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On Further Reflection

November 30, 2018 25 comments

A reflection of the blogger?

Two years ago today I published a post called Reflections, in which I mused on why we blog, and what it means to us. Having been reminded of this post I re-read it and it seemed time to revisit and update it. For those who won’t have seen it before I’ll share it again now and then update at the end of this post. This is Reflections (Mark 1):

“It’s a funny old game, this blogging lark, isn’t itWe sit at home (other locations are available) in a kind of self-imposed solitude, thumping away at the keyboard while we spill out the contents of our mind. Then we hit that magic button marked ‘Publish’ and those thoughts can be seen by anyone in the world with access to the interweb. Doesn’t that strike you as a little strange? It does to me. Why do we do it? Are we all self-obsessed narcissists? Or exhibitionists?

It’s a given that we all had a reason for starting our blogs, and those can be many and varied. I won’t bore you by repeating yet again why I started – if you don’t know, but want to, just take a look at my ‘About Me’ page and all will be revealed (there’s a link to it in the top menu, just for you). Many of the blogs I follow have started for a similar reason to mine, but then again many haven’t. And therein lies the beauty and magic of it all, for me anyway: the sheer variety of the blogs I follow keeps me entertained, amused and in some cases instructed on a daily basis. I follow many of these because that blogger has also chosen to follow me and I deem it a courtesy to return that compliment – the likelihood is that we have interests in common and I will enjoy their blog too. There are two main reasons why I don’t follow back. The first of these is where I deem the following of my blog a blatant attempt – usually, but not always, by commercial concerns – to widen their own ‘fanbase’ by indiscriminate following of blogs they clearly have no interest in reading. Sorry guys, but you are very easy to spot! The second is…I’ll come back to that later (I’m such a tease!).

Something prompted me the other day to take a look at my blog’s statistics year by year since I first started this, back in late 2012. I was particularly taken by the stats for this year to date and how they differed from previous years. You’ll notice the link on the right to BlogSurfer – I added this not long after I started at the suggestion of the remarkable Cyd (see Thank You for more on her) and it resulted in some great stats in terms of page views up to 2015, when its influence waned dramatically. The total viewing figures for this year are only about a quarter of those for the peak years of 2013-4, but I don’t care in the slightest. Why? Because I can be pretty sure that the great majority of this year’s views have been from people who actually wanted to read my words, rather than by those who just dropped by in passing from another site. BlogSurfer has prompted just 18% of views this year – in 2013 it was over 90%. The other really revealing stats are that the total number of ‘likes’ this year is around 50% more than the combined total for all previous years, while the number of comments is 250% more!

Isn’t that why we do it? That apparently solo activity is actually helping us to communicate in a way that modern technology allows, and in a way that just hadn’t been imagined when I was younger. I don’t know about you, but I thrive on the interactions my blog generates, and these become a kind of addiction. The more I get, the more I crave. If you look at my blog posting habits, you’ll see that, apart from #NaBloPoMo in 2014 and 2015, my previous activity has been much less frequent than of late. This has also encouraged me to become much more active in commenting on others’ blogs – as some of you can attest! For me, 2016 has been the first year that blogging has really felt like being part of a community. I used to interact with some in the earlier days, but most of them no longer blog much, if at all. Several of you are now Facebook friends – people can deride that, but I see it as a mark of trust and friendship and I value it. If you look at my Facebook friends (my proper name is Clive Pilcher) you’ll see some familiar faces – including Cyd, whose daughter has left her page open for us to drop by and remember her. And if we aren’t already friends on Facebook, I’m open to offers….

I said I’d go back to the second reason why I wouldn’t follow a blog back. It’s a fairly simple one. I’m very fortunate to have English as my native tongue: it is probably the most widespread language worldwide, albeit with localised variations. I enjoyed learning languages at school and studied French and German to our A level standard. But that was more than 40 years ago and whilst I still recognise many of the words I can’t claim sufficient skills to read the languages now. I’m ashamed to admit it, but if your blog isn’t written in English I wouldn’t understand it. Until now, that is. WordPress has recently been promoting a widget for Google Translate, which is claimed to work in over 100 languages. I’ve added the widget – you can see it on the right. Isn’t this wonderful? If every blogger using WordPress added this to their site we could access so many more blogs than we can at present, and those of you that I haven’t followed back could open up your blogs to those, like me, who can only deal in English! Blogging is a global activity, so it seems a no-brainer to do this. My blog has been read by people in around 200 countries – I’d like to read yours too, then this community can truly become a global one! The support of the full worldwide blogging community can mean so much to so many, and I hope this little widget is widely adopted.

