Daily Archives: 14 Sep 2015

Seven Common Blogging Mistakes?!

Seven MistakesI was crawling around KeriLynn Engel’s website, looking for something to work on. She’s a far more serious freelance writer than I am. And I’m trying to learn some things from her. But I am much older and much more cynical. So there is only so much that I’m willing to learn. In fact, as a result of reading the site, I was looking at downloading the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. But I watched the video on it and I thought, “Do I really want to take time away from my frenetic writing to deal with this?” I still don’t know. It will probably take me a week to say, “Yes.”

But Engel recently worked on an infographic, Seven Common Blogging Mistakes to Avoid. And it has some very good advice. But I thought I might punch back against it just a bit. Note, however, that I don’t think Engel wrote the infographic; I assume that she simply edited it. And I know from experience that you work with what you’ve got. My common reaction in these situations is never accepted, “Let’s start from scratch!” I may have developed my own fallacy: anti-sunk costs. But it is nonetheless true that it is easiest to start over. Few people who manage the money ever thinks that’s true.[1]

That’s not to say that this infographic is bad. I rather like it. But if you think it sucks, you shouldn’t blame Engel. Anyway, let’s go through these blogging mistakes and see what I think of them.

Blog Every Day

This one annoys me. It isn’t that I disagree with it. But I have a problem with the “Do This Instead.” And that is, “Post regularly: that might be 2-3 times a week or once a week.” Clearly! When people tell you to blog every day, it is like telling a writer to throw out the first three pages of her novel. The point is not to throw out pages of writing; the point is to get on with the story right away. And telling a writer to blog every day is the same as telling her to post regularly.

Clearly, I post six things every day. Why? Because I’m insane. It’s also because I’m addicted to writing. I enjoy it. But I didn’t start out this way. And it isn’t necessarily a good thing to do. But ultimately, everyone needs to decide what it is they are blogging for. And I am blogging so I can figure out what I’m blogging for. Also, I’m doing research on a new book, “Make $10 a Month Blogging (Before Expenses)!”

Search Engine (Over) Optimization

My only real quibble with this is the word “over.” The truth of the matter is that if you use a good platform (like WordPress), a lot of your major SEO mistakes will be avoided automatically. If you really want the search engines to get to know you, let other website owners and bloggers know you. And that depends upon your having content that is worth while. What I think people should remember is that search engines will only get better. Any effort to specially tailor your content to search engines will only be helpful for a while.

If You Write It, They Will Come

I don’t especially buy this one. The truth is that if you write enough, people will start to notice you. But again, I come back to the need for interacting with other writers. I know most people think that social media is really great, but if no one is reading your blog, then no one is following you on Facebook. In my early years, I spent a lot of time commenting on other blogs and adding links to my own articles. But it’s like anything else: you can’t try to scam it. If you add thoughtful comments on other blogs, people are more likely to check out what you are writing.

Blogging Is an Easy Way to Make Money

I’ve been wanting to introduce pull-quotes. But admittedly, all of that is a lot of work.

Does anyone believe that? Again, I come back to my new book, “Make $10 a Month Blogging (Before Expenses)!” Blogging is no way to make money directly. But taken seriously, it can lead to other kinds of (paying) writing and even speaking. But I’m serious about just how bad blogging is for making money. This blog now gets over 500 unique visitors per day and it brings in about $10 per month — before expenses like hosting. How much does hosting cost? About $10 per month.

No One Uses Email Lists

I used to use email lists on the old platform. I don’t now because I need to figure out a way to put out a digest or a newsletter. Yeah, I know it’s easy. But I’m very busy making money and writing stuff like this for $10 per month (before expenses)!

Only Write Short Posts (Or Long Ones)

Ah yes, variety is the spice of life. But I think this “mistake” is overstated. People want to know what a blog is all about. So they don’t really like sites that have one sentence “articles” followed by 20,000 word discussions of the Battle of Marathon. Much of the appeal of Frankly Curious is knowing that I provide articles that are long enough to get a good idea of what’s going on, but not so long that readers have to waste a bunch of time. I think the main thing is that a blog should be whatever its character dictates.

Words Are the Only Part of a Post That Matters

Well, this is one I’ve been complaining about for a long time. Most blogs are very boring to look at. Unless your words are really in demand, break things up. I continue to increase my use of graphics. And I’ve been wanting to introduce pull-quotes. But admittedly, all of that is a lot of work.

And that’s really what’s more important: blogs are generally things done by single people. They don’t have editors and designers. And there’s a catch-22: if you don’t have many readers, you can’t afford to make your blog great. A lot of bad blogging is the result of ignorance. But I suspect that most of it is the result of lack of resources.

[1] I used to deal with this when I did programming work. People would come to me with websites they had sunk a bunch of money into that needed to be fixed. “Can we start all over?” They didn’t have the money. “Can we at least get a new logo?” They not only didn’t have the money for it, they loved the old logo. Ugh.

