One of the tasks last night was to spend some time going more in-depth on Photoshelter and dig into the design and presentation of some of the sites they promote as well as some other sites I found that use their service. As I was going through it, I noticed that the blogs of the sites I really liked weren’t hosting on Photoshelter but were separate. Lindsay Adler, for instance, is a WordPress blog — not obvious at first look because whoever built that did a nice integration. One that does use the Photoshelter system to blog is Robin Moore, which looks fine to me.
Of the sites they promote as part of their site marketing, about 90% of those that have blogs are blogging on a different platform; about half seem to be WordPress, but I found one Squarespace, one Tumblr, some Blogspot blogs and a couple I didn’t figure out.
This is a good time to remind everyone to take some time and validate your assumptions. One of my key reasons to consider a Photoshelter site was because I wanted the integrated blog, so I wouldn’t have to muck with one more thing to complicate my life. When you look at what Photoshelter users do, most of them are blogging off that platform. Is that because the blogging platform is weak? Is it because they had existing blogs and kept them when they moved their photography to Photoshelter?
I don’t know. I don’t see any obvious flaws in the blogs that are hosted there (and Photoshelter does handle it, unlike SmugMug), but when you find something like this where the data is so skewed away from what you expected to find, it’s a good idea to take a couple of steps back and think about it again.
There’s been that voice in the back of my head reminding me that I could build the site myself in WordPress, but I’ve wanted to avoid that because of the time involved, but stepping back and looking at this entire project as it’s evolving, the incremental time increase isn’t going to be as significant as I first thought; by using wordpress/photocrati/NextGen as the core I can leverage a lot of design in common across the sites and create a nice common look between the galleries on the gallery site and the portfolios on the main photo site. And the cost is sweat equity and not monthly charges.
So I need to think this one through, but now I seem to be leaning towards building it out myself. Whether that really makes sense or whether I’m rationalizing that because it’s fun to build this stuff, I’m not sure yet. Or whether it matters…
A few notes on the front page of the gallery site
I was thinking about the front page of the gallery site, which isn’t actually covered by photos, but by blog postings. I expect someone will notice that and ask whether that’s a mistake — shouldn’t a photo site promote the photos?
The gallery site is really a utility site; it’s job is to hold the photos, make them nice and pretty for the google-bot to search and encourage people to visit from search engines, and put them online for me to use in other ways. I don’t see the site’s role as attracting users (and I’ll be stunned if more than five people subscribe to the RSS), but instead I need to build out the navigation and text to help people find the rest of my content on the other sites. Putting some big images on the front page and making it super pretty might confuse people about whether this is my main photo site or not. To have it look a little utilitarian — kinda like Flickr instead of an online portfolio — makes sense to me here since I want the front page to have a quiet feel of “this is not the good stuff” because, well, that’s not the good stuff. That’s the okay stuff.
There’s still a fair bit of work on the chrome and the backing text to make that clearer, but that’s why it looks like a blog with photos on the front page and not a photography site.
And.. Thinking of adding one more piece to the puzzle…
And in the shower this morning, I started thinking about some of the other bits of my online world that have been on the “someday” list. There are a couple of hunks of my past languishing in the world of linked text files:
- OtherRealms: the SF Fanzine I published online and on paper in the 80s, which gathered a couple of Hugo nominations along the way (I win: finished ahead of No Award). I’ve long thought that some day I’d do something to present this content better than the current “it’s here, dig through if you wish” presentation that looks like something you’d see on the browser of a Friends episode. This morning I started thinking I could rebuild this using yet another WordPress site and do something nice to it. (“hey, it wouldn’t be too much work. honest!”).
- Those Mailing list archives: 500,000+ emails from the history of the mailing lists we ran over the years. To me, this is an archive of a point in time online that deserves to be studied. From a technical level, trying to make them more presentable (and more important, searchable) is a non-trivial project, coding it all and dumping it into a database where I can do full text searches on it. I’ve had a design for this for years, but never the motivation to build it. And I still don’t — I doubt I’ll ever get to it at this point. But I’d like to think maybe sometime.
This morning shower project meeting has me thinking that maybe I should do the OtherRealms piece; if I shift over the fiction bit, I can turn it into an archival site of my days when I was a lot more involved in SF/F fandom and SFWA than I am today. I really do wish those OtherRealms issues had a higher profile and, like, things like links to individual reviews and articles. My first guess is a couple of weeks of grunt work to pull it all together, another week to do cleanup and make it pretty. Maybe, just maybe, it makes sense to do this.
This is the joy of projects like this. for a while, they tend to encourage widening the scope and adding more stuff to the project list. the big trick in managing this is figuring out what’s a good investment of time and what isn’t (hint: that mailing list project isn’t). And a project like this, unlike a software project, doesn’t have a “I’ll do this in the next release” flag. While I expect to tweak these sites over time, I don’t plan to do do a second round of work on them once I build things, so I’m not getting into the “we’ll put this on hold for the next phase”. I don’t want a next phase here, I want to get back to writing and taking pictures…