The Heart Remains

A black heart shape made of industrial glue remains on a stucco wall

In this obligatory, Valentine’s Day post, I found a black heart shape made from the remains of an industrial adhesive. My guess would be it was used to glue a sign to the stucco wall. Now it seems to carry so much unintended meaning. All the big existential human conditions are here, love, loss, memory, time, etc., as well as some more sinister cultural impacts, a black heart, dripping with animosity stains the rough surface defying the smooth, clean modernist world, forgotten but yet stubbornly remaining as a reminder of our search and our loss.

Midtown, Manhattan.

Jungle

"Summer in the Jungle" mural

Plaque describing the "Summer in the Jungle" mural

Here’s part of a larger mural and I’ll leave the description up to the artist (conveniently with a plaque!). I’m always in favor of more public art even if I find this piece a bit tame. And even if it comes with corporate sponsors. Bring on the color and chaos!

West Side, Manhattan.

Learn English

A faded building with the phrase "Learn English" falling off the front.

Somehow this really struck me as a summary of the current geopolitical situation. The faded 1950’s architecture, the broken sign with it’s web address as the brand, the haphazard construction permits on the doors, the fact that there are two sets of doors — one transparent, one opaque (one for you, one for them) the dirt and decay along the bottom panels (as if they building had been repeatedly kicked and scuffed) and finally, hiding in the lobby, a traffic cone warning us.

It’s the demise of respect for the U.S. around the globe, immigration and the promise of a better life — all coming together in this one shot captured before they put a shiny new facade on it. The architectural grid no longer able to impose a sense of ordered modernism in order to reassure visitors of it’s grandeur. A historical fragment that reveals so much more.

Midtown, Manhattan.

Die Happy

Mural of a woman's face with a speech bubble saying "Die happy tonight"

The lettering in the speech bubble is great, a little bit of calligraphy in the hand written style. Having the woman’s eyes closed also brings emotion to this large piece.

West Side, Manhattan.

2019: Year in Review

Green and black trail digital painting

As we roll into 2020, I thought I’d take a look to see how the blog (and by extension, me) have done in 2019. I’ve always been a fan of recap posts from much bigger and better sites where they provide a glimpse behind the curtain to show you what’s happening. I like the transparency and usually learn a few tips that I try to implement here. So while this is a very small operation, here’s my first attempt to give a behind the scenes year in review.

 

Analytics

I’m using Google Analytics, but as part of my process to reduce my reliance on big tech, I’m planning to switch to an open source solution. Realistically, I don’t need analytics at all on this tiny blog, but I do appreciate seeing how posts are doing and where traffic is coming from. It should also be noted that I haven’t excluded my own visits from the analytics, so the data is definitely skewed a bit. I’m not obsessively visiting the site, and if I am visiting for design/dev tweaks, it’s primarily the home page and not the individual post pages.

 

Posts

My goal was a schedule of four posts per month, so this year was a fairly good effort. It’s often hit or miss as I’m just walking around thinking, smoking cigars and finding street art that I like. If I’m not out and about as often in some months, the post volume suffers. I try to keep a backlog of content to make up for downtime and help even out the volume. And, of course, it’s partially reliant on artists getting out as well. I’ve also missed photographing pieces I like due to them being painted over by the time I circle back.

This was also the first year, I accepted guest posts from friends. I’m not sure why I never thought of it before, but it’s great! Thanks!

2019 Total: 41 posts

By Month:

  • January: 4
  • February: 4
  • March: 5
  • April: 2
  • May: 1
  • June: 4
  • July: 3
  • August: 4
  • September: 1
  • October: 4
  • November: 5
  • December: 4

 

Top 5 Posts (by page views)

  1. Sonic
  2. Hieroglyphics
  3. The Wolf and The Band
  4. Apart Together
  5. Abstraction

 

Top Pages (excluding the home page)

  1. Tag page for “Spray Paint”
  2. Tag page for “Graffiti”

 

Key Dates

These are dates that showed spikes in traffic. It looks like I must have told people at Thanksgiving about the blog! The other spikes seem to center around popular posts.

