Typewriters and secretaries

Sunday 24 May 2015, 12.01am HKT


M E N T A L   I M P R E S S I O N S   R E V I V E D

SOMEONE once told me:—

“When you’re in anger, you should sit down and start writing something. That usually calms a person down.”

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I don’t think so.

Read the rest of this entry »

The blog is dead! Long live blogging!

Saturday 2 May 2015, 12.39am HKT


LET’S make waves now.

IBM Selectric II typewriter via Wikipedia

Read the rest of this entry »

Reminiscences: Week 32

Sunday 12 August 2012, 12.01am HKT


Updated 04 JUN 2013 (name redaction upon request)

MENTAL IMPRESSIONS retained and revived during 05–12 August 2012.

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ANGERED WRITING

SOMEONE once told me:—

“When you’re in anger, you should sit down and start writing something. That usually calms a person down.”

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Are you deliberately stupid, or were you actually born this dumb?

The last time I checked, anybody who can sit down and start writing usually isn’t farkin’ angry anymore or enough.

Have you ever tried getting an real, live, sweating, angry person to sit down and calm down? You haven’t, have you, smartypants? That’s why policemen in some countries are given firearms to give the ole’ two-in-stomach-one-in-head.

Some people really do deserve to get an extra round in the gonads.

This, my friends, probably does a better job calming someone down:

Hamsters are not rats
“If you want gratitude, get a hamster,” so says the rat.

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OLIVETTI LETTERA 32

La macchina da scrivere Olivetti «Lettera 32» con custodia
(The Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter with slipcase)

WHILST on the subject of writing, I was (and still am) terribly fond of this manual typewriter. It was very popular with journalists and students worldwide in the 1960s and ’70s. Use one and you’ll never want to use anything else (computers excepted).

It’s also the only model of typewriter that North Korea bans from entering into that feudal kingdom. (North Korea has a longer hereditary rule than the United Kingdom, in fact.)

First steps. It’s not Lettera Thirty-two. You say LET-t’rra Trentadue (TREN-tah-DOO-weh). So now you know the correct name.

Dad gave me his Trentadue when I was around nine. He had bought himself a brand-new Trentadue because it’s more seemly for business appearances. Can’t argue with that.

But what’s a nine year old supposed to do with a portable typewriter, I hear you ask?

Nothing. Just clack away for fun.

Dad’s idea was to get me used to the physical presence of having my own typewriter, so that hopefully I’d be comfortable enough one day to learn touch-typing. Dad was a one-finger typist (with occasional bursts of double-finger action), so I can relate to that.

I can’t remember exactly now, but Dad probably said something like it’s sometimes just a pointless waste of time to write longhand, so just do it on the typewriter, mistakes and all, mark up, and be done with it. It’s a great deal easier to type manually on index cards than to fiddle around with computer printers.

Okay, I think Dad was ultimately right. I took a one-year Pitmans Typewriting course around 13 or 14 years old, and then a full one-year Pitmans Secretarial course around 16. I wasn’t the only guy there — though the chicks did outnumber the studs 8 to 1. Can’t complain.

Truth be told, I learnt better spelling, writing, penmanship, English, French and probably better chat-up lines with the birds from those Pitman classes than all of my years in normal school classes — or with the lads.

The secretarial teacher (Sue Rodwell) was hot.

Classmate Keren (“yes, that’s the correct spelling!”) was hot.

Wendy Marshall (“effs like a tiger”, so Paul Baker said) was hot.

That left “MS,” originally from Iran, two notches down the hawtness scale, but she was hot enough, boyo. Srsly.

Plus, in secretarial classes, it’s unnecessary to put on ‘academic’ or disciplined airs. We could nibble on snacks, bring in drinks, gossip and do other stuff.

“We’re training out secretaries and typist-clerks, not bloody scholars or nuns. We’re supposed to take dictation with skirt up, wiggle our tits now and then, and then go home for the day. That could be a problem for you though, Robert.”

Today, I can touch-type at 70 wpm — and burst of 85 wpm when I’m paid. I’m sorry to say I’m not built for skirts or T-wiggles. My fault, I know, but I can’t help it.

Incidentally, the Chinese name for Olivetti is 好利獲得 (Mandarin: Hào Lì Huò Dé / Cantonese: Hoe Lee Wok [or Waai] Dak —literally, ‘to obtain good fortune/benefits’). The sound of that name coincided more closely with 偶利吉帝 (orr ley gut daie) — an older-fashioned, highly idiomatic Cantonese phrase that defies translation but kind of means pwned, self-pwnage, a lemon, a drip, orz , twerp and derp all rolled into one. So during most of the 1950s to the 70s, Olivetti was nicknamed that way. Actually, Olivetti did very well business-wise with Cantonese-speaking people because of that nickname.

My Trentadue has long gone (stolen).

Right now, the only portable manual typewriter I own is an Underwood 250 made in former Czechoslovakia.

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BETTY & VERONICA

‘Best friends and worst enemies’

TALKING of chicks, does anyone remember these two comic-book chicks?

Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, both girls of Archie Andrews. I remember them from the 1970s.

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DJIBOUTI

DJIBOUTI on the Horn of Africa was a long time ago.

I can’t remember how or why we got there, but we arrived and left the same day. At the time, I was told the place was called Le Territoire Français des Afars et des Issas (the French Territory of the Afars and Issas), which I thought was a mouthful.

I have no memory of the place other than its name.

The Lonely Planet book “Africa on a Shoestring” (2004) described Djibouti as “a French Hong Kong in the Red Sea” on account of the buildings there — which must have been one helluva typographical mistake.

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SOULFOOD IN HONG KONG

Yeah, you wouldn’t have thought so, but American soulfood was kinda ‘hip’ in Hong Kong at one time from — oh — 1970 to Bruce Lee’s death in 1973, or thereabouts.

There were about a dozen of these eateries that served genuine-looking and -tasting favourites of the South. They weren’t upscale, experimental or ‘nouveau soul’ — as these restaurants tend to be nowadays even in the States.

One of the more upscale ones opened with some fanfare, with a TV photo op of the American basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

After the death of Bruce Lee, soulfood quickly started disappearing from the Hong Kong dining scene.

It was gone by the time the Vietnam War ended and no more American servicemen passed through the place.

Today, ‘soulfood’ in Hong Kong is a completely different kettle of fish. The faggots and faggotesses (usually overseas-raised locals) who talk about it clearly never seen soul bloody food even in pictures, much less on a dish in front of them.

Magnolia (www.magnolia.hk) is now the only place in Hong Kong serving New Orleans-style Cajun and Creole cuisine. It is a ‘private dining’ establishment by pre-booking only.

By my own reckoning, the only dishes that come reasonably close to the soulfood of the 1970s are those cooked in Filipino-run foodstalls in World-Wide House in Central district.

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© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. (B12467)

Updated 25 May 2013 (typo fixes)
Updated 04 June 2013 (name redaction)

Images: Dickhead tee via vis.ualize | Hamster via c4c | Olivetti Lettera 32 via iNetGiant | Olivetti advertisement in author’s collection | Secretary taking dictation via AllPosters.com | Betty and Veronica via apina | Djibouti via Wikipedia | Soulfood via LTH Forum | Soulfood stuffed peppers via LTH Forum.

You don’t blog? (Bonus finale)

Thursday 23 February 2012, 9.00am HKT


Updated 30 May 2013 (reformatting, one new resource)

FROM PART 5

NO, THIS IS NOT A JOKE. This is the bonus finale to the ‘You don’t blog?‘ series.

* * *

Bonus protip:
BE NICE

Even if you’re not a blogger yourself, be nice to friends or family who are.

  • DO:— If not nice, at least be unobjectionable.

Just because your sneering, academically inclined attitude considers blogging isn’t serious writing doesn’t necessarily mean blogging isn’t. Can you yourself put out stuff like they can? There’s your answer…

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venetian salad 02

  • DO:— Make a snack for your friend or family member while he or she is furiously whacking out a story on that filthy, cigarette-ash encrusted keyboard. The Venetian Pauper’s Blood Orange Salad comes highly recommended. At the very least, bring him or her a cup of joe and some tissues for wiping tears, for pete’s sakes.

Some grumpy shiteheads actually complain about being brought a snack to them because they say it’s their policy not to eat or drink while writing. Then lace their next meal with arsenic.

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DO:— Blog happily, otherwise it’s not worth the time and pain.

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* * *

RESOURCES

Creating image files from documents and webpages

ImagePrinter (or Virtual ImagePrinter) 2.0.1 by Ibadov Tariel

http://code-industry.net/imageprinter.php

Windows 2000 and up | Freeware (0.9 MB)

This highly useful printer driver outputs any kind of document (MS Word, webpage) into image format (.bmp, .png, .jpg, .tiff). Extremely easy to use: you just select ‘ImagePrinter’ like you would any physical printer.

