The Golden Road

It’s a beautiful frosty morning so I couldn’t resist the urge to take a couple of shots of this driveway up to Blarney Castle. You may even recognise it from the WordPress theme Twenty Ten.

Aperture ƒ/11
Camera Canon EOS 40D
Focal length 88mm
ISO 100
Shutter speed 1/25s

Monotone: WordPress Photoblog Theme

Monotone is a pretty cool photoblog theme for WordPress that’s been around for a few months now. Unfortunately it was only available on WordPress.com, and through the Automattic Subversion repository as reported by Jeff on Weblog Tools Collection.

Noel Jackson, the author of the theme, recently revealed that Monotone is now available as a .zip download on the Monotone demo page above. Now it’s easier for self hosted WordPress blogs to try it!

What’s so great about Monotone? It displays a large image in each post like Pixelpost and other photoblog themes, but it does it in a neat way. WordPress allows the blog author to upload and attach images to their posts. It’s then up to the author to insert the image into the post and tidy up the html. Monotone takes this one step further. There’s no need to insert the image into the post at all. The theme takes the first attachment and displays it at the top of the post, with the post content below.

I’d love to use it, but unfortunately I have several years worth of posts that would need to be modified because I used Flickr to host my images until recently. Then I used my own site, but inserted the right html into each post, so they’d all have to be modified unless I hacked the theme to ignore old posts.

RSS feeds display the image too, although I discovered that the feed for the demo site includes some huge images. Probably just an oversight when Noel was uploading images.

Judging by Noel’s comment here, it probably isn’t completely straight forward to install. You probably need the GD library and a hefty server with enough RAM to load and manipulate your images. Anyone tried it? Use my theme tester plugin if you want to test it on your blog without upsetting your visitors!

Beat my WordPress cache

If I may be so bold as to break from the regular programming of photography stuff here, you may know I’m also a WordPress.com developer and heading up development of WordPress MU. Yes, I wear lots of hats.

Yesterday I released a new WordPress plugin called, WP Super Cache. It’s pretty super as it’s name implies and should protect WordPress sites from large spikes in traffic. I need your help to test that out.

You may be familiar with a site called Digg.com, if you have an account there, please digg my plugin. It’s only going to take another couple of diggs to get it on to the front page of the site, but it has to get there within the next few hours. If it does, that will quite possibly cause a huge spike in traffic to that post, and with any luck the server my blog is on won’t keel over and die. Don’t worry, inphotos.org is on a different machine. :)

Update – it’s one the front page of digg.com! Thanks everyone who voted for it! Apparently this is a light digging though, and my server barely notices the extra requests.

Ooops, someone noticed the Technorati rank

Justin added this site to his Technorati list of Irish blogs and was a little shocked at what he saw. Damien noticed too :)

Actually, I don’t get many hits from blogs despite the inflated numbers on that list. It seems nobody is curious to know who that “Donncha” chap is. In the latest release of WordPress, all those links were replaced by links to the Codex and other WordPress related sites.

Live from WordCamp 2007

Here we are once again, blogging live from WordCamp 2007 in San Francisco. There’s Matt setting up the projector screen, Barry sorting through some notes and Michael Adams in the baseball cap. Check out my WordCamp 2007 set on Flickr for more photos from the weekend.

Shot handheld at ISO 800 in low light.

Most popular photos of June 2007

The most popular photos of June 2007

  1. The Lady’s Red Boots was unsurprisingly the most popular of the photos I posted in June. I guess the combination of red boots and grey and dull background grabbed a lot of attention!
  2. Orange stripes and white clouds. I love leading lines, I love clouds. It was a beautiful day at the Conor Pass in Co. Kerry when I took this!
  3. Children at play was one shot I really enjoyed working on. Bright blue sky, vibrant colours. Yummy!

