Tag Archives: blogging

Blogging Platforms

My sister and I were discussing blogging platforms the other day. She’d recently moved to Blogger from LiveJournal, so we were contrasting various blogging experiences.

I’ve used Blogger since 2003 (though originally with a different blog, now defunct), WordPress.org since 2009, and LiveJournal since 2001. I’ve visited a number of blogs using these and many other blogging platforms, free and otherwise. These are my thoughts.

These days, having a LiveJournal is sort of sniggered at, kind of like having a Hotmail.com email address or a MySpace account. I’ve come across people who were surprised to learn it even still exists, and roll their eyes as if it’s just one of those embarrassing things we do as stupid teenagers then grow out of.

But why is that? Is there something inherently childish about the LiveJournal format?

MySpace, with its awkward interface and preponderance of glittery GIFs, is not quite analogous, though it did attempt to be at least partly a blogging platform. People moved to FaceBook largely because it was cleaner and faster and easier to use.

WordPress is great if you want complete control over your blog’s layout. There are bunches of customizable templates for various uses. My husband, for example, uses Easel (which grew out of ComicPress) for his webcomic. If your blog is specialized, WordPress is very handy.

Blogger is free. It’s easy to set up and get started. Personalization options are so-so, and it often tries to be entirely too helpful in its enthusiasm for all things Google (stop trying to make Google+ happen!), but it’s not bad. One perk is that if you can run multiple blogs from the same account without difficulty.

A lot of people have turned to Tumblr for their blogging needs. I have an account but I don’t use it. I never quite got the hang of Tumblr. As far as I can tell, it consists mainly of people reblogging pictures, with relatively little original content. There are no comments: you can heart/favorite something, or you can reblog it and add your own thoughts, or you can send a question directly to the author but no one else will see it unless they decide to answer it publicly. I think of Tumblr largely as a meme accelerator.

Twitter and Facebook are not blogging platforms. You can write “notes” in FB but that’s nothing but a lengthy status update most people don’t bother reading. I like Twitter and FB for random links, pictures, or pithy comments – stuff too short to warrant a full blog post, in other words.

One thing LiveJournal handles better than any other platform I’ve used is comment notification. You automatically get notified if someone replies directly to a comment you posted. Most other blogs only allow you to subscribe to all comments to a particular post, many of which offer minimal threading. This is problematic for a popular blog. For example, if I comment on Cake Wrecks or The Bloggess, I get the option of either checking the post repeatedly to see if anyone’s replied, or else subscribing to all the comments and watching my email fill up for the next few days. Discussions are very difficult in this format.

LJ’s nearly limitless reply levels also improves the discussion aspect, because you can clearly see who is replying to whom. I’ve never seen this depth of threading anywhere else. Blogger, for example, allows for only a single level of replies – anything beyond that is formatted like a reply to the first comment in the thread.

LJ isn’t perfect, of course. Though you can login/comment from a number of sources (my brother, for example, has commented on my LJ using his FaceBook account), full functionality really requires a LiveJournal account. It’s free to use but I have a paid account because I like the perks it offers. I like how easy it is to read and add to my “friends page” – those other LiveJournals I read regularly. I can add RSS feeds too (one of the paid account perks) but I prefer to use Feedly (since Google Reader died, anyhow) as my blog aggregator since I can use categories and read individual blogs and sort by oldest first and stuff like that. Of course, I could always just add all the LJ blogs I read to Feedly and read them that way. (Adding Tumblr blogs to Feedly doesn’t work very well for some reason.) However, since I’ve been using LJ for over 12 years now, I’m perfectly comfortable with the format of the friends page there.

LJ also doesn’t allow you to have multiple blogs from the same account. I have multiple LJ blogs (my 101 Things in 1001 Days progress blog, for example, is on LJ) but I have to log out of my regular account and into another in order to post or comment. LJ does, however, give you control over who may and may not read certain entries, or even your blog as a whole. Granted, those allowed to read must have LJ accounts themselves, but still, that sort of selective locking is something I haven’t found elsewhere.

I stay on LiveJournal partly out of habit but mostly because I haven’t come across a compelling reason to leave. It’s not like personal blogs don’t exist anywhere else, but for some reason LJ has become synonymous with whiny teenagers venting their spleens. Which is kind of hilarious, actually; I don’t read anyone under the age of 30. One of LJ’s most famous residents, Cleolinda Jones, continues to draw a huge readerships without even bothering with a personalized domain name.

