LEARNING TO BLOG: 1-10

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In an earlier post I promised to get back to the subject of TypePad, the not-free platform for blogging.  What better time than now, in the last post of the week?

I found out about TypePad, and the possibility of blogging myself, from Gretchen Rubin, referred to hereinafter as “G.R.” 

G.R. is the author of The Happiness Project, a book that began as a blog. I bought it originally when my older son mentioned that G.R. had been my daughter-in-law’s roommate in law school. I do like to read things by people I am in one, two or no more than three degrees of separation from.

 And The Happiness Project has now brought G.R. quite a lot of money and renown as a “happiness expert.”  But whatever you think of the goal of seeking happiness in and of itself — I once had a shrink who told me sternly that “happiness is not the goal of therapy! — G.R.’s book does contain a number of useful ideas for getting your life going in the right direction if you feel you’re spinning your wheels. One of these ideas, suggested to G.R. for her own life by her literary agent, was to start a blog. 

     “Oh, I wouldn’t know how to do that,” I answered.  “It’s too technical.  I can barely figure out how to use TiVo.”

     “These days, it’s pretty easy to set up a blog,” she said.  “Think about it. I bet you’d really enjoy it.”

     She’d planted the idea in my mind, and I decided to give it a try.  Reading the research on the importance of challenge to happiness had convinced me that I should stretch myself to tackle a large, difficult goal.  Not only that—if I did manage to start a blog, it would connect me with other people with similar interests, give me a source of self-expression, and allow me a way to try to convince others to start their own happiness projects….

….Then, around this time, I happened to run into two acquaintances who had blogs of their own, and together they gave me the few pieces of key advice that I needed to get started.  Maybe these providential meetings were a product of cosmic harmony—-“when the student is ready, the teacher appears”—-or maybe they were examples of the efficacy of articulating my goals.  Or maybe I just got lucky.

     “Use TypePad,” my first adviser suggested.  “That’s what I use.”  She kept a blog about restaurants and recipes.  “And keep it simple—-you can add features later, as you figure out what you’re doing.”

     “Post every day, that’s absolutely key,” insisted my second adviser, who ran a law blog. 

If this short excerpt interests you, the rest of what G.R. has to say about blogging on TypePad can be found in the section of her book captioned “Launch a Blog.” (The Happiness Blog, HarperCollins 2009, pp. 74-75. )  Which is followed by “Enjoy the Fun of Failure,” and “Ask for Help.”

As for me, I can’t figure out how to use TiVo either.  Even Apple TV nearly flummoxed me.  

However, as you already know, LeMasney is a WordPress guy, and I did sign up for his course. Of which there are two more sessions.   So I guess I’m on WordPress for the duration.  

Sorry, G.R. 

The jury may still be out, though.  

We’ll see.

 

 

 

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LEARNING TO BLOG: 1-9

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The last part of our first class went like this:

1.  Learning about adding “wp-admin” to our blog address as a way of getting to Dashboard.

2.  Looking around Dashboard.

3.   Listening to LeMasney explain the difference between a post and a page.

4.   Following instructions to click “New Post” and type some garbage.

5.    Following instructions to click “Publish.”

6.    Being upset at having “published” garbage.

7.    Receiving reassurance from LeMasney (a) that no one would ever find it; and (b) that if I was really worried that I might be disgracing myself, the garbage post could be later sent to Trash.

8.    Getting homework for next time.  (But I’ve already told you about that. Ten posts to create before the following Thursday.)

And then?  Time to find our way out of the building to our cars.

*************

Was it worth it?  Taking the class, I mean.

Yes and no.

Yes, if you need your hand held, as I apparently do, where “technology” is concerned.  It was reassuring to go online to WordPress in company.

No, once you’ve got a username and password, because WordPress is very good about sending an instructional first email to its newbies.  By the time I got home, there it was waiting in my email box:  everything I needed to know about how to set up a profile and find myself a theme.  (Both of which I’ve done.  Which is why you’re looking — if anyone out there is looking — at a calming color photo at the top of this blog.)  There is also some information on your Home page about how to go further.  My next step, I guess, would be to establish a page for the “About” me part of the blog.  But I’m waiting, because it’s a pretty good guess that LeMasney may cover this in session two of the course, and what would I do while he did, if I’d already done it?

***************

P.S.  I did spend some of that first night after the class wondering what I would blog about when I began to blog.  It even took me quite a while to fall asleep.

But then, in the morning, it came to me:  I would do my ten homework posts about “Learning to Blog.”

So here we are.

LEARNING TO BLOG: 1-8

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Back to Room 132.  Back to passwords.  LeMasney suggests making our WordPress password as strong as possible.  

“Why?” I ask.  “We’re not protecting a financial site here.  It’s only a blog.”

Only a blog?   

He is shocked. If the password is weak, he explains, the blog is vulnerable — to the jealous, the malevolent, the meddlesome. Someone could take it down!  

Actually, it would be no great loss to the world if someone took down ten pieces of homework captioned “Learning to Blog.”  However, I am willing to try to protect my all-too-mortal prose for as long as possible.