Most prolific commentators

  1. Josef who was using WordPress, but switched to Pixelpost recently. I won’t hold that against him as he has some nice photos!
  2. Gamma Goblin left a few comments on my blog this month. He bought some external drives just like I did!
  3. White intermezzo left a few comments on my flickr stream. Go take a look at her gorgeous photos of Singapore. Beautiful stuff!

Posts with most Comments this month

  1. Love Messages.
  2. Children at play.
  3. The Thieving Duck tied with Orange stripes and white clouds for 3rd place.

If you’re interested, the following SQL will give you the top commenters on your own WordPress blog:

SELECT comment_author, comment_author_url, count( * ) AS c FROM wp_comments WHERE comment_date > date_sub( NOW( ) , INTERVAL 1 MONTH ) GROUP BY comment_author ORDER BY c DESC

And this chunk of code will give you the posts with the most comments made in the past month:

SELECT comment_post_ID , post_name, count( * ) as c FROM wp_comments, wp_posts WHERE wp_comments.comment_post_ID = wp_posts.ID AND comment_date > date_sub( NOW( ) , INTERVAL 1 MONTH ) GROUP BY comment_post_ID ORDER BY `c` DESC

Credit’s due when it’s due

I have just installed the hotlink builder plugin for WordPress. It provides a basic level of protection for the images on your blog from leechers visitors who come via Google and MSN looking for images. At least some of them are going to right-click on an image to use it in their own blogs, sites or myspace pages. This plugin displays a chunk of code they can copy and paste into their template or post to display the image. That code has a link to your blog which is much better than someone simply stealing your image and not giving credit.

It’s not perfect, but you can see it in action here. Right click on the image of the spire and James Joyce. A red bordered box will appear above it. Unfortunately if you right click on other images the box still appears in the exact same space which could be off-screen. I must try making it a popup div instead.

I also installed the small but useful break out of frames plugin. It simply breaks your blog out of foreign frames. Google Images is probably the worst offender of the referrers to this blog so hopefully it’ll encourage people to stay a bit longer here. Both plugins found via seobook.

Later… Some minor fixes required to make it work properly:

  • Line 116 of hotlink-builder.php should be $src .= ' alt="' . get_bloginfo('blogname') . '"'; otherwise it’ll print your blog title before every post.
  • WP-Cache needs to know about the cookie this plugin sets. Open up wp-content/plugins/wp-cache/wp-cache-phase1.php and add the following code around line 72, in the function wp_cache_get_cookie_values():

    if( $_COOKE[ 'imagesearcher' ] == 'yes' ) $string .= 'searchengine';

11 SEO tips for your photoblog

Richard Hearne offered some great tips for making Irish photoblog mcawilliams.com more visible on the search engines and they’re very good general search engine optimization tips that can be applied to any website.

He has grouped his tips into the following categories:

  1. Site Architecture
  2. On-Page Optimisation
  3. Off-site Optimisation

Richard’s post is well worth reading, even if you don’t have a photoblog. I know I learned a thing or two that are already paying off!

I have a few more tips to add to those above. Most of them are geared towards the photo blog community rather than general blogging sites, but read on even if you’re not running a photoblog!

