Breathe In

autumn schedule

I’m here on a Friday to celebrate what has been a successful month for this little site. Starting on Monday is the very real possibility of multiple posts a day and a really rather packed schedule all the way until Christmas. Having already pre-warned you about Think-Tober, I went away and made better graphics, and that will begin via Instagram on Sunday. I suspect there’ll be a compilation of seven days worth of posts in this medium at some point across the weekends in October too.

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We’re still behind a bit, but once October’s Book of the Month titles are posted on Monday along with the last of the outstanding acrostics, there’s no excuse to keep up to date. This month will also see an alteration to Patreon tiers in an attempt to attract more interest, plus some subtle changes to the concept’s major remit. I’d planned to reassess every three months, so this part of my plan is still on schedule. Looking ahead, the Book of the Month will be taking a one-month hiatus in November to accommodate my participation in the 2017 NaNoWriMo event.

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I’ve written on and of for NaNo across five years, but only the last two have been serious efforts. This year, the plan is to come up with something I will turn into a potentially saleable novel. That level of completion and professionalism has, as yet, eluded me, but I believe I’m in a decent position this year to make that a reality. To make sure I’m utterly focused, rethought and re-organised Patreon content will launch again December 1st. Everyone who is currently a Patreon will also be getting an exclusive (and personalised) Christmas gift, as a thank you for your continued support.

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Until then, you can expect an increase in the amount of poetry being written, original works appearing and all sorts of other TOP QUALITY GUBBINS.

GSME #14 :: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

social-media-asides

It is time to get my writing aspirations back on track, and that meant today some serious thought over why I’m here and what’s happening long term with blogging as a future. This morning, a simple objective was publicly set:

There is a plan for this, that will play out across the week. I make no lie that it will involve incentives. This is a harsh reality in which we live, and I am well aware that to promote any ‘brand’ means getting dirty, providing sweeteners to help highlight what you do. I watched this play out across a weekend of ‘vintage’ bicycle festival: you pay to ride, and countless companies throw free stuff at you in the hope that you’ll like it enough to take the plunge and become a long term consumer. Our rider bags for Eroica were stuffed with alcohol, cosmetics and other gubbins. Free beer was offered during the ride, and when you completed. All of this has a purpose: buy into the lifestyle. That’s what I’m doing here, and if I’m up front about that, there’ll be no confusion.

The problem is, right now, that I’m not really terribly happy how Twitter’s platforms are being altered in order to make the company more relevant. We’ve spoken at length about the issues with analytics (that is still going on) but today my web-based platform of choice altered for good. On the back of last week’s ‘cleaner’ redesign (which owes a lot to the Android version of the UI) a fundamental change came into play that it took a while to work out. However, thanks to one of my most trusted followers, the answer was incredibly simple, once it became apparent some fundamentals have altered in Tweetdeck’s filtering functions.

At 5pm this evening, random tweets started appearing in my timeline from people I did not know. More importantly, these were accounts I did not follow, but in many cases had direct relevance to stuff I’d been discussing in my own timeline. The ultimate indignity was when Teresa May appeared, out of the blue, ON HER OWN ACCOUNT (that I’m positive nobody on my timeline would ever retweet). A sneaky switch to Hootsuite to check it wasn’t just a glitch showed promoted tweets are now appearing in their timelines, where this was not the case before. More significantly, it then became apparent what the issue was: these were cleverly picked posts being presented as ‘retweets.’ The thing is, unless I can see who’s retweeting them, or unless they are quoted, there is no way I can associate them with anyone I know on my feed. Once I worked out these were what Tweetdeck considered as a ‘retweet’, the filtering is a no-brainer.

