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bonsai barry

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On a different thread, Brent brought up some interesting ideas regarding the posting of trees. There are a lot of bonsai forums on a large continum from Chatty (and off topic) to Stuffy. Where should Bonsainut fall on this continum? What should our level of discussion be?

On one hand, no one wants to see another stick in a pot. On the other hand, should we be reluctant to show trees in the early stages of development? Some members have nearly a lifetime of bonsai experience, some of us are well short of a decade. It would be insulting to the experienced enthusiasts to think those of us with less experience could show off comparable work.

Yes, you may say, that's true, but anyone can start with quality trees with potential. No doubt true to some degree. But if John Naka is correct when stating, "the tutition in bonsai is dead trees," then should we be paying larger sums of money for trees knowing that to learn is to expereince loss?

Just a few thoughts. Your contributions are welcome. While this site is in early development (thank you, Bonsainut) each member has a chance to shape its personality.
 

Bonsai Nut

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A great question. When I created this site, it was for the express purpose of providing an advanced forum, while still being beginner-friendly. What I specifically wanted to avoid was a forum loaded with pictures of someone's dying $20 serissa. However, I do not think we would be best served by only focusing on show quality trees. In my mind I wanted to focus on the process by which trees became show quality. This includes:

1) Showing mistakes. I learn most from MY mistakes, and by sharing them with others, hope that they might also learn. I do NOT have a nursery that is 100% show-quality trees. By sharing my poor trees, I hope to improve them and learn from the process.

2) Asking for opinions & help. I am often blind to faults and opportunities with my own trees. By sharing them with others, I hope to waken the potential beauty, or minimize wasted time following a design trail that will lead to a dead end. Sometimes this means tossing a tree that I thought had potential, and sometimes this means taking a more radical approach (dramatic pruning, air-layer, grafting, etc) than I might have taken on my own.

3) Being constructive. It is easy to be critical. Being constructive takes your criticism and provides a solution to it.

4) Sharing your knowledge. Step in when you see someone making a mistake you have learned from in the past. Offer your "secret" tips. Share photos, etc. Be an ACTIVE member.

5) Being yourself. At the end of the day these are YOUR bonsai. Do with them what you want and do not feel bad about it. If someone likes your tree, great. If they don't like it, great. Use the opinions of others to build to your bonsai experience - not take away from it.

I am interested in hearing others' opinions.
 

JasonG

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What I find exciting about this site is it is new and WE can shape it's future.....

I think begineers and experts should post thier trees.... I get sick of looking at sticks in pots that don't really have a future in bonsai and would'nt mind if those didn't get posted here. But to be fair to the begineers out there they need to post them to learn from others. I think topics like BN's JBP is a good topic. It is a tree that is early in development and posses lots of challanges and directions that one could take it. To me that is an educational topic, way more than a 1 gallon tree that needs to be chopped and put in the ground. Not much to learn there.....

Anyways, I have to hand it to you Bonsai Nut, you did a good job here and I enjoy watching the membership #'s get bigger by the week. I will try to be an active member in the near future by adding some more trees and some photo sequences

Jason
 

Brent

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I'll start. I have a lot of ideas about forums. I started participating in forums (what later became the IBC) in 1996. I can tell you those were the golden days. Not every kid with a stick in a pot had a computer and a digital camera, you didn't have to post for the four thousandth time to take your juniper outside. Bonsai participation for the most part was from growers with at least some experience and sophisticated enough to have a computer and know how to use it.

At the same time, there was an awful lot of misinformation floating on the web. This was the from our bonsai text book heritage of myths. Huge arguments raged about soil, fertilizers, and cultural practices. There were no moderators; flame wars abounded. It was better than a good daytime soap. This was extremely fertile ground. Slowly, good science began to prevail over cultural tradition, and this revolution persists to this day. The internet CHANGED bonsai, and for the better. I still miss those days.

What made those days so good? For one thing it was wide open. Several early attempts were made to limit the participation (sever the connection to the RAB newsgroup). The were all beaten back, thanks in part to yours truly. Newbies in those days didn't mean stick in pot greenhorns. It meant someone who had been practicing bonsai alone for twenty years finally found contact with THE community. Many eyes were opened, many ego were hurt. We lost some good people, but we gained more than we lost.

