« Your Turn: Andrew Molitor | Main | Print News »

Sunday, 04 August 2013


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Maybe "The lonely whisper of the wind..." was the sound of one hand clapping.

Both posts I read and enjoyed. However to comment would be based on a presumption that I could out-geek the geeks.

Also maybe you are being too hard on yourself(selves).

There IS a distinction between "I find the piece interesting" and "I have something to say about the piece" so I'm not convinced that comments are an entirely accurate metric!

Still, I guess it's pretty much what you have to work with.

I for one am glad to hear you say this. I would be delighted to hear you talk more about your experience with the Nikon D800. By most accounts and testers, the D800 is the camera to beat for image quality...and yet you have very little to say on the subject. I get the impression that after the initial flush of purchase, your interest faded dramatically. I recently purchased a Nikon D600, to me it's a gear lust fulfilled! I find it inconceivable that a long time photographer such as you can appear so blase' about (to me at least) such an exotic piece of equipment.

No comments doesn't mean we're not reading... We're just geeked out.

If I remember rightly your "Would you like to read OT columns by Ctein" poll received a largely positive response. Had you added an "instead of" or "in addition to" qualifier, perhaps the result would have been different.

An off-topic post about going off topic in posts? I think you may have just reached your own Zen pinnacle of geek circularity!

I'll be really disappointed if there are no more tea stories. Just because I don't comment doesn't mean I don't like them, although maybe I'm alone in this regard.
Pool stories on the other hand.......

I think the problem with the two columns you mentioned is just that they weren't very interesting and came at a point where it seems like off-topic rambling is at an all time high. Both pieces were dull "look where I was!" personal blog entries. There was nothing to learn, there wasn't much to see, there wasn't anything that would have an impact on my life in any way (and I'm a tea nerd--I even photograph the stuff--who enjoyed pool as a teenager). That's why columns didn't rate anything more than an internal "Is that all?" from me.

You've run off-topic posts now and again for several years. You should have enough data by now to tease out just what proportion of posts can be off-topic and still enrich the overall conversation here, and what proportion gets to be a little much.

I suspect also that it works better with a mix of different off-topic posts, rather than have the same off-topic each time. The great thing about a writer going off on a tangent is that you learn something about a subject you've never thought about before. But unless it really grabs you, you don't really want to learn all the gritty details (if you did, you'd be off reading specialist sites already).

I enjoy the off topic posts, even tea and billiards. Please don't use the number of comments as a guide to interest or popularity - it may just be that it is too far outside our own geek-sphere to feel that we can sensibly comment.

(As a related aside, I have fears about the idea of customised newsfeeds that only deliver the topics you have shown an interest in: often, it is new topics that I find most stimulating.)

Hi Mike,
What a shame off-topic posts from Ctein and yourself aren't appreciated by more of your readers.

I'm obviously in a minority because I quite enjoy them.To me off-topic is just that, off-topic not just another facet of photography.
It helps to turn you and your friends into real people not just another faceless blogger boring on with the same old subjects.

Mike and Ctein, please don't refrain from posting off-topic articles! I have no particular interest in billiards and tea, but somehow those entries spice TOP up and I, as for one, would much rather have them than not.
The same thing happens to me when I post entries about politics or music on my photography-oriented blog. I do understand people visit it to gather information on photography, and the off-topic articles leave those visitors cold. Yet I feel their inclusion is right: the blog becomes more ecletic. It's my way of saying I have other interests in life beyond photography.
Back to TOP, I believe it would become dull without off-topic articles. Even if some of them aren't really my cup of tea. (Sorry, I couldn't resist...)

Well, Mike, I thoroughly enjoyed both columns - but like many of Ctein's columns, after reading it, I said to myself, "huh! That is really interesting! I've learned something new about the world... I don't think I have any questions, yet." Sort of how I would respond to some NY Times articles back before the internet.

So - I'm not saying you shouldn't run them, just that some things are so self-contained that formulating a response seems redundant. This is one of the classic failure modes for comment threads, dating back to at least Usenet, if not longer. (Sadly I can't find the reference for this right now. DDB might know what I'm talking about.) The problem, dear Brutus, is not in our columns, but in our comments.


At least one of us likes the tea geeks posts. About the most at risk there is $60 cake of tea, and not a $3000 camera.:-)

I loved your billiards article. Pool is not my cup of tea but your post caused me to reconsider the game. That post was very well written. It was one of my favorite TOP posts of the past year. Anytime you can combine great writing and great photography I am all for it. I didn't comment however because I had nothing to add to the conversation other than "well done!" You're tired of hearing that, right?

