Plans for 2015

The Christmas/family obligations are done for the year and I’ve returned from Southern California alive and ready for a few days off before going back to work. With the holidays behind me, I’m hoping I can get back at it here on the blog. Hope all of your holidays, as you choose to celebrate them, went well and there was much joy in them for you.

While I haven’t had time to get much writing done, I have been doing some planning on what I want to accomplish in the next few months. Here are some of the things I’ve decided I need to work on:

Website Redesigns

I’ve known for a while that 2015 was going to be the year I dug into a major redesign of my web sites. I think I’ve taken the existing design as far as it’s worth pushing it, so it’s time to tear it up, throw it out, and do it again. Here’s what this means in my current plans:

Split out the photography onto its own site.

I’ve consciously kept my photography part of my personal site, just as I’ve consciously tried to think of it as an engaging and serious hobby. A big chunk of my spare time in 2014 involved researching ways to generate revenue and build my passive income opportunities (in english: Amazon affiliate sales). That led to my starting to sell my images through a stock agency (sales to date: $77) and put some effort into upgrading and refining my reviews and my amazon ad look and feel (net increase in affiliate income went from about $3/mo to about $50/mo) — so I can look at the numbers and feel that I’m on the right track.

That tells me it’s time to push the photography out of “Just an amateur” mode and get more serious about how my photography is presented. The design I built around the Photocrati theme is nice, but I feel it needs some serious rework, so that tells me it’s time to stop tweaking it and do a full redesign.

I also want to make that site more responsive on mobile devices. I could do all of that myself (hah! given my free time, no I can’t), so I’ve decided to move my photography over to the Photoshelter site and set up a new site there. I’ll migrate the appropriate parts of the existing site over there and rewrite/update/clean it up as much as needed, plus set up the appropriate images and portfolios, galleries, etc.

As part of this, I’ll be shutting down my smug mug site. I’ve also decided to shut down my flickr site. Some of that will move to the Photoshelter site, some of it will move to my Instagram site (which I barely use now; expect it to have a higher profile), and part of it will move to I don’t know where yet (but decided: not pinterest, not 500px, not google).

Why Photoshelter? I love their designs, all of the feedback I’ve gotten from users has been positive, great SEO, good support, and very turnkey. There are some things I’ve been thinking of doing that I may not be able to do there in my plans, but the time cost of building from scratch on WordPress that I’ve estimated tells me it’s better to live without those features than do it all myself.

Why am I leaving Smugmug? Mostly because I don’t need both Photoshelter and Smugmug. I have almost nothing negative to say about Smugmug, I like the people and site and technology. The only things I wish about Smugmug is that they’d phase out the Flash bits for updated HTML5 equivalents and for a blogging system integrated. I talked to them about the latter over a year ago and they indicated it was somewhere on the roadmap, but there’s still no option there, and I want a blog integrated into my next system, and that was a big decider for me between redesigning on Smugmug or moving to Photoshelter. Photoshelter has functionality I need. I’m currently seeing 3-4,000 views a day on SmugMug, and I wince thinking about the need to rebuild that kind of interest on a new site, but in the long-run, it makes sense.

Why am I leaving Flickr? Because, well, because Flickr still feels very much like Flickr 2004 to me, and I don’t see that changing. There have been some cosmetic changes, but the core functionality hasn’t been updated, especially on the community side, and if you look behind some of the more simple page chrome they’ve added, it feels stale and unloved. This is sad, because I had hopes Yahoo under Mayer would see a renaissance, but honestly, neither Flickr nor Yahoo enthuses me or makes me want to be part of it now, so I won’t continue there. Which is too bad, because I’m seeing 2,000 views a day there and many usage inquiries come from the site, but when I look at the value of those inquiries, inevitably it’s free usage requests.

When I move to the new setups, I’ll be removing Creative Commons licenses from all images and content. Why I’m doing that will have to be its own article sometime down the road. I’m a supporter of CC, but I’m not convinced using it is an advantage to me at this point, so I’m going to drop support.

Building out the reviews/ads into a full For Your Consideration site

Yes, I think it’s time to take the reviews and build them out into their own site. I’ve tried variations of this before that haven’t worked, the experiments I’ve done and the designs I’ve added this year have. the big weakness I have right now is a lot of hand coding, which limits flexibility and with my limited time recently has meant fewer updates, so I’m going to build it out around a WordPress theme and try to make adding content and embedding it across my sites as easy and turnkey as possible. I have some nice ideas here and will talk about them as I move them forward.

