Weekend Coffee Share: Hooray, September!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m glad it’s Labor Day weekend, because I really need the break. August was a marginally better month than June and July — at least there were no car accidents and no one died — but it wasn’t the greatest. I’ll not rehash the whole lousy summer, but I do hope September is the month things finally get better.

weekendcoffeeshare_2015

And I’d tell you I’m so far behind on my blogging, I don’t even know what to do next. Finding enough time to blog is always an issue for me in the late summer and early fall, but it’s been worse than usual this year. The family’s needing a lot of time and the commute I took on when we moved in June just makes things different.

The drive is only 45 minutes door-to-door, but most of it is busy interstate driving, so it doesn’t have much decompression value. I don’t have much time before work to do internet stuff, as I have for most of the time I’ve been blogging. And when I get home it’s either homework time or dinner time. So, most nights, I’m not sitting down to the computer until well after 8 pm, and I’ve had to adjust my bedtime because I have to be up at least two hours before work time.

This is a serious lifestyle change. Up until June, my office was 15 minutes away, whether I walked or drove. It was just as fast to walk as to drive because the driving time was all about finding parking. So, most days I walked, and the 15-minute walk WAS good for decompression.

For most of the time I’ve been blogging, I’ve been able to maintain the productivity to blog mostly every day because I’ve been able to squeeze in an hour before work and/or an hour after, and when I needed to catch up, I could always stay up too late to get stuff done and catch up on my sleep the next night. Those two easy-to-come-by hours have simply evaporated. I’m dealing with a serious crunch here, and I don’t know an easy solution.coffee

I know most bloggers work day jobs and lots of people have busy schedules.  I’m certainly not claiming to be unique or looking for sympathy here. I’m just perplexed by a problem I’ve not had to deal with up to this point. I managed so well for so long, and I don’t want to lose the progress I’ve just spent the last two years making. But I’m not sure at this point that this is going to get better once things settle down toward the end of the month. I’m afraid it’s here to stay, which means that if I want to keep blogging at the pace I’m accustomed to, I’m going to need to figure out something to let go in order to free up the time.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you September is off to a pretty good start for me. In fact if it weren’t for the problem of not knowing how I’m going to recover my blogging time, it would be off to a better start than any month I’ve had since April. I gave most of the day yesterday to my grandson. My wife and stepdaughter have been sick (there’s a nasty virus going around), so they slept in. I made the boy breakfast and then we goofed around for an hour or so. I’d intended to give him some time early in the day and then get to work, but we ended up taking most of the day.

He wanted me to show him how to make paper snowflakes by cutting and folding paper. Our first attempt produced two strips of paper with three identical holes each. The holes were perfectly positioned to turn them into masks, so we each colored one with crayons, added string, and took photos of one another in the cool homemade masks.

weekendcoffeeshareI posted about the snowflake thing on Facebook, and my friend Rose, who’s blogged here on more than one occasion, found me a snowflake tutorial. It took me a few tries to get the folding just right, but it worked, and we spent a couple of hours making snowflakes. The grandson is thinking he wants to make a bunch of them and glitter them up to use as Christmas decorations.

Aside from that, I was up and down, in and out of the house most of the day with him, and before bedtime, he ended up showing me how to play a video game because he wants me to X-Box with him. It was an all around good day, but I never found an hour or two to sit down and do any actual blogging — the internet time yesterday was all 15-minute sessions in which I either scanned comment threads for a few minutes or did quick Facebook posts.

He’s out with another of his grandfathers today — that’s a regular Sunday thing — and everyone else is in bed, so I’m going to see how far along I can get with the blogging between now and 3 p.m. today.

Have a great Labor Day if you’re in the U.S., and a fantastic week if you aren’t.

Don’t forget to add your coffee post to the linkup at Part Time Monster, and share it with #WeekendCoffeeShare on Twitter.

