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Sunday, 25 April 2021


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Blogging has indeed changed. My output is the inverse of yours, about 1.4 days per post. (4929 days, 3578 posts)
I'd far rather get info from writing than a video. It's easy to skim over text until you get to the spot your knowledge stops and you can dive into the details. That's impossible to do with a video, and most of them have so much blither up front I can't deal with it.
With productivity, the problem for most people seems to be to get started. Once stuck in they're good to go. Mostly. If they can get to the right level of detail for the task at hand, and recognize when they need to work hard because the work is there, and relax a bit when it's quiet, they'll be fine for the long term.

"Content has migrated to videos." Nope.

Yep, more of the commercial content-as-a-business seems to have gone there, but nope -- I'd say that as the blogs have withered, more bloggish content has gone instead to platforms like Twittle, Reddundit, Facebork, et al.

And yep, I also despise videos. Almost always watch them with the sound off and hop forward to the relevant imagery. Can't stand watching some dimwit stand facing the camera and talking out of his mouth. I can read.

"We know that good programmers are 10x more productive than mediocre programmers. -- John Y". Nope again:

No, John Y, there is no proof. The "10x" programmer (or 10x anything else) has never been defined, nor have the exact expertise domains they are supposed to inhabit. There is no generic "10x" anything. The search term "myth of the 10x programmer" will turn up more on this than anyone wants to read.

Try to imagine a "10xer" showing up to take a programming job, at a starting salary of $400k to $750k per year (or more), with everyone else getting summarily fired from that business for being redundant. Let someone provide an example and I'll give him/her/it a cookie. Maybe a kiss too. (Possibly with some gagging though.)

Want more on hard work? Cal Newport has a couple of relevant books out:

(1) "Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World", and

(2) "So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love".

I disagree with his premises and the depth of his analysis, but he's more popular than I am, so there.

Footsie notes:

Video Exception: "Leigh TheSnapChick", whose site I visit maybe once a year at most. Does stellar work, like her amazingly complete and entertaining video introduction to the new Sigma fp L.

Second video exception: "BBC Reel". They have subtitles, so no sound needed. And short. Really fun example: "How the Swedes survive without small talk" from last October. Not about photography, but nice work professionally done.

Calvin Coolidge on perseverance: "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." (Woot!)

"...Back when blogs were the hot thing...

Wait! What? They're not a thing anymore? Well, shoot, maybe that's why no one stops by anymore.

I write and post photos because I enjoy it. Visitors are optional.

I'm at 3611 posts in 6210 days, so I can really appreciate your perseverance, "old-school" blogging still has its place. Video, by its very nature, is "show-biz", not that that's always a bad thing. It is a different thing, however: the relentless stream of images and audio tends to overwhelm critical thought.

I think we may have discussed this in a roundabout way here before? Maybe it's not just the way a given person is wired in terms of "work ethic." Maybe they just need to find the right thing. I happen to have almost limitless energy around photography. But that is hardly the case in many other pursuits. That's why I'm a photographer!

I think it's more about how predictably you do your thing rather than how hard it is to do. Difficulty is relative... tasks that come easily to some people are tortuous for others, but reliability is absolute. Did you post today or not? Did the lights come on when the switch was flicked or not? It may be easy to write a blog and hard to generate electricity, but the metric for reliability is the same.


I find it ironic that your post points out how laziness has overwhelmed our first world culture. I like you, although with increased distaste, prefer written work like yours and that of Kirk Tuck and the stuff from len rentals, to the flood of video things. I cant say what I think is the correct term for these, because it would not be acceptable o even today's lax standards.

Yous and others written work is generally tight and accurate, well written and skillfully edited and totally free of empty calories.

I could list the video blogs that I find painful, but you will have to press me for some names, the truth of it is that I find all of them to be like slogging through 4 foot deep molasses. I spent a few years of my younger life in TV, and I am well familiar with the skill of those who can edit and polish their work. Most all of the video boys could try to improve their communication skills as well as their photography.But what can we expect from people who say your pictures will be better with this new camera, when they could do the world more good by saying you would be better off to further hone your craft for better pictures?

Ihe density of inside comments, and poorly formed ad lib "jokes" are give no value and in most times are painful.Bloggers, none of you are George CArlin or Lewis Black. Feed your ego in other ways.

I have viewed many of these things that simply could stand editing. And could stand the use of cue cards to eliminate the spurious hemming and hawing. None of you are even as good as the freshmen kids in a TV journalism program. But your blogs would be obviously better with the latest new camera, wouldn't it.

We have become lazy and this is only one piece of the evidence of that.

Thanks for the opportunity ro vent,


I'm very glad you're still writing and not producing videos! I find it ponderous to watch or listen to podcasts or the like -- I have no control over the pace, and most of the time they're too slow. Thanks for all 9,425 posts!

Persistence is the key to almost everything.

I was reading Dave Winer's Scripting News in the mid 1990s, so I was aware of blogging from it's beginning. Being aware of blogging and being interested in doing it are two different things.

