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Friday, 07 June 2013


Agree with almost all that David says, except for his request for regularly timed posts. I think it adds to the charm of visiting your site not to know whether I'll find any new posts or not since the last time I visited. (However, I do always feel a slight sense of disappointment when I find there is nothing new since I checked a whole hour previously ;)

Fully support the idea of guest columnists talking about photos too - you seem to do this successfully for hardware reviews so I don't see why it wouldn't work for photos too.

Probably my favourite aspect of your site, though, is that so many of the posts are only loosely about photography, or not about it at all!

I agree that it would be nice to have some educational content on various topics. I could see myself benefiting from that. I would also like to see more print sales. I'm sure it takes a lot of effort to set up, but they are a lot of fun to see and take part in!

Photos - a big YES. I have no time to dig through the net and I must admit that you have absolutely great taste - I loved every single random excellence photo you have published. I definitely want more.

I'd like to see more photos too, particularly original photos by contributors. One photo or minifolio a week will be more than enough for me, though. I'd really like it if the photo went up on Friday, and stayed on top for the whole weekend to encourage commentary.

I'd also like to see some more Mike Johnston Photo Contests (ala Horizonless and Texas). But only occasionally, lest you (or your readers) burn out.

With that said, I will be the first to tune out if this becomes another photoblog. I'd like more pictures on TOP, but keep it a wordy place, rather than a picturey place.

I second the compliment regarding civil discourse in the comments. It seems to me as an outsider at least, that most of the folks who comment on TOP are folks I'd enjoy having lunch with. I tried to have a discussion on the forums at DPR exactly twice. The torrents of vitriol and smartassery were incredible. I have since never returned to those forums, not because I'm a shrinking violet, but because life is too short to waste on that kind of foolishness. This website is one of the places I know I can reliably come to and read some enjoyable stuff about photography. A lot of the content doesn't hit upon my particular photographic interests (wildlife and landscapes) but most of it can be assimilated into that dusty storehouse that is my memory. I pull out the occasional bit, dust it off and apply it to the things it fits. So, I'm not providing much useful input, but I think your site is great, keep up the good work Mike! If you add additional wildlife or landscape related posts I'll consider them bonus content.

Like: random excellence posts; the intelligence, honesty and ethic of your writing; a sense of community here.
Your schedule is your schedule, it's nice to be surprised (when something appears as an odd hour), it's also relevant when you tell us you will be away for a while and take (most) Saturday's off. You are only a click away.

What do I like most about TOP ? Interestingly, it's not the content, specifically. I like your writing, Mike (it's entertaining, not matter what it's about). But beyond that, visiting TOP is kind of like dropping into a hangout for photographers. Unlike dpreview (which I visit often), it's much friendlier, and not just in a "be nice, please" kind of way, but in a "get to know you" kind of way. It starts with you and your openness in letting us get to know you. Then throw Ctein into the mix, with his off topic posts (I like the balance between on topic and off topic), and respected commenters such as DD-B, Jim Hughes, John Camp, Ken Tanaka and it feels like a place to fit into, rather than a bar that you visit when you want to brawl.
I never really thought about it, but I believe David is right about the benefits of the batch mode for posting replies.
I like reading about books and like the random excellence posts. (I'd like to see more of them, but would not want to see the excellence drop off just to see more).
Finally, I appreciate the frequency of updates. I don't know how many posts per day you average and don't mind checking in and finding nothing new now & again, knowing that there will be something soon. (It's great when you have a guest poster put something up in your absence). I follow Thom Hogan's blog, but will sometimes go days without checking, knowing that he's sporadic in his postings.
Basically, keep up the great work, and grow carefully.

I test things out by throwing the proverbial spaghetti at the wall. If it sticks, it's good. If it does't, keep cooking.

I wish you could move the Joyful News picture to another place. I can't link articles to co-workers because of it and I have to hide it from the kids.

I'd like a better way to see follow-up comments.

Let's say I read a post and its comments. There's always a possibility that more comments will be added later. But (AFAIK), the only way I can see them is to remember that it said “Comments (36)” at the end of the post, notice that it now shows a different number, and then click on the comments and read them again, this time also seeing any that I hadn't seen before.