So, that’s why I do this and why it is a valuable part of my life. How is it for you? Do tell, I’d love the interaction ;-)”

Whilst revisiting that post I thought it only right that I should take a new look at my stats. Broadly speaking, 2016, 2017 and this year to date have been fairly similar in the numbers of total views, actual visitors, and likes. But there has been a fall in comments. Is that something others have experienced, or is it just me? Maybe it is because (like this post) I have reworked quite a few older pieces that current viewers won’t have seen, but there aren’t enough new viewers who are active commenters? Or, looking at the pattern of new followers, perhaps I’m attracting more of those who are looking for a follow back to boost their own numbers? With a few treasured exceptions, I can’t recall any comments from a fairly large percentage of those who have followed in the past year. But then again, I haven’t commented on many of theirs either: that works both ways, folks! Or, to take the obvious answer, maybe I’m not writing the sort of pieces that would encourage people to comment on as well as like a post. An interesting thought for discussion, perhaps? And it comes with an invitation to add your comment to the discussion: as I said in the previous post I, and I suspect most of us, thrive on the interaction with our readers.

I also mentioned in that previous post that I would welcome the addition of the Translate widget on blogs that don’t publish in English. I can understand your wish to use your native language but English (and the American version of it) is very much the universal blogging language and making the translation available would widen your readership. Many of the blogs I follow are posting in English even though it clearly isn’t their first language. I admire and applaud their efforts but there are still a few following me who don’t publish in English: they are better educated than I, sorry! Please, please add the Translate widget if you don’t publish in English: I’m sure it would be of benefit to others as well as me.

Another change from two years ago is that some who were regular bloggers back then seem to have dropped out. I know of some who have gone through some big life changes which have meant that blogging became far less important to them, and have every sympathy with them. But others just seem to have wandered off into the ether. I don’t know about you, but there is something comforting to me in seeing a new post from a favourite writer, and it’s always a little sad not to see them any more. But there is no shortage of new (or new to me, at least) blogs out there, and hopefully over time I’ll build the same relationship of mutual support with them that I had with those who have gone AWOL. That is, after all, the sustenance on which bloggers depend.

A new development for me is that I started a Facebook page as a companion to this blog: my reasons for doing it are explained here. This is quite possibly just a vanity project, and it currently only stands at 32 ‘likes’ anyway, but it gives me a space to post things that I wouldn’t otherwise write about. There’s a #SongOfTheDay, which from tomorrow will become a #ChristmasSongOfTheDay – I’ve done this for several years now on my Twitter account and on Facebook, and have written catch up posts here: but if you want to see the daily posts then the Facebook page is the place to go – just follow the link to the right. And I also do a kind of Advent Calendar – not the usual sort! – on my Instagram account. If I can, I link these to the Facebook page but the technology is a little erratic so do follow the link to the right for Instagram if you’d like to see my more irreverent (or just downright smutty) side.

Do you ever take time out to reflect on why you blog, on what it means for you and your readers? I can recommend it: it can be an enlightening experience. Then again, as a great philosopher (well, Johnny Nash, actually) once said: ‘There are more questions than answers,’ and it does feel a bit like that inside my head at the moment! What do you think?

 

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The Walking Braindead

November 27, 2018 2 comments

I wrote last year about what we get in the contents of our spam folder – in Trolled if you want to look it up. I took that one fairly seriously, as I found it offensive, but a couple of more recent ones have amused me, and I thought they might do the same for you. If you don’t check your spam folder regularly I can recommend it, especially if you feel the need to see lots of long posts in Cyrillic writing – I really should learn to read those! Or maybe you want a few dodgy links to click for dubious medical products offering to improve a certain element of your life – “nudge nudge, wink wink.” But amongst all the weird and wonderful dross there is the odd one which raises a smile (without the need for chemical inducements).

