Category Archives: Freshly Pressed

My Freshly Pressed posts

No Comments from the Peanut Gallery!

How many times have you felt the impulse to leave a comment on an article or blog but then thought better of it and moved on?

Whether the piece is sheer brilliance or more internet garbage, there is almost always a section where readers can leave comments (often referred to as a combox). I have mixed feelings about the combox, but until I read Kristin Lamb’s recent post about “improving your likability quotient”, and Bob Mayer’s thoughts on your internet presence, I must admit, I wasn’t an avid commenter.

Here’s the thing: As much as I often think I have important things to say, when I see several hundred comments, I often feel like adding my voice to the fray won’t be a worthwhile contribution.

Oh how wrong I was.

I’m not sure about you guys, but I know I have a tendency to size up the world in an “all-or-nothing” mindset far too often. Here are a few of my usual inner monologues:

“If my blog post or comment isn’t going to rock the foundations of the literary world, well, then… I may as well not comment at all!”

“Oh, look at the flame war! I thought I smelled smoke over on WordPress… This fire has clearly burned itself out. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.”

“This guy clearly doesn’t have a clue, but he’s obviously too stupid to consider anything I have to say. I think I’ll go preach to the choir where I know people will listen to me.”

Smiley from the sMirC-series. facepalm

 No, no, no.

You see, it’s called social media for a reason. Even when it appears that your thought may be lost in an ever-deepening sea of other comments, you never know who might read it. At the very least, the blog author will get another alert letting him know that you thought his post was worthwhile reading, and while busier bloggers can’t always read or reply to every individual comment, you have just given him a digital high-five of sorts and spread some internet cheer. We bloggers like being “liked.”

Secondly, whenever you leave a comment on a blog, you are leaving a virtual trail of breadcrumbs back to your own blog. As Nicola Morgan points out, Google loves it when you make its job easier. Every time you comment somewhere else, you leave a veritable trail of metadata in your wake, making your blog more likely to show up in search engines and, in a sense, casting your nets wide into the sea of the internet.

And lastly, while the internet is a big place, you are an important part of it. Sometimes, it might seem as if your contribution to the free flow of information and ideas is nothing but a drop in an ocean, but the ocean would be that much drier and shallower without your thought. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” (an aphorism of which I am in constant need of reminding). It was, rather, each individual stone in a Roman road which comprised the network that allowed the empire to stretch across Europe. And it was each individual citizen who came to debate in the forum which allowed for the republic to flourish into the classical civilisation to which we still look today.

Ready to join the legions of intelligent, articulate blog commenters currently amassing to redeem the internet?

I thought so.

To bloggers:

  • DO enable commenting on your blogs. Most platforms have sufficient spam blockers to keep the bots at bay. If people cannot participate in your blog, then you are basically having a conversation with yourself, and we all know that writers do enough of that outside the blogosphere as it is, right? 😉
  • DO reply to comments within your own blog. This shows your adoring fans that you do, in fact, care about them and take the time to read what they say. Nothing builds rapport between a blogger and his audience better than mingling amongst the commoners conversing with his readers.
  • DO write thought-provoking posts that encourage conversation. Hell, write something controversial if its gets people talking! You might try leaving an open question at the end of your posts or inviting a guest blogger to provide a counter-post.
  • DO take the time to read and comment on other bloggers’ posts. Far from fraternising with the competition, you just paid the favor forward and brightened someone else’s corner of the internet. If anything, he might feel indebted and comment back on your blog, but at the very least, you have shown that what you consider worthy enough of your time to read is also worthy of your time to contribute to, as well.
  • DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!

To readers:

  • DO read articles and posts carefully and analytically. Take the time to craft a thoughtful, genuine post that shows the author you have heard what he has to say and want to collaborate with him via a shared experience or constructive criticism.
  • DO forward links from other relevant blogs in your comments if you think they will contribute to the conversation. Just be careful about appearing… spammy.
  • DO click the “Like” button if you don’t have time to write a whole comment. This will at least let the author know that you read and enjoyed his work.
  • I repeat DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!

