In the 21st century, the above post title might seem somewhat idiosyncratic. To many, blogging has become either an odd habit of peculiar people or, worst of all, something only done with the sole purpose of earning a more or less substantial income. To be quite honest, no matter how legitimate the latter people and sites are, I don’t frequent them much. Call it conviction, but posting (only) to make money has always been highly suspicious in my tiny corner of the world.
I have often stated on this site, a site which has gone through more lives than those of the proverbial cat, that blogging is a way for me to both switch completely off by concentrating on some topic or to recharge depleted batteries, to alleviate the considerable stress I experience in my day job.
For me, much like music, blogging is a reprieve.
No matter what I do on this site though, I always have one thing in mind. Myself. I know that sounds like a virtual “selfie”, but it isn’t. I don’t know how much time I have spent online looking for stuff until I decided that if someone else should be looking for it, I’d help her/him find it on my site. So, yes, I blog for other people first and myself second.
Blogging does have benefits and ever since I resurrected my blogging activities in earnest in the beginning of this year, I have run into all of them again, quite quickly actually.
They all have to do with people.
None of which I have ever met in real life.
I am currently listening to the Tord Gustavsen Trio’s “Changing Places”, again, and Mike McAlister fits that exact bill neatly. Gustavsen plays lyrical jazz, often reduced to melodic essentials, and Mike McAlister designs and programs WordPress themes that are neat, functional and – yes – beautiful. I get as much a kick out of working with his themes as I do listening to Gustavsen’s sublime trio.
People who have been following my site(s) as long as they have been online know that I have been here and there as well as all over the place theme-wise, but Mike McAlister’s themes, all of which are marketed through his brand-spanking new “Array” website, are a joy to behold, in every conceivable sense.
In an age in which bloated WordPress themes are legion, Mike concentrates on the core essentials. He markets functional as well as aesthetically pleasing design, functionality that is flawless and, most important of all, he adheres to the philosophy that attracted me to WordPress in the first place … empowerment that doesn’t come at a time-consuming price. An open architecture with easy extensibility and a system that allows your everyday “Joe” to set up a website that looks good and works in minutes.
Mike McAlister has all of this down down pat, to boot. If you know your way around WordPress at least a little bit, Mike McAlister’s themes are so easy to set up and get results from quickly that a much higher price tag should really be attached. His themes always work and even if a miniscule amount doesn’t from the get-go, he’ll fix it up in a second. His (and his team’s) support is top notch and if you happen to find those 0,01% that don’t work as expected, you can bet your sweet ass they’ll work a few hours later. Consistent support for his customers; constant improvements; always one step ahead of the game. That’s Mike. That makes him almost second to none in a cut-throat business that lives off selling customers much more than they ever need.
I also have huge respect for Mike McAlister because he (seemingly) took a huge risk by switching his focus, leaving one huge marketplace (ThemeForest) and going solo (plus joining another huge marketplace, WordPress.com).
That takes balls.
And a vision.
He’s one person I’d like to meet in real life.
He should also be a role model for many others in his business.
All of the above also applies to Jonathan Atkinson. Track two of the Tord Gustavsen Trio’s “Changing Places”, entitled “Graceful Touch” (which also happens to be one of my absolute favorites of his), is the melody that I would immediately attach to Jonathan’s design aesthetic.
If you enjoy those Swiss principles as much as I do, the Bauhaus approach to functional design, Jonathan is your best bet if you are interested in making it work for you on your very own website.
And, if you are interested in pixel-perfect design that oozes understanding of design principles that, unfortunately, most theme designers avoid like the plague nowadays, you can bet a month’s wages on Jonathan having weighed every single design decision again and again, … plus a few times more.
A recent WordPress trac ticket showed that, understandably so, Jonathan takes virtual offense at element spacing being off. One might call that anally-retentive. I would call it attention to detail and professionalism. Some of the responses to said ticket also showed that there are very few people around who have a serious grasp of what design means, which kinds of decisions it entails and, especially, how damn difficult it can be at times.
The average person might not notice, but the overall effect is one that still doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s that feeling of “that’s the way it should be” without being able to really put a finger on it. It just “feels” right.
Jonathan Atkinson is that kind of guy.
Meticulous without being pedantic (although, I assume, he has been accused of being exactly that by those who come from the “shoot from the hip” type of design school).
His “Swiss” theme is, in my eyes, the culmination of his work so far and I have kept it hidden away in a closet for a very special project of mine that is close to my heart and that I want to release at some point. It is growing very slowly and will attract a very limited but dedicated group of people one day in the near or far future.
I’m sure Jonathan will be there for me and you, the reader, to continuously improve our experience.
I don’t have much of an idea who Nathan Kontny is. For all I know he drinks all day long and watches bad films.
See, Nathan has programed this nifty software that I use exclusively to pre-write my posts (like this one). I was pointed in his direction by someone quite a while back and, which is the highest recommendation I can give anyone offering services on the Internet, after the shortest of whiles I bought into what he had to offer.
Nathan put together exactly what I myself needed, software that allows me to enjoy distraction-free writing.
His software also offers a myriad of other functions but, to be quite honest, I don’t use them much because I have little need for them.
