View Full Version : Articles & the non Forum part of the site

10-Feb-2009, 09:20
Isn't it time some of the site was upgraded, and the articles illustrated.

I appreciate the site started when many people were on slow dial-up modems but surely it's now time to embrace the 21st Century and give the site a make-over & add some graphics, revamp some of the articles.

I'm sure there would be a number of volunteers ;D


Ernest Purdum
10-Feb-2009, 10:06
I've still got a dial-up modem. (I'm paying for high speed service, but it won't connect and everybody involved says it's the other guys fault.)

You're right. I know some of my articles need updating. I'll see what I can do about it. It won't be soon, though. Now long retired, I wonder how I ever had time to work.

Gem Singer
10-Feb-2009, 10:26
I've thought about rewriting my article. However, after six years, i still get inquiries and suggestions about developing 4X5 film using my compact dip-and-dunk method.

I consider the articles on the main page as archival. Similar to the information in past issues of View Camera and other publications.

This morning I was looking through A.A.'s book, "The Negative", written in the 1980's, and I learned something new.

Why not write an article yourself, and encourage others to do the same. If I can do it, anybody can.

10-Feb-2009, 12:45
Gem, I might, well in fact I have some in the pipeline destined for somewhere else, but who knows, they could be re-jigged or re-written for this site.

My feelings are that re-writing's not the main issue rather revamping with better page layouts & some illustrations. For newcomers to LF adding some simple graphics/illustrations would make many of the articles far more readable and useful and allow better explanations of some of the principles of using LF. I've been using LF for well over 30 years and I know when I started the illustrations helped more than the text.


10-Feb-2009, 13:20
I'd love to see some added illustrations and reformatting. I've suggested this before, but there wasn't much of a response. I'd be happy to shoot some photos and caption them to serve as illustrations. I usually have a tabletop setup ready in my studio. The obvious place to start would be the static content that receives the most views.

Brian Wallen
1-Mar-2009, 02:03
I've been looking for a place to post this. If you think it fits better somewhere else please feel free to move it.


I have recently been doing a reorganization of my large format site.
One of the questions that I posed to myself is, "Why am I maintaining a site independent of the Large Format Photography site?"

I started my site, somewhat later than the LFP site and both have followed interesting evolutions. Some of these have been in parallel, designed to exploit new ways of presenting information. My site started as a place to explain LF photography to those just beginning to explore the format, as I was a few years before. I want it to continue to appeal to that audience, both in its content and in the way I approach explaining that content.

As I have done revisions and reorganizations, I have broadened my own knowledge of LF technology and I have explored areas that went beyond simple beginners questions. In that expansion, I want to be careful not to lapse into overly specialized knowledge and terminology that leaves the beginner scratching his head.

As I have used the LFP site and particularly the forums I've been impressed with the wealth of information there. Forums provide an easy way to contribute collective knowledge incrementally, but they depend on search technology to organize that information and collecting information this way is often laborious and not very integrated. Summaries and essays help to provide a different perspective on information and the LFP essays and surveys provide a good alternative way of providing information. Not all forum threads are equally interesting and well organized. I frequently see threads where it is clear that the contributors spent considerable time analyzing and writing material they present. I think we should be looking for ways to highlight those to improve navigation. The number of responses and reads are a good place to start. Additional ways of steering people toward them is to data mine when we are writing summaries, then point readers to forum threads with links in essays we are developing about particular topics.

Here is an example of the data mining approach. I couldn't find much Web-based information about Horseman technicals other than that in forums. I found most of that, distilled it, found graphics and developed a page. You will note that this is my lame attempt at an interactive page. I don't have the technical resources for something fancier, but I'd like to polish this up with email messages from those who can offer corrections and additional content:

I also appeal to all contributors to think about how they name a thread. If you ask yourself, "If I were looking for help for this topic, what would I search for?" you will be doing a favor to all those who come after you searching for the same information. Often, the reason that regular readers see the same question being repeated is that searches don't find the threads that contain relevant information.

As I thought about ways that a newcomers audience might be served by both the site I developed and a more general site like the LFP site, a greater use of links between the sites seemed like a strategy I wanted to explore. One of the ways I am trying to do this is with specific logo-like graphics that identify where a link leads and using link names that respect the organization of information of the target site.

