Category Archives: The Adventures of Mitch Wagner

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Yesterday’s word count is an approximation. In addition to writing 594 new words, I added text to some earlier sections and cut some too.

Habit is starting to push me through. I started yesterday’s creative writing so late that I was tempted to blow it off. But I remembered my resolution: Just write something. Even if I can’t manage 500 words, write something. And I ended up doing 500 words and continuing onward. Probably my total was 800 words yesterday. Which isn’t record-setting but it’s pretty good considering I didn’t think I had anything in me at all.

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It’s 95 degrees out and I’m hunkered in the air conditioning in my home office, with the door closed to keep the heat out. Minnie is having fun messing with the remote control door operator.

I am the remote control door operator.

My blogging experiment: The problems

Posting to mitchwagner.com… and mirroring the posts elsewhere is relatively easy and fast. But I’d like it if it were still easier.

I have to do manual reformatting of posts to make them look all right on Google+ and Facebook. That only takes a minute or so on each post, but it’s a minute more than I want to spend.

I’d love it if Facebook would let me mirror my posts to the news feed, automatically, without my having to do anything, including hyperlinks, embedded images and video, boldface, italics and so on. That’s how it works for Tumblr. I think that capability would be good for Facebook’s business too. Maybe Facebook will take Instant Articles in that direction. I hope so. Dave Winer has written about this. Winer has virtually the same attitude toward blogging that I do.

Also, I use categories and tags to organize my posts, and it does take a little time to do that. Just a few seconds, but it can be annoying. I’m not sure anybody cares about that other than me. Do people really browse blogs by categories and tags? When I see a blog that looks intriguing, I just look at a few of the most recent posts. If I like what I see, I subscribe in Inoreader and read future posts as they’re published.

My blogging experiment: The traffic

I get a few dozen visitors to mitchwagner.com… daily and very few comments.

I don’t know how much traffic I’m getting on Tumblr. As far as I know, Tumblr doesn’t share those statistics, and they aren’t visible any other way. I used to get dozens of likes and reblogs every day. Now I get only a few.

My relationship with Tumblr is weird. I’m not sure I even care about Tumblr anymore. I keep posting there anyway because it’s entirely automatic – “set and forget,” as we say in the business. Maybe it’ll pick up. I do read a lot of Tumblr blogs, and I check for activity every day.

I get a lot of good conversation on Facebook, much of which is with people I actually know from real life, which is very nice. Facebook doesn’t share traffic numbers either.

I have a few hundred friends on Facebook. I only friend people on Facebook who I actually know, at least by reputation. And I only friend a few people every year now.

I also get in some good conversations on Google+, but that’s slowing down. The service had a big update 14 months ago, and only minor upgrades since. Bug fixes and trivial changes. Critics have predicted the death of Google+ for years; it may finally be happening. I’ll keep posting to Google+ for as long as people seem to be reading it, or until it stops being practical to do so, whichever comes first.

I have more than 10,000 followers on Google+, but I get the idea that only about 1% of them are actually checking in anymore.

As for Twitter: I like Twitter. But I wonder if I would stay with it if I were not expected to be on Twitter for professional reasons. I have about 6,500 followers on Twitter and it seems like that’s been relatively flat for years. And I don’t get a lot of interaction on Twitter. Almost everything I post to Twitter is a link to something else, which I think undercuts my popularity there. And that 140-character limit was fun for a couple of years, but now it’s just frustrating much of the time, although occasionally the fun returns when I figure out some kind of hack to get around it.

As for Medium: I’m new there. I’m still figuring it out. I check in every day for activity, and see something once every two weeks or so. Like Tumblr, my posts there are hands-free — set and forget.

My blogging experiment: The major tools

I started at a Wordpress.com blog and then moved everything over to a self-hosted WordPress.org… blog at mitchwagner.com…. That was surprisingly easy, with the coaching of the redoubtable Black Eagle.

The hosting provider is WestHost. I’ve seen some negative reviews of WestHost recently, but I’ve always been happy with them. They gave me support when I was making the transition. The support wasn’t perfect but it got me where I needed to go.

Initially, when I set up this blog I just posted links to my blog posts to Facebook and other social media, and pushed people back to the blog to read. But that seemed rude. So now I post to six places: The blog, Google+, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Medium.

That sounds like more work than it actually is. I use a WordPress plugin called SNAP: Social Networks Auto Poster. Once I’ve finished a post on WordPress, it takes me about a minute to use SNAP to post the same thing to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, manually formatting each post correctly for each service.  SNAP handles mirroring to Tumblr automatically; I don’t have to worry about that. I use IFTTT.com… to post to Medium. I just started doing that a couple of days ago; my previous tools for posting to Medium were flaky. IFTTT seems to work pretty well.

I do not love the setup for posting to Google+, Facebook, etc. I’m constantly making careless errors. I accidentally share links back to this blog when I meant to link to some external content elsewhere on the web. I wish Google+ and Facebook would just let me mirror content that originates here, as Tumblr and Medium do.

I rely on one other notable WordPress plugin: Auto Post Scheduler. That plugin lets me space out posts, posting one post at a time at intervals, rather than bunching everything up at once. Right now I have Auto Post Scheduler set up to post at 90-minute intervals 7 am to 7 pm Sunday through Friday and 7-5 on Fridays and Saturday. I also post manually when I want to comment on the news. Using Auto Post Scheduler, I’m posting all day, not in big bursts all at once.