The Biggest Marks in American Politics

Matt TaibbiIn the elaborate con that is American electoral politics, the Republican voter has long been the easiest mark in the game, the biggest dope in the room. Everyone inside the Beltway knows this. The Republican voters themselves are the only ones who never saw it.

Elections are about a lot of things, but at the highest level, they’re about money. The people who sponsor election campaigns, who pay the hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the candidates’ charter jets and TV ads and 25-piece marching bands, those people have concrete needs.

They want tax breaks, federal contracts, regulatory relief, cheap financing, free security for shipping lanes, antitrust waivers and dozens of other things.

They mostly don’t care about abortion or gay marriage or school vouchers or any of the social issues the rest of us spend our time arguing about. It’s about money for them, and as far as that goes, the CEO class has had a brilliantly winning electoral strategy for a generation.

They donate heavily to both parties, essentially hiring two different sets of politicians to market their needs to the population. The Republicans give them everything that they want, while the Democrats only give them mostly everything.

They get everything from the Republicans because you don’t have to make a single concession to a Republican voter…

Republicans won middle American votes for years by taking advantage of the fact that their voters didn’t know the difference between an elitist and the actual elite, between a snob and an oligarch. They made sure their voters’ idea of an elitist was Sean Penn hanging out with Hugo Chavez, instead of a Wall Street bank financing the construction of Chinese factories.

—Matt Taibbi
The Republicans Are Now Officially the Party of White Paranoia

The Useful Fools of “Reform” Movements

Matt BruenigFor a long time, I’ve been harping on a particular thing in the education “reform” movement: that it isn’t natural. People in it always claim that while they may not be doing the obvious things to improve primary education in this country, they are at least doing something. What’s more, they claim that the things that I think are important are “politically impossible.” But it just so happens that the things that they have “chosen” to do — the things that are “politically possible” — are the things that rich people are willing to pay them to work on.

As a result of this, there is really only one thing that the education “reform” movement is all about: breaking teacher unions. Everything else: high stakes testing, charter schools, and all the rest are just the means to that end of depriving teachers of basic worker protections. And whether the useful fools who work in the “reform” movement know this or not, the ultimate result of this will be to make teaching a worse paying, less stable form for work. And that will mean that it will be that much harder to find qualified teachers, not to mention the great teachers the “reformers” are always yammering on about incentivizing.

All of this is obvious if you follow the issue at all. But in general, it isn’t discussed. Maybe it is because opponents of this “reform” don’t want to be seen as questing the motives of “reform” supporters — who after all seem to be genuine in their desires. But the issue isn’t primarily about the people on the front lines. The primary issue is who is supporting them and why. And they are the plutocrats who have a very different end in mind for education “reform.” But I do blame those on the front lines who are clearly more interested in listening to people who know nothing about education but who offer up piles of cash than they are to actual teachers.

It’s because I feel so alone on this issue that I was glad to see that Matt Bruenig had written, The Left Wing of the Fundable. It it, he talked about one very telling example. Conor Williams recently made the case that those in the education “reform” movement are the true warriors against inequality because they are against segregated neighborhood schools. Hooray for charter schools because they wash away decades of segregated schools!

Except they don’t. Neighborhoods are segregated because white Americans are racists. And they are helped along by a racist system where educational funding in most areas dependent upon local property taxes. So the (mostly white) people who can afford it are incentivized to move to (mostly white) areas that have better schools. Are charter schools designed to solve the problem of segregation? No. Is it likely that racist white Americans would figure out ways to game the system anyway? I think so.

Bruenig noted that busing is the obvious answer to school segregation. We know it works. But Conor Williams isn’t running around telling everyone that we should be using busing to integrate the schools. Williams and other reformers would claim that busing is not a political possibility whereas charters are. And this is where Bruenig gets his title: “practicality is defined here in terms of what you might call the Left Wing of the Fundable.” He’s singing my tune:

You can get money to push for charter schools and privatization and breaking teacher/public unions… You can get a fellowship at a think tank to push for those types of things. They are thus practical in the sense that there are enough rich people and institutions with somewhat mixed interests that are willing to pony up the money necessary to push them through our hilariously undemocratic political system and to fund a healthy number of advocate jobs. The same money doesn’t exist for busing advocacy.

This is one of the biggest ways the the power elite have to keeping the conversation always on their own turf. This is why we are always talking about cutting Social Security and not raising the payroll tax cap — because Pete Peterson pays hundreds of millions of dollars to the liberal class to talk about what he wants. And it is the same way that Bill and Mindy keep us us from talking about using the taxes they pay on their $123 million house and spending them on poor children in Lakewood. So don’t listen to the jerks like Conor Williams. They are just useful fools. Look at what the interests are of those who fund people like him. It ain’t school integration, that’s for sure.