Image viewer/editor

IrfanView

http://www.irfanview.com | Windows XP and up | Freeware (1.45 MB download)

One of the world’s top image viewers with ability to edit/manipulate images. It can also handle a variety of other tasks (special effects, reading PDFs, etc) if the IrfanView plugins (8.90 MB) are also installed.

Image size reducer

Added 30 May 2013:

JPEGmini

http://www.jpegmini.com

Use this free online service to reduce the file size of your photos by up to 5 times while preserving their original quality and JPEG format. This helps reduce the load time and bandwidth use for image-intensive webpages.

Upload your photos to the online service, then download the optimised JPEGmini photos. Single photos don’t require registration. Batch uploading of full photo albums requires free registration.

JPEG is also available as a standalone program: JPEGmini for Windows and JPEGmini for Mac (priced US$20 each). For company use, JPEGmini Photo Server is for deployment on local host systems or on Amazon AWS.

JPEGmini uses a patent-pending recompression technology developed by ICVT, an Israeli startup company based in Tel Aviv.

Reading PDFs

Adobe Acrobat Reader

http://get.adobe.com/reader | Windows | Mac | Freeware (66.49 MB download)

The most widely used but it’s bloatware and the loading time is pretty long. Below are better alternatives.

Foxit PDF Reader

http://www.foxitsoftware.com/Secure_PDF_Reader/feature.php

Windows | Linux| Freeware (13.9 MB download)

Almost instantaneous file loading. Install requires only a small hard-drive capacity. (No screenshots.)

Sumatra PDF Reader

http://blog.kowalczyk.info/software/sumatrapdf/free-pdf-reader.html

Windows XP and up | Freeware (4.5 MB download)

Another small, portable PDF reader. Simple user interface and lightning-fast startup. Can read PDF, XPS (similar to PDF), DjVu (scanned documents), CHM (compiled HTML), CBZ and CBR (comic book archive) files.

Mac OS X

The Mac operating system has in-built PDF display capability, so no additional software needed.

Creating PDFs in Windows

PDFCreator v1.2.3

By Philip Chinery and Frank Heindörfer

http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator

Windows | Freeware (18.16 MB download)

A PDF printer driver to create PDFs from any Windows program. Outputs your webpage and documents to PDF. Basically, Windows will recognise this virtual printer just like any physical printer: only the output will be in PDF.

Creating PDFs in Mac OS X

On the Mac OS X, you don’t need to own Adobe Acrobat. You can print documents, webpages or nearly anything else in PDF directly from Mac OS X 10.6.x (‘Snow Leopard’) without any additional software. It’s built into the operating system.

  1. Open the document and press Command+P
  2. Click the ‘PDF‘ button at the bottom left corner of the print dialogue box
  3. Select ‘Save as PDF
  4. Click ‘Save‘ in the save dialogue box in whatever location your want

For Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel files, just open them in their own apps (say, TextEdit, images in iPhoto). Then click File menu > Print > PDF in printing dialogue box > Save as PDF > choose folder and set filename.

For printing PDFs of email messages and webpages, you must use the Safari browser. Then click File menu > Print > PDF in printing dialogue box > Save as PDF > choose folder and set filename.

Editing PDFs (all platforms)

Inkscape

http://www.inkscape.org

Windows XP and up | Mac | Linux | Freeware (35.7 MB download)

An vector graphics editor that will open and edit PDFs. Inkscape is especially useful when your PDF contains vector-based illustrations that require editing. Open Source.

Foxit

http://www.foxitsoftware.com | Windows | Commercial software

Foxit produces a number of Windows programs for reading and editing PDFs. The PDF editors there are paid programs.

Windowsfags say FoxitPro Business (a commercial program) is better than the original Adobe product for creating and editing PDFs. Macfags disagree and say PDF Studio 7 (below) is king.

Qoppa PDF Studio 7 Pro/Standard

http://www.qoppa.com | Mac, Windows, Linux | Commercial software (US$85)

Macfags insist that this is the best PDF read, writeover and securing capabilities going, plus it runs on the Mac, Windows and Linux platforms.

Reality check: Adobe Acrobat is still tops when you need full read and writerover capabilities, the Adobe’s prices are just phenomenal.

Editing PDFs in Mac OS X

Preview is an app built into every Mac OS X Snow Leopard installation for displaying images and PDFs. As a PDF editor, Preview is somewhat basic but gets the job done for most purposes. It allows you to make all sorts of annotations to PDFs. You can draw shapes and write text directly to PDF files (for things like a digital signature).

Editing PDFs online

Many online PDF editors or form-fillers allow PDF editing but only let you to save non-printable PDFs. The non-printable PDFs are made printable after online payment. These two don’t do things like that:—

PDFescape

http://www.pdfescape.com

A free online PDF reader, editor, form-filler and form designer. You only need a browser. Won’t handle files over 2 MB or 50 pages. The final PDF document is printable and have no watermarks.

PDFfiller

http://www.pdffiller.com

Another online PDF form-filler that can handle some edits. Printable results.

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Timeplanning

Timeplanner sheets

A4 size, designed by me | Download here (152 kB, pdf)

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Language usage (general)

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The Complete Plain Words
by Sir Ernest Gowers (1948) and revised by Bruce Fraser (1973)
(Published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, UK, 1973)

A classic. And miles better than Strunk & White a.k.a. ‘Struck with Fright’ or ‘Drunken Blight’ (an abortion in comparison with Gowers).

Let’s clear the air: “Plain Words” is NOT a style guide to British English as Strunk & White is to American English, as many [American] linguanophiles (and Wikipedia) mistakenly believe. “Plain Words” is simply a guide to clearer writing, no more, no less.

Gowers wrote: “The purpose of this book is to help officials in their use of written English as a tool of their trade.” Gower was once head of the UK Internal Revenue Board, so you can appreciate why he wanted British civil servants to express things very clearly when they had to write to the general public on a matter of high complexity to the most of us. It’s also why the book was well-received by many for general writing right from the start.

The linguistics of “Plain Words” mix the prescriptive and the descriptive, which allows grammatical extremists (meaning 99% of linguistics-trained people plus 100% of grammar nazis) to ascribe Gowers a place in the opponent camp (that is, against Strunk & White, which IS a prescriptivist guide).

Also slotted into Gowers’ camp by grammarfags is A Dictionary of Modern English (below).

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A Dictionary of Modern English
by Henry Fowler
(Oxford University Press, 1926–2009)

Also known as Fowler’s Modern English Usage or simply Fowler’s. Not nearly as useful today as Gower’s (above) or Swan’s (below), in my opinion.

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Language usage (for non-English speakers)

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Practical English Usage (3rd edition, 2005)
by Michael Swan
(Oxford University Press, 1980, 1995, 2005)

This book sold over 1½ million copies since the first edition in 1980, so it is a major-league usage guide.

Interestingly, this is a standard reference and only one about English usage aimed at foreign learners and non-English speakers who have to speak or write in English. It gives the basics of English grammar and usage, and helpfully focuses on words that for some reason are hard to use by non-native speakers. The model is basically British English, but the author highlights some of the stylistic differences (therefore faggotry) between British and American usage (e.g. the americanised use of ‘like’ as a conjunction such as in ‘like I do’ making headway into British English).

My own opinion is that even native English speakers should read this book because heaven knows I’ve seen too many native speakers more than enough times bungle their own language.

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Anything else is just superfluous and pointless for blogging.

Whatever you do, forget the grammar, language and linguistics blogs. They’ll only make your blogging (and general language ability) worse than bad.

You have been warned.

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This 6-part series of articles was written by The Naked Listener, with no contributions from anybody other than the images pilfered (but accredited nonetheless). Any reference bearing any similarity to any person(s) living or dead or half-living or half-dead is purely coincidental and unintentional, although the possibility is enormously hilarious. And this is what a shirttail looks like. Heh.

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© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. Updated 30 May 2013 (reformatting only).

Images: ImagePrinter screenshot via Code Industry ♦ Foxit PDF Reader via Foxit Software ♦ Sumatra PDF Reader via Sumatra PDF ♦ PDFCreator screenshot via PDFCreator ♦ Mac OS X Preview via Wikipedia ♦ Inkscape via Inkscape ♦ Everything else by the author.

You don’t blog? (5/5: the finale!)

Friday 17 February 2012, 7.29pm HKT


Updated 30 May 2013 (reformatting only)

FROM PART 4

In this series’ finale, we’ll look at branding and long-term operation of your blog.

