Sourcing Free Images 2.0

paulus self portrait

Paulus Moreelse self-portrait from the Rijksmuseum

I needed an image of a Renaissance self portrait for a recent post on my blog,  but having made an expensive mistake once, I’ve become hyper vigilant about sourcing free images.

In my search for digital images I could use free and clear, I made two discoveries worth sharing. First, I stumbled across Open Culture, which proclaims to be “the best free cultural and educational media on the web.” There, I found links to over twenty world-famous museums that make images of their collections available on-line.

Museum in Valencia, Spain. Photo by Margit Wallnery via pixabay.

Museum in Valencia, Spain. Photo by Margit Wallnery via pixabay.

Essentially, it’s possible to see a significant portion of the world’s great art with the ease of a few keystrokes. While this isn’t the same as visiting the Museum of New Zealand in person, for those of us in North America, it’s a lot cheaper. And while I’d love to spend a week at the British Library, or visit the Getty in Los Angeles, or even stroll through the National Gallery in Washington, DC, traveling requires the dual resources of time and money, which are not always available separately, let alone at the same time.

Should time and money allow, however, these websites could

The Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre, in Paris. photo from pixabay

The Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre, in Paris. photo from pixabay

serve as a wonderful primer in advance of a trip. And for the blogger in need of images with which to illustrate a post, these sites offer a wealth of images.

Not every museum gives carte blanche, however, so blogger beware, and follow the rules. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, for instance, has made 400,000 high-resolution images available on-line, but has restricted downloading them to non-commercial use. Looking closer, The Met’s free-use policy is even more restrictive: the images are available for “Open Access for Scholarly Content.” As I understand it, this excludes using an image from their collection on a personal blog.

The image from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that I used in my recent post at www.deborahleeluskin.com

The image from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that I used in my recent post

The Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam, on the other hand, not only makes most of the collection available on-line, it also allows ordinary users to download and manipulate their images, whole or in part through their Rijks Studio – a program that allows a viewer to save, edit and change images. I was glad to make this discovery and found an image that served my purpose well. And I’m determined to return to the site and figure out how to use the tools fully.

I’m also intrigued by Open Culture which offers a great deal of free material, including on-line courses, free audio books, e-books, movies, free music and more.

Where do you find open source images for your posts?

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is the author of the award-wining novel Into the Wilderness, a love story between people in their mid-sixties, set in Vermont in 1964. She blogs at www.deborahleeluskin.com

Is Blogging Worth the Effort?

photo: M. Shafer

Deborah Lee Luskin

Is blogging worth the effort?

I wonder.

It’s coming up on a year since I launched my new website and blog, revamped my author page on Facebook, and started to tweet. It’s time to review.

I set out to post an essay every Wednesday. Fifty-two blog posts later, I want to evaluate what have I gained, and at what cost?

 

There’s definitely been good that’s come from posting weekly.

  • I’ve posted every Wednesday but once, when I posted that Thursday.
  • Almost all my posts have been new essays; I’ve reworked previously published work less than a handful of times.
  • I’m proud of producing so much original work, and mostly pleased with its quality.
  • Thanks to a hard-learned lesson about intellectual property rights, I’ve also started to take my own photos. It’s been a lot of fun to reactivate the visual part of my brain and learn new skills around digital photography.
  • I’ve also learned how to source free photos and how to manipulate photos for the web. Since I like learning new skills, this has been fun.

But there’s been a cost to this work, in both money and time.

  • I’ve let some of my paying work slip in order to write for the blog.
  • Have I made up for lost income in increased audience? It’s hard to tell. Even looking at the numbers, I’m not sure.
  • According to the Jetpack Stats, my website has had 8,266 views; according to my hosting company, I’ve had 81,312.
  • Which stats do I trust? Why the discrepancy? And who are these viewers?

Evaluating the stats.

  • After a year of regular posting, I have forty-nine email subscribers, some of whom I don’t know.
  • The number of people who follow my author page on Facebook, however, has doubled, though still shy of 500.
  • If Facebook’s analytics are to be trusted, an average of two hundred viewers see each of my posts, and generally ten per cent of those viewers click through to the post.
  • Some of my posts have seen much more traffic; one had 1550 hits.

Social Media.

  • I also gave Twitter another try, but I still don’t get it.
  • For one, I refuse to put any social media on my phone. Life is distracting enough!
  • Even Facebook is getting old, as in Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame.
  • Social media does seem like lust in action – lust for readers, for higher numbers, and for book sales. Sure I want readers and income, but I still believe good writing will bring both.

