Blogging about Blogs
After copious feedback from my small but loyal audience, I believe I’ve solved the “I can see everyone else’s answers so why bother guessing?” problem with my latest Photoshop contest.
WordPress has an available plugin called Comment Timeout by James McKay. It’s simple enough – it enhances WordPress’s built-in “all comments on or all comments off” functionality by allowing the administrator (that’s me) to specify an age at which posts no longer receive comments. But more importantly (to me, anyway), it allows me to override the setting on a post-by-post basis.
So, I’ve set posts to “timeout” at zero days old (i.e., immediately), which sends all the comments to moderation. But for all non-photoshop posts, I can override that setting with one-click at posting time. So now, most posts on this blog will allow (encourage!) comments as they always did, and the Photoshop contest posts will send them to my moderation queue. I’ll leave them hidden until I reveal the answer to the puzzle, and then people can click back & see what everyone else’s guesses were.
With 2011 coming to a close, and my Brain Celebri-teaser contest coming to an end, I’ve been thinking about what to do with my blog in 2012.
The Photoshop contest had basically become the entirety of the content in 2011 for two reasons. First, the amount of media I consume exploded this year (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Podcasts, as well as the e-mail & blog traffic I used to read), and despite the name of the blog, I do eventually need some sleep. Second, the very presence of Facebook’s status update feature has allowed me to share quick thoughts and/or links with a much wider audience and with much less effort.
That said, I’ve come to miss writing longer form entries (even if very few people read them), so I’m thinking of starting up again. I won’t be foolhardy enough to plan out a schedule, because every time I’ve done that in the past, I’ve failed to keep it up. But I have been brainstorming some topics/features to write about. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
- The 2012 Photoshop Contest: I don’t want it to be the only thing on the blog, but I do enjoy sharpening my Photoshop skills, and I’ve certainly enjoyed the weekly guesses (even if it’s only been a few of you guessing). So I’ll create something for 2012 (still kicking around ideas). And I’ll try to make it so people still want to guess even if someone else has guessed first. I’ve received feedback that the previous contest fell down a bit on this score, so we’ll see about improving that.
- Late Night TV Watch: Despite my new fascination with sleeping, I do watch a lot of late night television (mostly Jon Stewart and Jimmy Fallon). But I record them on my DVR and watch them in bunches – often on the weekends. Periodically, one of them does something thought provoking or especially funny, so I figure I’ll use the blog to tell you about it (and provide links or embedded video where I can).
- Through the Filters: Given the various media I now find myself consuming, I’m sure there will the occasional Tweet, YouTube video or Podcast that I’ll find interesting enough to share. So I’ll try to do that as well.
If anyone has any requests, feel free to leave them in the comments. I’m open to experimenting if you guys are…
OK, the social media revolution is complete. I joined Twitter.
I’ve been reading too many articles lately in which some newswire is relaying news – typically celebrity news – based on what the celebrity in question has just tweeted. So, I figure, why not use Twitter as the news source it has become? I do not ever intend to tweet (I’m already on Facebook, and I honestly can’t see a reason to be on both, unless I’m caught in a real life, hashtag-worthy event…). Rather, I plan to use Twitter as a kind of “Facebook of the Stars,” in which I can read about what various celebrities are telling the world without having to catch up on them through E! Online or Yahoo! Gossip or some other aggregator that has worked an exclamation point into their name.
