food blogging & making things so labor intensive I don’t do them

derby pie
derby pie

I started a food blog on Tumblr last January. Here’s the about statement:

I started this project because after a year of taking photos of myself every day, I wanted to document something else. Over the summer and fall, I had developed a routine of trying new recipes on the weekends and some weeknights. This blog is where I share photos of the results, talk about what went right or wrong, and link to the recipes.

And sometime in May/June, I stopped. I got busy. I remembered to take some pictures, but they sat on my desktop waiting to be blogged for so long that I felt guilty and overwhelmed, so I eventually deleted them.

It wasn’t like it would take all that much time to write up something. And add a link. And format it the same as the previous posts. But it seemed like a big deal at the time.

Also, I stopped cooking/baking as much in the summer.

I have this tendency to make things that should be simple and routine into complex, detailed processes that become burdensome. Is this just some freak aspect of my desire for control and order, or is it simply human nature?

WordCamp Richmond: Blogging for Business

moderator: Kate Hall
panelists: Dr. Arnold Kim, John Petersik, and Jason Guard

All started blogging because they had a passion for the topic, and were subsequently surprised by the popularity of their blogs. Both Kim & Petersik now blog fulltime, but Guard doesn’t expect to make a significant income from his blog. Kim noted that there are many other blogs like his now, so what sets his apart is the community that has developed around it.

Many bloggers have commented that since they started tweeting, their blog writing has decreased. Hall is disappointed in herself by this, but also enjoys the interactivity with readers. Kim notes that if your job is to be a blogger, then anything else that takes time away from your blog should be approached with caution; however, it can be a great tool for building a personal brand. For Petersik, it’s just another forum for connecting with their audience, much like Facebook.

How do you deal with the public sucker punches? People have opinions and sometimes they can be expressed strongly. It helps to have a comments policy to keep the conversation civil and not distracted by trolls. Guard tries to be provocative and push buttons, so he expects the sucker punches. Generally he lets the trolls fly their troll flags. Hall commented that some people are out there just to be haters.

WordCamp Richmond: Strategery!

presenter: Bradley Robb

“A couple of tips for improving your blog’s readership and like 26 pictures of kittens”

A comprehensive digital strategy is what you are going to use when you build anything online. When you start a blog, you are committing yourself to putting out content forever.

The field of dreams fallacy: just because you blog it doesn’t mean anyone will read it. Knowing your visitors means knowing your visitor types. Referral traffic is your goal. Blog readership is not a zero-sum game; your fellow bloggers are your peers.

Quantitative analysis like page ranks compares apples to apples. But if you want to compare apples to oranges, you need to look at different things. Post frequency will increase popularity, particularly for those who do not read via RSS. Comment frequency is an indicator of post frequency. You also want to pay attention to whether the commenters are responding to the post or responding to each other (i.e. creating a community).

Amass, prioritize, track, repeat: Find all of the people who are talking about your niche in a full-time manner. Evaluate your own blog, then develop a rubric to compare your site to peers. Create a list of blogs where you’d like to guest post. Track your successes and failures – Robb suggests using a spreadsheet (blogs tracked, comments, linkbacks, etc.). Keep adding to your amassed list, keep evaluating your standing, and keep tracking.

You need to be reading the blogs in your community, but that can take a lot of time. Following their Twitter feeds might be faster. And if you’re not using RSS, you should be.

“Commenting on blogs is like working a room at a party with one major exception: nobody knows if you’re wearing pants.”

Make your comment relevant, short, interesting, but don’t steal the show. Make sure you put your blog anchor page in the URL field of the comment form. You want people to track back to your blog, right? If there is an option to track the comments, do it. It’s okay to disagree, but be intelligent about it. Be yourself, but better (and sign with your name, not your blog/book/etc.). Count to ten before you hit send, not just for keeping a cool head, but also for correcting grammatical errors.

Guest posting: write the post before you pitch it. It indicates that you understand the blog and it’s content, and that you can write. Plus, they won’t be waiting on you for a deadline.

Measure twice, cut once: If your commenting strategy isn’t working, then figure out how to change it up. Are you getting traffic? Are your comments being responded to?

Give them something to talk about. If you’re doing all this strategy, make sure you have something worth reading.

Questions:

Recommended features & widgets? Robb doesn’t use many widgets. Trackbacks is a big backend feature. Disqus can aggregate reactions, which you can publish with the post.

What are easy ways to get people to comment on your blog? There are several methods. One is to be wrong, because the internet will tell you that you’re wrong, and that can drive comment traffic. Another is to publish a list.

How do you know what to write about? By following the niche/industry, you can get a feel for hot topics and trends.

Do you have any specific strategies for using Facebook for publicizing your blog? Robb hates Facebook and it’s personal data-stealing soul. He recommends the same strategy as Twitter: for every ten posts about something else, post one promoting your blog.

