Category: blogging

An Update on the Future of the Blog

I just have a minute or two today to write, but I wanted to let you all know how the blog is looking these days. As you’ll recall, I began to question whether what I was writing each day was a good use of my time. To put that to the test, I created a Patreon page, trying to see if I could get 10 people to commit to donating $1/month. If I could get to that level, I’d take it as sign enough that I should keep at it.

So far, I’ve had 6 people pledge a total of $8/month, so I’m 4/5 of the way to my goal. Honestly, the most surprising thing to me has been the people who have donated. I thought it would be mostly personal friends or family members, but instead it’s been people at my work or in the community. I’m humbled to accept their support, and so grateful for their generosity.

I look at some of my author friends’ Patreons. Some are bringing in thousands of dollars each month. I know $10 isn’t a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a sign to me, and it means a whole lot.

I’m planning on making my Patreon page into something more. I hope to use it to post special, exclusive content, as well as peeks into works in progress and books that ended up being set aside. I’ve written 17 novels, after all, and only 8 of those are still at some point in the submission process. I’ve got plenty of material to share, some good, some just a good example of what not to do. I’m planning on making tiers to my Patreon, giving different content to different levels of supporters.

But I’ll say this. Anyone who’s an official supporter as of the end of March is going into a special “Founders” section. They’ll always have access to all the tiers at whatever rate they choose to pay. As long as they remain Patrons, they’re there. And I will thank them personally in each and every novel I publish, as long as they remain supporters. I’m not kidding when I say how impressed I am by their generosity, and I hope that will pay it back at least a little. If you’re still interested in supporting me, the page is ready and willing to take donations.

In the meantime, I’m also adding back a small bit of advertising to the site. Just a simple link to THE MEMORY THIEF on Amazon. You’ll see it over there on the right of the page now. That takes you to Amazon’s site, and while you’re there on that visit, anything you buy will send a portion (about 2-4% of the price) to me. It’s kind of a “Finder’s Fee” incentive program Amazon uses. So if you’re going to buy something on Amazon anyway, and you’d like to support the page and me as an author, you can click that link first and do it without paying a dime.

The one trick is that I need to have three people use that in the next three months. After that, I’ll have to reapply for it. If three people use it before then, then I’m good to go, I think. So if you’re buying something from Amazon, please consider using that link to get there.

In any case, thanks to all for reading and for your comments and support. They’re all much appreciated!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $8/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Future of the Blog

The holidays have come and gone, and I’m back at work once again. Back on the blog too, if you hadn’t noticed. (Which I assume you already have, seeing as how you’re here. Reading this. Right now.)

I look forward to the last week or two of December the whole year. I take time off work and stay home. Visit with friends and family. Eat treats. Open presents. It’s a real vacation in the best sense of the word.

It’s hard to come back to “real life” in some ways. Easy in others. On the one hand, it’s fun to laze about and not worry about work and reality. On the other, it can get old doing nothing. At least it can for me. I start to get itchy, and there are things that need doing. At some point, I just want to get them done. Then there’s the kids, who have a great time having vacation, but they begin to get on each other’s nerves. (Especially when it’s cold out. It’s been in the negatives most of vacation.)

So I’m back now. Plenty of updates to go through over the next few days. Christmas presents. Goals for last year and this year. Family updates. That sort of thing. But I’ve been thinking over the course of the past few weeks. Looking at my life and seeing what things can be trimmed back. Where I can streamline. And while I’ve been shying away from ever looking too closely at the blog for this, this year, I decided to include it.

I blog each weekday, more or less. I’ve done it for almost a decade now. I enjoy doing it. I love getting thoughts down on virtual paper, and love reading what (most) people have to say about them. But make no mistake about it. It’s work. And it’s work that I’m not really compensated for at all, other than the warm fuzzies I get when I see many people reading a post.

When I started the blog, it was with the thought that it would get my name out there so that when I was a published author, I’d have a platform. And I do have that, but the internet has changed in the meantime. Authors can have platforms that are as simple as Facebook or Twitter. No need to churn out hundreds of words of blog posts each day for that. And so I have to acknowledge that the blog isn’t exactly a necessity for my authorial career either.

So what to do?

After much deliberation, I decided to basically put it out to my readers. I would love to continue to blog daily, but I need to have a reason for it. Some sort of a justification. And I put that “reason” at a pretty low level. $10/month. If there were enough of my readers willing to get together to pay at least $10/month (combined), then I’d take that as a sign there was interest enough to continue blogging daily. But if I couldn’t get that amount of interest, it would be a sign that I can cut back to just blogging when I feel like it. (I have no idea how often that will be. Judging from the past few weeks . . . not very often.)