Comments.

  • Without meaning to fall down the rabbit hole of social media, it’s hard not to become addicted to checking the numbers and looking to see if there are new comments.
  • The comments are unquestionably more gratifying than the numbers, because they represent real human interaction.
  • “Meeting” readers is definitely worthwhile.

There are definitely pros and cons to blogging, so I’ll sign on for another year, posting an essay every Wednesday about one of three themes: Living In Place, about living a life rooted in place; The Middle Ages, about this glorious passage between young and old; and Vermonters By Choice, profiles of some of the really interesting and talented people who’ve come to live in the Green Mountain State.

What do you think? Is blogging worth the effort?

Taking photos for the blog has been fun.

Taking photos for the blog has been fun.

Deborah Lee Luskin lives and writes in southern Vermont. She’s the author of the award-winning novel, Into the Wilderness and a regular commentator on Vermont Public Radio.

Comments on the Web

Thanks

Thanks for your comments.

I’m grateful to all the readers who take the time to write comments in response to posts. For me, comments do three important things.

  1. They reassure me that my work is being read. Sure, there are all sorts of analytics that tell me how many people click on the post, but mechanical numbers aren’t the same as human response. So if you’ve ever taken the trouble to post a comment here, I thank you.
  2. Many comments express gratitude, which goes a long way in this solitary business. To be read is a good start, but to make a difference – well, that’s why I do it.
  3. Some comments express different information and/or different opinions than those I’ve expressed. These are perhaps the most important comments around. They expand my knowledge and those of others who read them. It’s this ability to expand our common knowledge that is one of the great gifts of the web.
Comments are the string that weaves us together in a web.

Comments are the string that weaves us together in a web.

Taken all together, what comments do is help us form on-line relationships and forge internet community. Comments are the string that weaves us together in a web.

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

Nota Bene: This post is scheduled to go live while I’m away and unplugged, so I won’t see or respond to comments until I return in mid-September. In the meantime, I wish you good words.

Writing a blog – freedom of speech, controversy, and social media

This is the last week of teaching my college online course on writing and marketing a blog. Here are some more of my notes from the class.

Freedom of speech vs. what’s inappropriate (and possibly punishable)

We all know that in America we have freedom of speech. But we also have a few protections from some people’s outrageous speech. People are not allowed to say things that aren’t true, especially if it hurts someone’s “standing in the community.” If someone says something that defames (injures a reputation) of another person – then that is considered slander and it is punishable in a civil court.

Slander involves the oral “publication” of a defamatory remark that is heard by another, which injures the subject’s reputation or character. Slander can occur through the use of a hand gesture or verbal communication that is not recorded. Libel, on the other hand, is the written “publication” of a defamatory remark that has the tendency to injure another’s reputation or character. Libel also includes a publication on radio, audio or video. Even though this would be considered oral, or verbal, communication to someone it is actually considered to be libel because it is published in a transfixed form.

Libel is what you have to be very careful about in your blogs. You are always allowed to have an opinion. “She acted like she was suicidal” but you are not allowed to state a fact that is untrue “she is suicidal.” Most of you will probably not have to worry about it, but you need to know that nothing disappears on the internet. Ever. If you say something about your boss or your work, it will eventually be found and it will live on forever to haunt you.

The simple solution is to not post that kind of information in the first place.

My general rule is to write “happy” things. It’s simplistic but it works. I don’t bring up hot topics (religion, guns, abortion) in any of my posts and I am very careful to make sure that if I am stating an opinion, I preface it with something like “in my opinion. “ or “I believe …”

Controversial Topics

So what do you do if you’ve said something controversial that has hit a raw nerve and people are responding in a negative fashion?

Easy, you ignore them. Remember that even bad publicity is good publicity. I have had occasional negative remarks on my blog and I just let them roll off my back like water off a duck. (But remember that my blog topics – “children and chickens” – don’t tend to draw out the negative people – what are they going to say? Chickens are dumb??) Don’t try to fight a negative remark some people (trolls) just put them up there for sport and trying to fight them is the proverbial throwing of gasoline onto a fire.

If you think there is a clear misunderstanding, go ahead and attempt to explain your point, but if the comments just return with more negativity – drop the discussion. Try to remember that a negative remark on a post is *not* a negative remark about *you.* (I know, sometimes that’s easier said than done, it can really hurt when people say nasty things about you.)

