Pet Blogger Challenge 2014

So keeping with the introspective nature as of late, with Meet the Blogger day and all the talk of resolutions you hear this time of year, I’ve decided to take the Pet Blogger Challenge.

I started blogging in the fall of 2010 and first participated in the Pet Blogger Challenge just a few months later in 2011.

What was Moses up to in 2010? He was playing with his new friend, Juniper!

What was Moses up to in 2010? He was playing with his new friend, Juniper!

Actually, the first Challenge in 2011 was the only time I’ve participated.

In January 2012 I was on a no-computer-screens doctor’s order, due to surgery to repair a detached retina. I have no excuse for not participating in 2013; January just happened to fall during a long period of non-blogging that occurred for no good reason I can recall.

But I’ve been marginally more diligent since then, so why not accept the challenge once more?

It’s kind of hilarious to go back and read my first response to the challenge. So much naiveté and optimism. Though, truthfully I don’t expect a lot of difference in my responses as I go through questions.

We shall see.

1. How long have you been blogging? Please tell us why you started blogging, and, for anyone stopping by for the first time, give us a quick description of what your blog is about.

I’ve been blogging since September 2010, so for almost 3½ years.

The Soapbox is primarily about Moses and Alma, Newfoundland dogs living in Calgary, Canada with yours truly, the Husband, and a couple of cats. I take pictures of our local adventures, our travels, and write about the minutiae of life as a dog owner. Kind of like Seinfeld (I wish), with more drool and no studio audience.

Alma & Moses

Alma & Moses

Every once in a while I’ll take a break from the dog stuff and share some scuba diving photos, or write about local current events, politics, or other random things like different kinds of restaurant patrons and a list of annoying things about weddings.

2. Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you most proud.

I think I’ve finally grasped and acknowledged that 75% of the work of producing a blog is to follow, read, and comment on the blogs of others who you admire and enjoy. It definitely takes more time and a regular commitment to give back to those who read and comment here, but it’s important. And I’ve discovered lots of good blogs lately – both established and I’ve just been out of the loop, and new bloggers.

That doesn’t necessarily make me proud, but I think it’s a necessary and inevitable realization of most bloggers. A milestone, if you will.

Besides, there’s a whole community-wide conversation going on in the Blogville, and if you read regularly, you’ll never get writer’s block.

I don’t think I’ve answered the question.

I suppose I have managed to churn out some decent content and page views myself, which does make me proud. My post on being an introvert with very visible dogs seemed to speak to a lot of people, and my post on whether or not to shave your dog (including awesome decision tree!) got a lot of shares and hopefully spared some Newfs from the clippers!

This photo got shared by the online magazine She Knows, which also made me happy (even if the caption is a bit silly - I didn't write it).

This photo I took of Moses got shared by the online magazine SheKnows (link in right side-bar), which also made me happy… even if the caption is a bit silly – I didn’t write it.

3. When you look at the post you wrote for last year’s the 2011 Pet Blogger Challenge, or just think back over the past year, what about blogging has changed the most for you?

The Soapbox started as a one-way dialogue. It was meant to be rant-filled and instructive (hence the title).

But, even though I still like my blog title, and it’s established if only in a very tiny way to my small population of regular readers, I acknowledge it doesn’t necessarily accurately reflect the content of the blog.

Oh well. It’s mine and I’m not changing it.

The Soapbox has become a much more personal chronicle where I write about things I didn’t necessarily think I would. It’s easy to write hastily and flippantly, but as an introvert, sometimes it’s difficult to be candid.

The Soapbox has definitely gone from a more sterile, careful voice to something more frank and conversational.

4(a) What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own sites?

I’m certainly not in a position to provide any valuable advice, but I always learn things from other bloggers – whether they’re the ‘big names’ with thousands of followers or bloggers newer than I.

I would recommend just reading as many other blogs as possible, as I mentioned above. And comment on them in thoughtful ways – which is good for both you and the writer.

ACTUALLY… on that note: I would recommond bloggers quickly re-evaluate your comment platform. This comes from a reader’s perspective, not another blogger’s. Elaborate CAPTCHA codes are a pain in the ass, and sometimes I’m sure my comment is discarded because I miss having to enter a code after typing my comment and hitting submit. This happens on some Blogger/Blogspot sites, but not all. Or those terrible Google-only comment forums. The. Worst.