On this:

A more predictable morning update time. For me personally, updating reliably at 11am is better than updating somewhere between 8 and 11, and much better than updating somewhere between 8 and noon. (Those specific times aren't important, just examples.) While for avoiding work, repeated checks not turning up anything sounds like it would be good, I find it frustrating.

While I agree that it would be better to have a reliable/predictable morning update time, I read TOP through it's awesome full feed RSS and heartily recommend it to others so that they're not sitting there constantly hitting that F5 button.

As much as your readers would like to have a reliable and early (think east coast time zone) posting schedule, it might not work to TOP's advantage.

The multiple approaches made to your site just looking for something new increases your page view count. That increases TOP's apparent value to advertisers.

Cynical? Yeah. Devious? Not really.

Look at the bloggers (no names need be mentioned) who post multiple times daily in unpredictable blurts to keep readers coming back time and time again.

Readers aren't unaware of the technique. We just don't resent being played.

TOP may not be perfect but it's pretty damn good and also it is out there in a category all of its own; mess with it at your peril. Isn't there a saying "if it ain't broke . . . "?

I certainly don't agree with everything that appears on TOP - sometimes I disagree violently - but I'm not always right, either, and in general it is intelligent, stimulating and well-written. Please DO NOT go down the road of equipment reviews - review sites are ten-a-penny - nor, please, technical / technique articles; the internet is overflowing with web-site-owners gagging to pass on their expertise.

What TOP does, extremely well, is commentary, and I hope it stays that way.

About the 'Comments' at TOP. I can count the number of blogs where I read the Comments as carefully as I read the post itself on my index finger - One. Of course it's TOP!

The only request I have is TOP use Tweeter to let us followers know when a new post is up at TOP. Google is discontinuing it's Reader app as well as iGoogle and for me Tweeter would be an ideal replacement.

So to keep it short just reread Dennis's comment above. Carefully.

About educational content;

What if you had a section where you could categorize and list all your older posts about certain topics (i.e. Printing)? You have a gold mine of content which you don't fully monetize. Once you add a new post the appropriate category list would get updated automatically.

This would allow your readers explore the site for additional content they might like. Your current site does not encourage readers to explore other parts. It says "Just Read the current post, and be on your way!"

All of this is done simply using a modern CMS platform (Wordpress, Drupal). As a "celebrity blogger", you may even be able to get a top designer to do your site for free.

Matt Mullenweg, the founder of Wordpress loves photography. Contact him!

I've got TOP on my RSS feed list -- but that only works at home, not on my phone, not at work, not on my laptop. So, depending on my life at the time, most of my checking ends up being by hand anyway. The solution to that would be a cloud reader (meaning one that kept the subscription list and last-read info in the cloud), but Google just shut theirs down.

"Early" isn't at all important to me, just consistent. I don't know Typepad at all; in everything I have used, I can check the links and such in preview mode while still scheduling the article for future posting. Which doesn't address all the other points. I will say that when I wait an hour before checking again, I do feel a sense of accomplishment :-).

Glad you like the photo columnist thing; that actually came to me while writing the original comment.

While suggesting all these new things, I should have made sure to put on the first list that Mike should not become just an editor here. I'm solidly with the people who like his writing and think it's important to TOP.

Mike you have the best photo blog out there so improvement suggestions are few. Having said that I too think it would be fun to once a week (month?)feature a photo from of your many readers. Bet the response would be great and a good thing for the photographer as well. Maybe get a little exposure and find that elusive 15 minutes of fame.

No one even responded to your portfolio use request? I'll say it here, right now... You can use any public photo of mine that you'd like. Ha! Of course, you did already use one back in the day. That was fun. 15 minutes as they say...

What I hate (yes, hate is the right word) most about TOP (actually this is the only thing I hate about it), is the "non-main-page", the one you get when you go to


Why does this page exist at all? Was there anybody who did not just click on the link to the "main page"? Why not make a simple redirect, and if this "non-main main page" contains sensible information, put it away somewhere else?

I stumble upon this page approximately 10 times a week (I don't use bookmarks, therefore I have to go through this page most of the time), and I really really hate it.

Everything else about TOP is really absolutely perfect! Thanks for your great work!

I too don't really see the value in a regular posting schedule – like many others, I get updates via RSS, so for me it's just a case of doing my morning catch-up reading, and if there's no TOP post, oh well, no big deal. And if more than one has been posted since I last checked, they're all there in order waiting to be read.