StumbleUpon v. Reddit

I’m looking at StumbleUpon and Reddit as key networks to expand into over the next year. The reason for that is simple: if you’re looking to bring visitors to a website as efficiently as possible, building a viable presence on one or both of those networks is probably a good move. The problem: They require a lot of engagement, and they step on sharing one’s own stuff pretty hard.

This means figuring out how much time you can get by with spending on them and knowing how often to put your own links out there are tricky. I have no idea how either of those networks decide what counts as “affiliation,” and I publish at and promote several blogs I do not own. I don’t want to be demoted before I even get started, and I don’t have a lot of time. So I’m proceeding slowly and cautiously.

But I have been experimenting. I have a StumbleUpon account I don’t use very often and no Reddit account at all. We’ve seen some success with both over the last couple of weeks. I’ll share a few numbers with you today and then explain the differences between these two networks as I understand them.

This spike happened here the weekend of Aug 10. I’ve included the mouseover info for the peak day. This is a good four-day spike from Reddit. It started on Sunday and trailed off on Wednesday. We still got a little from it on Thursday, and continued getting odd views last week.

15_08_10_spike

Most of this traffic went to a Tolkien post and a Batman post that were shared on various subreddits by a friend of mine who is not affiliated with the blog on Sunday, Aug. 9. The Tolkien was shared early and the Batman was shared late. The Batman post generated about 100 views, and they came in over a shorter period of time than the views on the Tolkien post, which brought us visitors for days. I’m assuming the difference is explained by the relative sizes and activity levels of the subrreddits where the posts were shared.

Overall, we received around 240 documented referrals from Reddit from this. That’s two or three days’ worth of traffic for us, depending on time of week and how we’re set for content. So, totally worth the minimal amount of time it took to drop those links.

Just to put those 240 views over a 4-day period into perspective for you. In the last 30 days we’ve received 195 views from the WordPress Reader, 115 from Facebook, and 75 from Twitter. And we’ve only gotten a little over 1,000 from search engines.

As I was putting this post together Friday evening, this happened. These are stats from Part Time Monster. The Friday/Saturday spike represents almost 800 views. A few came from StumbleUpon, but most came from Reddit. The info in the mouseover is for Saturday, which turned into Diana’s best day ever.

PTM spike 15-08-23

This one was a surprise. Diana’s Girls and Gaming post was shared spontaneously on Reddit by a blogger who as far as I know, we’ve never talked to. That post received more than 307 views on Friday and we recorded 168 Reddit referrals that day. I stumbled the post around midnight and it got another 53 views from StumbleUpon between midnight and 2 am on Saturday morning.

The StumbleUpon traffic trailed off, but PTM received another 179 Reddit referrals, and by the end of the day on Saturday, the gaming post had been viewed another 298 times. Out of the total of 780 views at the Monster on these two days, 605 were on the gaming post. We’re sure that 400 of those came from Reddit and StumbleUpon.

Again, just so you have some frame of reference. In the last 30 days, PTM has received 204 views from the reader, 57 from Facebook, 57 from Twitter and 604 from search engines. It’s also worth noting that Part Time Monster’s previous best day was a 400-view day in mid-March, and 85 of those views came from StumbleUpon. Our best day here at Sourcerer is 391 views, and 81 of those came from StumbleUpon. In fact, every time we’ve set a new best-ever record in the last 18 months at either of these blogs, StumbleUpon has been involved.

This is real progress for us for a couple of reasons. We’ve seen handfuls of referrals from Reddit before, but never anything like this, and these numbers are comparable to all the StumbleUpon spikes I’ve ever seen aside from the two or three very best. The 50 views I got for Part Time Monster from StumbleUpon is also the first time I, personally, have had a successful stumble. Up to this point, it’s always been other people stumbling our posts that got the views.

So which is better, Reddit or StumbleUpon? That depends on how you like to play on the internet, and on what you’re looking to get out of it.

