LEARNING TO BLOG: 2:3

Standard

TEN THINGS I DIDN’T DO WHILE ‘LEARNING TO BLOG’

  1. Pay the bills.
  2. Cook.
  3. Play with the cats.
  4. Read Room At the Top by John Braine for an Evergreen Forum  literature class on “Angry Young Men” that meets day after tomorrow.
  5. Laundry.
  6. Learn how to use my brand new iPhone5S.
  7. Go to the gym.  (Did buy some new black exercise pants at Lululemon and Athleta though.)
  8. Watch Netflix movies while holding hands with man-I-live-with on the living room sofa.
  9. Send new beneficiary designation forms to financial advisor for forwarding to Schwab.
  10. Decide what to give my youngest grandchild for her sixth birthday.

Bottom line:  The cats are mad at me, we have no clean underwear left, we’ve bought a lot of takeout biryani and sushi. And we’d better not die before this practice blog is done.

Its days, however, are clearly numbered.  There’s only one more session of John LeMasney’s class.  Two more homework posts.  I’m getting spammed. I’m getting frustrated.  (Still can’t master that “Insert Media” business.)  And I didn’t get a thank-you email from Belgorod.  (Pout.)

I’d better start practicing “Learning to Blog”‘s final bow.

LEARNING TO BLOG: 2-2

Standard

FOOLING AROUND

It seems the best way to learn to navigate WordPress is just to fool around.

A/k/a learning by doing.

LeMasney, teacher of the Princeton Adult School class I’ve been taking, says he fooled around a lot before he became proficient.

Well, I want to be proficient, too.  (Even though I still think longingly of TypePad, where they allegedly do everything for you.  If you pay.)

So I too fooled around last night.

FOOLING AROUND TAKES TIME!

As you can see, first I found out how to introduce color to posting.

Then I found out what my second follower was up to. (Yes!  Now I have two!)  This one seems to hold a black belt in blogging, so I clicked over to Amazon to download his How-To-Blog book to my Kindle Cloud.  $9.95, if you’re interested; you’ll find it under “Books: opinionatedman.”

[Thought: I’m probably going to learn more about blogging from opinionatedman than from my $69 course.]

And then I b-r-o-w-s-e-d.  Because WordPress says the way to build a following is to visit other blogs and comment.  Is a following a good thing?  if you write, you want to be read, no?  (Pace Salinger.)

Initially, I searched for my would-be following in like-minded women past sixty who blog.  Found a nice old man who likes to sit on his porch. (And watch the world go by?)  Found a gorgeous professional writer and counselor who’s the mother of teen-age daughters (so she’s fortyish?) and who writes about age.  (I’d trade with her in a heartbeat!)  Found another self-styled oldster who’s really into gardens and flowers.  I have a black thumb.

So I’m 0-0 in the “like-minded women” search.  I know, I didn’t fool around enough.  They’re out there somewhere.

Another time.

But guess what?  I did stumble upon a Russian, don’t ask me how, who’s perfectly bilingual.  Well, his writing is perfectly bilingual.  (Don’t know what he sounds like.)  His blog title is “Bright Moments Catcher,” which explains itself when you learn that he’s a photographer. He lives in Belgorod (haven’t looked it up yet), and is only thirty-five.  But I did like his photos — enough to comment on them, as WordPress advises.  Except I couldn’t.  He had chosen a WordPress theme with no place for comments.

So I had to write him an e-mail of appreciation instead.  (E-address was on his blog.)  And that took time.  Whatever it looks like, I don’t just type and send/click/publish. I go back, revise, reconsider.  The man I live with says I have a punitive superego.  He’s an (almost-retired) psychiatrist; he may be right.

No answer to the e-mail to Russia, at least not yet.  But “Bright Moments Catcher” did check out “Learning to Blog.”  Silently.  (No comment, no follow.)  How do I know?  Because he showed up on my “Stats” map of visitors and views this morning as 1 visitor, 3 views from a brightly red-colored Russia.

(Actually, the map showed a brightly red-colored Soviet Union. Russia isn’t as big as that any more, WordPress. Get with it.)