When bonsai forums became web based (as opposed to listserv, newsgroup), things changed. Yes, the community became even more open, but we also were exposed to the stick in a pot crowd. Now, many promising artists have come from this group, but the overwhelming influence has been to dilute the substance of the online bonsai community. Great discussions still happen, pictures and video are an enormous help, but there is no denying a sea change in the forum community.

Fortunately, instead of only ONE forum as in the old days, there are over a dozen, and in several languages as well. Now forums develop character and one can select the forum that is most appealing. For example (I will use names, not point in pretending we don't know to whom one is referring), BonsaiTalk is the most popular English language newsgroup, that is, it has the most members and traffic. It has been prone to enormous food fights in the past, mostly over 'Art' debates. They still happen but with less frequency. Groups do grow and change. These days I am hard pressed to find a single post in which I am interested enough to respond. BT, probably because its size, runs the gamut from stick in the pot to professional, and it has a number of professional level members.

Bonsaisite, is, and has always been a beginners group. The problem is that it is mostly by and for beginnings, so there is a lot of bad advice and it is pretty much dominated by just a few names with mediocre experience. It is difficult to find any post that is not stick in a pot except by Harry and a few other artists.

BonsaiChat is appropriately named, it is mostly by and for chat persons. Sometimes I call it the birthday forum since it seems that most of the energy goes into congratulating members on having survived another year. The only time this group put out some good serious work was when Will was stirring the pot.

Gardenweb, which was at one time the second of only two existing bonsai forums is virtually moribund having pissed off just about everyone imaginable with its silly in house 'we will tolerate no other commerce rules'. Now it's content is virtually run by someone called Lucy, although Vance Woods and BonsaiKC still appear occasionally to stir things up a bit.

Then there are the rebel groups that embraced art at all costs, including foregoing participation by most of the community, AOB and KOB. The stuff there is great and attracts some of the best artists in the world, but the layout and method of posting and responding is so alien to us all that there is lucky to be one or two posts a day. It doesn't have to be this DULL!.

Lastly, there is the poor old IBC, the group that started it all. The Listserv group still has the greatest number of artists and experts, but practically no one else, and is also virtually moribund these days with only a couple of posts a day. In the glory days, there were over 100 posts a day. The IBC website addition a few years ago was great because it allowed the use of images, but the setup is clunky and the gallery can ONLY be used for pictures (which is vigorously enforced). The text is another gallery which is also nearly moribund. Still, the IBC has the most potential to be THE best forum, with the most professionals with a friendly format, if only they could get their sh__ together. But they never will because it also is dominated by a few users with very strong opinions of how it should be run.

What can we learn from this?

First and foremost, the biggest lesson is that it has to be easy. If you have to struggle (AOB, KOB, IBC) to find new posts, and the correct place to post or respond, forget it. We are instant culture and getting worse by the minute. We should tattoo KISS on our foreheads backwards so we see it in the mirror every morning: Keep It Simple Stupid! Software developers should also have it tattoed on their butt since that where their head is most of the time. You should be able to go to a site and with one click (or none as here) see all the new stuff.

Categories don't matter! Has anyone ever actually gone to the Soils category of a forum and actually learned anything? Chances are, you were just overwhelmed by 200 pages and 4 thousand posts on soils that just left you confused. When I want to learn something specific the last thing I would do is consult a forum category. Why do you think god invented Google? Even the search engines of most of the forums are pretty good, so you can zero in on what you need without any using the confusing categories. I have never understood this burning desire to create yet ANOTHER category for books out of print with intact binders or whatever.

Forums are about ACTION. Why not just let ONE forum be about what happens every day, or at least the current thread. If you want to search all the old stuff looking for Serrisa or Joe Blow's post, you are on your own Fred, that's what the search feature is for. Ok, that's a little extreme, but do you get my point? If you want to attract and keep good people, all this other crap isn't going to do it, it's the daily ACTION that will keep them around, especially people of experience. I never look at the galleries in a forum, why would I subject myself to that? Stick your pictures in a post a get a critique, move on. There's no need to keep that pic for posterity. There are plenty of forums that do that, have about just ONE forum that puts the emphasis on daily posts and discussion.