So, at the advice of a friend, I googled “Most Twitter Followers,” which led me to this site – a list of the one thousand most popular tweeters. Of the thousand I found there, I “followed” 59 people. Here they are, sorted in order from most followers to least:
|1) Lady Gaga||21) Al Yankovic||41) Hugh Jackman|
|2) Justin Bieber||22) Larry King||42) David Blaine|
|3) Britney Spears||23) Wil Wheaton||43) Drew Carey|
|4) Barack Obama||24) Lindsay Lohan||44) Lea Michele|
|5) Kim Kardashian||25) Penn Jillette||45) Miranda Cosgrove|
|6) Katy Perry||26) Bill Cosby||46) Craig Ferguson|
|7) Ellen DeGeneres||27) Dalai Lama||47) John Hodgman|
|8) Taylor Swift||28) Brent Spiner||48) William Shatner|
|9) Oprah Winfrey||29) Alyssa Milano||49) Steve Martin|
|10) Justin Timberlake||30) Kevin Nealon||50) Sarah Palin|
|11) Ashley Tisdale||31) Nick Swisher||51) Seth Meyers|
|12) Ryan Seacrest||32) Yoko Ono||52) Tina Fey|
|13) Paris Hilton||33) Sarah Silverman||53) Roger Ebert|
|14) Demi Moore||34) Neil Patrick Harris||54) Bill Maher|
|15) Jimmy Fallon||35) John Cleese||55) Joan Rivers|
|16) John Legend||36) Dr. Phil||56) Pamela Anderson|
|17) Al Gore||37) Barbara Walters||57) Miley Cyrus|
|18) Conan O’Brien||38) WikiLeaks||58) Jessica Simpson|
|19) Dr. Drew||39) Michael Moore||59) Howard Stern|
|20) Stephen Colbert||40) Kathy Griffin|
In terms of actual entertainment, I am fans of some of these folks and not of others, but they all looked like they might produce interesting tweets, which was my only criteria here (and thus concludes the story of how a Twitter user came to follow both Michael Moore and Sarah Palin on the same day. If only I had a way to share this exciting news with everyone I know. Oh yeah, that’s right: Facebook).
Anyway, first impressions of Twitter as news source:
- It works. In the first fifteen minutes, I learned that Ellen Degeneres had sat down with a seven-year old paleontologist, that Justin Bieber has raised over $7 million for a clean water charity by asking his fans to donate to it in honor of his upcoming birthday, that Roger Ebert hated the Oscar telecast, that Kathy Griffin is going to appear on Glee, that Lea Michelle had pasta with Tom Hanks after the Oscars, that Matthew Morrison has a new single out (quick review: Yuck), that Britney Spears has a new single out (quick review: didn’t bother clicking the link), that Barack Obama will work with anybody! ANYBODY! to improve Health Care Reform, and that Seth Myers wrote a clever line about Charlie Sheen (“Post-Oscars, when I say “The King’s Speech,” I’m referring to stuff Charlie Sheen said.”). Not bad as a quick (and mindless) news source.
- In the time it took me to read 1,000 names and click on 59 of them, 13 people followed me. One is an “online dog community,” one is extremely profane, one describes herself (forgive me for assuming the gender here) as a “Justin Bieber fan.” All thirteen are total strangers to me and likely not even real people. Regardless, all thirteen will be significantly disapointed when they notice that I never tweet. Not even once just to try it. Ever. Seriously.
- Wikileaks releases new, “shocking” information every hour or so. I honestly didn’t realize just how shock-jock they were about their information. I haven’t removed them from the feed yet, but they’re the only ones I’m considering removing at this point.
- And finally, I knew right away this was a mad, mad world when I followed President Obama and saw these two things pop up on my screen:
Yeah – this is gonna get weird fast…
OK, so it all started back in August of 2009, when I saw on one of those “Born on This Day…” sites that Leonard Bernstein and Billy Ray Cyrus share the same birthday. I thought this was somehow ironic, and posted it under the heading “Proof That Astrology Is Nonsense.”
Fast forward to April of this year, when I turned the concept into a (mostly) weekly series, showing photos of pairs of celebrities who shared the same birthday and were somehow “odd couples.” Eight of these posts went by with the usual reaction – an occasional comment or a “Like” from the Facebook crowd.
But then yesterday, I published my ninth post of the series (George M. Cohan & Franz Kafka), and started receiving multiple messages from folks who were upset about how I was over-generalizing, over-simplifying, under-valuing, and speciously criticizing the field of astrology. None of which was the point, of course, as much as it was to highlight weird pairs of celebrities. That said, astrology? Really? Is nothing up for free ridicule anymore? Ah well, live and learn.
In any case, I’ve renamed the series Unlikely Twins, and have removed just about all references to astrology and/or horoscopes. Hopefully, we can all now share a weekly chuckle, and leave the arguing to important matters – like politics. Or whether the World Cup is getting in the way of a perfectly good baseball season.
|(And oh, by the way, Happy Birthday to both Ringo Starr and Gustav Mahler, composers of Yellow Submarine and Kindertotenlieder – Songs on the Deaths of Children, respectively…)|
Last night, my younger son, Brandon, asked me, “Daddy, can I have a blog?” When I asked why he wanted a blog, he told me he wanted to post pictures of baseball fields and funny houses. Of course, no father could possibly argue with such sound logic, and so, without further adieu, I present to you all: Brandon’s Blog.