If someone is vulgar or leaves a particularly nasty comment, feel free to delete it. This is your blog after all, just as you would pick up some garbage thrown in your front yard by a stranger; feel free to clean your blog of garbage that may be left by others.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google+

For the most part, these are the quick differences between these social media platforms:

  • Facebook posts share a graphic and tell a short story or they tell why you should follow a link to read another story.
  • Twitter tweets immediately grab attention and divert you to somewhere – think of those exciting headlines we talked about. They are also used to make comments on someone’s posts. But remember that space is limited so you really only get to “talk” in bites.
  • Google+ posts are shorter than Facebook but longer than Twitter, these posts include graphics and the audience tends to be a little more high-tech. Google+ tried, but it never really gained traction (but you should still use it to get your blog posts out to another audience.)

As an exercise, take a blog post you’ve already written and then create a post for Facebook, Twitter and then Google+

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Friday Fun – Learning WordPress

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: This week’s question comes from reader Kernan Manion, MD. He writes, “I’d love to see a post about how you (as in “youzall”) have mastered the art of WP blogging – e.g. the insertion of graphics and video etc. Not the technical aspects of “how to” but rather how’d you learn it …”

Lee Laughlin:Lee Laughlin CU 7-13 I have a background in communications and technology. Back in the dark ages of the Internet (read the mid 90’s) I taught myself HTML and Photoshop and eventually ran a successful web design business. That knowledge comes in handy when working with WordPress. Is it required to start or maintain a blog? Oh HECK no! It does however make it a little easier when trying to trouble shoot the quirks. When it comes to technology I personally learn best by doing. I tinker and when I get frustrated I consult Google. When all else fails, I have a few trusted people who will let me pick their brains.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I learn best by doing, and WordPress is one of those tools where it’s sorta kinda easy to figure things out. There are a lot of folks using WordPress, so Googling a topic or searching YouTube for some instructional videos gives back more help than you can imagine. I figure I can’t really break anything; most horrifying for me is publishing something before it’s ready, so I learned QUICK that when I go in to do a post, that the FIRST step is to set the date/time of the post, so even if I forget to click ‘save as draft’ and click ‘publish’ instead, the post won’t go live (because the date/time is at-a-minimum a couple hours away).

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I like to do some research before I start, although I usually start researching, learn just enough to be dangerous, and think, “How hard could it be?” and start doing things. I wanted to start a blog years before I actually started my blog (Healing Choices,) because I had so much fear about putting my writing out there. While I was dithering about whether or not I would start my own blog, I took a course through Writer’s Digest University called Blogging 101, with Dan Blank. It was great! I created posts, started an editorial calendar, etc. The course finished and I still hadn’t started my blog. But I did get instructions on how to add a (WordPress) blog to my website, which I did. Then I finally started my blog. Dan is still doing that course for Writer’s Digest University, and he also has a newsletter. You can find him at http://wegrowmedia.com/.

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

Deborah Lee Luskin: Blunder, at first. I was so lucky to be brought into this particular fold of knowledgeable, generous and kind writers. They gave me hints along the way. (I don’t think even they could  imagine how clueless I was.) And I have to say this: WordPress is so easy that even I could catch on. That was back in 2011. More recently, I updated my website and added a blog, all of which is now on WordPress. For this, I had professional help from Codewryter, who happens also to be a neighbor and now a friend. As part of the deal, she’s taught me how to make rudimentary changes as well as some slick moves – like turning that SEO light green. I pay her for her design skills, technical expertise and tuition – all money well spent.

 

 

Friday Fun – WP.com vs. WP.org

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: This week’s question comes from reader Kernan Manion, MD. He writes, “I would like to hear your thoughts about choice of WP.com vs. WP.org and hosting on a web-host. Did you go through a thought process of pros and cons or was it primarily expediency?”

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13Lee Laughlin: At the time we started this blog, the leading free platforms were Blogger and WordPress. WordPress was definitely the way to go if we wanted to put a forth a professional image. Early on, we wanted the focus to be the words, not the technology. Although we knew each other, we weren’t really sure where this was going to go when we started, so we tried to keep the financial investment to a minimum.  As we’ve progressed, there really hasn’t been a reason to change from wp.com to wp.org. Before we discussed this post, I wrote a blog post about moving my personal blog from wp.org to wp.com.  Given our time constraints as a group, wp.com works well for us. We chip in for a few bells and whistles and stick with our original mission of letting the words be the focus. There are other platforms out there and everyone needs to make the choice that works for their situation, but we’re happy where we are.

