Three Dot Lounge for September 21, 2014

Three dot lounge is a mostly-weekly collection of things that deserve more than a retweet. Stay tuned for fascinating opinions and pithy commentary. Also keep an eye on my Twitter feed for more interesting stuff.

Why Apple Didn’t Use Sapphire iPhone Screens

Why Apple Didn’t Use Sapphire iPhone Screens

A great look at this beyond the hype. The sapphire screen is a great example of the kind of noise that can made in the Apple “pundit” world and out into the “real” journalists who cover the company. A rumor site sees a patent or hears a rumor, does a quick look into it, and then starts hyping it without really understanding it — because what they want is pageviews, and deep, reasoned discussion of a complex topic is terrible at generating pageviews. Instead, you flog the dead horse until it twitches to get people hyped and talking, and suddenly you have a kerfluffle. And over time, if new info comes out, the rumor sites either rewrite their ideas to fit, or rumble about how Apple is screwing it up, as if it’s Apple’s fault the rumor site was getting it wrong all of the time…

All while Apple is off building a really good product, which seems incidental these days to how the rumor and supposition industry works…


Posted in Three Dot Lounge

Things happening, things planned

There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes, and one aspect of that is that it’s reduced the time and energy needed to keep up a regular set of blog postings here (that, and Elder Scrolls). (Oh, shut up).

I’ve been doing almost no photography since I got back from Yellowstone in June. That’s not that unusual for me; summer is definitely my least favorite season in the Bay Area, when the skies go boring and the light goes glaring and the summer birds are just hanging out waiting for the signal to migrate. That, and I don’t tolerate heat like I used to, and I tend to be self-basting now.

That doesn’t mean nothing is happening. A few notable events recently:

  • I have just licensed one of my sandhill crane images to a wildlife refuge in Nevada for an exhibit they’re building.
  • I also was recently contacted about reprinting one of my pieces in a magazine, which I just signed the contract on. That will be showing up (probably with some of my images) down the road in Birdwatcher’s Digest.
  • Licensing that crane image reminded me that I never announced that one of my crane images was licensed to the Nature Conservancy for use in their 2013 annual report. This was a fun one for me in a number of ways, not only is that a fairly prestigious place to be seen, Nature Conservancy is an organization I love to support, and the area involved — Staten Island, near Lodi — is a favorite place to go shooting in the winter and a great example of the kind of cooperative habitat creation that is helping out our winter bird populations (you can learn about these so-called Pop-up habitats here; Staten Island is an unusual form of it in that Nature Conservancy owns the land and leases it to the farmers to use during growing season. It is also at risk because the Delta Water tunnel project plans to put an access point on Staten Island, which would end up taking about a third of the acreage by eminent domain and paving it, plus the tunneling and construction activities would effectively de-activate this location for years; one reason I’m increasingly against this project proceeding).

This is pretty good given I’m doing no sales or marketing, I think.

I’ve also been putting a fair bit of a lot of this has been about cleaning up the site, improving design and navigation, and creating areas for the reviews and the photo of the day postings that make both accessible and easier to find, both in terms of organic search and for those casual viewers that follow a link and happen to land on the site to read an article. The ultimate goal of this is to create a site that does well in the search engines and allows people to decide to buy things via the Amazon affiliate links without turning the site into something that looks like Las Vegas threw up on the pages or which gets in the reader’s face and in the way of their reading the content and trying to force them to do things I want instead of what they came to the site to do.

I think I’ve succeeded — site activity is up since I started all of this, but beyond that, people who visit this site are staying longer, looking at more pages, and I’m happy to note, buying more through the affiliate links. Not exactly paying the rent, but in the last few months it’s gone from < $10/mo in affiliate funds to what looks like my third straight month at $50 or more. That means the site is effectively paying it’s hosting fees now (I am still working for free, but at least now I’m not paying to let you read this stuff). This is nice, and it’s something that over time I can try to grow further. It’s nice to validate my business ideas that you can do this without flooding the pages with ads until it looks like a low-rent brothel or trolling for zillions of pageviews with slimy headlines and borrowed content. (I do wish I could figure out what I tripped that’s causing that “meet thai singles” web site to stalk me across the sites showing me advertising, and why I can’t convince it to show me kitten adoption ads instead….

