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  • The MegaPenny ProjectThe MegaPenny Project
    Have you ever wondered what a billion pennies would look like? This award-winning exercise in visualizing huge numbers might help. People regularly talk about millions of miles, billions of bytes, or trillions of dollars, yet it's still hard to grasp just how much a "billion" really is.
  • Seattle Waterfront 2002-1907Seattle Waterfront 2002-1907
    Two panoramic photographs of the waterfront of Seattle, Washington, taken from the same vantage point - 95 years apart
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    Over 9,000 obscure words - dragged into the light of day.

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    An overview of recent massive marketing/merchandising push associated with the new Universal Movie.
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  • Google Maps HacksGoogle Maps Hacks (by Schuyler Erle & Rich Gibson)
    I contributed one hack - an A9.com images/Google Maps mashup
  • Yahoo HacksYahoo Hacks (by Paul Bausch)
    I contributed two hacks - an image replacer toy and a reverse-link lookup tool
  • Amazon HacksAmazon Hacks (by Paul Bausch)
    I contributed one hack - an in-page amazon search tool in javascript
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  • The Strangest Town in Alaska : The History of Whittier, Alaska and the Portage ValleyThe Strangest Town in Alaska (by Alan Taylor)
    (The History of Whittier, Alaska and the Portage Valley) - Historic events shaped a bizarre unattractive town in the midst of Alaskan beauty, this is the history of Whittier, Alaska. Written, illustrated, and published by me (and my wife). - Available online through alaskabooksandcalendars.com

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GEDANKENGANG

Moving on

I've been with the Boston Globe for over five years now (the longest I've ever worked for a single company). For the past 2 and a half years, I've had the privilege to work on a blog called The Big Picture. I wrote about the launch when it was new back here. Since then the blog has grown phenomenally and I've grown into a role of curator, moderator, editor and storyteller - always trying to keep in mind that the stories are not mine and the images are not mine. I may have a knack for gathering photos together, but the stories are made great by the photographers and their subjects, and I thank them all. It's been an amazing journey, and I've discovered that it is a journey that I want to keep making - building on and building up (as appropriate). This is something I want to do, and do well, for years to come.

In early February, I will be starting on what I hope is the next big step in that journey. I'll be moving to The Atlantic, and will be starting a new news photo blog titled "In Focus". (The Atlantic's Announcement, Twitter: @in_focus, Facebook fan page). The Boston Globe has chosen to keep the name "Big Picture", and will continue to post photos to the existing blog after my last entry on Friday, January 21st. I wish them the all the best.

Why the move? Simply stated, I want to do more with the format. I see many opportunities ahead, and have wanted to do more with the blog for a long time, but have often been constrained by time. As anyone who knows me can tell you, working on the blog was always a passion, but was never my fulltime job. I was hired by the Globe over five years ago as a Web Developer, and part of the agreement to let me run the Big Picture was that I kept doing the other web development that needed to be done. I agreed to that arrangement, and tried my best to make it work, but in the end, it was often unworkable - one or the other job would suffer when there were crunch times.

I wanted the opportunity to do this - telling news photo stories - as a fulltime job, and the Atlantic has offered that to me, for which I am grateful. I also think the Atlantic is a better overall fit for the type of international, wide-ranging storytelling I've practiced over the years. The Globe has been a good home and a great platform for over 425 entries since 2008 and I am truly grateful, but I've chosen to move on now, and really hope you'll come along and see what I'm up to. I feel very fortunate for what I've been able to accomplish to date, and for the opportunity given to me now. I really can't believe this is going to be my fulltime gig!

-Alan
kokogiak@gmail.com
1.18.2011 @ 8:00 AM

 

 
A Farewell to Amazon Light

Seven years ago (!) I launched an app I called Amazon Light, a very early adopter of Amazon.com's brand new "Web Services API". It was designed to be an alternative, lightweight interface to Amazon.com's vast library of stuff. It got a brief, if exciting burst of attention, leading to a decent amount of income from affiliate sales, at least two cease and desist notices (one from Google for looking "too googly", one from Amazon for linking to iTunes & Netflix from a page featuring an Amazon item), and one SXSWi Web Award. On top of all that, it was great fun, I learned a tremendous amount, gave some code and learning back to a community, and picked up a little bit of money.

In the last seven years, Amazon's Web Services group and charter has grown vastly, and the original API has been relegated to just one of many features - even retitled a less-exciting "Product Advertising API" in the Associates arena. I've rolled with many changes over the years, tweaking my code to match changes in the API, but this August, I'm going to let the train roll on without me, and Amazon Light (all four versions) will shut down.

Why? Because, as of August, Amazon will require API developers to authenticate every call, failing unauthenticated calls. Basically, it means I'd have to hide my secret access key (so client-side hacking is out), mangle, sort and hash the request parameters, and make certain no double-escaping happens, etc. on every request. I'm not sure why this is now required but it is, and it's the straw that broke the camel's back.

Now, before you say "WTF? That sounds like a pretty simple thing to do", let me elaborate, 1) all of my code is written in ASP classic (before .Net), a poor language I barely remember, and have no interest in continuing to work with. 2) The amount of earnings I get from Amazon Light has dwindled to less than $100 per year. 3) I really do not have the time (or inclination) to do this these days. Seriously.

I wish Amazon every success with their many programs, I have benefited well over the years, but it's time to let this particular project go. Apologies to all three of you who still use the service, and many thanks to anyone else who ever did use it over the past seven years.
7.16.2009 @ 10:16 AM

1 Comments +

Too bad; this was my first contact with your particular brand of genius, Alan. That said, I haven't used it in ages either, so I can't really complain.