SuddenlyJamie AvatarJamie Wallace: WordPress offers a good side-by-side comparison of their .com vs. .org offerings, and since I definitely fall into Lee’s words-not-technology category, I defer to them as the experts. That said, all the other websites I’ve launched (including the one for my marketing business) are built on WordPress.org (the self-hosted option). In retrospect, however, now that I know you can have a custom domain for a small annual fee, I might have chosen to go with a WordPress-hosted option. After all, they provide all the important security and back-up features that I worry about screwing up with my self-hosted sites. If you’re a beginner with not a lot of technology expertise, I’d say to stick with WordPress.com. They keep things simple, safe, and relatively stress-free.

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: Julianne Holmes has a WordPress.org site that I need to get launched. J.A. Hennrikus has a WordPress.com site. For my day job, I have a WordPress.org site that uses a couple of great plug-ins. For me, it is that flexibility that makes .org valuable. There is a learning curve, but it is doable. I have also heard that you can monetize .org sites more easily, which is worth thinking about.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: Well, I just learned a lot about wordpress.com vs wordpress.org by reading this post! I’m not that technically savvy so I just haven’t paid attention to what we use here.  I’m in the process of redoing my life coaching website and I just emailed the web designer I’m working with to ask if I’m going to have a wordpress.com or wordpress.org site. You’d think I’d know this but I don’t. My blog page (www.dianemackinnon.com/blog) is currently a WordPress site, but I have my own domain name and soon, my entire website will be a WordPress site. I think that means it’s probably a wordpress.org site. I’ll find out for sure soon!

The Truth About Know-Like-Trust


Know. Like. Trust.

You’ve heard it before, right?

People buy from people they know, like, and trust.

 

So…

How do you get known?

How do you get people to like you?

How do you earn their trust?

 

Those are Big Questions with long, complicated answers.

… or, are they?

 

I may be an audience of one, but I know I’m not alone in how I assess the people and brands I buy from. It’s not really all that complicated:

 

I get to know people by:

  • Reading their blogs
  • Sampling their social content – everything from Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and Instagram to LinkedIn and Google+
  • Interacting with them on their blogs and social media (and, eventually via email, call, or video chat)
  • Checking out their body of work (products, cases studies, portfolio … whatever applies)
  • Looking at their associations with other people I know

 

I decide if I like them by asking myself:

  • Do their values align with mine?
  • Are they responsive when I reach out?
  • Are they generous with their time and knowledge?
  • Do they have a good sense of humor?
  • Do we have anything in common – hobbies, causes, pet peeves, lifestyle, etc.?

 

I decide if I can trust them based on:

  • Whether their actions are consistent with their words
  • How I see them treat other people
  • How other people talk about them

 

 

The bottom line is this: it all comes down to the old, writers’ adage: “Show. Don’t tell.”

You cannot tell people about yourself – they need to learn who you are by your actions. They need to form their own picture of you based on what you show, not what you say. If you say, “I’m an organic food guru” I may or may not believe you, but if you show me your incredible depth of knowledge and heartfelt passion through the information you share (blog posts, photos, curated articles, answering questions, etc.), I believe you immediately. I can see for myself that you are, in fact, an organic food guru. Each piece of content you create and share online is another piece of the puzzle that shows me who you are, what you do, what you care about, and so on.

You cannot make people like you – you can only put your best foot forward. You are not in control of how people judge you. (And, they will judge you.) Good rule of thumb: remember The Golden Rule. Think about the people you like. What traits make them likeable? Usually it’s not about them, it’s about how they make other people feel. It’s about how they listen, understand, and help. It’s about how they affect positive change for others – solving problems, providing answers, sharing insights, connecting people.

You cannot force people to trust you – trust must be earned. I may know you and like you, but do I trust you? Trust takes a relationship to a whole other level. Now it’s serious. Trust boils down to whether or not you consistently deliver what you promise. At a low level, this could be as simple as providing dependable content that always lives up to the hype. It might mean writing a story that exceeds expectations. Again, this is about actions, not words. Promises are worthless until they have been tested and kept.