I’m also working on an e-commerce setup — still in the planning stage — because I’ve long wanted to create some form of tip jar (that doesn’t include PayPal if I can avoid it), and to allow me to start offering “things” for people to buy, whether those things are signed custom prints or ebooks or whatever. I’ve figured out how I want to build this, now I just need to actually create it. And the things I want to sell… That, I’m sure, is the easy part.  (Yeah, right) (Oh, shut up) — I’ve settled on Shopify for this, FWIW.

Still a lot of work to do on this, and I probably won’t ship anything until after Thanksgiving, if not into the new year. We’ll see. I’d like to do it a bit earlier, because I’m considering printing and selling a calendar, but I don’t want to rush it and mess things up, either.

Striking the word Amateur from my CV?

I’ve always wanted to see about turning my photography and writing into an income stream, but I’ve also tried to be realistic about what I ought to do given the time constraints and other commitments in my life. It’s easy to get things out of balance and either screw up your day job or burn out in the attempt, and one thing I always knew was that I didn’t want to make photography not fun, or the writing I do here a grind, and not want to do it any more. My primary goals are still to keep improving my craft and enjoy what I’m doing, and my hope is I’m building a base of images and content that I can use and build from when I have more time to focus on the  content creation and sales and marketing side of things. Right now, I’m happy that it’s generating a bit of cash and that it’s trending forward.

But that said, I always look at potential opportunities or new things I might do that might fit into my goals, everything from a writing gig as a columnist elsewhere to building out new sites and commercializing them to going into site design and maintenance and wordpress geeking to restarting my fiction career to jumping into writing mobile apps for IOS. I’ve ultimately rejected all of those (and some other things) and time has proven to me that was the right decision. Instead, I finally circled back to putting the time and energy into the camera and into this site and the blog, and not split my attention across too many things – hence some of the things above I’ve just talked about.

But in the last couple of weeks I ran into what I think is an interesting opportunity that syncs up nicely with all of this, and I decided to give it a try, and so I’ve signed up and submitted to submit images to a stock house to see if some of my images might fit their needs and find a market. I looked at micro stock early on and realized I didn’t want to play in the bargain basement with my imagery, so I’ve avoided places like iStockPhoto (not a criticism of those who do, but feeding that monster images that do well in that market isn’t what I want to do with a camera); I’ve looked at a few stock houses and always came away feeling that my imagery would get loss in the masses and that the kind of work I do is in enough of a niche that it would be hard to make it work in a large, general topic stock house.

But I recently ran into a stock house that is a specialty house in nature and outdoor/travel work, and I liked the people involved and their terms and attitudes, and when I searched through their stock library, I felt like my images fit into their library well, that it complemented what was in there and was either as good as or better than what they had. More importantly I also felt like my images would add some unique images to the library and not just be one of thirty copies that were all variations on the same  theme and location.

So I decided to go for it, signed up as a contributor and submitted my first batch. I’m waiting to hear back the technical review to see how many (if any) get accepted or what technical fixes I’ll need to get things accepted. If that works out and this moves forward, I’ll see about submitting other work, and if that happens I’ll talk about this in more detail. For now, it’s still in the exploration phase and I don’t want to toss names around and risk making them look bad if we agree to not move forward for some reason.

That said, prepping images for this took some time and made me start thinking about what I need to do to my lightroom collections to properly support this endeavor, and that’s led me to realize I need to add some meta-data to my images to track certain things. An obvious one is whether there’s a model release, which for 100% of my catalog is currently “no”, but if this moves forward I would expect that to change.

But one of the things they track is whether or not an image is manipulated or not, and right now, that information is handled in my collection by my ability to remember what I did to an image. That’s bad, so I’m starting to track what my processing acts were in my lightroom metadata as keywords so I can easily search on whether an image was processed only in lightroom, whether I ran it through my extended plug-in processing, whether an image is manipulated beyond normal processing, and whether it’s an HDR or a Stitched Panorama. Those last two I was already tracking, actually, so this is an extension of that.

