Blogging Insights (wb 9 November 2020)

Dr Tanya asks a few this week, but don’t worry, each one is quite short.

Evergreen or Topical content, which do you prefer writing?

I don’t really differentiate between the two, and writing one or the other depends on my mood. I also like to mix things up a bit.

In the sense that a lot of my posts are responses to prompts, and prompts are issued on a certain date, then you might say that a lot of my posts are topical.

However, when I come up with responses, most of the actual content is evergreen, so I’ll go with that instead. Poems, flash fiction, or even about my beliefs… none of them have a shelf-life.

I try not to overdose on subjects like politics, some of which is topical. Sometimes I just feel so strongly about something that I let off steam. Often, politicians are inconsistent, and I don’t mind pointing that out. But in general, it isn’t that I’m not interested, but more because I think people don’t want to be reading that. I don’t, not all the time.

Which do you write most often?

Evergreen, probably, although I don’t keep count. I’m certainly conscious that I don’t want to ram things like politics down people’s throats.

Which of these adds more value or engagement to your blog?

Value? That’s for the reader to decide.

Engagement? Funnily enough, I think my poetry, which I consider to be mostly evergreen, seems to attract the most readers and likes. It’s quite difficult to tell because again, I don’t keep tabs, but just taking a cursory look at my list of posts, poetry seems to attract as much as 50% more likes than straightforward prose posts. For my part, if people enjoy reading this nonsense then I am encouraged to keep writing it. But at the same time, I don’t want to write just poetry.

As for engagement via comments, I have no idea. I try to field each comment as it comes in, but don’t look any deeper. Most comments are from people I already know (in the blogosphere) and actually, it would be nice to sometimes receive something short from people who “like”, but don’t comment, even if just to say Hi.

Blogging Insights (2 November 2020)

Tanya asks this week:

Can you share some tips and tricks for using the new Gutenberg editor on WordPress ?

Okay, I have a tip. When you want to put a little section-break in a post, there is a block called the “Separator” block. It has the option of an inch-long, centered break, as I did above, or a full-line break, as I will do below.


And it supports different colours, if that floats your boat.

The reason? Why not create a break using underscores? _____

Well, when my reader picks up that construct, it repeats the word “underscore” many times over. Can you imagine a whole line of eighty-odd underscores? Can you imagine how annoying that is?

The effect is that I stop reading the post. All that writing effort, wasted! Can you imagine, people rate their time so cheaply?

This is not simply my little peeve, but an inclusivity thing – it is an appreciation that some people might not use their eyes to take in a post. Do people want to make their posts accessible, or not?

Incidentally, I noticed that when I copied Tanya’s question, she’d made it bold and italic, to make it stand out. She could have just used the “Heading” block instead.

Censorship

One of the things Dr Tanya asks this week was surrounding censorship. She’s echoed a question originally suggested by Melanie B Cee. I’m paraphrasing, but it went along the lines:

In order not to offend our readers, are there some subjects that are off limits?

Blogs are, I think, a personal platform. If they’re not a personal, then I don’t reallythink they’re a blog. In most cases, it’s not only reasonable, but commendable, that somebody holds a view on something, rather than no view at all. So I don’t think it is unreasonable for them to express that view on their blog. One person’s view might conflict with another’s, but I don’t think they should hold fire for fear of causing offense. An opposing view is not necessarily offensive.

That said, how the view is expressed can make a difference. So, it is often not what we express, but how we express it, that makes makes something offensive.

Regardless, the reader has the ultimate right to switch off, if they are offended.

In applying this, the three concrete scenarios I had in mind were:

  1. Writing a post on our own blog (Melanie’s case).
  2. Commenting on somebody else’s blog.
  3. When somebody comments on one of our blog.

For (1), we compose our own posts so it is our responsibility to promote our view tactfully.

For (2), if I disagree with the post, I will mostly just move on, but will sometimes say something. If I do, it is my responsibility to disagree tactfully. And convincingly. Like any other web pages, blog posts are readily accessible through the internet, so it is possible that an open-minded, third-party could stumble across the post. If I write a comment, who am I trying to sway? The poster? Who already wrote something I don’t agree with? Or, this new reader? That’s why I don’t bother arguing in a thread – I state my case and the passer-by can decide for themself.

(3) gets interesting, because the commenter has a responsibility to comment tactfully. That could bar anything from “offensive” to simply “inappropriate” material. In that case, I’m happy to censor – it’s my name on the site, after all.

To give some perspective here, I’ve had 6,400 comments on my blog, since Day #1, and I have censored about 6 so far. All except one were spam (as suggested by Akismet), the last was a genuine comment from a genuine reader, which was simply inappropriate. It might have been embarrasing for somebody (and, by impication, for me). I thought long and hard before removing it because I don’t want to be closing down discussion, but on my site, I decide.

