STATS AND BUMPS ALONG THE WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

During my first three years of blogging, I got around 100, then 200, then 250 to 300 views per day. In year four, it slid up to around 350 to 400. Where it stayed, showing a gradual, slow but steady upward movement with occasional shots of one post being exceptionally popular and periodic dips, especially around holidays.

A couple of years ago, we started getting more than 400 hits regularly. Which I thought was phenomenal. On October 10, 2017, something else happened. Suddenly, we shot upward to 500 and started getting hits as high as 700 or 800. The funny thing was, regular posts were not doing better than usual. They were doing pretty much the same as they always had.

It was a “Google” bump. For no particular reason, Google had found this blog and we were getting hundreds of hits. It kept going up until it hit 1400 at the beginning of November. Which was crazy. Blogs like this don’t get those numbers. It stayed up there for a few days, then started to drop.

I did not expect it to stay in those numbers. The archives were getting all the action. Old blogs were being read by a lot of people — which was fun — but I knew it would not last.

Statistical bumps are not “normal” growth. Somehow, some way, your blog gets picked up by Google or some other search engine and for a while, everyone who looks for something finds you at the top of the list. Thousands of people come and read your archived posts. Some visitors actually sign on and become regulars, but 90% or more will show up once, maybe twice, then disappear.

Red-bellied (or Golden-fronted) Woodpecker

They came to see one post, maybe read a second one while they were at it, but your “real” daily numbers haven’t changed. Without the input from the out-of-control search engine, you are exactly where you were before the bump.

It’s a bit startling and melodramatic when all that activity drops away– and you are left with your normal feedback. Even though you knew it wouldn’t last, you hoped it would.

Sure enough, we dropped back to pretty much where we were before the big bump. Riding “high” was fun, but it wasn’t realistic. We are not a news service and we don’t get huge numbers of readers for posts.

House Finch and Brown-headed Cowbird

The thing is, blogging is not about statistics unless for you it’s a business. It’s about communications with the people who follow you.

You follow them, they follow you. You feed each other ideas and give each other encouragement. The actual writing of a blog is only half the fun. The rest is people and relationships. The ideas you get from reading other people’s material.

Tractor with daffodils

Also — popularity isn’t always as much fun as you think it will be. I spend a huge amount of time writing, photographing, processing pictures. Keeping track of what’s scheduled. I answer all my comments and sometimes, I end up using a full day just answering comments. It is fun — but it eats a lot of time and it’s hard to find room for other things. Like buying groceries or replacing the kitchen faucet or getting back and forth to a hospital.

Luckily, I don’t have that much else to do. Except when I do.

With a few exceptions, I’ve talked to the entire world!

Like other people who blog a lot, I love it. I love the people, the ideas, the stimulation. I don’t get out into the world the way I did when I was younger. If it weren’t for blogging, I’d be isolated and probably lonely.

The thing to remember, for all of us, is statistics bounce around. A fantastic couple of months can be followed by a serious drop in readership. Why?

People move on. WordPress messes with the software and you lose a few thousand followers. And sometimes, you simply hit a lull. If you aren’t blogging for the numbers — if you are doing it because you genuinely love writing or posting pictures or whatever it is you do — then a drop in your stats doesn’t change anything. You are still you and you will do what you’ve been doing and all will be well.

Remind me I said that that the next time I lose 800 views a day overnight!

THE SUNSHINE BLOGGER AWARD: KUDOS TO MARTHA KENNEDY – Marilyn Armstrong

Sunshine Blogger Award

I don’t do awards. Except occasionally, I find the questions intriguing and decide to throw my hat in the ring. Except I’m not nominating anyone because so many people I know really dislike getting nominated, I’m just not going to stick my foot into the trap again. I still have scars from the last attempt.

Martha wrote some really good questions that are worth answering, so that’s what I’m doing. Anyone interested should definitely go to Martha’s post, copy the original questions, and take it away!

Here are YOUR questions

1. What made you decide to write a blog on WordPress?

What made me decide to write a blog was that I’d been following a couple on WordPress and I had to sign up with them just to have a conversation. Of course, this automatically gave me a blogging space. I didn’t really think very hard about blogging because I had never wanted to do it … but I had some space. And I had a few thousand photographs that no one ever saw because they were on my hard drives and would never get printed.

I didn’t actually think about the writing part of the exercise at all. I just figured I’d post pretty pictures. Technically, I started in February of 2012, but really, I didn’t write or post anything until May and that was one single post. The next month, I posted maybe half a dozen times.