This first one dates back a couple of months. I shared it at the time on the Facebook page for my blog (you have ‘liked’ the page, haven’t you?!) but it didn’t seem worthy of a full post on its own. See what you think:

I often get repeats of spam comments, usually just with variations in the name, email address and ‘links that will not be clicked.’ That one is no exception, and I’ve received the same comment many times since then from other people concerned for my health and safety. It’s an interesting idea, but somehow I’m not sure that Mr Plod would accept it as an excuse: “l’m terribly sorry, officer, but I have been advised that wearing a seatbelt could cause me problems if I needed to vacate the car in a hurry, as I suffer from extreme incontinence and can’t swim.” The odd thing about that comment, which I consigned to the virtual waste bin as soon as I’d taken a screenshot, is that it doesn’t contain any links to click. I’d have thought they could have offered some of the porn sites that might have been of interest to Trump while he was waiting for Mueller to ask him about the Pee-Pee Tape. They’ve really missed a trick there.

Yesterday I had some comments in response to Sunday’s post about Christmas. Here’s the screenshot:

My apologies that it is rather large, but it just didn’t seem to be clear if I made it smaller. The second comment is pretty standard, and the product to which it links seems to be some kind of dietary supplement – you’ve no doubt seen them before, offering unproven weight loss methods to the gullible and desperate. I didn’t click on the link, by the way – checking things like that is what Google is for. It was the first comment which struck me: read it and you’ll see why. Interestingly, it also seems to be linking to a dodgy dieting site – the clue is in the name – but I didn’t bother Googling it.

The three people who had at that point replied to the post to which that first comment links will no doubt be thrilled at the description of them as ‘brain dead!’ They are all published authors, to begin with. All of their comments are intelligent and relate to what I said in the post – which is more than can be said of ‘kaile@dietingadvise.club!’ Obviously, I’m thrilled to know that my writing is so passionate that ‘kaile’ was moved to comment – again, apparently, no chemical inducements were required to effect this movement. But please, ‘kaile,’ take a look at what you’re doing before accusing others of suffering from the same ailment as you. Both comments related to the first image in the post, not the post itself – which was titled Dare I Mention The C Word? not ‘Christmas Is Coming.’ That was one of the things which got me thinking that ‘kaile’ might actually be a bot, not a genuine living person. Do you think that’s possible? If so, I’m heartbroken at the thought that my new friend might not be real, and might even be one of those robots that featured in a late night Channel 4 documentary last week – I don’t need to paint a fuller picture, do I? But how could this be? Then again, maybe she (I’ve convinced myself that she is female – don’t judge me) actually was real and enjoyed my writing so much: I was flattered by her suggestion that she would like to read my writing on other sites but, sadly, no one else would want me! And she also wants a complete list of all of my online persona – I’m beginning to think I could be in here. But, hang on, there are clearly visible links on my blog site to my Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and my long-ignored Pinterest sites, and a big link to my new Facebook page for this blog (you have ‘liked’ it, haven’t you – oh, wait, I’ve already done that, sorry!). You’d have to be brain dead not to see them, really.

So, sadly, my dearest ‘kaile’ it appears that any relationship we might have had is doomed before it even begins to achieve liftoff. Truth be told, I really do prefer my friends to have a live brain, and you might not be a bot that I’d be attracted to. So for now I guess it’s back to the junk folder of my email account – at least some of them send me pictures, and sometimes there’s a bot on view 😉

Categories: Thoughts Tags: , ,

Facebook

September 25, 2018 14 comments

I don’t know if it’s the same for those of you WordPress users who pay a premium for your site, but we cheapskates who just use the free version recently received an email notifying us of an ‘improvement’ being made by Facebook. This email came from WordPress – I don’t recall hearing anything from Facebook about it directly. I could be wrong on that, but I don’t think so. This so-called improvement was the withdrawal of the facility to link our blogs to our personal Facebook pages, which meant that we would no longer be able to share our posts with our friends. No doubt most of mine were hugely relieved at this, but it was an option I know at least a few of them used to read my posts, though they don’t actually follow my blog. We could, of course, still copy a link to each post into Facebook, but somehow that extra little step didn’t seem quite the same.