Blogging Insights #48 (28 September 2020)

This prompt is the brainchild of Dr Tanya over at Salted Caramel. I’ve recently started following Tanya and her questions are really good. This week, she asks:

What mistakes did you make in the first few months of blogging?

Okay, I don’t say mistake, for starters, rather it became more refined. One of those is brevity, it is something I am still learning.

YearPlatformAverage Words Per Post
2017Blogger279
2018Blogger397
2019Blogger / WP442
2020WP294

The brief storyline is that when I started the blog, it was as a diary, to chart my recovery. Posts tended to be “I walked to the shop today”. I had no readers. With no readers anyway, the length hardly matters.

I discovered I quite enjoyed blogging, and in 2018 the posts became broader. Two big themes were politics and job hunting. The posts became longer, but there were still no readers.

2019 started off much the same, with posts on the same subjects. Brexit was a big issue here. Midway through the year I found some WordPress blogs, and in September, I moved my own blog to WordPress. I started getting an audience.

2020 will be my first full year on WordPress. The subject matter is now all over the place. I enjoy taking part in prompts, but I figure that if I have got something interesting to say, then other respondents might have, too, so I try to read other responses. I’ll do so with this question towards the end of the week. If I haven’t got something interesting to say, then why am I posting at all?

As a reader, if their are 20 other responses, and each is just a 3-minute post, then that is an hour to go through them all. Largely because of my eyesight, an hour is a long time to be dealing with a single topic.

So I feel that, as a writer, I should keep my responses short, just in case there are other people like me out there. I don’t know how many people read other responses, I suspect on the smaller prompts, we do. Most of us tend to follow each other, anyway.

You’ll notice that my 2020 number of words per post is dramatically lower, largely driven by this newfound audience. For starters, it is largely international so I tend to (mostly) avoid UK politics. And there has been precious little job hunting to report in 2020, so another topic avoided! But also, I have become better at editing my posts. I like that my posts now have an audience, but I can’t really expect those people to be unconditional. If I want people to read my posts, the very least I can do is to put some effort into making them thrifty with words.

The nature of my blog is different, 2017 to now. I don’t get so hung up about health/progress and use it more as a day-to-day medium. I started responding to a word of the day prompt at the start of UK-lockdown. Posting daily was another way of saying I’m okay and this prompt was the ideal vehicle. As it happens I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and I’ve gotten into the habit of responding to the prompt using poetry. For one thing, people seem to like them (no idea why), but for another, they are 1-minute posts. So, another example where brevity has been a factor.

It is not necessarily the length of the post. If we’re discussing a detailed topic, then the posts will be long. It is this thrift thing. We could all use a good editor.

Blogging Insights #46 (14 September 2020)

This prompt is the brainchild of Dr Tanya over at Salted Caramel. I’ve recently started following Tanya and her questions are really good. This week, she asks:

Do you think that comments add value to a blog post? If so, how?

Before I delve into this question, can I share how I “read” a post?

I usually see a post in my Notifications panel. Most posts have a title. If so, I can open the post in it’s proper site. My browser then has a little button which loads the post into a “reader” (different to WordPress’s Reader). From there, I can usually listen to the post. Given the state of my eyes, it is far easier for me to listen to a post than to read it. Now, I can read the post if I have to, but it is easier to listen to it.

If a post doesn’t have a title, by the way, I can’t do any of this. I skip the post. I know that somebody probably just spent an hour writing it, but what can I do?

The point is that my browser will detect the post, but not any associated comments. So, if I want to digest these, I have no option but to use my eyes.

Now, I will do this, because like Tanya, I think interaction lies at the heart of this site. But certainly, the shorter the comments are, the easier on my eyes.

Okay, so having said that, let’s answer the question. Which was:

Do you think that comments add value to a blog post? If so, how?

Yes, they are immensely important. Because they provide that interaction. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they are the only thing of importance. To reduce the number of notifications, wp-admin allows us to turn off notifications when somebody follows us, or likes a post.

Don’t get me wrong. I want people to like my posts, but that is a one-way communication – there is nothing I can do in response. So, there is not much point in my knowing about them. Same with followers. I tend to follow the blogs I find interesting rather than engaging in a mutual admiration exercise, although as it happens, there is a lot of overlap. But the point is, likes and follows are one-way.

But if somebody wishes to leave a comment, that is starting a two-way interaction. I can, and will try to, respond.

So, that’s why commenting is important. In fact I often feel guilty if I read a post, then can’t think of a sharp, witty comment to tag onto it, but often I can’t.

I have just one more thing to say, about long comments. I mean, I will live with those, but certainly for those of us who write blogs, if a comment is going to turn into an essay, wouldn’t it be better just to write it as a post in its own right? It’s just that we can add graphics, fornmatting etc. if we do that. And people like me can listen to it instead of having to read it.

For that same reason – brevity – I will try to limit a comment to saying just one thing. If I have two things to say, I will pick the most important. Sometimes, here, I even succeed!