Onerous work, like blogging, requires dedication—the type of dedication that destroys many marriages.

Fourteen hour workdays are common in Hollywood. Sometimes I'd do twenty-five hour days. Once I was on-the-clock for thirty-six hours. Wives and children do not like this.

In his BBC TV series "Civilization", Famed art historian Kenneth Clark observed more than 50 years ago that the defining qualities of cultures that produced great art were vitality and sheer energy.

The most productive programmer I ever hired was by far the worst programmer I ever hired. He was productive alright -- very smart, very knowledgeable, and up to speed with the latest lingo and tools. Every time I walked by his booth he was pounding out code, fingers flying on the keys, eyes fixated on the screen. Everyone was impressed by his prowess and apparent mastery.
Problem was, he never bothered to first work on and work out the design of his code, never mind the architecture of his design. His was the worst kind of code I have ever seen.

Good code, like a good story, should have short arcs and long arcs. The short arcs should fit within and flow inside the long arcs. The long arcs should be neatly closed. This guy's code has only short arcs, each one disconnected from the others.

Worse, his code exhibited something I have never seen before: what I call non-convergence. Generally, bug reports for a piece of code decline over time, as bugs get identified and fixed. Not his. His open bugs remained more or less constant -- endless.

Back when I used to write code, I would spend months on end working on the architecture, then the design of the more complex or critical elements. I would work on alternative structures and algorithms before locking on the best one. I would use up lots of paper and sharp pencils before I ever write the 1st line of code. I would spend 50% of my time on design, 30% on coding, and 20% on testing. Young, hot shot "super" coders spend 0% on design, 90% on coding and 10% on testing.

Beware super-coders -- okay for hacking, disaster for building anything durable or of value.

Would you want a super productive architect to design your house? Or would you prefer a thoughtful, deliberate one who takes his time? I doubt Leica lens designers are measured by productivity.

An old medical saw:
"There are good fast surgeons and there are bad fast surgeons but there are no good slow surgeons." The aphorism recognizes the fact that the surgical situation can turn immediately and speed (efficiency if you will) is very important. Pick a profession and benefit for efficiency has to depend on the stability of the goal and the circumstances. I was an Internal Medicine cognitive Subspecialist and time and efficiency were not as important for me as for an ER doc or Intensivist (other roles I played in the distant past).

Like blogging, OC/OL/OY is hard. The first 2 weeks was exciting. But now when I'm about 1/5 into it it's really hard work, when photography is not my full-time job and other parts of my life demand my attention and mental energy.

Persevering... Hopefully me saying this in public helps myself to stick to it...

@Dave Sailer: I have to admit "10x" is more metaphoric than exact math.

@Al C: There are no doubt variations in semantics. "Productivity" can be narrowly defined and measured by a metric like "lines of code written today". As you've pointed out, it will be disastrous. But it can also be more encompassing and holistic, covering the future maintainability. (In finance lingo, it's the net present value, not just the current cash flow.)

I learnt what hard work really meant on my first day as a graduate lawyer in a top-tier law firm, when managing partner gave his welcome speech: "As you are now a professional, you must remember that: (1) you are on a budget and must account for the time which your work takes; (2) you are paid to produce perfection not mere excellence; (3) if your work is perfect, you will not be complimented as that's what you're paid for; (4) if your work is not perfect, you will required to redo it; (5) nothing is ever perfect."

When you factor in the quality of the writing here on TOP (and previous incarnations, and the discussions, too) those numbers are simply staggering!

I arrive too late to salvage your rental, but I was going to suggest this NYTimes piece to help that documentary about Croc go down easier:


I started my blog in 2009 when friends said how much they'd enjoyed my long emails after each day on a European trip the previous year. I'd written them as a diary. I had many photos to show so that's how it started. Twelve years later I'm up to post number 1267 and managing a post every couple of days.

I'm surprised at the number of foreign followers I'm getting, and gratified of course. I'm not a great writer - I just write about the mundane things in my life, but one attribute that I think helps is that I write clearly and with grammar as perfect as I can make it.

My posts are very easy to read, in other words. I despair at the shocking decline in English standards. People don't seem to care about spelling and punctuation. I do.

I also can't be bothered with video presentations. I don't know why, but I'd much rather read text reviews with good still photos than long video reviews. I think it's because I can read much faster than the time it takes for someone to speak the words.

Call me old-fashioned, but I much prefer reading through your every post than impatiently waiting for a youtuber to 'get to the point'. I'd like to thank you for all the years of great writing.

Aashish Sharma

There is definitely a reason why TOP is on top in the blog world.

