Thursday, August 02, 2007

More of These, Less of Those

Sunset on the Weekend Assignments? No way!

Weekend Assignment #177: Are you happy with the Weekend Assignments as they are? Do you have suggestions on improving them? Should we continue the Weekend Assignments, or try something new? Remember, the reason I do the Weekend Assignments is so you'll have something fun to write about over the weekend. It's dependent on you guys, basically. I want to know where you are with it.

Dear John,

You know me. I'll do any Weekend Assignment you throw at us. Cerebral or silly (or both at once), completely germane to my life and interests or completely irrelevant, I'll still write at length about it on a Thursday night. I'll make it work. But I do have some suggestions:

1. X vs. Y questions = Z annoying assignments. You've done several assignments with the format X or Y: if you could only keep one, which would you give up forever? (Alternate: which is better?) The "which would you give up" ones are typically nonsense questions, as the choices are unrelated and a real world scenario pitting one against the other would be difficult to imagine. Frankly, these assignments strike me as more convoluted than whimsical. Plus they're predicated on giving up something, and getting nothing in return, which strikes me as unfair, even for a thought experiment! Accordingly, I respectfully request that you NOT ask readers to choose between the following:
  1. Bananas or opposable thumbs
  2. Chicken or pianos
  3. Numbers or the color blue
  4. Phones or horses
  5. Aardvarks or lemmings
The "which is better" ones (e.g. cake or pie) typically involve natural rivals. Those assignments work a whole lot better. Or pose a question that offers to give the reader something instead of taking it away, e.g. "Which would you rather have, flying cars or cheap, pollution-free fuel for conventional cars?"

2. Captions capture. One of the most successful Weekend Assignments you ever did was a "caption this photo" one. (I personally didn't like that particular assignment, and yet I got a really good entry out of it. Go figure.) Given your general creativity and technical excellence in taking and altering photos, this is something you could throw in once in a while to keep things interesting.

3. Open the suggestion box. From time to time you've solicited assignment ideas from the peanut gallery, especially when you were going to be out of town. Why not solicit them a few times a year, and use more than three of the suggestions? You could keep a file of them, and I know people will appreciate seeing their assignment ideas get used. The initial work would be more than coming up with an idea yourself, but it would even out over time, and result in more diversity.

4. Ruing reruns. It's tough not to repeat yourself after three years, but please try to make the variation different enough that it doesn't seem like the same assignment as last Christmas / Fourth of July / Pluterday.

5. Where is the love? Other people have commented that AOL isn't linking to you on the People Connection pages any more. That seems unfair and unhelpful. It pretty much guarantees that people will only find By the Way via other bloggers who know about you already (and possibly from Whatever). There really should be a modicum of corporate support here.

6. Simple for summer. I gather from what others have said that at certain times of the year. many people don't have hours to spend responding to a thought-provoking assignment. That's probably when you should break out the really easy ones, e.g. "What's in your pocket? If you don't have a pocket, what would be in your pocket if you had one?"

7. Keep up the good work.
Despite all of the above, you're still doing a great job with the Weekend Assignments and Monday Photo Shoots. Don't get discouraged, and don't stop assigning them! I'd go into withdrawal, and you wouldn't want that!

Regards and thanks,


Today's Monsoon Update: A Backwards Day

As you've probably gathered by now, a typical day during Tucson's monsoon starts with a sunny morning, followed by a buildup of clouds and then rain in the late afternoon or evening. So this morning on the way to work, when I saw the Santa Catalina Mountains almost completely hidden by clouds, I was certain that we were getting an early start on the festivities, building toward a noontime storm. Imagine my surprise when I came out for lunch and saw this instead:

The Catalinas still had clouds over them, but mostly only thin ones, and none obscuring the mountains themselves. The sky overhead in the city was blue.

Going back to work after lunch, I saw even less cloudage. Lots of dirt still in the streets, though, washed there by the recent storms. But today there was no storm at all, not in the city anyway. You've already seen how the day ended, with thin pink clouds and a pretty sunset.



Becky said...

Hey John - Yeah! What she said! LOL!

Not that I can really comment since it has been ages since I did an assignment.

Wil said...

I'm so far behind ... I loved your answers to this assignment, particularly #6.