Saturday, June 30, 2007

Have you taken any good pictures lately?

Just a reminder that Project X continues. Every day you look for a box, go for a hike, or watch a sunset, Project X is happening. For those of you who aren't familiar with Project X, you always find a link it to under the 'Toolbox' menubar option.

Project X is the code name for the annual AQ letterboxing calendar. And it would not happen without member contributions. Yes, I know, I take amazing pictures. =) But I don't take enough of them from a wide enough geographical area to actually turn them into the world's only letterboxing calendar. I like to think it's the world's best calendar as well, but that's just my opinion.

Upload your submissions today, and keep your eyes open for that picture that will WOW everyone. Insects, flowers, views, waterfalls, animals.... whatever.... There are amazing photos lurking around every corner, just waiting to be noticed.

I took this photo (which I've uploaded as a calendar submission!) while walking back from a letterboxing gathering near Tampa, Florida. It found ME! I wasn't even looking for photos when I came upon this scene. *nodding*

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Most Popular Letterboxing Blogs

It's been a few weeks since I rolled out the new and improved blogging feature on Atlas Quest, and it looks like quite a few of you have been making use of it.

This blog, I'm happy to report, has the most subscribers, although 12 people have decided that my musings were not important enough to read and will not be seeing this post.

THAT'S OKAY, though! I'm not bitter in the least. After all, I do have the world's most popular letterboxing blog. =)

Yeah, I know, it's not really a fair comparison. After all, every new member on Atlas Quest is automatically subscribed to it. On top of that, it's a blog with news, trivia, and information about Atlas Quest that you can get from no where else. Even those who aren't inclined to read my musings might at least want to know that I'm musing.

This is a State of the Blog Address. Atlas Quest keeps track of subscriptions, but until there are at least 50 subscribers to the blog, the exact number of subscribers is kept secret. Mostly for the sake of harmony. I don't want people to get hurt feelings if more people subscribe to someone else's blog than your own, or be disappointed if only two other people subscribe to your newest blog a day after you list it. I figure by the time a blog has 50 subscribers, that's pretty darned good.

My own blog, And I Will Say It Again.... is the first to break that 50 subscriber number. No, I'm not bragging, but rather I wanted to point out that even a 'celebrity' like me only has 50 subscribers when the auto-subscriptions aren't helping out the subscription counts. My Walking SLO blog only has 26 subscribers. So there are at least 24 people who looked at all of my available blogs and decided that Walking SLO had no interest for them.

But back to the subject at hand--my mind is wandering, as it often does. =)

Perhaps you haven't explored the blogging feature, or aren't sure which of the 62 blogs would most likely interest you. So I thought I'd point out some of the more popular blogs that people have signed up for. Perhaps one or more of them will interest you.

The following blogs are in no particular order. Actually, they're in the order they were listed on Atlas Quest, but for all intents and purposes, it will seem random. They are not sorted by popularity, by name, or by author. They might be popular because the person has lots of friends who've signed up for their blogs, or perhaps because they blog about a topic that interests a large section of society. Nitch blogs--those about specific geographical locations or about hobbies that cater to a small demographic--by definition won't have a lot of subscribers. That does not make the blogs any less worthy or interesting--they just won't get a lot of attention.

So, in no particular order, the ten most popular blogs (without auto-subscriptions and that are not owned by myself) on Atlas Quest:

Be sure to check out other blogs from the Blog Directory and, if you have your own blog, be sure to add it so others can follow in your adventures. And if you have any questions, be sure to Ask an Adams.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The most common searches....

A number of months back, I added a small piece of code to keep track of the number of times a search for a specific city was done. Right now, it doesn't get used for anything, but ultimately, my idea is to incorporate that information into a "smart search" so when you start typing in the name of a city to do a letterbox search, AQ can automatically include a drop-down list below it of the most common searches done using the first few letters you type. Don't know when I'll actually implement THAT particular feature, but out of curiosity, I finally took a look at the counts to see.... Atlas Quest's most popular searches.

