Tag Archives: Technology

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

I’ve been blogging at lydiaschoch.com for almost eighteen months now. Since I imported all of my old posts over from my previous site, the archives here begin in July of 2010 instead of November of 2016. I’ve been blogging much longer than that, though!

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve had several different blogs.  With the exception of PK Stories, none of them still exist to the best of my knowledge, but I’ve still carried the lessons I learned from them forward to my current online home.

Today I thought it would be fun to list fifteen of the things I’ve learned about blogging over the last decade and a half.

1. Never post anything you’d be embarrassed to see plastered on a billboard in front of your home.

This really should go without saying, but I think some people forget just how long a blog post can be passed around online. I’ve shared and I’ve also seen others share thought-provoking posts that are several years old because the information in them is timeless. In a few cases, I’ve seen posts much older than that continue to circulate.

You never know when something might go viral, so I try to always be careful about what I say and how I say it.

2. Ignore the trolls.

Arguing with them never helps in any way from what I’ve observed. The best way I’ve found to encourage them to permanently lose interest in you is to refuse to engage with them at all.

They generally seem to feel bored by the lack of conflict after a while and will wander away on their own accord once they realize that they won’t be getting a response.

Luckily, the vast majority of the people I meet online are friendly and don’t behave this way at all.

3. Don’t use pop-ups.

Pop-up ads or messages are intrusive, annoying, and counter-productive. I automatically leave sites who obstruct my view with pop-ups, and I don’t return to them in the future.

4. Share other people’s work liberally.

Every time I discover a new blog that I plan to start following, I set aside some time to read through their archives after I’ve added that site to my RSS feed. If I love their current posts, chances are excellent that I’ll adore their old stuff, too.

As I browse through their older material, I take note of the entries that were most appealing to me. Those posts are then either added to my Suggestion Saturday lists or tweeted by me at some point in the future. Most of the latter end up being included in the #MondayBlogs hashtag on Twitter due to how popular it is.

Since I enjoyed those posts, folks who follow me might really like them as well.

5. Don’t worry about reciprocation. 

When I promote other people’s work, I do it with zero expectations of them returning the favour. There’s no imaginary scorecard in my head or anything like that. While I deeply appreciate everyone who shares links to my posts, I think of those responses as a happy bonus to something I already find rewarding.

I believe in sharing the things that bring me joy with the hope that others will find them just as entertaining.

6. Blogging isn’t a competition.

There’s plenty of room for everyone to shine. In fact, I’ve only seen better opportunities emerge for networking and promotion as more and more bloggers are connecting and collaborating with each other. Think of it as a group of people using cooperation to reach their goals instead of as a competition.

7. It’s smarter to focus on a handful of topics than to write about everything. 

In a couple of my previous sites, I blogged about whatever was on my mind on any particular day. I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to think of new things to write about and attract readers if I focused on a handful of topics and explored them deeply instead.

8. Be genuine. 

No matter who you are or what you’re into, there are people out there who will connect with your interests, passions, and hobbies. I believe in regularly talking about whatever it is that makes your heart skip a beat without worrying about how popular or SEO-friendly it is.

9. Protect your privacy and the privacy of your loved ones.

There are certain things that just shouldn’t be shared openly online. For example, I shudder when I see buddies publicly sharing details of their itinerary for an upcoming vacation.

I don’t discuss stuff like future plans for safety reasons. If I’m going on a trip, I’ll save any amusing photos and stories about it for after I return home. Talking about it before or as it happens only gives potential burglars or other people who may have nefarious intentions advanced warning that my home will be empty for that period of time or that I’ll be in a specific place at X time.

10. Write down ideas for future posts. 

As soon as I get a new idea for a future blog post, I jot it down in a file I created specifically for this purpose. This is something I do even if the idea is partially developed or I’m not sure if I want to use it at all. If only all of you knew how many times I forgot ideas before I started making myself write down all of them!

Some of these ideas have been sitting there for months, and a few of them are years old. Eventually, I do hope to write about all of them when the time is right. For now they remain safely tucked away in my list until I need some inspiration for an upcoming post. 

