I'm a Christian, a designer, and a gadget fan who lives in Cheltenham, UK.

This is my blog, a creative outlet to mess around and play with as well as a place that logs my thoughts and inspirations.

The Rules of Combat

In the words of Tyler Durden

Do not talk about Fight Club.
Do not talk about Fight Club.
DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB.

Ok… maybe not. This isn’t Fight Club and that’s a fair­ly old cliché. These rules are the rules of my lit­tle chal­lenge. This is where I’m defin­ing what counts and what doesn’t.
This site has a few dif­fer­ent types of post that can appear on it, for the pur­pos­es of clar­i­ty they are

  • sta­tus
  • pho­to
  • quote
  • video
  • aside
  • link
  • stan­dard article

Each one is designed for a spe­cif­ic type of con­tent and has a cus­tom style to help dif­fer­en­ti­ate them.

Status Posts

Sta­tus posts, or snip­pets, are micro posts. They auto­mat­i­cal­ly share to my Twit­ter as a post there, I don’t always use them but I plan to start more, espe­cial­ly with the pend­ing arrival of Manton’s snippets.today.

Photos and Videos

Meant for any pho­tos or videos I cre­ate and want to share through this blog. Pho­tos are cross post­ed to Insta­gram and Flickr.

Quote

Any per­ti­nent quotes that I come across and wish to share with­out commentary.

Asides

Any short posts that don’t war­rant a full post but are longer than a snip­pet. This type might be retired.

Links

Links to arti­cles that I think are of inter­est and have some­thing I want to add or high­light. The title of these types of posts point peo­ple away from this site to the arti­cle I’m link­ing too.

Standard Article Posts

These are the nor­mal blog posts, the orig­i­nal con­tent. These are the ones that I want to be the major­i­ty of my posts to be.

What Counts?

The posts that count the most will be the stan­dard blog posts, the orig­i­nal con­tent. When I say the most, I mean that the aim is for the major­i­ty of my posts to be these ones. Cre­ative­ly they have more val­ue since they are my own thoughts and ideas and serve as an alter­na­tive cre­ative out­let to my design work. These aren’t the only posts that will count though. Posts that are a link will also count. How­ev­er, there’s a bit of a rule to go with these. They must include a piece of com­men­tary that either adds my own thoughts, or that high­lights a par­tic­u­lar­ly per­ti­nent part of what­ev­er is being linked to.
Snip­pets or sta­tus posts will not count. Since they’re like Twit­ter posts in nature, I don’t want to take the easy way out and fall back on them as my dai­ly post. Like­wise with quotes and pho­tos, the aim is for these types of posts to sup­ple­ment the longer form and curat­ed linked content.
Why add these rules to the chal­lenge? My aim is to write more, and as a design­er I’m all too aware that a few con­straints to a project make things a bit eas­i­er. Con­straints bring clar­i­ty, focus and free­dom to a project, it’s only nat­ur­al they will also bring it to this one.

What Do You Write About?

I know what you’re think­ing. It’s only the sec­ond day of the chal­lenge I set myself, to post to my blog every­day from now until the end of the year, and already I’m ask­ing the ques­tion of what do I write about.
I would imag­ine it’s a famil­iar sto­ry to any­one who’s decid­ed to under­take such a chal­lenge. Going from bare­ly writ­ing or post­ing to your blog to post­ing every­day it’s only nat­ur­al to find your­self won­der­ing what to write about. If I hadn’t been here before it would be a big wor­ry, it might even be so dis­cour­ag­ing that I would just aban­don ship straight away. Whilst this morn­ing when I decid­ed it was time to write today’s post I didn’t have any­thing in par­tic­u­lar I want­ed to write about I know that if I keep going and post­ing each day I will even­tu­al­ly end up with too many sub­jects to write about. It’s the nature of the beast, the more you do it, the more ideas you have.
There are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent tac­tics that I’ve come across over the years that are aimed at help­ing you come up with sub­jects to write about. Unsur­pris­ing­ly none of them have ever worked for me, but there is one thing that does. I know it works because I’ve demon­strat­ed it in oth­er parts of my life, be it read­ing my bible or doing the work for my free­lance business.
Show­ing up every day.
So here I am, show­ing up. A new sheet in Ulysses, my head­phones in and I’m writ­ing. In fact through the course of writ­ing this post I’ve already come up with the top­ic for tomorrow’s post. There it is in action. Show­ing up today has trig­gered the process. The more you do some­thing the more idea’s you have, the first step is show­ing up.

