I’ve created a feedback form, and I’ve begun recruiting just about anyone I interact with to submit any ideas to me. I got the idea for the form from ProBlogger’s 31 Days to Building a Better Blog. While he recommends showing it to people who’ve never visited your blog before (and in person, no less), I see no reason why repeat visitors shouldn’t have a say, nor do I see a reason as to why I have to be physically present for each showing. Sure, I could certainly gain more incite if I actually watched over someone’s shoulder, but watching over someone’s shoulder tends to skew the person’s browsing habits. There’s added pressure to click more than you normally would if someone’s telling you to look around a site. So, please take a few moments to fill out my feedback form.


To Schedule or Not To Schedule

I read four different articles about utilizing a posting schedule. The first was from ProBlogger, biased towards maintaining a schedule. As of late, I can sympathize with his sentiments:

  • Sporadic Posting Frequency – some days when I sat down to write – nothing came. On these days I would quite often not post anything.
  • Post Quality Varied – on days when I was on fire I could pump out a great quality post – while on other days when I was struggling I would often feel the pressure to post something – so would end up posting rubbishy posts.
  • Productivity Decreased – posting this way meant that I was spending more time blogging for less results. It took me away from other activities that I wanted to spend time on.
  • Let’s see: sporadic posting frequency — check; post quality variation — check; decreased productivity — check! In fact, some times the effort to create worthwhile content has been so incredibly unappealing that I avoid it in general because I don’t want it detracting from my productivity outside of this blog. What’s his recommendation?

    1. I start by brainstorming topics (generally on a text file which sits on my desktop)
    2. With a list of topics I’ll then pick one to develop a little further (I open up a new text document for each post and save them to a ‘posts in progress’ folder on my desktop)
    3. I start by tweaking the topic into a post title (this sometimes change later as I actually write).
    4. Next I jot down a sentence that describes the post that I want to write – so that later when I come to write it I know what I meant by the title. This sentence often gets used as the first sentence of the actual post.
    5. I then will quickly brainstorm a few of the main points that I want to make in the post. I don’t take a lot of time on this as I find that most of the main points will come during the writing process – however if I have a few obvious points already in mind I capture them now
    6. I then quickly think back to previous posts that I might have written on similar topics. This is useful because it helps to develop your post but also is useful for interlinking posts
    7. Then I select another of the posts developed in step #1 and then go through steps #2 – 6 again with each one in turn.
    8. Once I’ve got enough post ideas developed for the week ahead I’ll then think about what order I want to post them in and map out a posting schedule for the week ahead.

    I like the idea of brainstorming. It’s common practice in schools. It’s familiar. It’s comforting. It’s so five-paragraph-essay-esque. He also offers a list from his particular self-imposed 31 day challenge, which seemingly offers very useful information — and I, for one, intend to review it for my own personal benefit. I’m almost positive I could benefit from at least a few ideas he’s covered.

    The next article I read was from Zen Tricks with a 7 day (8 if you count day 0) method to scheduling. Here’s the recommendation:

    The schedule I’m suggesting below is for 3 posts per week. If you want to do more, try combining every 2 days of activities into 1 day.

    First you have to decide on a target. 1 post per day or one per week? Something in between? Its up to you, but you need a goal to aim for.

    Now lets plan ahead. Get a good start by listing 3 or 4 weeks of ideas. Just rough post titles is enough for now. You may not end up using some of these ideas, but we just need to make sure that you have plenty of material to work with.

    Again, we have the brainstorming theme, albeit not explicitly named. They recommend coming up with an ideal number of posts per week, which is an additional helpful idea. I don’t necessarily know if I’d like to commit myself to a post every day, a post every week day, a post every other day, only posting on weekends… Obviously, you see where I’m going with that. Still, the idea of making a little notepad more readily accessible is becoming more and more appealing — and I should be doing this in the first place.

    Then we have The Pursuit of Mommyness with many helpful hints in regards of the why’s, when’s, how’s, and delivery of scheduled posts. Obviously, I want to maintain my following — repeat readers are key to garnering an audience. She recommends marketing via social networks, and I found my way to Twitterfeed as a result of wanting to make the process more stream-lined. Okay, so more of the information I thought she gave me actually came from another article she linked to from The Secret is in the Sauce. They recommend posting between 10am and 2pm in order to achieve the maximum audience. (In fact, by the time you read this, I will be sitting in a training session that I think should go towards my Pro3 Certification.)

    Now, we’ve focused heavily on the pro-scheduling side. Could there be downfalls to scheduling? Create Market Profit seems to think so.

    Having a blog posting schedule pretty much forces you to write at certain times on certain days. In most cases, being forced to write like this eventually leads to some really [bad] content.

    Content that has been created because it was time to create it, not because it had real value.

    Content that was written because of what day it is, and not because you had a great idea for a post.

    Content that is a lot more for your schedule, and a lot less for your readers.

    This is bad, and when this starts happening, it will quickly turn your blog into complete and utter crap. And as you can imagine, it’s pretty tough to make your blog a success when it’s mostly comprised of crap.

    I get that. Seriously, I’ve got some pretty lackluster content from when I was posting every single day. Granted, I didn’t have a completely set schedule, and I could have deviated from the series posts if the mood suited me. But a simple list of 5 sentences does not make for good public reading — personal journaling, yes; public posting, no. Of course, I still got commenters noticing how I found so many things to be grateful for, but that should only get me so far before I need to start putting forth meaningful content. How am I to harbor best-selling author ambitions if I barely ever string together more than a few sentences? I can’t, and since I like to dream big, I need to work appropriately in order to even come halfway to that goal.