The easy commenting and following functions of WordPress are a key feature that keeps me loyal to this site. I’m not saying everyone needs to switch to WordPress, but I bet there would be more comments if commenting was easier for non-bloggers and bloggers on other platforms.

That’s really the only general improvment recommendation I can give.

Alma

Alma

(b) If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

Not a challenge, but I do have a general question: I’d be curious to know when everyone (who has done so) decided to make the move to a privately-owned domain. I’ve been considering dropping the ‘wordpress’ from my URL for some time now, but remain undecided.

5. What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

If I obsessed over stats and page views, I probably would’ve stopped blogging a long time ago.

This post I wrote about Jake Gyllenhaal carrying his dog around way back in 2010 continues to be a top traffic-getter for me, so I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

And, obviously I’d get more hits if I wrote more and more regularly. I think Hyperbole and a Half is the only blog I know of that’s earned the credibility to post very infrequently and retain a huge reader base (and deservedly so).

6. How much time to do you spend publicizing your blog, and do you think you should spend more or less in the coming year?

I don’t spend much time publicizing at all. I’m very lazy. This is unlikely to change.

I may throw out the odd Tweet, but I don’t even share posts to my personal Facebook page. I am in a couple of Triberr groups, but I have mixed feelings about Triberr; I’m not sure it generates that much additional traffic and it does monopolize some Twitter feeds to the point they look robotic. Personally, I don’t like to approve Triberr posts if I haven’t read the blog entry myself. However, the benefit of Triberr has been discovering other new blogs written by tribe members.

Also, blog hops are always a fun way to generate traffic, expand visibility, participate in a common theme, and come across new and interesting blogs.

Sure, page views are nice – I don’t completely ignore them – but it’s not what drives my interest in producing content.

7(a) How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience?

Definitely based on the comments. And not just the number – the quality. If someone takes some time to write a few sentences, share their own experience or perhaps a perspective I didn’t think of when writing, I consider it mission accomplished.

Tip: Puppy photos are ALWAYS appealing. This is Moses the day we picked him up from the breeder.

Tip: Puppy photos are ALWAYS appealing. This is Moses the day we picked him up from the breeder.

(b) How do you know when it’s time to let go of a feature or theme that you’ve been writing about for a while?

Hold on just a second – people write in themes or features? I definitely don’t do this – if I abandoned my general dog theme, there’d be nothing here.

8. When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?

If the post asks a question, I’m extremely tempted to answer it. (Light bulb moment: this probably means if I want more comments myself, I should ask more questions of my readers.)

Otherwise, if I’ve got a relevant story or experience to the post, I’ll share.

But, as I already complained about, I won’t comment at all if the commenting form is onerous.

9. Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways? If so, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all? If not, is this something you’d like to do more of? What hurdle is getting in your way?

I don’t do either. I’m not certain I’d be interested in giveaways – seems like a big time investment. And I’m sure being Canadian takes me out of the running for some of these opportunities.

When I answered back in 2011 about sponsorship, I mentioned I was concerned that would come with censorship. That’s still a fair comment, I think. But I might be able to be coerced into product reviews in exchange for free stuff. Who doesn’t like free stuff?!

Alma will gladly destroy any toys you want to send her.

Alma will gladly destroy any toys you want to send her.

10. When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?

I was going to say “I’m notorious…”, but technically I think you have to be well-known to be considered notorious. In any case, I frequently take a step back from the Soapbox when I’m busy with the “real” world, when I don’t want to write anything, or if I don’t perceive myself as having anything to say.

I’ll be inspired again usually by something that happened in real life that I think would lead to a good post. Although, sometimes just one of the regular blog hops like Mischief Monday or Wordless Wednesday is a great prompt to get back at it.

And, as I already mentioned, I think being well-read is a good cure for writer’s block.

Walking Mo. As you'd expect, a lot of my posts are initall on dog walks.

Walking Mo. As you’d expect, a lot of my posts are spurned by or during dog walks.

11(a) Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?

You bet – several over the years. They’re generally unplanned and one lasted as long as 3 months, but it’s fine. This is just a hobby for me, and I worry to take it too seriously would kill some of the enjoyment.

