The not-so-obvious: visiting the Schrute farm and learning to blog

Schrute Farm

Schrute Farm

As reported on the Consumerist today, someone actually wanted to book a vacation at Schrute farms, the farm/inn mentioned on episodes of The Office.  Wasn’t me. I swear it.  Could have been, though!

The obvious isn’t always so.

Some of us are gullible natural believers. Or, sometimes, we miss a word, a sentence, a step.

The Stouffer’s Bistro Baja Grilled Chicken melt called out to me from my freezer today. Ripping it open, I went looking for the microwave temp and time. That’s when I saw the instructions for folding the box into a platform.  The food, you see, is to sit on the part with the special coating. Oh. Too late for my mangled piece of cardboard.

It’s just as easy to “not get” a key element or step when you’re learning to blog. If you’re new to social media tools, the language that’s tossed around online, especially on discussion floors, can be confusing. You’re there in your Walmart sneakers and they’re bouncing around in their spiffy Air Jordans.

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timethief flips time and place for bloggers like me

Monarch butterfly

Photo by Karen Runtz

As a kid, I used to be afraid of caterpillars. That’s changed. I now do everything I can to attract and sustain butterflies. That includes naturalizing milkweed to feed monarch caterpillars.  Yesterday, WordPress blogger timethief also flipped time and place for me as I continue blogging, learning and applying social media.

It was a dull, grey day and I was hours into research, chasing links, weighted down by thousands of word about SEO, tips and tools, my energy and confidence draining. I slogged on, looking for wisdom. .

Somehow, I ended up back at WordPress. I think it was all the SEO talk that got me thinking about optimizing the usability of my blog. I dug into the dirt on fonts. And that’s when I found timethief.

Unearthing her blog, I came across a posting on free image hosting services where you can store, share and use to publish your blog photos. Most of the providers offer many more options as well. Good stuff.

I dug deeper, finding another link on optimizing your images –reducing their size so the page loads faster. As someone who was on dial-up less than a year ago, this shouted out–yes, yes, pick me!

Something drew me to Web Resizer at the bottom of the list. It was the only one I checked out. Their landing page was promising, crisp and clear like the way timethief presents her own tech tips.  Yes, you can add borders to your images here.  I clicked on the “Resize Photos Now”. Then I saw it:  Free Rice. PLAY and FEED a Hungry Person.  I don’t normally play games, but this was different. I set the image testing aside for the time being.

What followed was a fun little word challenge. Continue reading

Finding and using the right images

bergenias in bloom

photo by Karen Runtz

I love photography. And photographers too, it seems—I ended up marrying two.

So when I read about using photos on your blog, it clicked.

I wasted no time heading to Flickr, in search of images to retrofit my first two posts. First up had to be a squirrel. Then I found it—the perfect image, followed by the anxious wait to hear back from Bengt Holm, the photographer. YES! I can use it. Hey, he lives in Sweden. That is so cool.

The reading on my happiness thermometer began dropping soon after as I struggled with the mechanics of incorporating the photo following Flickr’s instructions. I spent a good part of the next two hours with a very patient soul in their help forum. In the end, I gave up trying to link back to their site and worked with the downloaded image instead. As I continued with the WordPress WYSIWYG interface, I began to see the downside of a tool that keeps you to their code. I managed to achieve the basics, anyway, and was thrilled to see the image live on my second post on learning and applying social media.

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What’s in a name/title. Sometimes too much.

photo of surprised squirrel

Photo by Bengt Holm

The magic moment. My first blog was live. OMG. Look at the title. Why didn’t I see that before?

A flash to recent news about the Canadian history magazine “The Beaver”, finding that with the internet, its 90-year old title is no longer appropriate.

My first title, you see, was in fact “go slow, just don’t stop”. I blush to think what search engines would have made of that.

WordPress did say the blog title could be changed at any time. What to use instead. Chris Abrahams’ video (more on this later) says to make it pithy, interesting.

Ignore the squirrels! What else! They have come to symbolize my struggle, reminding me of what I can’t do, evading and mocking me, getting me down. A bit like the 14-year old who refused yet again to go to school today.

They will not get the better of me.  I will learn and apply social media.

So it was back to the edit mode. But let’s rewind this narrative to zero, which was my hands-on knowledge of creating a blog one short week ago.

WordPress rocks

What platform to use to edit, publish and host my blog. It had to be free, easy to use, and deliver an end product that would look at least somewhat professional.  I scanned my bookmarked sites to see what others were using. Continue reading

Go slow, just don't stop

turtle photo by Audrey Michael

photo by Audrey Michael

It does not matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.

That saying–from Confucius, who else!–is going to be my mantra as I reinvent myself, out of a job and my comfort zone.

I will learn how to use social media so I can advise businesses in turn how they can use these channels to be successful.

No biggie, right. WRONG. I have a love/hate relationship with technology. It excites and terrifies me at the same time. I love what it enables but I’m in misery trying to use it. Don’t let anyone change my computer or TV settings—I may never get them back again.  I don’t even own a cell phone or a PDA.

And yet I developed and managed a very successful intranet for a very large crown corporation and as a regular presenter at conferences, advised many other communicators on intranet strategy and best practices, including usability and how it contributes to the bottom line.

What’s behind all this

For 21 years I was a very successful communicator loving my work at Canada Post. Then came the job cuts, including mine. I didn’t expect it. Who does.

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