About the only thing I'd like to see changed on TOP itself is the font size and article width – both are kinda small. This page explains things better than I can: http://ia.net/blog/100e2r

I just hope this site will stay here. I thoroughly enjoy it and shall miss it a lot if it stopped. What do I enjoy? The writing, photo's, comments, personal stuff and the fact that it's civallised. I love the idea of educational columns. That would make this site even more interesting.

My 2cents on this:

Things I particularly like about TOP:
•A focus on making, taking, capturing, creating...

JM. I agree.

•A literate and reasonably intelligent commentariat...

JM I agree

•A policy and tradition of civil debate, which is enforced when necessary.

JM I agree

•Somewhat slow-moving discussions ...

JM. Does not concern me one way or another.

Some things I'd like to see in the future of TOP:
•A more predictable morning update time.

JM. Does not concern me one way or another.

•Educational (not quite as low-level as simply instructional) columns, perhaps by temporary columnists who come on to do one series of defined length...

JM I agree

•More photos. Maybe ask some people on as photo columnists, to post a photo a week or a month or something?

JM I agree.

I would appreciate a little less OT or at least clearly identify it in the tile.

If you could persuade Ctein to write more often that would be great (or alternatively clone him).

I really do appreciate steady posting to your blog. Nothing more annoying than keeping an RSS feed going and nothing appearing in it for months. This seems to be a particular failing of the "big name" photographer blogs.

There are almost too many things I like to even start, but....first I'll echo Dennis's comment above--I appreciate your coverage of random & intriguing books (usually but not always photography books). Second--and related--TOP has been a wonderful source for me of discovering the work of some photographers I otherwise wouldn't have heard of. Case in point--Tyler Monson's cool series of photos taken in Reykjavik which he turned into standalone PhotoBlog/s, which you feature in a TOP post some time ago. I also would love to read more from 2 of my favorite TOP commentators--Ken Tanaka and CTein. And, what the hell, Kirk Tuck as well. As far as suggestions or requests? Just two, really. First that you convince the semi-legendary Bill Atkinson to do a few guest columns, presumably on printing but really on anything he'd like (including his remarkable iPhone/iPad App, Photocards. And second that you add Bill Beebe to your list of occasional guest columnists. He's thoughtful and entertaining. And finally---keep on writing! Since I'm a writer myself, I appreciate good writing---which may be one of the main reasons I keep coming back to TOP!

I've only recently discovered TOP and have been really enjoying it because it takes a different approach to most photography sites.

Most sites are all about how to use cameras: getting sharp pictures, following rules of composition, comparing specs and so on whereas here it seems to be more about the culture and art of photography - and most importantly how to better enjoy doing it. So I would prefer not to see educational posts here since there is so much of that available elsewhere, and more of what you already do so well!

Mike, I like TOP pretty much as it is: the personal voice of a highly knowledgeable photographic generalist who is at once a talented writer, a great educator and, if need be, an able and non-egotistic moderator. Keep surprising me!

Now for a more important matter (...): two people with different time schedules living under the same roof, one an adolescent, the other a middle aged self employed professional working from his home - now that is a very good reason if ever there was one to move to a bigger house!

I really don't care about the update times, or even that you take an occasional day off, and I much prefer to keep TOP writerly as opposed to picturely (How many photos are there on the net? Ten billion?) What I enjoy are good solid commentaries on all aspects of photography, and I especially enjoy smart people who have sharply different attitudes than mine, because that's when I feel like I'm learning something.

As for instructional stuff -- how-to -- that's all over the place on the 'net. What's more valuable to me are reviews (like Ctein's on papers, or the Fuji commentary last week) by people who really know what they're talking about. I like to hear about how people set up their cameras for shooting...it's not so much instructional, as alternative views of how to do what we all do.

One thing I think you're going to have to do is decide whether you're primarily an editor or primarily a writer -- they're very different functions, but they use up about the same amount of energy. If you plan to expand TOP, then I think the editing and organizing function may have to take precedence.

Organizing...it would be nice to have a sister website, heavily linked from TOP, that functioned as a gallery...that would keep the photos off the writerly pages, while at the same time providing space for more photos when you do use them. And you could still do a commentary on TOP.

Facebook commenting would speed up the discussion but it may just devolve into an uncontrollable free-for-all. It would allow for more direct conversation with individual members though. So many times I have wanted to buttress something John Camp, Ken Tanaka, et al. had to say but just didn't because I knew it would get lost in the shuffle.

