, why should I write stuff about it? As it turns out, the written and visual content pertaining to my Ricoh GRD camera is some of the most popular on my blog and on my Flickr account.


The most popular posts on An American Peyote Scribble are related to Joey Lawrence, the Ricoh GR Digital and the Fuji GA645 cameras. Continuous hits come each day from Google and Flickr to these topics. And…often times the most viewed images on my Flickr account just happen to be images relating to those posts.


JoeyL Tutorial After


I originally started integrating my Flickr and blog content due to David Hobby at Strobist, who has pretty good Flickr-Blogger integration. Generally he generates interest in new blog content by first posting the images he’ll be using to his Flickr account. This generates initial interest for the forthcoming blog post, and gets die-hard Strobist readers on Flickr ready for his next blog post. Then he’ll post the the written content to his blog.


But Who Cares?


There’s no real long-lasting substitute for quality content. You can integrate your blog and Flickr accounts all you like, but if you don’t post high-quality (or interesting) images to Flickr no one will be interested and motivated to follow the link to your website. If you write about boring generic stuff on your blog, no one is going to care about clicking on your photo and heading to your Flickr account because they won’t care about the story behind your images.


Integrating Flickr and blog postings won’t in and of itself bring more people to your site, but by integrating the two together you can create a method whereby your visual and written content both are getting exposure and relating back to one another


I’ll still continue writing about what I want to write about, the stuff I find interesting. But it’s nice to have method for delivering this content to people who actually want to read it.


Rancor Courts Barbie

Pro Blogging and Life Lessons

I learned about a new profession about half a year ago, Professional Blogger.  The tie-in to professional photographer is amazingly similar and the concept is simple: You write about stuff that people on the internet want to read about in such a way that they continually check-back to your site, you sell advertising space and make money, enough to quit your day job.

I find pro blogging interesting because it’s a prominent example of how the internet has changed the way advertisers and the modern economy enable individuals to form economically feasible escapes from the traditional workforce.

Much like with professional photography, there appears to be a tendency for people to quit their jobs and put their energies into their blogs with the hope of pulling in six-figure incomes from writing stuff on the internet.  With blogging, as with any easy-entry market like photography: some might succeed, but many will be barely sustainable or just flat-out flop without a clear understanding of the market and a sound business plan.

Blogging is an even riskier industry to enter than photography since the number of possible imitators increases dramatically.  Now it’s not just every person who picks up a DSLR and puts in the time to learn, it’s also anyone with an internet connection.  The start-up investment is essentially just time, you can get a free blog from a number of sources and start publishing immediately.

ProBlogger.net is one of the most popular and no-doubt economically successful blogs on the internet today.  Problogger is successful because it publishes information about the niche that so many bloggers on the internet want to read about: Making Money from Blogging.  Everyone goes there to learn how to make a 6-figure income from typing on cyberspace.  In my view, it’s similar to photography, in that the best way to make money in a creative industry such as photography or blogging is to show other people how to take photos or blog.

Consider Luminous-Landscape.com, it probably has the largest wealth of quality information related to photography on the internet.  I started out my technical photo education there.  The primary author, Michael Reichmann is a successful professional photographer based in Canada.  However, a great deal of his success seems to be tied to producing video tutorials on photography and organizing photo workshop tours around the world, which is all promoted on his website.  The power of his words when it comes to cameras and photo equipment is impressive, but I don’t think he would be the icon that he is if it were not for the position he has very smartly put himself in – A Photo Guru of the Internet Age.

Another rising Internet Guru Star in this regard is David Hobby from Strobist.  As a photographer for the Baltimore Sun, he obviously knows his craft, but it’s the position he’s put himself in as the Off-Camera Flash Guru which will for sure provide an excellent platform for his future success.  Plus, he can create waves.  If he mentions a new flash, like the Vivtar 285HV, or the Westcott double fold umbrella reflector, there’s a good possibility that Midwest Photo Exchange will get a large number of orders almost overnight.

What about those that just blog, without it would seem, any specific niche?  The thing I like about RT Cunningham is that he doesn’t really have a niche, he just writes and people read it.  The interesting thing about www.untwistedvortex.com is that in general, it doesn’t tell you how to make money or fulfill any creative ambitions, but it’s ranked high and I can’t stop reading it.

In the past year that I’ve started doing the American Peyote blog on a normal basis I’ve learned many things, which aside from making money on the internet, I find very applicable to many facets of my life.  Producing blog entries keeps my mind moving and my writing skills primed.  Exploring money making opportunities from photography or blogging is exposing me to the marketing and economic realities you don’t learn about in engineering classes.

I gotten a better feeling for how information is digested in the internet world.  As a consequence, I started Klugmat.org to more effectively disseminate the knowledge gained from my PhD work.  Turning my PhD into a website means more exposure to more people for my work, since normally the number of folks who read your dissertation is extremely small.  There’s no money to be made, but I have faith in smart materials, and the prospect of exposing more people to this technology just seems like a cool thing to do.

I also discovered something else, one of my biggest visitor days was March 24th 2007, the day that I gave a presentation on Photography and Writing for Blogs at BlogCamp Zurich.  Despite the power of internet communication and high-speed connections, Technorati and BlogJuice, it was the act of physically giving a presentation to a group of real-live people which increased my blog exposure in Switzerland.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make a real go at monitizing the American Peyote blog or entering the stock photography game, but the things I’ve learned from studying these possibilities has greatly contributed to my success as a smart materials researcher and will no-doubt play a roll in my future adventures in life.

The Blog Reformed – Reborn – Refocused

The mind works fast when you think of killing your blog, and in my head it has been rebuilt.  Rebuilt for focus, purpose, not a rambling collection of things that I just throw up to make things seem more interesting in my life.  Not a news posting service of my life, that’s what emails and letters are for, but a platform to continue exercising my writing and creativity muscles.

The Basic Focus will be:

Travel and Photography

These are not random topics, it’s what I do when I’m not engineering, and hence the most natural choices for a blog niche.  Besides, many other people like to travel and make photos, so it seems like a good thing to share this ability with the rest of the world.

Travel will mean writing about trips in Europe and Switzerland, well, and anywhere else I find interesting to explore.  This is convenient since I’m flying to Japan at the end of August.

Topics about traveling in Switzerland will revolve around day and night trips.  Day trips in Switzerland mean climbing and mountaineering.  Night trips imply the underground scene, clubs and the flavor of the night found here.

Photography and writing are hard for me to avoid, and will have a place here as well.  Flash technique and writing work-flow ramblings will find their way onto the blog.  A random Search Engine Optimization (SEO) post or the application of what I’ve learned from the internet and how it applies to life might be written as well.

No doubt there will also be more general things like book reviews, the occasional political analysis, fashion, and tips on being creative and acquiring the tools you need to do the things you want to in life.

This means that a large number of posts from the archives have disappeared overnight, as if they never existed.  Google will be confused at first, but the update of the sitemap will lead to a gradual forgetting of these posts, which will be fragmented and devoured by time.

In the mean-time, side projects like KlugMat.org and Miris Photography will also develop, the digital age is a scary place, but once you begin to understand it, the possibilities of putting art and engineering in the hands of the people is a crazy but exciting prospect.