Mike, is there such a thing as serial geek? Someone who goes all geeky about some arcane activity and then nine months later drops it and moves on to the next thing? If so I think I'm affected.

I happen to enjoy your diversions from the norm a great deal. I come hear to learn and be entertained, and you never fail to do both.
It's a shame to not be able to talk about your interests. Maybe you should start an alternative blog for your diversions. I certainly wouldn't be reading about tea parties 'n' pools.

I tend to lurk rather than participate. But, I always enjoy reading what you have to say.

Too bad, I always enjoy Ctein's tea posts. I do buy tea from the tea source, and though I drink mostly herbals I enjoy darks and pu'erhs.

I've even enjoyed some of the insights from your pool columns, though really could care less about pool.

I guess, though, that you might want to re-think your metrics. Folks tend to comment when they have something to say, but a lack of commentary doesn't necessarily imply a lack of interest. You have an audience of photographers who will surely comment about photography related posts, but who might not feel a need to say 'wow, interesting post' and leave it at that when a topic they know next to nothing about comes up. Tea and pool are niche topics for sure, and overdoing them wouldn't be appropriate, but a couple of posts a year on each topic could be just right.

And—unsolicited advice warning—if you'd like to write more about pool, frame it differently. The lesson post had some interesting ideas about teaching that, for me, would have worked well, and been more universally appealing, as the foundation of the piece.

Just remember, it's your site, I don't always react with interest to some of the off topic stuff, but I appreciate that you provide it. Actually, I took a detour into Tea world because of Ctein, but decided it just was going to take more effort than I am currently willing to devote to it. On the other hand, as is often the case, I sent the link to those who have now become TOP readers, realizing it is a great place to hang out and not just about photos and equipment. I also know by now, that you are not reluctant to make a u-turn whenever it seems like the thing to do, again just because you can. It's one of the many things that make TOP interesting.

Nothing wrong with an off-topic post. The writing is still good and and interesting. Also they're kept them to a minimum.

Usually I read the whole thing, but whether tea or billiards, I'm only tangentially interested at best and I won't comment--mainly because I have nothing to say.

They are a nice distraction from the focus of the site, and they do well two round out and humanize the both of you.

When I was in high school I had a girlfriend who's father played pool passionately. I had been little exposed to pool having no access to a table. When he was showing me around his pool room, he told me to have a go at lifting a corner of the, quite beautiful, table. I was hesitant. Being young and strong ('though not as strong as I imagined) I gingerly attempted a lift. I was afraid that I would knock it off kilter or something. He just smiled. I couldn't budge the thing. I wish I could recall where he said he got it, but it weighed a small cars worth or near so, and while you can lift a car partly off the sag of the springs, you aren't going to shift the real mass of it. What little I know of pool, I learned from him and a friend of his who was a bit of a hustler. Actually made money at it betting against the gullible. An endlessly fascinating game.
Write about what you will, Mike. It's your blog. I'm a grateful reader on all topics.

"As I always say, one constant of running an interactive website for tens of thousands of smart and informed readers is that you keep learning lessons."

Lesson #786: a representative of the not-so-smart and less-informed "minority" of your readers will inevitably post a comment with a pedantic response to a minor quote from your otherwise illuminating ruminations. ;)

Don't stop the non photographic posts. Coffee, tea, stereos, etc, etc ... Most enjoyable, adds a little balance and is educational. Make it Sundays if you must or Mondays or what ever. Very much a part of this site. Personally I look forward to them.

There is probably a better website for pool palyers and tea drinkers. That said, I don't see why people care about these off topic ventures. Maybe their addiceted to TOP or something and don't get their almost daily fix, but I couldn't care less. Sometimes they're really interesting, sometimes they're not. No biggie.

What people seem to forget is that one is not a photographer because one is interested in photography. One is a photographer because one feels that no other medium is better suited for self expression. This forgetfulness is what creates the endless torrent of boring photographs.

I hope that the number of comments is not the only measure of success.

I have a passing interest in billiards. I love a good cup of "good" tea. I am fascinated by both, but, like my interest in chess, not interested (geeky?) enough to pursue them further. However, I thoroughly enjoy reading well written, concise essays by people who are both passionate, and articulate.

So I, for one, would be sad to see no more. If you and Ctein write these for the business, i.e. to get views and purchases through associated links, then by all means spend your energy on articles that promote that. If you do so for the passion, or perhaps this writing gives you a needed "break", I would greatly enjoy continuing to read them.

