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Saturday, 23 August 2008


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Hate to say this, Mike, but I think you'd want to hear it: I almost never pay attention to ads outside of the main content columns of sites like yours. Sorry. I've become extremely adept at keeping my eyes focused away from even the most assertive flashing, bouncing, sliding, and creatively insistent advertising out there. Your politely passive links don't stand a chance!

It's not that I'm oblivious to the cost of running high-volume websites, and the need to defray those expenses. I just don't have the extra mental energy to spend on distractions.

I do pay attention to product references that are embedded in the narrative, however, and I'm particularly easy prey for book recommendations -- you sold me a copy of "HCB, Photographer" in a heartbeat :>


Mike, when you write about a feature, shouldn't it be active?. At least on my screen at the moment, there isn't an entry under the Recommended This Week heading.

Truth is, I don't clearly recall noticing such entries. If they are regularly there, and at least one regular visitor doesn't notice them, perhaps something different and eye-catching would help.

From the look of the site, it appears that you like simple order and may, like me, be a bit lazy about updating, moving things around. I know that things that just sit there, always in the same place, sort of disappear from my attention.

It may only be me, but I suspect that evolution has made us more attentive to movement & change than to static elements of our surroundings, the old survival characteristics thing.

Then again, I'm not a prime target for book recommendations. A wide variety of interests and tastes are represented among your visitors. I'm much more interested in taking and working with images than in spending a lot of time perusing books of images.

Although I have a small collection of photo books, and think I 'should' read/view them; in fact, I don't. I believe the last use to which I put a photo book was to scan a couple of the B&W images and play with brightness, contrast and the distribution of tones. I had looked up the photographer's site to see what other books & images might be available, only to encounter quite different versions of some images from the book. One was particularly interesting, as it was on the site twice, once as an intro page and once as content. The three versions in front of me were all quite different in appearance.

Overall, I thought both of the on-line versions were superior in tonal qualities than the one in the book. Many of the images in the book seemed too skewed toward dark for my taste, while the online versions seemed much more balanced. I found the question of the photographer's intent interesting. Absent the chance to see one of the infrequent print shows in Europe, there seems to be no real way to know.

In any case, I found the process of looking at the alternatives, then playing with the images myself to see what other possibilities I might find in them interesting and instructive. So for me, it seems that an interactive experience with an image is engaging, whereas leafing through a book of images seldom holds my interest for long.

I find too that transmissive images on the screen seem to capture and hold my attention more than reflective images on a page. I'm more likely to be 'caught' and flip through a web gallery, if the navigation is decent, than flip through a book of images. And no, I'm older than you, not younger \;^>


That's the 2nd place I look whenever I visit the site -- please don't delete it!

Actually, Ken recommended this book, also, during the discussion on the FSA PBS program. It was in response to my comment about the program on Art and how much I liked his work. While my wife wasn't looking, I ordered it through your Amazon link; should be here by midweek. Maybe, Ken should get a cut of your cut ;)

If so, then you should get a cut of Ken's cut of my cut, because I only thought of putting it in "REcommended this Week" because I saw that a copy had been ordered earlier this week. Since only one was listed on my reports, that must have been you! So, thanks. [s]

Mike J.

Maybe this is an issue with the way it's being presented visually? I honestly hadn't notice that section existed before just now, because when I see a pile of little link-y icons near the edge of a page I assume they're meaningless paid advertising, which is something I (and probably a lot of other readers) have developed a strong tendency to ignore, sometimes without ever achieving conscious awareness of it.

Mike, I generally read your blog posts on my Google Reader feed, so I don't see things you put in the side bar. I guess I'll have to visit your actual site at least once a week. You might consider a quick blog post when add something of interest to your side bar. I think many people would make a point to visit your site to see it if you did.

I vote for a quick accompanying note, explaining the book and why it's recommended - that really helps. Just a single paragraph would make that feature much more useful and appealing.

The link doesn't show up when reading the blog through an RSS reader like Google Reader. Given the information overload of the blog world, many people read this way rather than visiting the actual blog sites.

I neglected to mention in my previous post that I do see your "Recommended This Week." I find it an excellent resource, as are books mentioned in comments and posts of lists of books. I am not in the know enough to be aware of current and past published work that, at least, someone thought was worthy. While I don't tend to buy books that are too software or method specific, I find that looking at pictures in books by real masters tend to recharge my creative juices and get me off my duff and back out with my camera. I'd vote to keep the feature going.

Thanks guys. It really helps my advertising efforts to have you say you ignore the ads.

Mike J.

It looks like an ad from Amazon. Do something different to make it look more like a real "recommendation" and not an ad, and I think you'll attract more of us more often.

Although I love books, I think I know what you mean. Now and then I 'fess up to one of my dirty little secrets, which is that from time to time I actually download strangers' pictures from the internet and do some work on them...get the color and balance right. I have no idea why I do this, except that I imagine I see the potential in the picture better than the person who took it did, and I think it's a shame the person who took it got it so wrong. I want to see what it would look like if it looked like it should. It's amazing how much correction small JPEGs will take, and it's amazing what a huge difference the proper post-processing can make.

I get a little obsessed sometimes, I guess....

Mike J.

P.S. When I say "dirty little secret" I don't mean the pictures are dirty...quite the opposite, often they're just nice plain little snapshots that just happen to have been taken by other people rather than me.

If twenty orders is a low number for you, I think you're doing *great* for an Amazon affiliate.

I earn like thirty dollars with them each month, and one of my net savvy friends told me I was the first person he'd heard about who earns anything.