What about communities like Digg or Reddit? Unless you hit the front page, you don’t really get enough traffic to warrant the time.

How many ads are too many? Depends on how big of a boat you want. If you build your theme to incorporate ads smartly, you don’t need as many of them to be successful with them. In print journalism, the page is designed for the ads with the news filling the rest.

Learning 2008: A Blogging Bestiary

Presenter: Tom Woodward

If a blog were an octopus, a rhino, or a hydra, which one would it be?

In the past, making a web page was like an old woman fighting a dog — no one wanted to do it and it wasn’t pretty. A lot of people see blogs as an animal that emits fiery excrement and not something you’d want to experience.

Blogging began as ‘cat journals,’ but over time they have evolved into other things. Blogs can be whatever you make them, from boring and static to an ever-changing undefinable thing. Sort of like an octopus that can get through anything that it can fit it’s beak through.

Before you start blogging, think about the voice you want to present. Should it be yours alone or with others? The content can influence that decision. The platform you choose can also influence that, since there are often levels of permissions available in popular blogging platforms, which allows for more flexibility in who can write/publish what.

If you are using a blog to push content to students, consider incorporating relevant RSS feeds to pull content into one location. Not just text feeds, but also multi-media like music and video.

Blog software can be used to create static web pages without having to know a lot of HTML or take the time to do the coding. Depending on the software you choose, there can be many options for templates that you can use to make it better than the out-of-the-box version.

One concern with using blogs in the classroom is the openness to the world. Blogs can be limited so that only certain authorized users can see them, much less comment or contribute to them. This might be good for encouraging open participation from students, but it also means that experts or other knowledgeable people can’t contribute to the conversation.

In the end, blogs are more like octopuses. The tentacles can pull in content from all over, and it can be flexible enough to fit your needs. Check out these examples for whatever kind of blog you might want to create.

Public blogs and podcasts that generate content of interest to those outside of the classroom are more rewarding for students and take it beyond simply replacing papers or discussions with some fancy 2.0 tool. The content generated by upperclassmen can be used in teaching freshmen and sophomores, which I think is a very cool idea.

CiL 2008 Keynote: Libraries as Happiness Engines

Speaker: Elizabeth Lane Lawley, Rochester Institute of Technology

Libraries are an emotional center of a community that make people happy. The elements of happiness include: satisfying work to do, the experience of being good at something, time spent with people we like, and a chance to be a part of something bigger. Libraries will survive if we remain in the happiness business.

Virtuality is a way of beating an unhappy life. People go into virtual world to escape a lack of happiness in their real life. And, there is a blurring of the boundaries between virtual worlds and real worlds as players make connections in both that bleed over into the other.

“The grind” is a process that gamers go through in order to move forward or advance in levels. Players do tasks in game repeatedly until their goals are achieved. Lawley thinks of the grind as being a meditative activity, due in part to the repetitive nature of it. Why can’t we convey this to our potential readers? We can correlate the reward of working through a game to the reward of reading a book through to the end.

Tupperware parties are an example of real world games, with competition and rewards. Salespeople will work hard to move up levels and be recognized for their work. Another real world game that is popular in public libraries is Super Sleuth, which gives daily clues that kids research to find the answer every week. Summer reading programs are also like games, and they make reading a challenge that kids want to do in order to reach a point goal to win a prize.

Chore Wars is an online game that blurs the line between real and virtual worlds. Parents post job tasks with point values, and kids earn those points by doing the chores. In the business world, Seriosity’s Attent is a game that causes players to evaluate the value of email message sent and received. Social Genius takes casual game concepts and applies them to enterprise problems/solutions, basically by making players learn the names and faces of other people in their organization and forcing them to keep their online photos and bios up-to-date.

Passively Multiplayer Online Gaming gives points to players for visiting websites, among other things. Missions become annotated pathfinders that reward players for surfing websites that have some sort of relevancy to each other. It makes the process of going to websites fun instead of tedious.

Games can serve as gateway drugs, like Guitar Hero. [side note: I heard recently about someone modifying a real guitar to use the strum bar and buttons used on the Guitar Hero guitar.]

Online rebound is what happens when we go from virtual to real and back again, like LAN parties, Moo cards (“We love the web, but you can’t put it in your pocket.”), and Etsy (hand-crafted items sold online). Virtual does not take the tangible away. You want to retain a connection to the real world. Libraries are taking advantage of this online rebound by creating spaces where people can be together physically while also being online.

