Posts Tagged ‘blogs’

Blogging at work as well as home

May 13, 2012

Yikes! It’s been two weeks since I’ve written anything here, a clear violation of the one-post-each-week goal I set when I started Midlife Bat Mitzvah two and a half years ago.

By way of explanation, I feel like I’m drowning a bit in social media right now. Probably 2/3 of my new job at Golden Gate Audubon involves social media — putting out our monthly e-mail newsletter, managing our Facebook page and Twitter feed, and managing our web site. Plus I have just set up the organization’s first blog, Golden Gate Birder, which you can view here.

The blog has taken up a huge chunk of time over the past two weeks, from working with our computer consultants, to corralling staff and volunteers to contribute, to writing some opening posts myself. But it’s also very exciting. My goal is to have a mix of personal reflections on birding and nature, news about local conservation issues, and reviews/info of use to birders. We have some very talented writers among our members (check out Phila Rogers’ post on “Birder or birdwatcher?”). And the blog gives us space to explore ideas that are too long for a Facebook post, yet not urgent enough to take up space in the newsletter.

One thing I’ve realized as I juggle all these social media is how great it is from a visual point of view to do communications for Audubon. Many nonprofits have important missions but humdrum imagery.  Think about editing a food bank newsletter — lots of pictures of people putting canned food into grocery bags! Instead, I get to play with wonderful bird photos like this one that I used in an email inviting members to our annual Birdathon dinner:

An excited Western Snowy Plover at Crissy Field – Photo by David Assmann

Another thing I’ve realized is how this blog prepared me for my Audubon work. I started Midlife Bat Mitzvah mainly as a way to process my thoughts about my adult Bat Mitzvah and other life transitions. But it also turned out to be useful professional development for this social media-driven era.

Golden Gate Audubon’s web site and blog are built on the WordPress platform, the same one I use here. So the mechanics of creating and editing posts was familiar — more complicated than what I’d used before, but similar. Midlife Bat Mitzvah also gave me a comfort and fluency in blog writing style that has helped me get Audubon’s going. Meanwhile, Audubon’s email newsletter relies on web-based software from a company called Vertical Response, which is unrelated to WordPress yet shares conceptually-similar editing tools.

In short, I felt like I was in a midlife, mid-career limbo back in 2009 when I started this blog — finished with the imploding world of print journalism, but not sure what else I could do.

And it turned out that the tool I chose to write about that limbo, this blog, has helped me climb out of it.


Hundreds day

January 5, 2011

My daughter’s elementary school used to have “Hundreds Day” — a day when there would be a slew of number activities based around 100. The kids would count out 100 m&ms, jump rope a hundred times, sort 100 plastic shapes, and so on. Of course it was always the hundredth day of school.

This is my 100th blog post! I started in early November 2009, and have slightly exceeded my goal of doing one post per week.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my first century of posts:

  • Well, I can do it! Before starting, I wondered if I would have enough stuff to say to maintain a steady stream of posts. At this relatively mellow rate, the answer appears to be yes. I haven’t even had to resort to posting YouTube videos of stupid cat tricks.
  • I also enjoy the style. When I wrote Where Girls Come First, I was surprised how hard it was to break out of the just-the-facts newspaper style that had been drummed into me over the years. Write with tone of voice? with adjectives? With more words than are strictly necessary? That was all a struggle. So part of what I wanted to do with this blog was  work on writing informally, with personality and voice. I think I’ve managed to do that pretty well.
  • Humility. Considering I did absolutely no promotion or marketing, I was pleased that the blog was getting a steady stream of visitors. Then at a certain point I realized that lots of my visitors were coming to the site for…. an image I had posted of the Chutes & Ladders board game.

Yes, apparently hundreds of people every week feel compelled to look for pictures of Chutes & Ladders. They do a Google Image search for “chutes and ladders,” or sometimes “shoots and ladders.” (Kudos to our educational system.) And up pops yours truly’s blog post in which she compared fiction writing to that old board game. Try it — Google Images and “chutes and ladders”.  You’ll see. And my visitor count will go up.

More seriously, I wonder after a hundred posts if there is a way to gain just a few more readers.

Social media experts suggest expanding your audience by hunting for other blogs on related topics, posting comments on those blogs, and being witty/interesting enough that people are then drawn to your blog. I am sure that makes sense for some people, but it seems like an awful lot of work to put in for something that is a spare-time hobby.

I also wonder if this blog is too diffuse to draw readers who don’t know me personally. It’s not laser-focused on a particular hot topic like College Admissions  Confidential, Everything Apple, or Foreshadowings of Sarah Palin in the Book of Revelation. Sometimes it’s about Jewish stuff, sometimes it’s about writing, sometimes it’s about who-knows-what. Would that be of interest to folks beyond my circle of friends and friends-of-friends?