The way I’m defining “manipulated” is this:

  • Any kind of cloning and removing or adding a content.
  • Any kind of content-aware patching
  • Any kind of filter beyond a light basic vignette or a digital equivalent of a Grad-ND (or similar effect that simulates a physical filter)
  • Any compositing
  • Any image where I feel someone will look at the original and the final processed and think that the image was manipulated in some extreme way
  • Any HDR  with processing intended to give the final image a “not photo-realistic” final look (i.e. grunge)

In reality, I’ve run into this a couple of times with images I’ve given to groups to use where they’ve come back and asked for me to remove a filter — when Lightroom 5 came out, I fell in love with the radial filter and built up one that used a combination of exposure and clarity tweaks to build what I felt was a rather nice “vignette on steroids” effect that I really liked, but also turned out to violate their “no modification” standards; when I took a step back and thought about it, I realized they were right so I’ve backed off from using it. If I’d had these modifications clearly flagged in the image metadata, I could avoid handing over an image that wouldn’t fit their publication standards or waste both of our times in a back and forth as I do a revision of the processing for them.

As I work on images, i’ll start tagging these keywords onto them, and once I’m sure I like the design I’ll write about it in more detail because I think this is an interesting technique others might want to adapt into their workflows. Of course, this means I’ve opened up the hood of my Lightroom environment, and we all know what happens when you do that… There are always a dozen other things you might as well fix while you’re there, and down that road lies…

I do suppose that if this stock thing happens I ought to stop presenting myself as an amateur. We’ll see.

In longer range planning, Laurie and I are about a month before we head to Lee Vining for our fall foliage workshop. Beyond that, I’m not sure what my plans are, although I’ve decided one of my winter trips will be up to visit the Lower Klamath and tule Lake refuges. I’ve hesitated about that because for the second year in a row, Tule Lake has been hit by Avian Botulism because the drought is restricting water availability into the refuges, pushing the birds into more crowded conditions where an infected bird can spread it into the flock, and again this year they’re losing up to a thousand ducks a day.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to head up into that, but with the drought currently looking to continue into this fall (and probably beyond), this kind of event in the refuges isn’t well documented and really needs to be, and that ties into the work I’m doing on the refuges in general, so even if it’s not exactly travel photography at some tourist location, it’s important work that someone should be doing, and the refuges don’t get that kind of attention normally — so I’m going to go and see if I can change that a bit.

I’m also looking at my normal trips up into the Lodi/Galt area (Cosumnes, State Island, Isenberg) and out into San Luis NWR and Merced NWR. I’m probably not going to try to visit Colusa or Sacramento NWR because of the distance unless I turn it into more than a day trip. Instead, I’m looking at a number of other refuges I want to visit to start building a library of work with them as well — That includes some of the locals like Don Edwards and Salinas River, as well as some south of here like Pixley and Kern. there are a couple in the delta area I’ve never visited as well like San Joaquin and Stone River. That should keep me more than busy.

I’m looking at my refuge work into the longer term, and in a few years I’m going to want to approach the fish and wildlife folks about gaining access to the closed refuges because ultimately I want to be able to document every refuge in the state, not just the ones with public access. A larger number of refuges in the the library and a better number of published collections of these refuges are going to be necessary to be seen as legitimate by them, so I have my work cut out before I go try that (and frankly, the stock sales aspect won’t hurt my legitimacy, either). And I really do have plenty I can do before I feel I need to take that step, and I should get going on it.

My second portfolio, on the refuges,  got a lot wider viewing and generally really positive feedback; I’m working on ideas for the next couple and plan on hitting my goal of doing one a quarter. It’s an interesting exorcise to force yourself to make these kinds of decisions in your own collection. More on that soon and I’ll be revisiting that project with another portfolio sooner rather than later.