11. Use recommendations from your readers as writing fodder.

Every once in a while, one of my favourite bloggers decides to write a follow-up post to a question or comment I or someone else had about something they wrote. There have also been a few times when I’ve gotten blog ideas from people’s comments on my own site.

It’s thrilling every time that happens. I only wish it happened more!

12. Allow comments, but do moderate them.

I filter out all of the spam comments on my site. In the distant past when I had a troll or two lurking around, I immediately deleted their messages as well.

Other than that, I tend to allow just about any sort of comment slip through. I respond to them, too.

13. Leave thoughtful comments on other sites.

Speaking of comments, I’m so glad I got into the habit of responding to other people’s posts. Sometimes the comment section is honestly just as interesting as the original article because of the high quality comments that are left by fans and the site owner. April Munday’s blog is one of the many examples of how beautifully this system can work.

14. Build relationships.

I’ve made several good friends through my years of blogging who are still part of my life to this day, and I’ve gotten to know many other people through this activity as well. If you’re open to it, this is a fantastic way to build a supportive community of likeminded friends who live all over the world.

15. Have fun!

Blogging is a deeply rewarding experience that has improved my life in more ways than I can count. I hope that every blogger finds the same happiness from crafting their posts and sharing them with the world.

What have you learned from blogging?

What Will Exercise Routines Be Like in a Hundred Years?

A new fitness fad comes along every decade or so. There were gentle stretching exercises for ladies in the 1910s, twist dances in the 1950s, aerobics videos in the 1980s, and Zumba classes in the 2010s. (If you haven’t seen it already, this video shows 100 years of fitness in 100 seconds).

A hundred years ago, exercise was built into everyone’s day. The vast majority of people didn’t own cars or many other modern conveniences back then. They walked or rode a horse into town, chopped wood, scrubbed their clothing by hand, planted, weeded, and then harvested their crops, preserved food, repaired their wagons and tools, carried buckets of water to the plants and animals under their care, and did many other physically demanding chores from morning until evening.

The First Half of My Prediction

As fossil fuels become far more rare and expensive, humans will start adding some of these activities back into their daily lives in order to save money. Walking a couple of miles to a nearby destination only costs as much extra food as it will take to fill your stomach once you need to eat again. While this has already been a common thing here in Toronto for many years, I see it becoming much more socially acceptable to walk to all kinds of places in suburban and rural communities, too, in the coming years.

Eventually the price of driving to all of those locations is going to be too high to do anything else on a regular basis. As grocery store costs rise, I wouldn’t be surprised if it also became more common for people who own a patch of unused land to start growing and preserving some of their own food again as well.

Exercise will no longer be about purposefully lifting weights or setting aside half an hour a day to break a sweat. People will naturally need to do these things during their daily routine in order to save money or maybe even to survive in general. This is going to change everything from what folks do for fun to how far away from their jobs or schools they’ll be willing to live.

I wouldn’t be surprised if tele-commuting became almost universally available for students and workers alike, especially for those who aren’t able to live closer to town for any number of reasons. Why physically go into school or the office if you can get all of the same information online while saving valuable money and time on the commute?

The Second Half of My Prediction

The other thing I see happening with exercise in the future is it becoming much more technologically-aware. We have just entered the age of digital fitness trackers, and I only see them becoming more important in the future for many different reasons.

Imagine students who are enrolled in online schools getting credit for gym class while they’re digging potatoes out of the garden or wiping off the solar panels next to their house. Some kids would respond much better to this than they would to playing the kinds of team sports that are generally shown as examples of staying active. I know that I would have been much more interested in gym class had I been shown a wider range of ways to stay fit and then been allowed to pick a few that interested me the most. There’s nothing wrong with liking football or basketball, but there are so many other forms of exercise out there!

Think about how much information your family doctor could get about your health if he or she was able to see an average of how many minutes of exercise you’ve gotten per day for the last year as well. Maybe he or she could also see your blood sugar levels, blood pressure numbers, and resting and active heart rates, too. I’ve known people whose blood pressure rises dramatically whenever they have it checked at the doctor’s office because they get so anxious around people in the medical profession. These sorts of changes to the way health data is collected could give doctors a much more accurate picture of how their patients are really doing.