My blogging experiment: How I think about what and where to post

I’ve been blogging at my own self-hosted WordPress blog for a few months. Before that, I did it on Google+, and before that various other platforms. I simultaneously post to Facebook, Tumblr, Medium, Twitter, and Google+. Here’s how I think about what to post:

Almost all of my blog posts are links to external content, with comments of my own. They’re short, sometimes just a sentence or two. Many of my blog posts are just an embedded tweet, image, YouTube video, or Tumblr post.

This kind of thing used to be called “tumble blogging.” There used to be several services for tumble blogging. Tumblr is the last man standing there.

Tumble blogging means posting a lot of fast, frictionless, off-the-cuff posts. Just say what’s on your mind, no matter how long or short the post might be.

In the past few years, I’ve seen people say they don’t think they can blog because they don’t have the energy to write long, organized, coherent articles. That makes my teeth hurt. Long, organized coherent essays are not required for blogging. Those essays are called “articles,” and they go on “magazines” or “news sites.” Blogging can include long, coherent, thoughtful essays, but it’s meant to be fast and off the cuff.

Personal blogging has mostly moved to Facebook nowadays. Which is great, because it brings people together and opens up blogging to people who would not otherwise do it. But it’s not entirely great because it gives Facebook far too much control of the situation. Remember a short time ago when Facebook employees suggested the company should block a Donald Trump Presidency? And remember when Facebook said nope nope nope we don’t do that. What happens next time if Facebook says yes? And they do it to a candidate or issue you like?

Facebook isn’t the only blogging platform, of course. It’s not the only social media platform either. But Facebook has the vast majority of users. Everybody else is by comparison a niche.

Earlier:

My blogging experiment: The history (which some of you already know about) and a status report

I’m blogging again. Blogging is cool.

 

Minnie gives us a scare

I was walking Minnie in the park Sunday like we do every day when I’m home. The temperature was in the mid-80s, which is not warm enough for me to bring water. It was a typical walk. We do about 3-1/4 miles at a moderate pace.

We had done three quarters of the route and were well on the way home when Minnie fell over while walking and struggled to get back to her feet. Once she got up she went over again. She was panting pretty hard too. It looked enough like heatstroke that I was quite concerned.

In the few seconds it took me to think that through, she’d regained the ability to stand and walk. I wanted to get some water in her but I had none and we weren’t near any. Fortunately, there was a couple picnicking nearby, and they gave me some cold water in a styrofoam cup. I brought Minnie to a shady spot and let her drink water at her own pace from my hand and the cup. When her breathing was regular again we continued the walk home, letting her set the pace. Nice and slow.

We’ve been keeping an eye on her and she’s back to her old self.

Lessons: Be careful about rushing Minnie while walking her. This will be tricky because if I let her set the pace she will stop and eat every damn thing.

And always bring water on our daytime walks, at least until November when the weather cools off.

She’s pretty, but she doesn’t have much personality

I was pulling in to the parking lot when I saw this willowy blonde at the curb holding a sign advertising a local business. I took a second look to appreciate the view. I thought, “Wow, she’s standing awfully still.”

I asked her if it would be OK if I took her picture and she didn’t say anything or even acknowledge I was talking with her. So I guess it’s all right.

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Encounter on my daily walk

Walking home from my daily walk just before we left for vacation, I met a woman coming downhill when I was going up. She said something and I took my earbuds out of my ears to hear her. She asked me where my dog was. I said she’s taking a day off. Then I told her why, that we were going on vacation so we put Minnie in doggie day care for a few days. (I hate saying “doggie day care.” It is not a thing grownups should say.)

I noticed the woman was wearing a backpack. I realized that I have often seen her walking around the neighborhood, wearing a backpack. I asked her why. She said she’s in training for hiking Spain this summer, getting used to carrying the weight. I asked her what was in the backpack, thinking it might be books or rocks or something else the same weight as her gear. She said it’s her gear, the same gear she’ll be carrying in Spain. Which makes more sense than my theory.

I wished her a good time and headed back up the hill.

Back to Evernote

I’m getting back into using Evernote more. Primarily for interview notes and research materials for articles. I haven’t found anything as good for mixing media types (plain text notes, PDFs, and images), and I like the synch between multiple platforms. The recent price increase doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t look like much money, frankly.

I had nearly abandoned Evernote in 2014 or so because it was bloated and slow on my then-primary computer, a 2010 MacBook Pro. And I really didn’t like the public statements by then-CEO Phil Libin about the way the company was going to go. It looked like Evernote was going to get worse, not better, adding more useless features in an attempt to steal Google’s mission of organizing the world’s information.

I’m encouraged by comments by the new CEO that they’re looking to refocus on note taking, rather than being a company that sells socks and software to take food selfies. Maybe they’ll even kill work chat, which nobody likes.

I’m still writing in Ulysses, though I’m not using it to take notes anymore. One thing I liked when I was taking notes in Ulysses was that the notes and article would be together in a single folder. My solution now that I’m using different apps for research and writing: Tags. I tag each article, starting with the letter n to be sure all the tags are grouped in the list, followed by company name or keyword, short code for day of the week, followed by the date I start work on the article. Example: “n Microsoft Thu 2016-06-30”. I use the same tag for every document, Ulysses sheet, and Evernote note related to that article. Seems like that will work. Ask me again in a year.

I found a note in my journal from three years ago saying I’m getting back into Evernote. So this is not my first turn on that merry go round.