I do wonder how much of this could now be done as a good JetPack plugin rather than on the server.
by Blogger Luis Villa at 11:50 AM 
One Year Later...

Hello blog folks, it's been a while. One year to be exact... one long crazy year. This time last year, I announced my project called The Big Picture, hoping, of course, that it would do well. It has really blown me away how well it has done. I will happily take some of the credit, but much of the success belongs to the photographers who consistently deliver amazing imagery that makes choosing and editing both a pleasure and a difficult task.

Now, it's been a year, so I'll take some time to look at the good and the bad. (Warning, this is a bit long). I'll start out with some of the bad, just to get it out of the way.

It's a cliche, but be careful what you wish for. If The Big Picture had flopped as a blog, it would have been much easier to walk away from or take a lax attitude towards things. The more popular it got and more it was praised, I felt that much more need to keep it as good and consistent as I could... That's stressful (first world problems, I know). Add to the mix another fulltime job (my web developer position with the Boston Globe, which is still my primary job), some deadline-driven projects, exponential growth in comment moderation (I approve all the blog comments myself, 91,000 in all so far), a full email inbox, and the constant need to be thinking ahead two or three entries, plus the whole "NY Times threatens to close down the Globe" storyline, and, well, I had a bit of a stress freakout a few weeks ago.

I took some steps to fix certain aspects, let go of some unnecessary baggage, and have been getting a lot of help and support, and things feel a whole lot more manageable now. I especially needed to step back and get my life back into balance (I swung way too far in one direction). I don't spend every night combing through wire photos now, and don't obsessively check comments, and don't stress if I can't answer an email immediately. All in all, I feel much better now than I did a month or two ago. It's got to be this way if I plan to continue long-term with the blog, which I do.

Now, for some of the good. This project has been the most fulfilling and rewarding thing I've ever done professionally. When I'm compiling an entry, gathering the photographs, trying to fit them into a cohesive story, it can often be a very emotional experience. More than once, I've found myself in tears when looking at rough layout of an entry for the first time (that's always a good sign that the entry will be powerful). I really feel like I've tried to take the best advantage I can of this platform I find myself on: 165,000 Google Reader RSS subscriptions, tens of thousands of daily bookmark visitors, Twitter-powered ripple effects, frequent top spots on Digg and Reddit.

I know that it's not me, Alan Taylor they are all interested in - it's the story, the photographs, the "what will it be this time?", the virtual travelogue, the amazing, the sad - the world, wrapped into one story - 30 or 40 photographs to linger on, react to, wonder about. I take that pretty seriously, and try to handle it with care. I hate being manipulated, and try not to run news photo stories from a single source (especially government sources). I also try not to cover the most obvious stories (except when I do cover them). When I run entries on areas of serious conflict, I try to make it as balanced as is possible, sometimes, it's nearly impossible (notice I've not yet done a comparative Israel/Palestine entry).

160 entries later, I think the blog is its own best testament to the level of fairness and diversity in subject matter I've tried to maintain, and I'm proud of that. The success and visibility of the blog has brought a great number of people into my life I would never have known: cancer survivors and the families of those who have lost their battles with cancer, some amazing, generous photographers, both professional and amateur, some great people at NASA, many wonderful everyday people from many corners of the world and believers of many faiths (and non-believers). I am thankful to (almost) every one of them. There are of course, the spoilsports, the trolls of every flavor, and, the blog comment spammers (who deserve a special circle in Hell), but they really are few, and don't spoil too much.

When I say the work is fulfilling, it's not just because it makes me feel good when I hit "publish", it's because of the tremendous and powerful feedback I get in email and comments - words that make me realize the impact the blog can have. For instance, when I ran an entry about Ramadan, I got many heartfelt emails from Muslims living abroad that felt cut off from home and the traditions they grew up with - who found such solace and happiness in the entry, and expressed surprise that such a positive photo story would run in a Western publication. When I feel like I can do some good, to be helpful, that's the most worthwhile. If, by showing photographs, I can help someone like James Nachtwey spread awareness of XDR-TB, drug resistant tuberculosis, and the Hell it's causing amongst HIV-positive patients in poorer nations - or can help humanize some banal news headline like "refugees in the Congo", or bring to the forefront dazzling images from some of our best scientists -- those are the best times.

Aside from the stress of the labor itself and everything else I complained about above, there's one other stress that's harder to quantify - emotional. I've never been on such a constant emotional rollercoaster, storylines like goofballs chasing a roll of cheese down a hill one day followed up by teenagers with assault rifles killing each other the next day. I've had to step out of my comfort zone many times to contact others and ask permission to run their (sometimes very personal) photos, or to take efforts to promote myself, which never comes easy. Also, my access to the raw wire photos has altered my point of view about human nature itself a bit, in a negative way. Daily exposure to thousands of uncensored journalistic photographs has exposed me to levels of brutality that I wasn't fully prepared for, and still have trouble processing sometimes. Civilian population centers that are also war zones make for really disturbing - if moving - photographs. I think you know what I mean. I choose to show a handful of these photos when I think it makes a point without being gratuitous, but that's always hard call.

However, I'm still amazed by the overall situation I find myself in - and am thankful to my lovely wife and kids who keep me sane and grounded. When I recently showed off a photo of me in the latest issue of PDN magazine, my daughter ran around the house yelling "Papa's famous!". Realizing how that might resound badly around the schoolyard, I told her that I was by no means famous, but might be "Internet Famous", and explained the difference, which she readily accepted.