I’m going to keep trying to write regularly.If I disappear again, it’s probably because I’m in Lightroom ticking checkboxes on keywords again… Such fun activities… (or playing Elder Scrolls) (Oh, shut up…)






(note: why not PayPal? I’ve known too many people that have had accounts locked or otherwise run into issues with PayPal’s fraud team where it was incredibly difficult to get straight answers, much less get it resolved. and while I’m sure these are a small minority of the users of PayPal and I know fraud protection is a seriously difficult thing — I’d rather avoid the risk of running into that stuff if I have reasonable alternatives. I don’t have that comfort/trust level of using PayPal as a piece of enabling people to offer me money)


Posted in About Chuq

How Apple got the U2 giveaway wrong

I’ve been watching the kerfluffle about Apple giving away the new U2 album with some amusement. It’s really easy to say “watch all of these people complain about getting free stuff” and try to dismiss it, but in reality, there are some bigger issues where they have a point, and that shouldn’t be ignored.

At the same time, much of what I’m seeing seems to be more about being able to make snide comments about Apple and/or U2 to gain snark points with their peers, because both are easy targets with groups of people who love finding excuses to prove they’re smarter than us because, well, because. So the real issues here get lost in the snark, or dismissed along with it.

That said, this isn’t a big issue. As a friend of mine said, “it’s too bad we can’t get this kind of anger about things like police abuse” — and while he’s right, that, too, is an oversimplification, because in reality we did get a lot (and it made a difference), and it kind of assumes people can only get upset about one thing.

My initial reaction was that the whole thing was a bit forced, and both Bono and Tim Cook looked uncomfortable and like they were reading it off teleprompters without rehearsing it together, which I’m guessing was what happened. It had the feeling of something that came together at the last minute and not well thought through. For me, it also felt really out of place with the rest of the keynote. It would have made more sense to do this for the introduction of the next generation iTunes (hey! where the hell is this, anyway? You’re late!) and not this keynote.

So it struck me as an off note in an otherwise well-handled performance.

I also felt there was a strong opportunity lost here: a lot of the criticism could have been blunted if the fee for buying the album had been donated to RED or some other charitable organization instead of handed over to Bono and the band. As it turns out (and not surprising to me), for all the whining about the free giveaway, at least ten OTHER U2 albums also re-entered the best seller lists, so the “long tail” of supplemental sales this giveaway caused would have given U2 a good chunk of change even if they got zero dollars from this album. “For a good cause” would have unruffled a lot of feathers”, but nobody seemed to think about it. Instead the money went to the band, and that just made it look like a money grab on top of everything else.

Even if Bono announced tomorrow that they were donating the proceeds to RED, it’s too late. Opportunity lost, and it would simply look like they were reacting to the controversy. Which they would be. Too bad neither side thought this through well.

The big issue Apple tripped over here was privacy and trust. We can talk about terms of service and licenses until we’re blue in the face, but most people see their devices as private, and Apple wandered in and stuffed a bundle of bits on their devices, whether or not they asked for it.

If you bought a Windows-based PC anytime in the last 15 years, it came with a lot of software put there “for your convenience”. It was generically known as crapware, and it was because PC vendors were paid to stuff it down your throat, even though you didn’t ask for it. This is a tactic generally reviled by people who had to try to clean all of that stuff out for their less tech savvy family members.

Apple was a company that even marketed itself as above that kind of activity, because they were.

Until now. Because there’s no difference between stuffing a copy of some antivirus app onto a Windows box and stuffing a copy of a (mediocre) U2 album onto my iPhone. Both are there even though I don’t want them and didn’t ask for them. Both are there because they benefit the vendor, not me.

And both of them are there to remind me that I can only consider the device mine and control what goes on it to the degree the vendor lets me — and with Apple, that’s a reminder they shouldn’t want to give their users, given they push their privacy message so hard.

So while I think a lot of the criticism about this was pretty lame and useless (“how terrible. Apple gave you something free. That really sucks!”) there’s an underlying set of problems here that I think Apple should have understood and either dealt with up front or done this giveaway in some other way. Instead, they’ve got people upset with them over something that ought to be rather simple and silly, but really isn’t: because it’s about privacy and control, not about free bits of music.

And we haven’t even gotten into whether U2 was the right group to do this, or whether the album was any good. I’m fascinated how few people across the net even talk about the music or the quality of the album (hint: the few who do aren’t impressed. But did you really think U2 would give us their best work free? Of course not — and Apple’s going to get a big discount off list for orchestrating this stunt).