It also has a place of honor on the top menubar of this site, in case you lose the URL and need a fix of ballfields and funny houses.
In the spirit of encouraging young bloggers, if you’re reading this and are so inclined, please take a peek over there, rate some pictures (Funny, Cool, or Interesting), and maybe even leave a comment. I’m sure he’d get a kick out of that. Thanks!
Was amused to read that Kids Today have stopped blogging, more or less; they’ve moved the blurtage over to Facebook, which makes much more sense. The web is the Great Heaving Sea; Facebook is an auditorium. Tumblr is a flea-market. Blogs will either be for writers, or communities gathered around a particular ideology or subject, or ace aggregators who can spit out 30 unique links a day.
(Jason Bennion has some interesting thoughts on this too, which I will link to as soon as he gets his blog back up & running).
On balance, I can’t say I disagree with Lileks. Popularity-wise, Facebook is to blogging what blogging was to personal homepages back in 1995. That said, there are some counterexamples.
Take the week of January 25-29, 2010, for example. Someone (and who knows, really, how these things get started) declared it “Doppleganger Week” on Facebook. The idea was that you’d replace your profile picture with a picture of a celebrity who you’ve often been told you look like. So, by the end of the week, rather than reading status updates from your friends Joe, Mike, Janet and Kate, you’re reading updates from Charlie Sheen, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and Demi Moore. A waste of time? Sure. But hey – it’s one of those communal time-wasters that gives everyone something to schmooze about for a while, and isn’t that really what Facebook is for?
Now, flashback about 3.5 years ago, when someone sent me a link to a celebrity face recognition service. It being 2006, I blogged about it, rather than Facebook sharing it or tweeting about it. The resulting blog post contains a lot of celebrity images and links to pages about those celebrities, which not only makes it a valuable resource for Doppleganger Week, but also gives it enough Google Juice (hat tip: Jeff Jarvis) to show up at the top of the list in all sorts of queries about celebrity images.
The result? Here’s Facebook’s Doppleganger Week as viewed through my Google Analytics stats:
For the two weeks prior to Doppleganger Week (Jan 11-Jan 22), my little corner of the web here garnered 665 pageviews, with the Celebrity Look-Alike post accounting for just 18 of those.
For the following two weeks (Doppleganger Week actually seemed to last more like two weeks – Jan 25-Feb 5), the Celebrity Look-Alike post received 389 pageviews on it’s own, an increase of just over 2,000%. The site as a whole had 1,045 pageviews in those two weeks, a 57% increase.
The Celebrity Look-Alike post went from 2.7% of my traffic to a whopping 37% of my traffic during Doppleganger Week(s).
All thanks to Facebook. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to cross-post this blog post on my Facebook wall, in hopes of getting that crowd to click over here and read it. Because I’m old-fashioned that way…
January: Happy New Year to all!
February: Given the current state of the U.S. Economy, the following new rules will be instituted for this year’s annual Groundhog Day celebration festivities:
March: A few weeks back, Time Magazine published a list of the 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis, in which it details the 25 people (or groups of people) that it considers most “blameworthy.”
April: The New York Times ran an interesting article last week about the impending obsolescence of voice mail.
May: Jeff Porten raised an interesting question about the water boarding of 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, which led me to do some more detailed reading on the subject, specifically the International Red Cross Report on Detainee Abuse, and several of the Top Secret DOJ memos from May, 2005 that President Obama recently declassified (Memo 1, Memo 2, Memo 3, Memo 4).
June: As some of my readers are aware, I have been resisting joining the two newest social networking trends – Facebook and Twitter – for quite some time now.
July: It seems the new iPhone 3GS is not a big fan of direct, prolonged sunlight:
August: Sorry I’ve been away so long – its been a combination of being busy with non-blog things, a dearth of short, pithy things to say, and a host of longer, meatier topics that I’d like to discuss, but haven’t had the time to write about.