You’re gunna lurve some of the graphics in this part and give you ideas.

Unfortunately, this part is absoeffinglutely brain-damagingly long.

But it IS the finale, after all.

And pure gold, even if I do say so myself.

(There’s more?! Shome mishtake shurely.—Editor)

Get some beer and pizza. Take it one bit at a time, like two nervous virgins having sex for the first time on a freezing beach in wintertime.

* * *

PREVIOUSLY…

Just to remind readers just what the hell this series is all about, it’s a response to a question from a newbie noobhead who wants to get into the profitless game of blogging.

In Part 1, we have explained why blogging is still relevant in the age of social media.

Blogging is a ready way to get a web presence. It is your interactive platform to examine an issue or market niche in an fast-moving but in-depth setting, and a transparent forum to engage your audience as well.

Blogging today is very much part of the public communications front of many individuals and organisations. As a proactive and transparent medium, blogging can help build or repair your overall reputation.

In Part 2, we covered the lead-up issues in starting a blog.

Deciding the nature of your blog or your target audience will determine your blog’s topicality and your choice of blog provider. Topical blogs are well-received by readers generally. Your ability to provide visitors with timely and accurate information helps to position yourself as an expert and promote your other websites.

An attractive, memorable blog name attracts visitors. Originality and keywords are important in the blog name. A blog with a good name running on a free blog service is desirable in the beginning, and could even be better than running one on a custom domain.

A basic webpage design is easier to administer than a more ambitious design, and that is preferable in the beginning. Set your newly registered blog to ‘private access only’ until the time is right to ‘go public.’

In Part 3, we looked at the actual mechanics of setting up a blog.

Finalise your essential static pages before your blog goes public. Most important is the About page. Some blogs may require a mission statement. A copyright notice may be applicable.

Readers appreciate both email and RSS as subscription choices. All blogs ought to display an email address for contacting the blog owner.

A blogroll of your favourite websites helps raise your blog’s search-engine ranking and therefore generate more visits.

A Testimonials page is optional, yet it will help reinforce your online credibility.

In Part 4, we looked at the essential copydesk skills needed to keep your blog as a going concern.

A weekly update of around 500 words is a good starting point in developing a more frequent posting schedule and higher or lower word counts as needed. Big features should be published in multipart format.

A flexible and adaptable month-by-month posting plan set up in advance for the whole year will provide regularity and consistency of coverage in stories, thereby advancing the continued life of the blog. Running a yearly biographical sketch of yourself will remind readers of the ‘person’ behind the blog and stoke up reader interest. We showed you some simple steps to develop leads for writing interesting stories.

The quality of writing for posts should be personable and engaging, whilst paying good attention to details of the topic at hand and consideration of your readers’ perspectives. Readers always favour high editorial quality, yet a high literary tone may sometimes work against the essential attractiveness of blogs: entertainingtopical informativeness and decorous informality.

Knowing basic drafting technique helps shorten the turnaround time needed to compose posts. Allow draft posts to ‘marinate’ so as to give yourself time to mull over details, phraseology and other elements and work your stories into first-class publication quality.

Resize your artwork to fit your column width before uploading to the blog servers. Oversized illustrations prolong the loading time of your webpages, thereby losing you visitors and reader goodwill.

Ensure files for downloading by visitors from your site are in correct and safe file formats that do not cause search engines or browsers to detect your blog as a spam site.

Lack of Internet connection is no bar to blogging. Indeed, that could be rethought of as an opportunity to produce more considered, higher-quality posts.

(That’s enough recaps. Get on with it.—Editor)

* * *

10. BRAND YOUR PARTICIPATION

Most of us tend to look back at our school life with some degree of fondness, in spite of the antedeluvian attitudes or even outright detestability of those strangers with shifty eyes and funny noses who either lord over or study with us.

In many ways, blogging is a bit like school life.

Just as in doing homework and telling fibs at school, you spend an obscene amount of time and effort banging out lukewarm stories night after night, recounting the minutiae of barely imaginative exploits with over-imaginative but under-promiscuous beach bunnies on your way to and from work.

And just like your schoolmates did about your fibs, you get sussed out by other bloggers, who then proceed to practically ‘flame’ you with the grumpiest, the meanest, the most demeaning and sardonically insolent comments on your own blog.

They steal the thunder from right under your feet — and yet you’re still enduringly grateful to these ingrates for their doing so out of desperation and forlorn hope that your blog actually gets ‘read’ by somebody ever since your blog started 21 years 7 months 15 days 9 hours 22 minutes ago.

You can advance your sorry little bucketslopof a blogging life with the following new and improved protips from The Naked Listener.

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You are par-ti-ci-pating!

  • DO:— Invite other bloggers to guestblog (or ‘guest-bog’) on your little online kingdom — and offer to do the same on theirs. Keep it simple — file your stories by email instead of opening up new user accounts in your blog.

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  • DO:— Submit stories to other blogs, websites, newsletters and print publications. If you do get published, this will generate credibility (even fame) for you, your ‘expertise’ and your blog. If not those, then at least ‘excerptise’ (ek-serp-tees: excerpt expertise) for you.

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For that, you might get a ‘southern death threat’ (which, coincidentally, is also the name of a really nice American rock band). At least you’ll know somebody somewhere considers you’re not totally ‘not worth the beating.’

Guestblogging is a two-way street. It gives variety to your blogging routine and theirs. It gives you and them a practical change of perspective. You can create a compelling online portfolio by guestblogging.

It’s also an opportunity for others to ‘blog and flog’: blog lurkers or non-bloggers to blog on your turf without the hassle or long-term commitment of setting up their own miserable blogs.

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Blogcons

  • DO:— Attend blogcons (blog conventions). Blogcons are just like any other regular trade event. They are networking events for fun and profit, and sometimes you end up landing a real-life job from the networking. Bring your employer along.

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Blogcons aren’t some hippie groupie sessions organised by arty-farty illiterates for the ‘counterliterates’ wearing cosplay outfits. Blogcons are big business and big money.

A blogcon is just like any other trade fair. Indeed, they are usually organised by the same event-planning companies that organise industrial trade fairs, military armament expositions, car roadshows, music festivals and cosplay conventions.

Visitors pay good money for tickets — and their spends at the event bring good revenue for the hotels, convention centre and the shops that supply the food, the drinks, the shopping and other sellables to these ‘pretend writers’ that you denigrate them as. Bloggers are just normal consumers and blogcons are consumer-driven fairs. The networking done at blogcons (and especially at cosplay- and comic-cons) rakes in the cash on the spot.

You need to make your employer understand this.

For instance, the memorably named Clockenflap 2011 music and arts festival I went to was profitable just on sales of food and drink alone, never mind the ticketing revenue.

Just because the attendees there were young(ish) and have shifty eyes and funny noses and wear outlandish garb don’t mean they have no money to blow in pursuit of their own brand of happiness.

Another example: Social Media Week is a major international event held simultaneously across several different continents. Venues are hotels, convention centres, nightclubs, restaurants and other high-class joints. I’ve been to some SMW events. The booze, the grub, the souvenirs and whatnot might come free for guests, but imagine the revenue for the suppliers.

You need to edjumacate your employers about blogcons.

[You’re fired for attending parties during work hours.—Editor]

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  • DO:— Learn things (and about people!) at blogcons. Some things you get to see or hear about blogging, you’d never even thought of before. It’s good experience for newbies and oldtimers alike.

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  • DON’T:— Don’t brag about your blog or show off your pseudo-intellectual literary skills or journalistic capabilities at blogcons or similar gatherings.

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FACT:— You’d be surprised how many bloggers at blogcons used to be (or still are) senior staff journalists, prizewinning book writers and editors, and famous celebrities in the media business. These are people who make money from their blogs, so you shouldn’t embarrass yourself (or them!).

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I once met a nondescript blogger who 20 years before won the Pulitzer prize for some kind of journalism. I didn’t believe him at first, but after I checked him out, he really was what he claimed. Thank god I didn’t insult him or anything.

Another ordinary-looking blogger I met at a mini-blogcon turned out to work for a merchant bank (‘investment bank’ to our American cousins). That blogger eventually gave me a printing order. The price of the order wasn’t thrilling but it was good for six months of office rent — not something to thumb at.

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Corporatistical branding made simple

Once you’ve been blogging for some length of time, eventually you’ll have to go on ‘field assignments’ and follow up leads like a ‘pretend foreign correspondent.’

But without some kind of visible identification or credential, a blogger will have a tough time getting access to events and people — indeed often summarily denied it.

But how do you get blogging credentials? It’s not like there’s a Press Pass system for us that journalists have.

You have to make do with some home-brewed workarounds.

