Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

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Lifting the kimono

a little more about me

in General , Saturday, August 15, 2015

Some thirteen months ago, I questioned if I should carry on with this web site. Eventually, I decided to do so, following some public and private encouragement from a number of visitors.  This year, I’ve been too busy too even think about self-doubt, so I’ve just payed for another year’s hosting fees, on the ever-reliable Meirhosting servers.

At the same time, I’ve done a little technical housekeeping, updating various bits and pieces. It took me quite a while to remember how to do a lot of this. My day to day work no longer involves any technical know-how, but to maintain this site I need to use PHP, CSS, HTML and remember how the slightly eccentric Expression Engine works. But it seems to have survived.

I’ve also done a substantial refresh of the “About” section, which is now split into several pages, and provides a little more information in amongst the low wit and heavy sarcasm. Hence, the title of this post.

See you in a year’s time…

Should I stay or should I go ?

flatlined

in Site Admin , Wednesday, July 09, 2014

I recently received my annual web hosting invoice for this site. This, together with domain name registration, costs me around £100 per annum. And, by the way, if you’re looking for a reliable independent web hosting service with excellent technical support, full features and non-USA hosting, I can safely recommend Meirhosting.

The reminder that all this costs money as well as time gives me cause to reflect on why I’m doing it. My data on Google Analytics makes quite depressing reading: I get very low traffic, my most popular posts are the few dedicated to gear, and the least popular are those talking about photography and photographers in general. Earlier this year, the stats were trending upwards. Now they’ve slumped.

Googleanalytics

Lies, damn lies, and statistics. According to Google’s monthly view, of the 40-odd visitors I get daily, 75% are new. So they don’t come back :-(

Awstats

AWStats shows a similar story - the levels are pretty flat.

I’ve maintained a website since around 1996. I registered the snowhenge domain in 2001, I think, and the earliest version of snowhenge.net went live in or before August 2001, according to the Wayback machine. I added blogging through MovableType in mid 2003. My first post was made at 04:32 PM on 17th July 2003. Apart from a pause of a few months in 2007 when I transitioned to Expression Engine, and switched hosting, I’ve been adding material fairly constantly. So far there are 673 blog posts. There have been several design overhauls and refreshes, but the current look has been around for 4 or 5 years. The photographic content has changed over time, as I tried to improve presentation and focus, and the non-photographic stuff has dwindled to very little. The one constant in all of this, though, has been the flatlining statistics.

Sng2003

The Grey Period: snowhenge.net in early 2003

My original motives for having a web site included a large part of experimentation with web technologies, which fed into my various “day jobs”. This is now gone, my day job has no need for such frippery. So it is now essentially a platform for publishing and talking about photography, and the arcana surrounding photography. The question is, then, is it working? At present the answer has to be no. There’s very little conversation, although what there is tends to be of above average quality, and statistics on my galleries show little interest from the outside world.

So why so little traffic? A number of reasons spring to mind: the content is uninteresting, I’m not an engaging writer (or photographer), it’s all too self-serving, it’s all too idiosyncratic or weird, the presentation is poor. Or, also, I have no reach, I don’t publicise the site well, my search engine optimisation doesn’t work, I don’t network enough. Or the site performance is bad and the navigation is confusing. Or the Disqus comment platform is unpopular and puts people off. Probably a combination of all of these factors means that the site fails to get noticed in the vast ocean of similar voices clamouring for attention on the web.

So what next? Should I just call it a day? It would be a shame, after close to 20 years of uninterrupted web presence, then again you could say after 20 years of failure I should have got the message. I could run a survey to see what my audience thinks, but there’s a bit of a snag in that plan. And then again, I’m not even sure I could keep up with things if I started getting a lot of feedback.

It’s clear that one criticism could be that the site is too generalist, that is has a split personality. This is true enough, but it’s not accidental. It reflects my personality: I’m not just interested in photography - far from it - and not even in one particular field of photography. Personally I find that photographer “portfolio” sites get boring pretty quickly, however good the photographer is. I like to understand some of what makes the artist tick, not just photographers, but writers, musicians too. And I’m interested in science, and in much else. So the somewhat “warts and all” approach is me basically trying to create the type of website that I’d enjoy visiting. Seems I’m in a minority! One reason I axxed my Facebook page is that I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable about the wide cross-section of “friends” I had: I felt that by posting stuff on say, Antarctic science, I was letting down people who followed me as a landscape photographer.

