Happy Anniversary: Has It Really Been Three Years?

Author's photo 2013
Sitting here recovering from being forced off the road on my bicycle Tuesday, my Internet came up briefly to show I’d gotten a trophy from WordPress. My connection then disappeared for hours so I hobbled around and did dishes and continued to put frozen vegetables on my swollen legs and ankles. Later, it came up long enough to reveal a Happy Third Anniversary award had been bestowed upon my little blog and the first thing that came to me was, “Has it really been three years?”

Really??

So much has happened in that short time span. Injury at, my then, work, returning to work, heart attack, ill-health retirement, Guardian Liberty Voice, South Africa, USA, Las Vegas, Arizona…

Sadly, throughout the Guardian Liberty Voice and Vegas time frame, I ignored my little WordPress baby. There were so many people I met in the business that should have been written about here. Stupidly, I put too much effort into an organization that was never going to amount to its owners’ claims.

This is about my blog, however, and not about shysters conning writers into over producing articles in a sweat shop content mill that pays less than nothing. I did take one thing away from my experience that hopefully will make my little blog a better place to hang out, I’ve gotten better at coming over here and posting.

While I’d like to say that I am also a better writer, my ego will not let me make a claim like that without laughing so instead let’s just say my confidence level has increased exponentially and leave it at that. And as you can see, I still have a tendency to write paragraph long sentences, so that has not changed!

But at least one thing has. My profession has gone from Prison Officer to professional writer. While I never made a fortune writing for my former employer I was paid to write. On the same token, it tickled me to death that I was paid to watch films and review them, something I did for free before and I also got to interview some awesomely talented actors, like Tony Todd, Tiny Lister, Terry Kiser, Stephen Bishop, Jordan Hayes, et al.

I got to meet some great folks at conventions and I was not paid to do that, it was expected that I attend all the con’s scheduled days, meet and greet and write a minimum of three articles a day. That never happened, and, somewhat unsurprisingly, despite what had been agreed upon, which was one article per day, this was not where the publisher saw the paper going, it was content mill or nothing.

All the fun I was having being duped into believing that what I was doing was crucial in building up a solid entertainment section kept me from my own “words and music.” My reasoning was that if I was getting paid to write, I had no time to write for free.

This from a guy who was writing, for quite a while, 8 to 10 500 word-plus articles a day. Now I have made up my mind that the only thing which will keep me from stopping by daily will be lack of Internet or death. Although I probably should make an allowance for healing time, as I just now put another bag of frozen broccoli on my leg.

I will say, again, how much I appreciate all those folks who have come along for the ride. Those who started off with me, only to leave through frustration, and then came back; I thank you for returning. You must have been checking up on me occasionally. That pleases me no end. For those who stop by to comment I also thank you. I have learned a lot from folks who took a moment or two to let me hear another point of view.

I raise my metaphorical glass to you all and I will try to never desert you, or my little blog again. Oh, and if the editors of WordPress ever feel the need to award my little blog another Freshly Pressed, I wouldn’t say no.

Just saying…

Cheers!

21 March 2015
Quartzsite, Arizona
USA

Blogging Part 4: Etiquette Part II

That little badge of excellence.
That little badge of excellence.

Metaphorically strolling through the recent entries on the Freshly Pressed page, I noticed a disturbing trend. Some of these recent winners of that coveted page placement aren’t responding to their comments. They are responding to a few, but not many.

When I got Freshly Pressed last year, I tried my damnedest to answer every single person who commented. I would have continued doing so if I hadn’t had a heart attack and wound up in hospital and almost dying. At that point my blog and getting Freshly Pressed was forgotten. I think it would be safe to say that the only things that existed in the world for me at that point was the hospital.

If I remember correctly, when I came home four days later, full of scars, stitches and medication, the first thing I did was to check my blog and answer comments.

I can hear a lot of folks saying now, “What makes you think that what you have to say on the subject is worth reading! You don’t have hundreds of thousands of followers.”

And they would be right.

But what I do have is appreciation, manners and courtesy. And a real idea of time.

I have quite a lot of time. I’m ill-heath retired and I don’t have another paying job to go to. I am writing/hosting for other web sites, but that is non-paying and not enormously time-consuming. I do all my own housework (But honestly? How much mess can one bloke, on his own, make?)

