Artwork, web projects, and updates to

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Missouri Sky Does It Again

Unusually rainy for an extended period here in KC these last few days. Wonderfully grey.

Walking today as the sky broke up, behind the large puffy white and grey clouds was revealed a wispy rainbow cloud. I hadn't seen one before.

Thing is, again, how do you paint that? Wouldn't it just look silly because the human eye is not used to seeing them? I'll give it a miss. Hope you're keeping well.

A short history of blogging

Usually when people ask, I tell them I've been blogging for five or six years. And I have, in various guises, having started with Noah Grey's Greymatter. Often I regret my earlier attempts at using blogs for creative purposes rather than simply just blogging.

In fact you could argue it's much longer. In the late eighties I used scissors and glue to compile a regular printed production that I would pin up on the partition behind me in my workspace. Raiding local and international publications, and adding content of my own, together with altering photographs in the old-fashioned manual way before the verb to photoshop   existed, I would then arrange everything on a single large sheet with the titles and dates cut and pasted to credit all original sources, to create something I've now forgotten the name of.

What was that but blogging? In fact with my added verbal commentary ready for your visit, you might even say that I was podcasting. It wasn't a news aggregator, nor was it what clipmarking or social bookmarking became, but whatever it was it was certainly sad enough to illustrate that when somebody created the technology to do what was pinned up behind me, using a computer like one I was facing, I would indulge in it. I worked on a machine using strange collections of characters in green. Fonts did not exist. That was technology then. It was an exclusive world.

In the beginning it seemed like every blog I read was a version of what Boing Boing became. I visited the Eatonweb Portal. Nowadays some people refer to early blogs as if they were all personal diaries, either tortured or witty, but that was a later development as I recall.

Initially it was links. Commentary, yes, but links driven. It was a community within a community, exploring the larger one and enthusiastically sharing it. While commerce was building the web up to its ultimate bubble and bust, the evangelists for technology were using that technology to spead the word about its capabilities, and just enjoying the ability to, well, enjoy the web itself.

I think it was Pyra's release of Blogger that launched millions of diaries that were getting less and less link-driven. Like anything that's new, blogging was exciting, and like anything that's hugely successful, you lose it. When it goes mainstream you hand it over to the greater public. It is the same for every local band that goes national, or every sports team that wins for the first time - the original fans have to share, and their sense of community is destroyed by the sheer scale of success.

Not all community around blogging is dead; much of it is simply redefined. I do see it in Ireland - of which Damien is a great champion, probably because of the relatively low number of blogs, and I suspect this is the same for many countries. And in the US it has largely fragmented just like print and television media before it. I see it in the webmastering world, and the SEO world, and in their own sub worlds.

But even on a national, indeed international, scale I do see many of the most popular blogs still behaving like true believers in this medium, conducting their business - if that is why they blog - as evangelists for blogging and its associated technologies.

It's refreshing but I wonder if it's not pointless. Scoble, Michael Arrington, Zeldman, Kottke, Seth Godin, Rubel, Battelle, Om Malik, Paul Graham, Danny Sullivan, Hugh MacLeod, Matt Cutts, etc., are all so good at caring, at sharing, at indulging in a personal medium openly and honestly.

And because of their popularity they even have extra layers of hassle and therefore extra blog etiquette considerations. Is there anyone more decent that Darren Rowse? Is there a better blog story of anyone more dignified than how Frank Warren has behaved with his enormous success thrust upon him over the last year or so?

Meanwhile spam grows. Comments, capchas, trackbacks, pings, referals, Blogspot, WordPress, blogrolls, aggregators, readers, feeds, all dominated by spam. Spam 2.0 is coming. To date, marketing and technology have been comfortably together, trumpeted by evangelists for the technology of the trumpet. But a new world of cynics are melting the trumpets and selling them, and they're doing it on eBay instead of Edgeio.

What's my point? Blogging is unremarkable; Blogs are remarkable. Much like all previous media, the tool itself is so common it is not something worth championing. If everybody now blogs, or splogs, or even podcasts (or spodcasts), but don't know the rules, the unwritten understandings, what we call manners, why do those of us who grew from a community carry on as if still in a little community?

So, if I want to give something away for free - and I do - paintings - why stick with bloggers? Why not to everybody, or at least everybody who can visit a website? Some blogs are special, but it doesn't follow that bloggers are. Any ideas? You know I have great regard for your opinions, and for you.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Books & Paintings

Damien was wondering how the Free Books thing went, so it's probably time to put an initial reaction together. In short it's gone great, was a blast to be involved with, though a little frustrating at times as people didn't believe you were talking about real books, really for free, with no catches.

Although people are rightly sceptical about anything free, that problem was probably something always likely to touch a book offer, with the Web full of a million free books - depending on what you mean by 'free', and even by 'book'.

