LEARNING TO BLOG: 2:1

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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)

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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.