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  • ESSENTIAL:— Print your blog’s very own business card. Blog name, your name, phone number, email and blog URL. Include Facebook and Twitter as desired. Use a proper printing firm for this.

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The absolute minimum and likely to be the only corporate branding technique most of you will ever need. It obviates the necessity of you explaining yourself when you could flash a BIZNAZ CAAAERD that shows you run a blog.

Why else would you get cards printed like that if you’re not a blogger? Right?

tnl card

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Aside: A word about printing

The whole purpose of getting cards printed is to give them away like mad. If they’re expensive to print, you’re going to look VISIBLE DISTRESSED giving them away.

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PROTIPS ON PAPER:—

Print standard-sized cards only

Use only uncoated paperstock of 120–150 gsm (grammes per square metre) weight

Uncoated cards can double as memo cards in front of your ‘interviewees’

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PROTIPS ON INKS:—

Print single colour (“1C spot colour” in printing parlance).

Single-sided is “1C” and double-sided is “1C + 1C”.

Warm black is usually cheapest, but I recommend Pantone U-288 (PHOTO) for ‘authenticity’ effect. U-288 is usually dark enough to look goodly conservative, but bright enough to stand out.

Frankly, no one needs anything more than single-colour, single-sided printing.

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DON’T:— Don’t use costly fancy techniques like:—

  • coated paperstock
  • single-sided full colour inks (“4C”)
  • worse, double-sided full colour inks (4C + 4C)
  • lamination (glossy or plasticised surfacing)
  • diecuts
  • rounded corners or bevelled edges
  • gilt edges
  • and so on

The job printer invariably recommends those exact things (“they make your cards look distinctive”) because they bump up your printing bill, okay?

[You’re fired for giving away your tradecraft for free.—Editor]

 

LESSONS TO LEARN

I once know a person who ran a bitty setup selling something and had cards done in—

  • 4C + 4C (double-sided full colour)
  • ivory white 150 gsm cardstock
  • matte laminate both sides
  • rounded corners
  • a diecut of a star in the left-centre field

Each card costs a cool HK$7 (or 90¢ US or 57p British money)!

DON’T BE A BLITHERING FOOL LIKE THAT.

Many retail shops also go overboard with card printing. Here in Hong Kong, matte laminated cards are the favourite, which I tell you is the depth of brain-damagedness — because you cannot write price quotes on them for customers.

DON’T BE A FOOL LIKE THEM.

Granted that I’m a printer by trade and can get away scotfree on costs, my own cards still cost me a bloody expensive 17¢ Hong Kong a shot (or 2¢ US or 1p UK). Mine are 4C + 1C (full colour one side, single colour the other) on uncoated woodfree 120 gsm.

Your cards (for whatever earthly purpose) should cost no more than half-cent apiece.

And, no, I don’t print my own cards. I farm this out to a job printer for cost efficiency’s sake.

*

LESSONS YOU WANT TO AVOID

  • DON’T:— Don’t make fake ID badges or cards even if it’s for your blog. If you flash one in public, you are arrestable for impersonation (yeah, impersonating yourself!) and/or prima facie evidence of your intent to defraud.

.

  • DON’T:— If you put the word “Press” on your fake ID badge, that alone will SECURE your conviction on both counts (impersonation, intent to defraud).

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  • DON’T:— If you did your ID badge online, you’ll additionally be charged and convicted for wire fraud. If you did it offline, that’ll be counterfeiting or forgery.

YOU JUST WON’T WIN.

Sentences:—

Impersonation and intent to defraud EACH carry a fine and 1 to 3 years in the slammer in most jurisdictions around the world.

Wire fraud is at least one more year in the slammer.

Forgery carries 5 to 10 years. Forgery or counterfeiting usually supersede copyright infringement even if you’ve actually used (say) Coca-Cola’s logo on a physical item.

You can’t plead ignorance or insanity as defence because the act of designing your own ID is evidence of your sound capacity of mind and premeditation.

Flashing an official-looking but unlawful ID is also arguably a form of criminal intimidation — another year of ‘porridge.’

But, alas, some of you faggots out there still prefer to have an ID card. One possible workaround is to print your blog’s business card in the form of an ID card, which at least arguably is less illegal.

Make your own ID cards with Big Huge Labs’ Badge Maker, and live dangerously then.

*

Branding, continued

  • DO:— Prepare standing ‘shirttails.’ A shirttail is newspaperspeak (and an americanism) for the brief clause that’s added at the end of a story. Necessary, if your blog is a collaborative effort or if it uses a fair number of guestposts.

.

A shirttail is not a footnote, as many people seem to mistaken it for.

For example, a screenshot of a compilation shirttail used in my bio:—

The shirttail is usually set in italics
But the italics for this blog isn’t so hot, so it’s in roman instead

.

 A shirttail may be biographical, a kind of ‘about the author’ for the post writer:—

This article is reproduced by kind permission of the estate of Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Jedi master who played a significant role in the fate of the galaxy during the waning days of the Galactic Republic. Later known as Ben Kenobi during his exile, Gen. Kenobi was born in 57 BBY on the planet Stewjon, the first son of a moderately wealthy family. In French Internet subculture, Gen. Kenobi’s name has given birth to the expression ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ meaning ‘your question does not make sense.’ Gen. Kenobi was killed in action aged 60 and is survived by Mildred, his watercolourist wife, on the planet Coruscant.

Usually it’s a straightforward factual ‘after-byline’ for the post:—

This exclusive article to The Naked Listener’s Weblog was written by Sith Lord Darth Vader in Bangkok, with contributions from his Zabrack Sith apprentice Darth Maul in London and The Naked Listener in Hong Kong.

For a guestpost shirttail, it’s usually semi-biographical and semi-plug:—

The Naked Listener is the pseudonym of Robert Lee and runs The Naked Listener’s Weblog (https://thenakedlistener.wordpress.com) since around 1995/97. During office hours, he moonlights as a printer in Hong Kong and is legally trained but is not a practising lawyer, thankfully.

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  • PROTIP:— Use the word ‘written’ (not ‘authored’) in a shirttail. Stop being pretentious.

A ‘biobox’

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  • PROTIP: Italicise your shirttails. (I tend to do it in roman because the italic fount appearance on this blog design isn’t so hot.)

.

Srsly, if you are a professional and blog on professional matters, shirttails add to the overall credibility of your blog.

A very short shirttail in every post is highly beneficial in marketing your services, such as:—

Marianne Dubois is author of this post and an attorney-at-law. She may be contacted at Sue, Runn & Grabbit LLP at the address given in the Contact page of this website.”

Just don’t be long and full of platitudes. Remember, playing softball wins more than hardball.

.

  • DO:— Prepare a ‘biobox’ jpg file for use as in-text illustration.

.

A blogger inviting you to guestblog usually asks for your bio and a mugshot. A biobox combines the two in one. Look at the Jane Bloggs spoof biobox (RIGHT) and mine (below).

Shameless prostitution: I’ll be more than happy to produce a biobox jpeg for your blog if you supply me with your copy and a picture. It only takes me minutes to make one.

[You’re fired for prostituting for free.—Editor]

*

Branding: the optional stuff

 A ‘corporate’ image may be relevant for advanced bloggers. The below are optional.

INDENT CARDS are postcards bearing your blog name or logo just like those held on air by TV show hosts. They can double for notetaking use in front of interviewees, or have them held up by people in photo ops. Also useful for communicating with people still on snailmail mode. They give off a professional image and help in the pretense that you’re not a fly-by-night cowboy operator who might do a D.B. Cooper.

My own indent cards (PHOTO) are 4C + 1C, that is, full colour on one side and one black ink the other.

Each costs me around 3¢ US (or 2p British), which is comparable to the cost of a packet of 100 index cards.

But then again, I’m a printer and I’m pretentious and need the ‘corporate image.’

POCKET NOTEBOOKS with your blog name or logo on the cover. Clearly costly to custom-make but they evince a professional if somewhat journalistic image.

LETTERHEADS specially designed for your blog probably takes it right into the corporate realm, especially if you’re hoping (or imagining) your blogging could lead to paid work.

STICKERS or BANNERS with your blog name or logo are perhaps the cheapest way to corporatise your blog. Stick them on your notebooks, photobag, property, etc. The major newspapers and news agencies have their gear emblazoned with corporate ID stickers. Make your stickers in square shape (rather than a strip) so they’ll fit any item.

T-SHIRTS with your blog logo or name is something you wear ‘on assignment’ as if you’re some kind of freelance journo. I have two tees like that which I wear on those occasions where I wish to be clearly identified as a ‘staff member’ of my blog.