Here’s an experiment to celebrate post # 100.

IF you feel like it — and only if — tell one friend about Midlife Bat Mitzvah and send them the link. Maybe we can double the readership for the next hundred posts?

And if not, at least your friend will know where to find a really good picture of the Chutes and Ladders board.

Fame and fortune — well, at least fame

April 13, 2010

Midlife Bat Mitzvah makes the headlines!

Well, that’s an overstatement if I ever heard one. But the J, the weekly Jewish newspaper of the Bay Area, ran a story about this blog and about yours truly several days ago.

You can read it here.

I always find it somewhat unnerving to be on the other side of the interviewer/interviewee line.  When I was a newspaper reporter, the subjects of my stories generally gave me high marks for accuracy. But still, being a journalist gives you a ringside view of how many things can be gotten wrong in a story — through carelessness, misunderstanding, the need to condense long comments into short spaces, or reporting that begins with a preconceived conclusion.

There are also situations where the reporting isn’t  wrong — just different from how the subject views the world. It’s like when our mental images of ourselves don’t  correspond with what we look like in a photo, so we tear up the photo.

When I was a reporter, I was always surprised by how few people were leery of being interviewed. Maybe most folks didn’t know enough to be nervous.

I was nervous. When I sat down with J reporter Stacey Palevsky, I found myself deliberately trying to find places to connect with her. I’m a journalist, you’re a journalist. You taught in Oakland Midrasha, my daughter goes to Oakland Midrasha.  It was the mirror image of what I used to do when I was the reporter writing the profile: Find little things in common with the subject. Put them at ease. Win them over so they open up to you.

It’s a somewhat strange dance step — reach out, build trust out of mistrust, so your dancing partner tells you their full story. Or listens, with a friendly ear, to your story.

In any case, Stacey Palevsky did a very good and professional job. Caught the essence of what I’m trying to do. No significant factual errors. Chose a good anecdote to open the story, and a good, related final quote to end it. Didn’t leave me hiding under the bed with embarrassment or feeling like I wanted to (figuratively) tear up any photos.

Plus… on the literal level… she got a great photo of our new kitten on my lap at the computer!

Photo credit: Stacey Palevsky/The J Weekly

One blog, spam on the side, please

March 23, 2010

With four months of Midlife Bat Mitzvah under my belt (under my mousepad?), I continue to feel like a naive newcomer to the world of blogging.

Things surprise me. Like blog-comment spam.

We’re all used to email spam — those non-stop notes offering us Viagra, Nigerian riches, and preternaturally large male sexual organs. But did you know there is also a whole genre of blog-comment spam?

I’m not talking about nasty comments, the kind of bilious rants that people tend to post anonymously in the Comments sections of newspaper web sites.

These are NICE comments!  

Take this one:

Well said. I never thought I would agree with this opinion, but I’m beginning to view things differently. I have to research more on this as it seems very interesting. One thing that is unclear to me though is how everything is related together.

Or this one:

Excellent! If I could write like this I would be well chuffed. The more I read articles of such quality as this (which is rare), the more I think there might be a future for the Web. Keep it up, as it were.

Or this, short but sweet:

This blog is great. How did you come up with the idea?

Now, I love a compliment as much as the next writer, but it quickly became apparent to me that these commenters hadn’t ever read my blog. These were generic comments that were being sent to hundreds — thousands? — of blogs, apparently in an effort to attract visitors to the authors’ own web sites. When I clicked to see the source of the “this blog is great” comment, for instance, I ended up on a web page with a sketchy-sounding offer of free cell phones.

Now, as the writer/editor/publisher of Midlife Bat Mitzvah, I review all comments before they get posted on the page. So these spammy ones never see the light of day. None of you readers are hurt or even inconvenienced by them.

But I alternate between sadness and wonder at the lengths people go to, to promote dubious products to folks who don’t have the slightest interest in them. Can you imagine if all the effort that goes into spam were redirected into things that were genuinely useful and positive?

Meanwhile, I continue to have a frisson of excitement each time I get one of these nice complimentary comments. My initial reaction is: “Ooh! I have a fan!”

Followed by a little deflation.

No fan, just spam.

Nice Jewish blog seeks same, for long walks on beach

November 4, 2009

You may notice that this blog — like lots of blogs — has links to some other people’s blogs and Web sites in the column running down the side of the page.

I’m starting with three categories — Other Jewish Blogs, Blogs About Writing, and Random Stuff I Like.

What? You don’t see a listing for Other Jewish Blogs??!

That’s because I haven’t found any yet that I really, really like. To be honest, I haven’t even started looking.

But I’d love some suggestions!

Are there Jewish blogs that you read and enjoy? Or how about really good blogs about broader issues of religion and belief?

I’d love to hear about them and – if I like them too – link to them from this page.