Hello there, welcome to the first edition of Morning Coffee in 2016.
As you may know, I took a couple weeks off at the end of last year and beginning of this year in order to recharge my batteries a bit. If working hard every day is important, so is having enough time to rest. And by rest I mean, properly rest, as in, not-going-anywhere-near-the-Internet rest.
These days it’s so hard to disconnect from the constant stream of news in any meaningful way that staying offline actually requires planning, and effort. Even if all you do is check Twitter every couple hours, you’re still mentally chained to your desk. Unless you move away from the computer for a few days once or twice a year, staying fresh and motivated becomes a real struggle.
I have to admit, I was beginning to feel a little burnt out towards the end of the year, which is why I decided it was time for a break. I used that time to be with my family, enjoy the holidays, and even do a bit of traveling, something I’d missed tremendously. But more on that later.
The best of all is, I actually managed to clear my mind and breathe, and regain some clarity and perspective. Now, I’m happy to say I’m back, ready to tackle the new year and motivated to do great work.
Let’s get started.
Issue #29: The times, they are a-changin’
I’ve been thinking about how to make Morning Coffee better for readers for a while. The current format is fine, but I do believe there’s room for improvement, and that applies not only to Morning Coffee, but to the site as a whole, as well. I’d like to talk to you a bit more about that today.
I feel like I’ve been letting things coast for a while, and it’s time to shake things up a bit. Ever since I started writing online as my primary job, Analog Senses has been steadily growing. That’s fantastic, and I’m super grateful for every single reader who, over the past 18 months or so, stopped by to read some of my work. You’re the reason I do this, and the reason that makes it all worth it.
Unfortunately, we’re in a period when I need to worry about the site’s sustainability, as well as my own. For that reason, I’ll be taking some steps towards helping the site stay in the black in the near future. Up until now, the site’s income has been limited to Amazon affiliate links, which have worked very well — far better than I hoped, actually — but which unfortunately are not enough to keep the site running as it is or, rather, to justify the amount of time and effort I put into it every day.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be introducing some changes to this weekly article, but also to the way the site operates, how content is presented, and how I interact with readers. I can’t promise that all changes will be for the better — the way these things work, I’m certain to screw something up along the way — but I will try to be as careful as possible, and if something doesn’t quite work, I have no problem rolling things back and trying a different way. This is uncharted territory for me, so we’ll see.
Of course, during this process reader feedback will be more important than ever. If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to get in touch. Anything you feel could improve the experience would be of tremendous help. Thank you.
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strange)
As you may have noticed, some small changes have already been rolled out. Let me walk you through them for a moment.
For starters, I have created a new section on the navigation bar called “Guides” where, as its name implies, I’m curating the best how-to guides I’ve published here in the past.
These are historically some of the most popular articles on the site, and every now and then I get email from readers saying how they came across one of these pieces when searching for an answer to a problem, and how it helped them find a solution. These emails usually make my day, but I felt like there was more that I could do to make those articles easier to find.
One of the disadvantages of the traditional blog format is that, once an article is phased out of the homepage, it gets buried far too deep within the archives. Hopefully, by creating a place where important articles can be curated, I’ll be making it easier for people to stumble upon them.
Content-wise, I’m changing Morning Coffee a little bit, and I’m altering the site’s publishing schedule as well.
I’m trying to put more original writing into Morning Coffee and indeed, the site as a whole, so I’ll be emphasizing that aspect going forward. The links section of Morning Coffee will be limited to five items per week, and I’ll do my best to make them as relevant and interesting as possible. You could think of it as a top-five list of the very best writing on the web, which is actually a lot closer to my original vision for it. I feel that some past issues of Morning Coffee ran far too long, with too many links, and I’m afraid that could have turned off some readers. Hopefully the new format will make things better for everyone.
I will also be changing up the way each issue is structured. Going forward, I will be placing the original writing section at the beginning of each issue, and leaving the links for later. I believe some of my previous writing on Morning Coffee has been diluted by having to get through so many links first. By the time you reached the afterword, chances are you were already exhausted. Call me selfish, but if you’re not going to make it through the entire issue, I’d rather have you read my words first.
Scheduling-wise, I’m going to stick with a Saturday morning publishing time for the next few issues of Morning Coffee, but I’m also considering moving it to a different day. I believe a big problem with the previous format is that it wasn’t that different from the kind of news people had been reading all week. Understandably, some people may not want to keep doing the same kind of reading during their free time, which is why I want to do something about it.
With the above changes, I believe I can keep Morning Coffee interesting enough to stay as weekend-reading material, but if things don’t really work out, perhaps publishing it on a weekday would be a better way to go about it. What do you think? Would you rather see a Friday-published Morning Coffee?
