Blog

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY

When you look back at your blog on January 2, 2015, what would you like to see?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us PROGRESS.

I like the way my site is developing. I like the people who visit, the folks  I’m getting to know. I even believe I’m making progress with writing shorter, pithier pieces — with fewer typos — but it wouldn’t be Serendipity without a few mistakes, right?

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A year from now? I hope WordPress has added more formatting options for text, especially the ability to change fonts and font sizes on the fly. Otherwise? I’m a pretty happy camper!

One REALLY big wish: WordPress, are you listening? Please make the reader part of the statistical hit count. It’s a great tool, especially when you follow a lot of blogs and have limited time to visit, but the bloggers you visit via the Reader don’t get the “credit” for your visit … which seems kind of unfair.

Otherwise, I think I’ll just keep on doing what I do and hopefully will still be around to worry about it a year from now. Blog happy, my friends.

TOO MUCH INFORMATION? AN INTERVIEW WITH ME.

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I’m not sure how much more anyone could possibly want to know about me. I suspect this post may wander far into the realm of “too much information.”

However, suzie81’s Blog suggested these questions. They’re interesting and I’ve never answered anything quite like them before. And why not, eh?

Here goes:

1. Why have you chosen your blog name?

I’ve always loved the word “serendipity” and the way it feels between my teeth. It’s a very satisfying word and it’s so me!

2. When you have an hour of free-time, what do you do?

I’m always doing something. Reading for a review, listening — for other reviews. Taking pictures, processing pictures. Writing my blog, reading other blogs. But I’ve always been busy. Idle time is a frame without a picture — my job to fill it up. This is not a complaint. I like the stuff I do. All of it. Except paying the bills.

3. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what would it be?

I want my 66-year old head, but I’d be happy with my 16-year old body. Put them together? What a gal!

4. If you could learn to do something, what would it be?

I’d like to learn to use my Wacom Tablet. It’s the first computer gadget that has defeated me.

5. What would be the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?

I wouldn’t buy anything. I’d pay my bills. I’d do my best to finally, at long last, be entirely debt free. Forever.

6. What is the thing that makes you absolutely unique?

The number of chronic conditions and diseases that coexist in my body simultaneously. I may hold the international record for major surgeries and near-death experiences. Also talking to God — or someone doing a really good impersonation of a deity.

7. What is your favourite blog?

I’m glad you asked! I know this is off the beaten path, but allow me to introduce you to: Tallhwch ~ The pursuit of history using the newest and most creative methods necessary. This is a blog that focuses (mainly) on the British Isles between 500 and 700 AD, “the Arthurian period.” Those were the real dark ages for which little solid archeological evidence exists. Reading his posts is my dessert, my reward. I save them for last and read them until I’ve got each post almost memorized. Better yet? If I ask him to write about a particular subject, he will research and write about it, just for me. Isn’t that fantastic?

I read a lot of blogs. Many of you make me laugh, others make me cry. All of you inspire me, make me think about things I might otherwise never consider. Tallhwch tells me stories of hidden history and magic and mysteries. I love it too much.

That’s it. Seems like either too much or not quite enough. You can judge.

I encourage you to do your own self interview. Check out suzie81’s Blog for yourself. Maybe you’ll find out something about yourself you didn’t know.

NOT FRESHLY PRESSED? HELP IS ON THE WAY!

What is Freshly Pressed? It is the opinion of editors hired by WordPress. It promises that some blogs are better than others, deserve special recognition and indicates that these people know what good is and have assigned themselves the task of giving out this recognition.

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I believe in merit. I also believe in fairness. While some awardees have created funny, creative, original material and have earned recognition, that is far from universally true. Many other recipients are nothing special, writing stuff that has no social value and little relevance. It’s not especially funny or even interesting. But it is whatever pleases WP’s editors — and they answer only to themselves.

Freshly Pressed gets dangled in front of bloggers not only as an award, but as the opportunity to gain a broader readership. They will promote you, put your material where everyone can easily see it. For those of us who have labored long and hard, produced a lot of really good material only to have it ignored, it’s a virtual slap in the face and it hurts.

