The Blogging Journey

Is it just me, or do others out there see being a blogger as like going on a journey into the unknown?

You start out tentatively, with those awkward first posts, and that hurriedly chosen theme. Your sidebars and widgets are undeveloped, and there is so much about WordPress that you just don’t get at all. The dashboard menus are confusing, and adding images doesn’t seem simple either. Then there are the Categories. What do you call them, and how many should there be, if any? Tags might seem obvious to some, but I had no idea how to tag posts. When I first started out, my posts had almost as many tags as text. Then I found out that it is best to only use five tags or less. I wondered which ones to use after that, and looked at other blogs to get some ideas.

Then came ‘Publicize’, and ‘Sharing’. I didn’t have a Twitter account, or a Google+ identity. So, off I went and created accounts with both. Many new bloggers already use Facebook, so that might give them some idea how to do all this stuff, but it was all Greek to me, as the old saying goes. It took me a long night to discover that I had to add images to my ‘Media Library’, before I could insert them into a post. Then a lot longer to realise that my allowance would soon be eaten up by adding too many photos. After a while, I decided to stick with what I had, even if it didn’t look anywhere near as good as the other blogs I was reading.

Remember that feeling of excitement, when someone viewed your post, and WordPress told you that you had a ‘Like’? You had written something, put it out there, and someone somewhere had not only read it, they had ‘Liked’ it too! Then came those first comments. What to do now? Do I reply, even if an answer doesn’t seem necessary? Then when I decided that I would, I forgot to click the ‘Reply’ box first, so my answer just appeared as another comment, with me suitably oblivious to that fact. The someone actually ‘Followed’ my blog. I was amazed that they would actually want to, and still new enough to be unaware that not all ‘Followers’ are really going to follow.

After a while, I suddenly thought that maybe I should be following some other blogs too. After all, some were kind enough to follow me, and the least I could do was to follow a few in return. Very soon, I started to be aware that we were all in a community. We followed each other’s blogs, commented on comments, and regularly posted more and more stuff. It started to all feel very ‘normal’, and routines of adding images, sharing, re-blogging, following, and commenting, all became second nature. It was like that moment when you have just started driving a car. Although you have passed your test, it feels strange to be out on your own. Then one day, you know your way around, no longer worry about what gear you are in, and feel just the same as all those other drivers.

But there is still more to learn, more tricks and tips to pick up. How to avoid Spammers and scammers, who not to follow, and who you should be following. Adapting your style to suit the blogging format, and making sure to keep your blog fresh and active by varying your posts, and keeping the flow going. Remembering to comment, to check your notifications for things you have missed, and adding replies to comments on your own blog, when appropriate. By now, you have got a long way into that journey, so what next?

For me, it was a change of Theme. After a long time with that original theme, I was becoming fed up with looking at it. And if it was getting that way for me, then what must it be like for those reading it? A change of theme, a different font, and a sort out of those categories. Adding the ‘Like’ button for comments was my next move. At least anyone who commented would know that I had read it, even if I hadn’t had time to reply. On the advice of a fellow blogger, I removed the long dull list of archive months and years from the sidebar, and replaced it with a drop-down menu instead. More advice from someone else made me move my ‘Follow’ buttons higher up, so it was easy for new readers to follow, if they so wished. My final addition was the ‘Choose language’ button. I know that the translations are far from perfect, but you are at least letting non-English speaking readers know that you value them too.

That was it for me, my journey was complete. For now, at least.

Internet marketing: More evidence

We must have all seen it. Make any search online, and pretty soon those pop-up advertisements will appear on your email sidebars, or on other websites that you frequent. You will likely receive emails from suppliers of those products too, as well as all those ‘buying suggestions’ from the likes of Amazon.

There has been a lot of discussion about the topic of Internet Privacy recently. I think it is safe to assume that there has never been any. The ubiquitous ‘Cookies’ know their stuff, and everything we do is tracked, down to the most obscure search. Have a look at your Spam folder on WordPress, for example. When I bought some toys for our grandson, the Spam started to include offers for things like stair gates. After I searched online for wood stain to be used on exterior woodwork, I received many Spam emails about new fencing, garden gates, and spray-painting devices.

I suppose it comes down to the old adage that if you are doing nothing wrong, then you have nothing to fear. The problem is, what is considered to be wrong? When I do research on ISIS or other organisations for a blog post, does that flag me as a terrorist suspect? If I look into the rise of Nazi Germany to get background for a short story, do I become associated with the Far Right? Once we log on to our computers, write emails, blog posts, or do any Internet searches at all, we open up the inner workings of our minds to anyone who cares to look, or to buy that information from others.

Some people believe that by using complicated software, they can conceal their activities from the ‘seekers’. They also use non-Microsoft platforms, and never use search engines like Google. They have ‘encrypted’ emails, and even go so far as to subscribe to redirected servers, in the hope of hiding their location. Trouble is, we all need one basic tool to access the Web. A phone line. Once you plug that into the back of your router, you have no control over what is monitored on it.

So, stop worrying about it, I suppose. It is intrusive, it can be annoying, and not unlike someone being able to have installed an implant in your head. The only way to avoid it is to unplug your computer, and throw it away. And it doesn’t seem likely that we are going to do that, does it?

On a lighter note, you may recall the two posts I published earlier about The Beetley Bra?
If any of you doubt that the Internet is monitored, look no further than the email I received today.

Official! Beetley Bra beats Jamiroquai

Because I know how many of you simply love to read about the phenomenon of Jamiroquai on this blog, I just had to bring you this stop press. Despite the consistently amazing performance of my post ‘Whatever happened to?: Jamiroquai’, it was soundly thrashed in the stats this past week by the photo post, ‘The Beetley Bra’.