Not so with paintings though. I am very close to saying how it will work, so I'm inclined to say less about the details as I get closer because it's the actual details I'm finalizing right now. What attracts me to the idea is the fun and the unknown of its indirect and organic impact.

Because I work in websites I'm honestly not even in search of traffic - at least not to this site, given that it should be split into at least two categories and running on WordPress i.e. I wouldn't know what to do with the traffic if it got here (the monetization through AdSense here is largely for test purposes and probably hurts me through SmartPricing).

Some things considered were:
1) Open to everybody or to bloggers? I've been blogging for several years and like our world, but if Technorati is to be believed it isn't that special anymore, even making allowances for the spam blogs.
2) Shipping? I'm a fan of simplicity. It's clean if I pay shipping, but it's also simple if it's open world wide.
3) Practicality? One painting seems like a lot of fuss about nothing, yet a hundred paintings does have implications for what I eat.
4) Openness? How to illustrate things are what I say they are, no messin'.
5) Visitor involvement? I want some sort of conversation to take place, because that has more of an effect on me.
6) Fun? Much as I'd like to eat better, and do less computing work and more painting, there's really no point if it's not fun. For you and me.

Anyway - I'll have more specific details on the book's progress soon - and exact details on the paintings thing also.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

IE 7 2.0 - The End is Nigh

Here it comes. Not the preview or the update to the preview, but the real Beta 2 of IE7 for Windows. Last night Microsoft made it available. Should you even mention it to clients?

Wanting as many people as possible to try it now, Micorsoft are offering free phone support to encourage people who usually shy away from beta software to try IE7 Beta 2. I'm tempted, but for selfish reasons. They still plan a Beta 3 version before the final version, and I'm not shy, but I'm not usually much use to their owners either with beta versions.

But I do want to see what it does to a million websites with hacks to make it work in IE, and I don't want to have to code any more hacks. From what I've seen already this could be the browser that ends those browser wars. Then we'll be down to personal preference alone in what browsers use. Even though it's been years coming, I never thought we'd get this far this quick with browsers.

Today I still see brand new sites that have appalling errors across browsers, as if we lived in a one- or two-browser world. It will be great if all those sites 'break' in IE 7 and have to be re-coded to fit in with the standards that Mozilla, Safari, Opera, and the others have tried to follow.

I suspect though that it will be the sites hacked for Microsoft's previous non-standard approach that will need the amending. And they'll need it the day the client downloads IE7 later this year.

I'm still working on the SEO/SEM implications though - and wondering - do I tell my clients? Maybe I'll just go paint a picture, a multi-tabbed picture.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Grumpy Old Book Review

The art book I was involved with the project of giving away for free to 250 bloggers, Living the Artist's Life, by Paul Dorrell, was reviewed by Michael Allen's excellent Grumpy Old Bookman in England.

Which reminds me that my plans to give paintings to you for free have actually advanced - honestly - but are not yet finalized. Catch ya leter.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Painting-in-Progress: That Water Tower again

painting in progress of water towerWhat colour is the sky? The sky is blue. Not finished yet, so still a water tower in progress.

painting in progress of water towerWhat colour is the sky? The sky is red.

painting of water tower in progrssWhat colour is the grass. Well, you get the hang if it.

Performance problems continue with the oul' computer. Seems to be an anti-virus issue rather than a virus, but look you're bored already.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Stressing a machine

My computer has not been a good boy this last week, and I have yet to get to the bottom of it.

There have been paintings, but image-heavy manipulation is causing stress. That's not a sentence I ever expected to write. We'll talk later today. How are you yourself?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Grass

-Look Daddy, a clue! Easter Grass!
-Easter Grass? What's Easter Grass?

And I'd only just hoovered yesterday.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Unseasonably Warm April

-This is just like Moses walking across the Red Sea
-Well, it's a bit shorter, we're just walking to the store; it should only take five minutes
-But it's hot Daddy

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Celtic Dog Cards (in progress)

celtic dog cards in progress
The first four stages of four different cards. Colours came out a little bit funky. They look nicer in reality, honest. Fourth Celtic dog is not the finished version.

I have quite a few more of these also on the go, all at one or other of the four stages pictured above, and none yet complete. But you already knew I don't complete things.

If you ever get one of these it means I love you. Or you've given me money. Neither precludes the other. Beware imposters. And start using feeds!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Feeds, Cards, and Free Paintings

So are you getting the hang of this Feeds Thing? I mean it.

I have some cards I've been working on I 'll share with you later, and I'm still working on the Free Paintings thing. Talk to ya later so. Was thinking of ya over the weekend.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

You Can Save Time And Read This

So you came around and visited a couple of times and I hadn't posted. Well last week I posted more than a couple of times and you didn't come each time then. This requires effort from both of us.

I know, you're branching out, reading other things, discovering there's a whole world of blogs that you could be reading instead. You're even commenting now, and wondering if you should do some sort of small blog yourself, just for the family - but you you don't really want a bunch of strangers looking at it.