Then something happened. I realized blogging was exactly like writing letters and I used to be one of the world’s great letter writers. Between editing material about air pollution, the spread of Hepatitis B in Israel, and reusing water for crops and raising carp, I wrote letters. Mostly I wrote to Garry who had a full drawer of my letters when I got back from Israel.

I should have saved them, but when we were moving, I dumped everything we didn’t absolutely need. I later regretted it but gone is gone.

So I started writing letters on my blog. Various subjects. Political. Funny. An occasional book or movie review. Opinions on this and that and sometimes, bits of fiction. And I posted pictures with the stories, so I sort of got to do both things, which was good. My best hobby combined with what was left of my profession.

Why WordPress?

I had already landed there. I had signed up when I started following other bloggers and it was free, so why not? I didn’t get serious about it for a few months, but it was an explosive time on the web. It was right in the middle of Obama’s second run for office and everything online was hopping and crazy. There also weren’t nearly as many bloggers then as there are now. I picked up a lot of followers pretty quickly.

After a while, Garry started writing pieces when he felt like it. And Rich started contributing and eventually, Tom and Ellin pitched in.

As it turns out, WordPress is pretty much the only game in town right now. Blogger (Google) has just as many problems and lacks the easy communications you get with WordPress. I originally thought I’d go find another place to do this again, but I have realized that I don’t want to do it again. Once was interesting and fun. Another would be work.

2. You’re writing a blog post and you find it taking on a direction of its own. Do you assume control or do you follow it?

Most of my pieces take on a life of their own and I follow faithfully. I’m often surprised where my posts end up, too. Sometimes, all I have is one good line and the rest just falls into place.

It’s getting the typos out that really kills me. I’m such an awful proofreader.

3. What are your goals as the writer of a blog? What do you hope for?

I really never had any goals. I write anyway, whether I have a blog or I’m just writing. I have always written, even when I had no one to read it. I might as well blog because at least a few people do read it. Also, it has really improved my writing.

Having no goals to begin with, I have none now. I like to write and I love the friends I’ve made online. They matter to me more than I imagined possible.

4. Describe the best day you’ve had in the past twelve months.

Yesterday when the birds stayed put and I got some great shots. The best day before that was the day we went to the movies.

A flock of Goldfinches
Cowbird and House Finch

Before that, the day they installed the new shower.

Looks pretty good!

I think every day I wake up still breathing is a GREAT day.

5. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why? What experiences would you hope for?

I’d like to go to England and see Sue Vincent and the great, ancient stones. I’d like to go to Switzerland and have tea with Pat and Australia and New Zealand and Utah and drive through the Rocky Mountains.

I don’t think we are really going anywhere except down to the river, but Paris would also be very lovely. Because it is Paris.

6. What was the worst road trip of your life? What happened?

Any trip I took with my parents as a child. They were ALL nightmares.

7. How much time do you put into your blog? Do you write every day?

I write every day. Even when I have decided NOT to write, I can’t help myself. That seems to be what I do.

8. Do you write to a daily prompt? Why or why not?

Sometimes if I can think of something to go with them. But I often have my own ideas of what I want to write and when I do, I don’t bother with a prompt.

I do use a lot of photo prompts. They help me find uses for many of my archived pictures.

9. What’s your favorite post? Why? Please share. 

https://teepee12.com/2019/01/31/my-best-year-1969/

Titled: MY BEST YEAR -1969

I think I’ve rewritten is half a dozen times at least and I’m sure I will again. It brings back happy days when everyone was young.

10. Is there a book, film or person (or animal) that inspired you and changed your life? What or who was it? How did it have such a profound effect on you?

Angelique by Anne Golan.

11. What advice do you have for someone who has just started writing a blog? What rewards has it given you that might inspire someone else?

If you enjoy it and if you are having fun, don’t give up. Everyone starts slowly. A blog needs time to find its place in the online world.

I really don’t have any questions to add. There have been so many question-asking blogs this year, I feel like I’m questioned and answered out. I do apologize. I think since Martha put so much thought into HER questions, you should definitely use hers!

GREAT, GREATER, GREATEST – Marilyn Armstrong

Kind of reminds me of the old talkin’ blues — “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like!”

I don’t know — or care — if the blogs I follow are great, greater or greatest. It’s entirely subjective. Great for who? Me? You? Everybody on the web? I doubt there is any such blog. If there were, we’d never agree on it, so the real question is what do I like and why?