September: I’ve just returned from my first indoor baseball game – the Minnesota Twins played host to the Chicago White Sox in the soon-to-be football-only Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome here in Minneapolis.
October: This story was related to me at a leadership seminar today.
November: [Halloween was] very successful, thank you.
December: So many blog-worthy things going on in the world all at once!
And, like Ilya, they are generally reflective of what was going on all year, but in no way insightful or coherent when viewed together. Ah, tradition – how your sweet comfort frees us from the need to make sense of the things we do each year…
Today is quite a significant milestone in the extremely insignificant world of I Should Be Sleeping. This is my 1,000th blog post. In honor of this prestigious, yet highly inconspicuous occasion, I present you with some fun facts about my little corner of the web:
- My first post was on May 8, 2005 and was entitled Hello World. Those who studied the ancient art of C Programming with Kernighan and Ritchie will understand. Everyone else will recognize it as a friendly greeting.
- It took me 1,648 days to write 1,000 posts, or roughly two posts every three days. That’s not a bad pace to keep up over a period of four and a half years, if I do say so myself.
- My posts have encompassed eighteen different categories, ranging from Politics (20%) to Technology (18%) to Sports (8%). A full 30% of my posts have been about Random Events or Weird News Stories. All of this strikes me as very representative of the things I think about, which I guess makes sense after all this time.
- I’ve received 1,677 comments, or roughly two comments for every three posts. Since I joined Facebook in late May of this year, though, my comment rate has jumped roughly 50%.
- I only have detailed stats going back to January, 2007. Since that time, though, more than 54,000 visitors have graced these pages, taking in almost 82,000 pages. Extrapolating across the life of the blog, it is very likely that I’ve received upwards of 85,000 visitors and have served upwards of 130,000 pages.
- My post popular post in that time have been my Review of a January, 2006 Billy Joel Concert at Madison Square Garden which has garnered over 6,200 visits and sixty-six comments. Also insanely popular was my reprinting of Premiere Magazine’s Twenty Most Overrated Movies of All Time, which has been seen more than 5,500 times (almost 2,000 of them on the same day – August 28, 2008 – when someone tagged it on stumbleupon.com).
If I’m being brutally honest about my progress, I’d say I’m reasonably pleased with what this blog has become – a place to record my thoughts, an opportunity to learn a bit about running a modern web site, and a chance to watch the web grow from a static medium to a dynamic medium to a socially networked medium. I’ve made some legitimate friends here, and have made the acquaintance of a few interesting, if not notable, people (a few of whom have sent me free stuff!).
That said, I’d love to see the site “go viral,” and become a place where dozens of people I don’t know discuss the topics I throw out there, but I haven’t found the time nor the secret, magical ingredient to make that happen so far. After 4.5 years and 1,000 posts, I think it’s safe to say it will probably never happen. Then again, you can’t win if you don’t play.
So, to sum up, I thank you all for being a somewhat-willing part of this. If you’re still reading at this point, you are likely one of the 5-10 loyal readers who have provided more than half of the traffic described above. A special thank you to you guys as well.
Here’s to another 1,000 interesting things to say!
Warning: This is one of those technical posts that won’t make much sense to many people, but will be a goldmine to those who have exactly the same problem I was just working on. OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s begin:
A few weeks ago, I became both a Blogger and a Facebook user. One of my first tasks on Facebook was to find a way to link my blog posts to my Facebook Wall & News Feed, so that my Facebook friends could read my posts without me needing to cross-post them.
Lately, I’ve found myself using the “Recent Comments” widgets on other blogs more frequently, in order to keep tabs on comments I’ve made, whether or not people have responded, etc.. That realization led to a second realization, which is that my blog didn’t have a “Recent Comments” widget.
As you can see on the right sidebar, this travesty was finally rectified this morning. Astute observers will also notice that I’ve also made the hyperlinks on the right sidebar consistent with the rest of the site, and have finally figured out how to get bullet points to show up there without destroying the site layout.
As is typically the case with updates to a blog template, most of this matters more to me than to any of you, but I will ask my regular readers (the few, the proud!) to let me know if anything looks askew on their particular combination of hardware, operating system, and web browser.