As for site-wide content changes, I’m going to aim at publishing one long-form piece each week, on Wednesdays. I believe committing to a regular publishing schedule will help me stay motivated, and organized. Now, I’m committing to only doing these two weekly updates over at least the next few weeks, so I’ll probably slow down the link posts substantially for a while.
In the past, failing to publish a couple links every single day used to make me feel anxious, and guilty. I’m now giving myself permission to only publish when I want to say something, as opposed to merely echoing what others are saying. It’s an important distinction, and one that hopefully will help improve the site as a whole.
Of course, I still enjoy sharing links to cool things on a daily basis, and I’m not going to completely stop doing it. That said, I will probably just use Twitter for that going forward, so if you’re not following me there, you totally should.
Those are the main changes that are already in place, but of course, there are more to come in the near future. In order to reach sustainability, eventually finding a way to encourage direct support from readers seems inevitable, but let’s take things one step at a time. For now, I’m just trying to keep my eyes on the ball.
My goal is not only to make Analog Senses healthier and sustainable, but to make it better. Above all, I want it to be respectful of my readers’ time and attention, and I want it to provide interesting and useful content. That’s the only way this is going to work, so rest assured, that’s where my focus is.
As I said before, if you have any comments or suggestions for the site, there’s never been a better time than this to share them, so please feel free to get in touch. Thanks!
Now, that’s entirely enough blogging about blogging for today, so let me close this year’s first issue with some of the week’s most interesting pieces of writing.
In 2016’s first edition of the top five links of the week, we learn one key aspect about achieving our goals. We also learn what it’s like to dine in an overrated high-profile restaurant in NYC, and we witness an interview with one of the world’s most wanted drug lords. Then there’s a wonderful review of one of my favorite MFT cameras and, finally, a great piece on the importance of online privacy and freedom.
Like clockwork, David Cain is ready with another inspiring piece to help people conquer their New Year’s resolutions. In this case, the focus is on exercise, but really, this applies to everything in life:
The great myth about goals is that they require us to trade quality of life now for quality of life later. This doesn’t work unless you’re a robot. We’re too interested in keeping our lives enjoyable. You cannot voluntarily make all your days worse for months in the name of optional rewards in the future. A good goal has to improve your life now, and nearly every day between now and the final result. The long-term reward is never going to drive you to keep living a life you don’t like in the short term.
Your friend who is always posting her Crossfit achievements on Facebook—do you think she hates lifting, and is just suffering through it to have that beach body come summertime?
Spot-on, as always.
The New York Times’ restaurant critic Pete Wells absolutely destroys one of the only six restaurants in NYC that had a 4-star rating.
Hollywood actor Sean Penn pays a secret visit to Mexican drug lord Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, A.K.A. El Chapo, one of the most wanted men in the world:
With Kate translating, I begin to explain my intentions. I felt increasingly that I had arrived as a curiosity to him. The lone gringo among my colleagues, who’d ridden on the coattails of El Chapo’s faith in Kate. I felt his amusement as I put my cards on the table. He asks about my relationship with the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez with what seems to be a probing of my willingness to be vilified through associations.
My friend Josh Ginter wrote a spectacular review of the Olympus E-M5 Mark II over at Tools & Toys. I really liked this one, and I believe it’s some of his finest work yet. The pictures are gorgeous, his insights are useful, and his honesty is incredibly refreshing. This one is absolutely worth your time.
Great primer on the importance of online privacy and freedom by Robin Doherty:
Our “digital lives” are an accurate reflection of our actual lives. Our phone records expose where we go and who we talk to, and our internet usage can expose almost everything about ourselves and what we care about.
Even if we trust the motives of our current governments, and every person with authorised access to our data, we are taking an incredible risk. The systems of surveillance that we entrench now may be misappropriated and misused at any time by future governments, foreign intelligence agencies, double agents, and opportunistic hackers.
The more data we have, the more devastating its potential.
Food for thought.
As I hinted at earlier in the piece, I took a brief trip to Paris with Miriam during the holidays. We flew there on New Year’s Eve and spent four days visiting the city. Paris is an amazing town, even though it was rainy and cold. We didn’t have enough time to see everything, but we did cover quite a bit of ground, and more importantly, we had a terrific time.
I took my Canon EOS 3 film camera and a Canon 35mm f/1.4 L lens that I rented, and shot three rolls of film during the trip. For the first time, I had these developed and scanned by a professional lab, instead of scanning them myself. I’m happy with how they turned out, but I don’t see enough of an improvement to justify the extra cost, so I’ll probably keep scanning my film at home in the future.
Anyway, I shared a Flickr album with a few shots from the trip, both from the EOS 3 and my Sony α7 II. I’m still processing most of them, so I’ll definitely write a proper post about the trip later on. For now though, consider this a teaser.
Have a great weekend, and thank you for reading.