 

At the end of the day, it all comes down to human relationships. The writer/reader relationship cannot be developed with a paint-by-numbers approach. There is no secret, failsafe formula you can follow to build a loyal audience. If you want to get people to know you, like you, and trust you, you’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way. But, that’s only as it should be.

So, the next time you’re thinking about how to grow your audience and nurture reader relationships, ask yourself these questions:

How do you help people learn about who you are?

How do you put your best foot forward?

What do you do to merit trust?
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition (a fun post and great community of commenters on the writing life, random musings, writing tips, and good reads), or introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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This post was adapted from a piece originally published on SuddenlyMarketing.com.

Blog creation and writing tips

I know that it’s highly unusual to have a post like this on Friday, but here’s the deal. This was supposed to go up yesterday but because of some dental work, I could barely do much more than hold my head in my hands and whimper.

I’m feeling better, so you’re getting it today.

These are more notes from a blog writing class I’m teaching. The blog I reference is one I’ve created to demonstrate what I’m talking about in real life – Fit to Food. I may kill this blog at the end of the class or I may not, haven’t decided yet.

***

Header:

As I write more and more in my blog – Fit to Food, I’ve realized that I’m really writing about recovering from my chronic illness of Lyme disease. I went back and edited the tagline from “On a quest to feel bulletproof again” to “On a quest to feel bulletproof again after Lyme disease.”

You are allowed to do all the refining you want on your blog. I discovered that the people who were following and commenting on my posts were most interested in the Lyme aspect. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I will lose other chronic illness readers, but it does mean that I’ll probably gain more Lyme disease readers.

Twitter:

We’ll talk about Twitter in more detail later, but every time I write a post, I tweet it on Twitter. I have it set up so that wordpress automatically does it with the blog post title, but then I usually go in later in the day and send out a new tweet with a more exciting headline.

For example wordpress will send out today’s post with “Thursday – inspiration and tools”

I might send one out later that reads “damn, I forgot – dealing with Lyme memory issues.

If you are going to write (and promote) a blog, you’re going to need to understand a little bit of how to write marketing copy. Voice and excitement sells.

Post:

Don’t make your posts too long and don’t cover too many topics in one post. This is one of the biggest mistakes blog writers can make. They give too much away.

This morning I was going to write a blog post on inspirational jewelry. I found myself in the post’s introduction talking about a specific problem, so I decided to stay with that problem.

I was very tempted to bring in another example of the problem, but decided to focus on what I already had. I can use that other example for another post.

It’s extremely important as a blog writer to focus on and explore a tiny aspect in each post. If you write generally about a great many things, you’ll run out of things to write about very quickly.

Today’s post was about memory loss and using a notebook. Now that I’ve introduced the topic I could also write posts on:

  • Frustration with regard to memory loss
  • Recognition of memory issues
  • How to talk to your doc
  • Memory issues in children
  • Coping strategies for remembering names
  • And let’s not forget – Inspirational jewelry

And there you go, I’ve just come up with post ideas for the next 6 Thursdays. Of course, I wouldn’t have 6 posts on memory issues in a row, but remember that master list of ideas you should be keeping to write about? All of these topics are being parked under my topic of – Inspiration.

Blog decluttering:

It’s a good idea when you write a blog post to create a “read more” break on the previous one. Some people have the break on the current post (which is a pain in the neck and they are clearly looking for site clicks) but I don’t do it that way.

The current day’s post can be read without clicking. All previous posts have a “read more” break so that people don’t have to scroll through a lot of text.

FYI: The “read more” break option is in the wordpress editor. It looks like a square that has been bisected by a dotted line.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Friday Fun – The Art of Group Blogging

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: This week’s question comes from reader Kernan Manion, MD. He writes, “I’d love to hear how you – as a group – have decided to keep to a schedule, decide on a topic, and hold each other accountable.” Great question, Kernan. Thanks!

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Jamie WallaceI have had the good fortune to be part of several group blogs and in each case team members take full responsibility for their own schedules, topics, and deadlines. Here at Live to Write – Write to Live, we are all professional writers of one kind of another, so we’re used to working independently, managing our time, and meeting deadlines. That said, one of the best parts of group blogging is knowing you’ve got a team of partners who have your back if you run into a crisis and need some extra support. We’ve all been there, and we’re always happy to help each other out in a pinch.