Besides, the hardest part is catching up on your blog reading, not your blog writing! (Because when I step away from the blog, I tend to step away from WordPress altogether.)

(b) Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?

Nope. The thought never occurred to me. Despite taking the odd break, I do always assume I’ll get back to it eventually. I don’t expect to maintain the Soapbox forever, but I have no plans or inclination when it might end. And rather than a defined ending or up and quitting, a slow, painful, unplanned death is far more likely, anyway.

12. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I think it’s silly to have to make changes just because December is over, and even sillier yet to hold off on changes you want to make until January 1st. I continually update the Soapbox as I see fit, and as a purely recreational pursuit, I have no specific goals for readship or income generation.

This hesitation to set specifics also comes from unknowing – I wouldn’t know where to begin, not being sure of what’s reasonable or possible.

A good goal, however, would probably be to try to post every month of 2014, but I’m hesitant to put even that in writing lest I fail. Maybe I’ll just try to keep up the momentum of the last few months. If I don’t, I’ll just have to answer to myself the next time I respond to this challenge (which, at this rate, won’t be until 2016 anyway!).

Actually, here’s a goal I can divulge: I want to continue to work on my photography skills. That’s more of a personal goal than a blog goal, but the blog serves as a good excuse to work on it. The Husband got me Lightroom for Christmas, so I definitely would like to master photo-editing with it. You all get to bear with me as I stumble through it.

Moses and Alma at a famous, fictional Canadian landmark

Moses and Alma at a famous, fictional Canadian landmark

Click here or here to visit everyone else who rose to the Pet Blogger Challenge this year.

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About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

62 Responses to Pet Blogger Challenge 2014

  1. Your blog is your space– you make a commitment to not making commitments. 🙂

    I would love to work on my photography too, but first I have to buy a decent camera.

  2. Edie says:

    I love the Seinfeld analogy — even making it shows your scope and wit! The pictures are incredible, but the writing really shines too. Thanks so much for taking part.

  3. Your photos are seriously gorgeous! Wow – I am in awe!

    Dropping by via the Pet Blogger Challenge! So happy to “meet” you, and looking forward to reading more in 2014! Have a wonderful weekend!

  4. You nailed it with the comment crap. I hate those things with a passion! I love your stories and photography, and I always leave happy when I come for a visit. So you’re doing it right.

  5. Kim Clune says:

    I lost count of all the places that your answers made me laugh or nod. Thank you for so unpretentiously sharing what makes you tick, and what doesn’t.

    I decided to make the move to a privately-owned domain and hosting when I was managing several free WordPress blogs at once. WordPress developed the Multisite interface so updates were managed across every blog from a single dashboard. I also wanted to incorporate my own theme (there weren’t so many to choose from in 2009), ad placement, and to add link list code, which the free WordPress platform wouldn’t allow for. That said, the benefits I find most compelling are ownership and control. I can do what I like with my site without breaking policy. Of course, with that comes the responsibility of being your own tech support, updating WordPress manually, and paying for space as well as your domain name.

    If your question deals strictly with changing the domain name and not moving to free hosting, it’s probably not worth it. The independent domain reflects an air of seriousness that businesses may enjoy but, if you plan to keep your hobby just that and you aren’t leaving the current platform, you might not want to spend the money. Besides, I think you’d then have to pay annually to redirect your old post URLS to the new domain so Google doesn’t penalize you for dual content across different sites. At least that’s how they did it used to be.

    I hope that helps.

    Cheers to Newfies charging ahead in 2014!

    • ThatJenK says:

      Thanks so much for the advice!
      You’re right – I’m determined that this is just something fun for me – not work – and I think switching to self-hosting or any sort of paid site is largely unnecessary and looks like it could introduce potential headache – no thanks!

  6. Jodi says:

    I’ve seen a couple of the same themes resonating with the participating blogs 1) being commenting when you have something relevant to say. While I know that new bloggers need the support, I generally don’t just comment for the sake of commenting, I feel like I must add or can contribute something to the conversation. 2) So many of us feel pressed for time. I feel like I could literally read/write and comment on blogs all day long. It’s tough.

    As for your question on self-hosting, I went self-host a year and a half ago when I was looking to take on some advertisers (you can tell that didn’t work out.) The problem I had was my free WP account was my name and when I went self hosted my name wasn’t available. I know, the horror. So I had to come up with a totally new name/theme for my blog. It was a nightmare for me, because I am so indecisive.