So what do you think? Do you have a preferred blogging platform? Do you look down on certain URLs for particular reasons? Are personal blogs passe?

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Survey Says…

A little over a month ago, I posted a survey asking what people would like to see and not see on this here blog. The responses were interesting. In general, people seem to want more of everything and less of nothing. But here are some bits that particularly interested me:

  • A request for more color. That’s fair. I’ve had intentions for months to create a blog mascot (which is a little doodle I already draw everywhere; I just need to vectorize one so it’s easily resizable), and once I have that I’ll probably be able to move on to a color scheme. I’ve kept my site design purposely minimal because I’m kind of crap at those sorts of things, but I think it’s time to make things more interesting. Alas, I don’t have two minutes to rub together these days for such things, but hopefully once things have quieted down (this Autumn, with any luck) I’ll put in some time on a redesign.
  • Most people wanted to see more projects in progress and personal essays, with finished drawings and photography in a close second. I am the first to admit that I am absolutely terrible about scanning in stuff, largely because my study is on the second floor and the scanner is in the basement. It’s encouraging to hear that people actually want to see that stuff, though. As for the personal essays, most of that ends up on my LiveJournal but if there’s anything of more general interest (that is, stuff you don’t have to know me personally to appreciate), I’ll post it here.
  • Very few people wanted to see less of anything: one each of book-related stuff, memes, and gluebooking. Which is fine. I became a book blog completely by accident, and I read/review books frequently enough that there’s no need for additional literary posts. I will probably post some more about gluebooking, but only when I finish projects. I currently have two completed that I need to photograph and write about, and two others in progress with no end in sight.
  • People have no particular opinion on how often I post. I’m thinking, what with this insane summer I’m currently having, that I’ll switch to twice a week for a while. I hope that way to be more consistent, rather than having weeks with five days of posts and weeks with none (like, oh, last week). I’m thinking Tuesdays and Fridays. That way I’ll have more than enough content to keep up for some time to come.
  • People would like to see more new stuff in general, but the interactive stuff (interviews, tutorials, and blog hops, with giveaways and guest posts as runners up) won the day. I have absolutely no idea what I’d do a tutorial on (I don’t really know how to do anything), or whom I’d interview, but I’m certainly open to looking into it.
  • I was asked what a blog hop was. As far as I have experienced, it’s a bunch of blogs all posting on a similar theme on the same day. The person who hosts the hop has links to all the other blogs on their post, then provides that list for inclusion on all the other participating blogs. I’d like to note that all the blog hops I have seen have been giveaways, but I don’t think that’s a requirement. Here‘s a little more information.

Thanks for participating; I really appreciate it. As always, comments are welcome. This summer may be a little sparse in terms of non-book-review content, but I’m looking forward to Good Things for this Fall.

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Humbly Requesting Your Assistance

On August 22, this blog will turn 8 years old. Well, technically, I started on Blogger and didn’t migrate everything over to Zoiks until 2009, but my blogging went uninterrupted, so I’m counting it as one continuous span of time. Don’t be too impressed – I’ve already hit a decade over at LiveJournal, and have been using “melydia” as my primary online handle since 1993. This all makes me something like 237 in Internet Years. (Get off my lawn!)

Despite all this, I’ve never really been part of the blogging community. I read a lot of blogs, sure, but it took me ages to bother with things like Google Friend Connect, BlogHer, or Ning communities. My site design is intentionally sparse. I don’t hold giveaways or host interviews or blog tours. Then again, I also don’t need to have a good cry if no one comments on my posts – that is, blogging has never been a purely social activity for me. It’s enough that it’s out there and being appreciated, whether or not folks are being vocal about it. (Don’t get me wrong: comments totally make my day.)

That said, if I had no interest whatsoever in what my readers thought, I would keep all this stuff to myself rather than posting it where the world can see. Once in a blue moon I look at my blog and I think, “I wonder if there’s something different I could be doing with this.” That’s where you come in. In the past I’ve invited people to comment on what they’d like to see, but I think there are probably a fair number of lurkers who don’t feel comfortable making suggestions on a blog written by someone who doesn’t know them from Adam.