I also have tried to exploit greater use of graphics and have ideas for expanded use of graphics to better explain subjects. An example is a page I recently developed to survey different composition and focusing aids. I have tried to use a consistent set of link IDs to help readers get to additional information and to sources for the equipment.

These kinds of pages are easier to design, integrate and manage on a local site than on a shared site like LFP, so I want to continue to enrich my site design, but I would like to think of this as a complement to what is being done on the LFP site and to interweave navigation between the sites.

And a final admission--I get a kick out of designing Web sites.

Brian Wallen
1-Mar-2009, 23:00
If you are going to add a lot more images and graphics, warn us so we don't open the posts and get nailed with a ton of download information that will push us way past the allowed bandwidth our providers limit some of us to. At least make the bigger files optional so we don't get shut off for roo much use.

I can think of a couple of Web page strategies to try to provide the kind of support that Dakotah describes. It is possible to develop text only pages and provide branches in the Web page coding that allow a browser to select text only or text with images. That makes designing the page more challenging, since good page design doesn't use graphics gratuitously, but because the graphics add value to what the text is trying to describe.

As both a Web designer and a frequent user of dialup service, I am very aware of being careful with the size of graphics. It is often possible to greatly enrich text with small scale graphics that illustrate the topic you are discussing. Warning messages can be used in pages that link to other pages which contain large scale graphics. There are always questions that arise in page design that balance increasing the size of a page to contain more information vs. breaking information up on multiple pages that may cumulatively take longer to load than the single page, but don't subject the visitor to a single long wait time.

I'd say that the early comments in this thread explore that issue and recognize that page design standards and available bandwidth have changed considerably over the lifetime of the LFP site.

Since the site relies on volunteer effort, I'd argue for guidelines that provide flexibility to make contributions that are congenial to the contributors. Nothing throws cold water on an inclination to create something more than constraints that the developer knows don't have to exist. But some group of us ought to be able to develop some guidelines that are vetted, then published which could improve site usability.

As I've noted, I have a preference for maintaining my own site where I can establish internal site organization, navigation, include graphics, modify pages and reorganize as I see the need and have the time. Yet I want to make my site as complementary to the LFP site as I can.

I am finding that in writing pages for my newcomers-oriented site, I should first become familiar with what is on the LFP site, then write my new page with an eye toward integrating the two. This often works very well. I can provide a general introduction to a topic that is consistent with the pages I am developing, but easily points readers to a more detailed and often more technically complex discussion in some LFP forum. The reader of my page can elect to shift gears and is aware of doing that in clicking on the LFP link.

For those who don't want the hassle of maintaining an independent site, the LFP articles are a good way to share knowledge on a more incidental basis. Authors could be free to include as many graphics as they thought they needed and visitors to those pages should expect that load times for those pages would be greater.

Some sort of guideline for graphics in the forum area could keep this part of the site responsive. There is a long tradition of text-based posts that forum users seem to value and if site contributors have alternatives, it is more reasonable to limit graphics in the forums. If a particular thread develops a rich content that might need more graphics, the contributors could collaborate on converting this to an article and it could be moved to that area.

When we start a thread, we don't always know that it will be significant, yet those that turn out to be insightful exchanges ought to be ones that are easy to find. Providing some way to identify these threads, perhaps in the search algorithm, through some sort of flagging, or by moving them to a different part of the site structure could be useful. Perhaps the Google technology that is used already does some classification in determining the sequence it uses to present results. If not, perhaps that is part of the parameter setting available to sites that use the Google technology.

Making changes to the software/sites that affects users succeeds better it those changes get aired before they are made. Threads in this part of the forum seem like a good place to do that openly. I'd be willing to be a part of an effort to develop some guidelines.

2-Mar-2009, 04:12
Brian, I just looked the links & at what you've written and to be honest it's exactly like I'd expect to see on this website, rather than the drab very early 90's style zero graphics look.

Your pages aren't exactly over heavy with graphics and many pages here in the forum have far greater graphic content.


Mick Fagan
2-Mar-2009, 05:01
Brian, that is brilliant!


QT Luong
2-Mar-2009, 17:33
The only reason the non-forum part of the site has not been updated is lack of time on my part, and lack of proposed contributions. If you send me something ready to post, I'll post it.

