Tower Bridge, London

This is a shot from a perfect day I had in London a few years ago. I was over at a legal IT conference and had a bit of spare time in the afternoon, so I went for a walk around. I think it was a March or a May day, and the sun was beating down on the City.

I discovered a footpath that runs along the Thames from London Bridge over to Tower Bridge, and this is a picture of Tower Bridge taken from along that path.

Grey Man's Path, Fair Head, Ballycastle

The Grey Man’s Path is a steep ravine that runs from the top of Fair Head down to the shore. I wasn’t aware of it until I saw a vintage photo a few years ago, so I decided to find the place and take my own picture.

The horizontal ledge is where one of the crags from the cliff has fallen over and wedged across the path. If you ever get a chance to visit this place, the way in which this rock has fallen is truly remarkable. It doesn’t seem to have been ‘placed’ across, but actually to have fallen and created this natural doorway.

Flight of the Earls scuplture, Ramelton

Down on the beach in the town of Rathmullan, there’s a sculpture of three large figures on a ramp and a raggedy gaggle of emaciated peasants imploring them to come back. Yes, it’s the legendary Flight Of The Earls. Except this time, it’s with added Jazz Hands.

You may think I’m morally bankrupt. Well, I hold my (jazz) hands up to that.

Come on! Everything about this pic screams ridiculous. It’s the descending formation of the characters with their hands raised to the sky. The effect is compounded by the peasants in front of them. It’s like someone poured liquid metal over the local amateur dramatic society.

Swilly Boating, Ramelton, Donegal

We stayed in Ramelton in Co. Donegal last weekend. There’s an abundance of tumbledown buildings in the town, and you find yourself wondering if they add to the quaint ‘Irishness’ of the village, or if they’re an eyesore that should be pulled down.

The thing is, just behind where I was standing, there was a row of newly-built shops and apartments. They’d been sensitively done, in keeping with the appearance of the town, but the condition was obviously fantastic. I can’t help thinking that these ruins in Ramelton show the disparity between the rural Ireland that tourists presumably want to see and the Celtic Tiger economy that spawned a massive property industry in the south.

Opinions on a picture postcard of a thatched cottage please.

When I first decided to launch a personal blog, I made it my mission not to perform any optimisation on this site.

At the time, my thinking was that I would just run entirely off the Garland theme. I got tired of that pretty quickly, just as I couldn’t stand the Kubrick/K2 theme on WordPress.

I switched to the Zen theme for Drupal, but to be honest, that’s not personal enough either. I’m starting to hanker after a theme for this site that gives it a personality. Or gives me a personality.

After my rant last month about the scope and limitations of a personal site, I’ve thought long and hard about how my website should represent me. And probably the best way to do that is to treat myself like a client.

My Site: Aims and Objectives

OK, so what do I do? I’m an IT Professional (or like to think so). I design websites. I write for weblogs. I suppose I’m a pro-blogger, if you like. But anti-establishment with it. I love art, music, photography and I love expression of individuality. This site needs to be individual, and make a statement.

Despite my desire to remain relatively anonymous, I do not want this site to be generic. I can’t emphasise that point strongly enough. I am sooo tired of generic gradients and conventional website layouts.

Here’s ultimately what I want this site to achieve for me:

  • Showcase my CSS/XHTML design skills. It needs to be almost good enough to make an appearance in some of the CSS galleries.
  • Be visual. I want to create something eye-catching and bold that draws people in and inspires them to subscribe or return every once in a while.
  • No SEO. This isn’t a visual design thing, but I still don’t want to appeal to search engine traffic. I still have to try not to write search engine focused titles and content, but I’ll persevere. I’d sort of like this site to exist for the people who find me via social media or blog comments I’ve left rather than organic search.
  • No Adverts. I want a streamlined site that is content only. Possibly the only thing I’ll be selling via this site is myself. I consider it a loss leader.
  • Social Media Integration? I’ve got an online presence that I enjoy and that makes up part of my online identity. I need some way to integrate either my StumbleUpon links or my Twitter feed to fill out the blog. It’ll be another great way to get up-to-date content on here to compliment (or counteract) the longer essay-ish articles I write.

In terms of design, I want something grand. A small part of me worries about being embarrassed by being too visual online. I intend to tie that part of me up, gag it and lock it in the boot of my car…

Anyway, I think a lot of the objectives are partially achieved. My big challenge at the moment is to come up with a visual theme that’ll represent me. I’m going to have a browse through some stock photography and some design showcase sites to see what inspiration I can get for this. Stay tuned.

Ouch. Collis from PSDTuts (a Photoshop tutorial site) mentioned a while back that there was going to be a premium subscriber area to the site. I don’t think anybody batted an eyelid at the time.

However, today a post appeared in the RSS feed advertising a premium tutorial. I think like a lot of people, I didn’t mind the premium area when I could ignore it. But to dangle it in our faces like that? That’s a different story.

PSDTuts stands today with some 16,000 RSS subscribers and has gained massive popularity on social media sites like StumbleUpon and del.icio.us. Like a lot of loyal readers, I’ve probably ‘thumbed up’ about 70% of PSDTuts’ tutorials and reviewed about a third of that again.

The comments on Collis’ post are mostly from annoyed readers who previously ignored the premium section of the site. However, as someone who makes money via blogs and websites, I can appreciate the difficulty of trying to find new ways of making money.

Now, PSDTuts already has a micropayment system for people who want to download the source Photoshop documents from their free tutorials. I’d be interested to know how much that’s returning if Collis still needs to run a premium section. Plus, surely it’s a lot more work to come up with two separate lots of tutorials?

Me? I’m in two minds. I’ve learned some amazing Photoshop techniques through PSDTuts. But on the other hand, I’ve helped contribute to their social media success on a number of occasions. One of the posts I stumbled the other day got on the Stumble Buzz page. That’s a lot of traffic and a lot of exposure.

I thought the whole deal with blogging was passing value back to the community and getting traffic and popularity in return. If you’re going to keep your best content behind locked doors then rub it in the faces of your readers, what sort of message does that send?