Users

  • Sunday, February 3rd: 12 users
  • Monday, April 8th: 18 users
  • Friday, November 29th: 15 users

Page Views

  • Saturday, August 24th: 44 page views
  • Friday, November 29th: 64 page views

 

Geography

Top 5 Countries (by users)

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. China
  4. Hong Kong
  5. South Korea

Also — a special shout out to whoever visited from Syria — that can’t have been easy.

 

Browsers & Devices

Nothing extraordinary here, but still one surprise. Chrome is the most popular browser, but I was surprised that more people weren’t using Firefox. (You should really make the switch. They’ve been doing great things this past year.) The majority of visits are from desktops and on the mobile side, the iPhone is the most popular device. No surprises there.

 

Newsletter

The newsletter is just a monthly recap of posts pulled from the site’s RSS feed. There’s not many subscribers, but they do open the email (81% average open rate), so at least that’s something! The click through rate is lower at 17% average. I’m thinking longer written posts may increase the click through rate versus the quick dopamine hit of street art photos hitting your inbox. (Plug: You can sign up here.)

 

Social

I push out each post on Twitter and Mastadon as part of my process. Twitter accounted for a measly eight visits, but in a shocking twist Facebook accounted for three and Baidu for two. Shocking because I never post on Facebook (and have since deleted my account). The Baidu links are maybe due to my SEO efforts? I’ve no idea. I don’t duplicate this content on my Instagram feed, but I do list the blog URL in my profile, so that drives a few hits once and a while (four visits to be exact). Perhaps I should add some social sharing options here to make it easier to spread the word.

 

Design

Some improvements in the design this year include the recent typography update to use Titillium Web for the headers and then carry that over to the main site as well. I’m happy with the overall simple theme, so I don’t expect to change the design this year, just mostly the back end WordPress stuff.

 

Accessibility

Stemming from my front end dev work at my day job, this was also a big push in 2019. Simple things like having all links underlined (versus using a CSS bottom border or relying strictly on color) do make an improvement. Another big change, although subtle, was to improve the color contrast for type by selecting a new darker green color for the overall “brand”. I’m still working to get this applied to all my materials, but at least it’s updated here on the blog and meets WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines.

 

SEO

This was an experiment this year to use the Yoast free plugin consistently to “improve” the search engine data for the posts. While I did not have any grand expectations or anticipate any miracles, I did find the whole process tedious and the plugin itself intrusive and very pushy regarding the paid premium version. I do think it’s good practice to add the relevant data to each post for SEO’s sake, but right now, it’s more of an annoying chore. I’ll probably try out a few other options in 2020. Of course, organic search did account for nearly 20% of visits, so maybe it’s working better than I think.

 

Performance

Some definite improvements here as well this past year. Fonts are now hosted locally reducing reliance on third party services and eliminating the external resource requests. I’ve also added font display: swap to the CSS to help load the custom fonts. Native lazy loading was added for Chrome users which should also hopefully help out on mobile. I was certainly more diligent about image compression which also helped the site reach a 100 score on Google PageSpeed for desktop and 99 for mobile. GT Metrix puts the home page size as 2.3mb and the load time on my fast home connection at 0.7 seconds. Web Page Test puts the initial load time at 3 seconds with the first contentful paint (FCP) at 0.8 seconds in a simple run from Virginia using a cable connection. Of course, these are just measurements and your mileage may vary, but it does mean I’ve covered off on (some) of the basics.

 

2020 Goals

  • Reach 48 posts for the year, four per month average
  • More longer written posts to balance the photo posts and increase engagement
  • Switch off Google Analytics for a self hosted solution
  • Set up IP address filtering for analytics
  • Reduce/eliminate the need for Javascript
  • Refactor CSS

 

As this is the first time I’ve done a recap of the blog, the goal for next year is to make the review a fancy post with all kinds of interactive charts, data, art and what not.

Finally, a huge thank you to all the artists I’ve been able to feature. It takes guts to put yourself out there and to do it on the streets, often illegally, is massive. While I don’t always know who you are, my photos and comments are meant to provide some appreciation and record of your work. We’re out here, we see you and we want to see more!