[That’s enough expensive recommendations.—Editor]

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* * *

11. PROTECT YOUR BLOG

Your blog can get hacked or wiped just like any other website. Your blog provider can suspend or delete it for BOTOS (breach of terms of service) because of something defamatory or outright unlawful you wrote.

Alternatively, some unknown mean arsehole out there can report your blog as pornographic or spammy to your blog provider just for laughs because:—

  • didn’t like your vocabulary or phraseology (foul words or not)
  • didn’t like you for not writing in Chinese (and I get this complaint a lot)
  • didn’t like you can write better than they could
  • didn’t like your coverage is better than theirs
  • didn’t like your insistence that the expression ‘being that’ is grammatical (which it actually is)
  • didn’t like your atheistic or religious views on furry little animals
  • didn’t like your refusal to post your private sex pictures

There are lots of people out in the blogosphere who would report you just out of spite, to troll you, just for the lulz.

*

Operational security

  • DO:— Back up your entire blog every month. Choose 10th of every month or some other date so you have a fixed date for making backups.

.

  • DO:— Create a secondary user account for your blog for ‘backdoor access’ in case your primary login is in trouble or locked out.

.

I have a secondary user account for my blog, and I display my secondary login openly at work so that anybody could access the blog in case of emergency. I have never needed to use my secondary user account.

Of course, that also means any rogue user-luser could also access my blog, but only on that secondary user account. If ever that rogue pretends to be me and posts something on the blog, the rogue will be easily identifiable by the secondary username, therefore indicating the post hadn’t been posted by me.

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  • OPTIONAL:— A Dead Man’s Switch (DMS) post that you continually reschedule forward to act as a public alert in case something untoward or abrupt happened to you.

Read my dedicated post here about the DMS.

*

Your blog and the law

You can blog your insane opinions however much you want, and 99% of the time nobody cares to sue you because 99% of the time nobody reads it. True fact.

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  • DO:— Take screenshots of your more sensitive posts. If your blog gets wiped or hacked, or your arse hauled into court, you’ll have those screenshots as evidence.

.

Trouble is, there’s the 1% of individuals out there as insane as you are who will take umbrage at your nearly illiterate scribblings and have the wherewithal to haul your goddamn arse in court for a goddamn thorough drubbing.

I have seen this happen to other people and the sight is not very lovely.

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  • DO:— Read up about what constitutes defamation, political and criminal incitement, criminal intimidation and sedition because they have particular importance to blogging. If possible, show your draft post to a lawyer.

.

Many bloggers don’t realise just how much of their writings could be construed as defamatory, inciting, intimidatory, threatening or seditious (or even all of them together).

Likewise, many commenters don’t realise their comments could be legally considered as inflammatory (termed ‘incendiary’ in some jurisdictions).

.

  • DO:— Get to know one or two lawyers who specialise in defamation, copyright and online contractual disputes. Write a letter to introduce yourself to them and ask to have their business cards “should I ever have need of your services.”

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  • DON’T:— Never ask for lawyers’ fee schedules because it’s impossible in absence of a case before them.

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  • DO:— Retain a lawyer and negotiate for a nominal (low) fee from him for ‘lawyering’ your posts. This is especially useful for blogs that cover news, politics or industry developments.

.

Retaining a lawyer for a blog sounds like overkill, but not when your blog covers potentially suable stuff like politics or industry ‘insider’ gossip.

Legal services don’t come cheap, so retaining a lawyer is a major long-term financial undertaking.

You might be luckier if you’re still in college or university a good idea is to ‘retain’ your law-school pals. You get some kind of protection, and they get some kind of experience.

  • Write to the law school explaining you wish to have someone with knowledge of the law to lawyer your blog articles before publication.
  • Schedule an appointment with a law professor to help draw up a lawyering checklist.

Having posts for a personal blog ‘lawyered’ sounds like an helluva bigger overkill. But you can sell the idea to the law professor on this sales pitch:—

  1. it’s an opportunity for his law students to get some supervised hands-on practice in media and defamation law
  2. it’s an opportunity for legal and non-legal types to learn to work with each other (in short, to appreciate each other’s perspectives and constraints) as it will imminently be like THAT in the real world after graduation
  3. express that if the law professor is agreeable to the arrangement, you will be more than happy to be used in PR materials of the law school because the undertaking underscores the law school’s or the professor’s innovative and pragmatic approach to the training of future lawyers
  4. persuade the professor to assign students on a rotating basis for the lawyering
  5. the professor will be the tiebreaker and final arbiter in event of disagreements between you and the ‘lawyer’ assigned
  6. that your blog will credit the lawyering to the law school itself in the early stages and,
  7. if things go smoothly and really well, the law professor’s own name would then be added ‘prominently’ in recognition of his esteem and farsightedness
[You’re fired for not having this post lawyered.—Editor]

* * *

12. REFINE AS YOU GO ALONG

Some people (usually perfectionists) can’t stand being told this advice. To them, this piece of eminently sensible advice is like blowing smoke up their arse and ruin their autopsy.

*

Floaters

  • DO:— Write pre-prepared floaters suitable for running at any old time to meet your posting deadline in case you have nothing topical to write about.

Good floater topics would be small lifehacks like what kind of corkscrews are suitable for opening six bottles of wine in under 10 seconds (PHOTO RIGHT), or ‘notes’ on your ephemeral remembrances (such as mine on an ex-colleague).

*

Stylebook

  • DO:— Make a style manual for your blog. This is your own usage guide to provide uniformity in the writing and design formatting of posts and downloadable documents. Use an alphabetically indexed pocketbook for this purpose.

Write in your favourite HTML codes, shirttails, decklines, boilerplate phrases, preferred nomenclature, second references, in-line jokes, etc, so you won’t have to hunt around the Internet or rack your brains for them.

No need to make a big hash of it like the Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (a.k.a. the “AP Stylebook”). Your own stylebooks is just a MEMORY AID for your blog. You already know your own spelling and usage preferences or should.

My blog has its own stylebook, but I almost never use it mainly because I’ve completely internalised my stuff by dint of long working in printing and publishing.

Excerpts from my stylebook:—

Aliases (by alias). DW is _____. Mr Wankmatic is _____.

Aliases (by real name). _____ is Skinny-D. _____ is Råtta.

Biobox. Slugged ‘biobox tnl grey dark 233×528’ in Media.

Blog icon. Slugged ‘tnl blog icon’ in Media. 195 × 195 pixels.

Column width. 500 pixels.

DMS/Dead Man’s Switch post. Slugged ‘dms’ in Draft. Reset every 21 days. Include last update date.

Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Naked-Listeners-Weblog/124762890923834

Gravatar. Slugged ‘tnl gravatar’ in Media. 250 × 250

Header image. 500 × 225 pixels.

HTML for big fount. <big> … </big>

Japan. “The Land That Gave Us ‘Weird’ Since 1957” (when it should’ve been 1952).

Login (secondary). Username ‘______’. Password ‘__________’. Email ‘______’.

Placeholder photo. Slugged ‘placeholder thumbnail’ under Media.

Solid linespace. Shift + Enter.

Table, 2-column. See draft slugged ‘B09032 2col table’ for HTML code.

Theme. Ambiru by Phu Ly, http://ifelse.co.uk. Showcase at http://theme.wordpress.com/themes/ambiru/

That’s the kind of oh-so-entertaining, readable stuff you should put into your blog stylebook so you won’t have to memorise them and fill up your brain drive capacity.

*

Search-engine optimisation (SEO)

Blogging increases your communications. Sooner or later, you’ll end up getting involved in this maddening craze called SEO.

Most of us don’t really care about this thing. In fact, I don’t give a flying f@#k (or any other kind of f@#k) about SEO and haven’t reached the stage yet to even pay lip service to SEO.

Search engines (like Google, Bing, etc) love websites with relevant, frequently updated content. Search ranking goes up for your blog if your content is always fresh and relevant.

High ranking (especially on Google) largely rests on the number of incoming links — links from another website that points to your website.

For example, if your website has 10 static pages but no blog, the search engine will index only those 10 static pages and be limited to the amount of keywords found there. However, if your website also has a blog, the search engine will index each blogpost (plus their keywords) and that increases your SEO ranking.

The idea behind SEO is simple enough: If you post stories of high relevance to your subject area, other websites in your subject area will link to your related articles. The more relevant (i.e. on-topic) your articles are, the higher chance that search-engine webcrawlers will find keywords and search terms on your website. That builds up your link structure and bumps up your search ranking, resulting in a higher profile for your blog. There’s no mystery to this SEO business you just need to use keywords throughout your posts.

Well, that’s effing dynamite on paper IF your blog is heavily focused on one subject or is business-related. But what if yours is a personal blog, for which you write the first thing thta comes into your head? There’s not a whole lot of keywords to index on. Savvy?