David Karp
2-Mar-2009, 18:01
Preparing an article for the LF Home Page is pretty fun. It is also rewarding. I scoured the page when I first started thinking about going to LF, and it was very helpful. Creating an article reviewing a camera or on a subject that continually pops up is a way to give something back to the community.

I highly recommend it. Even if it is not illustrated, it can be useful.

Brian Wallen
3-Mar-2009, 00:33
QT, glad to hear your comments, since I can see significant administrative overhead to some of these ideas. Funneling pages through one person who insures the health of the site and some uniformity in site organization can overburden the person in that position. Do you foresee a problem here? Are there user group ways and permissions that could make this process more decentralized so that others could share the administrative burden?

I've made a few offers in my pages to help members who may have useful information, but not the technical background to present this information. If that information fits well within my site content and audience I am glad to host pages; if it fits more appropriately in the LFP site, I'd be glad to work with some page designs that we agreed were consistent with a site plan.

I've seen other comments here that suggest that others might have Web design background that they would be willing to offer. How can we organize our efforts?

Are there other ideas about some kind of structure for encouraging upgraded graphics/page design content while assessing member concern about responsiveness of text oriented pages? What has been the experience of long time members and those involved in site administration to trying to establish and enforce guidelines? It seems to me that most of the people that use this site get along pretty well without being probed and prodded. Are gentle suggestions adequate?

Maybe this would be better as an off-forum discussion: What vulnerability issues should we be concerned about in trying to promote more varied content? What kinds of content are reasonable to allow? Particularly active content? What kinds of hosting limitations dictate some of these standards?

In my concerted effort to try to build more extensive linkage between my LF site and the LFP site, I wanted to have an icon that visually identified LFP links. I made my own little version that I derived from the LFP header. http://www.prairienet.org/b-wallen/BN_Photo/LFN/LFP_icon.jpg Maybe we want something better than my 10 minute version that we recommend people use. My only criteria were that it has a visual similarity to some LFP graphic, that it be large enough to recognize, but small enough to use in a line of text as a link icon.

Sorry for the shotgun approach, but these were just some things that occurred to me might be relevant to this effort.

Brian Wallen
3-Mar-2009, 13:01
David, I think that your long, recent article on lenses would have been considerably less effective without the images. The way you have used them helps organize the text, even when you are not using an image in a diagrammatic way. I find it a lot more readable and navigable just paging through it than if it were just text. While there are a generous number of graphics, I didn't find that loading it over a dial connection was expecially pokey.

This page would be a good model to recommend to people who wanted to add images to existing or revised text pages, since it doesn't require tables, frames or styles that may be daunting to people who may not be very familiar with html. It wouldn't be difficult to write a straightforward how-to that explained a few html tags and showed people how to do this with a text editor and preview pages with a browser for those not interested in learning how to use an html editor.

I think that the LFP site has succeeded because we are sharing information and not Web development chops, so keeping it accessible for contributions is probably important to the people who use the site. Making it too glitzy with fancy Web techniques may scare away those who don't have the skills to do that.

I think I've read forum posts that opined that this wasn't a site where "we" wanted to emphasize images of members, but more the information about techniques and equipment. Should the site be doing some surveying to see what the majority of members would like to see? Minority groups?

David Karp
3-Mar-2009, 13:09
Thanks Brian. I agree that adding the photos helped my article. However, there are many articles without illustrations that are very useful, so if the choice is an article without illustrations or none at all, I would go for the former every time.

Scott Knowles
3-Mar-2009, 19:06
Interesting conversation, and having looked at the non-forum Website, it would be significant work to redesign it. You can do it in a more compact, user-friendly style, using newer html coding or scripts, but you'd be relying on the users have the equal display capability, and as we know with MS' IE, that means developing scripts specifically for IE's flavors.

The question(s) would be how best to accommodate the entire structure and organization in a simple design and presentation and still easily manageable. One alternative to all the information Web pages would be converting them to PDF's which would greatly reduce the Web pages, as well as the continued updated, just update the PDF, link date, and roll on, and allowing easier file savings and printing. But that's takes additional disk space as PDF's aren't small.

Having been a Website manager and Web designer, developer and code writer for the federal government (1994-2005) and myself (2006-2009), you need, as suggested, some preparation work, which takes resources, meaning people and time. Having been there, that's the hardest job. The mechanics of implementation later are another issue.

I'll keep listening and reading.