For reasons that will become obvious, tomorrow’s post is now planned for 3 pm instead of 11 am. You’ll find out why….
I have actually had a wildly successful New Year’s resolution before. I’m still keeping it up as part of habit and second nature, instead of intentional resolutioning. It was to serve a vegetable at every meal (well, lunch and dinner) and I changed my life in order to accomplish just that. So I’m ready for another real resolution this year. In business, when we set our objectives, they’re supposed to be S.M.A.R.T. That means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. In New-Years-Resolution-land, a resolution of “Lose weight” isn’t really specific or measurable. “Lose 80 pounds this month” fails to be attainable or realistic. Just “Lose 20 pounds” isn’t timely. It’s difficult to fully separate what you know (work version) from what you know (real life), so when I was thinking about my resolution, I carried over some of those S.M.A.R.T. attributes.
Truth be told, I’m pretty happy with the person I am. Yes, I could be fitter, smarter, kinder and better organized. But I think I work just about as hard as I’m capable of working, so I’m not TOO hard on myself for failing to attain those. (Plus, I think most people think that’s true of themselves, so I have good company.)
What I wish I did differently was… well, this. I miss blogging. Back before kids, I wrote (short form) multiple times a day. Then after kids, but in a much less absorbing job I blogged every day, or sometimes every other day. But now that I’m in the white-heat of both career and kids, I’ve been trying for once a week. Lately, I’ve been failing, and that makes me sad. I don’t have a big readership. I don’t get to write sponsored posts. I don’t write professionally. (Well, I do, but not this.) I just *like* to write. This blog has over 750 posts. I like to tell people what I’m thinking, and hear their thoughts back. I like to look back and my posts and remember what I’ve forgotten. I like thinking out my conversations to you in cold, quiet moments. And lately I haven’t been doing much of this thing I like doing.
So here’s my S.M.A.R.T goal: to post once a week on Thursdays at 11 am EST. I would like to be so consistent you can rely on “Oh, it’s Thursday lunch! Let’s see what Brenda posted!” Of course, given that I’m working at 11 am on Thursdays, this means that it’s very likely to be written ahead of time and queued. (In fact, I’m thinking that I should write up a number of backlog, non-time-sensitive posts just in case I have a busy week!)
One sign of resolution success is a public declaration. This helps your friends hold you accountable to what you said you’d do. So I am empowering you, beloved reader, to go ahead and give me a hard time if Thursday 11 am passes and I haven’t posted my blog post yet!
What do you think? Will a once a week post beat my current average? Is Thursday 11 am a good time for it? What goals are you going into the new year with?
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
About two weeks ago, I sat down and wrote the blog post that was rattling around in my brain about the Discovery Show Deadliest Catch. It took a little longer than my average blog post to write (I mean… I had to do RESEARCH! And PROOFREAD! The horrors!) I clicked publish with a sense of satisfaction and moved on with my life.
Then, the next day, this happened:
There was squeeing on my part. I called my sister. Then I watched the traffic grow. Before the day was over, I’d hit 355 hits – over 100 more than my best day ever. I settled, self-satisfied, into a good night’s sleep.
The next day, traffic was tailing off. That’s the way it normally goes: I write a post, everyone who reads me comes to read it, it fades away. I enjoyed my good day. I went home. Being a 21st century mom, I checked my email while dinner sizzled on the stove. I noticed I had a comment on my post! Nice! Wait, 2 comments! Three! Um, sixteen? I only get about one comment per 100 views, and if that held steady… uh, hold on, gotta go check my stats.
And it was off! I got 37 comments, 10,000 hits (10% of my overall total, and I started this blog in 2008), and tons of views. It got picked up and passed on and retweeted. After long thought, I broke my own personal “fourth wall” and sent it to the content manager for my company blog, where the article was reposted. It came to the attention of my management, and they were very nice about it. (Which says more about how nice my management is than anything else!) I also got approached by the staff of the Cornelia Marie blog (which was responsible for a ton of the traffic) asking to republish the article.
That made me stop to think. Did it support my goals to have my writing rebroadcast on another site? Ummmm, what were my goals again? It’s a worthwhile question. I don’t have any sponsorship (I’ve never even got hit-up by those folks who court mommybloggers.) I don’t think I really want any sponsorship (a stance that might be challenged by someone actually offering sponsorship). I don’t really want to be a famous or professional blogger. I’m not nearly funny enough (I’m both autobiographical and sentimental). I dislike controversy and fighting, which are staples of the modern internet.