These are the three “How to Create A Website” rules for “strong”:

     1.  Eschew phrases like “Jack and Jill.”  (That one may merit a “duh.”)

     2.   Substitute a number — for example “2” — for a given letter — such as “u.”  (Better yet, two numbers for two letters.)

     3.    Insert at least one sign — perhaps “$”? — in each part of the password.

To which I suggest one more rule:

     4.    Try to remember your new password.

That last rule is not so easy.  Think of all the passwords you have, each with its different requirements.

Here’s a quick review of some of mine:   (a)  The bank ATM:  Only four numbers or letters;  (b)  The investment bank where most of what I have is stashed: Five to eight letters or numbers, but must include at least one letter or number, and don’t forget to change it every six months; (c) the New Yorker app on my iPad and iPhone:  my email address.  (But I have three. Which one did I give?)  

Then there’s my Apple ID; the password for the non-smart cell phone I tried to give to my dear man after I bought the iPhone; my reduced-fee Metro card password, which I have completely forgotten, with the result that when I go to New York I have to buy a regular price Metro card despite being hugely over the age when the price gets cut in half (if you can remember your password). Not to mention the passwords for all the credit cards, Amazon Prime, Abe Books.  Etcetera, etcetera.  

Surely you have similar problems yourself.  

And if you write down all those passwords and user IDs and answers to special questions, such as “the name of your favorite pet,” designed to make sure you are you — if you write all that down in a special little notebook, with a real pen, and remember to change what needs changing every six months, you will probably have misplaced the little notebook by the time you need it.

Now here comes yet another password — to get me on at WordPress.  Little notebook, where are you?  Not in Room 132.  I copy the new password down in the notebook I brought to class, which is not the little password notebook.

I’ll just have to copy the new WordPress password all over again in the little notebook when I get home.   If I remember.  

And can find it.

But guess what?  We’re finally ready to blog!

 

 

 

LEARNING TO BLOG: 1-7

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As promised, this installment of my week’s homework for “How To Create A Website” was going to be a riff on passwords.  But scratch that. Here’s something much more interesting.  (At least to me.)

I HAVE A FOLLOWER!

The news came in my email on Sunday night.  Someone named “papergong” was following “Learning to Blog!”  Papergong was going to get an e-mail every time I posted!

“Congratulations,” said WordPress. (In its email).

But how could this be?  I was sure I was posting into the void.  I mean, this was just homework.  Not my real blog, the blog I want to do when I learn how to blog.

Okay, I put in a few tags (even though LeMasney hadn’t said anything about tags yet).  But they weren’t the sort of tags which would beckon to anyone who was already blogging.

I mean, “technologically challenged, learning to blog”?    Come on.

It was flattering, though.

So who was “papergong?” anyway?

I clicked to find out.  And found three photographs of a very young man  — young enough to be a grandson, if I had begun babymaking earlier than I did.  Cute, though.  He looked a bit like my very first boyfriend (now probably dead) — back in 1947, when I was sixteen and first boyfriend was twenty-five.

Maybe papergong was first boyfriend’s grandson?

(Just kidding.)

No other information, though.  And papergong’s own blog wasn’t much more informative.  It’s all about music videos made by groups I’ve never heard of.  (Not that I’ve heard of any music groups now functioning.) He writes short and grammatically lucid commentaries on each video which I don’t understand well enough to tell you about.

I therefore really and truly hope papergong will explain himself when he reads this.  (If he’s still following, that is.)  Because I haven’t got a clue.

What does he like?  Why is he following?  Was it a mistake?  An erroneous tremor of the finger on the mouse or the scratchpad?  What could a wordy lady like me possibly have to say to a  musicman like him?

Speak up please, papergong.  Give “Learning to Blog” its very first “comment.” Think of it as gratifying grandma.

And thank you.

LEARNING TO BLOG: 1-6

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After we had each explained, or refrained from explaining, why we had come out on an unusually chilly late October night to seek digital education, LeMasney launched into his pitch for his course.  (Did he really need this part of the presentation?  After all, we were already there. )

He told us the advantages of going  online. He extolled the ease and breadth of WordPress, how adaptable it was to e-book publishing (this with a nod to me and the good-looking blonde behind me — the two putative authors in his group), and especially how easily it could enable us to shape our online material to our purpose.

Which was was to market our brands.  Brands?  Yes, indeed.  And not just our professional brands but our personal ones.

“Marketing” and “brands” are not good words to use with me. Okay, If you have a business, which I never did and never will, or a commercial skill on which you rely for your earned income, you do have to keep current, know how to reach your target market, maybe even have what is now referred to as a “brand,” at least for the business. And like that.   

(Pre-internet, we used to do it with networking, CVs, cover letters and postage stamps.  Even so, I was so glad when I finally got to retire!)

But market your personal brand?  What’s that?  The way people see you?  The way you want people to see you?  Is your personal brand a falsehood you create to make people like you, read you, listen to you?  (Friend you, follow you, tweet you?)  Why should you want to show yourself as someone you aren’t?  Why should you have to work at it?  When did the personal become professional?  With the advent of People Magazine?  Managers? PR people? 

