Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Rules for Blogging - Gathered from 16 Years of Experience

AI generated images about blogging - Designer AI generated images about blogging - Designer AI generated images about blogging - Designer 
AI images about blogging (source).

The following are principles that have guided us in blogging for the last 16 years. We didn't start off with a set of principles in mind, rather, they developed in time. Take what guidance you want from them or in the least get inspired to come up with your own. (You can read “blog” here as “write” in whatever format or platform you choose.)

Rules of Thumb

Blogging Rules of Thumb - Strategic

  • Blog for yourself first and foremost.
  • Don't spend too much timing imagining a perceived audience and what will make them happy. What makes you happy is what you should write about.
  • The creation process is the point of blogging. Not number of readers or popularity.
  • Follow your passion for what you blog about. Follow it to odd extremes and go down different paths.
  • Stay away from negativity unless it is constructive and illustrative. Negativity doesn’t age well and is hard to do well and wittily.
  • Short posts are okay. If you don't have much to say, don't say much.
  • Unique diagrams, photos, and insight are good. Be different. Add value through your uniqueness. Add value by writing about your experiences.
  • Think long term about how the blog will age over time. Will a post be a time capsule of interest, remain relevant or be completely uninteresting 50 years from now? What would your writing look like in other contexts (a book e.g.)?
  • Connect your blog posts together over time.

Blogging Rules of Thumb - Tactical

  • High resolution images are good. The higher the better. Storage is free.
  • Use links but don't make the post dependent on them. Links don't last long, i.e., sites disappear and links change surprisingly frequently.
  • Try to get as close to the reference material you are using as possible rather than relying on secondary sources. (If you restate Wikipedia often, maybe you should go and join their effort and make their pages better and stop blogging. I should take my own advice.)
  • When creating a link don't just say "here", spell out the link name. Think about a printed version of the material: "here" won't make sense.

Set Your Expectations

  • If you are a new blogger or an obscure blogger (and most are, including this blog), chances are that few people will read your blog. Not even your friends or family. Screaming into the void? Pissing into the wind? Perhaps. Our blogging theme song could be Birds Fly (A Whisper to A Scream) by the Icicle Works.
  • If you are thinking you can make a quick buck on advertising, run the numbers carefully. You have to have a lot of page views. (For example, read about our experience here: Valentine’s Day and I Broke Up with Google AdSense.)
  • Unless you are already famous, chances are that your blog will be found when people search for something and come upon your blog and word of mouth or links start happening. (Assuming you don't pay for placement or something like that.)
  • Spend a little time and understand how to blog so that search engines can find and understand what you are writing about.
  • You will create ugly and beautiful posts. It's hard to know how a post will turn out. Also, it's hard to tell what will be popular (by tallying page views over time). Don't worry, just create.
  • Fill out the post metadata like location, and search descriptions. Give good URI names to the posts like "rules-for-blogging.html".
  • Publishing your blog content in our social media can help bring in readers. It's not something we've done with this blog.

Unexpected Blog Rewards

  • A blog is a handy reference to look up things you did, said or discovered. We can't tell you the number of times we use our own blog for looking up things we've done.
  • A blog is handy to send to friends asking for advice on something you covered in a blog. Again, numerous times we've sent links to our blog about how to do something or something we did (usually travel-related).

Content Freshness

Keeping content fresh and thinking about future conversions is probably the furthest thing from your mind if you are just starting off. However, it's worth spending some time thinking about it, in particular how you'll be able to move content form one platform to a future platform.

In early 2023, we started thinking about how to convert blog content (accessible from RSS feeds) into markdown that we could save elsewhere. (In particular, we were targeting our Scrapbook effort as a blog backup.)

We learned a few things to help us with future conversions. Some lessons from this effort include:

1) Links to websites (besides Wikipedia) don't endure particularly long. We found many broken links in our old posts.

  • Lesson: If necessary, take a screenshot of the website to show it, especially if it’s an obscure site. Sounds stupid to do but think 10-20 years in the future. Or create a PDF of the site.
  • Lesson: Museum websites always change (and don't put redirects). If you must link, Wikipedia is a better choice.
  • Lesson: When linking to a website, don't link deep into the site. Link just the main page.

2)  Linking to other images breaks when image names change. Redirects are almost never in place.

  • Lesson: Always copy the image and give credit if necessary.

