Believe it or not, there are people who bristle at the term Jazz. To them it is nothing more than a noisy mix of incongruous sounds that is anything but music. I'm not one of those people. I adore jazz. I happen to think Miles Davis' "Kind Of Blue" is the quintessential jazz album of all-time. I dig Miles, and jazz in all of its iterations is just cool!
My once-a-year photography industry rant today is about a different kind of noisy mix of incongruity: the Photo Blog. Like most of us, I look at and follow links to a good number of photo related blog posts. We all read a good many of the same "industry leaders" to keep a pulse on what's going on in photography. But looking around, I see a lot of noise. Not so much in the content, but what is around the content.
Too many blogs today, and I'm mostly talking about the ones we photographers produce, have so many bells, whistles, bling, flair, and general crap hanging on their sides that the center sliver of written content gets lost. And speaking of that central column sliver blogs are usually formatted to... who said that was good design? I'm reminded of websites designed in the late 80's and 90's that had all manner of twirling, spinning, rotating, flaming animated gifs and bright, glowing buttons that offered links to more stuff!
We've come a long way in web/blog design since then, but the overall ethos hasn't changed: load a page (blog) with lots of information, ads, affiliate links and banners, in all sorts of colors and sizes, to either monetize the blog and/or advertise your own products and services. Now I get the need and desire to monetize your content, and publicize your own projects, but it seems to me there must be a more elegant, creative way to do so without looking like the checkout counter at a supermarket with all the magazine/tabloid candy/junk surrounding you.
Fact is, despite worthwhile content, I've stopped reading many photo related blogs because of the noisy bling they contain. I myself am guilty of "blinging" my blog back when I had a Blogger site. As the platform grew and you could add any number of cool, whiz-bang widgets to the sides, top and bottom of your blog, I did. Calendars, Twitter feeds, spinning keyword clouds, banner links to my other sites and associated companies, blogrolls, cool button links to social media.... I half expected there to be an animated Christopher Walken shouting, "MORE COWBELL!" to be a widget.
None of this felt or looked right to me. My blog felt like a mess, and turning to Wordpress as a solution wasn't the way. Many Wordpress-based blogs and themes have the same problem. Yes, you can have an elegant themed, no bling Wordpress blog, but again you are usually relegated to a somewhat narrow center column for your content, with a lot of empty space on the sides. Why? Who set the rules? Seems to me we should have the ability to have a blog dynamically format to any screen it is viewed on, and allow the viewer to even hide the extras if we choose. The ability to easily hide all the "noise" on a blog and read it full screen would be a great solution for this! Think how it was before TV remotes and recorders allowed us to mute and skip past the commercials... which is essentially what blog bling is! Of course now you get utterly annoying pop-up commercials for a networks other TV shows at the bottom of your screen while you're watching a show!
That's how it feels to go to some of these photo blogs, and why I've stopped visiting them. I think as content creators, it is ours to provide an experience that is both informative and elegant in a way that fits our brand. Your style and creativity should be the draw, not the flashy bling.