Insurance companies could give discounts to people who agreed to share their activity levels or who showed a steady increase in the number of minutes of exercise they did every week as well. While I would never agree with forcing people to share this kind of information in order to qualify for insurance coverage, it could be a nice incentive for folks who want to save a little cash and begin some healthier habits at the same time.

Will some of these predictions come true far sooner than 2117? I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, to be honest. It will be interesting to see how technology and exercise continue to develop over the next few decades. Only time will tell if I’m right about some, all, or none of the societal changes I think are on their way.

Why Automated Direct Messages Are a Terrible Idea

monday-blogs-1This is a repost from my old blog. I will be back on Thursday with new material. 

An automated DM (direct message) is a private message that an account sends to you as soon as you follow it. I’ve been seeing far too many of them on Twitter lately.

They are usually used to promote something the account holder is selling like a book or an album. While some DMs don’t follow this rule, all of them are impersonal spam.

Here’s the thing: Twitter is a social media site. People use it to make new friends, share their thoughts, and stay up-to-date on current events. Trying to exploit this to market your product is an excellent way to annoy or even alienate 98% of the people you meet.

As an author, I understand the urge to reach out to potential new readers. I’ve found new readers on Twitter. I’ve also bought multiple books that I first heard about from other tweeps, but it was never due to the author telling me to buy their stuff.

In fact, an automatic DM is one of a handful of things that will prompt me to immediately unfollow someone. It leaves a horrible first impression that is hard to shake off.

Why have I purchased all of those books, then?

Because their authors didn’t make their Twitter streams or their private messages into nonstop commercials. Yes, they shared links when their newest book came out and occasionally mentioned older projects as well.

Most of the time, though, they talked about all of the other things that were going on in their lives. Some of them shared hilarious stories about the  naughty things their pets did, while others talked about more serious subject matters like grief or recovering from child abuse.

They retweeted other people’s links regularly. I can’t count the number of times that I discovered a new author, blog, or Twitter handle to follow because someone chose to share something that they enjoyed.

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Just as importantly, they kept tabs on their followers lives as well. They regularly responded to people who asked them questions or said something they found interesting.

I often saw them cheer for friends who had finally reached a big goal and support others who were going through a hard time.

In short, they were genuine and generous.

So please don’t send out an automatic DM when you gain a new follower any more than you would use pop-ups on your website.

Get to know people as individuals instead.

Build your following one person and one friendly interaction at a time.

Don’t rush it.

Twitter isn’t a race.

It’s more like a party. Slow down, relax, and enjoy the festivities. Nobody is going home anytime soon.

Why Everyone Should Stop Using Pop-Ups

StopThis is a repost from my old blog. I will be back next week with new material. 

I don’t normally rant on this blog, but I’ve been having issues with pop-ups lately. Pop-up advertisements are one of the fastest and most efficient ways to drive me away from a site. It doesn’t matter how much I loved the article I was reading, what the pop-up is saying, or how long I’ve been a fan of that blogger or website.

If the administrators interrupt my concentration with an unwanted pop-up, they’re going to lose a reader for good. If their ad includes a video that starts playing automatically, I’ll be so annoyed that I will tell friends and family members to avoid that site as well.

No, I’m not opposed to the use of advertisements on websites in general. They’re a necessary part of making money on the Internet, and I completely understand that. Banner ads are fine, as are advertisements that are inserted halfway through whatever essay or article I’m reading as long as they don’t make noise or cover up the text.

I don’t care what kinds of racy pictures an ad might include or if they use clickbait titles to grab the reader’s attention. Those are some of the things I’ve come to expect from the web. Non-intrusive online ads are like billboards: sometimes they’re silly; often they’re cheesy; rarely they might even be helpful or interesting.

When a website decides to interrupt me when I’m reading one of their articles by launching a pop-up that I never wanted, though, they’re sending a very clear message about how little they value my time and attention.

It would be like a server interrupting you in the middle of a meal in order to take your half-finished plate away and ask if you wanted to order another entree. I can count the number of times that is acceptable on one hand, and every single one of them would begin with you asking for help due to something like undercooked meat, a fly in your soup, or food allergy issues.

You don’t just randomly start taking things away from people if you want them to keep coming back.

So, please. For the love of pete, stop using pop-up ads.