Facebook commenting on Typepad: http://help.typepad.com/comment-syncing.html

TOP and Kirk Tuck's VSL are the two main photo sites I make a point to Visit daily. Some of the common aspects include

*Well developed writing 'voices'
*Focus generally weighted towards photographs (making & producing) rather than purchasing gear)
*Willingness to address/reply to comments. Sort of the 'Conversational' or 'Hangout' vibe.
*Generally considerate & thoughtful 'audience'

I feel like having lunch or a pint with you or Kirk would be an enjoyable experience.

Mike, I should especially praise you for your interest in sharing the work of other photographers - from the famous to the undiscovered. You have great taste, and it helps remind us that as photography is as much about 'consuming' the product as it is producing it.

This seems like something that can be forgotten in the age of tumblr and flickr - people can get caught up posting as much as possible to garner as many 'likes' as they can before their content drops off the first page of their audience's feed.

What I don't like (but can understand others' infatuation with) is discussions of gear especially cameras. I have no intention of switching to digital or even upgrading my existing cameras.

What I do like is discussions of books by and/or about photographers as well as the processes they use. And book publishing is a good topic. I have over 400 photo books so it may be an obsession ;-)

As to print sales, I don't collect since I don't have enough wall-space to display even my stuff. But, as suggested by above, I may be inspired to buy one of their books based on a print you feature.

I do enjoy your off-topic discussions of music and even the audio equipment aspects. I enjoy Jazz and have gotten back into vinyl.

David pretty much nailed it for me with his list, though I care less than him about the precise update time. The number one good thing about TOP for me is the smart moderation and the overall sense of civil, kind participation. Plus it bridges the gap between older and younger generations well enough I think, without trying to do so, and without resorting to starting a TOP Facebook page or Twitter feed or Pinterest page.

My wife doesn't care for the "Joyful Nudes" advertisement, but she shouldn't be back-seat internetting anyway.

I would be interested in reading quarterly updates from, say, Peter Turnley or a similar working photographer. You could call it "Where In The World is Peter Turnley?"

Equipment reviews are okay to peruse, though I would prefer in-use field reviews rather than product announcement style reviews.

Like some others, I don't feel any need to find the posts at any particular time of day. If you tried posting on a schedule you might find it adds additional unwanted pressure. On the other hand, you might find the routine motivates you. It's up to you.

One small technical thing that bugs me: when I click your banner at the top it doesn't go to the "main" page (as is conventional), it goes to a mysterious "about" type page. Furthermore, that page's "quick link to the main page" link opens the main page in a new tab, which is needless and annoying. Not a biggie, but it's always sort of irked me.

And that's really all from me. It's otherwise great as-is.

I like it just the way it is. You know its going to be photography oriented, but the ideas come out in a nicely random subject/timing pattern that makes it feel like it's a nice place to hangout. Like stopping by once and a while to see who is there. Plus Ctein.

I like David's ideas. Also, if you're worried about burying heavily commented posts, how about an addition to the sidebar with two or three recent threads, chosen for volume and/or quality of conmments? It could sit nicely just above the search box, and direct folks to the livelier ongoing discussions.

I especially like the idea of technical articles as well.

Normally I'm on the internet just twice a day -- early morning to check email, and late evening to check news sites, after which I browse a few sites, including TOP. So, I'm not concerned about your posting early.

Here I am on line, though, at 11AM California time, since I went out early to photograph (not "take pictures") at our lake to take advantage of the beautiful overcast morning light. So I'm a bit late getting on line to check email, and decided to look at TOP.

As far as content -- the off-topic stuff doesn't interest me (since I come here for photographic information). But this is not a serious complaint because I realize it's your blog and you post whatever you want. I've often thought it must be difficult to come up with in-depth muses on photographic topics each day -- thus, your inclusion of off-topic subjects.

You've mentioned statistics -- can you tell from your analytics if someone comes to the site but is not interested in the current topic, and leaves quickly? Does that count as a "real" hit for you?

If I have a complaint, it's that I wish the writers (including the esteemed Editor) would avoid using gutter language when making a point. As an example, sometime ago Ctein pontificated that he keeps a dictionary at his side when writing. Well, he could open it to choose words/phrases other than, "it pisses me off;" "crap;" "sucks."