Give it to beginners straight. We aren't doing beginners any favors by patting them on the back and saying 'interesting good start!'. You don't have to be mean, but you can gently point out that's not how we do it. Those with curiosity will stay, those that can't stand the heat will get out of the kitchen. I wouldn't mind seeing ONE forum with most of the members really willing to tell the straight skinny without devolving into flame wars. It can be done. I have been reading and responding to posts for TEN years, tens of thousands of posts, and have never engaged in a flame war, but there have been plenty of great controveries.

That's how I would like to see this forum, or at least ONE forum on the web. Maybe I'll get my wish, but I must admit, the odds are against it.

Brent
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see our blog at http://BonsaiNurseryman.typepad.com
 

Tachigi

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Wow....great post Brent. I agree pretty much with what you laid down.

I do believe that beginners on this site is essential. After all they are the future of the art. The straight skinny (as Brent put it) to beginners and seniors is important in self development. The first thing I was taught when I took bonsai serious was critique. Get everyone and anyone that had a glimmer of knowledge give you what they felt the straight poop was on your tree, no sugar coating and the warm fuzzies. However, how do you do that with a beginner and not wreck them emotionally? It is a fine line to walk. Perhaps Greg ,a beginners corner that the sticks of the world could be presented in,moderated so that those that want help can get it. A nursery so to speak. If the Senior members don't want to look at the sticks or deal with "buddy, its a lost cause" comments they don't have to, and deal with topics that suit them better.

I believe that this forum has the chance to do it right. It all boils down to what we, as the genesis members, tolerate and suggest.
 

bonsai barry

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Hmm, some interesting stuff. I'll disagree with Brent regarding the galleries. I find them very useful. If I'm interested in a new species or style I run to the galleries to see how other people fared. I also use google images to find photos but a good gallery is a pretty effecieint way to see others work.

I also use the gallery to help evaluate the advice given by others. It acts as their on-line portfolio of trees. It is a visual indicator of their level of expertise. If they have a nice collection of trees, I tend to give more creedence to their advice.

So, go load up the gallery with photos of your trees.
 

John Hill

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OK?

To me they are all bonsai forums for beginners, I for one am a beginner. Bonsai is always changing and there for I am always changing. I am always looking and learning. I understand that bonsai is not a stick in a pot,,but why?? A stick in a pot is still bonsai to me. It can be art!! But just the word art can get alot up on their heels! Art is to each his own but bonsai is bonsai. Now I now this can stir up alot of debate which I do not want to do on this forum or any other. The more experienced has to realize this!! I know many frequent these forums that have been growing sticks in a pot for years but have never gotten further then they are now for the simple fact that they won't listen and learn from the beginners. What better then teaching and learning? (To teach is to learn)

Someone can post a tree or a stick and I will try and find the best I can in that stick! But at the same time let the person know that it has a long long time to become a bonsai " " to others. Some on the forums think they are masters but they should let others know they too are still learning!! When you stop learning you are in trouble.

(you can't see where you're going if you don't know where you've been)


I have always stuck to this and always will! Once you've been there then you can teach someone else your experiences. Trail and error are your best teachers.

You can ask on these forums and get many answers but you will never know until you have tried it, then you know where you've been.
Don't get me wrong I did not know that they had bonsai clubs or even had these forums but I found them and now I can't get away from them.

I read and I thought it was some stupid stuff but then I think back when I was starting out, and realized I asked the same stupid stuff. So why don't the more experienced see this?? Then think back and try to help the beginner. (I was where you are now) I just think that the more experienced have gotten that ego that you do need but don't take it out on the beginner,.or the forums. If it bothers you that much,,STAY AWAY!!
But I know that you can't. (Curosity kills the cat?)

So this is far as I am going to go on this subject and I will see all of you beginners and masters ;-) on the forums.

