Friday, September 7, 2007

The BenSpark: An Introduction...

Hi my name is Drew and I run a blog called The BenSpark. I was named a Blue Ribbon Blogger a while ago but never really understood the full impact of that honor. Seriously with a ton of meme's and awards and tags and whatnot I missed out in fully understanding that The Blog Fairy was something more. But she saw something in my blog and for that I am grateful. I will try even harder to live up to that honor. I feel that I missed something very special not knowing Francesca.

So this blog is for the Blue Ribbon bloggers to use to promote what they are working on so I'm going to give you an introduction to me and to what I am working on. My name is Drew or BenSpark, some people call me Ben and that is okay too. I started my love affair with the Internet back in 1995 when I started e-mailing friends and participating in text based MUSHes. I think that was what they were called, basically chat rooms that were all text based on UNIX. In 1996 in the last two months of my senior year of college my roommate, a computer science major, brought home two photocopied pages of HTML code. I became one of the only non Comp Sci majors to have their own Internet (Unix) account, I think we all got 100KB of space to use to make our own home pages. I quickly filled that with scans of comic books and WildStorm CCG cards. I had a webpage and I loved it.

When Geocities came about I signed up for them and moved my website to that platform. I did many things with that site and then completely abandoned it. I dabbled in web design and in 1997 was the webmaster for my alma mater. I did that for a few years and then got a job at a web design company. I did that for one year, I would work mainly on taking the graphics that the designer made and then hand coding it so that it worked on the different web browsers. Then the dot com bubble busted and I was laid off.

In September of 2001 I took a job at a company that makes medical software. I would travel the country teaching our customers how to use the software. While on my trips I took a camera with me everywhere. I took photos of every place I ever went. The job was a good one but wasn't very creative so I needed and outlet for my own creativity. I learned about blogging and thought it would be a great way to use my coding expertise and my love for design as well as a way to showcase my photography. So I started a blog on Blogger with a BlogSpot Plus account. I called it The BenSpark because that was an amalgam of my last name and that of my girlfriend, later fiance , now wife. We would use the blog to tell our friends about the cool things we had done. That was in 2003.

The blog was sporadically updated from 2003-2004. I finally settled into something I really could get behind when I learned about a project called Photo-A-Day. One of my favorite folk singer/songwriters, Christopher Williams did a Photo-A-Day project for the year of 2002. He chronicled one year in his life. On April 9th 2005 I decided to chronicle my 31st year of life. I started on my birthday and I haven't stopped yet. I became addicted to taking photos and posting them each and every day.

I'm not sure exactly when I thought of it but I decided that I would ask bloggers to host Photo-A-Day on their blogs. So I created a little widget that they could use to display on their blogs. Thus getting my photos out and about and seen all over. When I hit 500 consecutive Photo-A-Day days I took those images and made 5 posters that had 100 thumbnails on each, I entered those in an art show at work and will try to make 5 more when I hit 1000 photos.

The Photo-A-Day widget has become a way in which I do link exchanges with other bloggers. Users who host the widget get a link in my Photo-A-Day Host blogroll on my right sidebar. Through this project I have met many great people and it has certainly improved my photography. And the great thing about taking a photo-a-day is that I can see the progression of my skills. Also as a blogger I always have a daily catalyst for new content.

Photo-A-Day has exploded for me in that now I post the Photo-A-Day on Buzznet (That is where the photo for the widget comes from) Flickr (I participate in a Photo-A-Day group and submit my Photo-A-Day to that group each day) and my best of the best goes to Zooomr.

I monetized my blog in 2006 by starting working with PayPerPost and although I got some initial messages about selling my soul and whatnot I found that by working with PayPerPost my blogging improved. I moved my blog from blogspot to my own domain. I retained the old blog and also started two others. So now I have four blogs in my cap and am thinking about starting a fifth one. My main blog is still called The BenSpark and the old BenSpark was renamed to BenSpark 2: Electric Boogaloo and became all about entertainment. I started a blog about all the books I read and called that Flatwater Bookstore because it was supposed to be about kayaking books. I changed that one to Flatwater Tech and write a bunch about technology and gadgets on that blog.

Then I decided on a theme for podcasting and combining that with my love of gadgets as well as kayaking. So I started The Wired Kayaker. I filmed 5 podcasts and produced 3 of them for general viewing so far. Then my trusted video camera died on me. I have many more ideas but I just need a new camera and possibly a sponsor.

Because of the connections I was making online and new hobbies that I was getting into like podcasting I learned about great things like Photowalking. I was also introduced to a great blogger's resource site called FuelMyBlog. Because of those things I am now a writer for FuelMyBlog's Blog (I do a weekly post called Tech Tuesdays with Benspark which I also repost on Flatwater Tech) and I just submitted my first recap of a Photowalk for And now I get to write for Blue Ribbon Bloggers and I was added to Blogging Den. Also my photos are frequently featured on the Wallhogs Blog.

Blogging has been really beneficial for me as it is a great way to express myself, meet friends, and make a few bucks here and there, get my photography out there.

Then I discovered contests and I started hosting them. I have run three very successful contests on The BenSpark and September looks to be a good one as well. This month I am partnered with to give away cash prizes for the best photos taken while using their XShot. My partnership with XShot started because of my blogs. I was approached by to receive a free sample XShot and to tell people about it. We ran a contest back in June or July and it worked so well that Michael from wanted to do another contest.

Sure I like the small income from my blog but the friendships and contacts and feedback from all the people I have met has meant more to me than anything else. I hope to continue to provide great content and live up to the title of Blue Ribbon Blogger.


ndpthepoetress Jean Michelle Culp said...

Thank you for sharing this information and introducing yourself to us Drew. Congratulations on being an Original Blue Ribbon Blogger! It is never to late to recognize the value of Francesca Faerie The Blog Fairy cause her Mission of Love lives on throughout the Blogosphere and this Blog site is a reminder of that. Welcome aboard one and all!

BenSpark said...

Thanks very much for the nice comment. I hope I didn't drone on there. I tend to write a lot. said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you for the introduction. I wish I would have known her too. She recently noticed my blog when I was having a really bad day, and I couldn't believe it. Only a few short weeks after that she was gone. I notice my name is not on the list, but I was an original blue ribbon blogger. Would it be possible to add me? My blog is, A Nice Place In The Sun. I hate to not be a part of such a nice site and great bunch of people.

Thank you! :)

Have a great day!


ndpthepoetress Jean Michelle Culp said...

Oh my Ann, an oversight for sure. Thank you for mentioning this because we want to include all Original Blue Ribbon Bloggers. We will be more than happy to fix this. Thank you again. Perhaps the fact that your Blog A Nice Place In The Sun is just so full of sunshine that The Blog Fairy could not see your Blue Ribbon Blogger Award for all the sun rays :)

surjit singh said...

A great informative post.Congratulations on being an Original Blue Ribbon Blogger.
My best wishes.