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One click of a button and the noise effectively vanished. It is now apparent that Twitter’s not mucking about with trying to promote new followers: by presenting ‘retweets’ that match the same content I’m talking about? There’s a better than average chance I’ll follow someone. The key here is, of course, these messages are anything but random. They were carefully targeted, just as that alcohol and other products were at the weekend. The problem with me, sadly, is that I won’t ever play that game if you don’t ask first. Just giving me everything and hoping I’ll click won’t work. In that regard, I will probably need to make sure I start using my own personally curated lists going forward so I can avoid all the noise. Today was a salutatory lesson in what a company will be prepared to do in order to make their product marketable.

Personally, I want nothing to do with it.

GSME #11 :: Personal Jesus

social-media-asides

I should apologise for being a couple of days late with the Guide, but as history can show this as being Monday when it is in fact Wednesday, I doubt there’s too much of a fuss to be caused anyway. Health issues have inevitably derailed my progress, but they’re also a powerful means of driving social media. If you didn’t know already, drama generates interest.

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Let’s be honest here: I’d rather not have all this fuss and bother right before one of the most important periods of my life, but the Universe does like to mess with your head at the most inopportune of moments. Therefore, my views last week were exclusively driven by the fact I’ve become my own news story, like it or not. I could choose to read these figures in an number of ways, but at this point I’d just like to think that more people than normal care about my welfare, and that’s where we’ll stop. The better news, if we look at the graph on the right, is that I’m keeping close to exceeding a 2% engagement rate.

How am doing that is part of a structured change to my Tweeting habits.

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This Tweet has a picture, from my phone, of me waiting in the Hospital to see my surgeon on Monday night. If I’d have posted it *without* the picture it would have received less interest, because what the image does is make this less about having a conversation. The image, like it or not, draws you into my story. That’s why SnapChat and Instagram are as immensely useful and compulsive as they undoubtedly are as tools for generating traffic: the brain, in most cases, reacts more favourably to visual stimulus. This means that if I post something with a GIF attached, more people will read it, as is the case with a screenshot or a photograph. Once upon a time mobile download limits might restrict this as useful, but as WiFi becomes de rigeur and mobile devices become portable newspapers and magazines as well as gaming rigs… use more pictures.

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On the flip side, one well worded, concise and honest tweet is worth an entire blog post.

Picture + personal affirmation, in this case, results in a 9.3% engagement rate, if you didn’t believe me when I said that pictures sell. On the flip side however, being overly personal can turn people off. There’s the individual on my feed for instance who’s almost permanently ragging on their ex-partner for being horrible, and although there is a continued measure of sympathy for the situation, that person does go on Mute when it all gets too much. As is the case with life, balance is everything.

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Finally, you don’t need pictures, a personal dilemma or the end of the World to engage an audience. With the right words, a bit of thought and some planning, you can use Twitter to write blog posts, by ‘threading’ a series of tweets together with an appropriate picture at the top. This method of communication is proving increasingly useful for me, and I’ll be making the most of the format going forward. This week, there’s not much else to report really, and with an operation scheduled for the 16th, it will be a little quiet around these parts on Monday anyway.

Time to go practice what we’ve learnt and be ready to start again once all this drama is over.

Blogging For Noobs :: Think

You have a ton of posts all ready to go after the last portion of our Guide, and now you want to publish them all in one hit. This is where I put up the single finger in a kind yet firm manner and say NO, do not do this with your work. The temptation in the early blush of creativity is to share everything immediately. This is perfectly normal and I see it happen all the time: the problem then comes a month later when you’re struggling for stuff to fill your space and creativity appears to have evaporated. That’s why this time around, I’m going to ask you to wait, and start planning ahead. Remember that blank calender I left you with last time? Here’s where the fun of Learning to Organise begins.

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I’m going to be rebranding this site next month as the Internet of Words (for those of you paying attention) and that means that I need to do a couple of things before that happens. Once I’ve followed my own previous step and worked out what will qualify as content, I’ll need a week to make sure that I have graphics for everything made and ready, and there are spaces in the web design to accommodate what I’m doing. That’s the 14th to the 19th for me, which is my Pre-Planning and ‘Back End’ phase. In that time I can also write posts in anticipation of my launch (June 1st) but not publish them until I know my redesign is working properly. In your case, it could just be getting yourself comfortable with blogging to begin with, and you have a week of playing with layout and posting until you’re comfortable with both.