I do my laundry, cut my grass, run errands. But all of these things, as a rule, don’t take hours.

Stop shifting in your seats and looking at your watches! I am making a point here!

But where I have a lot of time, most folks do not. They have full-time jobs, children to raise, an entire family to clean up after, hobbies to pursue and lives to lead. If one of these people take the time to read or like or comment; they are making a statement.

They are saying, I like what you’ve just written, or your point of view, or how you write. By commenting, they’ve taken even more time out of their busy lives to say something.

If these busy people can take the time to comment? You can take the time to respond. Don’t let getting Freshly Pressed make you forget your manners or, more importantly, your appreciation.

If you are like me, you would keep writing your blog, even if no-one liked, commented or reblogged your work. But it is precisely those little things that make blogging more satisfying and enjoyable.

Try to remember that in future you Freshly Pressed bloggers. I’ve been there and I’m telling you; only a heart attack kept me from responding back to everyone who commented on my Freshly Pressed post.

Etiquette is not just about leaving comments, it’s also about responding to them.

Photo on 27-03-2013 at 09.03
All advice given with a pinch of salt, the same way it should be received.

Getting Freshly Pressed: Riding the Crest of the Wave

I decided to write this post as a ‘thank you’ to the editor who liked my post well enough to Freshly Press it. I am so grateful and amazed at the same time. I’ve never kidded myself that I’m the new Hemingway or the next Stevie King. I just like to write. A lot.

I love the Blogging community. Except for one ‘troll-like’ creature that followed over from Tumblr, I’ve not had many folks be mean or rude. So I feel like WordPress is full of grown up type folks who, if they not just nice, at least have manners.

So thank you Cheri Lucas for picking my little post. It’s been one helluva ride and I’ve really enjoyed it.

I am a relative newcomer to the world of WordPress. I had blogged on Blogger.com for about a year and a half without setting the world on fire. If I got 30 views a day  I got excited. I finally got a grand total of 7 followers on Blogger and I kind of felt like I was spinning my verbal wheels.

I then started a blog on Tumblr called (are you ready for this?) Random Thoughts for a Random World. Same as the title of my other blog. The only thing I didn’t like about Tumblr was the inability to see how many folks stopped by for a ‘gander.’ But I did like their choices of themes for the site.

I found WordPress quite by accident. I liked the look of it so much that I decided to start yet another blog. This time I decided to change the name of the site to say a bit more about me. I am a dedicated film nut. My whole family is. I honestly think that we’re the only people in the world who precede almost any conversation with the phrase, “Oh! Did you see…” Oh I’m sure that there might be more folks out there who are more dedicated film buffs than us, but I’ll bet that we talk about films more than just about anyone.

I noticed the Freshly Pressed section on WordPress and I was intrigued. ‘What,’ I wondered, ‘do you have to do to get Freshly Pressed?’ Luckily for me and all the other bloggers in WordPress land, there were (and still are) posts that give all kinds of great advice on how to get “FP’d” and what it would do for your blog.

I am by nature a very cynical person. I am not, though, a pessimist that would make me completely unbearable. *Don’t listen to my daughter, she’s most definitely prejudicial on the subject of my personality.* So I was not overly concerned about getting FP’d and I couldn’t really imagine it making a difference.

Wrong.

I had given up ‘hoping’ to get on the exclusive list of Freshly Pressed Bloggers whose blog posts were included on this wall. I started reading the ‘How to get your blog post on Freshly Pressed’ and tried a few of the tricks and still nothing. I couldn’t even get my comments put up. *That turned out to be a spam issue about email addresses.*

I finally wrote a pithy and (let’s face it, whiny) post about not getting FP’d. Of course Karma has a wicked sense of humour and I got my previous post FP’d. Who’d a thunk?

So I’d like to tell you, the advice is sound. Do keep doing what they recommend, even if you have to accidentally hit all the nails on the head like I did. If you haven’t read their helpful hints, check em out. So You Want To Be Freshly Pressed and What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able? The Frailest Thing are just two of the helpful posts on how to get Freshly Pressed.

In a nutshell, the rules are quite simple.

1. Have an eye catching title, also known as a hook. That has always brought up horrible visions for me, you know, hooks and eye catching.

2. Make your subject different, not different as trying to find something no one has ever written about, but writing about something, differently. See the difference?

