The Trials of a Beginner Blogger-a Year On

One year on from starting my personal blog here are my thoughts on some of the challenges I’ve faced so far.

Getting Started

My husband set up my account on WordPress as he was familiar with the site himself, but mainly because I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start. Rob works with computers everyday and is “connected” continuously to the internet and social media. I, on the other hand, use my laptop for projects when I need to and treat social media with a cool detachment. So my use of computers and the internet is a bit sporadic and I would say I’m not particularly at ease navigating the web.

Connectivity

Graduating to using a smart phone a few years ago allowed me to access social media apps, and I particularly enjoy using Twitter. I mainly rely on my mobile phone for internet searches and updating the social media sites I use. Therefore, mobile network connectivity is a BIG issue for me and we live in an area that seems to be on the periphery of several networks coverage. So none of them provide a particularly great signal and the problem is compounded by living in a flat and the “Faraday’s Cage effect” kicking in. A silent mobile phone at home can suddenly ping into life with alerts the minute I leave the front door! Living in a country-esque university campus also means that any broadband internet services would not provide the speeds advertised, because the infrastructure was not in place around the area. Fibre-optic cables have been laid down in recent weeks however, but we won’t be installing the internet any time soon. My husband’s office is only a couple of minutes away from home and his mobile keeps him connected away from work. It’s a conscious decision to have a broadband free household, in the attempt to provide some form of work-life balance for Rob. I therefore depend on free Wi-Fi in public places and a small gadget at home, which latches onto a mobile signal to provide your own “temporary” Wi-Fi hotspot. The network we use for this is a different one to our mobile provider, as it seems to be better at latching onto a signal. My concern for the future is that the two networks are potentially merging in a take-over deal and I think the coverage will get worse rather than better as a result!

Technical Issues

Ideas on what to write are not a problem for me; it’s the technical execution of the task that is the challenge. As well as the connectivity issues raised, the phraseology of blogging can seem like a foreign language to the uninitiated. Instructional magazines for the beginner blogger discuss “widgets”, plug-ins”, “hyper-links”, “URL’s” “tags” to name but a few, and then discuss customisation for the individual look in great detail. The sheer feat of getting my words into an electronic format on the internet has been my main goal. I always write my blog in full before connecting to the internet to upload it; I don’t like the idea of a “draft” looking at me. It also saves time when I am connected because the blog thought processes can be extensive and time consuming.

My biggest mistake this year involved photos and resizing them as I inadvertently muddled imperial and metric sizes, oops! This happened in the early months writing for a friend’s website as a horse-racing pundit. I had worked out how to insert the pictures and resized them where it was necessary, although I had the intention of printing the blogs off and turning them into book form. With this in mind I was always thinking of an A4 page featuring 6×4 INCH photos, but without realising had resized them in the CENTIMETRE range. I had wondered why the photos seemed more like stamps at the time. I don’t think too many blogs were affected either here or on the sports website, but I may go back and check for quality control purposes. Please feel free to read my race reports/results and horse newsletter “From the Horse’s Mouth” which can all be found at www.letstalksport.org.uk.

Initially I didn’t insert photo’s into any of my blogs because I didn’t know how to and was mindful of the image credits issue. Not so bad with my own photographs but a potential minefield elsewhere. I believe the copyright symbol can be inserted into your own snaps using Photoshop and I hope to explore that avenue. But I’m not very confident in finding and transporting the embedded information from internet articles and ask my husband for help in this matter. Very gradually little “extras” have begun to appear in my personal blogs, and I hope to learn how to use with confidence the “Press This” facility on WordPress. Until then I will acknowledge any outside source material the best way I can.

Against the Clock

I began writing my horse-racing posts at the start of the Cheltenham Festival in March 2014. Throughout the five days of racing I was constantly aware of being “against the clock”, feeling it was essential to get the reports done in good time. Being a novice blogger and viewing a sport I had no real knowledge of was no excuse for being sloppy. If I was going to do this, I would do it properly and felt exactly how a sports journalist must feel with a deadline to meet. Timing can be everything, as I discovered when I posted my Scotland Decides and News Views articles, getting some of my biggest number of hits. Of course the issues raised were very topical for the day and I usually avoid these kinds of stories, because they are usually controversial. But I found my own reactions to them incredibly strong and discovered the blogosphere a cathartic means of expressing them!

My Voice

Until I yielded to Rob’s gentle prodding and began this blogging journey, many of my ideas would have remained doodles on paper unseen by anyone. It has been lovely as well as scary to think that some of my musings have been read by strangers in some far-flung place. And it has been great to have a forum to display some of my passions (Bolero, Sydney Devine) and log my research (Harry, Seabiscuit/Arkle). And I’ve also managed to link in my hospital radio programs and Soundcloud files to give them some extra exposure. I’m not overly comfortable with advertising myself, but do understand the need to publicise my latest posts and use Facebook and Twitter to do so. Hopefully, I can learn how to utilise WordPress more effectively to help facilitate getting my blogs found and seen more often too. But undoubtedly in my “Year of the Blog” I have given expression to my writing voice.

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