So why do I write, to the tune of about 80 posts a year on this blog alone? Well, you know how successful authors – when asked how to write – often say that they write because not writing is not an option? It turns out that can be true for rather more modestly successful writers. It’s important to my mental state to write.
In addition to providing an outlet for me, this blog plays other roles. It’s how I tell my family what is going on in my life. It is a bit of a family history, where I record the important things that happen (or at least, non-embarrassing important things) in the life of my family. I capture story-snapshots of what it is to be me at a given point. I also have a chance to articulate and make more real some of the ephemeral moments and thoughts that flit across my mind. For some of my readers, my blog creates a relationship. I met a mom at Chuck E Cheese at Grey’s birthday, who recognized me because she reads my blog. It keeps me closer to people I care about.
And – I’ll admit – I’ve always hoped that some of my writing would “go viral”. And that’s just what happened. Now, I’m a sophisticated enough internetian to know that writing popularity is so often a double-edged sword, with high readership accompanied by nasty comments. But the Deadliest Catch readership appears to be entirely populated by nice, positive people (based on the feedback I got).
So what’s my thesis? Just that… man! That rocked! It was totally fun! I got all the upside I dream of in my happier writing moments, and none of the downside that so often accompanies internet fame. So unless the Discovery Channel picks up the post and it goes onto one other wave of fame, it’s likely over and time to move on with narrating my exhilarating life of jam, football and kids. But boy, was that fun!
WordPress does a nice job of providing statistics and analysis on their blogs (secret: every blogger I know watches their statistics with a hawk-like eye). Their year-end analysis of my blog didn’t seem particularly insightful this year, so I didn’t share it at the time, but it seems like a relevant baseline to this post. I still find it highly ironic that one of my top search terms is “today sucks” since – in general – I feel like I write pretty positive and cheerful stuff!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 18,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals
The other day I had a good idea. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always waited (usually in vain) for the Good Idea Fairy to strike, so when it came I got very excited about it. My good idea was this: I would start a fashion blog for women in technology. This blog would be about how to use the skills of fashion to look better… but without all the cultural baggage that usually surrounds anything fashion.
I feel like I’ve gone through a transition that has been useful, and that other women might appreciate. Apprenticing myself to my mother-in-law, I’ve gone from a girl who wore ankle-length black skirts with white athletic socks (I have photographic proof) to a woman who consistently looks nice when she walks out the door in the morning. I’ve gotten and maintained a good haircut. I’ve developed a wardrobe that suits my lifestyle, my profession and my figure. I know how to use makeup to subtle good effect. In an interview recently, I was described as “polished”. That word stuck with me. Of all the compliments I’ve gotten in life, it might be one of the most unexpected, and hardest-won.
I have learned these skills of ‘the woman’.
But I haven’t bought the hype. I hate shopping for shoes. I could care less about this season’s hot colors, unless they happen to be my favorites. I don’t judge people differently based on how they look (at least I try not to). I’m playing the game, but my heart’s not in it. I still schlep in jeans and athletic socks and snarky geek t-shirts on weekends. And reading fashion magazines makes me either slightly ill or very sarcastic. So maybe, perhaps, I can teach the skills of looking good without the judgement and insults of so many other fashion venues.
The idea went from good to great when I thought of the domain name: Technically Pretty.com
So it has come to pass! I currently have a zillion ideas for things I want to write about. I’d love this to be far more interactive than this blogs. (After all, I’m no expert in fashion. If I’m a competent journeywoman, I’m happy.) I have thoughts for recurring posts (outfit of the day! this seasons hot fashions in bullet points! review of best and worst fashion magazines! product reviews on cosmetics you can buy at Target!). I’d love to have surveys, reader stories and in-depth discussions about what it means to be a professional woman, what it means to be a technical woman, and what it costs us to spend precious time and money on looks instead of books.
What I don’t have is a readership. So I’m asking you if you would bop on over and read my posts. Follow the blog. Add it to your syndication (if you like it and it seems relevant). If I earn your trust with good content… share my link. If you have questions, thoughts or discussions – hash them out with me there. If you know of other good blogs/tweets/sites I should be following, bring them to my attention.
