Thursday, December 14, 2006

Blogging Art in 2006 - A Review (Part 1)

Yesterday my blog celebrated its first birthday – it made me think about what I knew when I started, what I know now and how blogging has changed in the last year in the art and illustrated blogs world.

So – for anybody who’s interested - here are some of my observations after a year of blogging amongst art and illustrated blogs. So much has occurred to me while writing this, that this post has become Part 1 and Part 2 will follow next week.

It’s now a lot more difficult to get noticed

Increasing numbers of blogs and splogs and failure to cull the inactive means that it can be difficult to find new art/illustrated blogs which are active and good. A dedicated directory of art and illustrated blogs – with tags or categories for different interests, active moderation and fast processing – is long overdue.

Blog numbers continue to increase at a phenomenal rate

  • When I started, Technorati listed some 30 million blogs.
  • Over the summer, huge spikes in splog (spam blogs) activity resulted in some blogging hosts or directory sites slowing down or stopping.
  • At the end of October. Technorati listed 57 million blogs – after the splog cull.
  • On average 100,000 new blogs are created each day

Blog attrition and spam activity seriously affects directories of art and illustrated blogs.

  • “Blogs Illustrated” was a really good introduction to the illustrated blogs world when I first started (my blog is no. 296) – but the ring had to close due to spam activity. There are now 412 blogs on a closed list with 270 more that will be forever ‘pending’.
  • The explosion of blog/splog numbers this summer meant that other directories and hosts struggled and faltered from time to time.
  • Blogs continue to ‘die off’ fast – only 55% are considered "active" (i.e. blog at least one post at least once every 3 months!)
  • Blogging on a regular basis (more than once or twice a week) for at least 3 months – my first target – means that you’re much more likely to continue. (Blogging almost daily means you have "a serious habit" and get withdrawal symptoms when you lose access to a computer and the internet!)

Art and illustrated blogs are now getting lost in blog directories.

  • The owner of the Blogs Illustrated webring applied criteria for entry, weeded out unsuitable applications and created a meaningful list as a result.
  • Most other blog directories offer art and illustrated blogs the choice of either a generic ‘arts and entertainment’ category or a personal category. Either way, it’s much more difficult to find a new illustrated blog. The generic ‘arts and entertainment’ category often includes masses of music / drama / film / celebrity / shopping blogs (“Shopping – art or entertainment or both?” Discuss!).
  • Not listing blogs with less than (say) half a dozen posts would eliminate a vast number from the less discriminating directories.
  • Directories don’t seem to cull in the same way that Technorati does – I’d like to see a big improvement in this area.

Tags are useful but awareness and practice is limited

  • Techonorati tags are useful but are really only limited to finding other blogs which also use tags who blog about the same things as you do - which is how I found Ed Terpening's "Life Plein Air". This resulted in a huge bonus for me - Ed supplied a guide to plein air painting locations in northern California which I 'road-tested' for him when I visited California with my sketchbook in July this year. (see Travels with my Sketchbook)
  • Technorati does not generate a lot of traffic. I don't understand why but I think it's because people either don't claim their blogs on Technorati or don't understand their tag system. And maybe just never use it to search for like-minded blogs?
  • tagging should get easier Improvements in blogging software and the ease of categorisation and tagging of individual posts should help people to find other art and illustrated blogs more easily in future through the use of tags.

Blogrolls provide useful pointers to good quality blogs

  • Blogrolls tend to be much more informative than blog directories. I found Karen’s Creative Journey (no. 18) and came to enjoy Cin’s Learning Daily (No. 41) through Blogs Illustrated and from there I found Laurelines. Their extensive blogrolls enabled me to find more of the same ilk and from there I started to develop my own blogroll. IMO, using the blogrolls of the blogs you like is the best way of finding blogs with good quality content.
  • Developing a blogroll policy helped me to decide which blogs to include on my blogroll and to respond to the very many requests for a link which I get. I don't swop links and I don't include blogs less than 3 months old.
  • My feed reader has many more blogs on it than my blogroll. Keeping me stimulated by your art (and maybe entertained as well!) is the best way to make it on to my blogroll.

Feed readers have got better but still need to improve

  • Feed readers are essential. I couldn’t get through the day given the number of blogs I read if I didn’t have a feed reader.
  • Feed readers can have problems. Some of you will know that I was plagued for quite a few weeks by a total inability to see images on certain Blogger blogs. When I realised that this was only due to my accessing them through Bloglines, I had to dump Bloglines and switch to Google Reader – which I don’t think is the best, most flexible reader – but I can at least see images again – when it behaves!
  • Feed readers could do better. When are we going to get feed readers designed around the visual image?