3) Formatting styles change in time. There will always be some time needed for "conversion" or "curation". To lessen the burden, consider the following:

  • Lesson: Go easy on links. It's okay not to hyperlink everything. Don't set target attributes.
  • Lesson: Avoid weird formatting like coloring (when not necessary) or spans or complicated HTML.
  • Lesson: Check the HTML and make sure it's as simple as possible (for future conversions).
  • Lesson: Be careful copying from Word or other sources as they can introduce formatting you may not want.

4) Don't’ skimp on images.

  • Lesson: Blog posts without at least one image are kind of boring. At least, when we looked back at old posts with no images, that was our first feeling.
  • Lesson: Always add at least one image and use your own images whenever possible.
  • Lesson: If an image isn’t readily available, have fun with the AI image generators? How well can you describe your blog to create an image to match? Examples are included in this post.

5) Add yourself, add little easter eggs.

  • Lesson: Put your thoughts and some "color" of the moment in your life that you are writing the post. It's a joy to read some thoughts you had no matter how silly from way back.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

McCoy Basket Weave Flower Pots and Chlorophytum comosum (Spider plant)

McCoy Basket Weave Flower Pots and Chlorphytum comosum McCoy Basket Weave Flower Pots and Chlorphytum comosum

In this POTS AND PLANTS post, we pair McCoy Basket Weave Planters with spider plants, Chlorophytum comosum. Several points to make:

  • Almost all of our McCoy pots made it to Bergamo, Italy in the international move. We may have left a few behind, stashed in a friend’s basement. Note to self: check.
  • The name typically used to describe these pieces is “McCoy Pottery Basket Weave Planters”, circa 1950's.
  • It’s great to be using these pots again. They are as they say in Italian of a certain cookiebrutti ma buoni” - ugly but good. The colors are garish, the forms strange, but we love them anyway.
  • It’s been a long time since a “Pots and Plants” post! In fact, our first in the series back in 2011 McCoy Flower Pots and Crassulaceae featured some of the same pots seen here.

We’ve been on a spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) kick lately. One day last summer, we were walking by the small chapel Beata Vergine di Caravaggio on the backside of the upper city of Bergamo and saw a spider plant outside the entrance. Usually, this plant is inside the locked chapel. We took one of the many plantlets and brought it home. That plant in turn produced more plantlets which are shown in these McCoy pots.

Spider plants remind me of my youth when I was designated plant waterer. They are tough plants. Many of these starts are destined for spots outdoors. Here, they are pictured in our “tower” where we temperature can go between 10 – 50 Celsius (50 to 104 Fahrenheit) seasonally.

It’s good to putz around with plants again. We’ve missed that. The other half of Travelmarx is thinking soon I'll be jonesing for macrame holders to hold these spider plants. Good idea!

Note: There is a Tradescantia snuck into these photos.

McCoy Basket Weave Flower Pots and Chlorphytum comosum McCoy Basket Weave Flower Pots and Chlorphytum comosum McCoy Basket Weave Flower Pots and Chlorphytum comosum

McCoy Basket Weave Flower Pots and Chlorphytum comosum McCoy Basket Weave Flower Pots and Chlorphytum comosum

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Desire Paths

Desire path in Bergamo, Italy Desire path in Venice, Italy Desire path in Spoleto, Italy
Desire paths in Bergamo, Venice, and Spoleto Italy.

In the realm of urban planning, a desire path refers to the shortcuts created by pedestrians. Why pedestrians create desire paths is debated. Some authors (see references) say it’s a political statement or an expression of nonconformity. In the vast majority of cases, we believe this to be false. Pedestrians simply optimize their time getting from one point to another or optimize perceived safety.

As we collected desire paths for this post, it occurred to us that the concept can be applied to the internet, becoming a metaphor for our quest for information. 

The internet has no shortage of information pathways. Search engines, social media platforms, and websites serve as the paved sidewalks, guiding users towards their destinations. However, like pedestrians who carve out their own desire paths, internet users often find themselves forging their own routes in the pursuit of knowledge.

This act of finding your own path is not merely a means to an end but an essential part of the learning process. It is through this journey you engage with diverse perspectives, stumble upon new ideas, and ultimately, enrich your understanding. The destination, or the final piece of information, is just one part of the equation. The journey, filled with exploration and discovery, holds equal, if not more, significance.