Where will things be in another year? Who knows - it's a volatile world out there, especially for newspapers. I will do my best to keep going, mostly because, at the heart of it all, I really, truly enjoy finding, compiling and sharing these photo stories. I have plans, some small, some larger, which may see the light of day soon, or not - I'm still remembering to take things a little easier, enjoy balance, and not sweat the small stuff.

Thanks everyone for your support - you know who you are.

-Alan
5.31.2009 @ 10:28 PM

34 Comments +

Keep up the great work, Alan. Thanks for sharing these personal insights.
by Blogger Adrian Holovaty at 11:25 AM 
No Alan, thank YOU.
by Blogger Tim at 12:01 PM 
Yeah, keep up the great work Alan. I can identify with a lot of the feelings you express here, the push-pull of insane work life vs. home life, the combination feeling of accomplishment and exhaustion when you've put the finishing touches on something and just pushed "publish" (which starts a whole wave of reactions around the web for the next 48 hours and continues the rush).

The Big Picture is easily my favorite blog and I look forward to viewing the entries whenever I see the new photo teaser show up in Google Reader.
by Blogger mathowie at 12:01 PM 
Alan I love The Big Picture and I really enjoyed reading here about what a journey the past year has been for you. I find the photos you gather to be thought provoking and interesting. My photographer side is often inspired. Thank you for taking the time to compile them to tell the stories. I rarely comment but I always appreciate your work.
by Blogger Melinda at 1:56 PM 
Hey Alan,

Big Picture is in prime pace in my RSS-reader, amazing images, recommended for many friends (today also).

My preference: If you have a gauge between sad/agression/gruseome and aesthetics/beauty/stunning photos, please adjust it to the latter one a bit.

Keep up the great work, I really appreciate it. Big thanks!

Bye!

Peter
by Blogger P at 1:59 PM 
Simple words can't express how thankful I am for this project of yours. It's my window to those corners of the world (literally and figuratively) that I will never be able to reach.

Still, let me say it: Thank you :-)
by Blogger cheeky.cicak at 2:27 PM 
My favorite pictures are the great landscapes - see if you can get more artistic photos to balance the portraits and action sequences.
by Blogger Ian at 2:34 PM 
Alan,

Love your work. We all shed a tear from time-to-time seeing the beauty and the beast of the world. I personally believe we need to see both.

Looking forward to another great year.

Glen
by Blogger GQCOP at 2:40 PM 
Really enjoy the blog, I've passed it on to many friends.

I appreciate the concessions you've made for this project. I do hope you can continue to do it while staying sane.

Thanks.
by Anonymous Matt at 2:46 PM 
I appreciate the general lack of celebs and kittens both. Thank you for providing something worth looking at. I would like you to change nothing.
by Blogger Owen at 4:34 PM 
Its nice to hear the voice behind the work! I really appreciate your blog, I hope your family read these comments and realise how powerful what you do every day is for the hundreds of thousands who read the blog and laugh or cry with the pictures.
by Blogger Adam at 10:50 PM 
Thank you - from one of the 165,000.
Margaret
Melbourne, Australia
by Anonymous Anonymous at 8:17 AM 
I loved reading about your experience creating The Big Picture. Thank you for sharing that. And keep on keeping on -- although this may sound corny -- your blog makes events, places, wars, and lifestyles a world away seem more real and human.
by Blogger emdot at 5:13 PM 
I have truly enjoyed the Big Picture and Big Picture Notes blogs. I can appreciate the work you have put in and the skill you have in putting together these stories.

Keep on keepin' on.
by Blogger the Doug at 10:18 PM 
Alan, just wanted to express my gratitude for your amazing work! I hope you keep providing us with fascinating new worlds.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 12:03 PM 
You have too many photos of celebrity kittens. Other than that, the site is one I can't help but visit three times a week. Keep up the great work.
by Blogger Andy Airriess at 12:36 PM 
Alan, thanks so much for your story. I used to run a popular BBS in Perth, Western Australia - I have some idea of the mixture of pleasure and pain that you're going through. That said, I know the good will outweigh the bad, keep up the good work!
by Blogger simonbl at 9:37 PM 
Alan,
I've never commented on The Big Picture itself (I'd rather stay out of the fray), but I wanted to say thank you for all of your hard work. It's my favorite website, and I frequently pass the link on to others. You do a fantastic job!
by Blogger Aquata at 5:12 PM 
Hi,

I really like Bigpicture - it's one of my 3 every-day-visit Pages. What I like about it is the fact, that I can see more or different things than in TV or News. TV or News from Magazines tend to be single-edge and I like to see both sides. Please continue the good work and please show me more oppositional pictures if possible. Most of the time there is more than one reason.
I don't like pictures which just try to evote emotion - but most of the pictures you post have a background.
How about a Bigpicture news about the Photographers?
by Blogger Alexander at 2:42 AM 
The Big Picture is one of the better initiatives that has befallen mankind in a while. Don't give hope for humanity quite yet Alan. And foremost: stay frosty my friend, stay frosty.
by Blogger Mosez at 10:52 PM 
The BP always takes me someplace, whether it be happy, reflective, sad, etc.