All in all, neither U2 nor Apple comes out of this looking very good. Which is too bad.

I think Matt Drance on Twitter nailed the problem: Amazing how divided this U2 thing is. If Amazon put a CD on my doorstep, I’d say “Huh, OK.” On my bookshelf? Yes, I would say “wtf.”

Apple reminded all of us they can sneak in and rearrange our bookshelves if they want, and we can’t stop them. that’s a bad message to be sending to their users, and they should know better.




Posted in Computers and Technology

My first reaction to the new iPhone and Watch

I wanted to write a bit about my initial reactions to today’s announcements and the Watch.

My thoughts in many ways mimic Duncan’s.

The new Watch is about time about as much as the iPhone is about making phone calls. Sure, it does so nicely and in a way that’s in truly in the spirit of the first watches which miniaturized technology to put it as close to you as possible, not just be a vehicle for being something pretty you wear. But, as a really natural progression in wearable computing, it’s so much more than that. Sure, Apple’s not first. They rarely are for any particular point technology. Google, Samsung, LG, and Motorola really worked hard to get their entries out there before now. But, if it truly lives up to its promise, Apple’s new watch brings a level of competence to the wearable space that’s unprecedented and very welcome.

I think an essential difference between Apple and other vendors is that other vendors see a possible product like this and try to figure out what it can do and then ship a product that does that. Apple figures out how people will want to use it, and then builds a product that lets them do those things. That’s a much different and much harder product path and few companies have the willingness to spend the time and energy to get there.

But first, iPhone 6. I really like it. I like the look, I like the design. I love the upgrades to the camera. I’m going to order them for both myself and Laurie, but we’re at the natural time for upgrades since we’re both carrying iPhone 5’s and skipped the last generation. I’m assuming Laurie will also go for the smaller one but I haven’t asked yet. The big one is interesting, but I think I’ll opt for portability (and lots of memory). I had a few discussions about the 16Gb device where people were complaining about them squeezing people on the price, but I think it’s really aimed at making a price point and for those people who don’t do much in apps, aren’t hauling around video, and really for the emerging markets. I expect most people in the US will likely upgrade to the middle product and its expanded memory.

I’m in, happily. I think it’s a really nice, solid upgrade that continues to push the iPhone forward.

ApplePay: This was a market area ripe for disruption, but it had to come from a company big enough to scale the technology into enough people’s hands to make it worth the time of the card companies and retailers to update their systems to support it. I’m not sure anyone but Apple could have pulled this together and made it happen.

One thing I’m curious about — is Apple subsidizing the replacement cost for all of those point of sale units in any way? That’s been the big sticking point in making this change in payment happen for years, and is to electronic payments what the supercharger availability is to the Tesla. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit that Apple put money into the pool to get those units out into the stores. Also notable to me is Apple’s statement it’s not taking a cut on transaction costs in the payment network. Instead, it’s building this out because it knows it’ll help sell a zillion phones, especially upgrades to existing users. Not inconsequential is that I expect they have a one or two year head start on other device vendors before they can fully support this new network, and that’ll drive platform swaps once this hits the stores and starts being “real” to people (as opposed to a good presentation). it definitely creates some interesting product differentiations. And I like it, and it’s well overdue.

Also stop and think about how long it probably took for Apple and Visa and Amex and Mastercard (where’s Discover? Now behind the curve) and the various retail chains to hash out all of the details and the agreements. The negotiations and the planning for this has to have taken 2-3 years. Now stop and think about how the card companies have been dragging their heels about updating their terminals and units even though it’s been generally known we need it? think maybe it was because they knew this was on its way and didn’t want to be pushed into those upgrades before the whole thing was ready? Especially if Apple is paying for a chunk? I wish someone in the media had asked that question (if they did, I didn’t see it).

I, frankly, am happy we’re finally moving away from the current system, and I can’t think of any device vendor than Apple who could figure out how to get everyone on the same page and making it happen. (as Gruber might say, “Finally”). Well done, although obviously, we need to see how it’ll work in detail.