Reddit is basically a huge forum with sub-forums (called subreddits) for just about every topic you can think of. People chat and share links related to specific topics. Reddit users can vote things up or down. Enough up votes will land a link on Reddit’s front page. Enough down votes can disappear a link entirely from Reddit.

StumbleUpon is a network for sharing and curating links. Users follow topics (called “Interests”) and can follow up to 100 other Stumblers. StumbleUpon sends content from your interests and from the people you follow into your feed, and you can like/dislike things. StumbleUpon saves all your likes and allows you to build lists of things you like. You can also share pages to StumbleUpon and categorize them for other users to find.

Reddit strikes me as easier to use — I find the StumbleUpon interface difficult. Reddit is also probably a more predictable source of traffic if you can learn to share there effectively, but StumbleUpon probably has higher traffic potential. (I’m saying “probably” here because I’m not well-versed enough to be sure). StumbleUpon was one of our top five referrers here in 2014 and brought us almost as many views from two or three lucky stumbles as Facebook did from every link we shared there.

The value of both to bloggers is simple. If you generate enough views on a single post in a short period of time, that helps the post get into Google searches. I’d say 80 percent of the the search traffic we get here is from people finding posts that were put into those searches originally by StumbleUpon.

I plan to eventually use both of these networks, but I am starting with StumbleUpon because I have more friends who use it than use Reddit, and because I already have a StumbleUpon account set up.

What about you? Do you use either of these networks, and do you have any advice for us newbies?

Happy Monday!

Tuesday Chatter: Feedback Welcome

sourcererDuring the first year I blogged here, I posted a lot of planning-type stuff and sometimes asked for reader feedback. One of the reasons I did that was because most of my social media friends were people I knew only in the blogosphere. I stopped doing it in January because one of my goals for the year was to turn Sourcerer into a seamless five-or-six-day-a-week pop culture blog.

But anyone who’s trying to build audience for creative work is wise to ask readers what they want now and then. So I’m asking for feedback on a few things today. Everyone is welcome to chime in.

  1. Comics, TV, and Movies have been the core of our content here so far. The tv/movie blogging has tended to focus on comics-based, horror, and occasionally sci-fi series. If we were going to expand our tv/movie offerings, what would you like to see?
  2. On the stand-alone photos. How many of you enjoyed those enough to stop by regularly for them? And those of you who did like them (it’s ok to be honest here) — did you typically interact with them by coming to the blog itself, or did you interact with them solely from your reader and/or on twitter?
  3. Look/feel. Anything I can do to improve your experience of this blog as a reader from a layout-design-widget standpoint?

Any other constructive feedback to help us improve the blog is welcome. We’re getting into the time of year where I do any redesign & long-term content planning that needs to be taken care of before we get back into the starting blocks for 2016.

Also, would any or you who have never contributed here before like to step aboard and join our hearty crew? If so, hit me up and we’ll work out a way to discuss it privately.

arrr, Mateys!

arrr, Mateys!

Other notes 

We’ve got a collaborative review of the Fantastic Four movie from Hannah and Melissa running tomorrow, and you don’t want to miss that. Also, I’m working on a guest post for Hannah. Not sure when it’ll be finished or when it will run, but the first draft is done.

We’re taking Thursday as an off-day for a bit. We’ve never been the strongest on Thursdays, and I’m to the point where I’m just not willing to publish our valuable, wordy content on Thursdays unless we have a glut of it, or unless we work out a specific plan for that day. If I do anything at all on Thursdays for the next little while, it’s going to be to reblog and/or do quick roundups to encourage you to visit some of our contributors & friends.

Sourcerer’s 11: Questions for Blogger Gretchen Kelly

Welcome to the August edition of Sourcerer’s 11, our monthly interview series. I’m pleased to have my friend Gretchen Kelly of Drifting Through My Open Mind in the hot seat today. Gretchen is one of my best friends in the blogosphere, and is one of a handful of bloggers I followed when I first started blogging here in 2013. She is an active member of Sisterwives and has been published by The Elephant Journal, Blunt Moms, and Mamapedia.