Thanks for your hard work!
by OpenID jenniebeephotography at 2:19 AM 
continue mec, continue, on apprécie
by Anonymous Alizé at 1:03 AM 
My Dear Alan.
On June 22nd 09, I heard the News on Channel 11 mention Tweeter. I went to my computer and pulled up this site. I looked ad the pictures of what is happening over in Iran. Never before have I seen such pictures that showed true expression as I witnessed. It felt as if I was right there in Iran. I was a little scared I must admit. One picture after another I pulled up. I thanked the Lord I was not there while looking at them. This is my second day now looking at the Boston News and looking at New Pictures. You have brought something to people around the world to view. Please continue doing what you are doing. Its wonderful. Thank You
by Anonymous Violet at 9:41 PM 
Wonderful site! Thank you so much for making the sacrifices to make this available to everyone. It's a joy to read it every time you post something new. Thank you!
by Blogger John at 2:11 PM 
First, thank you for a wonderful year.
Second, don't make yourself nuts trying to "top" yourself.
You can't be sure what will click with people, but speaking for myself, I'm always receptive to any pictures of things I can't see in person. I'm gratefull for anything you can show us.
by Blogger xoxoxoBruce at 5:09 PM 
Dear Alan, I find amazing your criteria to select pictures and I share it regularly with my friends, you are gifted. Your hard work helps us not just to learn but to empathize with the injustices in the world.

Thank you.

Gabi, Spain.
by Blogger gabirulo at 6:45 AM 
Congrats
and THANKS for sharing such photos with all of us !
keep up the good work !

Anthony
by Blogger Anthony le Bourlier at 7:02 AM 
Not much to add here except thanks for the hard work on this site Alan. Great photos, independent minded, good stories.

Peace,
SA
by Blogger Sonny Amou at 10:44 AM 
Alan,

Love and appreciate the work that goes into The Big Picture.

I enjoy the majority of the entries, and realize the importance of world events (such as the recent ones in the middle east), but I also think there should be a bit more variety from week to week. Last few weeks have been mostly violence in middle east, riots somewhere else, coups in Honduras...would be nice to see some less political stuff from week to week (Like I definitely enjoyed the Apollo 11, Tour de France, the Mud and the eclipse entries).

Again, thanks, and no matter what the content, keep it up because I will enjoy it no matter what.
by Anonymous Luke at 3:07 PM 
Thanks for your great work. The Big Picture is one of those nuggets I always enjoy seeing in my RSS reader. Updates are just frequent enough to keep me interested, but not so frequent that I feel I'm falling behind if I don't check my feeds for a bit. It's just brilliant.
by Anonymous Mike at 8:00 PM 
The Big Picture is my home page. I want the first thing I see every day to be visual and powerful. The images rekindle my sense of wonder. No matter if the subject is, breathtakingly beautiful, playful, or brutal, I feel challenged to "see" more. And then I think, "How does it work that women and men can present us with images that are so powerful that they evoke the range of human emotion and encourage us to think more deeply, or fully?" This site is a gift to all of us.
by Anonymous Antonia at 10:54 AM 
Alan, you did a great job. I enjoyed a lot during the past year. There happened a lot of time that i was just sitting in front of my laptop, staring and pondering over these shots...

Thanks for sharing all the beauty all the joy and the sorrow in your camera with us. Thanks for being there and making my life!

Amin
by Blogger Amin Torabi at 3:30 PM 
Alan, BigPicture is the reason I first discovered RSS feeds! The insight that you have for an interesting story combined with your eye for a good picture has allowed me to see so many beautiful images by photographers from all around the world. Cheers, bud!
by Blogger Leon Neal at 10:14 AM 
Alan -- I just "discovered" the Big Picture recently. I just want to add to the chorus of "thank you's". The site inspires my photography and also opens my eyes to the world around us. Photojournalism is here to stay, no matter what anyone says!
by Anonymous Anonymous at 9:00 PM 
New Project: The Big Picture

I'm happy to announce the launch of a new project of mine, one that lives not on my own domain, but that of my employer, boston.com. It's called The Big Picture, a news photo blog inspired by publications like Life Magazine (of old), National Geographic, and online experiences like MSNBC.com's Picture Stories galleries and Brian Storm's MediaStorm.

The Big Picture is intended to highlight high-quality, amazing imagery - with a focus on current events, lesser-known stories and, well, just about anything that comes across the wire that looks really interesting. Each entry will be made up of anywhere from 6-18 photographs, tied together through some common narrative.

My first experiences with serious online photojournalism came back when I was a developer at msnbc.com back in 1996-97. I've always loved hanging around with the creative groups, designers, writers, editors. That's where I first met Brian Storm and his team, and was really struck by their commitment to quality, and how much difference their selection and presentation of photographs really made - far better than anything else available online at the time. I've held that level of commitment as a standard of mine for a long time.

The photography on The Big Picture comes from many sources, largely wire feeds of AP, Reuters, Getty and more. The stories are of my own choosing, sometimes they are the stories defined by the photographer, sometimes they are related in other ways, but every entry has a story threaded through it.

The sizes of the photographs are deliberately large - taking advantage of the majority of web users who have screens capable of displaying 1024x768 or larger. The long-held tradition of keeping images online tiny and lightweight is commendable still - when designing a general purpose site. But one dedicated to quality imagery should take full advantage of the medium, and I hope I've struck a good balance with The Big Picture.