A Blogging Challenge

I’ve writ­ten 442 posts on this site. The first one was writ­ten on 17th Jan­u­ary 2011, that’s five and half years ago. It equates to around 80 posts per year and about 1.5 posts per week. It’s not bad going, but it could be better.
Dur­ing those times there’s been many spells of inac­tiv­i­ty and many spells of mul­ti­ple posts per day, this is what I would like to change most about my site, the incon­sis­tent post­ing pat­terns. Last night I found myself brows­ing the web in a way that I’ve not done for a long time. I end­ed up on a rab­bit trail of per­son­al blogs, one that start­ed with a site I sub­scribe to that I kicked off into safari on my iPad. It felt like redis­cov­er­ing the inter­net again. This was what got me into the blog­ging scene way back in 2005 when I start­ed my first blog. There was a line in one of the arti­cles I read that res­onat­ed with me. It was feed­back that the author received regularly,

stop­ping blog­ging reg­u­lar­ly was one of peo­ple’s biggest regrets
I cer­tain­ly wish I had­n’t stopped. Or I should say, I wish I had­n’t let the habit slip. 

Since I start­ed blog­ging way back in 2005 I’ve had two main sites. The first site, which sad­ly is no longer in exis­tence, last­ed from 2006 until this site start­ed in 2011. It was my first prop­er for­ay into inter­net pub­lish­ing and as a result I did­n’t real­ly think too much about what I would post. Top­ics were wide in range but nat­u­ral­ly reflect­ed my per­son­al inter­ests, some­thing which I feel has been lost a bit on this site. Which is some­what iron­ic giv­en that this is the site which bears my full name in the url.
With that in mind it’s time to declare that this is the first post in a new chal­lenge I’m set­ting myself. I want to recap­ture the joy that I had when I first start­ed pub­lish­ing on the web. It was some­thing I enjoyed and did every­day, and so, that’s my new chal­lenge. I want to post to this site every­day until the end of the year. Some will be links, some will be orig­i­nal writ­ing, but all of it will reflect me and my inter­ests. I’m going to try my utmost not to pick and choose too much of what I write, I will sim­ply write and post each day from now until Decem­ber 31st.

Building a New Photography Workflow With the iPad Pro ›

Drew Coff­man has some inter­est­ing obser­va­tions in the open­ing para­graphs of his arti­cle about Build­ing a New Pho­tog­ra­phy Work­flow with the iPad Pro.

“I’m just now real­iz­ing that the more and more I embrace each cre­ative process, the less time I want to give to any­thing but the act of creating” 

So often we change things because we think we should, but in actu­al­i­ty we should only real­ly make changes in work­flows and apps we use with moti­va­tion sim­i­lar to the above. To free us up to cre­ate more things.
I like my blog, I enjoy it from many angles, from cre­at­ing the design to post­ing to it reg­u­lar­ly. But on reflec­tion I realise that the thing I dis­like the most is edit­ing and feel­ing the pres­sure to write well. I just enjoy post­ing or my blog, and I enjoy read­ing arti­cles and shar­ing the ones which I think are most inter­est­ing. Hence why my post­ing rate has increased since I made it eas­i­er to share an arti­cle to my blog from my iPad or my iPhone. The change in work­flow has allowed me to do more of the thing I most enjoy about my blog.

Just Hit Command‑N

Just hit Command‑N. Those are the words I just read in a post from Man­ton Reece, and so that’s what I’m doing. I may not be a devel­op­er or some­one who’s had much of an audi­ence in my life on the Inter­net. How­ev­er, for the last few weeks I’ve want­ed to start post­ing to my site again but for what­ev­er rea­son I’ve nev­er known what to write. So here I am press­ing the plus but­ton in Ulysses on my iPad and writing.
I remem­ber when I first got in to the whole blog­ging way of things. I was­n’t real­ly selec­tive about what I wrote about, I would just write what­ev­er came to me. Of course there was a set of themes that would be cov­ered, but they weren’t cho­sen with inten­tion, there were just what my inter­ests were. They were me. Since dis­cov­er­ing Man­ton’s blog towards the end of last year I’ve been remind­ed of my ear­ly blog and the ear­ly blogs of those who I still fol­low. They were gen­uine and full of inter­est­ing things because they weren’t over­ly focused, they were just per­son­al sites. Of course those sites, at least the ones that are still going, are still inter­est­ing but they’ve become more focused over time. Although that focus may have hap­pened by a nat­ur­al evo­lu­tion as peo­ple found what real­ly makes them tick, those sites are inter­est­ing in a dif­fer­ent way now. Thank­ful­ly what I’m start­ing to see, and what I hope I con­tin­ue to see, is more vari­ety and new sites that are per­son­al and reflect the whole of the per­son who writes them. That’s what drew me to this hob­by we call blog­ging, and it’s what I hope will help me return.
So here’s to new begin­nings, to start­ing to write more and to being less both­ered about what I should write about and instead just post­ing what feels right.