And, the Watch. (oh, for those wondering, the HTML entity is &#63743;Watch). I am both really damned impressed and find myself with some mixed feelings about it.

First, the mixed feelings: I’m not totally convinced about the form factor of the watch unit itself. I’m going to have to go and try one out and put it on my wrist to see if it’s comfortable and something I’m going to want to wear. I’m at first reaction tempted to go for the smaller model (which I love that they didn’t call that the Ladies model).

On the other hand, the work put into the straps and the connectors just blew me away. I love the styling and there were at least three that had “GIMME” written all over them. It may be the straps are the killer app of this product and will convince many to buy this product.

Make no mistake, this is a product built to sell into a fashion-sensitive market (e.g “normal people”), not “just” geeks, and I think it succeeds wildly at that. The design of the thing is fascinating and the engineering behind that design is wonderful. The weakest aspect of the design might be the watch itself, and it’s hard to really tell that until I get my hands on it. I could well be wrong.

As far as the functionality, I love it. I love the idea of being able to not have to pull out the phone to check on an incoming email or instant message. This form factor helps me keep the phone in the pocket, which is my ultimate goal (a bluetooth earbud that doesn’t make me look like a geek would help a lot, too. Most are still too bulky and uncomfortable for me to be willing to wear chronically)

What it helps do is reduce interruption and distraction, and non-trivially, reduce the “wait, I need to check my phone” interruptions that I think are somewhat on the rude side (both when they happen to me and when I do them) in the middle of conversations. This kind of device and UI should help you keep your focus and still not miss a key notification.

I also see the opportunity for this to turn into an alarm clock that doesn’t wake up your partner. Depending on battery life, which is still a big unknown. The way Apple handled it today worries me a little, but I also get the feeling that’s something they’re still working on to improve.

The health aspects that come with IOS 8 are quite interesting and with upgrading the iPhone, I’ll be able to take advantage of some of the features that aren’t available with the iPhone 5. The sophistication impresses me. What I’m not sure about yet is how much value I’ll find having that on my arm on a watch as opposed to in my pocket on a phone.

So my bottom line on the announcements today: iPhone 6: total winner, with my preference the smaller phone. If you want the bigger one, great. I could see doing that in a generation or two when the Watch is more mature and the phone becomes the carry-around central processor and less a “phone” (my ultimate goal is something I carry to handle processing needs for devices of all sizes, with iPad, Watch becoming basically thin terminals to this main processor, and docking to the home computing unit for sync and for heavy lifting processing).

The watch I’m convinced about what they’re doing, not 100% convinced about this generation.

ApplePay: about time, and when it rolls out, I’ll roll in.

The health tools: loving what I see, but I need to figure out how they’ll integrate into my life in detail. but I can’t wait.

So I give the overall keynote between an A and an A- in technology, execution and tone. It’s clear Apple’s been working toward this day for years and is immensely proud of the result, and they deserve to be.

One quick note on the lifestream: I feel bad for the folks trying to hold that together, but it was pretty clear that however they’d tried to scale it, it wasn’t enough. I’m curious how many streams they were managing at any one time, I think the number will astound and scare most geeks. No matter how much you build out the network, it’s a finite resource, and Apple keynotes seem very capable of reaching that limit no matter what they do… I wonder if it was possible to scale to meet demand today, given the interest levels. But it sucked that the announcements are somewhat tainted by the technical flaws in the streaming.

All in all, I came away feeling good about Apple’s direction and continued ability to innovate. Good job all around. Now, of course, they need to execute and make it all work, and work reliably.

Posted in Computers and Technology

Some back of the envelope calculations on web site costs

Okay, I promised myself I wouldn’t do this because I know I don’t have time for this project, and then I went and did it anyway, of course. So I’m putting it here as much for my ability to reference it later as for your benefit, but if you find it interesting and useful, even better…)

I took a quick look at what I’m paying to operate my web site environments. That includes this site ( and my portfolio site on smugmug. The hosting setup I use for this site also hosts some private and small stuff, working spaces for myself and laurie, etc.