The analogy between real-world desire paths and information desire paths breaks down when we consider the potential for getting stuck in Internet information bubbles. Real-world desire paths usually don’t have this feature, that is, getting stuck in a dangerous loop.

The internet does not dictate any particular path but allows the freedom to explore, to get lost, and to find your way back. In the best of situations – notwithstanding rabbit holes and information bubbles – this mirrors life, where the destination should not be overshadowed by the journey. After all, it is the journey that shapes us, that makes us who we are.

My information desire path about real-world desire paths started as an observation that I took for granted for many years and then started to wonder if others saw them too. And they do, for example: Desire Paths (reddit.com). That led me to realize that I was not at all original in my observations – though glad I was able to shed light on them. The Internet is humbling in that way. A day late and a dollar short would apply for many observations that I realize are old news like desire paths and ASMR. (For years, I thought it was just me that liked certain sounds. Then in 2016, I realized it wasn’t the case.)

When we first started thinking about desire paths, they made us angry. Why were people so rude we wondered. Then came a reality check that we used the same paths. Even later came the idea that desire paths express a sort of "good" social tension. What you are supposed to do and little shortcuts around that. That's healthy.  A city isn't a static place, it's always changing. If not paths, then doors.


Desire path in Bergamo, Italy Desire path in Bergamo, Italy Desire path in Bergamo, Italy
Desire Paths in Bergamo Italy

Desire path in Bergamo, Italy Desire path in Bergamo, Italy Desire path in Bergamo, Italy Desire path in Bergamo, Italy
Desire paths in Bergamo, Italy

Desire path in Bergamo, Italy Desire path - Chioggia, Italy Desire path in Venice, Italy Desire path in Istanbul, Türkiye 
Desire paths in Bergamo, Chioggia, Venice Italy, and in Istanbul, Türkiye.

Desire path in Laodicea on the Lycus (Türkiye) Desire path in Pompeii, Italy 
Left: Desire path in Laodicea on the Lycus (Türkiye). Right: Desire path in Pompeii, Italy.

Desire path in Venice, Italy Desire path in Venice, Italy Desire path in Venice, Italy Desire path in Venice, Italy
Desire paths in Venice, Italy.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Music Album Covers with a Person Smoking

A mosaic of 30 musical album covers featuring people smoking.
A mosaic of 30 musical album covers featuring people smoking.

Here are 30 album music album covers featuring a person smoking. About one third of the covers are from the 1970s.

Some stats: Smoking in the USA has fallen since 1965 when 42 percent of the adult population were cigarette smokers. As of 2021, the number has fallen to about 12 percent. As of 2023, about 19% of adult people in the world are smokers.

Some thoughts: smoking as “cool” is connected to glamour, sophistication, and iconic Hollowood figures. Smoking projects individuality and non-conformity – or at least that’s how it’s hoped to be perceived. Personally, when we see the smoking images, we think of people who we know that smoke and that dreaded “stench” that follow them around, a decidedly less glamourous, cool, and rebellious.

1970 Antonio Carlos Jobim - Stone Flower
1973 Harry Nilsson - A Light Touch of Schmilsson
1974 Badfinger - Badfinger
1974 Tom Waits - The Heat of Saturday Night
1975 David Bowie - Young Americans

1976 Gordon Lightfoot - Summertime Dream
1977 Jim Croce - Time in a Bottle
1979 John Mellencamp - John Cougar
1979 Marianne Faithfull - Broken English
1979 Miles Davis - Circle in the Round

1979 Rickie Lee Jones - Rickie Lee Jones
1980 John Hiatt - Two Bit Monsters
1980 Loverboy - Loverboy
1982 Donald Fagen - The Nightfly
1982 Sylvester - Do You Wanna Funk

1984 Van Halen - 1984
1987 The Smiths - Louder Than Bombs
1988 Noel - Noel
1989 Don Henley - The End of Innocence
1990 Sonic Youth - Goo

1992 Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom
1994 Original Soundtrack - Pulp Fiction
1998 Marianne Faithful - The Seven Deadly Sins
1999 Fred Buscaglione - Il Favoloso
2000 Joni Mitchell - Both Sides Now

2006 Artic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What Im Not
2015 Curtis Harding - Soul Power
2018 Caroline Rose - Loner
2021 Nick Lowe - The Convincer
2023 13th Ward Social Club - Gainsbourg, Volume One