Aside: the internet is funny about lopsided friendships. Take Cleolinda Jones, for example. I read her blog regularly, to the point where my sister commented that she kept forgetting I’d never met Cleolinda in person. On the flip side, I am 99% sure that Cleolinda has absolutely no idea who I am.

As I was saying, a lot of people are timid about leaving their first comment on a blog, so I decided to experiment with an alternate method of getting feedback: an anonymous poll. Fill it out, have your friends fill it out, fill it out multiple times, whatever, just please spread the word. I’m looking for a general consensus, and the more data points the better. Keep in mind that I won’t know who you are unless you tell me in the comment field.

One last thing before we get started: the fact of the matter is that I’m not going to reduce the number of book reviews. It is what it is. However, I’d like to sprinkle in a fair number of posts on other things, too. So if you’d like to help me decide what those things should be (please please please!), then click this link:

Take the Survey!

(Thank you!)

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Book Blogger Convention 2011

Are you attending the Book Blogger Convention? It’s dovetailing with Book Expo America on May 27 in New York City. I haven’t heard of any of the authors attending, but several of my favorite book bloggers will be there. Will you? Now, it’s a little expensive ($120 for a single day), but it’s jam-packed with panels and talks on a variety of topics.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I won’t be going. I have a prior engagement at Balticon. But please be sure to let me know how it goes!

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I’d like to thank the Academy…

Well, here’s something pretty nifty: I’ve been nominated (by someone who is not me, believe it or not) for some Blogger’s Choice Awards for 2011. Care to vote for me?

My site was nominated for Best Blog of All Time!My site was nominated for Best Hobby Blog!My site was nominated for Best Pop Culture Blog!

(Also, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this page to vote for the charming and talented Laura.)

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November is Official Crazy Online Challenges Month

This year I return to National Novel Writing Month for the first time since 2006. I’ve won three of the four times I participated, so I have high hopes for this year. After my last attempt, I wrote a lengthy essay on what I’d learned from this annual writing challenge. At that point I expected not to ever participate again. After all, in 2005 I worked full-time and got married and still found time to win NaNo. In 2006, even without any huge 10k-word writing binges, I finished within two weeks. Clearly, blathering on for pages is not my problem. However, I realized a few weeks ago that I hadn’t written any fiction in months, and thought perhaps this might be a good way to get the old creative faucet running again. After all, creativity begets creativity. I have no idea if this will impact how often I blog. I guess we’ll see.

If writing is not your thing, you could also participate in National Blog Posting Month, Art Every Day Month, or NaNoJouMo (for art journaling). November is a popular month to host creative challenges, most likely because of the popularity of NaNoWriMo. So get creating!

Or just sport a mustache.

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Blogging Tips

A while back, a friend asked me to critique her fledgling blog. She wanted a larger audience and wasn’t sure how to get one. So I, having a loyal readership of maybe half a dozen people, decided I was clearly qualified to help her out. Then I realized that maybe those same six people might like to increase traffic to their own blogs. And thus this post was born.

First off, I’m going to assume you’ve already picked a blog theme, hosting service, and layout. I can’t help you with any of that anyway, since my blog has no theme, I host my own blog, and my layout is intentionally sparse. But before I get started on more of the nitty-gritty, here are my two main pieces of advice:

  1. Read blogs with a theme similar to yours, and comment regularly. Note that I do not mean commenting just to ask people to visit your blog. Comment on the content of the post like you would anywhere else. Repeatedly advertising your blog is a good way to get people to avoid it.
  2. Link to other blogs, especially individual entries. Bloggers often check out their trackbacks.

Seriously. If you link to them, they will come. People can’t visit your blog if they don’t know about it. Telling all your friends is fine, but sooner or later you have to actually join the blogging community. The more you link to others, the more likely it is they will link to you. Most of the new blogs I find are through other blogs.

Here are some other tips, in no particular order. I tried focus on things to do, as opposed to things not to do.