Now, I'm no prude -- I was in the Military and have heard the lowest common denominator of language.

But with so many blogs on the internet hosted by people who are "language challenged," I look for writers who know how to make exclamatory and emotional points using our wonderful language in the highest sense. I recall essays on this topic by Allister Cooke.

I'll just add that the intrusion of such words spoils the reading experience for me.

Best regards,

Richard Jones

[I hope this might amuse you: your inclusion of those words you object to, in this comment, got the comment shunted automatically to the spam folder! Heh. --Mike]

What I like about TOP:

1. Mike's writing

2. Readers' Comments

3. Mike's replies/rejoinders to Comments

The same apply to Ctein's columns and guest articles.

What I don't like about TOP is important only to me.

Good luck with your expansion plans, Mike.

Do what you have to do so you'll have the time you need to write and moderate. Your writing and moderation is what makes TOP the way it is. Nobody else but you can do these. And the way you write and moderate will take care of business as it always had.

Thank you for sharing TOP with us.

Well shoot, I meant to say joyful Nudes, not news... Joyful news however is always welcome.

A couple of thoughts:

1. Personally, I don't care when you post, and I like the bit of unpredictability. If you have to go through contortions to post at a regular time, don't do it on my account (but I understand if others feel differently).

2. The slow pace of approving/posting comments is frustrating and stifles conversation. But I assume that as T.O.P. grows, reviewing comments gets to be a bigger and bigger job. Fortunately, this seems like a perfect task for your future indentured servant, errr.... intern.

3. I would like to see more discussion of photography as "art" here. Other than your writing (not to downplay that part of things), T.O.P. is really the only website out there that provides a good discussion of photography as art, as opposed to all the myriad technical discussions behind cameras, taking pictures, software processing and printing. I like all of the various forms of this: comments about historical photographers (photography art history), photography exhibit reviews, photography book reviews and general abstract discussions about topics specific to photography as art.

4. Speaking of which: more photography book reviews, please.

5. I love the posts you've done on photography processes that show (with pictures) how something is done. I'm still hoping you can talk Ctein into showing how dye transfer prints are made (as opposed to just describing the process).

6. To be honest, I love T.O.P. as it is. That said, I love the idea of trying new things.

Best regards,

Mike, I am a big fan of TOP. One thing I would like to see from a redesign of the site is better billing of several recent articles. With the current design I feel that if a blog post is not the most recent it is not active anymore. I would suggest a home page similar to stevehuffphoto.com (I am only referring to content placement, not content itself).



I'm with Greg on the RSS feed. It takes no effort on my part to keep up-to-date on TOP and about fifty other irregularly published websites. I just let my news reader to the hard work of gathering new content and presenting it to me to browse at my leisure.

I find it strange that, for me, RSS is nearly essential for interacting with the internet, while most of the internet using public have never even heard of RSS. I don't know how they manage! :)

One thing I find interesting, and somewhat disappointing is that as a photo site it is remarkably difficult to post a photograph to illustrate a point in the comments section. How about making ease of posting photographs a key part of the expansion?

[Technical changes are about the only thing I can't really implement. I use the TypePad template, and whatever it does at any given time (it changes) is what I can do. Other changes are beyond my capabilities. Sorry.... --Mike]

I'd like to see more reviews of photobooks. Columns on the history of photography would also be great. There's an older demographic that sites like ASX, Conscientious, and Fraction don't really satisfy.

I like the food! For thought, that is. You make us think, not just read and move on.

Also, I would like to see more images and discussions about those images.

The best part of TOP is that it's such a wonderful reflection of Mike's unique vision. Sadly, too many sites on the internet look like they rolled off an assembly line with regard to layout, content, and mission. Going forward, I hope that TOP continues to stand apart from the crowd.

For what it's worth, here are three suggestions:

1. Either "Best Of" reruns or links to posts from the past when Humble Editor is away for a break. There's much great content in the archives that would appeal to both new readers and regulars alike. It'd be great if some of that saw the light of Page 1 again.

2. Occasionally, when someone's work is shown, I'd love to see a "5 Questions With..." interview piece included. Everything from the Artist Statement, stories about the making of the work, what hopes & dreams the artist has for the future, and much more. Most people who have built portfolios love talking about them (I know I do!). Please give them a platform for doing so.