A Friend in bonsai
John
 
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BrianBay9

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Yes, the trick seems to be, how do we keep more advanced practicioners interested, and still serve the beginners. Eventually it must wear on everyone to answer the same beginner questions over and over again, despite the sincerity of the people asking the questions.

As far as critique goes, I am certain we can "call a spade a spade" without making emotional wrecks out of those receiving criticism. You can critique a tree, pointing out all of its faults, without using words that are judgemental. We've had this discussion on Bonsai Talk some years back, and I'm still not sure I got my message across. But words like 'bad' and 'ugly' impart no useful information to the beginner. Saying a tree has asymmetrical root flair and reverse taper in the trunk, imparts specific information. Saying it's and ugly tree gives no useful information. Saying it's an ugly tree because it has asymmetrical root flair and reverse taper is better, but the term "ugly" serves no purpose but to make the tree's owner feel bad.

So I say critique away! Just talk about factual aspects of the tree and avoid emotional damage to the owner. Oh, and if possible, talk about how to correct the deficits in the tree.

Cheers
Brian
 

irene_b

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Well, I can agree with most of this.
As a Bonsai-ist I love that the web and the sites are available to most if not all the world.
I Like the give and take from all over, and enjoy sharing the Joy of Bonsai! But on the other hand there are not many with experience to share with and you wade thru the muck with all the newbies (not slamming newbies here). I have been the solitary Hermit with Bonsai for way too many years and enjoy chatting with like minded people from all over! I don't mind answering most questions but you do get kinda bored with the same ol same ol. Most of the threads at BT turn into a war of words and personalities...I am not there to read the crap talk! And prefer to avoid the forums. To me everyone needs to grow up and leave that stuff behind them, lose the Ego's or whatever it is called. Pride in work is a different thing. At BT I am the one doing the birthdays....Most of them anyway...I get tired of trying to filter out the crap and try to put something positive like a Birthday in...To me it beats the heck out of "My Wal-Mart tree is dying" daily dose. And getting someone who has the years/experience to post something new or to come chat about their style or what they are doing different is like pulling teeth from a chicken! But even the patience of Job will not keep me in a place that has nothing to offer me in the ways of learning and I am leaning more and more to going back to Hermit stage and just reading the books again!
I want to share ideas and methods, I enjoy a chat room, but I want something different than what is now out there.
Irene
 

Bonsai Nut

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The beautiful thing about messageboards these days is that it is very easy to change / evolve. If we need a book forum it only takes a few minutes to set up. Want to configure the site so it has its own "beginners corner" with a couple dedicated forums? It is simple to do. I have already been reconsidering the "buy and sell" forums located at the bottom, because frankly, I think people would be better served listing their stuff on eBay.

However as easy as it is to change the structure of the forums, it is difficult to change the tone. I expect that the boards will be constructive and instructive; friendly and respectful. If every visit to bonsainut is a positive one, we will continue to grow as a community. If visits are negative, people will stop coming.

That doesn't mean that we can't have healthy debates, or disagreements. However I always want to feel as if we were all in the same room, talking face to face, as a virtual society of friends of bonsai.

I tend to be more of a technical bonsai enthusiast than a "happy birthday chat" kind of guy, so these boards will always emphasize technical content. However there are all kinds of boards here to allow people to share their thoughts - even stuff like sharing their favorite softdrink :) I think the site is currently laid out pretty intuitively. If people keep their content focused in the proper forums, I think it is much easier to browse on related topics. If I go to the "Karaoke Bar" I know what to expect. If I want to avoid lighter "chatty" stuff, I stay away. Though I agree with Brent about the "search" function being critical, I also believe in the need for multiple forums for people to have their own "home within a home". On another community I belong to there are over 140,000 members. With the exception of "search" I do all almost all my reading and posting within a single sub-forum.

I have not been as diligent about moving threads as I will be in the future once traffic begins to grow. For example this thread is not bonsai-specific, so I will probably be moving it to the "feedback and suggestions" forum.
 