I’m pretty sure this chickadee could talk., but he can’t type so he doesn’t comment.

I like humor. If you make me laugh, you own me. I am perhaps overly invested in wordplay and wit. I like photography, so if you post astounding pictures — or just pretty ones — I’m in for that too. I appreciate thoughtful posts on subjects ranging from ancient history to the meaning of life. If you combine them all, even better.

I adore authors and try to support them, even if what they write isn’t my favorite stuff. I’m a gadget freak and faithfully follow blogs that delve into hardware and software. I read movie reviews, book reviews, product reviews. I trust my fellow bloggers. From your blogs, I’ve discovered books, authors, movies, cameras, lenses, software, and accessories. I don’t know where I got information before I found you all!

Metropolitan Museum of Art – The fighting Unicorn

I follow many blogs for many reasons. Some are written better than others. Some photographers are more skilled than others, but I don’t count typos or ignore less than perfect pictures. Many people lack technical finesse, yet have true vision and thoughts worth hearing. I’m egalitarian by principle and inclination.

I love animals. Dogs, cats, horses, birds and everything else. Wild animals and pets. But not insects. Sorry bugs, I just can’t love you. I’ve tried. Maybe in my next incarnation.

I hate haters. I admire kindness and generosity especially because I’m not as good as I want to be. I don’t think cruelty is funny. Even when deserved, suffering makes me wince, not laugh.

I’m interested in God, religion, and faith — but can’t stomach being bullied to believe a particular dogma. One size never fits all, not in philosophy, religion, political system, technology or clothing. I read blogs by ministers and other religious people. I want to know what they think and why, how they made their “leap of faith.” Seeking is good.

Then there’s information, ideas, useful hints, suggestions on how to do things differently. I love learning new stuff. Don’t we all?

I don’t read everyone every day. There isn’t enough time, even if I did nothing but read other blogs. And then, I’d never get to write one or take a few pictures. I do try to peek at everyone, even when I’m a couple of days late.

Personally, I think you are all great.

We are great because we care about something that is not “us.” We share ourselves, our knowledge, our hopes, our dreams. Whether we want to change the world or make someone smile, help with a problem, teach a new way to do an old thing, offer a different way to look at the world, we don’t just talk.

We don’t have the power we wish we had, but we do the best we can and that’s a big deal. Especially today. There are problems way beyond our ability to help fix them, but I think we all, in our own way, try.

Greatness is in the eye of the beholder. I behold you all and thank you. You’re the greatest.

A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE – Marilyn Armstrong

A MERE FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE, BOSS

This is one of the biggest problems with electronic communication. I suppose it’s a problem with any communication that isn’t face-to-face. People probably misunderstood each other’s handwritten letters too.

😀  I believe the  🙂  was invented to convey that what you wrote was not meant negatively  😦  Emojis are just an artistic advancement of the stuff we used to do on the keyboard.

I use emoticons liberally, though they are not English and cannot be considered in any way grammatical. They are also childish, but that’s good because children convey feelings easily. I’m not averse to being childish if it improves communications.

communication-intimacy-10-levels

I tend to be brusque. Short. I try to be witty, but it doesn’t always come across that way. My attempts to be “cute” can easily be misread as snide, snippy, and dismissive. So for all of you with whom I attempt electronic communications:

1) If I seem to be snide, snippy, or dismissive, you’ll know it. I’m not so subtle. Really.

2) My wrists hurt and I forget almost everything within 15 seconds. Sometimes I forget what I’m doing while I’m doing it. My typing is getting worse. Of the emerging issues caused by pain in wrists and forgetfulness, most malignant are those missing words. I’m not talking about misspellings. I meant words that aren’t there. At all. Particularly unfortunate when the missing word is “not” — exactly reversing the meaning of a sentence yet appearing as grammatically correct.

SOLUTIONS?

Lacking fonts that clearly express sarcasm or irony — both of which are far better expressed by tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions — maybe we (me) should consider alternate forms. This is difficult since I have always tended to be sarcastic. (I used to be worse, but I’m in recovery.) That kind of wit doesn’t translate well into text. Not yet, anyhow and until it does, I’m considering finding types of humor which are less likely to be misread.

The second solution isn’t a solution but might help. Before you decide you’ve been insulted, dismissed, treated with scorn, or anything like that, check with the comment’s originator. Make sure what you know is what was meant. That it wasn’t a complicated typo or a joke gone wildly wrong.