So bloggers have a well-known trap of writing about how long it’s been since they wrote, and then going into painful detail about WHY it’s been so long. There are a few reasons for this, but the main is that the longer you go without saying anything, the harder it is to say just something. So then you start fretting over saying the perfect thing that makes you readers forgive you for your absence and not remove you from their list of daily blogs they check.
This is a trap. Still, it’s been nearly three weeks, which might be the longest I’ve gone without writing in my blog for like seven years. And it isn’t because I haven’t had anything to say! No, we’ve had an ordination, cross country flight, life-shifting plane conversation, week of solo-parenting, Christmassing, caroling, cookie-ing, play-dating and regular old “Kids say the darndest things”-ing.
I’ve also been interviewing and (breaking news!) leaving my job. I really don’t do work talk on the blog, but most of my silence has been work related – for both time and energy reasons. (Also, for the record, interviewing is also very time and energy consuming.) So… I have this week off, work at my old job for two weeks, and then have a week off to recharge before I start my (awesome, great fit) new job.
This is all to say, I’m back, folks. And trust me, no one is happier about it than I am. So maybe now I can tell you about what’s going on in my life – and better yet, perhaps some of those things will be fun and interesting.
Merry Christmas to all of you. May Santa bring you as nice a gift as he brought me!!!
CNN ran a story about odd interview questions the other day. Back in the dark ages of blogging, when we were all on Livejournal, these sorts of questions were a staple of the daily conversation. They were called Memes, and were a cross between writing prompts and the kind of paper games preteen girls played at sleepovers back in the ’80s. But they were fun because they got a writer out of the “and today my Honey Nut Cheerios seemed extra soggy” tropes that writing about daily life leans towards and, when done properly, they encouraged the readers to post their own replies to the same questions. So when I saw a list of questions that looked interesting, that I hadn’t answered before, and (for a few) that I didn’t know how I would answer, I figured… why not! So in the spirit of 2005, feel free to repost this on your blog (comment with the link!), or to answer the questions for yourself in the comments!
• If you were a superhero, who would you be and why?
Here I am handicapped by a complete ignorance of super heroes. Also, the percentage of super heroes sharing my gender is small, and have a tendency to be used as an accent. I’m ruling out Spiderman as being too dark and depressing. That also rules out Batman. (He may be rich and powerful, but he does not have fun with it!) I checked out a list of female super heroes, and none of them really speaks to me (except maybe Elastigirl … but I don’t aspire to her life. With the exception of her super power, I more or less have it.)
So I’m going to cheat and say that I’d like to be Aang from the Last Airbender (the cartoons, not the movie). I mean, he’s practically a super hero, right? But he doesn’t let that get in the way of some good old fashioned fun!
• If every time you entered a room your theme song played, what would it be and why?
I’m going to pick the trumpet entry from Cappriccio Italien. I mean, trumpet = me. That piece was one of my first major performances. It’s dignified, exciting and unlikely to be missed.
• On a scale of 1-10, how weird are you? Why did you choose that number?
6 passing as 3. No one of my areas of interest is THAT WEIRD by itself. In fact, I can appear to be a model of propriety and dignity. But the combinations of my interests are unusual, and appearances can be deceptive. I think we all believe we’re more unusual than most people (because we know the most about our own quirks), which is why I don’t rate my weirdness higher. I understand that likely bias. Which is WEIRD. AmIright?
• What was your best MacGyver moment?
Fun fact! Practically 70% of my gaming characters end up either trying to have prophetic powers or MacGuyver skills. I don’t know why this is, but it must speak to some deep aspiration on my part to be so incredibly resourceful and well educated that I can make a battering ram out of a bicycle, some gum wrapped in tinfoil and a lighter. In truth, I’m an anti-MacGuyver. It’s not that I can’t or won’t improvise, but rather that my skills lean towards planning and preparation.
• If you saw someone steal a quarter, would you report it? If not, what dollar amount would you report?