JasonG

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If my post above was taken as "slamming begineers" I am sorry.... Irene made a good point.... "Please help my Wal-Mart bonsai"... that is what I get sick of. I agree that begineers need to be here, heck for that matter I am an advanced begineer only having been serious about bonsai for a little over 2 years. Before that I was a stick in pot kinda guy.

I think the birthday thing at BT is kinda cool. I say that for the fact you can put an age with a user name (kinda like the post your picture thread over at BS). But to have a drawn out discussion in the forum about it is going too far I think.

I think this site is well on its way to bieng a very good one. I think with feedback and the fact the site is very young it can only get better. A begineers corner would be a good thing I think, and it would give the people who want to help them a designated place to go to offer advice.

Anyways, good job Nut and thanks for starting this site.

Jason
 

Tachigi

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I think people would be better served listing their stuff on eBay.
From my point of view the Buy / sell stuff is a valuable thing. It offers more credibility, then someone on ebay that you haven't even swapped a post with. I think non-commercial interests would be well served by that forum. As well, as selected commercial interests one day. Nothing like knowing who your dealing with, what skill level there on ..... all the other forums here lend to each members crediblity.

My 2 cents worth :)
 

Graydon

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I'll tell you who I am :

1. I am not happy on other forums. Brent's breakdowns were pretty darn close as to the pulse of the existing forums. None really "do it" for me. I am easily bored with some of the stuffy or beginner ones and easily enticed into a food fight on some of the others. I keep trying to get away but I keep getting sucked back in...

2. I am finding more interest with the horticultural side of this hobby. Propagation in general is my latest trend. I suppose it's something to do while I let those sticks grow out. I am also interested in trying to find the elusive "good material" sources. There seems to be a huge amount of secrecy with this hobby. People hold sources pretty close to their chests like corporate secrets. I don't like that. I feel any discussions about resources for all things bonsai would go over good.

3. I am willing to help. At this time I am willing to help on any level when asked - I don't mind helping answer beginner questions as long as they are legitimate questions. I would like to see an organized and well laid out beginners area on the forum that would need little input once completed. Perhaps that could save us time from answering a question with "pull it out of that pot, remove the wire, plant in fast draining soil, feed well, water well and leave it alone to grow".

4. I don't care about categories per se. If I am looking for something I will use the search feature before I wander and scroll. Google rules!

5. I don't care for galleries. I don't spend much time looking thru them on other forums. I do spend some time trolling various artists sites looking at completed material. I doubt I will ever post photos in "my" gallery. I don't have a collection of photos of my trees. I may regret that in the future but I doubt it. I have 20 years in show business and have less than a shoe box of photos of stuff I have done. It's getting easier with good digital equipment but it still takes time to do. I would gladly give up a gallery system to be able to post larger photos with more detail as attachments on a post (hint hint). I would be lying if I said I understood bandwidth and storage for a site like this so I'll just nod a lot and say uh-huh.

6. I'm not really social, online or otherwise. Birthdays - meh. I appreciate the recognition but could live without that aspect. I understand the reasons why (thanks irene_b) but I don't make that big a deal over my birthday anyhow.

7. I am excited about BonsaiNut. There is potential here.
 

Tachigi

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There seems to be a huge amount of secrecy with this hobby
Graydon, If you ever travel up 95, give me a shout and I'll put you on some fine Yamadori. Just look at the thread I think I can. However not that big some 60 year old shohin stuff.
 
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Bonsai Nut

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I would gladly give up a gallery system to be able to post larger photos with more detail as attachments on a post (hint hint).
1) I think we are going to have the biggest birthday celebration ever for you and Brent. I can see my post already - something flowery with lots of smiley face icons.

2) Since I post directly to the site, I was not aware that the bandwidth constraints were upsetting people. Right now the prefered file type is a .jpg file. There are no constraints to dimensions as long as it is 100K or smaller in size. Other file types are much more limited - 20K - though we could probably loosen this constraint up a bit. We'd just prefer people use jpg files because they have the best compression technology. Typically I find if people are posting LARGE files it is because they don't properly compress their files beforehand. Most of my pics, for example, are in the 50K - 75K range. How large a file size would you like?
 