Why are the same sites recognized over and over again while others, as deserving or more so, are shut out? Some of us apparently can never meet whatever ephemeral standards are being applied. Because the judging standards are never stated, you can never object to the judgment. There are no criteria to be met, just that somebody noticed you and deems you worthy.

This kind of thing makes many people, including me, feel sad. We aren’t just blogs. We aren’t faceless corporations. We are real live people doing something for which we get no reward except the chance to have our words read, our photographs reviewed. Yes, we crave recognition. Who doesn’t? Who doesn’t want the validation of being Officially Recognized? Even if it’s by a self-appointed board of recognizers?

I’ve appointed myself an official recognizer. Allow me to present my bona fides.

I spent more than 40 years as a professional writer by which I mean I got paid to write and my work was published by the people who paid me to do it. There is nothing which screams professional more than that. I also wrote and published a book that still, to this day, actually sells a few copies here and there, though it was published originally in 2007. Just last week, Amazon notified me that I have earned $10.24 in royalties this past quarter (be still my heart)!

I am a real editor of real books and a pretty good photographer, if not the most skilled user of Photoshop. However, my skills are improving and towards that end, I have created an award. It’s the “I deserve an award,” award. You don’t have to pass it along to any specific number of people. You don’t have to reveal 12 inner secrets you’ve never revealed before. You can send it to people you think would like to have it and deserve it. Display it on your site and maybe this thing will catch on.

Have fun. Remember, guys and gals: We do not need validation or approval from WordPress. Their opinions as to what constitutes quality are no better than mine or yours. It is merely their opinion. If people like you, read you, visit your site, look at your pictures, comment on how they appreciate what you do? That is validation. That is approval. That means something. Don’t let a lack of “official” recognition sour you. Don’t stop having fun doing what you do!

This badge is 375 pixels square and should fit comfortably into a column or footer. I’ve put one on my front page so you can see if that’s the size you want. If you want a badge in a different (smaller or larger) size, I can fix it for you. Let me know what you want.

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I’m going to pass this to a few of you and leave it to you to pass it to others. Use discrimination and give it to sites that do quality work, help others, rescue dogs, provide important medical information that can be hard to find. Give it to those whose pictures make you say WOW, whose posts make you laugh and cry and think.

I’m picking a few of you to get the ball rolling, but many more of you deserve it. I am just flu-ridden and too tired to pick through the many worthy bloggers I know. I’m not ignoring anyone, honest. I have the kind of chest cold that makes me feel a poke in the eye with a sharp stick might be more fun. You know, wheezing, coughing, can’t breathe, eyes running headache, fever and even more body aches than usual? I’ve gotten this far, but I can’t go another inch. I’m done and used up. Love you all!!

You don’t have to do anything with this if you don’t want to. And anyone reading this is welcome to join in and pass this to others who you believe have been unfairly overlooked. It is entirely up to you.

Let’s encourage each other. Be strong and blog on!

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The Library Lady and Rosie Bear: Humor / Book reviews

4 writers and readers

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Sweetwildflower: Recipes, Crafts, Tips, Writing

THE SUNSHINE AWARD POUR MOI … TIMELY INDEED!

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

Thanks  znjavid!

I love that you thought of me for this award. She and I have had fun chatting about her children’s book, my husband’s clothes, and the differences between grocery stores in Dubai and Salt Lake City. Check out her blog at:

A Mom’s Blog http://zainabjavid.wordpress.com/

— And NOW — From me …

October 2013

October 2013

Thank you to The Library Lady and Rosie Bear, a delightful website that you absolutely should go visit. She writes about life with a light touch, about writing, her travels and more … with charm and grace.

I’m pleased and proud to receive this award. I’m not giving it out to a bunch of people because I’ve been slinging awards all over the Internet recently — an embarrassment of riches — and I’ve run out of steam.