Unsplash photo by Daniela Cuevas

Unsplash photo by Daniela Cuevas

Welcome, Gretchen!

Thank you Gene’O! I’m glad to be here!

Great! Let’s get down to the questions.

Q1: Let’s begin by talking about your blog, Drifting Through My Open Mind. Can you share a little bit with us about why you started it and how you came up with the concept?

I fell in love with writing in the Third Grade. It’s always been a part of me. But for years I wrote nothing. I began to really miss writing for a purpose beyond my own eyes. I felt like there were things I wanted to say. And I knew I had at least one book in me that I needed to write. I felt like a blog would be a good place to find my voice again.gretchen

The title of the blog is from a Beatles’ lyric “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup, They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe. Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind” This encompassed everything I felt about writing and the purpose and feel of my blog. And music is one of the biggest influences in my writing. I am inspired by lyrics and music. Often a song or lyric directs me in what to write.

Q2: When you and I compare notes on blogs we like, our conversation often turns to authorial voice. I’m not sure I’ve ever told you this directly, but I sometimes describe you as having a “voice that can break windows.” Which is a compliment. I’m curious about your writing process. Do the words come out all at once, mostly-done but for proofreading, or are you a revision maniac, as I am?

Wow. No, you’ve never told me that. But I find that to be a high compliment.

My writing process varies. Sometimes the words come out effortlessly. Other times I have to tug and pull to get to what it is I really need to say. That is the hard part. That’s part of the reason it takes me days to write one blog post. I usually have to ruminate on the topic for a few days. I write and rewrite until I feel like I’m satisfied with the thoughts. Then I pick apart the wording. I read and re-read endlessly, up until I hit “publish.” Honestly, I could edit and rewrite forever. Writing is the only aspect of my life in which I’m a perfectionist. (And no, you won’t find perfection on my blog. But I obsess over it.)

Q3: Much of the art you create for your blog is brilliant. I like that you often feature your family in the images, but do it so as to protect their privacy. In the beginning, your about page image is one of the things that made me go “woah! Follow this blog, Gene’O.” Can you tell us anything about how the art gets done?

Ha! The art on the “About” page is my daughter’s work. She’s a bit of an artist herself, but that was a photo editing app she was having fun with. She likes to take family photos and add her comedic take. When I saw the family photo she altered I gleefully put it on my “About” page to represent the people in my life that represent my heart.

I truly struggle with finding art for my blog (don’t we all?) On occasion I’ve taken a picture specifically to represent a topic. (My favorite is the photo I took for my Elephant Journal post.) I would love to spend more time playing around with photography for my blog but as it is I barely can squeeze in writing time! I often use photos from Unsplash or MorgueFile and occasionally art from DeviantArt.

Photo by Gretchen for The Elephant Journal

Photo by Gretchen for The Elephant Journal

Q4: Sourcerer is somewhat notorious for being politically neutral at this point. But we started a #FeministFriday thing here that’s still going, and you were the catalyst. Why did you jump into the Feminist Fridays with both feet, and what has that project meant to you?

I was raised by a strong, feminist mother. She is one of my real life heroes. And it’s a cause I’ve always been passionate about. I knew I didn’t want to write about politics on my blog, but Human Rights, Feminism, Racism, social justice causes aren’t political in my mind. At least they shouldn’t be.

Both you and Diana inspired me to want to write about Feminism. Reading some posts on Sourcerer and Part Time Monster gave me a push and encouragement that there would be an audience for that kind of writing. Between comment exchanges on both of your blogs I felt emboldened to reach out to you on Twitter to see if you’d be interested in some kind of feminism project. It’s hard to believe that it’s been going on for well over a year! And since then, an ebook and a growing group of contributors and an ever-growing audience… it really is exciting. The Feminist Friday Project is the thing I’m most proud of in the two years I’ve been blogging. It has been enlightening and invigorating and I feel it is a really important thing we’re doing. I know for a fact that some minds and perspectives have been changed because of what we’ve all written about (I’ve had a few people who’ve told me as much.) Is there anything more important than that?