Commenting is the best way to stimulate visitors and links

Comments are what makes blogs really work effectively as social media (web 2.0).

  • Comment, comment, comment! When I started I made a point of visiting lots of blogs and commenting on what I saw on the ones I liked. As I hoped, many of the people I visited reciprocated and are now regular visitors to mine. Now, if I have time, I always try and check out the blogs of people who comment on my blog and then comment on theirs. IMO, it’s still the best way to to get repeat visitors. And you have to be exceptionally good at what you do to now get listed on my blogroll if you don’t comment on others.
  • Asking questions and inviting people to ponder a subject almost always gets an interesting set of responses. My blog and other blogs have been successful at generating both comments and civilized discussions about artistic matters.
  • Security and blogging software needs to get much more efficient and effective at filtering comments - I want to be able to let real people in and keep spammers/trolls out without making commenting on a blog like getting into Fort Knox.
  • My comments policy has saved me a lot of time and angst about deleting some comments I’ve received without a second thought.

Nothing is permanent but change.

Heraclitus had a point! It’s interesting to try and identify the latest innovations and trends – and who is better at it than others.

  • Innovators continue to innovate Duane Keiser – who instigated the daily painting blog – is now producing videos of how his artwork is developed which can be viewed via You Tube. At the same time as developing blogs which are slower-paced and more reflective about practice.
  • Technological developments will always generate new developments in art blogging. My guess is You Tube and (to a lesser extent) Podcasts will become a feature of more and more art and illustrated blogs in 2007. You’ve seen the photos, you’ve seen the sketches or the oil paintings – now we want to see the artist at work! I must confess it’s one of the things which is taxing my brain at the moment.

Part 2 of my review of the past year

........will look at the influence of art and illustrated blogs (blogging communities, which are the influential blogs and the role of blogs in marketing artwork). And I might just offer a few predictions as well as making a few requests. Part 2 will follow next week after a long weekend away.

And from a personal perspective……..

It certainly feels a very different world from a year ago when I started to pilot my new blog very quietly just before Christmas 2005. After a premature labour and a very quiet non-public pilot, we returned to the delivery suite after Christmas (and flu!) for the rebirth of the blog (i.e. the publishing of the feed) with a much shorter name and a much clearer focus. I then got stuck into serious blogging and, apart from a couple of trips to the USA, I’ve been blogging pretty steadily ever since.

Having had a long career in business and performance management, I’m rather keen on performance metrics and I’m very happy to report that my blog now has over seventy subscribers, has been linked to by around 100 sites in the last six months and averages between 200-250 visits a day from around the world. 55% of my visitors/readers are from the USA although I get visitors from all over the world (I love my clustr map and mapstats box). About a quarter of my visitors arrive from Google in one way or another. Other search engines account for a significant number of visitors as my page ranking with search engines has rocketed as a result of blogging. And less than 60% of you are still using IE as your browser!

I don’t think “He who must not be bored while I sketch” quite believed that some of the cyberchums actually existed until I started going on overseas trips to meet them! He certainly didn’t ‘get’ blogging for a very long time. I certainly didn’t understand how much I would enjoy writing as well as drawing. I’ve loved the process of working out new posts in advance and also sometimes sitting down in a morning without a clue about what I’m going to write. Some of the most visited and popular posts emerged completely spontaneously!

The best bit about blogging for me has been the chance to ‘meet’ so many wonderful people in virtual reality. I know your drawing and painting styles and what you have shared about your artistic ambitions and so much more – where you live, your family, your friends, your animals (and some of their dire habits!). I’ve shared your artistic aspirations and experiments, your plans and your projects, your successes and your failures – it has all been a real privilege and a real joy for me. Long may it all continue!

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  1. Wow, that's quite a post. Congratulations on your first year. I kept trying to add to the conversation but couldn't get past agreeing with you on all points, especailly about getting twitchy when I'm away from blogging and how I can't stop watching my performance metrics. I've thoroughly enjoyed this blog since I found it about six months ago, from your sketches to your very informative articles. As you said, long may it continue. Beth

  2. "meeting" others with the same interest in drawing is also the best bit for me, the art community on-line is a wonderful group to get to know, I'm glad you've joined the crowd.

  3. Happy birthday Katherine. Very interesting post. And I so agree with Cin.

  4. You're such a thoughtful and conscientious person, Katherine. As a result, I not only enjoy beautiful art (yours) when I visit here, but I'm given food for thought, valuable information, and connections to other artists and art resources. So glad you're here.

  5. BLogging has really helped me to draw more often and recieve the encouragement I've needed. I also feel a part of an international arts community! Really fun stuff. You are on my subscription list and I check here often!!!Sometimes I'm a little uneasy about commenting. Don't want to break your rules.