I don't really care that much when you wander off into other topics. I have zero interests in billiards, a little bit more on tea, but no that much more. I do find enjoyable though your way of writing about things.
I think your off topic posts don't really harm your fan base. What really makes a site harm is when you start to feel you are no longer walking into a library, but into Macy's. That's what happened over at the Luminous Landscape. Aggresive selling strategies are a not a good idea for this kind of website.

hmph. Well, I was interested in the pool stuff!

But then I don't guess one or two of us 'pool geeks' holds enough sway against the vast majority. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted anyway.

Mike, Ctein,

I feel bad now that I never comment on posts :) The off topic posts are always some of my favorite, as they cover subjects I usually know nothing about. Thanks for all the hard work!


On the contrary, I very much enjoyed the billiards and tea posts: views into worlds I know nothing about. But knowing nothing about them, I've got no comments to make other than "Cool!", and I try not to leave comments unless I've actually got something to say. So lack of comments doesn't necessarily mean lack of interest.

I'm a reader. Not a commentator. Please do not take the lack of my comments to be indicative of my interest level.

I generally read your articles on my tablet or phone. Many of your “off-topic” posts get saved for when I have time to do them justice. I can think of a couple examples. Thanks to a previous Ctein article, I ordered pu-ehr tea for the first time. Not my cup of tea at all, but I'm glad I tried brewing fermented grass. :) Also had to save the recent follow-up article, too. Your billiards article? Had to save it in my feed reader so I could come back and read it when I had time.

Am I a tea connoisseur? Far from it. But I do brew loose leaf tea, and I got my wife hooked on doing the same. I’m more into coffee: cold brewed via French press. I’m a snob when it comes to coffee. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ordered a straight coffee. Espresso, yes. Coffee? I prefer my own. If I’m in need of caffeine, I’ll take a tea bag. Harder to mess that up. :)

What I’m saying in a not very succinct way is that I enjoy your writing style. Ctein’s, too. I’ll even read articles about people getting together just to talk about building spaceships that will never happen. :) Please don’t stop writing about “off-topic” items. If a vocal minority don’t like them, they can quickly pass them over. This is the internet. The vocal minority often feel the need to criticize and chastise because they are incapable of creating and sustaining original content themselves. If you want weekly affirmations, I’ll start commenting more. :)

Well, that's disappointing.

You see, my Geek is(are?)Geeks.

I could read/listen/talk with intelligent, passionate, highly informed persons about their subject of interest endlessly.

Even subjects I would never think about a second time once I walk away, can be fascinating to discuss with a Geek.

Want an audience for your musings on the ultimate flyrod, tires for your mudwhomper, ovens for artisan bread making? I'm your guy.

So, I'll re-read the pool and tea entries and follow the links for more.

What a big great world of idea we live in!

I like the off-topic stuff. Pool or tea aren't things I would go out of my way to read about, but that doesn't mean they aren't interesting when written about by good writers (like you and Ctein). I don't just read TOP because it's about photography, but because it's well written and I have come to empathize or feel a connection with the writer. I may not share my friend's enthusiasm for early Mayan pottery, but I can still be interested in why and how they are enthused. Please don't stop sharing your enthusiasms, Mike. Who knows when someone else may be introduced to a new. Interest as a result? Only narrow minds find narrow interests sympathetic.

The term "geek" has indeed acquired an evolved meaning. I remember browsing in my parents' library in the 40's, and reading parts of
a dark, excellent noir novel called "Nightmare Alley," by William Lindsay Gresham (it's still available on Amazon, where it gets generally excellent reviews). In that book, the term "geek," which Gresham borrowed from existing carny culture, is a carny term of art for a low status freak performer, whose act mainly consists of biting the heads off live chickens.

Well this is probably the exception that proves the rule, but after Ctien's original pur-ah tea column, I went out and tried some for the first time and liked it. I also bought several of the graphic novels he recommended because he and I like enough of the same stuff in that vein that the unfamiliar stuff he recommended could only be worth checking out.

Forget the crickets. I think you have to stick out your e-elbows, block out (like in basketball) and occasionally introduce the mono-culture to the greater culture. We are becoming a collection of interest-silos who only speak intra-tribe to one another. This is an artifact of the internet age, but misunderstands and short changes what the internet offers: a view into other worlds from the comfort of your living room.

So: unsheathe that pool cue, put on the tea kettle and learn to love the crickets from time to time. You are planting seeds that will make the world a more interested interconnected place. And I love it.

