As public and private forces continuously try to repel the contaminants from despoiling the fragile coastline of my temporary adopted state of Louisiana, I can only reflect upon some house cleaning that could benefit this blog. Awkward analogies aside, I always hope to improve the scope of the blog, plumbing new depths through observations of the built and natural environment—simultaneously learning from others and teaching myself. In short, scrubbing will help it become a more useful tool for others, fostering greater discussion and helping me learn more in the process. The goal remains to divorce myself from partisanship as I look at things and simply ask, “What does it mean?” As American Dirt approaches its one year anniversary, I will set aside my goals for the blog’s impending toddlerhood:
1) Refinement of earlier posts. In a matter of weeks, you will see repeats of earlier essays—not out of laziness, though I most likely will time these re-runs for moments when I’m particularly busy. Rather, they will always be improvements of writing from before, whether it involves an interview, additional research, or recommendations/observations from the commenters.
2) Greater geographic diversity. I have had people ask if I will ever feature essays outside of the US. I deliberately wanted this to remain an American commentary, so I see that as highly unlikely—and the ground here in the States remains so fertile that I rarely if ever need to look overseas. I may reference observations from trips abroad, or from research that derives from foreign sources, but my goal is for this to remain an American blog. However, I do hope to show a greater geographic spread. Right now the American West is particularly underrepresented, which is more a product of having not traveled there much lately. I am bound to get a western blog post before too long. Indianapolis will remain the hub and will probably dominate the posts, though, as has been clear lately, I have strayed from Indy-based posts lately, mostly out of necessity.
3) Improved photography. This may be my biggest challenge. Clearly I’m not a pro photographer, nor do I have a state-of-the-art camera, and I’ve always wrestled with how much I want to instill artistry into my camera work. But this is a comparatively small part of my scrubbing goals for the blog. For truly distinctive urban photography, look no further than The Heidelberger Papers, whose blogger has also recently expanded his focus to cities well beyond Indianapolis. And Huston Street Racing deftly chronicles urban issues with a much more sophisticated lens than I can hope for. Photography is critical to my blog, but the blog will never elevate photography to the primary focus—as much as I try to improve photos through settings, shutter speed, and framing, far too many of my pics are taken spontaneously, often on the sly, and using an only moderately precise cell phone camera. I will let the readers of the blog know if I have a certain post that emphasizes photography first. And in spite of my often crude photos, I am already getting to the point where I have to be conscious of maxing out the available disc space for my blog. Chances are I will have to shrink the sizes of photos from my early posts, since they were inordinately large.
4) More clearly articulated themes. Aside from the “Key Phrases” sidebar, which is working pretty effectively, I want more of a rhythm to my posts, and I want them to be more obvious. Each month I try to do one photo montage but I don’t quite announce it. It should soon become clear. I may also soon start featuring guest posts, sometimes with a “Point-Counterpoint” approach. I will always make clear when, on occasion, I feature guest photographs, as I already have in the past.
5) More short posts. Part of the scrubbing goal is to make posts more easily digestible. My early posts were monsters, sometimes totaling over 10,000 words. I was frustrated with so few responses, but I deserved it. Now if I have a long post I usually break it into parts, and I will try to feature many more brief posts as well, often with only one or two pics. (These may be the ones where the emphasis is the photography itself.) Most of my posts average about 1,200 words, and 2,000 has become the understood breaking point. I’ll try to make it abundantly clear whenever I have a mega-post and again will divide it into smaller parts.
Clearly the ultimate goal of all these refinements–all this scrubbing–is to further foster discussion and feedback. I appreciate all the response in the past, and welcome your further recommendations for keeping this labor of love going strong. Thanks again.