When I see quality photography consigned to the archives, or when I see bandwidth readily given up to video streams of dubious quality, or when I see photo galleries that act as ad farms, punishing viewers into a click-click-click experience just to drive page views - those times are the times I'm glad I was able to get this project off the ground (many thanks to my friends within boston.com)

And the thing that makes me happiest about it - I'm telling stories once again, on a regular basis, with great support and great platform. I hope you enjoy The Big Picture - go check it out.
6.03.2008 @ 11:46 PM

20 Comments +

bravo dude! I used to spend many hours clicking through the tiny jpgs on yahoo news, longing for something like this. Big Picture is going to be huuuuge.
by Anonymous t o n x at 6:55 PM 
This is a welcome new site to the internet. Bookmarked.
by Anonymous Christopher at 7:45 PM 
The Big Picture is fantastic! As a journalist and a photographer, I appreciate the chance to see these excellent pictures at a decent size.

Great job.
by Anonymous Mark A. Dodge Medlin at 9:17 PM 
telling stories. yes. This is a great project. Instant fan.
by Anonymous collegewebguy at 11:34 PM 
I just set this as my screensaver in Mac OS X Leopard by choosing the ".Mac and RSS" option under Photos. Cool, it works!
by Blogger Grant Hutchins at 2:00 AM 
Love it... I'm a sucker for great photography :)
by Anonymous John Lampard at 9:55 AM 
Alan,

Unrelated topic, but you might want to mention to your wife that Ken Tilden died, back in January 2008. There's a blog apparently hooked up by the Village Theatre gang online that allows you to read more about it.

I am completely in shock, as I just found out about it maybe 20 minutes ago. 36 years old.

Sorry for the bad news, wasn't sure where else to post this. At the very least I'd assumed your wife would want to know.

Regards,
S.Amou
by Blogger Sonny Amou at 4:38 PM 
[this is k]
by Blogger pup at 9:01 PM 
Alan I read that you are looking for "daily life" photos from Iran but are having difficulty. I think I could help you out in this regard.
JJ - you can contact me via the link.
by Anonymous JJ at 10:09 AM 
Alan- I absolutely love the boston.com photo blog. Especially some of the pic after the Olympics amazing. Great work on that project!

I'd love to chat sometime around a project of mine. I could definitely use some technical advice on building an app of my own and would value your input.

I'm on twitter @ryangraves hope to hear from you soon. If not thats cool too. Cheers.
by Blogger Ryan at 7:58 PM 
I've been reading the big picture for a while now and absolutely love it.I'm glad I found this site (randomly,I might add) to be able to let you know your work is appreciated.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 8:22 AM 
Thanks for your vision - this is an eye opening site.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 1:56 PM 
The Big Picture is wonderful--gorgeous pictures, simply eye-catching and thought-provoking. What about expanding this idea and 'branch out', deviding it into a 'Big Picture' blog for each continent? That way, you can cover and get more amazing pictures in more countries. I'd love to see more pictures from Asian countries. :) If you ever look for pictures from Malaysia, I'm your girl.
by Anonymous Sha at 1:10 AM 
Alan,
The Big Pic is a bookmarked favorite site. Good work! Who knew?! Your interest in old cameras, cool computing and good storytelling has really come together beautifully.

Best to the family,

Todd R
Alan,

Your Big Picture project is incredible, as is your personal website and Flickr photo collection. I have added your links to my website and made you a contact on Flickr. I'll visit often to see your new photo essays and projects!

Best regards
Rob
by Anonymous Rob Mahan at 8:09 PM 
I was inspired by what you created soI commissioned a WordPress theme in a similar format so that I could photo blog. The designer and I have now released the theme for public use.

My photo blog is at: http://www.weinbergPhoto.com

The theme is at http://andreamignolo.com/zack-990

Hope all your fans enjoy...
by Blogger Josh at 12:37 PM 
Hey Alan,

I have been a fan of this website and of your journalism for quite some time now...

I am on the school yearbook for my school (Parkway North High) and I was wondering if you could approve the use of one of the pictures from your story on Obama. All I would need is a simple confirmation either through my email.. This would be greatly, greatly appreciated..

(ahadh13@yahoo.com)

Thank you very much once again.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 2:16 PM 
The Big Picture is amazing! thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!
by Anonymous Anonymous at 1:53 PM 
Hi - I'm a high school geography teacher and I've found that "The Big Picture" is the greatest source of inspiring pictures for any young person to learn about the world. They love geography because of these pictures - it's like magic.

I've begun tagging/labelling your albums using Google Reader and now have an amazingly well organized quality photo source for amazing pictures in the classroom.

A question for you - do you know of any similar blogs to your own that you would also recommend?
by Blogger Christopher Calvert at 10:38 AM 
Love it! Need I say more?
by Anonymous Anonymous at 11:49 PM 
Google Maps - Long Drives

I set out to find the longest distance for which Google Maps would give Driving Directions. Now that they've shut down the fun "swim the Atlantic" feature, things have changed a bit. It turns out there are multiple "longest drives", because the Google Maps World is partitioned (many countries don't support driving directions), and sometimes ferries are included, and sometimes they are not.

In order of distance, here are the seven longest drives I found. If you can better any of them, please add yours to the comments (please use TinyURL to shorten up the giant URLs).

