A Bad Blogger Back from Berlin

BarCamp Berlin 3 was, as can be best described in the popular vernacular of an MTV generation, “Off the Fucking Hook.” It was a barcamp by which future barcamps will be measured, it will always exist as a whisper in the internet night, lingering in the back of blogger minds until the apocalypse. As an American living in Zurich who happens to know a few people from the city, my view is that if you’re attending a cool party around Zurich, it’s probably being hosted by someone from Berlin. Expectations were high as I landed at Tegel Flughafen, and they were fulfilled in every tech geekiness sense.

The point of a barcamp is the free exchange of ideas. These ideas are mainly directed towards the internet technology sector, but all are welcome. So what were the great ideas that I was exposed to at BarCampBerlin 3.0? Some highlights from my view include ZooTool, presented by Hartmut Wöhlbier from Mannheim, it’s an interactive tool to replace bookmarking in the internet. I’ve started using ZooTool, but find it more useful for images, as it scans a page to see what content can be saved, and so far I’ve found it less useful for saving articles or text.  Alex Kawas received the most enthusiastic applause of the weekend for his talk about optimizing your sleep to improve your productivity. I asked him why when I have a few beers, my next day is extremely productive, but he admited that he did know. I respect this type of answer, becuase it’s far more useful than when a person starts bullshitting an answer to cover the fact that they dont’ know.

Of course, as a photography-centric blogger, I was highly attuned to the imagery topics. For a while I’ve been looking for a way to produce custom messenger bags with original artwork, and by the grace of the divine spirt a German company is doing exactly that. CROW’n’CROW GmbH allows you to create and eventually market your custom bag designs on their site.  This is similar to something like CafePress, but the quality of their bags is superior to anything I’ve seen so far, and I plan on getting a few bags from them. Currently their site is in German, which is great for me but so far they’re only targeting the German and European markets, watch them for eventual expansion to the States.  I talked briefly with their reps, and Steve said large orders to the US might be possible, contact them for details. On the photography front, Ole Begemann gave a demonstration on using Strobist inspired small-flash photography techniques. Ole is one of those new-breed digital photographers, who produces fantastic imagery despite not having a degree from the Brooks Institute. His Flickr stream has inpiring images from Berlin to Bolivia, and and many areas inbetween. Ole took me on a photo-tour of Berlin before the barcamp and now I’m highly motivated to go back to Berlin to shoot at the locations we scoped out.

Bar Camp Berlin 3 was really a well-organized event.  The only problem was in the acoustics of the event.  The sessions were held in an open hall with dividers for to create small rooms, but the sound went up and reflected off the ceiling, making it hard to hear what was being presented. A minor thing. All in all Bar Camp Berlin rocked, and I couldn’t thank the organizers and sponsors enough. The event was held in the Hauptstadtrepräsentanz of the Deutsche Telekom. Every time I head to a barcamp I give a talk, and my talk at BarCamp Berlin 3.0 was on Sunday morning, centered on the use of visual imagery for blogs and the internet. This was an interesting experience, because I didn’t find anytime to sleep between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Although I was coherent, I somehow didn’t push the right button on my Zoom H4, and therefore the audio of the session was not saved for posterity.

The real fun was later on Sunday afternoon when the city began to take on an unrealistic feel, and I felt like I was walking through a Pink Floyd video. I’m sure that Alex Kawas would have recommended sleeping at some point, but I had no desire to. The true value of a BarCamp is inspiration, and I got a lot of that in Berlin. I spend four days in Berlin, the first two were spent on photography and writing, going nowhere and doing nothing. I had my Zoom H4 with me and recorded sounds of Berlin, and plan to do some visual poetry combining the visual images and Berlin sounds. Hunter S. Thompson used to say that the weird never die, but I think we just like waiting until we have a reason to. He found his time, but I’m still waiting for mine.

BlogCampSwitzerland 3.0 Flickr-Blog Integration

I had the excellent opportunity to join in the third BarCamp in Zurich. BlogCamp Switzerland 3.0 was held on August 29th, 2008 at the Technopark in Zurich. ?This was my second attendance at BlogCamp Switzerland, I did a talk at the first one on March 24th, 2007 where I gave a talk called ?Photography and Writing for Blogs.

BlogCamp Switzerland 3.0 included a cool mix of people and ideas.  I listened to Cédric Hüsler ( talk about the impact of polling feed networks and how much traffic is wasted on checking if blogs have been updated.  In the afternoon I went to hear Patrick Liechti from Sun Microsystems talk about organizing a Startup BarCamp type conference to educate people on how to form and succeed with new startups.  This underscores the advantage of attending a BarCamp, lots of new ideas and exposure to new areas.  I’m looking forward to attending BarCamp Berlin 3, which will be the third for that awesome city.

This time I put together a talk centered on using Flickr as a way to integrate photography into a blogging workflow.  This sounds a bit technical and boring, but I tried to get all blogging philosophical and hit on the idea that photos can be used to instantly communicate feelings in invoke emotional responses in ways which aren’t possible by blogging just using text.

The fusion of text blogs with Flickr postings means you can market your blog content to a large number of people who are interested in visual stimulation.  If your images communicate an essential message, they can be used as ways to bring traffic to your site.  Furthermore, using the community aspects of Flickr enables very good interaction with blog readers.  David Hobby knows this, the author of Strobist has skillfully used Flickr to build a reader base that wouldn’t have been possible if he had only blogged using his Blogger account.  And after learning some things from David, I used Flickr to market my blog posts about photographer Joey Lawrence and his Photoshop DVD Tutorial with the Strobist Flickr group discussion board.  I also hit on how Flickr is currently one of the best solutions to the problem of finding photos on an internet when search engines are still all text based.

Anyways, since I’m exploring the transition from text blogging to integrated photo blogging I thought I’d add some video and audio to the mix.  This first one sort of sucks, but I’m looking to improve.  Below I’ve embedded a version of my talk entitled:

Marketing Blog Content with Flickr

Timing and Community

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. 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, 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 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 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.