    However, I’m going to err on the side of scheduling. As a writer, it’s my job to write every single day. It’s my job to brainstorm. It’s my job to put my creativity to work. Surely I’ll have breaks here and there, but you can’t just say, “I don’t feel like working today — I’ll just hang out on FaceBook all day and play solitaire!” I’m sorry, that’s just not how the world works. There are deadlines, and you have to learn to meet deadlines for almost every single job category out there. So, it’s better to go forth and schedule some brainstorming, outlining, drafting, editing, revising, and publishing sessions instead of waiting for some stroke of genius to strike.


    Thinking Out Loud

    So while I haven’t had a brainstorming session with Nicki yet (it’s on my to-do list — the phone can be a scary device when there are three small children running around 😉 ), I did find some good information in terms of creating a posting schedule. Most of the material I’ve found has a pro-scheduling bias, but I did find one article that was against scheduling. I like to hear both sides of the argument before I make my decisions. I also found a site that has a layout that has a similar idea to what I’d like to do. See this? That header? How about the adorable Hungry Girl avatar? That is on par with what I’m trying to create — great minds, and all that silliness. I’ve been planning to hire one of my friends to digitally draw something like that for me for quite some time now, but I’ve been stuck on exactly what I’d like. I need a good, solid vision before I can make that next step.

    I have to admit I’ve also been inspired by Gwen Bell to become a consultant. I couldn’t figure out what I could do, though — I think of consultants as people who discuss things like business, technology, marketing, and things of that nature. What could I do? What am I good at? What is my expertise? Well, I have a Bachelors degree in English. I have a relatively good command of the English language. I edit newsletters and publications for a living (when I’m not playing secretary, that is). Today, it became obvious to me while talking with a new co-worker that I should consider a career in English consulting. So, I have a business plan to write and some serious brainstorming to do.

    As for marketing, I recently came across a flier on campus advertising a personal website. Why hadn’t I thought of that?! It was so obvious. It’s a college town, and there are plenty of people riding the buses. I’m sure enough people would at least see the fliers, let alone come to visit. Of course, before I ramp up my marketing, I need to redesign and reassess. I’ve gotten the “go forth and comment” part down already — and boy oh boy, did that ever prove fruitful in both getting traffic and finding some great people to read. (It’s gotten to the point where I’ve come around to the Google Reader because it’s one website, one place, and a simple click if I’d like to go comment. I’m just hoping the RSS feeds count for “hits” for my favorite bloggers.) Anyway, I think I’m progressing along and almost ready to get back on track with my writing. Maybe I’ll turn this into a lucrative career yet!


    Revamping My Personal Brand

    I want you to take a good, close look at what I’m doing here. Read through my content. Review my layout.  Skim the ads and affiliates. Do these fit my “personal brand,” so to speak? Tell me what works. Tell me what doesn’t. Tell me what you like. Tell me what you don’t like. Tell me what you absolutely hate. Tell me what you perceive I’m telling you — who do you think I am based upon what I’ve done here? Give me praise. Give me criticism. Above all else, give me constructive feedback. I have been in the process of redesigning this space I’ve carved out for myself on the Internet. Granted, some of that redesigning has yet to leave the confines of my brain cells, but the ideas are there awaiting that transformation from intangible to tangible. This is your moment to tell me what’s working and what’s not. Have at it!


    Jumping Ship

    One of the biggest issues that has been perplexing me and causing a very interesting emotional response is my acceptance of a new job. You’ll notice I list UF MSE in my friends list in the left column. That is the department I currently work for. When I came here back on December 14th, 2007, I had gone through a very trying period of unemployment after a mutual separation from my first post-college-graduation job. Luckily, my boss saw much promise in my résumé and called me in for an interview. Whereas usually having a family would be considered a flaw, it was a common interest — my boss’ middle child is a month younger than my middle child, and his wife was nursing the little one as well. My obligations to my family meant I was likely more responsible than someone with no familial responsibilities, and I’m glad my boss made that assumption about me because it was absolutely accurate.

    During my time with the department, I have taken on responsibility for the newsletter, coordinating events, and the daily secretarial tasks. I can see how some people make a career of this, and I almost could see myself doing this sort of thing for a living in order to afford moonlighting as an author. Unfortunately, I was hired during a budget crisis, so benefits were not an option at that time. My plan was to hang around for two years to build my résumé and then hunt for a job with the university that came with benefits and higher pay to afford the benefits. Of course, I also held out hope that the budget would allow for my current position to be given higher pay and benefits, but that wasn’t possible due to many, many circumstances.

    I applied for a position with UF’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering knowing full well that my boss knows the chairman of that department quite well. He knew I was trying to do what was best for my family, and he put in a good word for me. Not surprisingly, I actually got called in for an interview — and the opportunity to showcase my portfolio. There always seems to be a candidate (or two or three or four) with more experience than me who gets called in. In this case, I don’t know who my competition was, but she did not bring in a portfolio. Guess who got offered the job? After negotiating a starting salary, I accepted the offer.

    Obviously, I knew the day would come when I would have to leave this department to pursue my own career advancement. That hasn’t stopped me from feeling like I’m going to be leaving something special behind — like moving out of home and leaving family behind. I’ve grown attached to the people I work with on a daily basis. The familiar faces greet me with smiles and waving hands. I could always tell when a string of students all needed the same time of assistance. I’ve grown into a routine. I’ve made my desk my own personal space. However, it has come time to move onward and upward. Fortunately, my new office will only be in the next building over, so it’s not like I’ll never seen anyone here again.

    So here’s to the place that give me the chance to build upon my experience. I’m so very grateful for the opportunities I got while working here, and I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve forged. I look forward to making a smooth transition and becoming just as comfortable with UF ISE.