Updated the site

As the long weekend comes to a close, I’ve decided that I needed to update the look of the site.  Let me know what you think in the comments.  It’s not exactly what I want it to be.  This theme has some pretty annoying defaults, but without getting into the code it’s a good as I can make it for now.

One thing I did get done was adding a bunch of my friend’s sites to the links in the side bar.  They were always there, but my old theme hided them behind menus for some reason. I’d totally suggest checking some of them out, we are trying to make the web look more like us and not the corporate feed factories.

Tweeking WordPress settings can quickly turn into your job if you let it.  It’s something best done slowly so look for more updates.  Please let me know what you think in the comments.

How I Blog

Since I’m about a month into my year long blogging challenge, I thought it would be fun to write about how I actually blog.  Let’s start with the technology I use and then move on to my actual process.

Computer: MacBook Air (13 inch, 2014 edition).  While I do have a desktop, the MacBook has been an absolute revelation.  It’s super light, fast, and has an amazing keyboard that just feels great to type on.  I have this thing on me at all times, and I’ve found that I write a lot more in those little down times we all have.  Like when I’m on the train.  Also, my God does this thing have great battery life.  It never wants to die.

Blogging Platform: WordPress.com.  I’ve been a WordPress user for about eight years now.  It’s sort of become blogging in my mind.  I’ve been thinking about moving the blog to a self-hosted version of WordPress, but I haven’t really wanted to put up with all of the handholding a self-host requires.  Right now, it’s just better to let the nice folks at WordPress handle everything for me.

Writing App: Desk. I had a little trouble getting this to work with my blogging platform, but once I did, it was a dream.  It has a really slick interface that gets out of your way when when you’re writing and then it’s there the second you need to do any kind of formatting.  This is exactly what I like out of a writing environment: just a box to write in.  It’s not that the writing environment with WordPress is bad, it just lives in my web browser – the distraction machine.  Desk keeps me from flicking to another tab in search of who wrote the original Shadow stories or something like that.  In fact, when I’m actually writing I create a second desktop on my Mac just for my writing program so I don’t have any distractions.

Note Taking and Planing App:  Evernote.  I have a notebook just for my blog with a master list of blog ideas.  That’s the main thing I use the app for right now.  I do something pre-write directly into it if I have a particularly complex post that I’m working on.  I probably should find ways to use this app more to organize my writing.  That’s probably something to work on in the coming months.

Image Searching: Creative Commons Search.  I’m trying a lot harder to use photos in my posts.   The problem is that I suck as a photographer and it’s hard enough just to find time to write let alone take a few photos.  Generally, I jump onto Creative Commons Search and find a few pics that go with the theme of my post.  It’s been working pretty well for me so far, so I haven’t had to go onto any of the pay sites to find images.

My Process: While I do have a nice desk, my preferred method of blogging is to either be on the couch or on the train.  I like being in a slightly unorthodox position when I blog.  It lends something to the immediacy of it.  

I also try to do all of my first draft in one sitting as fast as I can.  The most surprising thing about blogging for me is how quickly I can do it.  I’ve regularly banged out over 1000 words in under 40 minutes.  When I’m writing fiction, it can take me almost an hour just to do 500 words.  I’d love to be able to tell you why this is, but it’s absolutely beyond me.  

After the first draft is done, I do a reread and polish.  Then it’s posted right away.  I really should let them set longer, but I’m usually looking down the barrel of a deadline and just want to get it out there.  The resting period is something I really need to play with more. 

And that’s how I currently blog.  This will likely change as the months go on so I’ll do another post like this once the changes are significant enough to justify it.  

I Got a big boy URL

So last night I was researching things for my blog and decided to put money where my mouth was and actually by my domain name for this site.  It’s something that I had been wanting to do for years but I never felt justified because I didn’t post on here much.

But that’s the rub.  I wasn’t blogging because I didn’t have the site I wanted and I wasn’t getting the things to make this the site that I wanted because I wasn’t blogging.  The setting the blog year challenge was a great thing for me to do but I think I need to put effort into developing the site itself as well as actually posting on here.

Part of what I like about blogging is the content management / web development part of the equation.  I like building websites.  It’s something I’ve been doing pretty much since high school, so I think if I was going to stop, I probably would have done so by now.

That’s why I’ve finally have gotten around to getting an actual domain name for the blog.  I have more plans for stuff that I can do on here.  I probably will move this site over to my own installation of WordPress, but not right now.  I’d like to build up a few more posts first and use working with the technology as a reward for how much content I’m posting.

Image via Flickr

Why I Still Blog

Yesterday was my eight year anniversary on WordPress.com.  They gave me a badge for it, so that’s pretty cool.  It makes sense that my anniversary is around this time.  I always get antsy for new projects around this time of year.

I couldn’t tell you what kind of site I was trying to make back then.  Probably some sort of Boing Boing rip off.  I do remember liking the fact that I could have more than one page, which was a leg up on Blogger at the time.

I’ve started and abandoned a lot of sites on WordPress in those eight years, but this one has been the one that I’ve kept up with the most.  That’s probably because I post just about anything I want on here and don’t do a lot of link dumps.  I have Tumblr for that, which I do need to whip into more shape but that’s a project for another day.

As I said earlier, I was on Blogger before WordPress.  I signed up around the summer of 2003. Before that, I didn’t know what blogging was.  It had been around since 99, but I really wasn’t that savvy of net trends at the time. To me it was just building a web site, which I knew how to do but had never hosted anything online.  That cost money, which I didn’t have when I was in college. The idea of quickly posting things online, for free, without having to mark up the post was really appealing. It still is.  The fact that apps like WordPress, and Blogger exist is truly amazing to me and I don’t think people take the time to acknowledge it.

We are constantly connected now – that’s painfully clear – but I don’t think most of us are aware of the fact that we can express ourselves in more that just a tweet.  That’s why I still blog after 11 years.  Even though the form is now seen as quant by some. I like that fact that there are still places where people can craft long form content about whatever they care about.

Looking back on it, that’s why my other sites failed.  I was either making their topics too constricting or I was making their posts a quick write up of a link I found.  The “anything goes” nature of the form is what attracted me to blogging and net in general and it’s what I’m finally trying to do with the Electric Abacus.  This is my place on the web to try out things.  Some of them will be successes, most will be failures.  But that’s what I like about personal blogging: the site can change as you change.

Featured Image – via Flickr