North America, Unalaska, AK, USA to Southern Newfoundland, Canada - 7,267 mi (11,695 km) - about 6 days 15 hours - 100 steps

Europe - West Canary Islands, Spain to Hammingberg, Norway - 4,425 mi (7,122 km) - about 4 days 8 hours - 156 steps

Brazil - Northern Amazon Basin, Para to Chui, Rio Grande do Sul - 3,719 mi (5,985 km) - about 3 days 5 hours - 100 steps

Australia - Cape Bruny, Tasmania to Mardie, Western Australia - 3,474 mi (5,591 km) - about 3 days 4 hours - 93 steps

Japan - Soya, Hokkaido to Tomai, Kagoshima Prefecture - 1,480 mi (2,382 km) - about 1 day, 12 hours - 10 steps (mostly by train)

New Zealand - Cape Reinga to Milford Sound - 1,400 mi (2,253 km) - about 1 day 8 hours - 205 steps

Hong Kong - Shek Pik to Wu kau Tang - 48 mi (77.3 km) - about 1 hour 28 mins - 20 steps
4.30.2008 @ 4:21 PM

22 Comments +

A little bit of a fiddle about got me this far, http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&hl=en&geocode=8463651387605141957,53.871869,-166.451773%3B11838804331881292171,53.327720,-57.473339&saddr=Overland+Dr+%4053.871869,+-166.451773&daddr=53.742214,-56.99707&mra=dme&mrcr=0&mrsp=1&sz=7&sll=53.599025,-59.381104&sspn=3.775156,12.041016&ie=UTF8&ll=56.072035,-88.59375&spn=58.742892,192.65625&z=3

7,360 mi – about 7 days 2 hours
Does it qualify?
by Blogger Dave Heath at 4:17 AM 
This one in Europe is slightly longer, also Norway to Canaries: http://tinyurl.com/3eb3ls, 4 days and 12 hours, 7 205 km.
--
The Krim to Canaries is even longer: http://tinyurl.com/4erjxg, 4 days, 14 hours, 7 271 km.

Great fun, this is!
by Blogger Ezelhaar at 4:53 AM 
Tweaking Dave's map above, I managed to get up to 7,498 miles, ending in mid-ferry trip in Goose Bay: http://tinyurl.com/57gysn
by Blogger alan at 7:09 AM 
To the people who posted maps in Europe: You do realize that 7200km in only 4474 miles. So it's not as long as the Alaska-Newfoundland route.
by Blogger Eli at 7:33 AM 
No fiddling,

Unalaska to Cartwright, Labrador:
7354 miles (11835 km)
by Anonymous Anonymous at 1:45 PM 
So, what are the countries with routing data?

- US
- Canada
- Brazil
- All of Europe(?), except:
- Russia
- Turkey
- Japan
- Australia
- Thailand

NOT:
- Mexico
- Central America(?)
- South America(?), except Brazil
- mainland Asia(?), except Thailand
- Russia
- Africa(?)
by Anonymous Anonymous at 3:56 PM 
http://maps.google.com/maps?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&hl=en&tab=wl

Anchorage, Alaska to Homestead, Florida

A little over 5,000 miles
by Anonymous Anonymous at 4:19 PM 
I think it should be obvious that "tweaking" doesn't count. It has to work with a single start point and a single end point.

Otherwise you could wind back and forth until the waypoints maxed out, which is not the point of the exercise.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 5:24 PM 
Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Key West, Florida is about the most you can drive from one point in the US to another.

5,605 mi (9,020 km)
by Blogger Trav at 5:25 PM 
by Blogger Jim G at 6:54 PM 
This is the longest I have for Singapore, a piddly 60.4km or 44 minutes: Tuas South Ave 9 to Nicoll Drive
by Blogger Daryl at 5:02 AM 
there used to be a googlemaps cheat that would give you directions "from new york to london" that included among the steps "swim across the atlantic ocean." I suppose they removed it after awhile.
by Blogger -me at 8:09 PM 
I remember seeing that. That was a damn good idea, I liked it.
by Blogger Annie at 11:13 PM 
47 days, 1 hour ;)

http://tinyurl.com/46n7j7
by Anonymous Jim at 11:07 AM 
Why stop at Cartwright, Labrador?

Unalaska to Rigolet, Labrador.

7,436 miles. 7 days, 6 hours.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 3:23 PM 
Australia

Cape Bruny to Nhulunbuy
3 days, 7 hours; 4892 km
http://tinyurl.com/5zq2c7
by Blogger peder at 1:59 PM 
Not sure why GoogleMaps would take you BELOW the Great Lakes to get from Alaska to Nfld - it should take you ABOVE the lakes as GoogleEarth did with me to cut off about 400 miles and 2 hours. Try Overland Rd, AK to Cape Race, NL in Google Earth.
by Anonymous S2B at 10:46 PM 
Dover, Tasmania, Australia

to

Mt Pearl, NL, Canada

I kid you not. Some google techo with a sense of humour must have added the Pacific crossing to the routing maps...

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=mt+pearl&daddr=dover,+tasmania&hl=en&geocode=&mra=ls&sll=-42.916206,148.996582&sspn=5.229549,9.799805&ie=UTF8&z=2
by Anonymous lozza. at 7:18 AM 
Sorry, that was 29,320km. Forgot to add the figures.
by Anonymous lozza. at 7:19 AM 
Longest one I can find in India:

Tripura Pradesh Congrees Bhaban, Agartala (Heda chuda)

to

Cape Comorin

4,473 km – about 2 days 21 hours
by Anonymous Anonymous at 3:48 AM 
Longest route in China. From N of Hailar to the border near Bara Khun, Pakistan. 7,354 km 3 days, 13 hours.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 12:16 AM 
http://bit.ly/j2Bbt

http://bit.ly/zXIjP

Didn't put too much time into them, but the first (8 days 16 hours) seems longer than everything else on here. Granted, I'm not sure it gave directions for those countries when this was published.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 4:02 PM 
Current Browser Usage for Boston.com

One of the advantages of working on a website that gets a fair amount of readership is the visibility of that traffic and what it says about the browser usage of the general population. My day job is with boston.com, which has a moderately large level of traffic (Alexa rank of 1,591, fwiw). Being a general news site with inbound links from really diverse sources, I'd like to think that we get a good representative cross-section of the web at large. My management was kind enough to allow me to share some numbers, giving a look at what web browsers people are using today, compared with a year ago.

