Almost Done?

“Wait, what happened?” I find myself saying for the second time this week.

Blogging 201 is almost done? Just one more day left? That sucks!

I haven’t devoted nearly as much time to this course as I wanted to. Guess I’ll have to work on the assignments on a slower schedule. And the last few assignments have been tougher to work on without having some time on hand. Day seven’s assignment was about creating a blogging event or participating in one, day eight asked us to establish an online presence on different sites and connect them all back to the blog, and day nine deals with guest blogging.

For the past two months, I’ve been thinking of participating in a blogging event, but I keep losing out on the time to do so. Really, some days I wish I were unemployed just so I could have the time to write all day. Though I’d hate to lose out on the sweet, sweet money. I really need to set aside some time one evening or on the weekend to get to that.

Assignment eight is a bit of a puzzler, as I’m not quite sure how to create another online platform that would reflect the nature of my blog. That’ll be a much more long-term strategy for me.

As for guest bloggers, I would love to have some! There are a lot of amazing talented people out there with some great stories to tell, and I’d be honored to host those stories on my sites. And I would also love to write a guest post for someone as a way to get my voice out there and to supply some extra content. The only problem is who to guest for….there are so many choices and I only have so much time in the day (and, sadly, that pocket of time seems to be diminishing of late).

Looks like there’s still plenty of work to be done to help expand the reach of my blog, and the lessons are almost through. Tomorrow, the folks at WordPress will say “I have nothing further to teach you”, like the kung fu masters in schlocky martial arts films and, like the plucky roundhouse kicking protagonist, I’ll have to go out there to apply my skills.

Time to wax on.

Traffic Flow

Finally, it feels like I have a moment to breathe. I’m still woefully behind on blog reading, but I’ve also got some catching up do with the Blogging 201 course. The good news is, I’ve got less to catch up on there, so that shouldn’t be hard. I’m about four days behind right now, so I’m going to discuss the previous three assignments in one go, then do a separate post about today’s assignment.

On day four, we had to do a stats analysis on our blogs to get an idea of what kind of content is the most popular, and when the most people are reading. Based on that, we were tasked with creating a 30-day editorial calendar. That’s pretty exciting, and also in line with one of the goals I’d set for myself at the start of the course. Unfortunately, with work being so hectic, I haven’t had time to actually do that. I do have a basic idea of my popular posts, though, just based on the number of likes and the frequency of notifications I get. Dark humor is always a hit, as is anything to do with strong emotion (like a post about a bad day, for example). My very short poetry is pretty consistently popular, but even there, I’ve seen some fluctuations based on the subject of the poem.

As far as reading time is concerned, there appear to be two peaks throughout the day: right after work (which s the start of the day in the US), and when I’m sleeping (which would be the evening). There is a small peak in the morning as well, from Asian and European readers. I’ll need to do a more thorough analysis to determine when would be the best time for me o make my posts.

Day five’s assignment was about highlighting older content for new readers, either through an archives page or a ‘Best of’ section or something along those lines. Currently, I do have related posts displayed under each blog post (well, for my fiction blog, anyway), but I have been wondering for quite some time how to draw more attention to older stories without pestering my readers to scroll through them. So once again, this assignment is right up my alley. I’ll need to play around a bit with the site design and some widgets (I cannot tell you how much I love playing around with widgets), and also check out what other blogs are doing. This is, of course, as good a time as any to get suggestions from my readers. How do you highlight older posts or popular posts that you want new readers to find?

The assignment for day six is a little tougher: social media engagement. I currently have a Facebook account that’s rarely used, and is pretty much there as a means of interaction with one very close friend. I handle my company’s Twitter account, but otherwise don’t use it. In recent months, I’ve developed a major Instagram addiction, so I’d say that’s my social network of choice, but I have no idea how to promote a blog on it. This is another one where suggestions and ideas would be most welcome, as I would love to engage with people on a platform other than just the comments section of my posts. Help me out, blog world!