3. More "Updates On" posts. Where is Carl Weese with his Drive In project? In a year or so, I'd love to read an update from Jim Hughes about his time with the Fuji X-E1.

For me, different blogs and websites bear different "labels". Two terms I associate with you(r blog) are "modest" and "non-commercial" and they are an important reason for my appreciation of your blog (in addition to the things I learn and the well-written texts - I am not so much into discussions).

I would find it a pity if your blog became more commercial and "mainstream", although you would likely attract more readers (and make more money).

The suggestion of columnists seems a very good idea to me as well, in particular regular photo contributions (would you not like to show your own photographs?). I would also rather increase than decrease the photo:text ratio.

On the other hand, I would not start writing too much about technical topics such as composition etc. I think there are plenty of sites that cover these. However, I have the impression that you would be perfect for "teaching" about photography (as an art and from a technological and historical point of view) in a more fundamental way - maybe like a basic lecture for photography students would be organized (although I do not know what such a lecture would actually cover).

Intelligent reasonable discussions by seemingly intelligent reasonable people who have this love for photography in common. Civil discourse where questions are asked and answers are given. What a concept.

I love the idea of the print sales.

I do not mind the ability to purchase through links.

I think your usual suspects that is your guest writers are excellent.

Down side

I wish you all "Yes I am from the south" had time to do more of the same.


Is it possible to have a page on TOP where the bit of code needed to insert a photo can be copied, then pasted into a comment, If that's how it works?

Is the same thing also possible with links, so they only show a short description instead of a great long web address? It makes me cringe whenever I insert a long address in one of my comments.

TOP has taught me to write concisely and more clearly, and, after an embarrassing moment some time ago, to always check my facts. A more knowledgeable comment soon set me straight!

To insert an inline photo in a comment: First, the photo has to already be available on the web (there has to be a URL that displays just the photo) at a satisfactory size. Given that, what you enter is

<img src="http://where.example.com/the/image/is/hosted.jpg">

To link to a my site using the phrase "link text" and not showing the URL itself:

<a href="http://dd-b.net">link text</a>

TOP could definitely do with more photos. Not a lot, but at least one illustrating each post. That would make the texts (even) more palatable. Otherwise I wouldn't touch anything. I enjoy coming to TOP for what it is.

I definitely like the tone and content of most conversations here Mike. You are doing a great job creating and moderating a relaxed and informed place.

I wonder if you would consider adding some youthful voice to the posts. I think it would add another level of depth if we heard from, say, a recent BFA graduate about why they shoot film. Or some younger photographers discussing how they read the new snapshot aesthetic. Those are just a couple of quick ideas off the top of my head... I'm sure there are some recent talented grads who would be thrilled to have an opportunity to showcase their thoughts and their work.

Anyway, there is a bit of grist for your mill.

all the best,

I don't like your politics nor do I agree with your lack of religious belief. But I love this site and your writing. And my socks got knocked off when I realized how much you appreciate Neil Young. 7-9 years ago we traded terse e-mails over "The Empirical Photographer". A few years ago I received it, but you did not sign it. That is the only thing that has ever counted as a don't like.

As to timely postings - when I get to your site and see something new it is akin to an unexpected prize in the cereal box. Keep your postings timed as you see fit. And yes I do check your site frequently during the day to see if there is a new article.

Someone above mentioned just keep this going. I beg you to consider editing your will to accommodate this website in the case of


D. Graham

The number one thing I'd like from TOP is simple, more of it! I really appreciate what happens here, and while I do agree with Mr Dyer-Bennet on both having more educational posts(perhaps even an art historian giving some depth would be interesting) as well as more photos(It is too bad your portfolio idea didn't gather any responses, that would have been fantastic!) I still however feel that TOP is well positioned, and well run. It has been a fantastic place for inspiration, learning, and gaining a broader understand of not just photography, but a number of issues outside of that also. In other words, keep up the good work!

JC asked (rhetorically, I believe, but what the heck): (How many photos are there on the net? Ten billion?)

Facebook alone had 220 billion in 2012 and sees over 300 million more uploaded *EACH DAY* !!! I found some of that out from a great report that Thom Hogan linked to:

How many are public is another question ... and how many are presented as "photography" rather than "my cat" is quite another ... but interesting stats anyway.

