Blog Archives

Zemanta Revisited

Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Way back in 2008, I wrote a brief post about Zemanta.  I think it’s about time I updated it.

I use Zemanta every time I write a post. The artwork normally to the top left of any post is usually picked from a selection suggested by Zemanta. The tags I pick are, again, from a selection suggested by Zemanta. And that little “reblog” icon at the bottom right of every post? Yep, that’s from Zemanta too.  Zemanta is a very useful tool in a blooger’s tool kit and I hope that this will persuade you to try it out on your own site.

Let’s take a look at what it does. From the Zemanta Learn page:

Zemanta is a tool that looks over your shoulder while you blog and gives you tips and advice, suggests related content and pictures and makes sure your posts get promoted as they deserve to be. We at Zemanta are thinking hard to help make blogging easier for you. We’re engineering better creative tools to help you get the most out of your blogging time.

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What Do You Blog About (And Why?)

We're Going To Need More MonkeysFeel free to emphasise any of the words in the title.

No, this isn’t another “Seinfeld post“, at least, I hope that’s not how it comes out. Firstly, an apology: I do not consider myself qualified to write about blogging, beyond putting down my own experiences. If you are interested in the mechanics, there are far better sites out there who can talk knowledgeably about SEO and link farming (or pharming) and the best ways to get your blog seen by readers, some of them are on my Links page and others are not. Seriously. I think my all time highest view count was 200 and my most searched terms are “lesbians” and “donkey sex”. So please, get your blogging advice elsewhere.

OK, caveat over with. Anyone who may read this site will realise, ever so quickly, that it is totally random. It really is a place for me to just drop whatever is in my head onto the page. I have never hidden this and, in fact, take a sort of perverse pride in it. It also accounts for the fact that updates are only semi regular and ideas I say I’ll come back to I never do. But, recent posts on Untwisted Vortex made me think a little more about what I write about and about what others write. In particular, this post. And, by the way, if it looks as though I’m providing a load of links to one site then don’t worry – that site has a lot of good ideas and I read it every day, so it’s only natural that it will be on my mind.

I write about things that interest me. I flit from idea to idea as things pop into my head or as I notice them. However, there is a certain self-censorship which kicks in. I’ll happily talk about what irritates me, what excites me. I’ll talk about my religious preferences (atheist), my political preferences (moderate, which a healthy cynicism), my reading habits, my viewing habits, my computer knowledge (small) and preferences, even my birthday. I do this because I think I may have something to say about it and because I can do it without revealing too much information about myself. Beyond mentioning that work was busy/frustrating/fun/etc I don’t talk about it – mainly because that could get me sacked and I enjoy being paid. But also because I like that there is a certain anonymity on the web. And I am happy with that state of affairs. I reveal a little about me, but nothing I would be unhappy talking to a relative stranger about.

Others will talk in more depth about their home and work lives, some will pretty much revel in it and will reveal all sorts of things about themselves and about their families. I find that very strange – but please don’t think that any criticism should be implied, it’s their blog and they should be free to write whatever they want to. However, I find it strange because of “internet detectives“. With seemingly little information, people with lots of time and a high speed connection will use their anti-socialness and natural nosiness to find out all sorts of things about you. We all, I hope, live blameless lives and don’t have anything to worry about. But do you want the internet knowing where you live?

Sorry, I wandered off the point a little. With the links so far provided, we have seen people write blogs about blogging (among other things). There are many many single focus, niche, blogs out there – the owner has a particular subject that they know something about and want to let us know about it. Which is good, because otherwise I’d know less than I do now! There is a vast amount of data on the internet and someone, somewhere, is prepared to add to it – whether by following on from someone else’s work or by starting something completely new. There are even, thankfully, people who aim to mock the sites that do these things to bring light hearted relief (there are others who do it spitefully, but let’s ignore those). When you open a blog or site, you don’t know how popular (or otherwise) it may be, but someone has spent time writing things down that they believe at least one other person will want to read about.

So the question is: what do you blog about (and why)?

Abandon Blog

funny dog pictures

I fancied a change from regular stuff today, so I decided to post a book review to my other site: Bookstuff. This was space that I got for free from when I signed up with them (very useful if you don’t want the hassle of finding a domain and maintaining it yourself) and it has been very neglected indeed. I last posted there a year ago.

And it got me wondering. When WordPress lists the number of blogs it hosts, they list the “live” blogs – blogs that still exist and haven’t been deleted. But how many of them actually exist in the sense that they are regularly written to? If you search the web for titles of books I’ve written about, I doubt the site will be high on the list, but it will be there. How many of the sites have been all but abandoned?

When I started blogging I thought it would be easy. How hard can it be to write about whatever I want to and post to something that’s already templated? Far easier than a normal website. Right? However, I quickly found that a lot of what I think about doesn’t translate well to the “page”. And if I think it’s not worth writing about, why the hell should I expect someone to read it?

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Writing Dialogue

While noodling around the internet, after following a number of links and then following their links I happened upon an interesting site: Write and Publish Your Book. In fact, I landed on the current lead story: Common Mistakes for Beginning Writers (written by Nancy Moore).

What leapt out at me the most was that I have been guilty in my own writing of at least 3 of the errors and, had I written more, I am sure I could hit all 8 easily. I won’t list out all the errors since I have linked to the site and believe that you should read the page itself. What I will say is that I have read many many books and errors number 1 & 2 on the site are something that really annoy me.

If your character says something, have them say it, don’t have them declare, speak breathily, announce or anything else unless it is necessary to the character or their situation – if they are in a coffee shop they would usually “say” something. If they are secreted in a warehouse watching a drug deal, then have them whisper. Any other words are usually unnecessary, if your character is announcing something and you have already set them up in a situation where they will announce, don’t say “they announced”, it’s redundant. He expostulated.