If I decide to do a redesign and do it on wordpress (a free, open source CMS), I’ll end up having equivalent costs to what I have now:

Smugmug: $150/year. hosts my portfolio and my (hah!) print sales ($50 profit in the last year or so. not significant)

Hosting: two VPS, one @ $35/mo for the web server, one @ $25/mo for the DB server, minus a 20% discount for having two. The bottom line is about $575.

So my hosting cost is about $725 a year. A renewal of the photocrati theme for the new release is $90 (less, probably because I think I qualify for a discount on the renewal). All my other costs (domain registrations, etc) stay effectively the same no matter what.

I use Dreamhost and VPS instances for my hosting. It’s not the cheapest option, but it’s been a frankly painless one and I’ll pay a little more so I don’t run into what I see my friends run into with their $10/mo shared hosting setups with companies that never answer their phones or email. The admin environment with Dreamhost is well implemented and only mildly confusing, which means I’m not spending much time trying to beat it into submission, and I love a minor money/time tradeoff. It’s more than met my expectations.

I did a quick comparison to Photoshelter, which is at the top of my list of sites to consider if I make a switch. Running my (100% redesigned) site on Photoshelter would run me $330 a year. My hosting costs go down, but not away, because of the “other stuff” I keep there — from $575 to between $300 and $350. I could likely shave that further with some thought, but $325 is a good middle number.

So the cost differences between running my stuff as a wordpress site and on Photoshelter is:

WordPress $725
Photoshelter (plus other hosting) $650.

Whenever someone asks me what to do about their web site, I typically tell them to look at places like Photoshelter or Squarespace ($288/year right now), and most of the time, they balk at the price. But when you start looking at hosting costs, suddenly it’s not such a bad idea. Often I see people find those $10/mo cheapie hosting setups and a free wordpress theme they found somewhere, and… and then later I hear them bitching about how slow their site is, or that it’s down again, or that something mystically broke and nobody will fix it, or…

Or in the case of you poor souls stuck with Livebooks, considering suicide.


So based on my real world numbers, if I were to jump to Photoshelter, I’d drop my costs by about $75 a year. Not a huge amount, but significant. More than I’ve made in print sales recently…

Also, I could save money by pulling my portfolio stuff off smugmug and running it locally, perhaps with nextgen gallery. Not a bad option but I’d either lose print sales completely or have to handle them personally, and while it’s not a big income for me (to put it mildly), I’d like to think some day it’ll be BETTER, and I want the capability to leverage when I try to make it happen a bit.

But there are some unknown issues, too…

I haven’t confirmed their blogging system is up to what I want it to do, but a really quick look is encouraging. I’ve done a fair bit of custom work on top of wordpress and photocrati that would have to be moved or redone or thrown out. Fortunately, I’ve avoided writing wordpress plug-ins for things, and most of it is html and css geekery, so it should move with some encouragement.

I’d have to completely redesign my site. the current look and feel is nice, but in the photo shelter world it’d have to be rethought. (ditto, to a lesser extent, if I shift to the responsive look in Photocrati). My expediece tells me that doing the redesign properly AND migrating the data and fixing everything that breaks in the move is about a 3 month process given the time I’d have to give it. Three months I’m paying for both hosting services, so I don’t really see savings until year 2 or so.

But at first glance, sucking all of this stuff up, throwing it in a blender and aiming the open top of the blender at Photoshelter and seeing what happens looks like a reasonable option.

Later. Now, I have no time for this. (you, in the back of the brain, SHUT UP).

it’s easy to see the word “free” attached to wordpress and get blinded to the total cost of running a site like this, so every so often, it’s useful to stop, figure out what you’re really paying, compare options, and see if what you’re doing makes sense.

I love having the freedom of running my own show, but I’d love even more letting others handle the grunt work so I can go out shooting more and stay home doing admin crap less. And, if I can hand off that admin stuff AND save money, and do it in a way I feel is safe with a company I think is reliable and not going to blow up in my face in two years, even better.

And remember, if you aren’t updating your website every year or 18 months to freshen the look and content, and not redesigning it every 24-36 months to cover changes in capabilities and styles, you’re costing yourself sales by looking out of date or stagnant, and your site is probably full of security holes just waiting to be hacked….

Posted in Working on Web Sites