The oddest thing is that many SEO websites themselves don’t rank high in search-engine positions. Or maybe I’m missing something, no?

The Naked Listener’s Weblog is a personal lark. I write about a whole lot of things in the most brain-damaged was conceivable. There aren’t many ‘relevant’ keywords to feed the webcrawlers the reason why the blog has low muscle ranking. But I’m pretty sure you’ll agree this blog is nicely done all round and ‘relevant’ to many people just that it’s not necessarily by the numbers.

SEO. It’s dynamite. It blows you away. Permanently.

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* * *

BONUS PROTIPS

Some more protips that got left behind in the earlier parts.

Coverage redux

Some further coverage ideas:—

Prepare advance posts on neighbourhood or school events but run them at a date to coincide with their opening. Pretty soon you’ll be famous for “having ears on the ground.”

Music festivals with whacky pictures of whacky people doing whacky things.

Maxims to live by. Or not.

Obituaries prepared in advance of famous people or just your teachers, school bullies, etc, who’s quite likely to kick the bucket any moment now that you’re all grown up.

Interview friends (or their friends) who do something well or interesting. For example, I have a coincidentally female friend who is a self-taught electric guitarist with virtually a crush on American guitarist Joe Satriani. I’m planning on interviewing her about how she got turned on to the electric guitar, making her one in a million in Hong Kong where the preferred hobby of 90% of Hongkongers is property or forex speculation.

*

Web operation

Statistics page

This is a static page to show blog stats so visitors may have an idea of how your blog is faring. Add to month-by-month figures as they come round. Different blog providers provide different stats. See the bottom of my January recap for an idea.

Widgets

widget (or software widget) is a small application that is installable and runnable within a webpage. See my widgets at the bottom of every page on my blog. A couple of them point to third-party sites and use their external services:—

  1. Date at my location
  2. Unique visitors
  3. Locations of visitors to this page
  4. Follow on Facebook

Too many external widgets will slow down your page-loading speed, especially if those widgets use Flash or some kind of Javascript.

*

Copydesk revisited

Learn some of these extra copydesk skills:—

Offline blogging

Like I said, lack of Internet connection is no bar to blogging. When you draft in longhand hardcopy, leave a wide margin for edits and additions. Helpful for those who still draft in paragraphs a way not particularly amenable to amendments later (which is exactly why drafting by paragraphs is demoralisingly still taught in academic writing.

Slug-naming conventions

‘Slug’ is the short filename you give to your posts.

Name your slugs properly. Eight characters or under is perfect, though not always possible.

Slug-naming conventions:—

Prefix ‘adv’ (e.g. advsmith) means an advertorial paid for by your client Smith & Co.

Prefix ‘am’ (amfestival) means a post that must run in the morning. Remove the ‘am’ on actual posting. Same deal with ‘pm.’

Prefix ‘cx’ (cxjohnsmith) means a correction to an already published post slugged ‘johnsmith.’

dated slug (feb21bongo) must run on a specified date (e.g. 21st February). A story slugged ‘feb21paxleocenturion’ while in draft status is a guestpost from ‘leo’ on the movie ‘Centurion’ that must run on that date. Remove the ‘feb21’ at posting time.

Prefix ‘flot’ (flotwinecork) means floater while still in draft status. Remove the ‘flot’ on actual posting.

Prefix ‘pax’ or ‘gp’ means incoming guestpost. A story slugged ‘paxtnlcenturion’ is a guestpost from blogger ‘tnl’ on the movie ‘Centurion.’

Prefix rando’ (rando22) means ‘R and O’ (review and outlook), which is a review of the stories you read during Week 22 plus your predictions — if you’re in the habit of writing reviews + predictions, then forget about ’roundup’ (below).

My biobox

Prefix ‘recap’ (recap22, recapaug) is a recap or roundup of your own posts for Week 22 or the month of August. Learn English: you ‘recap’ your own stories but ‘review’ those written by others.

Prefix ’roundup’ (roundup32) is a roundup or review of events or stories you read for Week 32.

Prefix‘site’ (siteblogroll) is a site update post on your Blogroll page. If your site update is about About, Blogroll and Testimonial pages, use the first named (e.g. siteabout) or something descriptive (e.g. site3pages).

Suffix ‘side’ or ‘sidebar’ (greenside or green-sidebar) is a sidebar to the main story slugged ‘green.’ A sidebar is textual information placed next to an article, graphically separate but with contextual connection. Not generally relevant in a blogging situation (since blogposts are individually posted) but some designs may allow text-in-text insertions.

Prefix ‘xp’ (xpleoscomma) is a crosspost from your other blog named ‘leos’ on the comma.

Copydesk lingo

Learn some of the copyeditor’s language. Know terms like a/w, biobox, blurb, byline, bybox, chart, correx, datelinedeckhed, deckline, flot, folo (not to be confused with ‘folio’), a two-deck hedlede, obit, quotebox, recaprando, roundup, shirttail, sidebar, slug, slugline, subbingsubhed, tagline, wirecopy, and when copy is in ‘slot.’

Know the difference between draft vs. manuscript too — for suffer in Draft Hell.

Whatever you do, don’t embarrass your friends, guestbloggers or yourself by saying naff things like ‘polishing up’ the text.

Know your shit, or know you’re shit.

_____

[Thank god it’s done! You’re fired for wasting webspace.—Editor]

_____

Update 25 FEB 2012

Part 6 is here

*facepalm*

_____

© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. Updated 13 May 2013 (reformatting).

Images: “MasterLedZ’s Avatar” by itemforty via tvreeh via Wikipedia ♦ Guest pass via Freelance Folder ♦ Convention goers via Jewellery Net Asia ♦ Pulitzer Prize gold medals by Daniel Erath of The Times-Picayune via Nola.com ♦ Pantone U-288 by Markus GmbH ♦ Gavel via Wooden Toys UK ♦ SEO image via clipclic ♦ Lawyered via Survivor Sucks ♦ Red pen and words via Heriot-Watt University Library (link lost) ♦ Linotype slug via Circuitous Root ♦ All other images by the author.

You don’t blog? (4/5)

Thursday 16 February 2012, 11.59pm HKT


Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes)

FROM PART 3

HAVING SUFFERED THROUGH three previous takes of this boring, longwinded feature, you’d be pleased to know this is NOT the finale.

(Shweet fancy Moses, just WHEN is this guy gonna write something SHORTER?!? Jeezoz!)

Let’s tuck in into the juicy bits of running a blog.

Get some coffee — it long (again). Don’t bail out yet. It’s f@#king worth your read.

* * *

6. How often to update your blog

DECIDE straight off how frequently you want to post.

“Failure in a long-term project isn’t just a work issue; it’s an identity issue. Is it any wonder that we procrastinate?”
—Peter Bregman, American strategic management and leadership adviser (via)

Poasting’* is the name of the game in blogging.

(* A word from the good ole’ bad days of the Usenet messageboards remembered with tearful nostalgia for those born before 1990.)

Say something.
Say it well.
Say it sensible.
Say it sensibly.
And say it often.

You’re not just broadcasting information. Engage your readers. You par-bloody-ti-ci-pate. Face the fear.

A reality check:—

Ditch the post-a-day nonsense. Even staff journalists working for newspapers couldn’t achieve that. You’d only be setting yourself up for early burnout. Lots of blogs that go on this post-a-day spree end up being abandoned after two or three months.

Some bloggers can do that, but I can’t and I reckon you couldn’t either.

Face facts:—

My batting average is 23 posts a month. Each post is on average 1,300 words long, plus illustration. Out of those 23, reckon on six of them being part of some multipart feature, and each feature running at 5,000 words or more, again plus illustration.

23 posts × 12 months
= 276 posts a year × 1,300 words
= 358,800 words a year on average

That average puts me right up in the rarified tier normally reserved for professional paid writers or senior field journalists or feature writers. In actuality, my word count goes higher than that.

And I couldn’t handle turning out one post a day, I don’t think…

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  • DO:— One post a week during your first year until you get the hang of it. That’ll be 52 posts a year — plenty enough. If something interesting arises between the regularly scheduled posts, POAST! Yours is a blog, not a magazine or TV show with fixed time slots.

.

“This site updates every Tuesday”

  • DO:— Fix a weekly posting time during your first year, such as 8pm every Tuesday or something. Puts you in a proper frame of mind to keep rolling out new posts. It’s a routine so you won’t ditch your blog after two sordid months. It makes it possible for you to say, “This blog updates every Tuesday” and therefore gives your visitors ‘expectation.’

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  • DO:— Limit your first year’s weekly output to 500 words each (see below). Five hundred words is just a guideline, not a fixed rule. Go over or under according to the topic.

