State of the Photoblog Industry, Photo Friday Edition

I was curious about the state of the photoblog industry recently, and was interested to find out what kind of people still post on an active basis on their blogs. Some of my favorite photobloggers over the years are still publishing (albeit very infrequently), while others have quit photoblogging altogether (yours truly included).

As a fan of data, I went to the Photo Friday website and decided to see how many people are entering the Photo Friday contest these days. I pulled the data into Excel and plotted the number of entries into the contest since the contest’s inception in 2002 to present (September 2014). The plot appears below, with the red line highlighting a 14-week moving average in number of entries to the contest:

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 9.41.00 PM

 

A few observations:

  1. Peak number of entries to the Photo Friday contest occurred between 2004 and 2006, when an average of more than six hundred entries were submitted on a consistent weekly basis.
  2. The number of entries to Photo Friday contest has been on a gradual decline since late 2008, with no rebound in sight.
  3. There has not been a single week in 2014 in which more than 200 entries were submitted to the Photo Friday contest. By contrast, there was not a single week from February 2004 until April 2009 where fewer than 200 entries were submitted to the Photo Friday challenge.
  4. If an extrapolation can be made, the last year in which more than 100 entries would have been submitted to the Photo Friday contest  would be in 2014.

One of my other, biased proxies regarding the state of the photoblogs? When one of the best photoblog out there, Daily Dose of Imagery, decided to call it quits on July 4, 2013—after ten years of daily photoblogging.

Robert Frost’s A Servant to Servants

“The worst that you can do // Is set me back a little more behind.”

Robert Frost’s poem, “A Servant to Servants” was the highlight of my morning reading today. The poem, published in 1914 in the North of Boston anthology, presented below in its entirety.