I’m absolutely CERTAIN beyond any possible doubt that all of you who follow me, even occasionally, know more than you could possibly want to know about me. Too much information is my middle name.

So thank you. I’m honored and proud and congratulations to all you other winners! It’s a good day to be me … or you!

See on geanieroake.wordpress.com

WHAT’S THE SECRET?

Closing in on 2 years of blogging, with more than 1500 posts and over 100,000 hits … I’ve think I’ve finally figured it out. The secret to getting more readers, more followers, more hits, better stats is that there is no secret.

Just do it.

Post interesting material often. Include graphics. There is a direct correlation between number of hits and number and quality of posts. Although some posts go bigger than others — often not the ones you expect — the difference isn’t huge, more incremental than geometric. Most of my posts get reasonable hits. Some do better, some get ignored (I rerun these, often with much better results second time). A few posts generate big numbers. Every once in a while, something hits a hot button, but typically the number of visitors per day doesn’t change much. What changes is the number of articles each visitor reads when they visit.

Some of my biggest days have been those with low visitor counts, but when each guest accesses 3 or more posts and/or pictures.Visitors average around 100+/- 15 — so between 85 and 115. Hits that come through the Reader or email do not count in the totals so you can reasonably assume you have more people reading you than stats indicate.

If guests hang around and read a lot, open pictures, poke around, you get the bigger hit counts.  I’m betting the same people come almost every day. If they find interesting things to read and view, they hang out. Which is what you want them to do.

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There are slow days of course. Everyone has them. And hyper-active days. We all have them, too. On a very active day, I might get 150 visitors, but that doesn’t mean the hit count will be 50% higher than on a day when I get 75 visitors. On a high visit count day, each visitor may only read (hit) one post while on a different day, each visitor may hit 3 or 4 times.

For example, on a day last winter when a blizzard was on the way, I had more than 250 visitors, but each one only read one post … the one about the coming storm. So it was a good day, but not extraordinary. My highest hit days were specific posts where a lot of people — thousands — came to see a single post. Every other high hit day included a normal number of visitors who spent more time exploring my site. No hocus pocus, no magic recipe.

Putting out the welcome mat.

The design of your website matters. You will absolutely get more people to stay long, read more stories, look at more pictures if you make it pleasant and easy for them. Make it easy to find past posts by subject, date, key word search. The more ways you help your guests find stuff that interests them, the better.

When I am on a website and can’t find a search box, no list of previous posts, no keyword search, I give up and go elsewhere. The web is infinite and gives us uncountable choices. Make your site accessible — transparent — and visitors will stay.

What I’ve figured out.

I know a few things and here they are:

  1. Articles about technology have a long shelf life. Reviews of cameras, computers, telephones and other techie stuff don’t get a lot of hits when they are first published, but continue to get hits for months, sometimes years. As long as the technology is in use, people who are shopping will look for reviews.
  2. Book and movie reviews (unless they are particularly “hot”) don’t usually go big initially, but will continue to get hits forever, as long as the search engine can find them.
  3. News and current events get a lot of hits when first published, but have no long-term interest.

If you are in this for the long haul, the backbone of your blog will be articles of enduring interest. Perhaps not the sexiest stuff you write, but stuff that contains information people need, reviews people look for. Pictures — properly tagged — get hits forever.

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Buried treasure.

If you post a lot, older posts become hard to unearth. Even when you know the name of the post and search for it by its name, items older than 6 months old may not turn up. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do about this short of opening a new site.

What I do? I sift through archives, pick out the best pieces. Re-edit and re-publish them. Doing this prevents them from disappearing forever.

How often is often enough?

I’m going against common wisdom. I am sticking my neck out here and saying that a post a week isn’t enough. One single post per week, unless you are brilliant, writing about a subject with a guaranteed audience, are already famous so anything you post will get lots of attention — once a week isn’t enough.

Who makes a success of once-a-week blogs? Historians. Scholars. Well-known authors (though most of them post much more often). Newsletter writers. Everyone else?