- Dennis

I think you need a new blogging platform. Especially if using Typepad means you are "technically incapable" of making some of the changes that a few people have hinted at - better photos, better management of comment threads (subscribing to highlight follow-up comments e.g.).

It's the tool of your trade if you're going to be expanding the venture.

My one and only gripe about your wonderful site is that, for some no-doubt technical reason presumably outside your control, photos look very bad on it. They tend to appear soft and dull, and that must distress you at least as much as it does me.

For what it's worth, my two cents:

I don't mind the variable pace of posting. One of the things I like most about TOP is the way it feels personal. My work output tends to be somewhat sporadic as well, so it feels quite natural.

I don't mind the pace of comment posting. I generally only have time to look in once a day, so I'm not on tenterhooks to see what new comments have been sent in.

I like the mix of on-topic and off-topic posts. You've kept me coming back daily for several years now, almost since day one. What you're doing clearly works for me.

I like the idea of sidebar links to currently active/popular discussions.

I love the idea of mini-folios, so I hope you won't give up on that; maybe start by asking some of the accomplished photographers who are already members of the TOP community.

Please keep the great work coming, at a pace that feels sustainable to you.

Thanks as always, and best wishes,

For awhile in the 90s, I had a (mostly secondhand, mostly woodworking) tool store here in Berkeley. Like most "one man shows", it was an idiosyncratic place, where tool users would hang out discussing the steel in old chisels, legendary British hand plane makers, and the benefits of sharpening with water stones over oil stones. My friend Dave noted that the bike shop where he hung out had the same atmosphere, and the same type of discussions. He suggested the best improvement I could make would be to install a pot bellied stove and checkerboard, and serve beer for Friday Happy Hour.

Stuart Brand said, "A tool is something that has a use on one end, and a user on the other end", and a camera is just another tool (without the sharp edges). Visit any other enthusiast arena and you will find the same conversations from the timid newbie- "Which is the Best" (wide angle lens, cordless drill, gear sprocket, trekking shovel), opinionated opinions from experienced opinionators- ("Only Leica, only film, only full frame DSLRS), and, from my perspective, the hackers and hot rodders who "show us something we haven't seen before" (Kirk Tuck).

When I decided to close my store, I thought I could sell it as a business opportunity. A potential buyer came in to hang out with me for a couple of hours, and after a customer said "I'm going to miss you, Jimmy", pointed out that he didn't say "I am going to miss this store", but the comment was about me, the director of that storefront soap opera.

If you show more photos, you will annoy the book folks. If you feature more gear, you will annoy the darkroom guys, and if you post at 7am Central Time everybody who reads it after 7:01 will not have their instant gratification gratified.
In my day, you had to wait a whole month for your next magazine to arrive.

TOP is the place where we come in to warm our hands in front of the fire. We come here because it's TOP, and it is surely evolving the way it is supposed to.

"Don't go changin' "

Just keep the spirit of TOP the same and I'll be happy. There's something about the tone you and all the contributors have created - an engaging mixture of curiosity, enthusiasm and deep accumulated knowledge of photography, wrapped up in civilized discourse and excellent writing - that keeps me visiting every day.

I love TOP as it is, but I wouldn't want you to stop experimenting.
I don't mind the irregular updates at all.

BTW, @Richard Jones, I think you may have meant to write 'Alistair Cooke'?

The tone of the discussion is great at this site. One thing that I think is essential is a recent comments field. Many of your posts are timeless. At the moment you can't tell if a discussion is going on about an older post, in fact the lack of a recent comments box makes it less likely that there will be comments on old posts. Also, screens are wider these days. Plenty of scope for bigger photos.


Keep up the good work and I think you should continue posting whenever you want. Remember the Paul Maisson wine commercials....(but please don't keep us waiting TOO long :-)
I keep coming back because I am often pleasantly blown-away by the high quality and cultured tone of the communication going on in this forum, and I feel that I have been enriched by same.
I also like wordy vs picturey, and the OTs.
Guest columnists of your choosing have also been quite entertaining.
The only vacuum I perceive is that there has been a lot of posting about photo editing and photo editing software, but not so much discussion or demonstration of skillful or dare i say professional use of same. I am curious as to what a pro might feel he or she might do or be asked to do by a client and how productive one set of software might be compared to another. Other than cloning a "lingerer" out of a shot or moving a few sliders here or there to make my pics look better, I am not using any particular science, and perhaps a few pointers from some of the more skillful photographers might help me step up my game, or at least show me what i am missing. Maybe a Sunday photo editing how-to feature with pictures, like the newspapers have a comics section on Sunday.