That said, it was still close, with the Jamiroquai post holding its own in third place, despite the amount of time since it was first published. My suspicions that its popularity would decline with the recent appearance of the band on TV seem to have been unfounded.

An there’s an ***UPDATE*** too!

The Bra has gone. Its whereabouts are unknown, and nobody knows if it was retrieved by its owner, or snaffled up by a local collector of female underwear. It is also possible that a passing bra-less lady was able to make use of the garment, but that is perhaps unlikely.

To those of you that celebrate it, I wish you a very Happy Easter from Norfolk.
Seasonal best wishes to you all. Pete.

Non-Fiction: Published online

I have recently submitted an article to Longshot Island. It is a non-fiction piece about my former life in London, followed by my move to Norfolk. I am pleased to say that it has been published online, and may be considered for future publication in the magazine. Please follow the link, and read it at your leisure. I am really happy to give publicity and support to this venture. They are undoubtedly helping new writers.

Many thanks, Pete.

My name in print!

Forgive the blatant self-promotion, but I received this photo today. It was sent by Daniel, of Longshot Island, and is a page of the latest magazine, with my name above my story. For those of you used to seeing your name on articles, or on the covers of the books you have had published, I know this will not be anything to get excited about. I have had many film articles published on other sites myself, and was very pleased that they were.

But this is an actual publication! A printed magazine, on real paper, available to buy from Amazon. For someone of my age, this is pretty much the ‘real deal’. And until, and if ever, I publish a book, this is the best it gets too.

Daniel has also set me an interesting challenge. When I receive my copies of the magazine, he wants me to photograph them in ‘unusual’ situations. Rest assured that I will do my best.

In the meantime, should anyone actually want to purchase a copy of this excellent periodical, here’s a link.

Jamiroquai: Another update

With apologies to everyone who is really fed up with hearing about this blog post, and the British Jazz/Funk band, Jamiroquai.

Despite the release of their new album a few days ago, the blogging phenomenon that is ‘Whatever happened to? : Jamiroquai’ continues. I had expected a slump in views of that post, once they had appeared on TV recently, and announced the release of their new CD.

After all, we now all know what happened to them, don’t we?

But the post continues to feature heavily here, and views are still consistent, albeit slightly reduced. That said, the post is number five on my most-read posts during the last seven days, and has had eight views already today.

One of these days, I might stop writing about them. But not just yet…

How to have a popular blog

Continuing my seemingly endless series of posts about blogging, I have more tips for new bloggers, or for those of you with tired or stagnant blogs. As I approach my fifth anniversary of blogging, and have reached a current total of 1,222 posts, I have noticed a few things along the way.

Many of us are more than content with our blogging lot; happy with the way things are, and we bumble along in the same old way. Yet there are a lot of bloggers who watch the tumbleweed pass over their blogs. They yearn for more interaction, and become disappointed with the performance of their blog. It was not how they thought it was going to be when they started, that’s for sure. They tire of posting, wonder if it is all worth the effort, and sometimes just give up on the idea.

So, how do you get off to a good start, or revitalise a blog that has hit the doldrums? I have a few suggestions that you could try.

1) Post photos. People love to look at pictures, and generally prefer them to reading text. After all, if they just want to read, they could curl up with a good book.

2) If you don’t want to take photos, add images, gifs, or graphics. These are easily available, and free to find, all over the Internet.

3) When you run out of ideas, re-blog somebody else’s posts. If they have a re-blog button on the page, just use it, and allow your readers to see that you are bothering to read other posts, even if you are not writing any yourself. Add a nice comment, and perhaps advise the original blogger that you are going to do the re-blog. It is an easy way to get out of a blogging slump, and helps someone else in the process.

4) Specialise. If like me, you have a general blog, with a few categories and a mix and match approach to blogging, you may discover that this is not working for you. When this happens, it is time to specialise. Pick something you know about, perhaps a hobby, or a lifelong interest, and revise your blog into one on a specialist subject. Then follow lots of other blogs on that subject, and you will soon become part of a community again.

5) Change your theme. If you have settled on a theme from day one, and never changed it, you might find a new look is all that is needed to brighten things up, and renew interest from others. WordPress has a large number of free themes, and you can preview your blog on them, as many times as you like.

6) Delete your old blog, and start a completely new one, with a different name. If you have reached the stage where you no longer feel you are getting anywhere, re-think the whole process, and start from scratch. If you have active followers, you can write a last post informing them of the change, and a link to your new blog.

7) People cannot comment on posts if you don’t publish any. Just because you got only four views on your last effort, and no likes, doesn’t mean that the process is pointless. Your next post may well hit the spot, and be more rewarding for you. But you have to publish it, or you will never know.

8) Remember why you started blogging. Keep it in mind when it all doesn’t turn out like you had hoped it would. If it was a good reason, then it’s worth continuing, if only for yourself.

9) Don’t give up too soon. Rewarding blogging doesn’t happen overnight. there is no quick fix, and it takes time and effort to establish yourself in a blogging community. Be determined, and keep going.

10) Look at lots of other blogs. Don’t just post your stuff in isolation, and expect everyone to come knocking at your door. That won’t happen. Read what others have to say, and look at how they are saying it. Steal a few ideas by all means, but keep your own style, as copycat bloggers are always obvious.

There you have ten more tips. They are useful for new bloggers, and also for experienced bloggers who have become weary. Remember, almost any blog can be improved. You just have to want to do it.