A Happy 12th Birthday for SJL.US!

On the Wall - New York City - 2013

On Monday, November 25, 2013, we’ll celebrate the 12th birthday of this personal blog of mine.

It’s gone through many difference phases over those years – beginning initially as a simply weblog linking to stories I found interesting (a very common use of Twitter these days is doing exactly that), starting what evolved separately into PaymentsNews.com, and then a transition to more of my photography passion as that interest grew in importance over the last few years.

Here’s to many more years of writing and sharing!

Lessons from 2012: Our Web Has a Long Memory

New Year's Day - San Francisco - 2012

I just took a look back at the most popular web pages here on my blog during the last twelve months of 2012. The most popular pages – based on page views – weren’t written this year – but they’ve stood the test of time – at least as far as Google and the other search engines are concerned.

Here’s the list of top 10 posts based on page views during 2012:

  1. The Winner Is: Oven Roasted Tri-Tip Roast for Football Sunday (Feb 1, 2009) – Best ways to cook tri-tip!
  2. My Life in a Sling! (Nov 10, 2009) – The story of my rotator cuff surgery – and an amazing community of others who’ve also been through this rough surgery.
  3. HOW TO: Setting up the Canon PowerShot S90 to Shoot HDR (Jan 31, 2010) – All about how to shoot HDR images from compact point and shoot camera.
  4. New Photoshop Learnings from Jaime Ibarra (Nov 13, 2011) – Jaime’s a master and I took a private 1:1 workshop with him.
  5. Sunday Morning Coffee: Carmel and Point Lobos (Jan 25, 2009) – So many memories of the Monterey coast. If you go, check this out.
  6. Yosemite’s Half Dome – Handheld HDR with Canon 5D Mark II (jun 5, 2010) – My early learnings about HDR.
  7. First Time Out with HDR Photography on a Canon 40D (Sep 6, 2008) – More early HDR learnings.
  8. My Mid-2011 Photography Workflow (Jul 30, 2011) – An important milestone in my workflow – which has since moved beyond.
  9. Hierarchies – of Life and Privacy (Aug 13, 2005) – A perspective that’s stood the test of time.
  10. A Floating Faucet Fountain (Jun 13, 2009) – One of those fun stories that brings back childhood memories of home shows and the like!

Look at that list – no posts from 2012 made the top 10! It’s kinda crazy how long the long tail is. In the case of my blog, the top 3 posts accounted for over 50% of this year’s page views. The remaining 40+% were spread out among hundreds of other posts. I wonder how this distribution might change in 2013?

What post from 2012 was the most viewed? This one – How We Appreciate Great Photographs.

Looking back a year ago, here’s my list of the most popular posts of 2011 – with my commentary. Interesting to see some changes this year in the rankings.

See you next year!

Ten Years of Blogging 2001-2011

Next week, this little blog of mine turns ten years old. In some ways, this seems hard for me to believe. It actually feels like I’ve been writing here forever – but, of course, that can’t be! Perhaps it’s the sheer number of blog posts I’ve done over the years – many more over on PaymentsNews.com than here – but plenty here, on my recipe blog ScottsKitchen.com, on InMenlo.com, PaymentsViews.com and a few others.

Adding them all up, I’m sure I’m in the 10,000 hour club that Malcolm Gladwell talked about in Outliers: The Story of Success when it comes to blogging!

The first presence for my personal website in the Wayback Machine is dated December 5, 1998 – and, from the text on that page, looks like it was originally posted on October 19, 1998 – over thirteen years ago. Ah, those were the days!.

So, as we think about things to be thankful at this time of year, I’m thankful for blogging and how it’s worked magic in my life. By writing, it helps me clarify my muddled thoughts. By sharing with others, I often hear from them – even from strangers. And I welcome the increase in serendipity in my life that blogging contributes to in a meaningful way. Maybe writing here isn’t the best thing I’ve ever done, but it’s plenty good! And many thanks to those who inspired me to write and taught me many new things along the way. Lots to be thankful for!

Blogging, Crowdfunding, Kickstarter and The Glif

Yesterday, I attended the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) meeting in San Rafael to hear Joel Friedlander’s presentation about “Author Blogging.” Joel’s an independent book designer who we worked with at Glenbrook to design our book “Payments Systems in the U.S.” – he did an amazing job for us and I highly recommend working with him.

Joel’s blog “The Book Designer” is a wonderful resource for those interested in book design, self publishing and more. You’ll find him on Twitter as @jfbookman. In his presentation, Joel told of his experiences having started blogging just 15 months ago – and doing so has opened up a whole new range of opportunities for him – a great story told with great advice for other authors!

The GlifAs Joel and I were talking, he pulled out his iPhone 4 which had a little device attached to it – something called “The Glif“. The Glif slips over the edge of the iPhone 4 and provides a number of ways you can “stand up” the iPhone. In addition, for us photography nuts, it’s got a tripod socket – so that you can use your iPhone on a tripod. I ordered one immediately – from my iPhone naturally!

Turns out there’s a wonderful story behind the development of this little device. After prototyping their design, the founders, Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost, used KickStarter to raise the initial capital required to launch – and to find an initial market. KickStartr is a great way to publicize interesting projects and raise capital “from the crowd.” If the story is good enough and you reach the project threshold, funding happens – if not, it doesn’t. Simple but powerful idea! The Glif is a great example of KickStartr in action.

What a Week!

Two weeks ago I transitioned this personal blog of mine from TypePad to WordPress – and, in the process, began to get back into the swing of things in terms of regular posts. There’s something important about doing a daily post, IMHO – it’s the perfect cadence for a personal blog.