  • Participate in blog carnivals and community blogging efforts like Bloggiesta, Blog Action Day, NaNoBloMo, or Blogtoberfest.
  • Go through the steps outlined in 31 Days to Building a Better Blog from ProBlogger. (That site is full of good information, actually.) For more, check out the challenge inspired by the original program.
  • Join blog directories such as BlogHer. Chances are there’s a Ning group aligned with your blog’s theme too. Likewise, add notable (and related) blogs to your own blogroll. I have, on several occasions, visited every single link on the blogroll of a blog I enjoy, and ended up subscribing to a few of them.
  • Practice your elevator speech. That is, if you had to sum up your blog’s content in a sentence or two, how would you do it?
  • Post often and consistently. I schedule posts so I only have one a day, which offsets the annoying tendency I have to write a bunch of posts at once and then nothing for weeks. By spreading them out, my posting habits come across as more consistent without flooding anyone’s RSS feed. My husband, on the other hand, has a set content schedule: a new comic MWF, new art on Tuesdays, new music on Thursdays, and at least one other post sometime during the weekend. Pick something that works for you.
  • Write a few back-up posts to use when you’re out of ideas and/or too busy to write. I also keep a running document of ideas and fragments, many of which are later expanded into full posts.
  • Add your blog URL to your signature on email and forums.
  • Use tags and categories to their fullest extent. Not only does this enable your readers to quickly find posts related to the one they’re reading, they also provide extra keywords for search engines to find.
  • Remember that every post could be someone’s introduction to your blog. Never start a post with an apology for not posting. If you have a set schedule, try to announce ahead of time if you will be missing a day.
  • Make it easy to share your posts, whether via an AddThis widget or something else. Add your site to places like Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg, and Reddit.
  • Add RSS feed options and make them obvious. FeedBurner is a handy site for things like email subscriptions. Since I’m already active there, I also have a LiveJournal feed.
  • Respond to the comments you receive, and visit the sites your commenters link to.
  • Consider interactive posts: open threads, guest posts, blog tours, interviews of/by other bloggers, giveaways, etc.
  • If you get stuck for content, respond to blog challenges and memes, and then leave a comment on the original post with a link to your entry. (Do this sparingly. Too many memes drive readers away.)

What it really comes down to is giving people a reason to visit your blog, and that starts with letting people know it’s available to visit. You’ll notice that I blithely disregard most of these tips in my own blog. And I know it. But that doesn’t make it bad advice.

Any other tips from the peanut gallery?

And no, “blog” doesn’t look like a word anymore, why do you ask?

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Open post: what now?

This is an open post to my regular readers (of which I think there are roughly three) and anyone else who happens upon this post.

My blogging has been pretty sporadic lately. Truth be told, I’ve been in a bit of a rut. Book reviews are all fine and dandy but I’ve been uninspired by my regularly scheduled memes and I haven’t had much to say about anything else. I’d really like to get back into the swing of things again, but I need some help from you all. Here are some possibilities for posts:

Art – My husband suggested I start scanning and posting more of my sketches and doodles, and generally discussing the artistic process more. Another idea is to post about my current projects, swaps, and other artistic endeavors.

Writing – I like to pretend I’m a writer. Would you like me to post short stories from time to time, or even as a regular (perhaps monthly) feature?

Events – I do, believe it or not, go to concerts and other events from time to time. Would you like me to report back on these more often?

Links – I’m an avid Google Reader user, and am always looking for more blogs to follow and posts to check out. Would you like me to do occasional blog reviews of the ones I really enjoy? Shall I do a regular roundup of pages I stumble upon?

Memes – I have an extensive list of writing prompt websites; should I start looking into answering some of them?

Photos – One of my “things” in my 101 things in 1001 days project is to take and post a photo a day for a month. Would anyone be interested in having that posted here, or should I leave it on my personal blog?

Other – Anything I haven’t thought of, including longer and more thoroughly researched posts (i.e., single topic with lots of links), contests and giveaways, additional subjects to write about, movie/music reviews, etc.

What would you like to see more of? I’d ask what you’d like to see less of, but the only real possibility there is book reviews, and I’m afraid I’m not going to reduce those. If there are any other “feature requests” for my site, I’m open to those too – more regular posting schedule, better comment system, additional pages, whatever. Don’t be afraid to give ideas, no matter how specific or general.

Thanks!

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Bloggiesta, et al.



