Formulas of Reality and Regret

Yesterday was a day of blogging frustration and this post is just my place to vent — because, frustration is best bled off by sharing it — right?

I don’t make money from my story blog, in fact I’m close to starting my second year of paying money for the privilege because I no longer use the free plan from WordPress. I now pay an annual fee to prevent WordPress from putting ads into any view of my work – hopefully making visiting my blog and reading my stories a more pleasant, ad-free, experience for my readers.

So blogging is for me a hobby, not a vocation; and yesterday something changed that bugs me and makes my hobby more difficult and in fact I had to spend several hours just to get back to the place where I ended the previous day.

Yesterday I had a quick inspiration and produced a new short story for my “I Recall” story collection.

These are autobiographical essays, accounts of things that actually happened to me somewhere between my birth and yesterday. They all match a basic format: a certain rowdy voice used to tell the story in first-person, no longer than 3000 words to make sure that most readers can enjoy them in 10 minutes or less and some attempt to draw a smile of entertainment, maybe a full laugh if I tell it well enough and vivid imagery to attempt to put the reader right there with me as if they were close enough to “see” the event in their mind. So far, I’m pretty pleased with the result.

Early on I learned that each blog page or post could include photos and while I want the main point of my stories to be the words and how they’re assembled, the “Featured Photo” which is always at the top of each essay, along with any I choose to include along the way to help tell the story or somehow add entertainment value, have become a useful tool that I’m always trying to use better to support my goal of providing a fun reading experience.

So normally, as I craft a new story, I keep in mind that I’m going to need at least a “Featured Photo” to lead off each essay before sharing it. Yesterday, I finished the text of; One Child’s View of Economics, and thought I’d have no problem finding a suitable photo to use from one of the few places I knew of which allowed the free use of the works of many photographers — and it should have been easy, a cute young girl with an toothy smile, was all I needed. It should have taken me no longer than 15 minutes to select and install such a photo.

But that’s when I hit a wall of basic reality of blogging economics. The irony of the problem was not lost on me, but I was then too busy trying to just finish and post the story to enjoy the humor before me.

My photo selection process is not supposed to be a big deal because the photos support each story. They rarely ARE the story. So my normal photo search process went like this:

  • Photographs I’ve taken myself :: rarely used
  • Startpage.com or Goggle images from very generic ads :: also rarely helpful
  • Unsplash.com was my best source for free, “Good” photos. . .

. . . Until yesterday, because Unsplash has been sold and the new owner, a long time pay-to-play photo licensee dealt with their free competition by buying them out and shutting down the free option, so that full collection is no longer free to use. To use anything at Unsplash, you must now put up your credit card and buy a subscription.

So, I began a search for a free-use site to replace Unsplash and what I experienced was hours of deceptive advertising; thousands of sites than have both ad and non-ad matches to the search string of “free photos”. Most of these consider it honest to match that string with some version of “give us a credit card and we’ll let you try us out for free for 6 months after which we’ll quietly change your account to paying customer and hope you’ll not cancel right away”.

So here’s my formula of blogging reality and regret.

  • As a hobby, I should expect to pay something for the value of my own blogging enjoyment. Fine!
  • Companies that provide any type of service to anyone for anything deserve to decide, without asking my opinion, if and how much to charge for that service. Digital photos have to be stored and accessed by some nice pile of networked hardware and software which is maintained by someone trying to keep a roof over their heads. Also Fine. . .
  • Companies that license anything like photos rarely create any of their own product and attract photographers to share their work for free by helping them build their own name and reputations, so their cost of production can often be zero for what they are sharing or selling. Yea – it took me a moment to recall this little item.
  • There is however still a market for free [stuff} sites who use the free stuff option as a loss-leader to something else that does draw revenue. I like this a bit better, but these collections will always be inferior to those with the money to support bigger and better hardware, software and more talented employees to make it all run well. Hmmm.
  • In the end, I regret that the market for this particular resource is so knotted up in economic realities because unless I find another real free site, I’m going to have to decide how or if I’m going to remain a consumer in this area.
  • I’m just one blogger and what I do decide will hardly impact any of the sellers in this market, but I realize now that it is really in my own interest to help any free site I might use advance whatever they are hoping I’ll do that helps them succeed because just waltzing into their site, finding a photo I like and quietly leaving, barely helps them stay in business. Ugh – one more issue to spend time on.

