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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Reflections: What did I do all day?

AT THE END OF THE DAY yesterday, I took time to add up what I'd managed to get done during the course of the day. I didn't do this while sitting at a window looking at a sunset, though I certainly could have. Like so much of my life, this reflection was conducted while I sat looking at my 22-inch flatscreen monitor.

I have a good friend with whom I've exchanged emails regularly for about six years now. When I was going through a divorce, she was by my side every step of the way, even though she lived in Chicago and I was outside of Seattle. There were stretches when we emailed each other a dozen times a day; if she didn't hear from me for more than a few hours, she'd check in. Maybe I would have made it through the divorce without her, but I'm not quite sure how.

These days she's busy with a new business and I am not in crisis, so we are more likely to exchange emails in little flurries that occur only every few days. But if she doesn't hear from me for a while, she still checks in (everybody should be lucky enough to have a friend who is part Mother Hen). Yesterday I got one of those emails, and in response I just tried to describe what my day had consisted of. The description went something like this:

I sent a post to my gardening blog with a revised version to the Native Gardeners elist I own, and sent an email to an interested party to let him know about the new post. I sorted through the huge numbers of emails that come into my various inboxes, looked over a garden design that a friend here is doing and commented on it, responded to an inquiry from another blogger about a topic she's interested in writing about, thanked the same blogger for making some very useful how I could market my blog better, suggested to her that she might want to check out Blogher.org (organization for women bloggers), checked out a blog that another friend (also a blogger) emailed me about and ended up following a link to a website that I ended up joining (global-mindshift.org), then signed up for an online tutorial that starts on the 17th, then emailed another friend about that because I thought she might be interested in it. My housemate actually used the telephone today (voice: the new paper) to call a family member, but she needs a website for her business so they ended up talking about that, and I took the phone for a few seconds to tell her about Lunar Pages. I also filled in some government paperwork online, paid the fees online, put together almost the entire package for mailing (paper: the new cave wall) tomorrow, and used the Internet to help another friend figure out how to get his car registered in a state he's moving to. And of course I answered that "checking in" email from my dear friend.

Somewhere in there I did actually get up from the computer to walk the dogs and talk to my partner in person. (It’s a wonder we don’t conduct all of our interactions by email even though our desks are 5 feet apart.) We even shared a meal. (Actual fish, not an email in sight.) But I spent a lot of time functioning as a sort of relay switch, passing information from one place to another. Not surprisingly, at the end of the day I didn't really have much sense of having accomplished much. I'm beginning to think that big part of the appeal of blogging is that at least, if you blog about what you're doing, you make a record of it. And that in turn makes it feel as though you actually did do something. Human consciousness seems to have trouble regarding anything as real until it's been recorded somewhere: That's why we take pictures of things instead of just looking at them.

But the question is, Did I do anything? Answer: yes and no. Individually, I didn't do much. But as a tiny part of the hive mind that seems to be developing on the Internet, I did my bit. I relayed information, I made connections, I was a good little neuron in a giant mind that, we can only hope, is going to be a lot smarter than its parts. I bet neurons also get to the end of the day and ask themselves, What did I get done?

Friday, April 6, 2007

TIP: A Money Wiki

The Online Journalism Review has started a wiki where online journalists can share tips about how to make money with online publishing. There is good information there already; no doubt it will get better.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Q&A

A FRIEND ASKS:

Q: Technically how hard was it to get the blog started?

A: Starting a blog through Blogspot is falling-off-a-log easy. For details see this post. Now, if you intend to try to turn your blog into a commercial operation, you will probably want to own your own domain. However, Blogspot now allows you to set up your domain so that it will point to your Blogspot blog, so it's even pretty easy to set up a blog using your own domain address.

There are many things you can do in order to attract and hold readers and make money off your blog, but these are all things you can do after you've started your blog. (In fact, you really can't do these things until your blog is up and running.) When you're ready, websites such as problogger.net can help you learn the ropes.

Q: How much of a chore is it to keep uploading copy?

A: That depends. Does your topic interest you enough so that you'll enjoy researching it and writing about it? Do you already have a lot of knowledge (maybe even articles already written) to share with your readers? Do you write a lot of emails about this topic? (I find that recycling emails is a great way to get "free" blog posts. Let's conserve those electrons!) Is the topic part of your life? (It's easier for me to write about cooking, gardening, and dogs than about modern architecture or the Chicago Cubs. But if I still lived in Chicago, ...) If your answer to most of these questions is yes, you probably won't find blogging to be that much of a chore. Keep in mind that typical blog posts are very short: It's not hard to come up with a few hundred words on a topic you know and care about, especially if it's a topic you're learning about on a daily basis anyway.

Q: What programs do you need techically?

A: To get started, none. Blogspot takes care of all of that for you. If you want to make your blog pretty, there are a lot of software packages that can help, of course, but they're not essential. You might also want to check out WordPress. This seems to be what a lot of professional bloggers use. But again, it isn't required.