    As for censorship, I say it’s your blog and any good sponsor will read your blog and get to know what you are about before making a commitment of money. For instance, any sponsor reading my blog should know I cuss. It’s my blog and I’ll cuss if I want to. 🙂

    And the comment captcha, a lot of times I just won’t comment. WP has their spam set up so it’s super easy to go in and sort. I used to do it daily now I do it about once a week. It takes a few minutes to delete 2,000+ spam comments, but it’s one less thing I have to do on a daily basis. 🙂

    Wow, I think I need to get down off of my soap box. 🙂

    • ThatJenK says:

      Haha! There’s certainly a deficit in foul language in the dog blogging community, if you ask me. I feel like a badass just saying badass! Making up for it is an important service you bring.
      I can’t imagine what I’d do if I had to pick a new blog name – I’d probably give up on the idea altogether!

  7. Lindsay says:

    I agree with what you said about commenting – if it’s too difficult to comment on someone’s blog I just don’t do it. It’s not worth the time.

    I have visited your blog from time to time over the years, and what I love about it most is your photos. They are just beautiful. Plus, your writing makes me laugh. I love your honesty.

    • ThatJenK says:

      Thank you very much for the comments and compliments! Photos being appreciated is huge, especially considering my first few months of posts had few, if any, but were incredibly wordy. Then I realized how much I like when others have photos – doh!

  8. Your photography is already fantastic, so hard to imagine what it will be like “improved.” I’ve stopped by on the hop and glad I did. Like Kim, I found myself smiling and nodding at quite a bit you said. First time here. Definitely not the last.

  9. Tegan says:

    Following, reading and commenting on other blogs definitely takes up a lot of time – and I would say probably more like 95% in my case (and I don’t actually comment all that much, I just follow and read heaps!). But, I reach a similar conclusion: Being immersed in blogs in this way means I never get writer’s block, either. Oh, and if you think being Canadian puts you out of the running for many giveaways, try being Australian!

    • ThatJenK says:

      Yeah I finally set up a separate email account to subscribe with and keep track of all of my blog reading – it’s more thorough, but really shows how much of a time investment is! Definitely more time reading than writing!

  10. dollythedoxie says:

    I loved reading your challenge, especially how honest you are about it being a hobby. You don’t seem to take it too seriously which is great. Your pictures are beautiful too, it doesn’t hurt being in such an amazing part of the world. I agree 100% about the commenting, when I slack off so do my readers! So thanks very much for your comment and I look forward to reading more from you! Sandra & Dolly

  11. Great post, and thanks for reminding me how much I (an introvert) enjoyed your introvert post – shared it with all my family and friends 😉 And thanks for pointing me to the wedding post…I see I need to spend some time in your archive.

  12. So I’m reading your answers and each time another photo comes up I enjoy it. Until the one of you and Moses walking down the path. I just loved it! And then the pups in front of the Dog River farm building.

    Needless to say, I’m thrilled that you’ll be spending more time on your photography. I really enjoy your efforts.

    As for your writing, I think of you and Kristine of Rescued Insanity as my Pandora posse. You know, the names that come up when you enter Something Wagging in the search bar and the programs says “you might also like Back Alley Soap Box and Rescued Insanity.”

    Someone once accused me of being a Canadian wannabe. I guess that’s final proof.

    As for moving to self-hosted, I’m with Kim. If you don’t have a business reason or control-freak purpose, I wouldn’t bother. I think you can pay wordpress to blog under your name without the wordpress.com suffix. It’s gotta be cheaper than paying for web hosting.

    • Pamela, yes you can pay WP to blog “self-hosted”. I paid them for same but have NO idea how to transfer my current blog to the new one, and have no time to figure it out. BUT, I will keep paying for it so I can switch over when I’m ready. According to Sam, I AM a control freak. Besides, there are a couple of things I’d like to do that WP.com won’t allow. 😛 Sue

    • ThatJenK says:

      I think the great advice I’ve received has helped me to decide not to bother self-hosting or other paid blogging – sounds like a pain and I really have no business reason to do so (nor do I really want one). The question came largely out of laziness – I have a long URL to type when I need to! But being cheap and the fear of transferring and maintenance headaches trump that minor annoyance.

