Tag Archive | Blogging

Talking Blogging With Eden

Eden Riley (photo nicked from her blog)

Yesterday was a big day. I learnt how to Skype (I know way out of touch, even my Mum has been Skyping for years, but I’ve been busy alright).

I had to learn how to Skype because I won a half hour chat with Eden Riley in a competition on her blog Edenland.

Eden has just been named as Australia’s Top Blogger in a competition at The Sydney Writers Centre.

Blogging for five years (which probably equates to about 50 years in the normal world), Eden was blogging before it even really existed in Australia. Originally it was a way of documenting her journey with IVF and later her husband’s battle with cancer. In the beginning she was surrounded by US bloggers, because that’s where all the action was happening, but gradually blogging began to take off in Australia, and I think somewhat to her surprise Eden has found herself pushed to the front of the pack.

Our conversation covered a wide range of topics, monetising blogs, inclusion in the blogging world, authenticity and the art of writing to name a few. It wasn’t an interview, so I didn’t take notes but I wanted to share some of the highlights from our conversation.

What did I learn from Eden?

Silence the Voices In Your Head

In Eden’s blog she writes in a style often described as “raw” she is fearless in the topics she tackles writing about her past drug and alcohol addiction, being a mother and stepmother, a tough childhood. Eden stressed you need to turn off the critical voices in your head, the ones yelling “you can’t say that”, “that’s not right”, “what will people think”. Your blog must represent you, your voice and you can’t be sidetracked by second-guessing yourself or worrying about how other people will respond.

Saying more with less

Eden shared her writing process of revisiting a post before publishing, cutting, cutting, cutting, entire paragraphs removed and replaced with just a single word or sentence. This is a practice I must start to embrace, I am the world’s worst editor. I write fast and I publish. I think it probably stems from learning to write in frantic radio studios, where you get it down, get it to the announcer and it disappears into the ether. Slow down, consider, take out the unnecessary, create a more powerful piece.

Relatable

Eden spoke of the importance of your content being relatable for people. You can share your struggles without detailing every moment but by sharing key factors which will resonate with your readers. You need to find the universal aspect of your experience and incorporate it into your writing. You need to be authentic in what you blog.

Making Money is Not Evil

OK there is a possibility Eden is just coming to terms with this one, having only started to monetise her blog recently. I wondered why she had taken so long to start the process. Eden says she was always uncomfortable with the idea, it felt like selling out. However, now she recognises that the time and effort she puts into her blog is worth something, she wants to be able to bring in an income to help make her family’s dreams come true. But she wants it to be a transparent process, she isn’t coy about sharing figures and personally, as a newbie blogger I find that approach extremely helpful. I actually want to know the top bloggers are making a decent income for the work they put in, otherwise what do those of us at the bottom of the food chain have to aspire to?

Find Blogging Buddies

Seek out bloggers at the same level as you, comment on their blogs, build relationships. It really helps to sustain you if there are at least a few friends stopping by with a comment or two on a regular basis.

The Aussie Blogosphere

Eden is keen for the Aussie blogging community to be an inclusive environment.  Considering the question of whether it is a welcoming place I have to admit there have been times I’ve felt like a kid back in highschool. There’s all these cool chicks, who know what they are doing and everybody loves, they’ve all met each other at blogging conferences and become mates. There’s in jokes on Twitter and private conversations going back and forth. An introvert by nature (and frankly useless at Twitter) I have felt at times like a stalker watching all the fun but not allowed to play. I suspect just like highschool I will probably end up middle-of-the-road, not one of the “populars” but not a complete nerd either (well OK a bit nerdy but not like a complete geek or anything). However, that’s my issue bringing my own shyness and doubts to the situation.

The blogging world here in Australia is changing. We are starting to see some bloggers emerge as leaders, they are gaining publicity, getting sponsorship and an income.  I suppose this can create some jealousy but in my opinion let them do the hard yakka, sorting out what 70,000, 150,000, 250,000 pages views a month are worth, negotiating with brands, figuring out how to keep your readers when you monetise. Makes it easier for those of us hoping to come up behind them. Frankly I’ve never been a trailblazer – you clear the path – I’ll watch your back!

I have found most of the experienced bloggers in Australia are very generous in sharing what they have learnt. We have Digital Parents a forum for blogging parents which offers loads of advice and support and our top bloggers participate and throw in opinions and advice on a regular basis. They often take part in Q&A sessions on Facebook. They write posts on their blog focused on particular aspects of blogging. This is really helpful – there’s no uni course for blogging – we are all learning as we go.

