NaBloPoMo: What I’ve Learned So Far

NaBloPoMo

NaBloPoMo (Photo credit: udge)

Hey folks, this is the 15th consecutive day of posting here on Notes from the Metaverse! I don’t know if I’ve ever managed to keep up such a pace, but thanks to a spontaneous (and quite rash) decision to take part in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo) two weeks ago, here we are!

So my daily blogging experiment is halfway through the month, and I wanted to pause to consider what I’ve learned in this process, and share the results. If you’re also participating in NaBloPoMo, I’ll be curious to compare notes.

I wake up in the morning thinking of today’s topic

I have planned some posts, and if I do this again next year, I’ll plan more. At the same time, it’s exciting and energizing to look for something new to write about. That’s a really good thing!

People are interested in disasters

I’m not surprised that the three posts about Typhoon Haiyan attracted the most page views this month. Following the first lesson, I will say I am quite proud of the first of those posts, Tracking the Worst Storm Ever. I also want to call your attention to Karen Mardahl’s comment recruiting people to take part in the Open Street Map campaign.

I need (at least) an hour to write posts

Screenshot of WordPress interface (wordpress i...

Screenshot of WordPress editor interface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an important lesson: I have been a fast typist, but I’m not a fast writer. Making links takes time too. Have I mentioned that I do this at the end of the day, that I work full-time, and usually get to WordPress around 7PM? Even if I have a good idea, it takes time to get it down here.

Conferences are good for topic ideas

I have said here more than once that I love professional conferences. I would be in heaven if I could take a year off to just travel from Linux conference to WordCamps to technical communication conferences to gatherings of writers — with a speculative fiction con or three to fill the year up. Since I can’t do that yet, I’ll do my best to follow remotely and tell you what I find out. In addition to the openSUSE Summit this weekend, next week is the virtual Ubuntu Developers Summit, which I don’t have to travel to attend (neither do you)!

Fast isn’t necessarily good

It has been said that many novels are written during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but no good ones. Every written work needs review and editing. Humans write novels and blog posts, they make mistakes. While there’s nothing here that is really crappy, but in reaching to publish before the witching hour each night, I’m not always doing my best work.

Let me also say that I am not speaking for any other participant (as I haven’t read many other blogger’s posts this month, sad to say).

I haven’t experimented with post types

One thing I suggested I was going to do this month was choose some different post formats, like Links and Quotes. Have to admit that doing something short really feels like cheating. Thursday’s post about the openSUSE conferences may be as close to a short, link-filled post as you’re likely to see.

Nobody cares when I comment on Big Issues of Communication/Information

Even though I am a document/information architect by profession, it never surprises me that hardly anyone reads posts like The Value of Information or my older Doug Engelbart eulogy. Maybe “The Value of Information” is a clunker of a title. The post suffers a little bit from “fast vs good” syndrome. I’ll maintain it addresses important issues (transparency, the future of journalism, and the importance of an informed citizenry), and will occasionally produce more like it. Then again, I’ve read why serious journalism doesn’t always sell on the web.

This pace is unsustainable when I’m writing a book

Remember how I said I was nearly finished with a chapter on 11/2? It’s 13 days later, and I still am nearly finished with that chapter! Will fix that tomorrow, but here we are <sigh>.

So, those are a few things I’ve learned. I hope all is going well with you. I’m sure there will be more things to learn in the remaining half-month. But it’s 11:21pm and I still have to proofread and select an image. Cheers!

NaBloPoMo Adjustments

National Blog Posting Month Web Badge

National Blog Posting Month Web Badge (Photo credit: ajsundby)

 

Hey folks, aside from the massive increase in frequency (which I’ve never been especially good at), you’re going to see a variety of different posts in the month of November.

 

I’ve temporarily adjusted the tagline below the title of Notes from the Metaverse to “Writing about open source software…except in November.” What that means, at least in part, is that for the next 26 days, posts may stray from tech, may (or may not) have more opinions, may occasionally just be silly, and may also center on why blogging is good for writers, journalists – and for building authority as a writer.