Ben Marks

For this reader at least, the off topic posts are almost always interesting, weather I share an interest in the topic of the post or not, BECAUSE they are written by folks who I know to be bright, thorough, and generally even handed.
Now, I don't drink tea at all, but I read Ctein's post and comments because it was a chance to learn something new. I wouldn't want a steady diet of tea columns but the few that have been written were interesting.
A pool player in my youth, I very much enjoyed the billiards post, and did not mind at all that it morphed into a discussion of people's opinions about shooting from cars. Like a photograph, you let it go into the world with 'artistic intent' but can never control the diversity of reactions to it.
There are too many sites that write stuff just to drive web traffic.
While I certainly understand that web traffic and reader interest is important, occasional Off topic posts nurture the diversity of your readership who in turn write some of the most interesting 'comments' on the web.
I had a philosophy professor in the '60's named A.D.Wellins who said that "The only Natural separation between one area of study and another, is ignorance"
Finding connections and similarities between seemingly disparate things is one of the joys of life.
Write about what you care about and we will read it.

P.S. You have to know too that I did not report back to TOP about the new tea I found or the graphic novels I read. They simply enriched my life in a way that is invisible to the management here. It really isn't a chat room here, and I think it would make you miserable if it were. So you can't necessarily conclude from a lack of comments that there is no interest. When a subject does not invite dialogue, you won't get comments and the introduction of completely unfamiliar subject matter seems likely to fall into that category. It doesn't mean that it isn't having any effect, it is just that you can't measure the positive response as easily as you can the negative. I feel that in general the world could do with a bit more whimsey and a bit less gnashing of teeth. So ignore the wingers and post what is interesting to you. I think you are reaching more people than you think you are.

In some strange way, we (your humble readership) are all photography geeks. In fact we probably tend to be a subset of photo geeks. We get confused and upset when our dose of photo geekery is different than what we are used to.
For my part, I do enjoy your off topic journeys, just not too far.... :)

No, I have the record low for comments, three, none positive, regarding my "Random Excellence". Just sayin'. I guarantee no post on TOP now or forever will be as poorly received. Can't even put it in my CV because even the editor slagged it off as "too digital". Throw me a bone and at least make a top ten "worst" posts at TOP thread, I have a real chance at winning.

I would like to add my own statement that I found both the tea and billiards columns interesting and well worth the time to read. I didn't have anything of value to add (aside from perhaps snarking about how when I lived in Madison, I liked sitting at the bar in the Brass Ring drinking single malt scotch that has a rather earthy/peaty/tea like taste ... ;)

I hope you'll both take the occasion to geek out on both topics and am especially looking forward to tale of your next billiards lesson.

"In this paradigm, geekery is an evolutionary adaptation gone bad. (I jest. Put down your lightsaber-shaped pens.)"

good thing you threw that in, I was half way up my pedestal.

I enjoy the detours into tea, billiards, roasting coffee beans, audio, etc. and agree with many of the others that the scarcity of comments is due to lack of knowledge, not interest.

There needs to be a term for geeks who have multiple, passionate, interests as opposed to a singular fixation. I have a number of interests: photography, audio (particularly building tube amps and speakers), wood working, and dogs. I suspect that in having multiple interests I'm not different than many of your readers, or yourself.

Please keep writing about tea, pool or any other "off" topic. Sometimes I learn surprising things, which I reallly appreciate!

Hurray! no more tea.

I would prefer that you go off topic once and a while, I like being exposed to other areas of interest, especially when the writers themselves are interesting and engaging. There are zillions of photo sires/blogs, only one TOP.

While I would probably not click on a random link leading me to a tea or billiards post, I will gladly read them on your site. For two reasons: The quality of writing, and there is always the pay-off of learning something new (to me).

I'm an avid tea enthusiast, and your billiards columns are some of my favorites. I'd be very interested in reading follow-ups from the next lessons.

If you stop off-topic posts, I'll stop reading TOP!
Idle threat, that, but I do enjoy reading about things I know next to nothing about, and tea and pool were quite interesting. How many, "Gee, that's interesting. I didn't know that" comments would constitute sufficient acknowledgement?

Camera geekery is just as bad, if not worse, so the occasional off-topic main item enlivens the blog. I'd agree with others that a paucity of comments isn't a good indication of reader reaction. A flurry of negative responses would be a better metric of reader interest. As with everything, it's always finding the right balance.