I hope this generosity continues and I don’t want us to get to the point where the jealous and mean-spirited stop our successful bloggers being willing to share. In America top bloggers need to be issued with flak jackets to deal with some of the criticism, there are entire websites set up focused on hating those who have made a name for themselves. I wandered into one of these sites recently and it was an ugly place.

Blogging vs Journalism vs Writing

There’s been lots of conversation recently about blogging vs journalism vs writing. I think all are different genres but no one form is lesser than the other. Eden recently travelled to Africa for World Vision and created a series of posts about the West African Food Crisis. Some were critical about Eden’s approach calling her “naïve” but she wrote an honest account of her experience in a heartfelt narrative with all the complications, queries, fears and innocence of a well-fed, white woman who knew her kids were safe and cared for back at home.

Although this was obviously sponsored by the charity and not a reporting situation, it did give me a sense of the different approach bloggers take when creating their posts. As a former radio producer if I was going to Africa I would have researched the hell out of the story, I would have wanted the facts and figures, I would have wanted the who, what, why, when, how. I would have been a bit player in the story, my personal feelings squashed to report on what was happening to the people I met.  Eden got a plane and figured it out when she got there. Her emotions mixed with heart breaking stories of hunger and death and impossible choices, she openly admitted she was struggling to remember the facts and figures but the message came through very clearly. There are a lot of people dying because there is no food.

Eden’s posts remind me blogging is a very personal game, it means ditching some of the lessons learnt in Journalism classes and media work to write in much more intimate way.

Thank you Eden for sharing.

PS: But probably my biggest lesson of the day was computer cameras make me look REALLY UGLY.

My Pinterest Life

In my bid to create an award-winning blog that gains world-wide recognition and acquires me a Prius, a round-the-world holiday and a Thermomix  (cause they are the sort of things you get offered as a top blogger  – don’t anyone kill the dream) I am trying to embrace all the social media/apps/fads that are currently flying around the blogosphere.

I have a tendency to sign up for these things and then have absolutely no idea of their purpose or even how to use them.

This weeks favourite is Pinterest.

I have been a magazine addict for as long as I can remember. Mountains of them. Strewn around the house collecting dust and eating into my children’s opportunity to go to university. No dear we can’t afford that Visual Arts degree Mummy just had to have those magazine subscriptions.

I have boxes full of tear sheets that I simply can’t throw away because one day it may be important for me to know just what Collette Dinnigan had on the runway at the 1998 Fashion Week or I will urgently need to cook the Double Roasted Suckling Pig with Recado Rojo, Salsa Crudo and Parmesan Encrusted Potatoes on the side (because seriously I’ve got a couple of days to devote to a single meal).

Then I discovered Pinterest is really just the grown-up, on-line version of my ripped up magazines that I have carted from house to house for years. It’s a lot cheaper and takes up far less room.

When I log in (particularly to my “likes” page) I see my ultimate life spread out before me. Let me tell you in Pinterest world I am stylish (I’m also a size 8). No really I have great taste, classic and refined. Bearing absolutely no resemblance to the hurriedly put together, barely brushed hair, slightly ill-fitting clothes of my reality. My office is a quirky, book filled sanctuary with a comfy, overstuffed chair next to a sunlit window. Not the spare room with an assortment of junk that I am still trying to sort,  a fold-up chair in the middle next to half unpacked boxes I’m desperately trying to empty and ditch the contents as a form of therapy in overcoming my hoarding tendencies. I live in a beautifully landscaped home with an azure pool inviting us all in for a dip, not a building site with a gaping hole that fills with muddy water every time it rains.

Aside from fanning the flames of my discontent I am still trying to figure out how the hell this site is supposed to generate readers for your blog? To my surprise I discovered Mamamia (one of Australia’s biggest most successful websites) and Oprah’s Things were following my fantasy life on Pinterest. Now if they were following the BLOG that would be exciting but now I’m a little confused at what my value is in this highly visual, style swamped world.

Obviously I still need to figure out what a text-based blog has to “pin” – there’s my brother’s photos of course but considering they really belong to him probably not a great idea to have them repinned to the point where nobody knows where they came from in the beginning – he’s agreed to let me put some up but then he has no idea what Pinterest is so not sure how valid his consent will be when somebody else makes millions from one of his shots – probably as likely as the Prius arriving in my driveway but you never know.