I suspect you’ll learn a little more about me–and with some good fortune, I’ll learn some more about me too. I am participating in National Blog Post Month to experiment with the form, and I know that some (maybe most?) experiments fail.

 

But I’m temporizing again. Still don’t have a plan, and typing in between Green Bay Packer drives. I know you all want more links in posts. Goodness knows, so do I. There are so many smarter people than me. You may even get more graphics in posts.

 

As noted up until now, feel free to comment on all this stuff.

 

Meanwhile, Tuesday is the last day to register for National Blog Post Month, and the associated fabulous prizes. As you can tell from my output so far, the most important thing is to write posts. You don’t need a plan, experience; and despite the fact that NaBloPoMo is administered by BlogHer, you certainly don’t have to be a “her.” You do need a desire to write, to communicate. If you need a place to post, WordPress.com is the best place.  Go do it!

 

What I’m Working On

I’m really going to try posting earlier tomorrow, and have a better topic plan in place for this National Blog Post Month. Spontaneity is not one of my stronger suits, which might explain why they’ve been so boring.

 

Ubuntu_Touch_Nexus_I9250_ 15

Ubuntu_Touch_Nexus_I9250_ 15 (Photo credit: vernieman)

 

So let me tell you some of the things that have kept my mind and fingers occupied in the last month or so. Some of these items may get further discussion as November rolls on:

 

  • I’m still writing chapters of Ubuntu Touch: Using the Ubuntu OS on your Smartphone or Tablet. It’s slow going, but it’s been fun!
  • I’ve been working with Carole Jelen and our friends at BenBella Books to get the word out for our book on author platform. We’ve got a new cover coming out soon. Watch here and/or MichaelMcCallister.com for that news.
  • I’ve made it easier to follow this blog on WordPress.com. Push that blue button over on the right there.
  • Speaking of author platform, please Like my new Facebook fan page.
  • I have curated articles on Ubuntu Touch, Author Platform, and the openSUSE Linux Desktop at Scoop.IT. That’s been fun too!
  • When I’m not doing the above, or creating documents at PKWARE, or watching football, I’m also redesigning MichaelMcCallister.com.

 

Apologies if this sounds like it’s all about self-promotion. I’m really not about that, most of the time. I do want to help you out with your tech issues, and trying to clear some space to do more of that, especially for my writer friends and soon-to-be friends.

 

Let me know what you’re up to, and if any of the above sounds interesting. I can tell you more….Tomorrow even!

 

NaBloPoMo #1: Assorted Experiments

Goodness, it’s still November 1 for a couple more hours in the US Central Time Zone, so I can still get in the first post for National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo)! For the next 30 days, you should be seeing at least one item here. It may be short, like this one. It may be somewhat more standard (like having just installed openSUSE 13.1 Release Candidate 2 this evening). You’ll probably even see some different post types, like asides, quotes and links this month.

I hope you’ll comment on the items you like, and especially the ones you don’t. I also hope you’ll be inspired to start posting on your own blog (like here at WordPress.com).

For more information on NaBloPoMo, here’s what I learned from today’s post from the WordPress..com team.

OK, gotta go. See you Saturday!

 

Getting Ready for WordCamp Milwaukee 2!

WordCamp Milwaukee 2013 Logo

WordCamp Milwaukee 2013

My goodness, it’s less than a month till the second WordCamp Milwaukee!

<puts on organizer hat>

During and after last year’s inaugural event, veteran WordCampers were telling us that WordCamp Milwaukee was one of the best and most informative camps they’d been to. So, of course we had to make it bigger and better for 2013!

First off, we added another half-day to the extravaganza: Foundation Friday (June 7, 2013) is going to be a set of workshops aimed at WordPress beginners: We’ll have WordPress 101 classes for new users — bloggers, business folk, anyone who is making content for the web using WordPress.