[Stop recommending this yet constantly write mega-features. You’re fired.—Editor]

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  • DON’T:— It’s a bad idea to just post on a whim. I always say this to blogging first-timers. Truth is, you won’t feel anything for weeks on end. Having said that, don’t let a routine stop you from posting about ‘things arising.’

Blogging causes feelings of trepidation even to the experienced. As the subscriber base grows, that trepidation grows with each new subscriber coming on board.

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  • DON’T:— Even if there’s nothing to write about, don’t skip the weekly posting. Tell us why there’s nothing to write about. Truth is, a whole week’s worth of living always, always contains something to write about.

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* * *

7. You need a monthly theme plan

Otherwise called ‘flavour of the month.’

This is so easy even for the newbie blogger and well worth the effort — especially if you happen to be one of those uninspired (or uninspirable) souls who can’t seem to find anything worth blogging about.

“Planning is everything; the plan is nothing.”
— General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1940s

Sit down and develop a monthly theme plan. Magazines do it. Newspapers do it. Television does it. Sorry, you never noticed?

.

  • DO:— Invent a majority writing theme for each month. Twelve months, so that’s 4 posts × 500 words = 2,000 words a month (or 24,000 words a year). That’s like one school essay a month. Dead’o easy’o.

.

For instance, you could ‘decide’ that:—

January will be about Japanese dolls — figure on doing three posts on that plus the obligatory one on New Year’s Day

February, and there’s an art exhibition opening — one on that, two on some other artists who you dig, and one obligatory one on Valentine’s Day

March is faggoty springtime (in the Northern Hemisphere at any rate) — do some photo posts with minimal writing

April (unimaginatively) is April Fool’s Day or tax-form submission time — one on April Fool’s, one on the f@cktardism of making tax returns, one on how to design a prank, and one on a noteworthy prank you got hit with

And so on and so forth

With a plan like that, you’re already stacked with writing ideas for the entire year. Forget the ‘writing prompt’ websites. A little common sense and a little sit-down planning will be more than enough — and it will be so ‘you,’ if you see what I mean.

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  • DO:— Do modify the editorial themes for future months, but stick to the one for the current month. Be flexible and adaptable about your plan — change it, because the plan itself is nothing. No plan is set in stone (ever) so don’t be straitjacketed by one.

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  • DO:— Go out! Experience! And write about it! You cannot get inspiration or get blogging fodder when stuck indoors or have conversations with just a couple of family members or close friends.

Use the experiences and context that you have (or can capture) and share in your posts — things that you find interesting and which you think can add value to people.

If you’re passionate about cars, talk about cars. If yours is an on-topic kind of blog, keep in mind that it’s important to stay on your overall subject matter.

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  • DON’T:— Don’t confuse your readers by writing all sorts of different stuff that doesn’t match your blog name or mission.

Like The Naked Listener’s Weblog you’re reading!

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  • DON’T:— Whatever you do, please don’t start a blog that talks about grammar or one that corrects other people’s grammar!

We’re filled to the brim with those already!

I don’t question those bloggers’ passion for grammar, but many of those blogs just end up recycling everybody else’s same-old-same-old and just circle-jerking among themselves!

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  • DO:— Use a writing structure if your blog is a collaborative effort especially between several people in different geographical locations. Document this structure (the usual who, what, when, where, how and why) in your collaboration guide. This helps to clear your mind and not leave anything important behind.

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  • PROTIP:— Forget books about blogging. You’re not that advanced yet. Pointless too, unless you blog for money or professional purposes, in which case you don’t need my stinkin’ input here anyway.

.

* * *

8. Copydesk operations:
how to post, what to post

PEOPLE who write for fun or profit are literary faggots at heart. Admit it, you’re one if you want to get into the blogging game. I know for sure I’m one.

Trouble is, people don’t read much. Or for long.

Better write short texts. If the topic is large, split it into parts (‘takes’) and publish them on different dates.

[You’re fired since no one’s reading.—Editor]

.

  • DO:— Blog sensibly, consistently, frequently and engagingly. Engage your readers because you’re not an info broadcaster. Leave comments on other blogs and share your blog content on social networking sites.

Be personable in style. Be sociable in tone. Be good-natured and forgiving with commenters. Your comment responses show your aplomb and tactfulness.

.

  • DO:— Write about 250 to 500 words per post during the first year. There’s no point doing more because you’re still learning the ropes. Again, be flexible and adaptable about it.

If the subject matter calls for a higher word count, then write more. But your overall aim is 500 words max.

.

  • DO:— The “Salami Technique” for massive writeups — slice biggies into smaller, more digestible sizes. Run big features in multiple parts (‘takes’) on different dates.

Clearly, I don’t do the Salami Technique too well, you suspect.

For this entire four-part feature, the overall word count is around 5,500 words (jeez!).

I know nearly all the tricks to make a boring, longwinded and brain-damaged story more readable.

And I learnt those tricks well before blogging or the Internet were ever invented.

And STILL I did less* than 500 words a post during my first year of blogging and also whenever I’m on a new blog service.

(* The the grammarfags:— Use of ‘less’ is grammatically and historically correct in this context, as is also the use of ‘fewer’ in this context. Naturalness counts. ‘Fewer’ is correct in a periodic sentence, but ‘less’ is more appropriate (and equally correct) in a loose sentence (like the one above). Grammarfags, learn English properly, or starve. The ‘500 words’ IS being used as a contextual mass noun, even though words objectively are countable (just as sand grains are too). The less vs. fewer is a f@#king guideline, not a ‘rule.’ In any case, ‘fewer’ just sounds wrong in a sentence like that. Get a life or get laid to expend your excess grammatical sexual-frustration energy. Stop being so hypercorrect. You win no friends.)

[That’s enough grammarshite. You’re rehired.—Editor]

.

  • DO:— Pay attention to the details. If you don’t know how to explain an issue, then you should document the details. Documenting the details is valuable, though few people do it. Write in Q&A or FAQ format if the details are convoluted.

Write out all your questions first and set them in order suitable for the topic. Answer your questions on your own without looking at the ‘set answers.’ That will show you how in tune (or out of tune) you yourself are with the topic. Then fill in the blanks.

.

  • DO:— Consider your readers’ perspective — a simple way to find a writeable topic. Thinking about what your readers need will help your generate ideas for stories and therefore generate value for your blog.

.

  • DO:— Run a yearly biographical piece about yourself to remind everyone just who the hell is behind your blog. I run mine [link] on New Year’s Day every year. Consider getting someone else to interview you and write up the piece.

.

  • DO:— Index your posts with a monthly or weekly recap — one more post!

.

  • DO:— A weekly post of top articles you’ve read during the week — another post!

.

  • DON’T:— Avoid using your free time to blog. Instead set a time and duration to blog and flog.

One of the greatest writing techniques from the greatest [paid] writers is to set a time duration for writing. Use a kitchen timer. Ding! Ding! Ding! and you just leave the story in draft and come back to it later at the next writing time slot.

If you set just one hour a day for writing, you’ll find (as I did) you can cover a lot of ground even for just one story.

Free time is for living and experiencing Life. Use that to generate fodder for your blog.

[You’re fired for having too much free time.—Editor]

.

  • DON’T:— Don’t format as you write. Write first, then format. Get in the words and details down pat first.

.

  • DON’T:— Don’t f@#k around too long writing or editing. Your blog ain’t a book or a thesis.

Movie scripts get changed constantly on set all the time. Good enough is already perfect. Published and be damned for your trivial typos, obscure grammaticality or tortuous (and torturous) opinions.

.

  • DO: Learn proper DRAFTING technique:—

One sentence per line — learn not to draft in paragraphs.

20 to 25 words per sentence.

One sentence per paragraph (for academic works, 3 sentences per paragraph)

One character space (not two) between sentences (read the sidebar)

Save your draft.

Go back, rearrange, edit, and combine sentences into final paragraphs.

Be surprised that many people who write for a living (or those who have something riding on the final writeup, for example, Ph.D.’s doing their theses) are completely ignorant of this commonsensical way of doing things.

Read my post on draft vs. manuscript.

.

  • DO:— Draw up ‘flat plans’ for big, multipart stories.

flat plan

Photo explains everything

Blog articles have an easy format: it’s just one long vertical column

.

  • DO:— Label each of your stories with a “slug.” A slug is a short name given to an article during production.

Be nice to readers and don’t force them to handwrite out lengthy URLs of your posts if they sometimes have to.