Rediscovering the Personal Site

It’s been an inter­est­ing start to the year to say the least, but one pos­i­tive from it has been the renew­al of my inter­est in both my own blog and the blogs of others.

I’ve been read­ing blogs, or per­son­al sites would prob­a­bly be a more accu­rate term in 2015, since I came across them in my sec­ond year at uni­ver­si­ty in 2006. Back then I loved the idea of peo­ple pub­lish­ing some­thing to the inter­net and quick­ly set my own blog up. I came across a num­ber of great writ­ers who like me were just find­ing their feet in the world of Web 2.0. In the 8 years that have passed since then, I’ve had a num­ber of my own blogs and lost my motivation/desire to post to them all at var­i­ous points in time.
In the ear­ly days of the blog, there was what felt like a strong com­mu­ni­ty. A group of peo­ple writ­ing about what inter­est­ed them in a way which was new and excit­ing. It was inspir­ing to see oth­ers shar­ing in this way and it made me want to do the same. In the years since I left Uni in 2007 there seemed to be a change amongst the blogs I read. They became focused and some­what same‑y in their con­tent, it felt like the blogs lost their per­son­al­i­ties as their authors pur­sued a desire to be bet­ter writ­ers. A few of them man­aged to main­tain the per­son­al­i­ty that drew me to them in the first place, but, many didn’t and as a result the blogs either died off or my inter­est in them waned. It was sad and with that homogenis­ing of con­tent my own inspi­ra­tion and desire to write also dried up.
Over the last few months I’ve start­ed to notice some­thing dif­fer­ent. Per­haps it’s just that my own mind­set has changed, or it could be that I’ve been find­ing a bunch of new sites, or a reac­tion to the likes of Face­book who seem to want to be the inter­net rather than part of it. But the per­son­al site seems to be ris­ing like a phoenix from the flames.
Many of the sites are spe­cialised, with focused con­tent, but they no longer seem to be of one voice talk­ing about the same thing all the time. They have per­son­al­i­ty. The posts, whilst often being focused around a sim­i­lar sub­ject, are var­ied and seem to be a reflec­tion of the peo­ple who write them. It’s both inspir­ing and a joy to read these sites. They might be writ­ing about a pen, a note­book or a new Mac, but they are doing it in a way which is inter­est­ing and engaging.
These per­son­al sites have the pol­ish and high stan­dard that the web in 2015 demands, but they seem to be return­ing to the per­son­al­i­ty and inter­est that was so appar­ent in the the rise of the blog back in the mid naugh­ties. It’s refresh­ing and I’m thank­ful for it. I applaud those behind it and I hope it con­tin­ues long into the future.