But that’s not all! <see, I’ve got my organizer/promoter hat on!>  If you’ve been using WordPress for a while, and wonder what it might be like to design themes or develop plugins for WordPress–come to Foundation Friday! We’re having a development track too!

After Foundation Friday, you’ll still have two full days (June 8-9) of WordPress learning to enjoy! Plus a repeat of the fabulous Saturday After-Party, lunch both days, the Happiness Bar (to get your specific problems addressed), and still more wonderfulness!

<Putting presenter hat on>

Right after lunch on Saturday (June 8), I will be offering a mini-preview of my next book project, talking about “Building Authority – and Audience – with WordPress and Google Author.” Building your reputation and demonstrating your authority as an expert in your particular niche can be a difficult task. Google is trying to help you, though. I’ll show you how to put your high-quality content at the top of the findability charts, with WordPress and the Google Authorship program.

Learn more about WordCamp Milwaukee, and buy your tickets at the website. And hey, if you need some help with the price, type in ‘McCallister’ for a discount when you register.

Look forward to seeing you June 7-9 at Bucketworks!

In Praise of Understated Themes

Been visiting a lot of WordPress sites lately—an occupational hazard of the beat. I have to admit I’m moderately astonished at how many WP bloggers choose gaudy themes that scream for attention to the design, often at the expense of the content.

I don’t want to point fingers, but you know the symptoms of the type:

  • Gigantic heading fonts
  • In-your-face bright colors
  • Flashing ads that seem like the modern equivalent of blink tags

Now often there is good information contained on these sites, but sometimes you wonder whether the design is really serving the content, or the content is there to bring attention to the pictures (or more precisely, the ads).

Now of course one great thing about blogging is Attracting Attention to Yourself. If we just wanted a diary to keep our thoughts together, we’d probably just buy a blank book and put pen to paper, or get some use out of our favorite word processor. No, we want to have (crave, even) readers. And the experts tell us posts should be brief (I think mine have gotten shorter over the years) to accommodate short attention spans. But the big fonts and graphics that seem to overwhelm all else … underwhelm me.

Notes from the Metaverse has had approximately two themes since moving to WordPress.com some years ago, and I think I changed the header image in the current theme (Regulus, a really old theme from Ben Gillbanks) once. I really like that there’s not much to the theme besides that header image.  This allows you to focus on the content. I’m a little flashier with the colors over at the other site with Caribou, from James R Whitehead at Spectacu.la, but I’m playing with a new one, The Erudite, from Matt Wiebe that seems to be more like me.

One of the other great things about blogging is that you get the opportunity to improve your writing skills by “publishing every day” (or at least every week or two). So take advantage of that opportunity. Don’t be tempted to devalue your writing or information-gathering skills by grabbing that ostentatious theme. Let your content shine, and the readers will come.

WordPress in Depth: Soon at a Bookstore Near You

It’s always exciting for an author of any sort: a few days ago, I got my author copies of WordPress in Depth. This means the book is making its way through the distribution channels. Thus, if you live in a decent-sized city that hosts a bookstore with a decently-sized computer book section, you should be able to see the striking white and blue cover of the In Depth series.

This being the modern age, books are also available online. You’ve got options, of course:

The website upgrade at michaelmccallister.com is taking a little longer than expected, but should be ready in a few days.

Another exciting thing: I’m speaking to the new Milwaukee PHP User Group on April 13. More on that as we get closer to the event.

Notes on the Evolution of Notes

When I started Notes from the Metaverse some eons ago on a platform that no longer exists, it was a standard personal blog. I wrote about things that interested me, whether on the web (most posts had at least one link to peruse) or in life. Since most of my interests at the time had to do with writing and Linux (and quite often writing about Linux), those were the things I wrote about. So when I moved my blogging HQ to WordPress.com, my tagline seemed fairly obvious. The blog would be about “Working, Writing and Open Source.” And so it was.