For example, your post titled “How I Went to Hell and Back And Got Nothing In Return for The Effort” will have a blimmin’ long URL like—

http://blog.service.com/2012/02/17/how-i-went-to-hell-and-back-and-&#8230; etc

Give it a slug like ‘hellback’ so the URL becomes—

http://blog.service.com/2012/02/17/hellback

.

  • DON’T:— Don’t keep charging at your stories until they get finished no matter what the hell. If you’re stuck and couldn’t get through, leave it. Come back to it again in five minutes’ time. Oftentimes, the very moment you set it aside is the moment something brilliant comes to mind.

.

  • DO:— Put in many draft posts and leave it there to ‘marinate.’

Break away and give yourself time to ‘gel’ and ruminate on them. Setting aside some time to think about how to finish your stories helps make great posts.

.

  • DON’T:— Avoid uploading pictures in massive sizes, unless yours is a photo blog. Resize your pictures to fit your column width.

.

  • FACT:— Uploading big pictures won’t improve on their resolution on the page. Downsized photos also saves you online storage space given by your blog service.

.

Typical scenario:—

Your original pictures are each 3000 × 2400 pixels (2.5 MB or more).
Your blog column size is 500 pixels wide.

SOLUTION
Duplicate your originals.
Resize and upload the dupes at 600 × 800 pixels (around 55 kB to 250 kB each).

Uploading high-res pictures of 3000 × 2400 (2.5 MB or more) photo will only lengthen the page-loading time.

By the time your browser finished 45 minutes loading two dozen 2.5 MB photos of your debauched weekend beach party, everyone’s sick of your blog and wished you had drowned at the beach or died from extreme fellatio.

I have literally seen stupid bloggers on non-photo blogs upload two or three 9.8 MB photos for a column width of 600 pixels. Took ages for the bleedin’ thing to load. I still couldn’t see the chick in the half-bikini revealing her god-given assets. Why bother?

[You’re fired for watching porn at work.—Editor. PS. She’s ugly too.]

.

  • DO:— Convert your long or important articles into PDF files for download by readers. Some browsers never seem to print correctly. Illustrations might be too much of a distraction for some readers.

.

  • DO:— Set up a Downloads page and gather up those PDFs of your important posts there. Be kind to readers and not let them go on a deathquest to search for your important posts.

.

  • DON’T:— Never make MS Office/Word files for download from your website. They are often cause your blog or website to be branded a spam site.

MS Office files usually contain macros (computer input rule patterns or sequences). Search engines and most browsers can detect them but will mistake these types of files for computer viruses. And that causes your site to be mistakenly branded as a spam site.

.

  • DO:— Only have .pdf, .jpg, .gif and .png files as downloadables. Files that cannot be converted to PDF etc (such as Excel files, .wav and .bmp) must be archived (‘zipped’) in .zip format for uploading and downloading.

Windows and Mac OSX have built-in unzippers to handle zips.

WordPress.com won’t allow .zip files to be uploaded, so that’s one further layer of protection.

.

  • DO:— Back up your whole blog every month. Delete previous backups on a rolling basis to save hard drive space. It’s a small insurance policy in case your blog gets wiped or the blog provider shuts you down for breach of terms of service.

*

8A. Nothing int’resting to post?

There are times when you feel your mind has gone blank and you wonder what to write. It’s something that happens to the best of us, blogger or no blogger.

Suggestions for the confused or comatosed:—

Summarise your past week’s activities! Some writers consider this a cop-out. Nonetheless, pretty soon you have plenty to write about. Pretty soon too you’ll find yourself paying more attention to what’s going on around you — ergo, writing fodder. To learn to summarise your activities week by week on a regular basis also sharpens and focuses your mind on your life.

Holidays exist in every month: Valentine’s, St George’s Day, Hannuka, Ramadan, etc. Blog your ‘take.’ Even better, don’t talk about the holiday itself — we need no stinkin’ history of it. Go out and talk to somebody — get your pal’s perspective. Interview!

Your social calendar. Always a winner if you’re the sociable, socialising kind. Especially good with photos of chicks and studs doing crazy things. If you haven’t got a social calendar, you’ve got serious problems, pal. Maybe that’s why you’re cooped up in a room blogging about things with no context and no perspective.

Calendar dates and holidays are easy fodder. Dates are set for the year, so you’re already primed in advance. You know the Midautumn (or Mooncake) Festival is coming in August, and you can get your gear ready in July latest. You know your shipping containers will arrive in four weeks’ time, so you’re primed perhaps to do a how-to piece on containerisation.

How-to’s are wonderful if there’s something you do well. Share your information. Do step-by-step pictures. You’re a pretty good stay-at-home stripper with good cleavage, so why not do a photostrip with the last picture of you in a leotard instead of being buck-naked?

A social or political or some other issue you’re passionate about is good material. Blogging was invented for this crap. If you don’t have an opinion or not a very well-formed one, then give details of the issue to ‘clarify’ it for the rest of us.

Interview your friends. Do a Q&A piece like the ones you see in music or teenybopper magazines. We’re all nosey parkers at heart, so Q&As can be rivetting reads. It’s unnecessary to do a formal, 60 Minutes-esque job of it.

*

8B. Ain’t got no connection, baby

Lack of an Internet connection at home is no bar to blogging.

Remember this:—

“As king, you must be able to see the good in every situation.”
— King Edward I (‘Edward Longshanks’) to his son and future king of England,
on the possibility of his son’s French wife being killed by Scottish rebels,
which could be exploited to get French alliance in fighting the Scots 

 Blogging is essentially spontaneous writing. Make the mental jump and turn your blogging into more considered writing. Write offline and then type it out in your favourite local cybercafe later.

This is also why I said one post per week.

In fact, many of my posts started life on record cards (AmE: index cards). Many people in the old days used to blog — ’scuse me — journalise or diarise in this way.

Know Samuel Pepys? He was a blogger too, in an analogue sort of way.

 * * *

9. It ain’t literature, that’s for dang sure

You misunderstand the very nature of blogging. You do. We do.

You know the type. Some idiot who keeps writing in to those ‘Letters to the Editor’ in newspapers, day in day out for weeks on end, saying nothing in particular, prognosticating over everything. Eventually we realise this faggot letter-writer is doing nothing more than just literary onanism or just plain verbal diarrhoea.

Blogging isn’t the place for flexing your highfalutin’, browbeating literary muscularity.

The blogging world is actually full of these linguistic masturbationists.

(We can’t call them LITERARY masturbationists because that would a contradiction in terms.)

It’s easy enough to spot these monsters and debasers of good, clean, crisp language just by their writing styles and vocabulary.

They write as if they’re writing some textbook or tome on a politically correct subject using a traditional, conformist thesis-writing guidebook issued by The Establishment for its card-carrying party members.

DON’T BE A FOOL LIKE THEM. Blogging IS writing, but not perhaps in the traditional mould of writing for print media or academic writing.

You have to appreciate the fact that the great literary classics such as Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey,” the “Beowulf,” Edward Gibbon’s “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire,” etc, etc, etc, have NEVER been academic works.

Indeed, Shakespeare’s works were entirely commercial in nature, aimed at the uncouth, uneducated and brutish ‘masses’ who parted their princely penny (a day’s wages) to see his plays.

Not to put too fine a point on things, many blogs are actually far better written, far better detailed, far more evenhanded, more credible, with more veriable facts, and better informed than many mainstream media outlet or academic publications. Some of the biggest guns in mainstream media are absolute bullshit (just like many blogs are too, of course).

Blogging is primarily for enjoyment and informativeness. So ‘ideas’ and ‘the message’ and presentation are trumpcards than Literary Review-style grammar correctness. Srsly.

You might not regard bloggers as real writers, but they are writers real enough. The good ones ARE real writers, and many are also published authors.

[You’re not a real writer. You’re hired! — Editor]

Try not to be a grammarfreak or a linguanophile when you write. Don’t bristle at using prepositions at the end of sentences, or else—

A: “Where’s the library at?”

B: “You’re being ungrammatical. You shouldn’t end a sentence on a preposition.”

A: “Okay, where’s the library at, asshole?”

So, where’s your blog at?

* * *

Finally, up next in Part 5, protips to ‘brand’ your blog

[Oh, for god’s sakes, when’s it all gonna end?—Editor]

_____

© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes only).

Images: Posting by Shutterstock via Photo-Dictionary ♦ Word count T-shirt via The Write Sisters ♦ Ice cream girl by Bryci.com via Fits News ♦ Topic, motherf@#ker via Nihilism and Cupcakes ♦ Buchette salami by the author ♦ Kitchen timer via Prepared Pantry ♦ Flat plan by the author ♦ Crossbow loading via edupics ♦ Computer Virus Spread to Humans via Skuggen ♦ Index cards and red pen by the author ♦ Index cards with handwriting by the author.

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