Q5: Lots of bloggers — I daresay most — struggle to balance family time with blogging time. I certainly do. Any advice on how to manage that?

It is something I’m still trying to figure out. I try to carve out little pockets of time here and there. I do most of my writing at night after all of the kids are in bed. Some weeks allow for more writing time, others are so busy with life and obligations that I can hardly write at all. Weekends are my protected and sacred family time. I try to be mostly unplugged and engaged with the family.

Q6: You were Freshly Pressed, early on. What was that like?

It was incredibly exciting. Getting Freshly Pressed was my first priority/goal when I started blogging. The idea for the post had been brewing in the back of my mind and it was after reading a post of yours on Sourcerer that I felt motivated and inspired (thank you!) and moved forward with writing it.

The funny thing is, the post almost never saw the light of day. I was editing the final draft late one night, intending to publish it the next morning. Something happened and WordPress deleted my draft. I had written what I felt was the most important blog post at that point in my short time blogging, and I had nothing. It was all gone. After a few tears and a few choice words I re-wrote the whole thing from memory. I had only basic notes and references in a notebook. I almost gave up and didn’t finish it. The next morning I hit publish and later that day found out it was going to be Freshly Pressed! Incidentally it was a feminist piece about women and online harassment.

Q7: What’s the best post, in your own estimation, you’ve ever published?

The best and the one that is closest to my heart is “Lessons From the Worst Day Of My Life” I wrote it about losing my brother to cancer 10 days before my wedding. It was the first blog post that got any kind of response. At that point I had only been blogging for a few weeks and had no blogger friends. But I shared it on FaceBook and it got a huge response. To this day, it is the blog post that means the most to me. I view it as a tribute to my brother and it is a glimpse into what my book (a work very slowly in progress) will be about.

Q8: I know you follow quite a few blogs that I have no inkling of. Can you recommend one single blog other than your own to us, and tell us why you like it?

Oh, this is a hard one. Just one? OK… Sandy Ramsey of An Honest Sinner is one of my favorite writers. She writes real and raw, and her positive energy comes through her writing. I commented recently on her blog that her writing is “like a refreshing rain.” Her writing is gorgeous and she talks about important stuff.

Q9: Any advice for bloggers who are just starting out?

Find your voice. Every time you write something, try to dig a little bit deeper. Then a little deeper. Don’t just scratch the surface. Find other blogs you like. Follow them, comment on them. Engage and connect with other bloggers. You will learn a lot from doing this. You will find support and if you’re lucky you’ll make some great friends. Oh, and know that you will feel like giving up and you will doubt yourself every time you post something (or is it just me?) but just forge on and keep at it.

Unsplash Photo by Joshua Earle

Unsplash Photo by Joshua Earle

Q10: Give us your best elevator pitch. In four sentences or less, why should we read your blog?

Ugh, the dreaded elevator pitch! You know I’m not succinct! OK, here goes: A blog that is sometimes serious, sometimes funny, always real. Reflections on life and love and parenting. Thoughts and rants on equality and justice and things that matter. Writing from the heart.

Q:11: If you could own one magical artifact or piece of out-of-this-world technology – large or small – from the simplest magic wand to a Death Star, what would it be?

A time machine. I would only use it to visit the past. I would use it to visit people. I would go back in time and stand stage-side at WoodStock while Jimi Hendrix was playing. I would have conversations with John Lennon and hang out with Janis Joplin. I would pick the brains of inspiring and influential people throughout history. I would go back to meet long lost relatives and see my grandparents when they were in their youth. But most of all, I would go back and relive so many moments with my brother.