PARANOIA

It’s easy to read everything as a form of criticism. I’ve seen people slide into this by degrees until they successfully misinterpret everything. You need a degree of toughness to live a virtual life. You also need patience, in the sense of not jumping to conclusions. Finally, you have to remember you are not the center of everyone’s world and when people say something, they are not necessarily targeting you.

One of my many problems with the whiners, complainers, and the “oh woe is me-ers” is they have sunk so deep into their own “issues,” they forget other people have lives and problem of their own. People can be brusque — dismissive — and it hasn’t got anything to do with you. They are responding to something going on in their world.

Usually, you will never know what is or was going on unless they choose to tell you or you directly ask. Because many of us like to keep our private life private. I deal with intimate issues face-to-face and telephone-to-telephone. Even email-to-email. Not on my blog.

PRIVACY IS GOOD

Which brings me to my final point.

Bloggers can easily contact each other privately. If you have a bone to pick with someone — or think you do — try email. Directly. To the individual. Even if your position is righteous and your cause is just, in public is rarely the best place to resolve a dispute. After you’ve publicly insulted or hurt someone, they may refuse to forgive you.

And finally, squabbling about personal stuff online is tacky. Totally teenage, very Facebook, and not classy at all.

WORLD SHARING AS MARCH TRUDGES ALONG – Marilyn Armstrong, Photos: Garry Armstrong

Marilyn Armstrong – Photos: Garry Armstrong

QUESTIONS:

Do You Have Any Guilty Pleasures?

At my age? Not really. I probably did, but honestly, I seem to have forgotten what they were. I think maybe they were chocolate covered raspberry jellies. Not much of a guilty pleasure, now that I think about it.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Downtown Uxbridge
What is the worst pick-up line you ever heard?  

On a personal level, I don’t think anyone tried a pick-up line on me. I wasn’t the type. I was too snarky and bookish. Not the pick-up line type.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Downtown Uxbridge, late winter

But my personal favorite is “Do you come here often?” Garry says that to me every time we bump into each other in the kitchen.

What slang or trend makes you feel old?

Hearing the Beatles as elevator music.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Wall by the old cemetery
What do you consider the most overrated song?

I don’t listen to music much anymore. I have no idea what people are listening to. If you asked me what the most overrated book was, I might give it my best guess, but a song? It’s a total blank.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – By the Mumford River
Instead of a tender mercies question, here’s a philosophical one. You find a book and begin to read only to discover it is your life. You read to the point at which you currently are, do you flip the page — knowing you will be unable to change events to come?

No. And, I wouldn’t read that far, either. I prefer to live my life, not read about it. Oh, wait. That’s what blogging is for. But at least it’s about what has already happened or is already planned.

ON THE INTERCONNECTNESS OF THINGS – Marilyn Armstrong

The late great Douglas Adams (who shared my birthday, March 11th — I’m sure that means something, but I have no idea what) created a character that I dearly love. Dirk Gently (also known by a number of other names, including Svlad Cjelli), was the owner/operator of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

It operated based on the “fundamental interconnectedness of all things.” I believe in Douglas Adams and Dirk Gently. We all operate, knowingly or not, on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. More than half the posts I write — including this — are born while commenting on someone else’s post.

We are intricately and intimately linked. I wonder if we take for granted how bound to others we are in this strange cyber world we have created. I have read and heard much talk about the isolation of each person, alone and lonely with their computer. It has been put out there as a metaphor for the estrangement of people from each other, the symbolic isolation of individuals in the technological world.

I don’t think it’s true.

For me and for many friends isolation would be life without the Internet. Without computers. Without cell phones. For anyone who suffers a chronic illness, for those of us getting on in years who can’t get out as much as we used to — and whose friends have died or moved far away — and for young people whose studies, work, happenstance or life choices have settled them long distances — continents and oceans — distant from old friends and family, electronic communications are a godsend.

Super moon

If we cannot share a hug, we can share face time. Electronic communications are fast or instant and let us share in ways that were science fiction a few years ago.

Without my computers, I would be truly isolated. The fibromyalgia, arthritis and heart condition make getting around difficult. Without electronic connections, I would be a squirrel up a tree without fellow squirrels to hang with.