Our editorial calendar is a simple spreadsheet (hosted on Google Drive) where we keep track of who is posting on which day. Other group blogs I’ve worked with have included additional detail in the editorial calendar, such as topic, keywords, etc.; but we seem to do okay here with just the bare bones spreadsheet. Simplicity is a good thing.

While we do our writing and posting independently, we do come together (usually via email) to discuss any “bigger picture” items such as our recent theme switch. Also, if someone is planning a post that’s a little bit different than our usual fare (such as a survey, contest, or slightly promotional piece), the author of that post will typically run it by the team via an informal email.

So, for the most part I guess I’d say that our “process” is pretty casual, collaborative where it needs to be, and low tech in terms of coordination. And that works just fine for us! 😉

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: Jamie covered the answer quite well. The Google calendar makes scheduling posts easy. When we started we not only picked dates we’d post, but also supplied the topic of the post thinking to avoid duplicate topics in the same week, but that part of the scheduling quickly fell by the wayside, as most of us (I believe) queue up our posts and the topics are decided in-the-moment for the most part.

Now, for me, I’m going to start posting a grammar topic once a month, but the other posts will be whatever I’m inspired to write at the moment.

Knowing the blog is a group effort takes some pressure off — it’s nice not to be responsible for *all* the content, and I’m always curious to see what my fellow bloggers post each week. We have a nice flow going here!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: Lisa and Jamie have covered the topic well, so I’ll just add that I post every other Thursday because that’s what I feel is doable for me right now. I put my name in the every other Thursday slot for as far out as the calendar goes (usually about three months) but in my mind I know it’s every other Thursday for the rest of the year. That helps me plan my time. Also, once the calendar is up, if a Thursday slot is taken by one of my fellow bloggers, I just put my name on the date closest to the date I had planned to post. It works out well for me and I don’t wonder when I’m responsible for posting.

Also, I really appreciate the flexibility of the group and the way we’ve been able to jump in for each other when something comes up that prevents a scheduled post from going up.

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13

Lee Laughlin: We all have active lives outside of this blog, I think the qualities that make it work are realistic expectations, professionalism and respect. We’re all busy, so when life occasionally goes off the rails and the scheduled author misses a post, if someone else can jump in, they do, if not, we recognize, the world probably won’t end. 🙂 We’re all professional writers who are passionate about what we do. We earn our keep via words, so we strive to put forth our best efforts. For all of our similarities, we do have diverse points of view. We work to be respectful of everyone’s efforts and schedules.  How we got here is a little serendipitous, some of us met via an in-person writers group and other members were added via recommendation. In a sense we lucked out that our little writer’s posse is such a strong group, but I also believe that everything happens for a reason.

Starting a blog 101

As some of you may know I’m teaching a college level online course called “Writing Blogs.”

I don't have a picture of a blog, do you're getting a chicken.

I don’t have a picture of a blog, so you’re getting a chicken.

This is my first 100% online course and it’s been a little tough because it’s difficult to sense frustration unless the students write about it in the forum. And I’m sensing frustration.

It’s been 3 weeks and my class is *just* starting to create their blogs. This was intentional, as I’ve told my students you have to know how to play your scales before you can improvise.

My students had to pick a topic based on their qualifications (and a hobby counts as a qualification) and then they had to look at other blogs in that field in order to begin figuring out who their audience is. We took our time with this because nailing your audience *before* you begin writing is critical. Putting the time into the design or foundation up front will save time (and heartache) later on.

We’ll be having a lifestyle blog that will use a lot of photos, a blog that captures the angst of youth and music (and baseball), a blog about surviving a TBI (Traumatic Brain injury) one on exploring life on a philosophical level and even a teacher’s blog.

It’s all good, these are great ideas.

But designing a blog and then creating one are two different steps.

I thought I’d share my class notes on creating a blog in wordpress with you (I know that we have some readers  at NHWN who want to set up a blog …someday – why not do it now?)

For my class, I’ve created a new blog fittofood.wordpress.com where my students will be able to see real life examples of what we talk about each week. If you’re interested in blog design and you’d like to follow along on that blog please do, just be aware that it is a work in motion (on purpose) and it will be evolving.

So here are my “creating a blog” notes –

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From the discussion board, some of you have actually created the beginnings of a blog on wordpress. Bravo, good for you.

But for some of you, it may feel like I gave you a hammer and told you to go build a house.

Sooooooo, for you guys, here’s how wordpress works.