There are genuine concerns over the copyright issue – it’s one thing to cut out my favourites pictures and articles and keep them forever and day – another to take other’s images and post them online. Blogging with Amy had a useful post on this issue.

In the meantime I continue to “like” and occasionally “pin” the images of my dream life while wondering if there is any actual blogging benefit.

So bloggers has Pinterest generated readers for your blog? Any bloggers happy to be “pinned”? Readers is anyone else addicted to magazines or is it just me?

Best Australian Blogs 2012

Well in yet another “what the hell was I thinking” moment I’ve entered a blogging competition.

Just me and 1023 others so it’s an intimate affair.

There are a number of parts to the competition. You had to pick a category – I tossed a coin and ended up in the parenting section – I’m not sure I fit neatly into any sector but given how much I write about my kids parenting is probably the nearest fit.

Judges will be stopping by in the next week to check me out. They are considering writing (70 per cent), presentation and usability  (20 per cent) and engagement and social media integration (10 per cent).

There is also a popularity contest – the children have tried to break it to me gently that may not be an area of strength for me –  I’ve crunched the numbers and they are right not a chance in hell. So in my usual let’s make the best of this style, I’ve lowered the goal post. I just don’t want to get no votes. Happy with even one. Given my sure thing vote has headed off to New Zealand for holiday (thanks Mum) it means you people have to draw straws and SOMEBODY has to register a vote. PLEASE. Click on the badge, you will be taken to a survey, the blogs are listed alphabetically so you will have to scroll through a few pages before you get to Shambolic Living (about now really wishing I’d gone with the Aardvark Living for a title). Voting is open until Wednesday, 9th May, 2012 at 5.00pm.

In the meantime, keep those comments coming in (judges like that) while I try to figure out how to use Twitter more effectively and get something happening on my Facebook page oh yeah and write some really brilliant posts.

Good god blogging is a complicated world.

Commenting Issues

Picture this. A 44 year old mother of two, so technically incompetent she can’t even figure out how to use her I-Phone, up before dawn to tweet some young, hip, computer dude giving him advice on the technical details of his hugely successful internet biz.

Yep that’s been me the past few days. Stop laughing and read on.

Late last week I ended up in world I’m unfamiliar with, the forums of wordpress.com, gotta tell you folks it’s an interesting place!

The reason I ended up there was because Noreen at beauty of everyday life and Caz at Mojito Mother had kindly let me know they had problems commenting on my blog.

So I innocently wandered into the support forums and Toto, we weren’t in Kansas any more. I’m pretty sure you can end up aimlessly looping the loop in the forums for the term of your natural life.

It appears there was a problem with people hacking others identities so wordpress.com decided to adapt the commenting procedure to make it a little more secure. The result was perhaps a little too secure – many folks couldn’t comment at all – but hey they weren’t able to impersonate people either!

The forum buzzed with individuals throwing in comments, suggestions, interjections, insults, sarcastic wit for the next four days – it was like watching a social engineering experiment before my very eyes (or maybe it verged more on the reality TV spectrum). Personalities unfolded in the online question and answer forums as people dealt with frustration, rudeness and ignorance (that one was me I couldn’t understand half of what was said and the jokes went completely over my head).

God love the computer geeks who patiently tried to explain the situation to me and made suggestions on how to get around the problem. I am deeply grateful to all of you.

The end result appears to be wordpress.com ironed out a couple of bugs but seem committed to the new commenting procedure (well I think that’s the outcome there aren’t any announcements from wordpress.com so I’m working blind here).

On Tuesday two very kind ladies tried the log in procedure for me thank you Lauren from Still + Life and Heather from Home Again Jog the problem still existed and Heather was kind enough to tweet me the exact message in a series of 140 character tweets, as she says she’s nothing if not thorough. Why I didn’t just give the woman my email to send me the message I don’t know.

My understanding was that people who have never had a Gravatar account (and if you don’t know what that is you haven’t got one so you’re hunky dory) or a wordpress account are fine you folks can comment as per normal. (Although reading through a couple of other posts on this topic it may be requiring you to sign up for a wp-id I’m not sure). However, for those who have emails associated with Gravatars or any wordpress account you are certainly being asked to “log in”.

The end result is I’ve now turned off the “enter email” requirement, however the box will still appear, just don’t enter an email and it should just let you continue normally. However, for those of you with blogs linked to your Gravatar they may not appear, I’m happy for you to enter your blog’s URL in the comment, or if I know it I will do it for you when I reply to your comment.

