I normally don't like to write about something until I actually have something to say about it, and don't get me wrong, I really appreciate getting tips from people. But something that happens here periodically is that a news item will seem so "right" for TOP that dozens and dozens of people will send me emails about it all at once, and I feel like I have to mention it if only to bring the flood of emails to a stop! (Not that I don't appreciate tips, seriously. How else would I know about anything? I live in Wisconsin. Yesterday the most exciting thing that happened here was that there was a squirrel on the roof.)
Okay, so, this morning, by audience acclaim: The New York Times has started a new photojournalism blog.
It's called "Lens," and it took me a while to figure out. Whenever I come across an "innovative" web format, it points out how standardized a lot of web content has become, to the point that you don't have to think about how most sites work. I read a couple of "webzines" (Playback and Winding Road), that remind me whenever I read them how annoying and inconvenient their magazine-simulator format is, and how much better they'd be if they were simply presented in a standard web format. As it is, you get preoccupied with navigation, zooming in and out, trying to figure out how to go from one article to the next one you want to see, etc., etc.
Okay, so here's how you use Lens. You go to the static introductory page first, then click on the "let's start looking at pictures" link at the bottom of the post. That brings you to the actual blog, which runs from left to right instead of vertically. (Here's the direct link.) When you go to full-screen mode, the pictures are nicely sized but you have to peer at the tiny captions—especially annoying on the "Pictures of the Day" post where you zip incongruously from one world hotspot to another with nothing but the captions to ground you. You have to sort out which arrow takes you to the next picture in the entry (the one at the bottom) and which arrow takes you to the next entry (the one at the right-hand edge). Oh, and once you're on the "Read more" page for any given entry, it's like the old joke about asking for directions in New Hampshire: "Can't get there from here."
I assume I'm going to get used to all this.
And while I'm kvetching and caviling, when will writers and editors start to realize that simple English words aren't good web names? A good web name is something unique, so it's distinctive and can be searched for (oh, all right—I suppose "The Online Photographer" isn't a good web name either). There's a British speaker manufacturer called "Spendor," for example, named after its founder Spencer Hughes and his wife, Dorothy. Inadvertently, Spencer Hughes stumbled on a perfect web name years before the web existed—there's no other Spendor; search Spendor on the web and virtually every result is about Spendor speakers. As I've repeated many times now, the name of my town, Waukesha, despite being unpronounceable by any operator past a fifty-mile radius, is still a good web name: Google "Waukesha" and you get where I live. Take that, all you Springfields.
Now try searching for lens. The new Times site does show up on the first page, but so does a "shareholder activist investment firm," a record label, a manual for "the light, efficient network simulator," a Wikipedia entry on optics, and LensCrafters, a retailer of eyeglasses and contact lenses.
I'm being petty, I know. Hey, I told you at the start I didn't have anything to say.
So how good is Lens-the-blog-not-the-light-efficient-network-simulator? Remains to be seen. On the other hand, anything Fred Conrad and David Burnett want to say, I'll read.