To help you, I’ve decided to create a new blog on wordpress (I may kill it at the end of this course, I may not.) My audience will be primarily women who are interested in getting back into shape. I also hope to migrate some of my readers from my personal blog to this one.

My topic is: I am going to challenge myself to get back in shape to do a triathlon next year (there is more to this story that makes it compelling but that’s it in a nutshell.) Some of my friends are going to join me. It’s a challenge girl-power tale.

But the key word is compelling. I want my readers to keep coming back.

I have my audience and I’ve created a challenge with a storyline. People will follow to see if we “win.” It’s a story with a hook – we’ve talked about this. Having a hook for your readers to hold onto is very important.

To start your blog: first create an account on wordpress (user name , email, password)

Put a name for your blog in the URL box. Here’s where it gets a little tricky, if that name has already been taken you can’t use it.

There are millions of blogs out there, so chances are you won’t get your first choice – try variations, try abbreviations – just be careful not to have your blog name be too long or too complicated.

Once you have a name that works hit enter and voila, you are the owner of that blog!

I called my blog fittofood.wordpress.com (fit2food was taken, darn it) – for every pound I and my friends lose we will donate a pound of food to a food bank (hence the name Fit to Food)

What now, right?

You will need to choose a theme. A theme is the wrapper that goes around your blog, it’s the template for how it will look. WordPress has a bunch of themes and you try them on until you find one that “fits.”

You get a chance to choose your theme when you create your blog, but if you didn’t do it then, you can always choose a theme under the Customization option in the left column.

A bit of caution – some of the themes cost money. You don’t need to use those, just look around for the free ones and use one of those. For my new blog I used that fruit banana one. It was clear after working with it for a bit that it wouldn’t work so I changed it to another theme. Not a big deal, I looked around for a theme, choose Preview (which lets you see how it will look) and when I found one I liked I switched.

You can always preview any theme (even the ones that cost money) and nothing is set (or charged) until you press SAVE.

Now you need to start defining your blog.

Under Customize (left column):

Enter a blog title – the url has no spaces so if you entered your name with no spaces that will be the default for your blog title. My original title was fittofood I changed the title of my blog to Fit to Food – notice that I chose what was capped.

Tag line – this is your subtitle and it gives your readers an idea on what your blog will be about. My tag line is “On a quest to feel bullet proof again.”

Still under Customize, if you click on Header you can upload a photo to replace the default photo that came with the theme. You’ll probably have to crop the photo so play around with a few photos. My first photo had poor resolution and so I went with the swimming photo that’s up there now. I’ll probably change that one soon.

Now you’re ready to put up a post.

On the left column, click on Posts.

If you click on All Posts, you’ll see everything that has been posted onto your blog. WordPress prepopulates your blog with a “welcome world” post. Go ahead and delete that one.

Now click on New Post and enter your new post. When you are ready click Publish.

Although you can type directly into the wordpress editor, get into the habit of using a program like word and then cutting and pasting it into your blog post. This saves you a lot of heartache when your network is unreliable.

NOTE: some word processing programs don’t paste well into wordpress and you might have to add an extra “Enter” or Return after each paragraph. If you find that the text all runs together when you cut and paste that’s why. I know it’s weird and it doesn’t always happen.

The wordpress editor acts very much like the word editor, you can bold, bullet and if you want to insert a picture, click on the photo icon and browse for the file on your system.

Remember that you need to give your post a title (you’d be surprised at how many people forget that.)

My first post is called “The Desire to do” I have a photo and a short story.

I wrote an “about me” and I put it on a new Page (not post) but I think I’m going to also put it as my second post (just because this blog is so new, people need to immediately know who I am.)

So that’s it. To get started you’ll need:

  • Theme
  • Name
  • Title
  • Tag Line
  • Header
  • Blog Post
  • Publish

Remember that there’s not much you can break. The only thing that’s permanent is the URL you choose, other than that you can change the title (in my personal blog I went from Simple Thrift to Lessons Learned from the Flock), tag line, and theme. You can add posts and you can delete them. You own this space and you can do with it what you want.

For those of you who have not created a blog, go ahead and give it a try. This is the very basics of what a blog needs. Soon we’ll be talking about things like keywords, categories, and widgets, along with many of the other options available.

Follow along on fittofood.wordpress.com where you’ll see each of the options added to the blog as we discuss them.

Any questions (at all) let me know in the discussion forum.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.