  6. Congratulations on a year of blogging Katherine. Your posts continue to inform, amuse, and amaze me on a daily basis.

  7. Congratulations on your first year Katherine!! Making a Mark was the first art blog I started to read early last spring. Duane Keiser was the only artist's blog I knew of ( or at least checked out )prior. A non-artist-blogger-co-worker (!) convinced me last February to start an online art-journal blog. It was through contact with you at Wet Canvas, Katherine that led me here and then on to a similar blog-hop such as you described. I had no idea what you meant the day you mentioned that you had blog-rolled me, and I certainly didn't realize then what an honor it was. The high standards of your blogroll policy reflect the top notch quality of all your blogs and lens....lenses(sp?) I'm thrilled to be part of what this flexible reader considers to be the best of the best. As always, your example encourages me to better myself and my "serious habit" of blogging. I can't wait to read part 2 as well as see what the new year brings for all us bloggers of art. Have a great Holiday !!

  8. Happy birthday Katherine says she who forgot her own…. Chuckle

    Your blog has always been professional and information and a joy to visit. I like your no nonsense approach to your writing and aware that you research thoroughly your subjects that you write about. I was actually reading the 100,000 new blogs per day on the internet earlier today and incorporated it into my own blog and low and behold you have written about it yourself. You have done a much better job of it than I have though :D.

  9. Thanks so much for recommending Google Reader. Bloglines was driving me crazy! Reader is so much better!

  10. Katherine-
    I find that I can not go long without reading your blog. You hold the bar high on quality and interesting writing and information. You have helped make the world a smaller village for artists and art lovers. Congratulations on one year. Here's to many more.

  11. Katherine, congratulations on your first year of an incredible and high standard blog. Everytime I read it, the wealth of information is tremendous.

  12. I think of your blog as the lighthouse perched on a little island in the middle of the mighty sea of the world of bloggers, shining your light far and wide. Thank you for lighting our way, for your always interesting and illuminating writing, and of course for sharing your lovely art.

  13. Wow - so many really great comments!!! Thank you all so very much.

    I'll now get back to working on Part 2 which has already spawned a Part 3 - in between recovering from driving in fog for two days and writing out the Christmas food shopping list!

  14. So often, when I read your thoughtful posts, I come up with several things to say, only to find you cover them thoroughly a bit later in the post.

    I agree with you entirely about finding new people from others' lists. It seems to me that when one looks at something like "a painting a day," there is an awful lot of stuff that doesn't seem to me to be interesting. I do much better finding new and interesting blogs by looking at those which are looked at by people whose work I admire.

    Also agree completely about the use of a reader. If I have someone on a reader list, and they only post once a month, I'm far less annoyed than if I am checking their blog over and over and nothing is new.....

    Finally (last of my top three, not last of all the things I agreed with!), I agree with you about the importance of narrative. While I don't follow very many blogs that are *only* writing, interesting, evocative writing surely enhances the experience!

    Thanks for writing about all of this in such an organized way. It makes me think. A good thing.

    -- Vicki in Michigan, who really does blog about something other than a stinkin' garage, usually....

  15. Wow fantastic post Katherine, it kept my interest throughout! Very enjoyable. There were so many things that resonated with me. Blogging really has changed my life. I know that sounds terribly dramatic but it is true.

    I agree the one of the best things for me has been meeting people. As I do not work, or study, in the arts field it has opened up a whole new community where I can discuss 'arty stuff' (for want of a better phrase!). This has been invaluable.

    The other thing, though which is probably affected my ife so much is how much I now draw. How much time I think about drawing. It is as though blogging has awakened the artist inside! I had always been looking for the excuse and blogging has helped that happen! Excellent post Katherine. Thank you!

  16. Wow, lots here to consider, Katherine! Thanks so much for articulating your discoveries from the year. I look forward to making my blog a better blog, thanks to you!


  17. I was thinking about this last night, and remembered that I often go visit the blogs of people who make interesting comments on yet other people's blogs.

    Another advantage to commenting!

  18. Katherine, thanks as ever from this usually-lurker for you generous, thoroughly interesting and informative post(s).

    I've found you courtesy of Laura's Laurelines, and will be back more often as I hone my hand-skills (thanks to Laura's gentle challenge to sketch/post daily.)


  19. Andrea - thank you so much for mentioning what I neglected to do - that blogging makes you draw more. So very true! Michael - welcome and I hope we'll see you back again - you write great stuff. Lori - welcome also. Laurelines is great isn't it? Hope to see you around!

  20. I really enjoyed this piece, and look forward to reading more about your practice.

    In terms of RSS readers that can handle images, I just read a review of lots of different ones at this site .

  21. Peter - thank you so much for that link - that's a really good article and just what I've been looking for!


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