That said, yeah, side links are usually invisible. I don't get the sites which have over a hundred links, they don't get used.

"If twenty orders is a low number for you, I think you're doing *great* for an Amazon affiliate. I earn like thirty dollars with them each month, and one of my net savvy friends told me I was the first person he'd heard about who earns anything."

Well, one of the nice things about being poor is that it doesn't take much to give you a boost.

I had a teacher who used to say he'd like to win the lottery, until I pointed out to him that half the things he talked about were great bargains he'd gotten and free junk that he'd restored and gotten working again. Seriously, the guy just loved restoring discarded mechanical stuff. I honestly think if he'd struck it rich it would have deprived him of a significant source of happiness for himself, because he would have had no more reason to go out and make great junkyard finds. Similarly, I'm particularly tickled that my blow dryer has lasted for 16 years and my microwave oven (a freebie, no less) is still going strong after 20 years. Just think, if I were rich, all those little triumphs would no longer matter.

Well, a guy's gotta look on the bright side.

Although I will admit I'm getting hammered at the grocery store lately. Food costs have really gone up, up, up here. Or maybe it's that I now have a 15-year-old in the house, who seems uniquely constructed to vacuum up all visible and available food....

Mike J.

Mike, you've done it again. Sinsabaugh has been Herzogged. Amazon is now out of stock and checking to see if any more copies can be found.


I seriously doubt that that has anything to do with me...especially since the PBS documentary just aired.

Mike J.

I love Art Sinsabaugh's work.


I've bought 2 books from Amazon on your recommendation and via the TOP link. The cue was that you had mentioned them favourably in the body text.

As well your access to early notice has saved money by allowing me to order at Amazon's pre-release price each time (which does help a little with the high mailing costs to Australia.

If it impressed anyone at all, one could be "first on the block" with the book, too :-)

Regards - Ross

I thought it was a recommendation from Amazon too. Shall pay more attention next time :-)


I agree with the comments of generally not noticing (more, ignoring) peripheral ads on sites I read, especially the animated variety, and keep my sound volume muted to thwart the more intrusive audio ads becoming increasingly common.

I have noticed your "Recommended This Week" product link occasionally, but products and books mentioned within posts and comments, and especially links within the overall posts, nearly always get a follow-up viewing and further thought.


One suggestion - add a 'recommended books' link under the 'RESOURCES' heading that's on the top RHS of your home page. It would be nice to be able to browse through. I can't find another such link easily. Also make sure that you have amazon.co.uk links otherwise I can't give you any benefit :-)

Like many people, I ignore ads on web sites that I use regularly. I also use the NoScript plugin for FireFox to reduce the amount of animated gunk that some sites throw at me. If I look at any ads, it's only the ones that are visible on the screen at the top of your home page. Why not rotate the positions of your ads, or display them in a random order?



Link doesn't seem to work on my machine — WinXP/Firefox 3.0.1

Mike - I've got the same secret - although I don't consider it dirty at all. :) I think I've learned how much difference color casts and lack of contrast can make in a photo.

As for the ads, I'll admit I typically try to ignore them, assuming they're the same ones I saw yesterday. I have clicked through on a few from here, since they were things I was interested in. That's a definite improvement from some sites that seem to post random ads. But I agree that perhaps the "recommended" section should be a little more prominent...

Mike, I hope I'm not too far OT but I'd like to comment on your thoughts about the acquisition of wealth spoiling the pleasure of bargain hunting. I don't have too much 'disposable' income these days so I often indulge my passion for books by searching the shelves of charity/thrift shops. I recently picked up a copy of Don McCullin's wonderful collection of monochrome landscapes "Open Skies". This was the out of print hardcover edition; Amazon UK lists several used copies, starting at 40GBP. I got it for just 1GBP, which delighted me almost as much as the beautifully moody images!

My point is, if I were wealthy enough not to have to think twice before spending 40GBP on a single used book, I'm quite sure that I would continue to scour the charity shops for those elusive bargains, just for the sheer pleasure of it. For me, those little triumphs would still matter!

I'd like to see a link (perhaps the title, "RECOMMENDED THIS WEEK," could be a hyperlink) or a button I could press that would take me to a list of all books you've recommended, and when you recommended them. There could be additional information as well, if you like (what's so good about this book, what type of book it is, etc.). I'm not in a position to buy a book a week, but when I want to get a book, I do look through the sites I read to see what you guys are reading and liking.

Dave Weston,

Mike J.

Michael S. et al.,
The problem with a "List" of recommended books is one that we've covered extensively in our series of posts "Great Photo Books You Can Buy New": It's that the list would have to constantly be "groomed" to reflect current availability. Doing such a thing would be a significant chunk out of the job description of TOP's phantom assistant-who-has-yet-to-exist. The problem is that photo books come and go without rhyme or reason, and it takes a sigificant amount of research just to determine what's really up with one single title, much less all of them. Also, as I described at length in this post,


I don't even have a practical way of seeing all the available prospects to evaluate them for recommendation.

So a true "master list" is going to have to remain theoretical rather than real. Although it sounds straightforward, the obstacles to actually putting such a list together are formidable.

Mike J.

Hmmm.... why not simply re-title it "Mike's Latest Recommendation" and put it in a box?

I'm a bit late in commenting on this topic. I occasionally use the ads but when I buy anything from Adorama, B&H or Amazon I go here to get there which I trust rings the cash register.

It does. And thanks very much. It helps.

All best,

Mike J.

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