I believe you can also log-in through your Facebook or Twitter accounts to leave a comment. (Or you are welcome to communicate with me through my FB or Twitter just click on the buttons on the sidebar).

Or if you are a really committed soul you can email me your comment to shambolicliving@gmail.com and I’ll post the darn thing myself.

See simple as … I don’t know what all the fuss was about.

In the meantime, I’m looking at moving to a self-hosted site which should be a bundle of fun given my lack of technical ability, this will probably occur in mid April, I’ve found a girl in Port Macquarie who will do a redesign of the blog and install it on wordpress.org but she’s booked up until then.

Or wordpress.com might decide to revert back to the old commenting procedure – who knows.

I’ve learnt stuff over the last few days –  the creator of WordPress, and Gravatar and whole series of other successful internet businesses is Matt Mullenweg. He’s been named one of PC World’s Top 50 People on the Web, Inc.com’s 30 under 30, and Business Week’s 25 Most Influential People on the Web.  His name kept getting thrown around in the forum so in my new techno-savvy blogger identity I tweeted him – he did respond asking for details of the problem which I sent back. The kid looks young enough to be my son and I really wanted to talk to him about the importance of communication during a crisis but the limit of 140 characters stifled my usual verbose nature.

So end of the day, I hope you guys will continue to visit and comment. I was really proud of the little community we were building here with both men and women, young and old participating in the discussions. I love hearing what you are thinking – it’s actually my favourite part of blogging – like my own little talkback program!

I apologise for the frustration some of you have experienced and I hope the situation will be resolved soon.

Resuming Normal Programming

Howdy folks. Been a little quiet on Shambolic Living the last few days but I’M BACK. Last week proved to be a tad overwhelming – dealing with the loss of a loved pet, helping to coordinate a massive work event and a quick trip to Sydney to take the kids to the Harry Potter Exhibition and then for a touch of art culture at the Picasso Exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW.

In the hurly burly the precious blog got stalled (lesson learnt need to have a few blog posts up my sleeve ready to autopost so you guys won’t be able to tell I’m gone).

Welcome to the folk who have discovered the blog in the last few days and apologies to all who have commented recently – although I haven’t responded I have been reading them all – checking in on my I-phone but my limited technical ability coupled with a teeny weeny screen with a midget keyboard that means everything I type comes littered with typos meant I haven’t been able to reply.

The week just gone saw work/home responsibilities collide in a jarring wreck of twisted stress and emotion. In that situation the “hobby” had to be ditched so obligations could be met and children in distress comforted. Curious to know if anyone has any strategies for when life simply gets too much? Although I had to make adjustments it’s no big deal in the long term, we’ll be back on track this week, however, when the stresses extend not just for days but into weeks and months how do you restructure your life to ensure your sanity? Just interested to know your thoughts on this issue.

Blogging My World

Blog Planning - Ideas Now Decorate the Wall

Blogging – it’s a weird concept isn’t it? Carving out a space for yourself where you can vent, share, amuse, entertain, inform. Giving yourself a power you have never had before. Welcoming strangers into your life to comment on the thoughts that tumble from your mind.

The habit of blogging is slowly beginning to ingrain itself into my daily life.  Capturing moments and displaying them for the world to see is becoming slightly less alien an activity.

Like most before me I grapple with the public/private conundrum.  Paparazzi have never camped at my doorstep – I know that will come as a shock to you.  My thoughts and opinions have only ever been shared with friends, family and colleagues. The nuances of a joke could be understood in a lift of the eyebrow, a tinge of tone in a remark. Now I have put myself in a place where strangers read my ramblings with no background knowledge to who I am. Alternatively,  people I KNOW, read my blog. It checks my wording, makes me double think how I portray myself because my virtual world must not harm my real world. It also makes conversation difficult – I meet up with friends and go to tell them something and get “we know, we read it on the blog”.

As my personality seeps to the screen and out into the world I enjoy the comments, likes and page views.  As the words and numbers flicker up on my stats it seems a little less like talking to myself and a little more like engaging with an interesting group of individuals.

The family is along for the ride. The children, being a little older than the offspring of most mummy bloggers,  are able to voice their opinion on what we share and what we don’t. They get veto rights on some pieces. Although I’m lucky they have a pretty decent sense of humour themselves so they do allow unflattering stories to filter in occasionally. Hippie Child thinks there should be a support group for the children of bloggers.