So, was this a cleverly-designed trap to lure readers into commenting on my blog and boosting my ego?

Perhaps.

But really, it’s not about me (although notifications are gratifying most of the time). It’s about making the internet a better place for everyone. If you have been shy about joining the fracas, there’s no time like the present! So, please, take up that seat in the peanut gallery and fire away!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on your commenting in the blogosphere and what ideas you have to improve the experience. It seems to me that one of the huge problems confronting us is the general lack of civility in the comboxes. Thoughts? Opinions? Reactions? Criticism? Viewpoints? Convictions?

I’m all ears.

Much “To-Do” About Nothing

Feb 20 (Day 51): To Do List
Image by dmachiavello via Flickr

Last week, I talked about setting goals. We discussed rather large, longer-term goals and how to be effective when setting them. However, one of the key components to achievable “big” goals is a clear understanding of the many “small” goals that comprise them.

What does this mean?

Well, for example, I’m currently revising my very first NaNoWriMo manuscript by using Holly Lisle‘s How to Revise Your Novel course. This is a massive undertaking, one which I’ve been working on for the better part of a year, and a project on which I have a long way to go. So the question is: How do you manage to keep moving along when faced with such a huge prospect?

The answer lies in taking one small step at a time and rewarding yourself when you do. A couple years ago, I learned this technique from Holly (she is a wealth of information for writers; if you haven’t checked out her site yet, go do it now!). In her article on how to maintain your writing discipline, as well as every other bit of chaos that intrudes on your life, she suggests making a sort of “to-do” list. But this isn’t your ordinary, fridge to-do list; this is the mother of all to-do lists.

Don’t worry, it’s not as frightening as it sounds, and it actually works a lot better than just scribbling some notes to yourself on a scrap of paper.

First of all, you’ll need a corkboard, or some other board to which you can attach index cards. Obviously, you’re also gonna need some index cards. The amount doesn’t matter, as you’ll just replace them when you need new ones, and anyway, they’re cheap. In her lesson, Holly advocates using different colors for different tasks, but I don’t usually bother with that unless I feel a real need to prioritise.

So, make three cards: one that says “Do,” one that says “Doing,” and a third that says “Done.” Pin them (or use a magnet or whatever) across the top of the board to form three columns.

Now, take any index card and write today’s date in the top left corner. In the top right corner of the card, write the date by which you wish to complete this particular task. Then, on the index card itself, write something you need to do. The trick is to make it measurable and to make it manageable. For instance, “Finish revision” is not a good one for the reasons we discussed last week. However, “Finish revising Chapter 13” is. Lastly, write a line near the bottom of the card where you will eventually write the date of actual completion.

You can use these cards for anything you need to get done. For instance, here is mine for my students’ French homework that I need to grade.

(My cards happen to be red only because they were left over from something else; the color doesn’t mean anything here, although you could assign writing-related projects to green, real-life chores to red, etc.)

You should only make enough cards for the next week or so. Then, once you have them made, pin them up in the first column under “Do.” As you work on your projects, move them across the board to the other columns. Be sure to put it under the “Done” card when you are actually done! This visual signal is more rewarding than you might think, and it gives you a real sense of accomplishment to see them pile up on the right side of the board.

Once you have started some more cards under the “Do” column, discard the old done cards as you need space, or if you have recurring things such as “Grocery shopping by Saturday,” you could start its march across the board once more.

Here is a picture of my current to-do board (sorry the quality isn’t very good at all):

It’s been too long since I’ve used this handy tool for, but every time I keep it up, I feel much more productive and I can stop stressing about what I need to do since it is all right there to look at. Also, by assigning the dates by which I need to finish certain tasks, I am assured that I can be free to write since I know I will have to do other things by X date.

I hope this technique helps you stay organised and efficient! What methods do you use to stay on track? How would you modify this board for your particular needs?