All that said, I did find a site that looks for all the world like they picked up the abandoned Unsplash search algorithm and use interface (which was always pretty crummy anyway). In case you too would like to keep using a really free photo sharing site, here’s one that works – for now anyway.

Pexels

Oh, and should you like to see the 5 minute story that inspired all this angst, here’s the leader and link.

I was minding my own business; conducting the every-other-Saturday ritual of mowing the lawn in front of our Colorado Springs home, when the cute little gal from across the street emerged from her garage, saw me and came darting across the street — I thought, to greet me. But, of course if she had a simple greeting in mind, it’s doubtful I’d find the event worth writing about, so no, something more was in store.

One Child’s View of Economics

12 thoughts on “Formulas of Reality and Regret

  1. First off, I appreciate not having to read ads. I set up my WP site about five years ago but rarely posted anything. However, when COVID hit the world last year, I began to write a weekly blog every Friday at quarter past twelve noon. WP last week congratulated me for having one hundred total posts.
    I usually use a photo to help tell the story, and most are snapshots I take myself. Some times I snap the shot just before the post goes up – the map in tomorrow’s post happened that way. Pexel is my last resort.
    Writing is what I’ve always wanted to do, and blogging is an inexpensive way to do it. My purpose in writing is stated on the page. I enjoy your stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well Gary, forewarned is fore as red. I have used a combination of my own photos and pexels. Now and then some photos for purchase show up in the selection. My pictures are various stages of awful, but sentimental, and some really good pictures. But I try to use 3-4 pictures per post. I will be interested to see what others have to say. Best and blessings, Michele

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I only use my own photos (not even that good ones at the moment, since I only use my phone, but they fit my posts,) my blog is a different one compared to yours though. I hope you find a way with photos that works for you. How are you doing now? Are you completely recovered?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Maria.
      I’m going with ‘mostly recovered ‘.
      Recall that my symptoms were few & mild as compared to so many and what’s left is how tired I get and how easily I get so tired. My age may be a factor too, so I rest a lot.
      I’m very thankful for the easy ride I’ve had of covid.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad you found another site to use for free photos and images, Gary. WordPress also gives the option to use their free photo library when drafting posts. When clicking on the image block, select the ‘select image’ option, and you’ll see the ‘Pexels Free Photos’ option. Yes, it’s the same site you mentioned in this post that you are now using, but going via WordPress means you’ll never be asked for credit card details by the owners of Pexels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hugh.
      I noted that WP had changed this a while back but continued using Unsplash as I knew my way around there.
      A good photo can really increase appeal so for the few I use, I’d like them to be as good as I can find without adding more cost to this hobby.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, Gary. I’ve heard it said and claimed many times that blog posts that contain at least one image or photo are 70% more likely to be read than those that don’t. I tend to use my own images where I can, but I will use Pixabay when WordPress or I don’t have anything suitable to use. I also use the free version of Canva, which I’ve found is an excellent site for making your own images.

        I know of a couple of bloggers who have been fined for copyright infringement when using what they thought were free images, so it’s best to be on the side of caution when looking for images.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Great stuff Hugh! Thanks. Given how posts are sent out to followers, I think we need to at least have a suitable featured photo, so that has become my minimum and I frequently copy that same image into the body of my post because my WP theme messes with the featured photo (zooming and darkening) so as to all but ruin it – but I like the rest of the theme and searching for better themes is always such a negative pleasure.
        I tried Canva, and could not find a “free” version and by that I mean no credit card or trial period. Perhaps, you set yours up a while back and they’ve since changed while grandfathering your account along to the present. I don’t know for sure, but was expecting better (or at least different) of Canva and was disappointed. I did setup an account with them, but still found no free option.
        Pexel should keep me for a while.
        I was hoping to learn my way around Canva for creating other types of images, but have moved on now. Thanks for the insights.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I started off on a free version of Canva about three to four years ago. Then they offered me a free 90-day trial of the Pro version, which I took. I didn’t need it, so I ended the trial a few days before it was due to end. They then offered me another 30 day free trial of the Pro version which I took but ended just before it was due to run out. They then placed me back on the free version. I just checked, and there’s still a free version available in the UK. But I don’t know if it’s available anywhere else.

        Liked by 1 person

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