As a Geek myself, I can only appreciate others' Geekery - the ability to go deep, way deep, too deep into a subject is a value in itself. Add to that that I've dabbled in billiards (a very good hustler in New York took pity on my one night in the late 80's and charged me $20 to teach me to shoot)... and that I owe Ctein for my loose tea habit (still low-order, but growing). So I have tangential connections to your particular Geekhood. Like the commenters above, I don't have much to add in the comments but I appreciate the posts. Keep them coming.

Hey, photography is a geek topic. The difficulty is that we geeks usually geek out over several things but there is not necessarily any relation between them so while we may share photo geek hood, that is no predictor of what else we geek over. That's no reason to homogenize yourselves though.

More parrot stories, please.

I'm in the 'I'm quite fond of the off-topic posts' crowd. I've been as intrigued by Tea and Billards (and audio) as I've ever been by lenses and bokeh.😊

To bastardize a 1960's song by Leslie Gore, it's your blog and you should write what you want to. Most blogs are not read or commented by anyone. So you should not be too disappointed when a topic doesn't draw much interest.

And let's be honest. The top TOP topics for drawing readers and comments are probably as follows.

1. New GEAR reviews and comments.
2. Old GEAR reviews and comments. ("My Bronica was the best camera ah ever had!") TOP does seem to have a more senior audience than most sites.
3. Books.

Those three horses seem far ahead of the rest of the pack of TOPics (as linked in your sidebar) in terms of reader commentary. (And really the first two are quite ahead of the third.) No surprise, since the Internet has never developed as a strong medium for discussion of much else besides stuff.

But it's also clear that quite a few people enjoy your off-the-wall topics (tea, billiards, vacuum cleaners, toasters, cars, etc.) as it adds a unique personal seasoning to the standard photo bloggy "recipe". So I'd suggest continuing to write/present what you want.

At the same time, as you depend on this site for some of your livelihood perhaps the weekends are the best time to put such topics up, as you've done, devoting the weekdays to topics more germane to the photo universe?

It's refreshing to read more than discussions of gear. You get an 'A' for aesthetics.

I don't always have time to read them, but columns about caffeinated beverages are interesting and always relevant.

Sign me up with those who enjoy the off-topic posts and have little enough to add that I don't comment. Please do continue writing posts on the topics that interest you. That, as well as commentary on photography (not just gear) is why I'm here.

I always enjoy your off topic posts, and I could not care less about tea or billiards, but I like to read you talking about them. Ctein not as much. I love your hi-fi posts and your auto posts and coffee posts, I like those things, so keep those going.

I very much enjoy the off topic posts (especially the Hi-Fi, cars and physics). I agree with many of the other posters that just because you do not get a lot of comments does not mean people are not interested or entertained. Keep up the good work. You set a high bar of the rest of the web bloggers to strive for.

Like a lot of the other commenters I also like the O/T posts, even the posts I'm not interested in. It's part of the character of this site that it's more than just a photography site.

Everything I want to say has already been said, and more eloquently, by the other commenters. But I do want to add my .02 to the heap to help ensure that you become sufficiently convinced. I too enjoy very much the OT posts by you and Ctein and would consider it a severe loss if it stopped. It's what makes TOP so special.

I enjoyed the billiards post (and the photo illustrations) and look forward to further installments. I also like reading Ctein's always well-written topics. We don't need another DPR. I look forward to my daily respite at TOP and if it devolved into purely photo stuff I'd probably drift away over time. Please keep up the great work. Your excellent writing is very much appreciated.

I would not be commenting except for one thing that most others I don't believe mentioned. That is that this blog is your livelihood. So if off post writings somehow reduces the popularity of this blog, and therefore your ability to stay afloat, I'd say "focus" on photography!
But I do agree with the others that say the off topic posts are why many of us come in the first place.
I don't comment very often, mainly because I'll start reading the comments and feel others have said it better then I ever could.
So bottom line, I do hope you continue with off topic posts from yourself and other contributors, and that TOP takes you happily into retirement.

Billiards great, photos while driving in the rain, awesome...tea? Well, for me, meh. I read your (and ctein's) stuff because it's well written, has sense of humor, and makes me think. A 70/30 or 80/20 ratio of cameras to other cool stuff feels about right. How about a NASCAR column? It's geeky, hard to photograph, and terribly cool. Just cuz I lurk doesn't mean I'm not interested. You and so many of your loyal readers are so sharp that it's hard to feel like I could add something original and useful to the conversation. You guys are great! Keep it up!