Some writers are returning to email newsletters, but subscriber based, helped by the company Substack, which specializes in the form. I suscribe to a couple, one of which is actually turning into a small media outfit called The Daily Poster. This is quite good reporting that has also appeared in Newsweek and The Guardian, among others. The other one I subscribe to is an author with a core audience that has followed him to various platforms, enough people that Substack gave him a special contract up front to write for them (for most Substack writers all income is from subscribers). He writes one public post a week, and one or two private ones. My main problem, on the consumer side, is that I can only handle so many of these independent writers before I've reached my subscription limit. I want consolidation.

What seems to get lost is that most information does not NEED to be in video form, but SOME information is greatly enhanced with video and sound. Clear engaging writing is a considerable and uncommon skill, just as thoughtful and and engaging video story telling is rare.
In both cases the author needs something interesting to say.
But when you add the strong bias toward watching that technology has brought, and it explains the millions of terrible videos on Youtube. Too many seem to think "I have a video camera and I can talk" and forget the 'something interesting to say'. But there are also thousands of interesting and informative videos available that have enriched many lives including my own.
Most of us grew up with the written word as our primary source of information, we subscribed to the great magazines, I suspect many of us keep libraries in our homes. Sadly, I think we are a significant minority. Good writing is hard, interesting writing is even harder, to do it every day for nearly 16 years is really quite an accomplishment.
Many folks are grateful for it, I am certainly one.
Keep up the Great work

It's not exactly that "nobody cares how hard you work" (because otherwise we would all be lazy slobs), nor is it the case that something hard to do is necessarily good or interesting.

I think it has to do with an audience's ability to understand and appreciate work (in the sense of effort), and attenant cultural values. How many of us gasp in astonishment at a last-minute-save because we know that it's hard to do, but also because it's something we (as audience) care about?

There's a Calvinist dilemma somewhere in here: it's super-important to work hard because that's what God Wants, but on the other hand the elected ones have already been chosen, so you can't win Heaven with work.

To solve the dilemma, I like to bring up a term from my English Major days: "sprezzatura" or giving the impression that one is doing elegantly and effortlessly something incredibly hard.

I am a "head teacher" which means I write the timetables/schedules for the other teachers, and approve their pay claims.

I thought I was getting fired today... I am SEVERAL WEEKS late with important tasks. Turns out I was lauded, and asked if I would continue in my role, as I am "so efficient, and on top of things" compared to every other 'head' teacher...

All we could do is laugh.

[NSW public servant, at your service]

On written word vs video learning I wonder if this is partially about how much you already know and how much you don't, or if it is what you need to know.

I find most "how to" or review videos on photography to be both annoying and often very boosterish, which I see much less of in blogs. But my knowledge base in photography is pretty deep and pretty wide as I've been involved in the field (gulp) for more than 50 years.

On the other hand I have relatively recently taken on working on a car -an area where I have much less knowledge (though I've been driving for not quite 50 years). There are many good blogs for this car but many of the topics end with "and if you want to see how to fix it search YouTube". Which I find is true for me, Youtube video is a far better teacher than the poorly illustrated repair manuals I've found.

So is it that I need the greater "handholding" of the video on the topic I know less well or is it just the greater visual and contextual feedback?

Mike, I've been reading TOP for a long time but am flabbergasted by the number of posts. Creating almost two short articles a day is not just an example of hard work, it's a example of the creative mind behind it, able to come up with that many ideas every day - that's what impresses me.
I tried blogging but gave up in a week or so. It seemed too artificial to me, coming up with something interesting so often. I've done magazine columns and features for many years, but that's monthly, where I have a lot of time to come up with topics and research ideas, then put ideas down and edit it. Daily, no way I could do that!
But the discussion on formats: blogs, videos, reading vs. watching, etc. is interesting since I develop online content and training as part of my job. Generally we produce content in three formats: online, video and print, so people can choose. The pandemic and moves to online learning has proven to be a problem because many find they have inadequate Internet for high bandwidth services like video, so we find ourselves back depending on printed books!
And personally, I can't tolerate webinars or videos because they unfold so slowly - I cannot think that slow. One of my kids (a CG and games programmer) downloads stuff and plays it at higher speeds using software, but it requires 100% attention. Written word works best for me.

Mike, you were one of the inspirations to start my own photo blog (www.abiggercamera.com). It is (was?) a COVID project, started last July and I said I would keep at it, four or five posts a week, until I was fully vaccinated. That was early April. It's still going now but at a much slower pace.

I learned many things from taking on this project, one of which is how hard it is to do a blog--the need to feed the thing is relentless. Though I am now, I guess, a "blogger" I confess I have no idea how you do it. I suspect you do not sleep.

All too often, when watching a YouTube video of, say, how to replace the brake rotors on a 2013 Ford Expedition, I find myself wanting to punch a hole in the display. Ten minutes of unhelpful video and the guy can't string together four declarative sentences?

Instructions should be written, so that they can be reviewed in context as one works through them.

And I've seen some really dumb...stuff.

But the sad fact is that most actually cannot string together four declarative sentences.

And I have to recognize that it's not their job to provide me with knowledge, so sometimes I just have to take what there is and be grateful for it.

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