The ultimate goal of snowhenge.net is to promote my photography. That isn’t working, and the years are ticking by. My feeling at the moment is that I’ll give it another year, and seriously put some effort into improving traffic. I don’t hope for thousands of visitors - I’m happy if just one person gets some benefit from an article I post - but I don’t want to carry on shouting into the void. So in the coming weeks I need to settle on some realistic expectations and measurable objectives, and work out a plan for achieving them. If trends start to improve, fine. Otherwise, in one year it will be time to call it a day.

This is the point where, ironically, I ask for feedback. It would be great to get any opinions, suggestions thoughts, advice on all of this, but also just to let me know that you’re reading my writings and getting some sort of value out of it.  There are many blogs which I read frequently, but never comment on. Maybe it’s a similar story here.

Hey, maybe the problem is that all my posts are too long ?

Website refresh

New! Improved! More MegaPixels!!

in Site Admin , Wednesday, April 24, 2013

As you will have noticed, if you’re a regular visitor here (or should I say, the regular visitor here), the front page has been redesigned a bit. Hopefully the use of space is a bit improved, and the layout will cunningly impel you to do exactly what I want you to do…

..and that is is to stay here and look around a bit, which is, er, well, probably why I’ve just added a new feature called “Recommendations”, which invites you to visit other people’s websites. And that, Alanis, actually is ironic.

Whatever. The idea of “recommendations” is to point out places on the web that are maybe not so well known, with a few exceptions, but which I find interesting, inspiring and educational.  I’m a bit of an information addict, so a fair few of these are blogs, but there are some more static sites in the mix too.  So far, it’s just photography and photography-related, but a parallel “other stuff” channel is in the works.

You can find recommendations in three places. Firstly, a single random entry on the home page, at the bottom right, under the tag clouds. Second, in the right hand column of the Photoblogography main page, 5 random entries, and finally the whole lot on their own dedicated page.

I hope you find this little resource useful, and if you have any suggestions to add to it, do please let me know.

Site update

New commenting and other exciting stuff!

in Site Admin , Wednesday, October 03, 2012

I have just made a whole series of behind-the-scenes changes to snowhenge.net, which I hope will make it more interesting and more attractive to use.

First of all, commenting. I get quite a lot of comments here. Almost all are spam or borderline spam. Since I moderate everything, they don’t get through. But they do get through the ghastly CAPTCHA. And it means an unfortunate delay for legitimate comments. I could allow comments from members only, but however much I try even my few regulars refuse to sign up, although several hundred did when I ran the site on Movable Type. Possibly I’ve screwed up the template, or possibly nobody can be bothered. But well over a 1000 spammers did manage to register themselves… Unfortunately Expression Engine insists on its member-based approach, and I can’t even seem to “whitelist” regulars allowing them to bypass moderation. In my opinion it’s a real weak area in EE. So I’m going to go with the flow, and try out Disqus comments. From now on all commenting passes through Disqus. Old comments will still be visible, but the Expression Engine commenting interface is turned off. We’ll see how it goes. Of course, this makes “logging on” here pretty pointless for now. But maybe I’ll add some members-only stuff in the future. Who knows.

Next, and starting with this entry, I’m going to try to ressucitate the “Other Stuff” part of this site by restarting the dormant “The evenings out here” blog. It has been raised to full peer status with “photoblogography”, and gets its own seperate tag cloud.  T.E.O.H, to use the short name, has in the past been a repository for general writing, sometimes about music, sometimes general geekery, sometimes about work related stuff. Well, there won’t be much work stuff, as anything writing about anything vaguely interesting I’m doing would be a criminal offence. So it’s going to be more general. I’ve left all the old articles up, but a lot of them are extremly outdated these days. But I still find some of the more unbalanced ranting vaguely musing.

I decided to go with this revival after considering what some of my favourite blogs are doing - such as Patrick LaRoque, Rob Boyer - and also others who seem to go from total zero to fully accomplished guru in two years! I decided finally that my split personality “photography & other stuff” theme was basically my unique “selling” point, so the best thing I can do is to emphasise it. On the photography side, I’m also not so good at the more “photoblog” kind of very regular publishing. I’m more into (self)-curated galleries these days.

Obviously running this site has to fit somewhere in my leisure time, and there’s little of that to go around. I’m also pretty slow at writing articles, although I’ve usually got a least a handful floating around in my head.

Anyway, I hope all the new stuff works, and I apologise for the inevitable bugs. I’d be delighted if you left a comment (unless it involves an incredible business opportunity buying Viagra from Nigeria).