You need to make visiting your website worthwhile. That means stuff to read. Entertainment, information. Great pictures. If you really don’t have time to create sufficient material to feed your readers and keep your site humming, maybe consider joining forces with other bloggers and take turns producing content? Without enough content, your site isn’t going to do much.

The formula is simple. Write well. Post often. Include pictures.

And finally: HAVE FUN! If you aren’t enjoying it, making friends, forming relationships, what’s the point? Successful writers and bloggers have verve and enthusiasm. You can’t fake that.

 

A FAMILY OF WORDPRESS AWARD

This award was made by Shaun @ http://prayingforoneday.wordpress.com “I am part of the WordPress Family Award.” I’ve received it from Annmarie at Sweet Wildflower where you always get a hug and something good to eat.

It’s very timely since, having started a second blog at Blogspot, I am pondering the difference between therm and WordPress and finding that though I rack up good numbers there, the whole sense of family is missing. Maybe it’s too soon to expect it, but this still feel like home to me

There can’t be much my followers don’t know about me. Photography, writing, humor, sad. I write and I take pictures. My husband writes (a little, when prodded) and takes pictures so good I’m getting envious (no I’m not … I’m just proud!). I struggle with life, try to remember that what is terrible today may will be a belly laugh tomorrow.

Rules:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.

2. Link back to the person who nominated you.

3. Nominate others you see as having an impact on your WordPress experience and family

4. Let your Family members know you have awarded them

5. That is it. Just please pick people that have taken you as a friend, and spread the love.

The Envelope Please

Now it is time for the thank yous. No one is obliged to do anything with this except know that I appreciate you and consider you friends.

HeadInAVice – Tyson was one of my first cyber friends and he’s still with me. Thank you again.

alienorajt - Alienora who writes like an Angel demon, makes me laugh, cry, think … and makes me feel loved. Hard when you’ve never really met :-) Thank you!

For Rarasaur - Rara is the rarest of the old timey dinosaurs. What a fine friend she has been to me, supportive and kind and cheerful even while her own problems swirl around. This is a mere token, but I’d like you to know I care.

For R. L Culpeper who makes me think and keeps me on my toes :-)

To Awakenings - Sharla, we have traveled a ways together. We struggle, but it’s getting better. Believe it. We’ll go there together.

Eagle-Eyed Editor, you have been there from the start. I owe you. More than one!

Bette Stevens — 4writersandreaders — a gift to all of us, always ready to lend a hand, offer encouragement. Thank you!!

Other friends belong here and I would put you on, but many of you don’t “do” awards. If you ever want one, drop by. I have a dozen or so extras and you can take your pick! I haven’t forgotten anyone. As far as I’m concerned, you ALL deserve this award because you are all my family.

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Beware Exasperated Kidneys: Can You Spell-Check Disaster?

Some years back, there was an incident in the Boston Police Department‘s boot camp. In an attempt to be as tough as any Marine Corps drill instructor, the BPD instructor in charge of recruits forced a group of newbies to stay at hard exercise during one of the hottest days of the summer, without rest, food or water.

One of the recruits died when his kidneys failed. He had an undetected pre-existing condition. Dehydration proved fatal. This was a tragedy and a scandal.

The Boston Herald is one of the city’s two leading papers. The Globe is now owned by the New York Times and wants to be taken seriously. They have excellent writers and often the most thorough and unbiased coverage of important news. The Herald is a tabloid with a really great sports section. Intellectuality be damned, if you follow the teams, you read the Herald. Besides, the Globe is ridiculously expensive on Sundays.

So, back to the story. As it unfolded, the Herald pointed out that the young man who had died was already afflicted with kidney problems which were exasperated by being forced to go without water, food or rest in extremely hot weather.

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I looked up from the paper and said to Garry, “This poor fellow suffered from exasperated kidneys. I can hear them now … (in a kidney voice) ‘That’s IT, I’ve HAD it, I’m OUTTA here …’ “

The dreaded spell-checker had struck again. The word had been exacerbated but the spell-checker didn’t know the word, so … the young man died of exasperated kidneys. What a pity. And so young, too.