Don't underestimate your readers Mike! Diversions into tea or vacume cleaners only make TOP a more interesting place to call into...

Even your on-topic pieces can be somewhat off-topic in their own way and I suspect thats the way your regular reader like it.

We don't need another DPreview (no offense to those guys), so please don't change anything!

Aaron L.

Mike, thanks for keeping this blog for so long already. Personally, I skipped your tea and pool posts, but I love those about space travelling and the such. Please rewiev old gear more often, do book tips, and why not more photo critique? Thanks for your dedication

I enjoy TOP as it is. Please don't start self-censoring now. TOP is the only blog I read daily, and a major reason for this is the wide range of topics covered. I've enjoyed TOP for years, but this is only my second comment.

Mike (and Ctein):

Noooo! I read and thoroughly enjoyed the cited posts. Those off-topic forays into pool halls and tea tasting rooms are part of the charm of this place.

Keep 'em coming!

Maybe Ctein should do a column on his favorite Cola?

Im needing some guidance lately because I'm torn over Coke vs RC. Drank a bucket of RC the other day to wash down a Ding Dong and my Coke loyalty was severely tested. It's been a rough day.

Does Ctein use Miracle Whip or Mayonaisse? Needing help here too

Those topics would burn your servers, dude Johnston

[I think I detect a hint of sarcasm.... --Mike]

OK, I'm an imperfect person. As others have said, both Mike and Ctein can write well about almost anything. I suppose if I were more perfect, I would appreciate their writing on subjects of low interest to me.

But you know? There is more to do, see and read, far, far more, than I will ever have a chance to take in. So I filter. And the truth is, this daily reader of TOP is gone when a post goes into his non-interest zones.

Truth be told, I even stopped reading about 1/3 of the way through these comments. An OT post about OT posts may be very Zen - Cool Geeky - something, but it doesn't stimulate my particular brain. ZZZZZ

I don't drink tea (or coffee) or play pool. High end audio was something I studied intensely for a while, with both brain and ears. I'm not interested in any more about it until the gear I bought fails beyond repair or simple replacement, fails to please me, or something actually new happens.

I also came to the conclusion that writing about aural experience that can't possibly be reproduced for the audience is largely a mugs game.

Photography seems to be a particular area of geekiness (as defined above) for me. For example, I've always disliked rangefinder cameras, but as often as not find myself reading posts about them.

As this blog is your source of income, perhaps another metric should be sales through your links. If they are up or stable on OT post days/weeks, maybe lack of comments on OT posts doesn't matter so much. In the long run, though, too many and you may start losing some regular visitors.

Clicks may be misleading, too. Due to unclear titles or simple thoroughness on my part, I generally click through to all posts. On return from a 3.5 week RV camping vacation with little wi-fi, I went through all the posts I'd missed, but didn't read those OTs of no interest.

I came back with 3,500 images. I'd much rather play with sorting and editing them, and probably do a book or two, than read about tea. Well, I'd rather sit out in the garden and read/snooze, too.


I love the off topic posts. I don't comment much (probably similar to the vast majority of your readers) but the off-topic posts contribute a lot to the site. I come here because I like the writing and the viewpoint, not because I want to just read about photography.

OT is good, and Ctein's birds are fascinating.

Tea is not.

My vote.

I haven't read all 70 comments, so I'm sure someone has already made this point, but your readers know (at least something about) photography. Write about photography, and you will get comments. Some of your readers know a bit about biliards, or a bit about tea. Write a post or two about those, and you will get some, but fewer, comments. Write 3+ posts about these things, and you have likely gone beyond the scope of what 95+% of your readers know about those subjects. Doesn't mean we don't enjoy reading them, or don't learn anything from them, but it gets hard to contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way. That is NOT to be construed as a reason not to post about such topics, or to comment on them in-depth. I'm just offering an alternate explanation for the lack of comments, that I think is more plausible than "Nobody's interested and they want us to stop."

Best regards,

Thanks - I fully confess that I am *not* interested in tea, pool or hi-fi sound - but both you and Ctein are sufficiently talented as writers that you sometimes pull me into reading those posts anyway.

OT in general is fine, but if there were never another post about pool or tea, I would not be sad.

Looking at the number of comments I hope that all the OT subjects are back on the menu.

As others have said, just because we don't comment doesn't mean we aren't entertained. Its mostly about photography so keep going.

Appreciate the column and all the hard work that goes into producing it from all the contributors.

I admit I am one of those whose eyes glaze over the minute I see tea or coffee in the title. Cars I can relate to...