Top line assessments: IE still rules. As of January, 2008, IE7 and IE6 each have a 34% share of our users (with IE7 barely ahead). Add in all other various IE versions in our top 20, and IE usage is still well over 70% (even though it's down from 76% one year ago). Firefox 2.0 jumped from 6.63% in Jan 2007 to 20.21% in Jan 2008. Gecko-based browsers (FF, Mozilla, Netscape) are now used by almost 22% of our audience, compared with 18% last year.

Interestingly, there appears to be some consolidation as well. The top 4 browsers from Jan 2008 (IE7,IE6,FF2,Saf3) combined make up 93% of our audience - In 2007, the top 4 (IE6,IE7,FF1.5,FF2) made up only 87%.

Safari 3, which wasn't even in existence in January 2007, has rocketed into the top 4 in less than a year. Overall Safari usage (all versions) grew a bit, and now is 6.12%, compared with 4.66% last year. Notably, Safari 3 for iPhone (and iPod Touch) is now our 11th most-popular browser.

So, the story for January 2007 - January 2008 is: IE7 is very slowly overtaking IE6 (after a year and a half, 7 has barely overtaken 6). But those leaving IE6 are not all moving on to IE7 - IE overall share is down by 6%, Firefox usage is up by 13% and Safari usage is up by 2%.

What does this mean - especially for those of us building websites daily? Well, using Yahoo's A-Grade browser support page as a guideline, over 98% of our users are now visiting with A-grade browsers. However, I can't overlook the fact that browser number 20 on our list from Jan 2008 (19,843 visitors) is Netscape navigator 4.0 - a browser that is now over ten(!) years old.

The charts and graphs below are what I used to compile this, enjoy.

Jan 2008 - 23,883,906 visitors
Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.08,214,26134.39%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.08,163,282 34.18%
Mozilla Firefox 2.04,827,865 20.21%
Safari 3.0.41,042,383 4.36%
Safari 2.0.4236,659 0.99%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 (AOL)171,302 0.72%
None (Scrapers)143,027 0.60%
Microsoft MSN Explorer 9.0127,728 0.53%
Mozilla Firefox 1.5.0.1113,888 0.48%
Safari 1.3.2102,797 0.43%
Safari 3.0 (iPhone)94,767 0.40%
Netscape Navigator 3.084,651 0.35%
Mozilla (Gecko) 1.856,120 0.23%
Mozilla Firefox 1.5.053,540 0.22%
Mozilla Firefox 1.0.751,420 0.22%
Mozilla Firefox (unknown version)36,204 0.15%
Netscape Navigator 7.230,996 0.13%
Microsoft MSN Explorer30,986 0.13%
Mozilla Firefox 1.028,949 0.12%
Netscape Navigator 4.019,843 0.08%

(Chart below shows top 13 browsers rolled up into major versions)



Jan 2007 - 20,669,104 visitors
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.010,824,878 52.37%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.04,254,413 20.58%
Mozilla Firefox 1.5.01,680,501 8.13%
Mozilla Firefox 2.01,369,394 6.63%
Safari 2.0.4722,460 3.50%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 (AOL)379,392 1.84%
Safari 1.3.2190,176 0.92%
Mozilla Firefox 1.0.7163,895 0.79%
Microsoft MSN Explorer139,466 0.67%
Mozilla (Gecko) (unknown version)106,286 0.51%
Mozilla Firefox 1.086,828 0.42%
None81,938 0.40%
Netscape Navigator 7.279,476 0.38%
Netscape Navigator 8.152,727 0.26%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.551,004 0.25%
Safari 2.0.349,798 0.24%
Mozilla Firefox 1.0.647,716 0.23%
America Online Browser 1.142,427 0.21%
Mozilla Firefox 1.0.434,039 0.16%
Netscape Navigator 7.131,629 0.15%


(Chart below shows top 13 browsers rolled up into major versions)

2.22.2008 @ 6:30 PM

7 Comments +

These are unique hits, correct? Not one guy hitting the URL ten times, a second just once, and a third three times.

Thanks for sharing. Genuinely curious what tools you use to compile this data. I speak for at least two other bloggers who might be keen on using this tool. If, of course, available.
by Blogger Sonny Amou at 5:36 PM 
Did you get this data from Google analytics or another program?
by Blogger Body Builder Chic at 12:59 PM 
Wow. Great post! Very nicely detailed stats here. Not only is Netscape 4 on the list but also version 3. LOL that's crazy! Very information thanks. It's nice to know a lot of people are using A-grade browsers.
by OpenID Devon at 1:48 PM 
I wonder why there is no Opera listed. According to several statistics from European Web sites, Opera has between 2 and 5 % of market share. I really believe that Opera is used more than Netscape 4. Is there something wrong with your browser detection? Because Opera ”cloaks“ as other browsers like MSIE or Mozilla.
by Anonymous Anonymous at 4:33 AM 
Hey Alan, how does this compare to kokogiak.com?
-Mark
by Blogger Mark Puckett at 7:16 PM 
very interesting article on browser use.