Redesign and rebuild

Having taken a couple of big chunks of content out of the existing site, I plan on tearing it down and rebuilding it around a new design and WordPress them. With those other pieces in their own places, that opens up this site to let me expand it into new and different content. I’ve been consciously limited the topics I’ve covered here in favor of trying to focus on photography. Once that moves to the new site, I won’t have to worry about annoying people who only want one set of topics instead of all of them. I do plan to post summaries of what shows up on the other sites here, so if you want access to everything, it’ll still be available here and you don’t need to do anything. If you only want the photography, you can subscribe to the photography site instead.

New Content Plans in 2015

Part of my reason for doing this is to refresh the look and feel and to give some separation for the photography and my personal writing. Another is because I’ve been thinking about expanding the topics I write about. One challenge here is how to do that without bouncing too many articles or topics at people who are only interested in one subject or another of what I write.

I like both the format and structure of the Three Dot Lounge digest posting, and right now, I’m thinking I’ll use that format for a couple of other subject areas: I want to get back on doing linking and commentary of a more editorial form about current optics such as GamerGate or Ferguson — things I’ve honestly avoided because I didn’t have a good way to help people avoid them if they didn’t want to hear them. My best guess right now is that Three-Dot will go bi-weekly, with this new news-ish digest alternating, also bi-weekly. My tentative title for it is Chuqsplaining, which should make it clear what the plan for this is.

I also am looking at firing up an irregular hockey discussion digest under my Teal Sunglasses name that I used back when I wrote a lot about hockey. Both Chuqsplaining and Teal Sunglasses will have email options built in for those that want to read them that way.

By using the digest form, it lets me go into a bit more depth and talk about more than one topic, while not inundating this site with dozens of short individual postings (which I hate on other sites and don’t want here). It also lets (and forces) me write in more of an essay style, which I think works better than the “link and forget” that so many blogs do.

And… A podcast. (of course)

I’ve actually tried to avoid this (honestly!) but it looks like in 2015 I’ll be starting a podcast. One of the most popular sets of writing I’ve done is my Before and After series around taking images and showing how I process them from the raw file to the final image. I always intended to do a number of them and then collect them into an ebook to make available for sale.

There are two problems with the approach I originally took: first, when I started designing out the ebooks, it became clear the images I’d created for the blog articles wouldn’t work in the ebook format and I couldn’t fix that without regenerating all of the images from scratch (ugh). Second, every time I worked on the project, I kept telling myself that the best way to do this was as a video podcast — except I really didn’t want to do a podcast. After half a dozen attempts to restructure the design of these postings to make me happy AND be compatible with an ebook design, I finally realized the damned things had to be done in videos, with an accompanying article that I can turn into ebook chapters later, all of which point back to the Videos. Right now, they’ll probably live on Vimeo but I haven’t ruled out Youtube yet.

Still lots of design work to do here, but if you were wondering why this series had stopped happening, this  is why. Now that I’ve stopped fighting myself over doing the videos, expect a reboot in 2015 on the Photoshelter site I haven’t built out yet.

And then, after lunch…

My guess is it’ll take me four or five months to pull all of this together, which probably means I won’t have it all up and running right until September. Or 2018. God knows. And I do expect it to change along the way, as these things always do. That’s part o the fun. I’ll start in the next week or so starting to build out the new Photo site.

I also plan on doing all of this in public. As I work on things, I’ll document my thoughts, plans and notes here on the blog. As I build out or test designs or try things, the sites will not be hidden or password protected, so you can look in, offer suggestions, or just laugh quietly as I struggle at all of this.

Why? Because one of my thoughts is that some day I might want to hang out a shingle helping others build sites like this — things that do more and are more complicated than you can get downloading a wordpress site and pushing buttons on the theme. What better advertisement for potential customers than having a successful site out there and all this info about how it was built?

Also, I think there’s potential for an interesting ebook on the design and implementation process, so perhaps when I come out the other end, I’ll have the material to create that.

Even if neither of those work, I’ve found the suggestions and feedback I get from doing this stuff in public worth a lot more than the cost of the occasional embarrassment caused by my inevitable mistakes and missteps.

So these are my marching orders looking into 2015. Lots of work, lots of potential.

And hopefully, a lot of fun, since I really love this kind of work, and I’m really looking forward to given what I write and the photos I take a new, fashionable wardrobe to wear around this place…