1) I disagree with your first statement, just because some work that really "wows" me is so beyond my comprehension that it's difficult to learn from it; sometimes, that's a core element of being "wowed": the astonished person doesn't quite know why he's astonished. How can he learn from example?
As far as my photos being boring, not going to contest that. You just have to remember that, at this point, expediency is the main factor. I rigged up a system to pull selected files from my public Flickr account, which consist almost entirely of photos I do in my own time...which means there's a high proportion of wide lenses, as opposed to shots at 200mm...because I don't casually carry around the 200mm.
2) Also no contest...the technical details are trivial to include or exclude (once you've written a script that gathers photos from Flickr and reads the metadata). For now, I find them more useful than writing out as narrative, "For this photo, I used my f2.8 lens wide open"...More can be done with the data design but I want readers to know at a glance what's going on before they read the caption of the photo. I'm hoping this leads to more active reading, because the reader has to ask himself "This photo is shot at f8.0 and yet the background is so blurred, how is that?"
> I was looking at all the cool photos and I really wanted to know the f-stop, the exposure, the ISO that the author used. It took me about a year to figure out it didn't matter. Main reason being - you will never encounter that exact scene with that exact lighting.
I say that exact sentiment: don't worry about the numbers or the math. Maybe I didn't say it strong enough but I'm happy that someone on HN agrees and I'm not just dumbing down the math. I think memorization of numbers is silly.
What I want readers to be able to do is approach each photographic situation with a problem-solving mindset:
"This scene is dark. I want the photo to show my friend's face clearly, how do I balance the three settings and which flaw am I most willing to introduce into my photo to prevent other more critical flaws?"
3 and 4) Yep, no argument. And nowhere do I say, "copy these numbers down"
5) Now the most important point of learning how to photograph well: STOP READING TECHNICAL GARBAGE.
I agree, that's why I wrote this book in the first place. Obviously I haven't done it in the same way that you would but I don't think we disagree at all.
But generally, maybe you can swap out "mediocre photos" with "better" ones either by yourself, or by others who gave you permission? Not because your photos are so bad, but because there are sweeet photos out there, from photographers who would love to help / show off - and photos that "say something" would help drawing people in, and keeping them reading.
I'm thinking of the Luminous Landscape (google it, explore it, wear it like a funny hat) here, which tends to have articles that explain something, and then a photo that illustrates the technique -- but without talking a whole lot about that specific photo. Maybe you can draw some inspiration from that, and try to "decouple" the photos and the articles if you will?
I'm saying this because I LOVE the general idea of the site, and that it's without clutter (though personally I think the font sizes are a bit huge). It's bookmarked to help out newbies when I run into them; now if you kindly could turn it into the best there could possibly be? Thanks :) I like what you're trying to do, and wish you all the best doing it.
Oh, and I think the whole point about art is a bit, uhm, besides the point. Yes, if you want to make great photos you don't read about shutter speed -- at the same time, if you want to learn about shutter speed a book of art photographs is perfectly useless, too :P
As for using others' photos...there's a couple reasons, and they don't have to deal with personal pride. 1) Distribution /copyright issues, 2) I would spend waaaay too long if I felt I had to pick the best of the best out there (even among just the Wikicommons material)...plus, I'd have almost no expertise to share about them, so I'd feel a little guilty about using them mostly as eye candy.
I think my direction will be to improve the quality of the photos, but more importantly, improve the relevance of the photos to the topic at hand...I don't think I'll ever satisfy everyone's idea of what a great picture is, but at least I can put up educational ones.
Instead, I think LL tends to pander more to the pixelpeeping crowd. Just my opinion. There are much better sources to learn to take better pictures.