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I’ve then scheduled a Testing Week, which will basically act as my migration period for all the old content, deleting the stuff I don’t want to keep, and getting everything ready to roll. As you can see, after my launch date I’ve got a load of +1 and +2’s marked: the latter indicate days when I’ll introduce a facet of the site, the others marking down that for the first month, I want to generate a post a day. To do that will require me to organise in advance, to have ideas ready to roll, and once I obtain that early impetus it will be important to ensure I have a plan. That’s why I’m writing on Post It notes, scribbling in a notebook wherever possible, and keeping track of things I think are important or interesting going forward. It is why this weekend will be devoted to thrashing out many of those scribbled notes into fully-formed topics to form part of my site.

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The key, of course, is to have a lot of content to go, but there are days when I undoubtedly do my best work from a cold start. Today was a case in point: I didn’t expect to create a logo or start a Twitter account for the redesign but both of those happened. I’d simply planned to day to explore the possibilities of both, but you’ll learn in time how inspiration strikes, and when to make the most of it. This is where organisation truly becomes invaluable, because in those creative-rich days, if you can get words down they can be kept and scheduled for days when you’re out of ideas. It also means you are never totally beholden to your site either, and can take holidays or time off without it appearing you lost interest in the project.

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You will find, as time goes on, that if you set aside a set time each day to write, this will also aid enormously with productivity and creativity. For me, I do my best work on non-fiction before lunchtime, whilst fiction always works better in the evening. That means I’ll be able to balance my time effectively around other stuff and still aim for a set result at the end of each week. You may wish to plan ahead on a spreadsheet programme, and there are plenty of time management tools/apps that can help you out, but for me I am at my best with a Moleskine Diary, pen, pencil and ruler. In fact I’d be utterly lost without them now. My planning for the week is either done Sunday night or Monday morning, and this dictates the entire workflow for the next seven days. Find the system that works for you, and don’t be afraid to mix and match until you’re comfortable with the result.

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The biggest trick however is not to panic when you’re out of ideas. That’s why you have a notebook, its why you plan in advance… and its where Social media can save the day. Current events, personal interests, what other people are talking about, the latest complaint/beef in your friends circle… all of these are potential topics to start a blog post. For me, I have a ton of projects in various states of completion to consider, a vast array of topics on the Internet of Words that all have a potential place in my planning: but the trick is not to obsess too much about all the possibilities. I’ll be picking a couple of the best ideas to work with at the start, and we’ll go from there. Once the framework is established and has run for a while, I can look at analytics to see where the interest lies, and work from there.

Organisation really is everything if you want a professional looking site. It also doesn’t all have to happen straight away. Just because I’ll be doing a post a day means it will stay that way. We’ll see how things work, and the trick in these early stages is to listen to other people very carefully. Many will give you feedback, and if it isn’t great, you’ll need to be ready to act accordingly. Next time, we’ll talk about how you keep people interested whilst they read, because that will matter long term just as much as your content.

GSME #6 :: Fade To Grey

As is sometimes the case in Experiments, this week hasn’t exactly gone as I’d planned. However, before we begin, let’s look at the old Engagement scoreboard:

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There’s a few things to mention, most notable of which is that in the last seven days I didn’t use CoPromote at all and still the numbers are up. That will change this week, as I’ve almost built up 100k ‘credit’ to use on something worthwhile, but it is as much about writing a decent post to hook people in to reading long-term as it is just churning out rubbish, which seems to be how some people view Twitter to begin with. The plan going forward had been to boost myself using Twitter’s own range of ‘advertising’ tools and last night I cleared a block of space and time to do just this.