3. Use pictures. Big ones and something appropriate for the subject. I think that personal pictures probably count more.

4. Make it personal. If you can use your voice or experience to round the post out all the better.

5. Write a pithy post about not getting your comments through the spam filter on the Posts who have been Freshly Pressed. *Just kidding, I did that and luckily the editors didn’t hold it against me.”

I think I’ve mentioned everything in a nice nutshell manner, but, really you’d be better off to check out the support posts. They do have good information and they not afraid to share it.

In the mean time, keep doing what you love doing, writing. I’ll be seeing you on the Freshly Pressed page soon. I’ll warn you, your views, hits or whatever you want to call em are going to go through the roof. Plus you’ll get loads more followers. It’s pretty exciting, and not a little daunting. So until then…

Peace out!

Michael Smith 27/08/2012

WordPress
WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

Waiting for Freshly Pressed: A Timeline

Sat, 25 August 2012 1554 – I  post a pithy post (say that fast three times, I dare you) on Freshly Pressed and have a moan about my comments not showing up in the Freshly Pressed comment section.

Sat, 25 Aug 2012 15:59:40 –  Get an email from Cheri Lucas telling me that my urban exploration post had been picked for Freshly Pressed.

Huh?

Sat, 25 August 2012 1600 I try to tell my daughter that I’m going to be Freshly Pressed. She is playing a game on her vita and has her earplugs in. I decide not to wait for her to get to a save point and start playing MOW3 to keep me occupied.

Sat, 25 August 2012 1700 I try re-reading the email and inadvertently delete it. In a state of panic I almost hurt myself trying to retrieve it and re-save it.

Sat, 25 August 2012 1730 Back to MOW3 and reading the odd blog on WordPress. I make a few comments and read a suggestion from Andy about changing my email address as it might solve my spam problem.

Sat, 25 August 2012 1800 My daughter and I make tea (that’s dinner if you live in the US) and decide to watch old episodes of Spaced with the brilliant Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and co.

Sat, 25 August 2012 2359 I decide to go to bed and stop checking the Freshly Pressed page every two minutes. Despite my excitement and paranoia about my post not going up yet, I drop right off to sleep.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 0630 I wake up early because the temperature has dropped and I am freezing to death. I go downstairs for a drink and a quick look at my laptop. My post isn’t up yet, as I am half asleep, I don’t spend too long on the site. I opt to go back to sleep.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1030 I wake up for the second time of the morning. Warmer and better rested I go downstairs to see if I’ve been posted yet. Checking the page and no, not yet.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1100 I decide to check the Freshly Pressed page again and see that a new post has been added, but, it’s not mine.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1130 I start hyperventilating slightly as I look for the fourth time at the Freshly Pressed page. I decide that it was a mistake or a practical joke (who says I’m paranoid, who?) which I decide would serve me right after my ‘snarky’ post about not being Freshly Pressed.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1200 I make the decision to not check the FP page every half hour. I decide that I’ll just relax and not get so impatient, a trait that after 53 years of living I still cannot rid myself of.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1230 I totally disregard my earlier decision to not check the FP page half hourly and check again. I go upstairs and talk to my daughter for a half hour in an attempt to keep my mind off of the fact that another post has been put on the wall and again, it’s not mine.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1300 I now decide that I probably should have replied to Cheri’s email. I set down and because of my increasing paranoia that this is some kind of horrible karma or bad joke it takes me 14 minutes to write a simple email.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1330 I go outside and sit with my daughter in the lovely sunshine. My contribution to the conversation is minimal. Why? Because I’ve seen another post on the wall that is, again, not mine.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1400 I finally decide that this whole thing is a wicked joke, serendipity, or just ironic. I finally decide that it must be the real deal. Hyperventilating slightly, I check to make sure that I sent an email to Cheri thanking her and expressing my excitement.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1430 I make a snack and while I am eating it, I compulsively keep checking the Freshly Pressed wall for my post. I discover that I’ve given up the ‘not checking every half hour’ and I am now checking it every few minutes.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1500 I finally decide that I am a truly sad individual to keep checking the bloody page. It will get posted when it gets posted, so stop checking dammit.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1515 I decide to do this timeline and about halfway through I mistakenly hit the wrong key and lose half of the timeline. cursing wildly I try to find an earlier draft. There isn’t one so I have to re-write half the post over.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1557 Pausing for a moment to give my poor fingers a break, I notice I’ve gotten another email notification. I check it and it’s from Cheri. She tells me it will be late this evening or early tomorrow when my post will be added to the wall. I relax, a bit, and send a hasty email back thanking her.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1600 I am now more relaxed and a bit calmer. The excitement is still making me a bit giddy (giddy?? Did I just say that a 53 year old man was giddy?? I must be if I’m describing myself that way) but now that I’ve had a ‘confirmation’ email from Cheri, I’m hoping that my pithy whiny post has been forgiven.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1700 Get another email from Cheri, so now I’m definitely feeling like this is going to happen. I still cannot stop looking at the FP page and then refreshing it to see if my post is up yet.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1800 Finally decide to make tea or at least to think about making tea. As we are both peckish it seems like a good idea. I check the wall yet again.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1830 We put Dario Argento‘s Suspiria in the player and watch while we eat our meal. My laptop is closed for the first time today.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1900 –2230 Put the dinner dishes in the kitchen, watched the rest of the film and talked about it for a long while after eating. We then load up Netflix and then Lovefilm and start watching Crazy Eights, a low budget horror film.