Graydon

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Right now the preferred file type is a .jpg file. There are no constraints to dimensions as long as it is 100K or smaller in size. Other file types are much more limited - 20K - though we could probably loosen this constraint up a bit. We'd just prefer people use jpg files because they have the best compression technology. Typically I find if people are posting LARGE files it is because they don't properly compress their files beforehand. Most of my pics, for example, are in the 50K - 75K range. How large a file size would you like?
I have attached the manage attachments screen - I'm pretty sure it says maximum size for .jpeg is 620 x 280 (H x W). That is what I have been doing. Unfortunately I just spotted the one for .jpg and yes - it's unlimited on size and 97.7 kb. Well I may be an idiot but at least I have no idea what I am doing. I was wondering why everyone else's pictures were so damn big. Duh...

So in laymen's terms what is the difference between a .jpg and a .jpeg and a .jpe. Keep it simple as I am a Mac user...
 

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darrellw

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So in laymen's terms what is the difference between a .jpg and a .jpeg and a .jpe. Keep it simple as I am a Mac user...
They are all the same. You will mostly see ".jpg", especially from Windows, because older Windows file formats only accept a 3 character extension (and 8 characters before the dot). The Mac file system has never had restrictions like that, and you will often see ".jpeg". You will also sometimes see ".jif" and ".jfif", though they are very uncommon.

For more that you probably want to know about JPEG, see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JPEG

-Darrell
 

Smoke

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Like Brent, I too was around in the early days of bonsai forums. I started at bonsaiPAGE in 97 as did many others at bonsaiTALK. I find it funny that Brent used the name of bonsaichat for bonsaiTALK, not many know this was the name of the forum in the first weeks! I think Matt owns about 20 domain names.

I very much enjoy sharing what I know about bonsai. I have always taken pictures of my trees from the very beginning back in 84 and have enjoyed writing articles ever since. I have over 375 articles at bonsaiTALK. In those early years one could write an article about bonsai aspects, and the membership would read them, comment, and ask questions. Discussion would ensue and things could be learned. It is not that way anymore. The sticks crowd and younger crowd has taken most discussion forums in new directions. Most of the direction is not aimed at good discussion about good bonsai technique. On a good nite at bonsaiTALK, more about bonsai is discussed in chat than on the forum in a whole month. The pictures are good there too!

The atmosphere on most of the sites, save IBC, is that an article gets posted, it gets read cause you can see the views counter change, but it never gets comments good or bad, and no one asks questions. Why waste time writing for a discussion page if no one wants to discuss? I know for a fact that not every article is so perfect that there is nothing more to be said. I think the mentality is that no one wants to challenge someone that may know something so nothing is said. If a newbie posts something about his dying ficus, there are about 20 newbies that know as little as the poster with 20 different things he should try to save his dying fig. Pictures of the fig show it is probably not worth saving anyway, but if someone in authority says that, there are 5 do gooders that will tell you how insensitive you are. Why should someone with knowledge bother with this mentality.

In my mind articles written need to be about work done. They should be no different that a good quality article in a bonsai magazine. They should have a little history about the plant, work done previously and chronicaled work done recently. Pictures add so much to what is being written. The writing should be clear and concise and it should contain a modecum of grammer.

Best regards, Smoke
 
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Bonsai Nut

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So in laymen's terms what is the difference between a .jpg and a .jpeg and a .jpe. Keep it simple as I am a Mac user...
Didn't realize these were set up as different file types. I have reconfigured them to all have the same default settings. I'm not sure I could create a .jpe file if I wanted to.
 

bonsai barry

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I very much enjoy sharing what I know about bonsai. I have always taken pictures of my trees from the very beginning back in 84 and have enjoyed writing articles ever since. I have over 375 articles at bonsaiTALK.

In my mind articles written need to be about work done. They should be no different that a good quality article in a bonsai magazine. They should have a little history about the plant, work done previously and chronicaled work done recently. Pictures add so much to what is being written. The writing should be clear and concise and it should contain a modecum of grammer.

Best regards, Smoke
Looking forward to seeing some of your articles on this site, Smoke!
 
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