  1. Join Photoblogs.org before you do anything else. It’s the center of the photoblog universe and it’s worth participating in the community there.
  2. Join VFXY and Cool photoblogs. VFXY displays thumbnails of their member’s blogs which is great for driving traffic. Coolphotoblogs is a photoblog directory. I’m a member of the former, but something went wrong with my application to the latter and I haven’t bothered figuring it out yet.
  3. Join Flickr, Zooomr, 23HQ and any other social photo sharing site you care to mention. Zooomr are offering premium accounts to bloggers still I think. You can host your photo there, saving your bandwidth costs. It’s also a very good way of exposing your photography to a wider audience. Thanks to Flickr I’ve almost made back the cost of hosting this website through sales of my photos.
  4. Taking a leaf from Richard above, if you host your images on Flickr, they require a link back to that picture’s page on flickr.com. Make sure you don’t leak page rank by adding rel=’external nofollow’ to that link. The same applies to Zooomr and 23HQ of course.
  5. Visit the Photoblogs.org wiki, especially the tips and tricks page and how to get traffic to your photoblog.
  6. Write. Search engines can’t do much with an image, but if you describe the image in a small paragraph of text that will help. In a similar vein, every photo should have a title. It might be tempting to number the image, or call them “Untitled #98″, “Untitled #99″, “Untitled #100″ and so on, but that won’t help people find your website.
  7. As you’re now writing, link. Link to other sites and blogs and do it often. Photoblogs don’t link enough. Where’s the conversation? Everybody has their heads stuck in the sand doing their own thing, afraid that they’ll lose visitors for good if they leave their site. Link to specific blog posts and those posts will be sent a “ping” or a “trackback”. That tells that blog’s owner you’ve been talking about his work. It also plants a link to your blog right in his comments section where his visitors can find it and follow what you said about his work. Here’s a ping my blog sent to an older post on my site. My feed reader post has lots of external links. Oh look, there’ll be a ping from that link too! Links really are the lifeblood of your blog.
  8. I may be biased, but I recommend you use WordPress to host your photoblog. It has support for pinging and trackbacks out of the box, a facility some other photoblog software don’t have. If you don’t want to host a WordPress blog yourself, open a blog on WordPress.com and check out what people are posting about photography, photos and even flickr. It’s a bit more limited than a regular WordPress blog but you’ll get a good feel for it. Best of all, you can export your blog and host it yourself when you feel up to it!
  9. If you do use WordPress, install Ultimate Tag Warrior so your posts are categorised in a fine grained manner. Tags do wonderful things for search engines, and this is a must have for any WordPress blog. Note that tagging support is going into WordPress right now, but it’s still being developed. I think a small script to convert UTW tags to WordPress tags is called for. Hopefully I’ll have it running here within the next few days.
  10. Join Google webmaster tools and enable “Enhanced Image Search”. Read more about it here but I’ve noticed an increase in hits from Google Image Search since I opted in to it.
  11. Claim your blog on Technorati. Here’s the Technorati page for this blog. Add an icon to your user account to encourage clicks on your stories there.

With a few changes to your photoblog you can drastically increase the traffic to your site and share your work with a wider audience. You never know, one of your photos could become a viral email attachment sent around to thousands of people in offices and homes.

My dream photoblog theme

  • The blog will have two displays: compact and full.
  • Compact format: on the front page of the blog it shall display one primary photo on the left hand side of the browser with description, permalink and a comments link. On the right shall be a dozen thumbnails from previous posts. Above and below the image will be “Next” and “Previous” links to newer and older posts. These links must point at permalinks, not /page/X/ urls.
  • Clicking on a thumbnail will refresh the left hand side of the browser, displaying the new image, description, permalink and comments.
  • As I like to write about photography I want to display the last post from my Words category under the main image of the front page of the site.
  • Articles in the Words category will be displayed one by one like the default “compact” format of the blog.
  • When a user clicks on the permalink of a photo the display will look the same as the front page but it will not have the newest post from the Words category.
  • Full format: Clicking on a “Show all” button above the thumbnails will load a new stylesheet that will make the page appear in a more traditional blog format with multiple posts per page and the newest at the top. Much like this page. Next and Prev links have to morph to /page/X/ links.
  • Search engines and non-css aware clients will see a “normal” blog with multiple posts per page.
  • Browsing a tag or category archive will follow the same compact/full format as above.
  • Need space for advertising as well. Top and sidebar.

Colin Finch is working on a photoblog theme with thumbnails in the sidebar. He’s using the “optional excerpt” feature of WordPress to handle the thumbnails. Unfortunately he’s battling with Internet Explorer because it’s not behaving. Can someone lend him a hand?

Yes I want a photoblog, and a regular blog, with a cherry on top please.