A Servant to Servants
by Robert Frost

I didn’t make you know how glad I was
To have you come and camp here on our land.
I promised myself to get down some day
And see the way you lived, but I don’t know!
With a houseful of hungry men to feed
I guess you’d find…. It seems to me
I can’t express my feelings any more
Than I can raise my voice or want to lift
My hand (oh, I can lift it when I have to).
Did ever you feel so? I hope you never.
It’s got so I don’t even know for sure
Whether I am glad, sorry, or anything.
There’s nothing but a voice-like left inside
That seems to tell me how I ought to feel,
And would feel if I wasn’t all gone wrong.
You take the lake. I look and look at it.
I see it’s a fair, pretty sheet of water.
I stand and make myself repeat out loud
The advantages it has, so long and narrow,
Like a deep piece of some old running river
Cut short off at both ends. It lies five miles
Straight away through the mountain notch
From the sink window where I wash the plates,
And all our storms come up toward the house,
Drawing the slow waves whiter and whiter and whiter.
It took my mind off doughnuts and soda biscuit
To step outdoors and take the water dazzle
A sunny morning, or take the rising wind
About my face and body and through my wrapper,
When a storm threatened from the Dragon’s Den,
And a cold chill shivered across the lake.
I see it’s a fair, pretty sheet of water,
Our Willoughby! How did you hear of it?
I expect, though, everyone’s heard of it.
In a book about ferns? Listen to that!
You let things more like feathers regulate
Your going and coming. And you like it here?
I can see how you might. But I don’t know!
It would be different if more people came,
For then there would be business. As it is,
The cottages Len built, sometimes we rent them,
Sometimes we don’t. We’ve a good piece of shore
That ought to be worth something, and may yet.
But I don’t count on it as much as Len.
He looks on the bright side of everything,
Including me. He thinks I’ll be all right
With doctoring. But it’s not medicine—
Lowe is the only doctor’s dared to say so—
It’s rest I want—there, I have said it out—
From cooking meals for hungry hired men
And washing dishes after them—from doing
Things over and over that just won’t stay done.
By good rights I ought not to have so much
Put on me, but there seems no other way.
Len says one steady pull more ought to do it.
He says the best way out is always through.
And I agree to that, or in so far
As that I can see no way out but through—
Leastways for me—and then they’ll be convinced.
It’s not that Len don’t want the best for me.
It was his plan our moving over in
Beside the lake from where that day I showed you
We used to live—ten miles from anywhere.
We didn’t change without some sacrifice,
But Len went at it to make up the loss.
His work’s a man’s, of course, from sun to sun,
But he works when he works as hard as I do—
Though there’s small profit in comparisons.
(Women and men will make them all the same.)
But work ain’t all. Len undertakes too much.
He’s into everything in town. This year
It’s highways, and he’s got too many men
Around him to look after that make waste.
They take advantage of him shamefully,
And proud, too, of themselves for doing so.
We have four here to board, great good-for-nothings,
Sprawling about the kitchen with their talk
While I fry their bacon. Much they care!
No more put out in what they do or say
Than if I wasn’t in the room at all.
Coming and going all the time, they are:
I don’t learn what their names are, let alone
Their characters, or whether they are safe
To have inside the house with doors unlocked.
I’m not afraid of them, though, if they’re not
Afraid of me. There’s two can play at that.
I have my fancies: it runs in the family.
My father’s brother wasn’t right. They kept him
Locked up for years back there at the old farm.
I’ve been away once—yes, I’ve been away.
The State Asylum. I was prejudiced;
I wouldn’t have sent anyone of mine there;
You know the old idea—the only asylum
Was the poorhouse, and those who could afford,
Rather than send their folks to such a place,
Kept them at home; and it does seem more human.
But it’s not so: the place is the asylum.
There they have every means proper to do with,
And you aren’t darkening other people’s lives—
Worse than no good to them, and they no good
To you in your condition; you can’t know
Affection or the want of it in that state.
I’ve heard too much of the old-fashioned way.
My father’s brother, he went mad quite young.
Some thought he had been bitten by a dog,
Because his violence took on the form
Of carrying his pillow in his teeth;
But it’s more likely he was crossed in love,
Or so the story goes. It was some girl.
Anyway all he talked about was love.
They soon saw he would do someone a mischief
If he wa’n’t kept strict watch of, and it ended
In father’s building him a sort of cage,
Or room within a room, of hickory poles,
Like stanchions in the barn, from floor to ceiling,—
A narrow passage all the way around.
Anything they put in for furniture
He’d tear to pieces, even a bed to lie on.
So they made the place comfortable with straw,
Like a beast’s stall, to ease their consciences.
Of course they had to feed him without dishes.
They tried to keep him clothed, but he paraded
With his clothes on his arm—all of his clothes.
Cruel—it sounds. I ’spose they did the best
They knew. And just when he was at the height,
Father and mother married, and mother came,
A bride, to help take care of such a creature,
And accommodate her young life to his.
That was what marrying father meant to her.
She had to lie and hear love things made dreadful
By his shouts in the night. He’d shout and shout
Until the strength was shouted out of him,
And his voice died down slowly from exhaustion.
He’d pull his bars apart like bow and bow-string,
And let them go and make them twang until
His hands had worn them smooth as any ox-bow.
And then he’d crow as if he thought that child’s play—
The only fun he had. I’ve heard them say, though,
They found a way to put a stop to it.
He was before my time—I never saw him;
But the pen stayed exactly as it was
There in the upper chamber in the ell,
A sort of catch-all full of attic clutter.
I often think of the smooth hickory bars.
It got so I would say—you know, half fooling—
“It’s time I took my turn upstairs in jail”—
Just as you will till it becomes a habit.
No wonder I was glad to get away.
Mind you, I waited till Len said the word.
I didn’t want the blame if things went wrong.
I was glad though, no end, when we moved out,
And I looked to be happy, and I was,
As I said, for a while—but I don’t know!
Somehow the change wore out like a prescription.
And there’s more to it than just window-views
And living by a lake. I’m past such help—
Unless Len took the notion, which he won’t,
And I won’t ask him—it’s not sure enough.
I ’spose I’ve got to go the road I’m going:
Other folks have to, and why shouldn’t I?
I almost think if I could do like you,
Drop everything and live out on the ground—
But it might be, come night, I shouldn’t like it,
Or a long rain. I should soon get enough,
And be glad of a good roof overhead.
I’ve lain awake thinking of you, I’ll warrant,
More than you have yourself, some of these nights.
The wonder was the tents weren’t snatched away
From over you as you lay in your beds.
I haven’t courage for a risk like that.
Bless you, of course, you’re keeping me from work,
But the thing of it is, I need to be kept.
There’s work enough to do—there’s always that;
But behind’s behind. The worst that you can do
Is set me back a little more behind.
I sha’n’t catch up in this world, anyway.
I’d rather you’d not go unless you must.