I don’t think I’m Catcher’s glass of tea, though.  He only “viewed” one post and the “About Page.”

And now it’s time to do another “Learning to Blog” post.  (Yesterday’s.)

Oops.  It’s not.  There’s been too much fooling around.

IT’S TIME FOR BED ALREADY!

That’s what man-I-live-with is saying.  He’s turning out the lights.  The pussycats are running up the stairs.

I have three days left to contrive three more posts.  I can do that.

Goodnight.

LEARNING TO BLOG: 2:1

Image

We’ve now had a second class in “How to Set Up a Website.” It was last night, everyone showed,  LeMasney was losing his voice… …and I’m bummed. The class was all about:

  1. How to make our blogs look visually exciting — with photos (our own or creative commons stuff) and videos. Le Masney is a graphic designer.  Blocks of type, such as I favor, are not his thing.
  2. How to stimulate traffic — with tags and categories.
  3. How to keep out undesirable comment.  (How actually to inspire comment was not addressed.)

He (LeMasney) “discussed” these matters with a pointer and a front-of-the-room screen which displayed a post from his own “365 sketches” blog.  I do remember that his post — which looked far too visually busy to me — was about nicotine and coffee, the latter of which he drinks and the former of which he now ingests from an electric cigarette. The reason I remember the verbal content of the post so well is because I’m a person who reads  — without visual enticements, other than a title, and maybe a subtitle.

But that’s not what we were supposed to remember as we gazed at the screen, and then at our own screens.  We were supposed to be focussed on the graphic design of the title, “nicotine and coffee”, which I believe LeMasney had created from some creative commons ideas he had uploaded to his media library.  (I’m throwing these terms around as if they were my friends.  Don’t be fooled;  I haven’t got a media library, at least not yet, and I don’t think I am going to be messing around with “creative commons” visual ideas, even if I knew where to find them should I want them.) That’s because the lesson was all about Dashboard, and where to click and what to click and when to click.

I wasn’t alone in feeling lost.  The others kept asking “where” and “how” and “what” questions, too. So after a while, I shut up and tuned out, except for noticing how LeMasney’s long-sleeved tee-shirt kept parting from his jeans whenever he raised his arms up towards the screen.  (He’s trim enough so that it’s sort of okay, although he’s not in the six-pack category.  But if he finds this an offensive comment, he should wear longer tee-shirts.  And maybe keep the sleeves down so as to cover the tattoo running up the inside of his right forearm.  It’s Princeton Adult School, after all.    Some of us might even be in our eighties!)

While he continued to enthuse about widgets and categories and comment control, I also took the time to observe how inaccurate first impressions can be.  You may (or may not) remember how I described the other members of the class in “Learning to Blog:1-3?” Was I ever wrong!

— The blonde behind me wasn’t blonde; her hair was silvery white.

— The wife connected to the husband nearest me, who I had thought put upon by the husband, was in fact quite savvy — at least in her questions, whereas he was entirely silent.

— The Apple lady had moved; she now sat where I could see her, looking quite snappy this time, in a dark purple tee-shirt that spelled out “Zoe” in white. (Zoe is the name of a hugely upscale ladies’ clothing store in Princeton; I make no speculations as to her connection with it.)

—  There were six, not four or five, computers per row of student tables, in addition to an extra half table with two more monitors on it behind the first four rows I had remembered.  And there was a whole other half of the room behind us, which I hadn’t noticed at all last week, with regular student desks turned away from our half of the room and facing a conventional blackboard.

Nine o’clock at last!  Out-of-there time.  Not before the homework assignment, though.  Only five posts for next time, but including all the good stuff we had learned about. Shall I try to jazz up this fairly faithful reportage with a photo of the two British Blue pussycats who were waiting for me when I got home?    The operative word in that sentence is “try.” If I fail, don’t blame me.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be moving to TypePad when this is over.

Sasha (left) and Sophie (right)

Sasha (left) and Sophie (right)

LEARNING TO BLOG: 1-10

Standard

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.

 

 

 

LEARNING TO BLOG: 1-9

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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.