With that, I’m almost caught up on my assignments. By which I mean, I’m almost caught up reading and thinking about my assignments. Completing them is another matter entirely. My first step is to finish tweaking my site design. I had received an excellent idea for my fiction blog’s Home page in the comments for a previous post, so I’m looking to implement that. And I’m keen to work out an editorial calendar and make that a regular habit. Once that ball gets rolling, I will hopefully be able to follow through with the other assignments and build a better blog.

Some Catching Up and Some Goodbyes

Wait, what happened?

How did I fall so far behind with my blog reading? Since joining WordPress and becoming part of the community, I’ve tried my best to keep up with the blogs that I follow. I’m not a frequent commenter, but I do love my daily reading. Unfortunately, with as hectic as the past week was, I couldn’t always keep up, and now I’m looking at like 50 notifications in my inbox!

I’m gonna need a whole day to just sit down and read it all before I can hope to catch up…and even that might not be enough, given how frequently new posts keep popping up. Fortunately, things are cooling down a little bit at work, so that should leave me with some time to unwind.

On a somewhat related note, I have also decided to unfollow some blogs. I’m not sure if that’s considered a blogging faux pas, but there are some blogs that I cannot make time for. Bluntly put, there are some blogs I just don’t want to read. Either I find the content unengaging, or it’s just not targeted toward me. I’ve interacted with some of those bloggers in the past, and they seem like really nice people, but ‘nice’ doesn’t necessarily make for good reading. I don’t think following blogs should be an obligation of any sort, and I try to avoid anyone that has a ‘follow for a follow’ philosophy. If I like what’s on your blog, you won’t have to ask me to follow you. My finger’ll hit that button in a flash. But if you want me to follow you for the sake of following, you’re knocking on the wrong door. As I said, that might be some sort of no-no when it comes to social networking, but I just don’t roll like that.

Alright, now that we’re done with the ranting portion of this post, back to the topic on hand: catching up. I will get back to reading blogs again this week and clear up my backlog. I’ll also continue to chronicle my experience with Blogging 201 (which I’ve also fallen behind on) and how it’s helping me enhance my blog.

Tech-Free Friday

The weekend in Dubai, as I’ve mentioned before, falls on Friday and Saturday. And because Dubai has no use for free time, many companies have six-day workdays. I’ve got five and a half days, which still means that I only get to sleep in once a week. Hurray.

Anyway, Friday is the one day when I’m free of all obligations and just get to do my own thing. And what I’ve come to realize is that I end up completely neglecting my computer on Fridays. Well, maybe ‘neglecting’ ins’t the right word, because it feels pretty great being free of it. I’m usually out, and even if I’m at home, I prefer reading or watching a movie or finding some way to entertain myself sans internet. Usually, I’ll end up checking my email or something just before going to bed.

So I’ve decided to officially make Friday computer-free. I’m thinking of just making it a tech-free day in general, where my phone will function only as a phone and not a mini-computer. The only hurdle there is that I draw on my phone, and occasionally write short blog posts there too. I suppose it’s as good an excuse as any to get back to pen and paper. I could write in my journal (which has been sitting sadly neglected, and that does seem to be the right word in this case) or draw in a real sketchbook instead of on the app.

I usually end up missing posts on Friday anyway (except for on my fiction blog, where the posts are pretty short), so I may as well make it a deliberate thing instead of going through every Saturday thinking, ‘Oops, forgot to post again’. It does feel liberating to not rely on the computer for all my information and entertainment, and it’s nice to be out for the day, even if Dubai’s not the most ideal city for summer outings.

Then it’s back into the Matrix on Saturday.

Forecast: Scattered Storms Throughout The Week

Today has been an absolutely miserable day. I mean, just a fucking trainwreck. I was contemplating putting up a post that was just the word ‘Fuck!’ written over and over, but I figured I can manage a bit more eloquence than that.