      As for being considered in the same league as you and Kristine… (use Nick Cage voice) that’s high praise. Seriously. I can’t even.

  13. harrispen says:

    You had me at “like Seinfeld, but with more drool”. I always enjoy reading your blog and now I know a little more about you and why you do it. As an add-on to Lightroom I highly recommend the NikCollection software from http://www.google.com/nikcollection/ . They also have very good help and tutorials online for the product.

    Cindy

  14. As I read your challenge answers one thought kept entering my mind, I could see myself definitely being friends with her. Your sense of humor is wonderful and I hope you are motivated to post more than once a month. No pressure, just saying… I believe I mentioned the last time I visited but your dogs are absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for coming by Barking from the Bayou to say “hey!”

  15. So totally awesome Jen! I just love your writing style and your honesty!
    It seems like taking the dogs for a walk is a common theme that I’m seeing that motivates a post for bloggers! I know some of my best posts have come from a simple 30 minute walk with Leroy!
    I’m glad that you would never abandon this blog for more than 3 months, that makes me smile 🙂

    • ThatJenK says:

      Yeah – went to the dog park for the first time in months, and came back with months of blog fodder – funny how that works!
      I similarly hope to keep seeing updates on you and Sherman and Leroy!

  16. Kelley says:

    Well crap. I don’t usually comment when I don’t have something original to say and “ditto” is so lame. So, love the photos, love the humor, hate weddings too. And love giant furry dogs, drool and all. Husband says “too much hair” but I would totally get one if he moves us up North again. (Florida is just too hot.) So for now I’ll just have to follow you and 2 Brown Newfies to get my furry fix vicariously.

    • ThatJenK says:

      Haha – yeah, I don’t think the Newfs would enjoy life very much in FL. We purposely picked a winter-friendly breed. Funny you comment on hair though – I say the same when I’ve spent time with a Shepherd or similar cross and find fur on my clothes!

  17. Bongo says:

    My person enjoyed reading your blog challenge and the photos are awesome. My person got more interested in photography because of blogging too. She actually started taking classes at the local college.

    • ThatJenK says:

      Lessons are definitely a good idea! I got one from a local photog, and am looking to get another once I get some more Lightroom practice. Helps a lot!

  18. Julie says:

    I’ve always LOVED your pictures of your dogs and I love your relaxed viewpoint on blogging 🙂 Happy to read your posts whenever you decide to blog!

  19. rmudge says:

    Great post. Your dogs are gorgeous! They look like giant teddy bears 🙂

  20. I’m a terrible lurker, but I really do love your blog. When I was considering moving to Calgary earlier this year, I virtually stalked you reading every post I could about you and your dogs in the City. I think there’s something so lovely about how you love your hometown.

    As for the url? I think for me, I dropped the .blogspot from my URL when I acknowledged that this was more than a lark, more than a hobby that I might abandon at any time. I wanted to make it feel like it was wholly mine and not just an extension of the blogging masses.

    Oh and that bit about sponsorship coming with censorship? If you’ve got the right sponsor that gets you? It’s not a worry.

    • ThatJenK says:

      Thanks for the advice – I don’t intend for this to be much more than a hobby, so the .wordpress can stay.
      I’m happy to read I’m a good advocate for Calgary! It’s a common punchline, but we’re not so bad 🙂

  21. I LOVE that first picture of Alma and Moses. My advice on moving to self hosted is do it as early on as possible. The more posts and photos you have, the harder it can be to move it. At least it wasn’t very easy for me. I DID also do a blog redesign at the time and moved to a different theme which I hear complicated it most so don’t let me scare you from moving. It is WAY worth it!

    I recommend to new bloggers that they start out on self hosted to eliminate the hassle or move within the first 6 months.

    • ThatJenK says:

      Good advice!
      I have little interest in moving 3.5 years of posts over, or putting in a lot of admin time, so I think all the input has really helped – staying put!

  22. Pup Fan says:

    I cannot tell you how much I hate the comment forms that are Google+ only. I turn into a virtual Regina George, yelling at Gretchen Wieners to stop trying to make G+ happen. (I heard that Google’s hair is so big because it’s full of secrets.)

