Why I Stopped Using Pretty Pictures and Asking Stupid Questions

When you start blogging, you learn two things pretty quickly: start with a picture and end with a question.

The picture captures attention, it sets the tone, and it engages the senses. The question brings your reader into the conversation and encourages your reader to comment. It’s tried, it’s true, it’s tested and it works.

Recently, I rededicated myself to writing on this site and with this new commitment I made two very intentional decisions: unless they are absolutely needed, no pretty pictures and no stupid questions.

Why would I shy away from such a proven blogging technique? Why would I actively ignore something that is working so well for others? Simple: it just felt false.

To be honest, if I wanted to share pictures, I’d go start a Flickr or Tumblr account. If I wanted to ask questions on Q&A, I’d go to Quora (people still use that piece of crap, right?).

If the words on the page aren’t enough, then no photo and no question will keep the kinds of people I am hoping to connect with around.

If the ideas aren’t strong, then no level of “best practice” is going to help them to succeed and spread.

Don’t get me wrong, I want you to read this site, I want you to comment if you have context to add or questions to ask. I just don’t think I’m doing either of us a favor when it takes an obvious question and an irrelevant picture to get there.

I want these words to be useful, I want to capture your attention, but I want to do it in a way that doesn’t feel patronizing.

It may take longer, it may not work at all, but on the plus side, every spare second working on this site will focus on the words on the page rather than the bells and whistles trying to get you to read them.

10 Responses to Why I Stopped Using Pretty Pictures and Asking Stupid Questions

  1. The words are the gold, for sure, but the picture is the shovel than can often clear the way. ;-)

    If you have seconds to grab someone’s attention when they land on your page, then a great picture can draw your reader in immediately. So, yes, make the words great, but don’t discount the picture.

    • Holy cats, did you actually comment on this site? Are you feeling ok? Did you fall down and hit your head and not realize where you woke up?

      All normal you and me banter aside, I think it can be the shovel or it can be the pile of dirt depending on who is doing the picking. I was actually thinking about you when I wrote this as you have an uncanny knack for picking pictures that enhance the content, Jay Dolan is another great example as his sketches really add flavor to the site and inform the content.

      Then there is the opposite of that, you know, the blog equivalent of the bad business site with the clip art… It’s often half hearted and half assed and it takes away a lot more than it could have ever possibly added. More often than not, I found myself just looking for a picture because I thought I needed to.

      I’m not against them as a whole and use pics when warranted or needed. Just think the “need” to have them isn’t really a need at all. In fact tons of the sites I am loving these days steer clear of this and I find myself enjoying them all the more. Gets me right into the content and sets a certain tone that I find myself gravitating towards.

      You’re right, it certainly captures attention, but I’m not so sure I want the kind of attention that requires that kind of capturing…

      • Did you just comment longer than your post? You turning all MLM on us..? ;-)

        I know the kind of sites you mean, mate, and yes, they are DIRE! But I know I love finding a picture that may not be immediately obvious, but on closer inspection ties in nicely. ;-)

        Thanks for the compliment, mate – and for God’s sake, get some more social sharing options than a single tweet button… #hermit :)

        • Gotta get better at the snappier answers… besides the obnoxious and sarcastic bits at the start took up some space… 

          I don’t know man, I kind of like the simple tweet button (thinking of adding in a facebook option). I’m getting weirdly into the whole minimal thing. Loving what Gruber has started and that is now expanding to a lot of the geeky tech and productivity bloggers are shifting towards. Far less on the page. Far simpler. Kind of puts some restrictions on me, which is a good thing as I think we both know that I am prone to go overboard :)

  2. Another great post. I like that you are destroying the typical “tips and tricks” of blogging, most of which seem like they belong in a book called “Prostitution for Dummies.” 

    That being said, I do tend to use pictures with my blog posts. However, I don’t expect that they will bring in readers. I just think they are a nice bit of decoration. I would love to have an artist do an original illustration for me every day, but that’s not an option. And I tend to avoid asking questions. I am proud to say that some of the people who read my blog can contribute wonderful, smart ass remarks without any prodding.

    • I tend to feel the same way, if I can’t either create it myself or have it created specifically for what I’m doing (or better yet, something that exists already is perfect), it just feels wrong. It’s kind of like a tattoo, I’ve never really understood people who walk into the parlor and pick a picture off the wall. Always felt that if I couldn’t draw something myself, I probably shouldn’t put it on me. Oddly, I feel the same about the content…

      Nice that the smart asses don’t need prodding, isn’t it!

  3. Or, you could be like me an go 3 months on a free site and not even know how to put a picture or a link on there; but I did ask a question or two.

    I think I did everything wrong but somehow did everything right. Based on what I was reading I was so paranoid I had a free site w/ very little buttons I was afraid to bring it to the light of day. I thought I would be exposed for the fraud I thought I was.

    I think I’m leaning more in your direction and I will just write; if people want to stop by then that will be the bonus round for me. I try to over think this at times I do believe.

    Man, you are all over this week; see, you must be doing something right. Keep it up………..

    • That is one way to avoid the pictures :) 

      I like the mentality, the more I become a selfish bastard and write what I find interesting with the hope that it helps someone else, the more it seems to be working!

      I try to get myself out there. Hope it’s right, but only time will tell! Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. When I moved to the Genesis theme I was happy to be using a theme that didn’t require that I put a picture in the post but would allow me to put a picture on the main blog page. That way I can still capture attention on the main page but not have to have one in the post. Pictures aren’t always necessary, and unless they can help illustrate the point, they can be pretty pointless.

    As for questions, I’m not sure what you consider a stupid question but I’ve seen that typically they can increase engagement with the reader. Not everyone will immediately jump to leave a comment, so asking a question can improve the odds that it happens. Regardless, if someone has nothing to say they won’t comment.

    Either way it’s something for everyone to test. And if you find you don’t need pictures, you can save some $$ on all those royalty free sites.

    • Nifty little feature Genesis has going there!

      As for the question bit, it’s just a personal frustration. I get the tactic and I get why it works. I just wish it didn’t take such obvious prodding to get someone to share their ideas. It just often feels lazy. I love questions, but when a post is well done, I feel like they should be baked in rather than added on.

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