Over time, though, the focus here would be more and more on free and open source software (FOSS), and much less on all the other parts of me. Nothing wrong with that. While I’ve always written here with an audience in mind, the size of that audience was never a central concern. I like to think I’m all about helping people with their computers, and outlining the advantages of open source without being too much of a zealot about it.

Anyway, as a writer, my focus has evolved over the years, and the new book is a part of that evolution. While I’m not one of those folks who believe that desktop computing is going away entirely in the next few years, I’ve always been interested in the tools the Internet provides us with that help build community and expand free speech. WordPress as an endlessly malleable open source tool is a stellar example of these great tools.

This is all to say that Notes from the Metaverse is going to change just the tiniest bit in 2010. First, let’s note that there will be more posts. Really! The goal is to post weekly at a minimum. There may even be more when I go to conferences and such.

Second, posts will remain (perhaps even more) focused on FOSS generally. There will be more stuff about the web and community than there has been, but this will not become just another blog about WordPress. I read a lot of these, and the world probably doesn’t need one from me.

Third, there will continue to be posts about Linux desktop software, as most of my personal computing continues to happen on openSUSE and Kubuntu. Many of these posts will be about KDE 4.x, which I’m coming to believe gets a bad rap from too many folks. Don’t be surprised if I expand on that theme soon.

Fourth, while the size of the audience is still not a primary concern (Confession: Writing the SEO sections of the WordPress book was one of the hardest parts of the book, because I had trouble putting myself into that mindset), I pay enough attention to my visitor stats to  have noticed that y’all really like the how-to posts done here. To be honest, I like reading them too. So there will be more of that too, on both the Linux and WordPress sides.

Finally, with the imminent relaunching of http://www.MichaelMcCallister.com (OK, some might think it was never really launched the first time), this site will get a little bit of a facelift/theme shift. The tagline will be adjusted. Categories will be pruned, and tags used much more effectively. I’m also going to post more on the writing life at the abovementioned site. More to come on that very soon.

Change is never easy. Let me know what you think about these ideas; nothing’s set in stone yet. Heck, it’s a blog–nothing’s ever set in stone.

Where does the time go?

Has it really been seven months since the last Note from the Metaverse? If there’s anyone left out there, thank you! Let me (briefly!) tell you what’s been up. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what is coming up. Yes, there are changes afoot, but there most definitely is a future!

  • Most relevant in the way of offering excuses for my absence is that I have left the world of independent consulting, and gone back to full time work as a technical communicator at PKWARE, Inc.
  • Besides that, and this is the lamest excuse for not blogging I’ve ever heard, I’ve been working on WordPress in Depth since last summer. I’ve been working on this project for QUE with Bud Smith, a great (and far more experienced) writer, and the force behind Google Voice Daily. This one is currently at the printer, and should be in a bookstore near you very soon. I’m very proud of this title, and hope it will help more of you get involved in blogging with WordPress, and make those of you already blogging make better use of WordPress. More about this in the days to come.
  • I continue being active in the Wisconsin chapter of the Society for Technical Communication, BarCampMilwaukee (had another great, if abbreviated, time last October), and Web414. Milwaukee now has a PHP User Group too!

All I have time for now. More coming…

Got FeedBuddy?

In my continuing quest to make things easier on my readers (yeah, you!), I’ve been trying to add FeedBuddy to the page. This service lets you subscribe to the “Notes from the Metaverse” feed using just about any reader (web-based or disk-based) you can think of. Or at least those were the notes I took from wherever it was I read about it.

Problem is: For the last two weeks, I haven’t been able to connect to the Feedbuddy website to sign up. I’ve tried different browsers, different times of day, different OSs, but the site continually times out. I even re-Googled it to make sure I didn’t have the wrong URL. No luck.

Does anyone know if Feedbuddy has become too popular for its own good, or just died prematurely? Anybody know of a similar service? Or do y’all like a series of buttons down the right side of the page with the blogroll? All thoughts entertained.

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