I just enjoy the interface he has provided, the ease of use, the minimalism of it all. If you need it, it’s there, but if you don’t, it isn’t visible. Nathan, much like Mike and Jonathan above, understands what a user needs and the way he implements whatever he adds (constantly) is never in the way of his original intention. Simplicity, minimalism and functionality.
What also immediately attracted me to “Draft” is his friendly personality; he has this unobtrusive way of making you feel welcome and letting you know what’s new (and, if you aren’t a regular customer, reminding you to maybe join up to help support his work).
It’s the mindset behind his work that attracted me and made me a fan.
I pay for good software and Nathan programs the kind of software I want to pay for, just to support his approach to customer-oriented software that does a lot more than is visible above the fold.
He’s got my money and, really, all my respect.
Death to the Stock Photo
As a blogger, one is constantly in need of royalty-free images. Mind you, many images on my site are my own, scanned (which, I admit, contradicts “my own”), sometimes “photoshopped” into oblivion or simply publicly available press shots. Still, when searching, you more often than not end up on sites that offer “royalty-free” images with more than a hefty premium attached. Google sucks you in and the website indexed throws a nasty price tag at you when you land on that kind of site.
What really pisses me off, and I didn’t choose that word lightly, are these kinds of image farms that paid Google a massive amount to always have the search results throw them into top spots and, invariably, lead you to a “pay me a million dollars for my generic image” page. I HATE those. They drive me bonkers.
Along come, and they are only representatives of a larger wave I have noticed recently, “Death to the Stock Photo”: Allison Lehman and David J. Sherry (I hope I got their names right), two people who believe in supplying bloggers with images that they can simply use. No strings attached. And it is high-quality work they have to offer.
I have to admit that so far, I have profited from their free offers but, much like supporting Nathan Kontny above, I’m thinking of buying into what they have on offer. See, aside from what they offer for free (enough to satisfy the average blogger), they also have these fascinating projects that offer a load of creative images that are infinitely usable. I missed out on most of them and want to prevent that in future.
One of the most exciting projects I have come across these past many years which comes highly recommended.
The Return: Jason L. Lazell …
I have never tried to monetize my blog. No ads, no affiliate programs, no nothing. It would be contrary to what I believe in. I have to admit that sometimes I have thought about it, especially because server costs aren’t that slim.
Still, I don’t and I probably won’t.
Today, and that was the inciting moment for this post, Jason Lee Lazell send me a free copy of “BioPics”, another wonderful box set in his highly-acclaimed “Jazz on Film” series I blogged about the other day. I wasn’t even aware of the new box until I got it, simply because I hadn’t checked yet. It took me completely by surprise. Boom! There it was and I have been listening since I got home today and will probably blog about it next, especially because I have been, geezer and all, a HUGE fan of what is in this box set (I’m not kidding, I already had some of it and the mastering and sound is just better on this set). A massive thanks to Jason for this surprise present!
A few weeks before that, Irina Jurasic of “linea” sent me a CD shelf that I had blogged about earlier. I really liked the “linea” CD shelf (which I am now using myself) and that’s why I wrote about it. That Irina Juarsic sent me one as a thanks for my blog post might be an everyday occurrence for those “blogging gets me free products” authors, of which there are far too many, but it really never occurred to me that the people whose products I blogged about would ever read what I wrote. I just wrote about those products because my readers might find them useful, nice, adequate … or even great.
What Irina and Jason are examples of are the kind of entrepreneurs that appreciate if “little me” tries to publicize what they have put to market. In 99,9% of the cases I stumble across the products I myself like, very few other products I’m pointed towards by my readers who have enjoyed a certain blog post and think I might like to blog about another item they think serves its purpose equally well.
Incentives never come from those people who produce what I write about.
I really appreciate the “return”.
It gives me that warm fuzzy feeling.
Mario and …
I don’t know how many times I received mails via my site’s contact form. I’m just going to pick out the most recent one.
Mario (hailing from Italy) stumbled across a rare Kasper Winding tune (English version) and, because Kasper Winding’s stuff is somewhat hard to find on the Net and information is sparse, contacted me to find out if I maybe had the English lyrics to “Tag nu og ring” (Danish) of which he discovered the English version on YouTube (entitled “Longing for You”).
THAT is exactly the reason why I have my website online. It so happened that I had the English version of that LP which, by the way, is not half as good as the Danish one, and I just jogged into the living room and took a photo of the lyrics from the inside sleeve.
Two minutes for me.
An answer for Mario.
That is what it is really all about.
I have kept all my website mail in a huge folder and this was the 537th single “request”, every single one of which I answered.
It’s giving back to a worldwide community that has given me a massive amount of – often invaluable – information these past two or three decades I have been online.
I enjoy doing that kind of stuff.
Mario – thanks for writing!
It’s been my pleasure.
Today, online success is measured in trillions of hits for the same “How do I …” post, the umpteenth apple pie recipe, the regurgitated piece of news you have already read a million times and … whatnot. Most of it is negligible, I think.
I measure my success in making a single person happy … if I can. I started publishing online way before what is called the “Internet” became the World Wide Web, when massively ugly modems were hip, but since then I have accumulated thousands of inquiries, a load of page impressions for information on artists and recordings that aren’t that readily available, or just for the discographies I have available for download.
And that’s the way I will keep things around here.
No matter if blogging is “cool” or not.
I really couldn’t care less.
The header image is from one of “Death to the Stock Photo’s” wonderful sets. Sign up!