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The range of options is pretty decent: I can, it appears, pay money to get followers (recommended for accounts with an audience of under 1000, I’m told) plus be charged in any myriad number of ways. This was the first thing that put me off: what I could manage for the cash I have available was woeful at best. Obviously the more you pay, the better your chances of reaching people, though it would be unfair to say that’s the only way this works, because it isn’t. An awful lot of Twitter’s advertising however expects you to not only specifically identify and target an audience, but understand how that works to begin with, and I can see this putting off huge numbers of potential smaller users.

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The fact remains, that if paying a tenner A DAY for what might only be seven clicks is not, it must be said, the optimal use of my cash. In fact, if I’m honest, CoPromote’s reach function did more than that, and I pay $19.99 a MONTH. The only difference is what is promised in terms of Impressions, and I can make that happen myself via persistence and little grey cells. Maybe this is part of the reason why Twitter as a company fails to make money but continues to win in terms of being the most organic and accessible of mediums. Perhaps if they tweaked their selling model for smaller sellers, there might be an upswing in interest.

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It doesn’t take a genius to understand how the basic principles operate, but the work involved for me in identifying a niche audience (which is effectively what I am, like it or not) is not currently worth the return. If I were a Warcraft streamer, however, this could have some genuine merit, or indeed if I was trying to sell my product in a larger market. In that regard, and because I know a number of people have been waiting to see what I think of this, I’d say it may well be worth the effort if you have the cash to back it up. It will also help if your market is well known, and can be easily targetted using specific keywords. I have so many applicable keywords right now for what I do, and as I currently refuse to refine those terms? This is a service I can happily leave well alone.

In fact, you’ll probably get far more out of this completely free guide to optimising your account than is ever going to result from a small business using Twitter ads. As is also the case with Facebook, these companies seem to only be interested in those prepared to spend big in able to make their point, and that effectively prices me completely out of the marketplace. More importantly, I get to help out a friend by granting her post a few extra views, which I’d far rather do than chuck money at a huge company that doesn’t seem that interested in my business to begin with.

Sometimes, your answer means not taking the obvious route.

Days Go By

You and I need to have a chat about how my creativity’s effectively vanished.

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It isn’t like it has disappeared completely or anything, and there’s a distinct vein of fictional thinking going on in my head right now. The problem, such as it is, lies with the amount of work I currently consider ‘in progress’ that’s not finished. As I begin the process of sorting out everything else (and on that front, things are going remarkably well) this is the place that suffers not because I don’t want to write, far from it. I just can’t work out what to put to bed first. I have, in various states, nearly a dozen long form projects and about the same in short form. This is the problem when you get seized by an idea, commit yourself to it, and then lose confidence in the ability to complete something worthwhile.

The first step I realise in dealing with the problem is to not write anything fictional, and then realise how much you miss it.

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Using the Mindfulness ‘concept’ I’ve been learning in the last week, I write fiction for sensation and problem solving. Once the issue I had has been dealt with, that the ‘story’ in my head was created for to deal with, it is left aside. Going back to work that was written therefore with this in mind, it can sometimes prove difficult to recreate the same enthusiasm for the project I had at the time. What now has to happen, I realise, is for me to look critically at everything sitting unfinished on my hard drive, and make some tough choices on what I can and cannot complete. I also needed to write this down somewhere public too, so I can’t pretend this revelation didn’t happen. Now I’ve grasped that? Time to start sorting through the files.

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I’m going to, whilst I do this, admit defeat and take out the links to the non-fiction essay page, and my Erotica selection. Part of my issue right now is pressuring myself into things that simply aren’t happening with the timescales available, especially with the push I’m making to being truly organised elsewhere. Yes, I suspect they will happen, and when I have enough pieces of work to justify filling them, they can be re-introduced. However, what I want to do now more than anything else is write long-form, and that means re-arranging my workplace to accommodate the change.

Thank you for understanding, and for continuing to support me on this journey of discovery.