Fresh Start

It dawned on me today that I’ve been writ­ing a blog, in one form or anoth­er, for the last 8 years. Ini­tial­ly, I was full of the youth­ful enthu­si­asm of some­one who had just dis­cov­ered the medi­um, I could eas­i­ly sit down at my Mac and with­in half an hour have pub­lished a new post. With­in a few months I had found a num­ber of oth­er blog­gers who wrote with a lit­tle more qual­i­ty than I did and with a lit­tle more dis­cern­ment when it came to top­ics they wrote about. They had built a bit of a larg­er audi­ence than I had, but with some their encour­age­ment I pushed on regard­less. By the time I grad­u­at­ed uni­ver­si­ty in 2007 I had built an audi­ence of around 300 subscribers.
It was a decent num­ber of sub­scribers, but bore an unfor­tu­nate con­se­quence. The num­ber of sub­scribers caused me to stop enjoy­ing my blog. I want­ed to pro­vide val­ue to my read­ers, say pro­found things. I felt I need­ed to bring a focus to my blog in order to do that and I began apply­ing pres­sure to myself. Even­tu­al­ly falling into the beliefs that the posts I was writ­ing weren’t good enough.
Things dried up and I stopped writ­ing until my blog even­tu­al­ly died.
Since then I’ve been try­ing to regain the blog­ging vigour I had when I first start­ed. I just can’t seem to shake the pres­sure that what I write has to be amaz­ing. I haven’t been able to break the fear of post­ing to my blog.
I’ve even made things more com­pli­cat­ed. When I first start­ed blog­ging, I would just write what­ev­er came into my head. It would get a tag or two and then be post­ed. But when I start­ed to strug­gle I began to seek out solu­tions to make post­ing eas­i­er. I added linked list posts, so I could just post a link and a lit­tle bit of com­men­tary. Then I added quotes, and soon after pho­tos. But it nev­er real­ly worked, rather than mak­ing things eas­i­er, I had real­ly just added a lev­el of com­plex­i­ty that I didn’t need.
When I start­ed work­ing for myself, I thought I would quick­ly begin blog­ging again. I hoped I would be able to add anoth­er cre­ative out­let, one that I had once found so valu­able. The trou­ble was, I didn’t know what the blog was for. Was it for my busi­ness or was it per­son­al. It had my name on the domain but I want­ed it to grow so that aware­ness of my busi­ness would grow. Con­se­quent­ly noth­ing real­ly changed and, despite a few spells of post­ing links, it’s large­ly sat dormant.

Starting again

Over the last two months I’ve final­ly start­ed to use an app that’s been on my iPhone for most of the last two years. I’ve begun to use Day One in a way that has bought me to a place that I want to write. Almost every evening for the last 2 months I’ve writ­ten an entry in Day One that has been tagged “3 Things”. Each post con­sists of 3 things that I’m thank­ful for from the day that has just passed. Occa­sion­al­ly the entries get an image, some­times they get expand­ed on and I add some thoughts about what­ev­er I’m think­ing through at the time. One thing that it has helped me with, is find­ing that I’m start­ing to enjoy writ­ing again. Start­ing to want to blog once again.
It’s with this in mind, that I find myself here. Start­ing again.
I’ve reset my blog. Gone is the archive of posts that are made up large­ly of links. Gone are the mul­ti­ple cat­e­gories and post types along with the com­pli­cat­ed theme they need­ed to look dif­fer­ent. Gone are any oth­er bits of cruft that have built up over the years. Instead, posts are now posts, cat­e­gories don’t exist and posts will like­ly be tagged. The site struc­ture is sim­ple, there’s the home page and the posts. An archive and an about page will fol­low at some point, but for now there are just posts. The theme is sim­ple and clean, designed to be read and for any pho­tos in the posts to look good.
In some ways it’s a sad and dis­ap­point­ing move. I’ve delet­ed an archive of work that has tak­en a few years to build up. But I need­ed to take away the bur­den of expec­ta­tion, I didn’t want any­thing to feel like it didn’t fit what had come before it. I didn’t want a bar­ri­er to my blog and it felt like my blog itself had become that very thing.
So this is the new PhilBowell.com, it’s my blog and if you’ve made it to the end of this post I’d like to say thanks for your time hope to see you again soon.

Blogsy 3.4 Released ›

The iPad blog­ging app Blogsy has just released a new ver­sion which includes the abil­i­ty to set/edit cus­tom fields for Word­Press blogs. For those of you like me who like to blog from the iPad this could be just up your street. I’ll be check­ing it out this evening.
(Via Jim Dal­rym­ple.)

In Search Of Flow

Like most of the world, the arrival of an iPad in my life has meant a lot of my estab­lished rou­tines and behav­iours have changed. I’m no longer set­ting up camp on my sofa with my Mac­Book Pro to spend some time read­ing RSS feeds and going where the links take me, instead this time is being spent using my iPad. I find I’m using my Mac­Book Pro a lot less than I used too, that’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly a neg­a­tive thing though, as the time that I do spend on my Mac­Book Pro is much more mean­ing­ful than it used to be. I’m find­ing myself going through a shift in mind­set as I’m more focused when I sit down with my Mac and don’t find myself drawn to the likes of Twit­ter and Reed­er. My pro­duc­tiv­i­ty has increased, which can only be a good thing as I grad­u­al­ly pick up more free­lanc­ing work. The work that I am doing has become more mean­ing­ful, that is with one excep­tion. Here.
The blog. It’s slipped and large­ly because of my shift in behav­iour. Most of my blog­ging revolved around read­ing inter­est­ing arti­cles and curat­ing them on my site. This then drove me to write longer form con­tent when I want­ed and when some­thing attract­ed me suf­fi­cient­ly. I now find myself both link­ing less and writ­ing less. Not good.