I found this the most challenging of the questions. I’m quite sure I would not report someone stealing a quarter. But I don’t know what dollar amount would trip my alert-o-meter. I think part of it would be my lack of certainty that a theft had actually occurred. I mean, are we talking about someone taking something out of a wallet I know is not theirs? Stealing from me? Most circumstances of theft where I might be an observer would be less clear cut. I think my uncertainty about reporting has more to do with a general inability or unlikeliness to spot unethical or amoral activity. I consistently fail to notice or correctly ascribe malfeasance. If I was 100% sure that it was a theft, I would probably report it at about $5. I think.
Leave your answers or links in the comments!
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.
The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.
In 2010, there were 122 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 443 posts. There were 122 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 49mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.
The busiest day of the year was February 3rd with 144 views. The most popular post that day was Now more heritage posts!.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, twitter.com and boston.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for today sucks, my truant pen, hagia sophia, how are you doing, and apple butter consistency.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Now more heritage posts! February 2010
10 reasons today sucks April 2009
How Are You Doing? February 2010
Old miscarriages, years later January 2010
Old Stone Walls March 2010
This two month period is the busiest of the year for me, and the two weeks ending in next weekend are the busiest fortnight in it. I have four birthdays, Halloween and Mocksgiving, all smooshed up together. And right now I’m also super busy at work.
So that’s a nice way of saying… don’t expect much from me until the middle of the month!
When I got at my new job, I looked around for the fellow geeks. I was sitting next to the Java programming team. This seemed like a promising start. One of them mentioned that he basically ran Talk Like a Pirate Day. I thought, “Aha!” and tried to find common ground. Over the course of a five minute conversation I mentioned that I played role-playing games and board games, read XKCD religiously and dropped the acronym “NWN”.
Well, it turns out that you can be a Java programmer and celebrate “Talk Like a Pirate Day” and be significantly less of a geek than I am. Ah, the blank looks! “I play role-playing games. (Blank look) You know, like Dungeons and Dragons? (Blank look) It was like seriously demonized in the ’80s? Surely you read about that? (Blank look) So…. how about those Red Sox?”
I’m sure that all the rest of you have finished figuring out who you are. I’m still very much working on my identity. I’m a Christian, mother, programmer*, Northwesterner*, coffee-lover, board-gamer, outdoorsy-type, trumpet-player*, wife, RPGer, cook, NPR supporter, Presbyterian, reader*, road-tripper, stylish person (kind of), blogger, srs businessperson, extrovert, elder, Camel alumni, nature-lover, home-owner, New Englander (not really, but after 14 years I have some of that), tax-payer, card-maker*, woman, not-quite-middle-aged, voter, cook & hostess.
Several of these identity groups fall under the “geek” category: programmer, board-gamer, RPGer, video gamer. There’s also my deep and abiding love for Tolkein. So I think it’s fair to say that I do qualify as a geek.
The _problem_ though, is that I see myself as an amateur geek. I think I’ve made an entree into the geek world, but that when the real geeks get going I haven’t a snowball’s chance. I have good reason for thinking this. At my birthday, four folks stood in my hallways, discussing the latest deep infrastructure of some video gaming company. On late nights after social events, you can almost always find two of them on the couch discussing either comic books or 80s sci fi tv shows.
I think I’m an initiate geek because of the company I keep. It just so happens that my friends are a bad point of comparison. Four of my close friends work for video gaming companies. Almost all of them play RPGs (Role Playing Games) and board games with skill and frequency. We share a culture that assumes a familiarity with many of the tropes of geek culture. This is WHY and HOW we’re friends — in large part it’s what brought us together as friends in the first place. And in this context I am a padawan. I’m a level 2 cleric. I only do D6 damage. And that’s where I benchmark myself, as a person who plays RPGs but doesn’t read the books cover to cover.
But it turns out that even compared to a room full of Java programmers, I’m no apprentice geek. No, I have several levels on the lot of them.
It turns out that the real place to find geeks is in the design group, where they sneak German board games into the cafeteria. I’m still a senior geek in those circumstances, but at least they’ve heard of this stuff before.
What about about you? Are there things you do where you’re a Jr. partner, but in other circumstances you are the Grand Master? Do you ever get whiplash about whether you’re skilled or good at something, depending on who you compare yourselves to? And what do you think… am I a jr. or a sr. geek?
*The loss of these identities is one of the things I’m wrestling with. I am, for example, ceasing to become a programmer and haven’t lived in the Northwest in 14 year. I also don’t get a chance to play trumpet much.