    Um, anyway… I love the way you write. I was originally drawn to your blog (way back when) because of the title. As you know, I love a good rant (and get up on my own soapbox from time to time). Your wit and humor kept me coming back over and over again. I just adore what you do on here.

    Regarding self-hosted, I switched over from Blogger in 2012 when I thought I wanted to take the blog in a more business-y direction. (In retrospect, I find that funny.) However, I’m still happy I did it – I like the flexibility it gives me and I kind of view the blog as part of my ultimate “empire” if I ever get the other projects I have been working on off the ground. As I finally realized, I don’t want the blog itself to be the business, but I do kind of like the whole self-hosting thing for completely illogical reasons. 🙂

    I have to second Jessica’s comment though – when I moved it was kind of a pain. I had over two years of posts and photos to move, and not all of them came over correctly – especially the older ones. Some posts that did come over ended up with the same comment posted ten times. I ended up manually deleting all of the duplicates and reposting the older stuff (with the original date, as I could get still get to the original posts through my Blogger dashboard) but the comments attached to my oldest posts have been lost to the wind. I still need to fix the formatting on some of the ones that were moved, but I’ve not gotten around to it.

    Geez, that was wordy of me.

    • ThatJenK says:

      Thanks for the advice – I think all the comments here have helped me decide self-hosting is not really in line with what I want for the blog, which is just a relaxed outlet for opinions and photos.

      Is there anything Mean Girls doesn’t apply to?!

  23. Carol Bryant says:

    Alma and Moses are gorgeous. You should come hang out more often with us in the private BlogPaws Community —- (http://community.blogpaws.com) and engage there. Many wags!

    • ThatJenK says:

      Thanks for the prompt – I admit I lurke around some BlogPaws stuff and do the occasional Wordless Wednesday, but I definitely could be more participatory.

  24. I wanted to to tell you that your pictures are just beautiful! I love Newfies, they are just big teddy bears! 🙂
    And I know what you mean, those captcha codes drive me crazy! Thanks for stopping by our blog!

  25. I so agree with your point in question #2 that a large bulk of blogging is to be a good reader on other blogs. Such an important lesson to learn!

  26. Emma says:

    Beautiful dogs! Mom loves Newfs, her last dog was a rescue lab/newf mix. You have great photos too! We agree on the comment thing. We are sick of captchas and often just skip it if they come up. We love like buttons as they show we were there but maybe didn’t have something to say or no time to write a comment. My mom is working on her camera skills too, but that is a good thing if you enjoy photography it is fun to work on it.

  27. Kristine says:

    So much to love here! I found myself nodding constantly while I read through your answers.

    1. Your photos are already gorgeous and I am looking forward to seeing how you experiment in the future. Photography is something that evades me. I take pictures to accentuate my writing out of necessity but if I could get away without photos at all, I totally would.

    2. Your attitude towards blogging is terrific, I think. Unless you are interested in creating a business, I think it is so important to just do the things you love to do and forget the rest. This isn’t a job. It shouldn’t feel like one. You have always just known this and I admire that.

    3. Captchas and commenting systems that require setting up a log-in drive me nuts! I will do it sometimes but if it takes more than 30 seconds, I am out of there. Unfortunately, some of my favourite blogs use these and I am never going to leave a comment.

    4. Weddings suck.

    I am glad you are keeping at it! We need more Canadians in the Petosphere!

    • ThatJenK says:

      I love all the photos you post of Shiva and the cat, even if you don’t!

      Don’t forget we basically have an honourary Canadian with Pam @ Something Wagging! 😀

  28. I love your photos and your descriptions of the various places you visit. If you have any good tips for photographing black dogs, pass them my way. Photographing the foster pup has been challenging. Half the time you can’t see his face! We’ve been spoiled with Mr. N.

    • ThatJenK says:

      I’m hardly an expert, but I’ve figured out a couple of tricks for photographing the Newfs. Black dogs are tough to photograph and I have 100s, if not 1000s, of pictures of Moses and Alma just looking like blobs.
      Natural light produces the best results, I’ve found, and having them face the light (rather than being in front of it) whether inside or outside ensures you get enough light to make out their faces. It’s all very Tyra Banks – chase the light! But too bright can be a bad thing, and so can a flash. A cloudy day is good, though.
      I also always shoot in RAW and do a few touch ups. Depending on your software, you can use settings to lighten up the dark spots and the shadows without messing with the lighting in the rest of the photo. Even iPhoto can achieve this on a minimal basis.