Forget two birds; I’m killing a whole flock with one stone in this post. See, this week’s Weekly Geeks is basically “participate in Bloggiesta-type activities” so I feel perfectly justified in using this post (and, honestly, the previous one too) for both challenges. I’m even squeezing the recently restarted Write on Wednesday in here too – the prompt is “fresh start”, and that’s a lot of what Bloggiesta is about: catching up and starting anew. Check out all the stuff I’ve done over the course of Bloggiesta:

  • Added “addthis” bar to the bottom of my posts, which is pretty awesome.
  • Added genre tags to all book review posts. (mini-challenge)
  • Added copyright footer plug-in for posts and feed. (mini-challenge)
  • Some housekeeping on my other website, Sine Fine Films.

More Mini-Challenges!

Not going to participate in blogging mentor challenge. Likewise with the mind-map challenge, because my last five posts were either book reviews or a list of the books I read last year or intro posts to reading challenges. Not much to expand on there. But it’s something to think about for the future.

The dead link challenge was particularly handy for me. I ran Link Valet and it worked very well. Sure, it didn’t delve into the depths of old blog posts, but I’m not too concerned about those right now. A lot of my oldest posts referred to news articles, and I’d expect those to disappear sooner or later anyway. I did, however, discover a weird bug: some of the links to my oldest posts no longer work. I’m not sure what’s going on, since I can edit them just fine. Changing the URL for these posts seems to help, so I’m slowly going through them and fixing them as I find them.

The putting your best forward challenge interests me as well. Here are some of my favorite posts:

  • The series of posts I did during the recent Basic Drawing class I took.
  • Mr. Peep Goes to Illinois: an adventure in landmark snarfing.
  • My review of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Love it or hate it, it’s huge right now, and I happen to be rather pleased with my review of it. I know it’s the only book review I included, which implies it’s my best review evar, but I’m not so sure about that. It’s just a recent one that seemed to work really well.

There are probably others, but it’s really hard to sift through the over 900 entries I’ve posted since starting this blog back in 2003.

Bloggiesta’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve gotten a lot done, both on my blog and in other ways: I cleaned up my study, caught up on a few forums (fora?), and logged a few outstanding snarfs. Thanks for hosting, Maw Books!

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Bloggiesta

Okay, so it’s last minute, but I’ve decided to participate in Bloggiesta. Looking at the list of suggestions, there are definitely some things I can do. I’m not behind on my reviews at the moment, but there are plenty of other things I’d like to get done. I only post once per day at most, so don’t expect this to be any kind of blogging marathon or anything, but I do hope to write a bunch of scheduled posts so this blog sees a bit more content than the weekly-odd book review.

For this introductory post, however, I’m going to participate in a few mini-challenges.

The Book Lady suggests setting goals for 2010. I’ve already talked about my personal resolutions elsewhere but I haven’t talked much about reading and blogging goals. Honestly, I’d like to blog more non-book-related topics. Lately this has been pretty much all book reviews all the time, and while I know it’s important to have a designated topic, I’d like to branch out a little more all the same.

One of the things mentioned is blog stats. I get around ten visitors per day to my blog, which is about ten more than I expect, so I’m happy with that. Sure, I’d like to have more regular readers, but considering my reviews are posted several other places I’m not too concerned.

That said, I am very proud for my recent compilation of a TBR spreadsheet, which I hope to keep up to date. It includes not just BookCrossing books but also all the unregistered stuff on my shelves and even a couple library books I’ve been meaning to check out. As of this writing there are an even 160 books on that list, and I’d love to get that number down. I’m only participating in one reading challenge this year, so I’m pretty free to tackle whichever book tickles my fancy at any particular moment. I’m pretty confident I can blast through another 80 books in 2010.

I’m not going to participate in the comment challenge (no way I can find five book blogs to comment on in a day!), the cheat sheet challenge (I don’t reuse links except to BookCrossing and I already have that one in my book review notes document anyway), or the backing up your blog challenge (we have auto-backups set up on the server).

I did add a copyright footer to my RSS feed, as suggested by the footer challenge. Another challenge I’m going to take part in is the labels/tags mini-challenge, because while I did recently go in and tag/categorize/title every single post on my blog, I only tagged things as book reviews, author, book title, and series title (where applicable). I did not use genre tags, and I think I probably should. I’m happy with my current categories, but there’s no reason not to go a little tag-happy, since they only show up at the bottom of each individual post and not on the main page.

Okay, that’s enough mini-challenges for one post. I’ll check in again later with a progress update and perhaps even more mini-challenges.

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