This week, naturally, I fell off that wagon. Completely fell off the wagon! No posts since last Saturday! WTF, as they say? I ask myself!

As it turned out, this week was one of those “perfect storms” of work – beginning with an all-hands partners meeting offsite on Monday, a private advanced-level Payments Boot Camp on Tuesday, a regular public Payments Boot Camp on Wednesday-Thursday, capped by an intensive client work day today. Exhausted… Heck, I’m writing this to just decompress – and yo look back at what an intense week it was!

While it was an intense week, it’s like an intense workout. You’re exhausted – but it’s that good tired feeling.

Frankly, for me, our Boot Camp sessions are just a delight. As instructors, we pour ourselves into them – and we get a huge amount back from everyone who attends. They’re pretty amazing experiences – as almost everyone who comes is an expert in some aspect of the payments systems we’re teaching – so it’s a joy to be able to draw on that expertise as the teacher.

We’ve recently begun including a case study exercise – dividing into small groups to better understand the perspectives of particular stakeholders in the payments system. These discussions get the juices flowing – as there are a lot of “zero sum” issues to consider in payments.

We also like to try to close the first day of our public boot camp sessions with an entrepreneur who’s actually innovating in and around the payments space. This week, Danny Shader, CEO of PayNearMe.com, spoke to our group – and shared some of his learnings building successful companies. Danny was great – and he got LOTS of questions!

So, I’m tired tonight – but it’s a really good tired. Lots of “good stuff” went on this week – and that’s what matters. The journey is indeed the reward!

Looking at Traffic, Food and Recipes!

I’ve been doing a bit of looking at traffic today – web traffic that is – across both my personal and our Glenbrook web sites.

ScottsKitchen.comFor my personal sites, it’s interesting that my recipes blog, ScottsKitchen.com, has been running about twice the number of page views daily that this blog receives. While I tend to think of sjl.us as my personal “hub” – the web doesn’t. It likes food (and recipes) much better! 😉

InMenlo.comOur hyperlocal blog – InMenlo.com – has yet again twice the number of pages views – it’s become very popular indeed. Fascinating that a significant amount of InMenlo’s traffic comes from Facebook while the traffic to ScottsKitchen and SJL.US comes primarily from the search engines.

Part of that is seasonal – my high heat upside-down roast turkey recipe on ScottsKitchen.com is an annual Thanksgiving favorite! Since I posted it in 2005, it’s consistently been the top page on that site. Our late fall roasted tomato soup recipes were also pretty popular this year.

The other perennially popular recipes are those for oven roasted tri-tip (a Christmas favorite around our house) and grilling tri-tip on our Weber charcoal BBQ.

In my book, the “gold standard” for a superb recipe site is SimplyRecipes.com run by Elise Bauer. She does a wonderful job – combining great recipes with luscious food photography! The iPhone web app version of her site has come in very handy for me many times!

My other go to iPhone app for cooking is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. The paper edition of this cookbook was my late friend Chris Gulker’s go to bible for cooking! His kitchen copy is delightfully bookmarked, spattered and stained – a real working volume!

About that Header Image – Overlooking Luggala

When I launched this new WordPress-powered version of my blog over the weekend, I quickly looked through some recent photos to find one that would be suitable for use in the header image. The one I picked, which I’ve loosely titled “Band on the Run!“, was taken on November 19, 2010, in County Wicklow in Ireland. Seems like a near perfect shot for an album cover, doesn’t it?!

We’re standing on a cliff overlooking Luggala – the Guiness estate. We had just jumped out of our tour bus (Wild Wicklow Tours – highly recommended!) and were headed over to capture the views when I snapped this photo with my Canon PowerShot S95. My Glenbrook partner Carol Coye Benson and I were in Ireland teaching our Payments in a Mobile World workshop earlier that week. That’s Carol out in front of the band in the photo!

Here’s a page showing all of the header images that I’ve used over the years on sjl.us.

Thoughts on Migrating from TypePad to WordPress

Since 2003, this blog has been hosted by TypePad. They’ve provided excellent service – I have no complaints in that regard.

So, why did I decide to migrate from TypePad to WordPress?

Basically, the TypePad version of this blog had been put together (by me) using Advanced Templates and a bunch of hacks. It worked – but even I couldn’t figure out how to maintain it going forward.

So, I decided to migrate.

Over the last two years, I’ve launched several other blogs based on WordPress – and have become more familiar with the administrative aspects of WordPress. WordPress has just become more comfortable. That’s not to say it’s simple. WordPress is complicated – especially with respect to themes, plug-ins, etc. Be careful.

That said, while the posts export and import readily, there are many other issues – like image libraries that don’t export/import cleanly, category archives that have different permalink locations, and photo albums that simply don’t migrate. Not a pretty picture – but no surprise given the current state of the blogging art. Cruft. Crap.

I stopped using the TypePad photo albums a few years ago – when I became such a Flickr fan. But, there earlier links are still around, in the search engines, etc. Want to view my photos? Checkout my Flickr site!

Among other things, my migration initially screwed up the images displayed on another of my TypePad blogs. We’ve figured out a clever workaround for that – but it’s dependent on both the old and new sites being available. No way to cut the cord between the two without a lot more work. We’ll deal with that eventually.

Tonight, I spent time adding a bunch of redirects for the TypePad category archives – to their new locations on my new WordPress instance. This was just another giant hassle – but, with only about 30 categories, something I could get done without a lot of pain. Luckily, .htaccess provides a lot of power for redirection of URLs – but it’s still a giant PITA.

Tonight, I think we’ve got most of the conversion issues resolved. I’m watching the logs to see what URLs from searches aren’t resolving correctly – and may need to add a few more tweaks. Such is the life of the aging sysadmin…