      And, as always, I just tonnes of pictures and cross my fingers one or two work out!

  29. Maggie says:

    Such thoughtful responses! Honestly, the thing that keeps me coming back to your blog is the photography! It just makes me so happy, and since I’m a horrific photographer (I actually don’t own a camera other than my phone… sigh…) I admire what you accomplish with your pictures. I look forward to seeing your blog unfold in 2014! (OH! And AMEN re: captcha codes.)

  30. tylersat99 says:

    I love to stop by to see your pictures, you get Moses and Alma to sit places Mica and Lexie would never pose. I love reading about the Newfs but I obviously love Newfs. I enjoy that your blogs are fun and say what you all enjoy, and I always like to learn about places I’ve never been.

  31. The pictures are amazing!!! This is my first time visiting and I’m bummed that I missed out on so many cool images (I love photography).

    To answer your question, I decided to go to self hosted when I was writing a photography blog; my designer took me there; she took care of everything, gave me a crash course in WordPress, and I was off. So I never really had to make the decision to switch. Today, I realize how lucky I was.

    • ThatJenK says:

      Thanks for answering! When I look at a blog like yours, the thought of self-hosting and being solely responsible for ALL of that… daunting! This is just my personal little blog – all the replies have helped me determine it’s not necessarily and not likely worth the time or money. But I’m so glad everyone’s weighed in – I was really on the fence for a bit!

      Funny – I started the blog with a very little focus on photos – some posts had none at all. Definitely evolved, but am glad I did! Thanks for the kind words and visiting!

  32. Jessica says:

    Commenting on other blogs kills me. I want to do it well, and it takes time, and I read a lot of blogs. I also find it *really easy* since I am not exactly employed right now, to waste all day sitting in front of the computer. It’s not how I want to spend my life. I think I’m going to put blog reading/commenting on a limited schedule and see how that works out. Right now, I tend to let things pile up (see me, commenting on five-days-old-post) then devote too much time to digging back out.

    Automatic promotional tweets make me crazy. I really *use* my blog twitter, to post little snippets, and it seems like every dog blog on my feed just auto-posts the same round of blog links from the same popular blogs.

    As for self-hosting, I am waiting for a compelling reason to do it, but I haven’t seen one yet. I’m not itching to put actual dollars into the blog.

    • ThatJenK says:

      I’m the same with Twitter – I only run one account for me and the blog, so it’s a mix of dog stuff and then the normal Twitter stuff – pictures of my pets, shoes, food… you know how it is.

      I’m also hesitant to put money into the blog, just because I’m cheap. I’m okay with that.

  33. 2browndawgs says:

    Loved reading your PBC! I totally understand about falling behind reading because as usual, that is where I am…lol. And yes more photography please although I am not sure yours needs any improvement. 🙂 Loved the pics today. LOL about captcha….seems a theme.

    I purchased my domain name about 6 months after I started blogging. It has been easy and inexpensive to maintain. People think that my site is self hosted, but it isn’t. I just have the domain name and use free wordpress. This year I purchased a premium theme. It was a splurge but cheaper than me spending hours trying to get a free theme to do what I want.

    The one drawback with free wordpress is that you are limited in what you can do as far as monetizing the blog (not that I want to go that route). It is OK to review products and link to the site that sells them, but you can’t put anything on your blog that would generate money for you through that review. (Hope that makes sense…no click here and it credits you, unless it is your own product.).

    One benefit to having my own domain is I have my own google email account which makes it really easy for me to remember the address. 🙂

    • ThatJenK says:

      Thanks for the insight into WordPress! I was also just considering buying the domain name from the, but keeping the free hosting, but I think I’m okay without doing that. And good to know about the products! You never know when that info comes in handy!
      I just made myself a backalleysoapbox@gmail email address to try to separate the blog and non-blog stuff, but also keep better track of my reading and commenting. So far, works wonders!

  34. Calgary Dog says:

    Great tips. terribly literary, keyword-oriented and unbelievably helpful. its very fascinating to several readers. i actually appreciate this, thanks

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