Reading a Ton More

I fol­low a lot of very good blogs, most of the things I read are on the inter­net and since get­ting my iPad Instapa­per has real­ly come in to it’s own. Shawn Blanc nailed it when he wrote

So in short, Instapa­per is the best way to read the Inter­net. And the iPad app … is the best way to read your Instapa­per articles.

The trou­ble is, if a large por­tion of your read­ing mate­r­i­al comes from the inter­net, the desire to share increas­es. It’s so easy in today’s world to share some­thing to Twit­ter or Face­book, but if you want to add a lit­tle com­men­tary to that link and share it on your blog, well it’s a lit­tle trick­i­er. On the Mac I can hit Cmd‑1 and MarsEd­it will fire up with the link pre-pop­u­lat­ed and any select­ed text quot­ed. On the iPad, thats not so easy. Theres no MarsEd­it for iPad and well, quite frankly, the iOS Word­Press app sucks and copy & past­ing back and forth between apps isn’t the eas­i­est or quick­est way of doing things. Put quite sim­ply the bar­ri­er to entry for post­ing on the iPad was too high.
So what’s the big deal? Well, like many peo­ple I like to write. I don’t con­sid­er myself a writer but one of the rea­sons I start­ed blog­ging was to give myself anoth­er cre­ative out­let; a place to stretch mus­cles that don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly get stretched all that much; a place to, should I need, release a lit­tle about top­ics that don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly inter­est my friends.
I miss it.
The trou­ble is I don’t real­ly know where to begin, and so in my usu­al man­ner I began to prob­lem solve. The con­clu­sion I reached? I find it eas­i­er to write when I have a rea­son­ably steady flow of things going through the blog. Some momen­tum. The best and eas­i­est way of cre­at­ing that momen­tum, or gen­er­at­ing flow, is by curat­ing links and point­ing peo­ple to oth­er well writ­ten and inter­est­ing content.
For once my think­ing on this sub­ject seemed to coin­cide with some oth­er folk on the inter­net. Shawn Blanc and Ben­jamin Brooks touched on this recent­ly in The B&B Pod­cast. When they vis­it a site they want to see arti­cles before they will begin to mea­sure if you are worth fol­low­ing. Some­thing I agree with quite strong­ly, if there is a good arti­cle on a site I vis­it I will take note, if there are a cou­ple in close suc­ces­sion, chances are you’ll end up in my feed read­er. But if there are large gaps between arti­cles and noth­ing else post­ed it makes a site feel stag­nat­ed, a stag­na­tion I feel has begun to devel­op here. I want my site to feel alive and the best way to do that is to write reg­u­lar­ly, and, because I’m out of prac­tice the best way to break a cycle of not post­ing is to link to oth­ers. It’s not and nor should it be the sole pur­pose, but an active site is a cared for site and a cared for site usu­al­ly brings good content.

Beginnings of a Redesign

Seek­ing out an eas­i­er way of build­ing that flow led me down the path to the begin­nings of a redesign. I need­ed an easy way to share links on the blog.
So to help me begin to devel­op this flow I’ve made a few changes to the site. A slight facelift which aligns to a grid but real­ly is a frame­work for the future and has allowed me to make a cou­ple of adjust­ments to the behav­iour of my links. For those of you who have noticed the titles of the links now point straight to the site I’m link­ing too, so rather than includ­ing the link in the text as I’ve done in the past I’m now free to just include my thoughts. It leads to a more stream­lined way of post­ing from both the iPad and my Mac.
Thanks to Ben Brooks’ adjust­ed book­marklet and the plu­g­ins that it requires I can now post more eas­i­ly to the site. The pace isn’t quite what I’d like it to be but it’s devel­op­ing and my hope is that I can pay more atten­tion in the long run and begin to write my own arti­cles with a lit­tle more reg­u­lar­i­ty than the spo­radic post­ing that I seem to have set­tled into.