 

Feeling Good

There is much excitement in the house, for tomorrow is Elbow at Hammersmith Day. I’ve managed to not see this band for far too long, and tomorrow this will change in a deliberately intimate gig that is already making me vibrate silently with excitement. Considering the shit weekend I’ve just had, the next five days is already looking rather awesome. I’d been ready for a fight this morning over the washing machine but instead I have an assessor coming on Wednesday and the promise of a new machine. The week’s traumas have all sorted themselves out almost mechanically and to top it all, I now have two days next week booked and planned for getting my health looked at, securing some new spectacles and finishing off my Podcast gubbins once and for all.

It is almost as if this hard work is finally paying dividends.

If you’re a regular reader of the Other Blog, you’ll also notice I’ve gone up to two posts a day. Some of them will be new but others will be reposts of notable stuff from ‘times past’ because with over 2000 articles in the back catalogue, I’d now be seriously stupid not to occasionally repeat myself. What it does mean is that parts of the gaming site will get revamped and updated, and posts like today’s ‘How to Start Blogging’ will be repackaged from time to time to remain current with changing trends. it’s not like this isn’t done on the Internet anyway by the entire rest of the population to begin with. I’m also going to get in the habit of writing two posts a week here and scheduling them if necessary. You can expect regular content therefore as follows:

  • Monday: FICTION DAY 😀
  • Wednesday: General Discussion Topic FTW.
  • Sunday: Week in Review.
This is part of my long-term commitment to Getting Shit Done. 

On that front, there is a piece of Fiction ready for upload, so let’s get to it 😀

Sunday Braindump :: Forget You

Send in the Choppers ^^

I think I will do a weekly braindump. This will at least mean you’ll have 52 posts that can be tracked as a barometer for how life is treating me generally. It’s the first time for about a decade I’ve felt the urge to actually be conversational, so it might not be a bad idea to capitalise on the moment. I have a lot of places across the Web that need to be addressed too, so this will help me keep track of what I’ve done and what yet needs sorting. This means I can keep actual entertainment separate and not impinge on you people who really aren’t that bothered with the minutiae of my life, such as it is.

Many things are still broken on the Website front, need fixing or are in desperate need of a redo, but it is Sunday afternoon and frankly, stuff can now wait. It doesn’t help that my brain is mush as a result of doing this, but there is a sense of general satisfaction that now everything has a sense of overall cohesion. I even conceded the black background/white text thing I’d planned when I got a 50/50 split of like/dislike on the change. If I can keep the purple, I’m happy. That colour matters, not just simply because it spells #D9CAFE in Hex. Some things are just meant to be, design fans.

I require a better Biography page. I don’t posses a current picture of myself I am happy with. I should design a Contact Page that works across both sites that isn’t going to inundate my e-mail address with spam. I want to sort out my t-shirts in a manner that means I can photograph them all in a consistent fashion. I am considering a new tablet purchase. ALL of this all has to happen in my brain pretty much simultaneously which means I’ll probably spend the rest of the afternoon unable to get anything done or I’ll simply faff doing summat completely different.  However, I did manage three bursts of exercise over the festive week and I’m fully planning to do three gym visits next week. That’s a MASSIVE step forward in terms of organising my life.

Needs more wimmin 😛

What I have done and I’d meant to for some time is install the Amazon Video app onto the iPad. Season Three of Ripper Street is taunting me and what I am likely to do is watch the first two seasons again as preparation. I’m not that enamoured by much current TV, it must be said, but there are things I wouldn’t mind trying to catch up. Perception immediately springs to mind, which I think I am at least a season behind on. That’s the problem when you don’t really do TV any more: I always seem to be woefully behind on current trends, but I don’t think this is a bad thing. You gotta leave time to breathe, right?

Most importantly of all, someone remind me to talk to real people more this year, and go have dinner with them, and beers, and remind myself what it is like to actually posses a social life. Because this a thing I miss the most, and should be the part of my existence that gets by far the most love and attention.