Google, Strobist, You and Mavis

For the international readers, in the US today is Thanksgiving. It is a day in which we watch a big parade, pause to give thanks, eat turkey, watch football and take a breath to prepare for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

First of all, thanks to all of you for reading the site and especially for contributing to the flow of information that helps us all learn how to be better photographers. There are also a couple of neat things going on behind the scenes that you might not be aware of. If you are interested in learning more about it, make the jump. If not, well, happy Thanksgiving -- wherever you are.


I wanted to take a moment to look both upstream and downstream from the vantage point of this website, and to highlight the people who make this possible. Also, I'd like to introduce you to a few unexpected people who are directly benefitting from your readership.


Upstream, it all starts with Google, who provides a venue, bandwidth and full-time tech support for this site -- all for free. I had a phone conversation a few weeks ago with one of the honchos at Blogger. I was worried that we had outgrown our little free corner of the web, and I wanted to know if I should (reluctantly) plan to move the site to a different venue.

Turns out, you can't really get too big for Google. We do quite a bit of bandwidth -- about 50k pageviews a day including lots of photos. And Google is totally cool with that process continuing to happen for free. As far as they are concerned, anyone who is creating new content and broadening the knowledge base of the internet is cool with them.

So, if there are any of you out there considering blogging, I would like to offer a kick in the pants to get on with it. It's fun, free and you'll learn way more than you think you will just by doing it. And if I may offer a plug for Blogger as a good choice for a (free) venue, it would be this:

1. You will never outgrow them, and
2. I think Google will still be around in five years or so.

So, thanks to Google and the Blogger team. I can tell you with 100% certainty that without their free platform and bandwidth, this site would not be here.

Readers and Advertisers

From my own position, I am thankful for the people who show up to read this stuff, and especially to those who contribute. I know that I have become a better shooter as a result of what I have learned from you all. And I think we, as a group, are increasing the rate at which people learn about lighting throughout the world. Which is way cool.

Your presence matters. That's what makes a market for the businesses who wish to gain exposure to a herd of photographers. And by advertising, they fund the site and make it all work. So thanks to them, too.

Unexpected Beneficiaries

Looking further downstream from us though, a portion of the money generated by this site is diverted at any one time through a portfolio of microloans which are spread out around the world by an organization called Kiva. They facilitate interest-free microloans, using PayPal as a payment platform (who donate their services, without fees) to match up lenders with borrowers around the world.

I found out about Kiva through a story on the PBS documentary series "Frontline," and have been lending through them ever since.

This is Mavis Fuah, a businesswoman in Ghana who buys bales of used and surplus clothing and then sells them by the piece to support her family.

Literally, the fact that you are clicking onto this site and learning how to light for free has directly resulted in her being able to expand her business with an interest-free microloan. We were a major funder on her loan, which was for a total of $750.

That's not a lot of money by western standards, but it makes a huge difference to Mavis. Click on the pic for more info.

In addition to Mavis, our outstanding loan portfolio includes:

Odia Asikhia, Nigeria, (Movie rental business)
Bridget Agbon, Nigeria, (Plastics sales)
James Edaki, Nigeria, (Soft drinks retailer)
Shahodat Ismoilova, Tajikistan (Perfume retailer)
Tomas Hernåndez, Mexico (Restranteur)
Juliana Dede, Ghana (Plastic container sales)

Like the platform which makes possible this site, the microlending process is free, and can be accessed from any internet-enabled computer. They are really catching on, too. So much so that they have a temporary limit on the amount of money you can contribute to any one microloan -- $25.00.

But merely by foregoing the interest you would have earned on that $25 for a year (comes to 75 cents at a savings account rate of 3%) you can, from your desk, make a real difference to a family who will probably never worry about whether they should by a Gadget Infinity remote or spring for Pocket Wizards. I would note that I have a 100% repayment rate, with no defaults or late payments, which is not unusual for a Kiva loan.

So, if you are looking for one more thing to feel good about this Thanksgiving, I suggest learning more about

And if you are even remotely inclined to play with a blog of your own, jump right in a The water is fine.


New to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos
Got a question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist
Grab your passport: Strobist Destination Workshops