How do I feel about asking for money for my blog? Well, seeing as how each post is around 750 words on average, and I write about 250 posts a year . . . that’s over 185,000 words, which is the equivalent of two novels. So I don’t think people are getting ripped off by their payment. And since I’m basically just seeing if 10 of you people will pay $1/month, that seems to be a fair price.

The great thing about this is that if I’m valuing my blog too highly, then I’ll find out, and I can stop putting as much effort into the blog. If people actually do value reading it, then I have the kick in the pants and justification I need to keep going.

Anyway. That’s where I am at the moment. For now, I will keep going with daily blog posts. But I’ll be reminding folks at the end of posts about the need to chip in money to keep the blog alive. If I can get to the $10 mark in a few months, then crisis averted. (If I get higher than $10/month, then I might be motivated to do more things, not just tread water.

Oh–and to contribute money to the blog’s survival, go to my Patreon page. You can sign up to give $1 or more per month. So I’m looking for 10 people to do $1/month, or one person to do $10/month, or . . . you get the picture.

Consider it an experiment. We’ll see how it goes. For now, thanks for reading, and have a happy new year!

Blogging in the Time of Facebook

I’m a fan of Facebook, for the most part. It’s one of the main ways I keep in touch with many people, and I know from experience just how bad of a job I did at that back in the days before Facebook came into existence. And I realize the company has a tough nut to crack: I’m friends with 698 people at the moment, and there’s no way I would want to see all the updates from all 698 of those people. (Except *you*, of course. I really care about seeing every update *you* make.)

On the flip side, there are some people that I really do want to see everything from. People whose writing I enjoy, or close friends or family. And Facebook allows you to see some of it, but not all of it. In the end, the control of your newsfeed is up to the algorithms, and that’s where I get most frustrated.

See, I write this daily blog, and I write it so that people can read it. But when you churn out a post a day, Facebook’s algorithms don’t like it. They don’t seem to want to show your stream of posts to everyone. Why would they want to do that when they’d rather use you as an income generator, instead. “We’ll show your post to even more people . . . if you pay us some money.” And that’s really frustrating.

I don’t pay to promote things on Facebook. That seems counterproductive. But as I’ve been blogging and posting to the site over the years, I’ve seen a lifecycle of a blog post on Facebook. There’s a tiny window, typically, where the post has a chance to “prove” itself. In that window, if enough people like it or (better yet) share it, then the algorithms kick in. “Aha!” Facebook says. “This is a post people like to read. If I share it with more people, then more people will like using Facebook, because people like to read things that other people like to read.”

In that case, the post goes on to have a happy little life. More people see it, which cause more people to like it and comment, and the cycle continues.

If, on the other hand, not enough people see or like it, then it quickly sinks into oblivion. Sure, some of that could be because I’ve just written a crummy blog post, but I’ve been doing this long enough that I usually have a good handle on what’s solid and what isn’t, and I know for a fact that some really solid posts have just tanked.

And that’s a problem. Not for me, personally, because it’s not like I count on blog views to earn me income or anything, but because of what it stands for. So many people in the world use Facebook as the prime means of staying connected and even just getting news, that this one company is beginning to have a greater and greater influence over what we think as a culture. Just look at how the Russians were able to manipulate that for their own designs, playing Americans off each other by fanning the flames on both sides of arguments.

I’m not sure what the solution is. For my posts, it would be to have more people just subscribe directly to my blog and cut out Facebook altogether. But I know that’s not going to happen, just as I know Facebook isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. They might get edged out eventually, but it’s going to take some awfully big market forces to do that. Facebook will have to make some major blunders (something it’s done before) at the same time that a real serious competitor comes along that offers some exciting changes. It’s the second part that has yet to really materialize. Sure, teens use other platforms, but for the majority of “grown ups,” Facebook remains the biggie.

Then again, how is this different than how things were before, when ABC, NBC, and CBS ruled the news? The biggest difference is that it was much harder to get lies printed and reported. These days, anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can make a story that seems reliable *enough*, meaning it’ll convince a significant amount of people that they should believe it. Facebook is trying to police this more, but in the end, they’re not really motivated. After all, their business is eyeballs, and the more eyeballs, the merrier.

Just not for my blog posts, if they don’t cut it in the first hour or so . . .

People Don’t Care about Sources

I’d like to think I have a fairly open blog. I try to look at issues from all sides before I come to a decision, and I’m certainly able to admit when I’m wrong. (Though I typically refrain from posting in absolutes, which makes it much easier to be pigeon holed into one side of an argument or another.)

I’ve had a number of Facebook scuffles over the years. I’ve had posts that are very well read and posts that get ignored. I pay attention to my statistics to see which posts catch people’s interests and which don’t.