How does your library make people feel happy? How does it pull them into something bigger than themselves that makes them feel playful and productive at the same time?

she’s such a geek

I have managed to read the first four chapters of She’s Such a Geek: Women Write about Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff, edited by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Anders, but since I’ve had it on my desk for nearly six months, I decided it was time to return it to the library. So far, … Continue reading “she’s such a geek”

I have managed to read the first four chapters of She’s Such a Geek: Women Write about Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff, edited by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Anders, but since I’ve had it on my desk for nearly six months, I decided it was time to return it to the library. So far, it has been an interesting read. I recommend it to all my geeky sisters.

since when did this become a column?

To all columnists out there: don’t worry — your information dissemination medium isn’t going away because of blogs.

I started to respond to Michelle’s post in her comments section, but then it got too long to be a comment, so I’m posting it here.

I attended a session at NASIG entitled “Column People: What’s their Future in a World of Blogs? The Role of Columnists in Academic Journals.” I erroneously thought it might be an interesting discussion of blogs in scholarly communication, but it turned out to be a “bloggers are hurting our profession!” diatribe. A poorly organized and presented one, at that.

At one point, the presenter pulled a quote out of a blog that seemed to lean more on the cat-blog side of blogging. Although I didn’t recognize the source, I thought it was a rather weak point in an already weak presentation. Not only that, but upon reading the full context, the blog post seems to be more substantial than the presenter would have us believe.

The conversation would have been better served if he had focused on the positive aspects of blogs and the relationship they have to columns. Some of the unwashed actually have pretty good self-editing skills, in addition to having useful things to say.

In the Q&A part of the session, I posed the question of “why worry?” — blogs and columns can continue to co-exist, and as per usual, readers will be drawn to what interests them. Bashing blogs and bloggers will not result in more edited columns in academic journals. They’re serving different purposes and users. It’d be like saying that we should stop using toothpaste because shampoo is an effective personal hygiene tool.

I also noted that the blog medium is just a tool, and it can lend itself to peer and editorial review. For example, I can write whatever I want here, but if it’s crap, at least one of my peers will correct me. There are also collaborative blogs that have evolved to become online magazines with editorial staff, such as Blogcritics.

To all columnists out there: don’t worry — your information dissemination medium isn’t going away because of blogs.

five non-librarian blogs

I meant to do this last night, but I forgot. So, here are five non-librarian blogs that I regularly read: WWDN: In Exile – Wil Wheaton’s not-so-temporary blog that he created when the one at wilwheaton.net crashed and burned in September 2005. I think that the exile has become a more permanent blog home. Regardless, … Continue reading “five non-librarian blogs”

I meant to do this last night, but I forgot. So, here are five non-librarian blogs that I regularly read:

  • WWDN: In Exile – Wil Wheaton’s not-so-temporary blog that he created when the one at wilwheaton.net crashed and burned in September 2005. I think that the exile has become a more permanent blog home. Regardless, his writing is often witty, poignant, and full of geek empowerment.
  • Feminist SF Blog – Yes, I am a science fiction geek and a feminist. As if you didn’t know that already. Make sure you read the Women in Battlestar Galactica essay.
  • A Year in Pictures of Working – I went to high school with Arnie and we both were involved with several theater productions. I ran across his old blog, A Year In Pictures Following The Break-Up, when I was doing a random Google search of various classmates. One thing that I remember most about Arnie is his witty and slightly silly sense of humor, and it seems he hasn’t lost any of it in the past twelve years.
  • Jonathan Coulton – “Code Monkey like Fritos / Code Monkey like Tab and Mountain Dew / Code Monkey very simple man / With big warm fuzzy secret heart / Code Monkey like you”
  • Blogcritics Magazine – I would be remiss if I did not include this on my list. I don’t read everything that is published (approx. 50 articles every day!), but I do browse the reviews and news items. I’m also one of the writers and involved in some of the behind the scenes work. About 95% of the lengthy reviews you see published here are from materials I have received as a BC writer, and the reviews are all cross-published on the BC site. Their version is after an editor has looked it over, but my version is pre-externally edited. Usually, they’re the same copy.

Are you a librarian blogger? Tag. You’re it.

radcon 4c

Last Wednesday, I woke up and decided I needed to be with my people.

Spaceball CityLast Wednesday, I woke up and decided I needed to be with my people. By that I mean I decided to attend Radcon. Radcon is a science fiction and fantasy convention held in Pasco (WA) every year over President’s Day weekend. I attended it last year, which was the first time I had been to a scifi con, unless you count the time I hung out with some pals in the same hotel as a con in North Carolina half a lifetime ago. I don’t think that counts.

Not much different happened at the con this year compared to last year, except this time I knew what to avoid and what to attend, and there were more familiar faces in the crowd. I still feel a bit like an outsider hoping to get invited to the party, but that’s the problem with any relatively small group of people. Anyway, I took some pictures this time, although I missed most of the Star Trek costumes (dangit!), and I also use the video function on my digital camera to capture two medieval combat events (event 1 and event 2).