So here it is:

  1. Portland, OR (4649)
  2. Seattle, WA (3203)
  3. Syracuse, NY (2893)
  4. Charlotte, NC (2780)
  5. Atlanta, GA (2715)
  6. Houston, TX (2570)
  7. Columbus, OH (2351)
  8. Sacramento, CA (2214)
  9. Asheville, NC (2066)
  10. Philadelphia, PA (2061)
The 100th most common search city is Cary, NC, with 657 searches. =)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Get Your AQ Patches!

You've been asking for them for years. And finally, they have arrived. It's the invasion of the AQ patches! Stitch them to your backpacks and jackets. Give them to friends as gifts. Be the first on your block with the official AQ letterboxing patch! The pricing and payment details can be found in the AQ Patches section of the Marketplace.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

How Not To Make Money From Letterboxing

Occasionally, I hear about someone grumbling over premium membership. Pay for a feature? Someone would dare to profit off of our beloved hobby? I know it's only a tiny minority of you out there who grumble about this, but this message is for you. I'd like you to look on the other side of the fence and explain why this really is not just a greedy attempt by me to profit off a beloved hobby.

The technical term is opportunity cost. I've made Atlas Quest my full time job for the last 3 1/2 years now. Granted, I don't work normal 9-to-5 hours. I might still be in bed, asleep at 9:00, but you might find me working at 2:00am in the morning. I usually work every day, weekends and holidays included, for at least a small period of time. It's a job, and yes, I do make an income from my job, but lest you start throwing stones, I don't see many other people working for free.

The fact is, this job has cost me--and this is just a rough estimate--about $200,000. That's how much I likely would have earned from a regular 9-to-5 corporate job for the last 3 1/2 years. My actual income from Atlas Quest during this time is about $15,000. While it's not money I paid directly out of my pocket, I can assure you, it's a very real cost I've paid to create and develop Atlas Quest.

I know AQ is often compared to LbNA, but sometimes I feel the comparisons aren't very fair. A handful of folks like to criticize me for profiting off of you, while from my perspective, I've already given up hundreds of thousands of dollars to make this site possible. And I'm the one branded the greedy traitor by 'commercializing' letterboxing.

Most features on Atlas Quest are completely free, as it should be. A handful of perks, none of which I consider 'essential' for letterboxers, are reserved for the premium members who pay to keep this site running.

I've given up a lot of money to create Atlas Quest, and will continue to do so for a long time to come, because some things are priceless. I like the freedom it provides, working when I want and from where I want. I enjoy the satisfaction of working on something I feel is important--a quality of life thing I never had experienced from my previous jobs. Sometimes I get the most wonderful messages, by a mom who tells me how letterboxing and Atlas Quest have brought their family together like nothing before. It's moments like those I would never want to trade for all the money in the world. Financially speaking, Atlas Quest is an unmitigated disaster, but there's not another job in the world I'd rather be doing, except perhaps for thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. ;o)

This message is not to convince everyone that they should become premium members--I'm happy to report, late last year, an amazing thing happened. For the first time since I was laid off in 2001, my income exceeded my expenses. At first I thought it was a fluke, but then it happened for a second month. And a third. And it continues to this day. It's a huge milestone--I'm actually cash flow positive! Granted, not by much. And I still want to purchase health and dental insurance, and eventually start funding a retirement account. I'm sure critics might consider such needs primal and a waste of money, but they're important to me. I have no intention of raising the cost of premium membership anymore except, perhaps, to account for inflation, because I don't need to anymore.

In any case, it's always bothered me a little bit when I hear about someone saying how greedy I am and how I'm ruining letterboxing through my greed. It's true, I probably earn more from letterboxers than just about any one person in the world, but only at an enormous opportunity cost that I suspect a lot of my critics have not considered. If it was just about the money, I'd have shut Atlas Quest down years ago--assuming I even started it at all.