Maybe the kids would find it fun. You like the interactivity, but the time, the time, it all takes time, and how can you even read these things that mean little to your life when you have to pick the kids up, and empty the dishwasher?

Well I've already told you. I'm trying to help. Trust me. If you used Bloglines (or something similar but let's not confuse things) you wouldn't have to call around and get disappointed that I'm not in, so to speak. And I wouldn't wonder if you'd be coming. Yes I know you like to call around to see people, and I love having you - but that doesn't have to stop - you can still come around, we can chat.

All that bloglines does is like the equivalent of a red light on your phone beside my number so you know I've updated with the option to read it right there or you can still come on over to my website and look at my lovely fonts and formatting and maybe re-visit some favourite memories. Chances are though you're just interested in today, or yesterday, and what's going on right now - you're not actually that interested in what I wrote ages ago about why I don't look in your eyes very often.

You don't give up anything. You only gain. You don't create more work. You save time. You don't waste time. You get more done. You get more read. You live happily ever after. You deserve happiness.

To sign up for Bloglines takes as long as it takes you to answer your front door. If I was in your neighbourhood I'd knock on your door, so think of signing up for Bloglines as answering the door to me. To let me in all you have to so is give them your email address and a password. That's it. You do have the time - you'll make up those seconds tomorrow.

Oh it doesn't take you much time to directly go to my blog and check it you say? No, but what if your cousins, and your sisters started blogging tomorrow, about work, about you? Could you handle checking an extra few blogs directly? Aren't you already finding yourself skipping the odd blog check because you're reading a couple more?

To add me into your bloglines just copy my address from up there in the browser, click ADD from MyFeeds in BlogLines, paste in the URL, subscribe, and you're set. Do that with all the blogs you're interested in. Organize them into folders like your email if you like. And then when they're updated you see them bolded - with a count of posts made since you last looked at them.

And then in the morning you won't go to five or six different websites including mine, you'll just go to BlogLines, read there, be on the verge of reading when your mother rings but know from an instant glance that I have updated so note that you'll come back to see me when you put a load in the dryer.

I know you don't want to be overly computery, but you're already using a computer, and reading blogs, and bookmarking things. This is just an interactive bookmark, and you can even check it when you go to your in-laws - if you had the time. Think of it as you refusing to store phone numbers in your phone but you write them in a roladex anyway and dial them. It's a small step. You'll thank me, and you might even get yourself a free painting for your trouble.

It's just that, I'd hate to lose you.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Camping in Kansas

Kansas is very good at some things. I once read a scientific debunking of the popular belief that Kansas was flatter than a pancake. Well actually it proved it rather than debunked it, but it all comes down to your concept of flatness.

Ultimately the point was that if you scale a pancake up to the size of the state Kansas (and round these parts, some people clearly have), you'll find that Kansas is in fact flatter. The problem there was that it really didn't address Kansas so much as the pancake. They really just debunked the notion that pancakes themselves are flat to begin with, if you make them five inches in diameter and scale them up to be five hundred miles wide.

For a true comparison you should of course scale up the ingredients and use a five hundred-mile diameter pan. Then I believe the pancake would be flatter, and this would also be truer to everybody's popular concept of a pancake. But Kansas isn't that flat anyway.

My point is that Kansas, believed by people in Ireland, and most places outside Kansas, to be flat, is not. If it were, the Flint Hills would be called the Flint Plateau.

Southeast Kansas is one of the most beautiful corners of the world I have seen. Quietly beautiful, not spectacular with mountains, coast, or even plains. It has much in common with the Drumlin country of counties Cavan and Monaghan in Ireland. Small rolling hills peppered with wild sunflowers and hedge trees.

I went camping this weekend with my son. Because this is the land of amenity and convenience we didn't use a tent. One day I suspect the word camping will actually mean certain activities and not require the word tent at all.

So we walked on trails, and we walked on railtracks, and we indulged in a spot of archery, and melted marshmallows, and ate burgers, and listened to wildlife, and played at a pond, and threw stones in the Kaw river, and - it being Kansas - had a look at a tornado shelter, and the most luxurious fabulous shanty one could imagine.

I have one image stamped in my brain. Like an icon. One image. One painting. Apart from the memories, that's what I'll take away from this weekend. I'll let you know when I start painting it.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Painting-in-Progress: Water Tower

painting of water tower in progrssRemember this?

Remember not believing that I was ever going to finish it, or that it was even a water tower?

painting in progress of water towerWell, I may never finish it, but in a measure of my continual embrace of the Plains States, it is at least a water tower.

I'll keep you posted. The plan is to paint a 100 Water Towers. Say nothing else about me, but I always have plans.

We should talk more often. Both of us.

And Here's The Stuff I Wrote Earlier:

  • November 2005
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • March 2007
  • August 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • July 2009
  • September 2009
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • October 2010
  • December 2010
  • September 2012
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