I'd love to see a follow-up with some current stats. That survey is almost two years old.
it would also be really great to see an indication of the operating system.

obviously safari is going to be Mac and ie is mostly going to be MS (could also be Wine). But Firefox runs on all of the above and more. For instance I'm using Firefox on Ubuntu Linux.

It would be very interesting to get a feel for os proportions.

are you using the user agent string for the detection or do you have a js that tries to get past the cloaking that browsers like opera are doing?
2008 (and 40)

This is the year of creation. My year of output. Recently, my life has been heavily unbalanced, and the swing back to balance is underway. There are so, so many ways to get quality media these days (I hate the term "media" in this case, but what better all-encompassing term is there for books, stories, music, news, movies, podcasts, TV shows, blogs, art, audiobooks, and more). Using an RSS reader, TiVo, iTunes, iPod, Netflix and more, I've achieved a constant stream of high-quality information and entertainment - way more than I actually have time to process, let alone enjoy or savor. And, my daily media consumption has grown way out of proportion with my level of output.

I need to turn this time around, and get back some balance by increasing my time spent both contemplating and producing. I have too many ideas and too many opportunities to keep on the back burner for so long - time to move them back up front.

Today, I turn 40 years old, so what better time to take stock of one's life, what one wants to do with their life. My personal life is fantastic - my family has brought me a kind of wealth I could not have imagined 20 years ago. Professionally though, I feel like there is room for improvement. In my 40 years, I've had over 30 different jobs. The ones that I enjoyed the most, that were the most fulfilling, all involved storytelling. I discovered long ago a real love for storytelling, and have practiced it in many different ways (oral, digital, print, video, graphic, more) - all very satisfying. This is my central passion and I need to keep nurturing it, and I will.

My day job is still with boston.com (The Boston Globe), and I love that I can be involved with storytelling at some level there. In the past, it was a bit difficult because of my specific role there, but recently things have been changing, and there will be more opportunity for me to nurture that passion at work as well.

In a way, deciding to increase my output into the world of storytelling is just choosing to heap more media onto the global pile. But the inspiration isn't so much the quantity of stories available, it's the quality. In recent months especially, I've been truly enjoying a couple of podcasts - This American Life, and WNYC's Radio Lab. Every time I listen to an episode of This American Life, I am moved - I wonder what my fellow commuters must think when the see me get teary-eyed on the train. Every time I listen to an episode of Radio Lab, I learn something I never knew before, and I learn it in a way that's entertaining and impactful. Both shows are tightly produced, well put-together, and thoroughly engrossing. They both inspire me to do the same thing - to tell stories that move, that inform, that engross... stories that have value, and live beyond a single telling.

I've been trying to brainstorm ways of lending emotional impact to scientific exploration - trying to figure out how to take that deep "WOW" feeling you get in your head when you learn some incredible fact about the Universe and put some of that Wow in your heart at the same time.

Thanks to those of you (writers, bloggers, artists, daydreamers, performers, journalists, and more) who have been producing so much good work lately. I've been an avid consumer and admirer, and will continue to be - just one with a little less time, (so I'll be even more picky). Here's wishing you well in 2008, may this year smile on us all.
1.10.2008 @ 12:26 AM

8 Comments +

Happy Birthday Alan!
by Blogger Joe Goldberg at 2:38 PM 
Congrats, Alan! Damn, 40? I mean...really? Wow. Anyhow, hope Christina and the kids are doing well up in Bean Town. It's been a long time since we chatted. I linked you to my blog a while ago, some of my friends have tech issues, and this looks like a good archive for you. I trust that's okay.

Peace out, yoame.

--Sonny.
by Blogger Sonny Amou at 1:58 AM 
Hi Pard,

Congrats on the neat site. Wish you'll visit my site and comment too, whenever free. www.payinguests.com . Wish you and the kids well.
by Blogger Bally at 6:36 AM 
write more stuff on science, god knows we need good science writing, and good thinking, and the implications for what it all means....

and what is a better story, better theater, than the process of discovery??

go for it
by Blogger gregory at 11:44 AM 
You were really inspired While U wrote this

please see this link
being me
by Blogger Rocio Da Silva at 6:07 PM 
I have no doubt you'll make great things.
by Blogger Joel at 4:35 PM 
you know, another science/storytelling thing I enjoy are Rober Krulwich features on NPR, like this one. All his other stories are archived here. They make for great listens.
by Anonymous drew at 1:37 AM 
Pardner,

As usual you amaze everyone with your talents. Wish us also success in our venture, www.payinguests.com .
by Anonymous Bally at 11:35 AM 
All Solar System Bodies Larger than 200 Miles: The Poster

For the many (yes many) people who asked, I've finally created a purchaseable poster version of the 88 known objects in our Solar System that are larger than 200 miles in diameter.

You can purchase the poster here, through Zazzle.com. The poster (huge size recommended) is 6 inches tall by 52 inches wide. One caveat - I haven't created a poster with Zazzle before, but have heard that their image quality is good. Let me know if you order one, and have any troubles.
5.30.2007 @ 12:30 PM

2 Comments +

Any chance that you'll be updating your now iconic image, as new imagery (such as this titan composite) becomes available?
by Anonymous Anonymous at 8:49 PM 
Can it be reconfigured as a desktop screensaver? Or...too big.

Hope you and the wife are well. My offer to mow the lawn still stands.
by Blogger Sonny Amou at 7:03 PM 
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