The Way to Be

Beautiful post by Leo Babauta on the way to be: accept others as they are, because we can’t (really) change someone:

I want to control something that scares me, but I can’t. I’m not in control of the universe (haven’t been offered the job yet), and I’m not in control of anyone else. I want to help, but can’t.

So I melted.

Not melted as in “had a meltdown”, which sounds wonderful if you like melted foods but actually isn’t. I melted as in I stopped trying to control, stopped trying to change him, and instead softened and accepted him for who he is.

And guess what? Who he is? It’s wonderful. Who he is — it’s super awesome mad wonderful. He’s funny and loving and wise and passionate and crazy and thoughtful and philosophical and did I mention crazy?

I melted, and accepted, and only then could I actually enjoy his presence instead of worrying about losing him or changing him.

And this, as I’ve learned, is the best way to be.

Thank you for writing this, Leo.

The Best Hidden Features in iOS 7

I’ve upgraded to the latest operating system, iOS 7, on my iPad. I have yet to do so on my iPhone as I don’t have enough free storage space (3+ GB). As I was playing around with the new interface, I found The Verge’s post on the best new hidden features in iOS 7 quite handy.

The best feature? You can give Siri an elocution lesson:

If you’ve got an unusual name, or have friends with rare surnames, you’ve probably laughed at Siri’s innate inability to pronounce words that aren’t in the dictionary. Now you can call out when words are mispronounced and train Siri to say them correctly. Just say “that’s not how you pronounce that,” run through a short exercise, and Siri should get things right from then on.

I also like that you can find exactly when a text message was sent:

One of the most infuriating things about Messages in iOS is its lack of regular timestamps. Rather than giving you a time for every message, it’s always periodically defined the beginning of a conversation with a timestamp. In iOS 7, you can check on the exact time every message was sent and received by swiping message bubbles to the left.

 

On Reading, Forgetting, and Re-Reading

Editor’s note: this post was originally published on Medium.

fleeting

###

A couple of months ago, while I was in line waiting to get a Caffè Americano at my local coffee shop, the barista inquired about my reading habits. I noted my favorite science fiction novels:Slaughterhouse-Five and Brave New World. The barista then asked me about Fahrenheit 451, which I read early in my youth. “The ending was amazing, wasn’t it?” she inquired. At this point, a mild shock came over me, my cheeks reddened, and I muttered “Yeah, definitely.” The truth is: I’ve read the novel, but have forgotten almost the entire plot—ending included.

Ian Crouch, writing in a recent piece in The New Yorker, likened reading and forgetting with the following anecdote:

This forgetting has serious consequences—but it has superficial ones as well, mostly having to do with vanity. It has led, at times, to a discomfiting situation, call it the Cocktail Party Trap (though this suggests that I go to many cocktail parties, which is itself a fib). Someone mentions a book with some cachet that I’ve read—a lesser-known work of a celebrated writer, say Eliot’s “Daniel Deronda,” to take an example from my shelf—and I smile knowingly, and maybe add, “It’s wonderful,” or some such thing. Great so far, I’m part of the in-crowd—and not lying; I did read it. But then there’s a moment of terror: What if the person summons up a question or comment with any kind of specificity at all? Basically, what if she aims to do anything other than merely brag about having read “Daniel Deronda”?

My very brief encounter at the coffee shop still didn’t sway my mind on re-reading. Yes, I felt embarrassed about the episode, but the embarrassment did not deter my pride (re-reading is silly!). But about a month ago, things started to unravel. It began with my friend Steven’s suggestion to read John Steinbeck’s classic, East of Eden. I’ve long considered this novel to be in my top five books I’ve ever read: for the story, for the writing, for the allegory. I distinctly remember, how one summer before my junior year of high school, I spent four days, non-stop, engrossed in the novel (I’m a slow reader, I admit). But after Steven suggested reading the novel, I replied in the most glowing way possible: “A sublime selection. For anyone deliberating on whether to read this magnum opus: do it, and you will be better for it.”