There’s a moral to this story and that is (I hope) obvious and relevant to all of us who write or blog. Don’t depend on spell-checkers. They are helpful, but they are not intelligent. They are only nominally better than auto-correct … and we all know about that!

Spell-checkers don’t get context. Or style. You may want to say “my own” rather than simply “my.” The spell-checker will argue the point until you want to put your fist through the screen.

Proofreading is a big problem for all self-published writers, including bloggers. I’m tempted to give up on text and publish only pictures without captions. Even a headline could prove fatal. I am the typo queen. Worse, I hold the cut and paste error championship. When moving text, I can count on leaving something behind or taking something away that ought to have been left behind. It’s frustrating, it’s embarrassing and occasionally  funny … but not in a good way.

If I took everything to heart, I would have long since given up blogging. I do not have someone dedicated to proofreading and/or editing my copy. There are two reasons for this:

  1. No one wants to do it. They have other things to do (What? Something is more important than me? How could that be? Aren’t I the center of the universe?)
  2. No one I know is any better at proofreading than I am. I know this because I self-published a book. It was read and re-read by all my friends and family members and there are dozens of typos remaining.

Authors are generally lousy proofreaders of their own work. Sometimes, we are lousy proofreaders, period. As authors, we see what we meant, not necessarily what’s really on the page. It has nothing to do with sloppiness or not caring. Writing and proofreading are different skill sets. Hemingway didn’t have to do his own proofreading, nor did Thomas Wolfe. If they’d had to proof and edit their own copy without the excellent support of their publisher and Maxwell Perkins, they would never have made it into print. Nor would many of today’s most popular authors like Tom Clancy make it to print. Clancy, by his own admission is a very poor editor and proofreader … and in many people’s opinions, not a great writer, either, but I digress.

In the past few decades, editors and proofreaders have been mostly eliminated as too costly. Authors are expected to present press-ready manuscripts. Unless you are one of a publisher’s big money-making authors, there’s a very high likelihood that no one will read your manuscript before sending it for publication.  The result has been visibly lower quality manuscripts. You see it in printed books and even more on e-books. The official position of publishers is nobody cares. But readers do care.

Who doesn’t care? Publishers don’t care. Readers don’t get a say in the matter. If we want to read, we learn to cope with and compensate for text errors. The absence of proofreaders and editors is part of cross-industry cost-cutting and bottom-lining. The idea is to keep eliminating support services until there are no more services to cut … and then be thunderstruck that your product has suffered.

I spend hours going over my posts and I still miss stuff. It’s infuriating and embarrassing, but no one has time or inclination to read everything I write. It’s my blog and my responsibility. Not everyone has someone to backstop blog posts. My choice has been to write shorter — and fewer — posts. Fewer words, fewer mistakes. As it is, I spend more time proofing than writing. Ten minutes to write the post, 2 hours or more to proofread. There aren’t enough hours in my day.

If this means people won’t read my stuff because I’m a crappy proofreader, then I throw my hands into the air and say fine, whatever. I agree punctuation and spelling count, but so does content. If punctuation and spelling are the only things that count, something is wrong with the reader, not just the writer.

But what about spell-checkers? Surely they will catch the typographical errors!

Yes and no. Remember exasperated kidneys? Spell-checkers will find words that are misspelled and occasionally a few words used incorrectly. Spell-checkers will never find words that are spelled correctly but should not be there (cut and paste errors). They will “decide” what you wrote should be something else — witness exasperated instead of exacerbated — because the word you used isn’t in their database. Spell-checkers only catch misspellings. They won’t catch a missing word, a wrong word, an extra word. If you let them, they will change your text to mean something quite different.

There’s no convenient, simple answer. In the end, we do the best we can with whatever resources are available.  If perfection is going to be a requirement for blogging, most of us would give up. Perfection will never be achieved by anyone. Or at least, not by me.

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