I’d like to think most people who read my posts are ready to think about an issue some.

But even with all of that, perhaps *the* thing that surprises me the most is how few people actually click through to the articles I link to in my posts. True, I haven’t done some sort of academic study on this. It’s all anecdotal. But I’m always amazed when I check to see those “clicked links” numbers. Hundreds of people might read an article. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 5 out of those hundreds who actually clicked the links.

My takeaway from this is that people generally want to think how they think. If an argument they hear agrees with what they think, they accept it and move on. If it disagrees, they ignore it. I get baffled how Trump can make the claims he makes and not have the entire country just laugh at him, but then I remember those statistics from my blog.

Often, it seems all you have to do to get someone to believe you is to say something forcefully from a position of authority. And people believe the force and the authority. They don’t question.

I wish more people would. But if even my target audience won’t click them, then I can’t imagine many others who will. And judging from my Facebook posts, this includes people who even click through to read my blog post in the first place. There are often some who will show up, ignore practically everything I’ve written on a subject, and then blithely prattle on about it. The internet equivalent of someone coming up to you in the middle of a discussion with your friends and then blurting out something that was already discussed ten minutes ago.

Please. Pretty please. From the bottom of this librarian’s heart. Click the links to articles that are cited. Evaluate their sources. Figure out if they can be believed or not. You never know what they might actually lead to.

(Then again, maybe you all don’t click the links I post because you trust me *that much*. In which case, I’m flattered. But please click the links anyway.)

That is all.

Public or Private?

So. I’ve got this blog thing that I write every weekday (more or less), and I typically share it on a few social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and tumblr. Now and then I’ll post something to Reddit if I’m particularly proud of it, or if I feel like it pertains to a specific subreddit. But I don’t do all that much to promote the posts. Sometimes Facebook picks it up in its algorithms, and in that case the posts do quite well. Sometimes only a few people read them. But I like to write them, and so I keep at it.

In other words, the main reason I write this blog is (honestly) that I enjoy doing it. I started it back in 2007 as a way to have a web presence should I ever become published. Now I’m published and I realize a web presence doesn’t really do a whole lot for me, but I keep at it anyway. Go figure.

I make my Facebook posts public by default. I’ve had it set to that setting for years, and I rarely regret it. Why public? Well, for one thing, I’d like my posts to be shared easily, and that’s difficult to do when they’re “friends only.” For another, I would rather not just write to a group of friends who all agree with me. Often I write opinion pieces, and for that I’d like people with differing opinions to read what I’ve written.

And it almost always works fine. But now and then it breaks down, mainly (I believe) because online etiquette is still evolving. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, and the responses were varied enough for me to accept that even if I find something wrong online (responding directly to posts by strangers on Facebook), enough people don’t that it’s something I need to accept. So I can’t just assume etiquette will keep people well behaved.

I suppose if I were dealing with inflammatory remarks on Facebook every day, I’d eventually just throw my hands up and make the posts private. I write for enjoyment, after all. I don’t mind honest critique, but spiteful or mean comments aren’t called for ever. And yet sometimes that’s just what I get, almost always from people I don’t know. Just this past week, I had a thread erupt on Facebook over (of all things) my post defending political correctness. A friend of a friend came in and called me a bigot, hater, and a hypocrite. I saw that Friday afternoon, and it kind of ruined my evening. I had to figure out how to respond, if to respond, and to ask myself if the person had a point.

And then it turned out the person was just making an attempt at a thought experiment. (It’s complicated. Read the thread to make sense of it all, but please don’t resurrect the debate. It’s all turned out well enough, and I’d rather not revisit it.)

In any case, after the mental turmoil from that post (coupled with many mean-spirited remarks from strangers over the last year or two), I seriously debated just making the posts private from now on. And I still might at some point, but for now, I’m keeping them public. Why?

Because the people who get upset the most at my points are people who have read them and disagreed with them. Vehemently. And frankly, those are the people I’d like to read them the most. Not people who are going to smile and nod and high five me for a great post (though who doesn’t love a high five?), but people who disagree with the argument I’m making. I’d love for my words to change some minds now and then, and how can they change minds if the minds can’t have access to them?

And for every one person who reads those posts and gets so incensed they have to write me a nastygram, I have to believe there are a good number of people who read the post and are on the fence about an issue. And if my post causes them to rethink things and end up coming around, then I believe the nastygrams are a price I’m willing to pay.

There’s also the chance that I’m wrong on a topic, and a reader out there who disagrees with me or is better informed can set me straight. It’s not like I’m always right or anything.

So the posts stay public. Though here’s hoping the thought experiments and nastygrams stay few and far between . . .

Happy Monday, all!

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