And yet. I didn’t re-read East of Eden.

It was only during the discussion of the novel that someone by the name of Blake struck me as extremely profound. “Eugene, the first time you read East of Eden was in your teenage years. That was half a lifetime ago. Think about that.” And Blake is right. When put in that context, so much has transpired in my life over the past fifteen years, that I’ve had an epiphany: re-reading should be a pleasure in its own right. I shouldn’t feel guilt in re-reading; on the contrary, I should take comfort and joy in rediscovering a book which enlightened me so much in the past.

Ian Crouch notes:

If we are cursed to forget much of what we read, there are still charms in the moments of reading a particular book in a particular place. What I remember most about Malamud’s short-story collection “The Magic Barrel” is the warm sunlight in the coffee shop on the consecutive Friday mornings I read it before high school. That is missing the more important points, but it is something. Reading has many facets, one of which might be the rather indescribable, and naturally fleeting, mix of thought and emotion and sensory manipulations that happen in the moment and then fade.

I recollect not only when I read East of Eden, but how: in my room, in the downstairs basement curled up with a warm blanket, outside on the patio with butterflies floating in the distance. It is perhaps more wonderful to remember the sensory associations with reading than the plot.

And so, when 1984 was announced as the next book we were going to read in book club, I wasn’t going to make any excuses: I was going to re-read this novel. And I am glad I did. There were so many specifics from the novel which I didn’t remember that it felt like reading the novel for the first time.

My obstinate attitude on re-reading took more than ten years to come around. If you currently rationalize re-reading like I used to, I encourage you to consider re-reading not only as a remedy to forgetting, but as a profoundly new, joyous experience.

 

Brief Thoughts on Punctuality

I agree with Max Strom’s piece on punctuality; he argues that running late is not a time management issue, but rather a life span management and commitment integrity issue. Briefly,

Here are some of the common excuses and myths for running late:

  • I don’t want to interrupt the flow of what is going on, such as a great conversation.
  • I can’t stand arriving early and having nothing to do.
  • I don’t remember to plan out how much time it actually takes me to get somewhere.
  • People really don’t mind so much if I’m late. The only people who mind are people with control issues; so it’s their problem, not mine.
  • I am very spiritual and am concerned with higher things.

What you may be unaware of:

  • You have probably lost friends over this issue and are not aware of it because they did not tell you.
  • You have definitely lost business because of it.
  • Most people resent and are offended by being kept waiting. They feel like you do not respect or care about them. Or it makes them not trust you.
  • People feel that if you are unreliable in this way, you are unreliable in other ways.
  • If you cause your spouse to be late with you on a regular basis, your husband or wife will probably feel that you are not only disrespectful of him or her by running late but you are also embarrassing your spouse by causing him or her to be late as well. This syndrome can be a source of great irritation to an otherwise compatible relationship.
  • You may have a fear of success, and running late is a form of self-sabotage.

He explains:

In my case, my habit of running late was a form of self-sabotage as it caused me to suffer as well as inconvenience those waiting for me. But for some people the cause of this issue is different. I know someone, for example, who is chronically late, but it causes no stress in her whatsoever. Running late may be a passive-aggressive way of controlling those around you. But whatever the cause of your lateness, there is always damage done to others and to yourself. I have noticed that with only a few exceptions, it is the most successful and busiest business people I know who are almost always the first to arrive to my workshops. In other words, those with the busiest, most complex, and high-pressure careers, who have the best excuses for running late, understand the value of promptness and live by it.

It is a pet peeve of mine when people run late. What I try to do is covered by one of Max’s advice bullets: factor in all the time that won’t make you late and then add twenty to thirty minutes to get there earlier. Bring a book, laptop, or whatever else and arrive EARLY. This framework has worked for me for most of my life.

Highly recommend reading in its entirety.