Excitement and Increased Voter Turnout With Real Political Choices

David BrockingtonDavid Brockington wrote a great article over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, Why I Voted Jeremy Corbyn for Leader of the Labour Party, With Reservations. This is not another article about Corbyn, so don’t worry. It’s about choice. Brockington is a social scientist on the faculty of Plymouth School of Government. And he has been doing work that indicates that voter turnout goes down the more the two parties move to the center. He’s very careful to say that he hasn’t proven this. He’s a scientists, after all. But the evidence seems to indicate it. And the narrative is very strong.

Consider that you have two candidates. One of them is promising cut taxes on the wealthy and the other is promising to keep those taxes the same. If you aren’t wealthy, why would you care? Would this make you think that you ought to inconvenience yourself by finding time to vote? Or would you feel very much like the people of a nation where they can only vote for people from a single party? When elections come down to who is the most competent to do what both candidates agree on, very few people show up at the polls.

David Brockington has been doing work that indicates that voter turnout goes down the more the two parties move to the center.

Given that the people least likely to vote are liberal leaning voters, it thus makes more sense to get turnout as high as possible. Of course, it doesn’t always work. In 2004, turnout was very high because people were angry about the war. But this was cutting against an improving economy. I now feel certain that had the Democrats nominated Howard Dean and made the election about the war, Bush would have lost. (And do you know what that would have meant? No John Roberts. No Samuel Alito. And we still would have likely gotten Sotomayor and Kagan, because Souter and Stevens both wanted to retire. That would have brought us a court with one liberal, five moderates, one conservative, and two wackos.)

So what does this mean for the 2016 presidential election here in the US? Even though I’m a supporter of Bernie Sanders, I don’t think that it means we have to nominate him. I think that Hillary Clinton is plenty exciting herself. She would be, after all, the first woman president. And we do have a history of this: first black men got the vote (in theory, anyway) and then women got the vote. It does make me more skeptical of a Joe Biden presidential run. I think that people often make a very big mistake by going with the “safe” choice. It’s just too easy to be wrong. Again, it’s like John Kerry in 2004. He was the “safe” choice, but knowing what I now know about politics, he was a horrible choice.

Someone I was reading recently noted that if the American people could vote Obama a third term, they would. That’s probably true. I think the country is happy enough with the direction of the economy. And I expect that to be true for the next year. The Republicans seem incapable of offering anything other than going backwards to worse times. And I don’t think the people are in any mood to go far to the left. Of course, the thing about Clinton is that she’s pretty much matched Sanders in terms of possible economic policy. So in addition to being a woman, she is offering policies that do make a clear distinction with whatever candidate the Republicans run.

This makes me feel even a little better about 2016.

Morning Music: Cello Song

Five Leaves LeftNick Drake only produced three albums during his lifetime — over the course of just over two years. So we will spend another day on his first album, Five Leaves Left. It is probably my least favorite of his albums, because I just don’t care that much for the production. That is not to say that it ruins the album. I love the album! But the next two are better.

Today, we are going to listen to “Cello Song.” It’s a remarkably upbeat song. It appears to be sung to the sun. And it includes such a positive image at the end: “And if one day you should see me in the crowd; lend a hand and lift me to your place in the cloud.” I suppose there are those who would like to interpret it as a desire for death. I get very tired of tendencies to create a single narrative for people’s lives — especially for people as complicated as Nick Drake.

Anniversary Post: Defense of Fort McHenry

Francis Scott KeyOn this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote the poem “Defense of Fort McHenry.” The first verse has become the lyrics of our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The tune was the official song of the Anacreontic Society — group of upper class London men who promoted music appreciation and drinking. I’ve never much liked the tune — it’s awkward and formal — hard to sing — boring. I was pleased to learn that it didn’t become the national anthem until 1931 — while still under Herbert Hoover.

As for Key, well, he was a slave owner and anti-abolitionist. At the same time, he wrote a lot of religious poetry. He was a good Episcopalian. It goes back to what I wrote about a week or so ago: there have always been two kinds of Christians in this nation — the liberals and the conservatives. The conservative ones today want to believe that are part of the movement that ended slavery, but they aren’t. They are part of the movement that Francis Scott Key was part of — the part that believed that slavery was Godly. But Key’s predilection does provide an ironic charm to the words, “O’er the land of the free…”

But the main thing for us to consider today is that Key was not a very good poet. I think it is great that people who don’t have much talent write. I think writing is a great thing. But we don’t need to hold such people up as masters of the art. And just a year earlier, Lord Byron wrote, “She Walks in Beauty.” Of course, it may help to be inspired by a beautiful woman in mourning, and not the excitement of the thought that more people on their side are dying than on ours.

See also: Musical Dreck to Commie Propaganda.