Decisions had to be made early in the piece on whether I would use the children’s photographs, their names. At present I’m happy with using their photos but diluting their identity with pseudonyms most of the time. After all when you go for a job interview and the boss-to-be does a Google search you probably don’t want him to read your mum’s ranting on how she couldn’t get you out of bed of a morning and a list of your infuriating habits. Although, despite my attempts at concealment a friend of Hippie Child greeted her yesterday with “you are on the internet”. Apparently she was doing a project on hippies – googled the term and came up with a picture of our hippie child – the one of her eating cheesecake off the floor – seriously what were the chances???

They make suggestions and the latest disaster is often greeted with “let’s get a photo, this will make the blog”. However, they are quick to advise when restraint is called for as well. During a week when my husband was retrenched, our only working vehicle run out of petrol and then broke down Hippie Child took me aside to suggest “better leave this one for a while Mum, before you blog about it.”

The theme and tone of the blog are still evolving. I don’t fit neatly into any given category, a little too old to be a true “mummy blogger”, not literary enough to be a “writing” blog, my brother tries to steer us into “photography” blog world with his stunning shots but then I go putting in my “snap-happy” pics to bring us down. I seem to be embracing more a “personal” type blog which allows me the leeway to explore a variety of topics and suits my lack-of-commitment personality. I’m constantly surprised by how you often enjoy the “self-indulgent” posts dedicated to the chaos of our life. I continue to experiment with a variety of approaches and hope by the time I get to the 12 month mark I will have sorted myself out with a particular style.

The challenge of finding the time for the blog is ongoing. I’m trying to plan a little more, even get some posts scheduled ahead of time, as opposed to the panic-stricken flailing about at 10.30pm when inspiration deserts me.

All in all, I’m enjoying blogging my world and I’m thrilled that so many of you are repeat visitors accompanying me on this wild ride!

Mrs Sparkly’s Ten Commandments

DF has “tagged” me. It’s been many many years since I ran around the school playground getting “tagged” but it seems there is an grown-up, on-line version of playing tag (or “tips” if you are in Australia). Apparently it’s called “Mrs Sparkly’s Ten Commandments”

I have to answer some questions and then tag another blogger.

The 10 Questions

1. Describe yourself in seven words.
A mildly entertaining, loyal, optimistic,  chocolate loving dreamer.

2. What keeps you up at night?
The neighbour’s dog barking. Inspiration for blogging posts which strike just as I’m about to fall asleep. Needing to go to the loo.

3. Whom would you like to be?
Someone with oodles of cash ummmm Nicole Kidman? No scratch that I want to be George Clooney’s latest girlfriend.

4. What are you wearing now?
Thank God I’m doing this in the afternoon after I’ve actually been out.  Tan trousers and hot pink peasanty type shirt which still has a few sneaky specks of tissues stuck to it because I forgot to go through the pockets before I did the wash.

5. What scares you?
Ill health mine or my families. My husband (and my blog readers) have banned me from googling my symptoms any more so hopefully the hypochondria will ease – unless of course I’m REALLY SICK and we won’t know that until I collapse in a heap. Have I told you all about my lung? Oh yes I did.

6. What are the best and worst things about blogging?
Best – engaging with people from around the world and getting to write my own stuff every day. Worst – finding the time to fit it in and do justice to each and every post.

7. What was the last website you looked at?

Perfecting Motherhood  stumbled across it through the WordPress photo of the week challenge this morning but got caught up in one of Imperfect Mum’s personal stories – she’s got a lot on her plate at the moment as her husband has had a serious accident.

8. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

I would be thinner and richer. (OK that’s two but really is anyone marking this?)

9. Slankets, yes or no?
I have absolutely no idea what a slanket is … someone??? Is this an American thing?

10. Tell us something about the person who tagged you.

DF blogs at wuppenif.com She is a 42 year old city slicker who packed up her family to move to the country. Her blog has lovely snowy pictures and coyotes keep her awake at night!!! Coyotes DF? Are you in the middle of the wild, wild west?  Just how rural did you go? DF is a very kind person who works in IT and when I posed questions on my blog about trying to decide on technical stuff she very kindly took the time to email me (a stranger) with helpful suggestions and then answered my confused questions.

Tag, you’re it!
Gotta tag another blogger – I hate doing this – I love all of you and want to recognise each of you but I’m going with Diana Douglas  because Diana’s written a lovely post about her family – her mother sounds like a champion! Now Diana your mission (if you chose to accept) is to repeat the tagging process.