Bonnie guarding my computer

This post was originally inspired by Dawn Hoskings on whose post I was commenting when I realized how lucky I am to be living in a world that lets me enjoy virtual travel and participate in a larger world. I’m proud to be part of a community of bloggers, a community of friends around the world.

And grateful.

How about you?

WHY SERENDIPITY? – Marilyn Armstrong

For seven years, Serendipity was the “official” name of this blog. One day WordPress decided the money I paid wasn’t enough to protect the title of my blog and we disappeared. Vanished.

To emerge back into the light, I had to come up with a “more unique name” so readers could find us. In between, some kid — one of WordPress’s “happiness engineers” explained that the problem was really that I am irrelevant. People — the general public — no longer (overnight) likes anything I write.

He really pissed me off and I’m still holding a grudge. I actually asked him what award-winning work he was currently writing. He explained he hoped someday to write something pretty good but hadn’t gotten there yet. I asked him if he’d ever written anything at all and he said, “not yet, but he was planning to.”

I wanted to reach through the computer, grab him by the throat, and throttle him. Luckily, I can’t do that … but someday.

A year later, we are very much back as “Serendipity – Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth” which is really the name of the post plus the “subtitle” in one title and you can find all 8,729 posts by using at least half of this annoyingly long title — or the name of whoever posted it the piece.

A few years ago, a few more people started writing for the blog and now, we are five. Garry and Tom write when they feel like it, Ellin and Rich write at least one piece a week and I do whatever remains and these days, a lot of them are pictures of birds.

Rich Paschall – in France

Rich Paschall has been writing, always on Sunday, but sometimes other days. Now that he is retiring, I expect to hear more from him. He has also been an incredible help to me when I’ve been out sick for long periods of time, especially when I was in for, then recovering from, a massive amount of heart surgery.

I don’t know if this site would have survived without his assistance and I will always be deeply grateful for his caring and concern, even though we’ve never personally met. I keep hoping one of these days, we will meet!

Tom Curley in performance

Friends Ellin and Tom Curley — well, we’ve been friends a long time. Tom, and Garry and I all worked at the same college radio station and Ellin is the wife Tom always needed but didn’t know until they met. I love happy marriages!

Ellin Curley

Tom writes when his personal lightning hits while Ellin is a loyal, regular writer and is beginning to get the hang of photography as another way of writing the story.

All of us have a lot to say.

Garry talks about his life as a TV news reporter and all the people he met along the way. Tom talks about his life and views as a TV director, producer, and engineer.

Not to mention his post TV life doing Audio theater in which Ellin is his partner.Garry Armstrong

Everyone has a LOT to say about the political world, mostly not very good stuff, but that’s the way it is these days.

“Serendipity is defined as the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” – Dictionary Definition.

Basically, life is all serendipity. I started this site 6-1/2 (seven years in February!) years ago and have garnered closing on 800,000 views from almost every country on the planet.

And still, I see a frightful lack of intelligent life on Earth.

Stupidity is exploding at an unsustainable rate. I thought we had reached epic levels of stupid, but there’s just no stopping it.

Marilyn Armstrong

Watching Jim Jeffries last night “interviewing” the Q people who also appear to be “flat world” believers … and believe Hillary Clinton kills babies for their blood. All of which beliefs are based on zero evidence. None of these bizarre “humans” think “proof” or “evidence” is important. Stupidity reigneth.

When you witness that sort of thing, not only do you get a splitting headache, but you realize seeking intelligent life on Earth may be a futile effort. To seek, yet never find.

There is no intelligent life on Earth. We are like Arthur’s knights seeking a Grail that never got to Britain and possibly never existed. Yet we seek it.

Serendipity? Well, there are two reasons for it as this blog’s title.

First, there is a lovely chocolate shop in Manhattan named “Serendipity.” They serve iced chocolate that is to die for. When I was a teener, it was the place to be, the coolest place in the big city. It continues to exist and I’m betting it’s still the place to be, especially if you live in New York, are young, and looking for life.

A flyaway woodpecker!

The other reason is more obvious. Life is serendipity. You go looking for one thing, you find something else. While you are “settling for that other thing,” you discover you like it more than whatever you were looking for. A lot of my writing is entirely serendipitous. I start writing and something falls out of my hands into the keyboard and sometimes, it’s pretty good.

We are born.

We have no idea who we are or what we will be.

We may never know who we are or what we will be.

We make choices, which may or may not work out, but regardless they are temporary. Because everything changes. We live many different lives and few of them are planned.

Life isn’t something you plan.
It just is.