I don't mind the odd OT topic. It's good fun and I am not an arbiter of what works for this site. You can only use the stats to tell you people are reading.

But I have to say that the philosophical questions are the most fun, closely followed by the "artists I never heard of". I like to discover stuff that tickles my particular Geek.

A late voice for Off Topic posts. Go Off Topic! I haven't held a pool cue since I was a teen, and the extent of my tea adventuring is to buy Golden Yunnan, because my daughter is from Yunnan Province. However, I very much enjoyed both posts, as it's a glimpse into some cultures I'm not focused on.

In fact, despite studying photography, and working as a photographer, dark room tech, and still doing photography, I'm far more likely to skip an equipment post than one of the entertaining, informative OT posts.

I'm a geek with many different interests...and always interested in adding more. ;-) The OT stuff is a-okay with me. Lack of comment isn't necessarily == lack of interest. (And if you think that last sentence is ungrammatical you're not a programming language geek.)

I disagree with the metric you used in deciding to stop tea and billiard posts. A better one would be Google Analytics--look at time spent on the page. Did your readers go to another site seconds after it loaded or did they spend a couple of minutes. Was the page shared more or less frequently? Lots of better ways to guage interest.

I rarely comment but I stop by every day to see what's up. And have for years. For the record I really enjoy the tea posts--actually more than Ctein's usual. I read the billiards one but they don't do anything for me. More hifi OT posts would be fine.

Maybe with the pool posts they are less instructional, I like pool don’t play very often but if you included a few tips it would be great– I think its fantastic that you are getting better but I’m still useless. With the hifi posts it was great that at the end you gave a few products that would get us 90% (not sure if that was the exact figure) there in sound quality. Either way if always enjoyed the blog if a post didn’t fully interest me guess what the next one did, keep up the good work.

TOP is great because of your off-topic posts Mike. When I said in the past that TOP is educational, it's because photography is about taking an interest in Life, and paying attention. Not about equipment and "photography techniques". You and Ctein are very entertaining, whereas I associate the word "geeks" as people who remain with one subject-matter to the point of boredom....I'd rather spend my time with photographers who talk about billiards and tea, rather than equipment...as life is too short!

I have a really good reason for not putting a comment in the tea/coffee/pool threads. I had nothing to say. That's not the same thing as not enjoying the post.

I know nothing about tea or pool. I drink coffee so I suppose I'm an expert there. As long as it's not all Tea or All pool, why not? I am interested in most things done very very well. I can enjoy a documentary on Ali but know nothing about boxing.

If nothing else I've learned that I'm not as big a geek as I thought I was. Which makes me more of a nerd than I thought I was. (A nerd talks about it while a geek does it, apparently). Ouch. :-)


Well, I have no interest in hitting balls on green into little holes with sticks, whether inside or outside. Tea is something I have some slight interest in, but have not gone full nutty about.

However, like the vast majority of commenters, I liked reading about these on ToP. Equipment reviews are all over the Internut, so we don't have to have another constant, unrelenting source of those. Plus, I think it would be awfully hard to come up with interesting photography topics nearly every day.

As one person mentioned, it's harder to comment on a subject we know little or nothing about, so that may be one reason of zillions that you didn't get as many for those two posts.

Mike and Ctein

Yet another please keep talking about those things that move you that are not photography. I seldom comment as I feel I have little to add, but I read the posts, usually more than once, and have Ctein's tea post mentally bookmarked to come back to.

Also, another vote for a better metric.

Also just thought I'd put it out there,

the technical term is "Flint Knapping". not rock chipping but I doubt Ogg had a name for it, perhaps more of a grunt.

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed both articles and I have only a passing interest in billiards. I have learned to not make comments unless I have something intelligent to say, thus I don't make comments. But please keep these articles rolling. Also, Mike I have no doubt that you a much safer driver than the vast majority who are texting, talking, drinking and eating, (not to mention smoking) on their way in this day and age. So keep up with the excellent work.

November 2011 - sitting in a
party tea shop in a medium sized, off-the-beaten-track city in central China, with the chairman of the local camera club, sampling little tumblers of different teas from various regions of the country, each brewed individually by a beautiful, smiling woman who turned out to be the model for some amazing fashion shots by my host - oh, and a 30cm wheel of black compacted vegetation that is apparently worth more than my annual salary - tea, photography, travel, life … you never know how things will come together …


I relish your pool OT posts. But then again I'm Filipino (and a lousy pool player who hasn't finished a game).