As a matter of fact, this whole week has been pretty awful, in terms of work. Somehow, I haven’t been able to do one thing right. Every little thing I’ve done has been criticized for some reason or another. And today was just the shitty icing on a turd of a cake. Somehow, everything I did today was completely ass backwards and met with instant disapproval. I sent an email earlier today, just a simple email (that my boss was copied onto), and apparently even that wasn’t written properly and didn’t quite convey the message I was supposed to get across.

I’ve also had a couple of dinner reviews this week, which kind of sucks, because a dinner review means I don’t get home till late at night. Because of the length of the commute, it doesn’t make sense for me to go home and then leave later to go to the restaurant. So I end up just hanging out and killing time until the review, eat, take notes, go home, sleep and star the next day. No real free time to speak of. And hanging out in my work clothes with my backpack and work stuff is no fun. Basically I lose a whole evening. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice going out to dinner, but after a long day at work, I’d just like to slump onto my couch and laze around for a while. Not too much of that this week.

As I’d mentioned earlier, we’re currently in the middle of marketing a new expansion to our site, so my time’s been split between contacting various restaurants about that and writing reviews. I’ve tried to balance the two things out, but apparently I’ve done it all wrong. When I spend a day making calls and sending emails, the next day I’m asked about unfinished reviews. When I focus on my writing, there’s other stuff I should have been doing instead. It’s just been a constant nightmare. My only consolation is that it’s the last day of the work week. I can snooze during my (one day) weekend, and I hope to the Masters of the Universe that next week will be an improvement.

Or else it’s a post full of fucks.

Thematic Matters

Another day, another assignment. Today, we’re tasked with making sure that our blogs are readable on all platforms. The blog should be mobile-friendly so that people can easily catch up on posts on the go. No problem. I can manage that.

I’m still stuck on trying to find a suitable theme, though. Every time I find a theme that seems just about right, there’s some problem with it that makes it unusable for me. Some themes don’t let me upload my full header image (cropping it really ruins the effect), while some don’t have a good combination of colors to give my blog the right personality. There’s always something. Maybe I’m just picky. A little armchair psychoanalysis can extend this to my life as well, where I am too demanding in the specificity of what I want. But let’s save that for another post. Or not, actually. I don’t want to delve that deeply into my strange mind.

The dummy blog has proven useful in dealing with that frustration, as I don’t have to worry about leaving some bizarre or badly arranged theme for my readers to stumble onto while I try to pick a better one. Hopefully, by the weekend, I’ll have found something I can be happy with.

Something Brand New

The second day of Blogging 201, and we’re already in the thick of it. Today’s assignment is to think about your brand and how you’re getting your message across to your audience. What does the blog look like? How are posts structured? The theme? The header image? How do you discuss the blog on social media? It seems like too much to think about, but broken down and taken one piece at a time, it’s valuable in building a strong blog image.

For starters, there’s the theme. I’m not completely satisfied with the theme I’ve chosen for either of my blogs, especially my fiction blog. The look of this blog is alright, and seems fairly consistent with the kind of tone I’m aiming for in my posts, but it’s missing a personal element that I can’t quite put my finger on. The theme of my fiction blog definitely doesn’t project the image I want it to, and I don’t think it matches the tone or personality of the blog at all. However, I can’t keep changing themes every two days until I find what I want.

But the good folks of WordPress have provided a handy solution to that problem: a dummy blog. A blank canvas for me to put my imprint on, in whatever way I like. It’s set up for my eyes only, so I won’t be confusing my audience with a new look every time they visit, and I can use it to shape the look of my actual blogs. That’s step one for me. Getting the right look and creating the right atmosphere for my writing.

One suggestion was to get an auditing buddy who’ll evaluate the look of your blog (with a quid pro quo, of course), so that’s something I intend to do. And of course, if any of my readers and followers have any suggestions for changes or improvements to the look (or even the content, really) of the blog, I’m all ears. Or all eyes, in this case…which actually conjures up a freakier image than all ears does, but I digress.

Stay tuned for big changes ahead!