Is it unwise to venture online without a manager, or a coach (like LeMasney), to protect you from something jumping up to bite you in the ass?  Maybe it is.  In that event, maybe I shouldn’t be here in Room 132 on a chilly Thursday night.  Maybe I should just forget the whole thing.

But I am not disruptive by nature, however rebellious my thoughts.  I stay in my seat and say nothing.  And then we all get online with Princeton High School’s I.D. and password, and go to http://www.wordpress.com.  That chews up about ten more minutes right there, during which time I distract myself from being angry by watching the husband to my right.  He is having all kinds of trouble.  But he is dogged;  on the other hand, the wife seems, with a charming little giggle, to have just given up. LeMasney suggests they work together on one screen, as if that was going to speed things up for them.

At last we move on.  We are all going to try to create a username that passes muster with WordPress. You’d be surprised at how many bright ideas produce a “Try again.”  I finally settle for the one the system suggests.  Since it’s my real name, at least I’ll be able to remember it.  On to the password!

But I must be boring you.  I am beginning to bore myself.    So let’s wind it up for now. See you in Learning to Blog: 1-7, where I vent some more — this time about passwords.

 

LEARNING TO BLOG: 1-5

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When I was young, many decades ago, I used to say I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

            Me: “I want to be a writer when I grow up!”

 Hah!  I’ve certainly done many things since then which involved writing – writing briefs for the Massachusetts court, drama criticism for a monthly magazine, book reviews for a local newspaper, magazine and newspaper ads to persuade women to buy things (“the bra to feel you’re not wearing a bra in”), a master’s thesis on twentieth-century literary criticism, and even the beginning of a doctoral dissertation, never finished. 

 But I was never actually “a writer.”  (“Copywriter” doesn’t really come close.) I guess I just never grew up.  Despite my birth year. 

 Nonetheless, it has occurred to me I may be running out of time and had better get going. 

 However the things I now want to write about have changed.  Back those many decades ago, I always thought my past would be my subject – either fictionalized (in the third person) or straight up (me, me, me).  Not that I then had a very long or colorful past.  But what I had I thought worth enjoying, or resenting, all over again in the writing of it.

 What interests me more now is my present:  the latter part of life.  There isn’t a lot written about what’s going on inside those of us who have aged ourselves, voluntarily or otherwise, out of the workplace and are now in the eighth, ninth and even tenth decades of life. 

 In other words, not a whole lot written about what it’s like to be, um, old.

 In 2008, the English writer Diana Athill published a wonderful little book called Somewhere Towards The End: A Memoir.  But as far as I know, she is nearly alone in writing honestly and helpfully about moving on towards 100.

 So that’s what I’d like to explore.  Online – where I may find a community of others being involuntarily transported into this uncharted territory. It even has a title already:  “The Getting-Old Blog.”  If it turns into a book eventually, so be it.  If not, not.

 But first things first.  Did I mention yet that I’m a technological dufus?  Yes, I learned to type at fifteen in summer school. (What girl in those days didn’t?)  And learned to use a computer at a law firm. But blogging?

 Which brings us back to Room 132 and “How to Create a Website.” 

And also brings us (if anyone is with me here) to “Learning to Blog: 1:6.” 

 

 

Learning to Blog: 1-4

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Why were we all there?

The husband to my right spoke for himself and his wife.  She was a photographer and “they” wanted to put her work online. I wondered if the wife wanted this too.  She only giggled.

The blonde woman behind me said that she had lived in Latin America for twenty-five years.  (She must have moved there, with her parents, as a child!)  Now she wanted to write about it.  She thought she might start with a blog and then gather the posts together for a book. She was doing the research now.  She also had some ideas for a business, but that would be later.

The pleasant young man next to her already had a blog, but wanted to do something with it, or with another, the explanation of which flew away from me while I tried to understand.  (Yes, I am technologically challenged.  Why else would I be taking a course in something I ought to have been able to figure out for myself?  I’ve been called a lot of things in my life but nobody, after all, has ever called me stupid.)  The young man spoke of plug-ins, meta-tags — a foreign language!  LeMasney nodded yes, yes, all of that was possible.

The second pleasant young man was entirely noncommital; he thought the course might be “interesting.”

The Apple lady passed.  I think she was still trying to figure out the mouse.

And then there was the burly man.  He hugged himself tighter.  His arms were really huge.  He had an idea for a new business, he said.  After a pause, he added that it was international.  Another pause.  It had to do with China.  A second pause. He had been in China in connection with his work, before retirement.  And what was the new business?  He wanted to bring Chinese students to America.  Then he swallowed his lips. He would say no more.  At least, not at present.

And me, the elderly lady in the first seat, first row?  Actually, I had already explained my presence in his classroom to LeMasney while we were waiting for the others to file in, so he didn’t ask me again.  He summarized it for the class as “wanting to do a book.”

Well, that wasn’t exactly it.  But if you really want to know what brought me there, read on….