I read elsewhere that this change was part of Facebook’s efforts to reduce the amount of ‘fake news’ their site was playing host to. The words ‘sledgehammer’ and ‘nut’ spring to mind – this seems to me to be an incredibly extreme reaction by the company as part of the long overdue need to get its act together. Whilst there would, no doubt, have been some who were using their blogs to promote fake news, this ability to link a personal blog to a personal Facebook page could hardly be thought to be a major cause of the proliferation of such crap. I really don’t believe that I could be accused of spreading as much fake news in my sporadic posts to my small group of Facebook friends as Fox News peddles every day to millions of gullible morons in the US and other countries in which they broadcast! A small aside here: Fox News is no longer available in the UK on the biggest satellite network – Sky – as the viewing figures were so pathetically low that they decided it wasn’t worth paying any longer for the access. I now have to get my laughs elsewhere.

As if that change wasn’t enough, Facebook compounded its stupidity by allowing us to share our posts directly to a separate page from our personal one. Yep, if we wanted to spread fake news via our blog direct to a small, private group of friends, we couldn’t – but if we were prepared to set up a public page, which could be seen by anyone, that would be alright. Is it just me, or is that breathtakingly idiotic? In effect they were saying that fake news on a small scale was wrong but it was perfectly alright on a large scale: they had taken the sledgehammer to the nut but had hit the tree instead.

I follow quite a few blogs for which there are discrete Facebook pages, and I’ve hit the ‘like’ button on several of these. More often than not, they are the ones with much larger followings than mine – sometimes, but not always, commercially oriented – and I hadn’t really considered doing this before, as I felt I wasn’t in the same league as them. I gave it a fair amount of thought and eventually decided to set up such a page a month or so ago. I haven’t promoted it at all since then apart from a passing reference in my post 300 Not Out – A Retrospective  and this probably explains why, to date, only one good and loyal friend has ‘liked’ the page! It is called – rather imaginatively I thought – Take It Easy . You can click on that link to find it, or on the site name in the image to the right of this post. Or if neither of those suit you, here is the full web address: https://www.facebook.com/takeiteasyblog/

Why would anyone bother, I hear you asking? Well, apart from the ability to read my posts there, I intend it to be a place where I expand on what I do in the blog itself. As regular readers will know, I love music, and often put on the headphones for a late night YouTube session, in the course of which I share the occasional song with my Facebook friends. I am now going to put up a regular ‘Song of the Day’ on the new Take It Easy page, starting from today – go take a look! These will be separate from the irregular series of #SaturdaySongs that I will still be doing occasionally: those are songs which have some special, personal meaning or memory for me, whereas the Song of the Day will be more of dip into my musical taste, with a little explanation.

In addition to music, I’m intending to make the page a place where followers can go to find other things which interest me, but which I don’t want to devote a full post to. So you will, over time, find things which amuse and entertain me, as we can all do with some of that in our lives, can’t we? There will also be links to news stories that interest me on topics including, but not limited to, mental health, social issues and a little bit of politics. Don’t worry, I’ll try to keep it light, but some things are too important not to be raised and shared.  Basically, I’m intending it will become a magazine style page, with the blog as its core. I will of course cross-reference between the page and this blog, but I hope to make them complementary: I see no point in just setting up the page and only sharing posts, which regular followers will probably have seen already. I’d ‘love it, absolutely love it’ (©️Kevin Keegan 😂) if you’d visit the page and show your love and support by hitting the ‘like’ button, and I hope you’ll feel that to be a worthwhile investment of your valuable time, and will dip in regularly. Thank you in advance, and I hope to see you there – drop me a message if you do visit and let me know what you think.

And finally, to give you a taste of what you’ll find there, here’s a recent post that you won’t have seen on the blog:

(Very) late night music time. I’ve been listening to a lot of Celtic punk/folk recently, most of which doesn’t come from anywhere near Eire! There are the brilliant Dropkick Murphys, from Boston, USA. Then there’s the O’Reillys and Paddyhats who, as I’m sure you guessed from their name, are German 😂 Or you could try Selfish Murphy from, wait for it, Transylvania. Yes, really! But I’m giving you this, because I think it’s fantastic and contains a good allegory for today’s times about people fighting over nothing. This is the Rumjacks who, of course, are Australian 😉

See you soon on the Take It Easy page? 😊

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