If we were to assume that you're already pedaling as fast as you can with the stuff you write yourself Mike, then an expansion would have to come from come either with more stuff from your existing contributors, or with posts from new writers.

I'm sure your own judgement about how to proceed will continue to be your best guide.

I see TOP as having the depth and insight of a monthly camera magazine with the timeliness of a newspaper. Combined with the contributions of readers, it is a truly special place.

I like TOP the most when it challenges my thinking, as both the articles and the comments often do. I admit to discouragement when the comments attack a photographer (Taryn Simon and Bruce Gilden come to mind), a technique (e.g., Ctein’s article on stochastic photography), or some personal hobbyhorse (e.g., my suspicion that 16-bit editing is only a waste of disk and memory space). Still, I value those experiences for showing me how other people think.

I love the idea of supporting TOP with more regular print sales: it’s a case of art supporting commerce instead of the usual arrangement. The online magazine expands to become the online gallery.

For completeness, here’s my complaint: I wish TOP’s Humble Editor were more richly rewarded financially for his work.

Sometimes I don't like the idea that you are working so damn hard and that I can move on to something else at the stroke of a key.

At least stick to your own pace, the rolling of the presses must be under your control now.

Thanks. And I hope that my purchases through affiliate Book Depository UK still help?

And, like you, I don't like Captcha much. Did you know that vision impaired folk are upset by it? Possibly not an issue for a photographic site, but we're all equal.

I just come to this site as I think there is a person behind it and I want to know what this person want to say today. What I mean is that I like my "imagination" that behind all this activities - writing, struggling with things (coffee, jazz, amazon links, print sales, fishing, ...), photography - there is a real and likeable human behind it. Strange but I find it quite hard to find human (and even harder, likeable human) behind a web log (and worst a web site). Of course you may still be a marketing plot :-( and constructed by your (or the whole firm) skillful hands all these year. All this is could be just my imagination. As Turing, how do you know that behind all these it is not a computer only.

In brief, anything you write (even though I do not agree with some of them).

Firstly, do not let your readers who haven't discovered / don't use RSS try to dictate how often and/or when you post. It's much harder to write to a fixed timetable than it is to use RSS. RSS is the perfect tool for those readers who are bothered by whether you have updated or not. I use the free Netvibes as my browser's homepage. I have it configured simply as a dashboard to see which of the sites I like have new content (and I visit the respective sites to view the content).

Secondly, don't veer too far from the current content balance. Not only because the current content suits me right down to the ground, but because doing so might run the risk of attracting the wrong sort of crowd. A TOP where the comments weren't worth reading would be much less inviting place to visit regularly. Of course it might be a profitable change. But it might not, especially over the longer term. Your own enthusiasm will dry up very quickly if you can't bear the thought of reading through the comments.

I think you should consider a more modern platform (Wordpress) if you're going to look at changing the site design. Given TOP's distinctive colo(u)r palette it might only take some fairly basic CSS changes to an existing well-developed theme to make it feel like your own. I would certainly look at sites that do a good job of highlighting discussions in earlier posts for inspiration. At the moment the TOP 'home' page displays full articles and all featured comments. It might be better to show excerpts and a prominent comment count, so that the page was much more 'scannable'.

I've been reading TOP for years now, and I hope I still am for many more to come.

I think the most valuable thing you provide here at TOP is context. That does include the personal touches (coffee, cars, stereos) that help to flesh out the bare bones of photographic lore. Mostly though I mean the way that new cameras are placed in reference to old ones, or the overall picture-taking scene. That doesn't sound too radical, but in a world where most other sources are reproducing technical specs and press releases, it stands out.

Similarly, placing photographers in broader historical or geographical perspectives is not done nearly enough elsewhere, and is done here. Photobooks as fetish objects are covered well elsewhere on the web, but I enjoy TOP's less reverent and more personal approach.

The only thing I would change, would be to include more reviews and reports from shows and exhibitions. I am always surprised by how much I learn from physical shows, even if I end up not liking the work. If you can raise the revenue streams, consider putting some of the pre-tax dosh into a travel and expenses budget for going to look at photography in person.

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