Sun, 26 August 2245 – 2330 I put the dishes in the sink and start washing up, still haven’t looked at the FP page. I am very proud of myself.

Sun, 26 August 2359 – 0100 I fall asleep in my chair after doing the dishes and ‘old man’ thing that drives me to distraction. I check the page again and find that four more posts have gone up. Again none of them mine. Decide to go to sleep and not look at the FP page till later this morning. I feel like a kid at Christmas waiting to open up my presents, excited and just as impatient.

Mon, 27 August 0930 – Get up and stumble down stairs half asleep and thirsty. Turn on the laptop and gulp down some squash. I come in and click on my WordPress link. My post has exploded! It’s finally happened, it is up!! Now I am too excited to do anything else but keep checking the view counts and follower counts (which I need to keep track of so I can follow back) and ‘likes’ and comments.

Thanks Cheri Lucas and Word Press! You’ve made my day! 😀

Balloons and confetti By tamara.craiu courtesy of FLICKr

Freshly Pressed, Hold the Wrinkles

Do you want a crease in that?

I will come right out and say it, “I love the Freshly Pressed section on WordPress.” But as much as I love their ‘picks’ of the day and the introduction to new or not so new bloggers, it also frustrates me just a little.

Some of the blogs picked are erudite, clever, and so perfectly put together it makes me shed a tear of envy. Others make me wonder whose biorhythms are shot when making that particular choice.

Seriously though I can usually see why they choose the ones they do. If not for content alone, the subject matter seems to be a major driver. Pictures also are a factor, although not a necessity, and if said pictures are taken by the owner of the post it’s even better.

I can well imagine that most, if not all, of the folks who contribute to the WordPress blogging community dream of getting their blog post exhibited on this prestigious wall.

I know I do.

It’s a bit of a silly thing to wish for. I only say that because I do not blog for praise or recognition or recompense (well, not yet anyway). I do love the immediacy of blogging. If someone ‘likes’ my post and hits the corresponding button I am happy. I have said this before in other blogs.

If I have more than ten people read a blog post (that is assuming that a ‘hit’ equates to a ‘read’) I am also very pleased. I have a very low expectation threshold.

I do, however, get annoyed when I try to leave a comment on a WordPress post that is ‘helping’ the community to adhere to certain practises or formats to help them to get Freshly Pressed and said comment never appears. These articles are very helpful actually. I had never put pictures in my earlier blogs on another site.

I can only think that my remarks, comments, or pithy observations are getting relegated to the spam bin. I’ve had problems with this before. One of my friends on another blog site, Tyson Carter from Head In A Vice told me that for some reason my remarks were getting posted to his spam folder. A problem I’ve encountered with other WP sites leaving comments on my channel.

So I must admit to a little frustration at the current situation. Not only am I waiting, not so patiently, for inclusion to this illustrious page, my comments aren’t even showing up. Comments, I might add, that are always congratulatory in nature.

So I will end this little diatribe with a thought that I wrote on the comment section of a WordPress post not too long ago.

Guys, I love your Freshly Pressed feature. I am however beginning to think that the only way I’m going to get one of my posts freshly pressed, is to take a steam iron to my laptop.

I think there might be a wrinkle here…