Tea? not so much but I read them. Ctein's last(?) tea post contains his funniest line (and caption) in a column, I think. The one about "buy 10 take 1 free" (tea logs at $2K apiece!) and what such a good (retail!!) deal it was to pass up. (He's been funnier in his ripostes to commenters:)

I wanted to comment on last Sunday's pool OT but was able to resist doing so. I was taken by your wonderful interior (architecture) photo of The Brass Ring, which reminds of a Frank Lloyd Wright residential interior.

I read all TOP posts (and comments) regardless of content because they're invariably well-written.

Such a healthy mix of comments from frequent and infrequent commentors (77 thus far) to this introspective OT post.


Thinking further on this topic, I wondered whether typepad.com allowed embedding metrics like Google Analytics? The key metric would be, for a repeat visitor like me, did I abandon ship right away, or stay and read the whole thing? (No, and yes, for both tea and pool).

Terry said "I disagree with the metric you used in deciding to stop tea and billiard posts. A better one would be Google Analytics--look at time spent on the page."
Bron said, "Go Off Topic!" and others gave similar encouragement.

I did some extensive pool geeking: spending over one year trying to get a handle on 3 cushion. Some friends got bored by my enthusiasm: others got fascinated by something they'd never heard of. Well, what are friends for? I believe that one of the things friends do is show you things you'd never have thought of on your own.
Trust yourself. Geek on.

Maybe Ctein should write a tea blog. I'd read that!

Finnish people are known to be a bit quite and not that outspoken. But they are also known to mean what they say.
There is a story of a, supposedly foreign, woman marrying a Finn and then complaining how he has not told her in many years that he loves her.
He says: I told you twelve years ago when we got married. I will let you know if there is any change in the situation.

So just keep doing what you do. Do not let lack of responses discourage you. We all like what we are reading, including cars, hifi and tea. Sprinkled with lost of photography in between, of course.

Please keep adding the detours as they come up - they are part of the reality of TOP.

Hope we are ALL grown-ups here. If a post doesn't interest me or is too technical, I skip it. That's all that needs to be said.

Please do not self censor (at least on this basis!)

I never know what delightful new things I can learn if you don't post them!

OT examples:

lyrebird camera shutter sound
Ctein's experiments with adjustable glasses

'nuff said!

Speaking of geeks biting off the heads of chickens, I'd recommend Katherine Dunn's "Geek Love".

And you may want to check out your Time Spent on Site stats on the days that tea and billiard posts are posted to get a sense for how long people are spending with those stories.

And whatever you do, never confuse with a geek with a nerd. That's a sin akin to confusing a Vulcan with a Klingon.

No weed balls rollin?

A lack of comments doesn't indicate a lack of enjoyment of the column on my part, but rather I have nothing to add. There's more to life than photography and I enjoy reading on a wide variety of subjects. So I urge you to not drop the off topic posts.

Whoa... slow down there Mike (and Ctein)! I very much enjoyed the recent columns about pool... billiards, sorry... and tea. I didn't comment because I didn't know enough about the subject to contribute. After reading Ctein's first column, I went right out to our local tea prrveyor and bought my first pu-erh.. 1995 vintage large leaf. Odd looking stuff, but lovely taste. Thanks... and keep the 'odd' columns coming, at least from time to time. They contribute to my enjoyment of this amazing little corner of the world. :-)


Where's the "Tea as a Teacher" article..?

That'll stir up the coffee bores!

Off Topic is still the current topic. Just because the header includes "photographer"
does not require the list owner to discuss
other happenings in his existence.

Such as Xander, Mike's ownership of Lulu, his struggle with purchasing the correct automobile
for the required time and place, as well Audioengine audio gear, turntables, speakers,
planned darkrooms, flooding basements as well
as destroying (disguised as renovations) of his living room as well as new house envy.

Mike just also happens to be smarter and more eloquent than your average photographic journalist. And then there's Ctein who strikes me as just as ecentric and talented as
Mike. Maybe it is Off-Topic but there's really no hope for redemption of these wonderful journalists. May this be the case for ever more.

Pool, Tea-Meh.


I've tried to comment on just about all of your billiards posts (even though I don't comment much in general) to encourage you to keep writing on the subject. (And also because, relative to you and most of your readership, I know quite a bit about pool and damned little about photography.)

It seems your readership is large enough that my small efforts didn't move the needle. Good for you, bad for me. ;-)

Yet another reader who enjoys the mix. Thank you.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007