I have enjoyed doing my blog but, after my first twenty postings, the time has come for some reflection on progress so far. I could have done a series of FAQs but no one has actually asked me anything about it, so I will stick to a soliloquy of questions and answers. [FAQ: There’s an expression you would not have seen in 1950!]
Why did you start doing it?
I always like having something to do and I like writing. It’s something I can do easily.
We often say that our parents and grandparents would not recognize life today because of the increasing pace of technological change. I thought the other way: children of today would not recognize how we managed to live even a generation ago.
Just before the Millennium, I put down lots of my thoughts about changes in the last fifty years, while I could still remember them. I wanted to be able to pass on my knowledge. There was no way then that I could do anything with what I had written.
Recently, I became more aware of blogs. (I had written a couple of travel blogs when I went on two long cruises.) Then I thought that perhaps the medium of blogs would be a suitable outlet for my old notes – I could issue them in blog form.
How did you start?
It was obvious that my 15 000 words about the fifties were not in a blog style. It was more of an embryonic textbook. So I had to just start writing again. I used the information in my old notes but added to them considerably. I decided to add some history both before and after the fifties, to put things into perspective (and to use up a few more words).
I tried a couple of posts to see if it would work.
After twenty blog posts, and about 30 000 words, I probably still have 14 000 words of old notes to be used and expanded. (You have been warned!)
How do you pick your subjects?
My intended style is to blog in a rambling format, as if I was just picking random thoughts. At first, I was torn between a totally random approach and some attempted introduction. I just started and put a few introductory thoughts in the first few posts. I am deliberately mixing up threads so that, for example, Transport does not all come together. In some cases, I have taken a two-part subject and put something else in the middle.
Sometimes I pick something from my old notes and try to expand it. Sometimes I think of something else and start writing. (The ones about Football Pools and Birds were completely new material.)
Do you have an overall plan?
No, I did not have a plan at the start and I don’t want one. My plan is not to have a plan. I have to micro-plan because, by nature, I like to be over-prepared, I always have the next two or three (or four or five) posts completed in advance. I started by issuing one every two days and am now trying to move to about two a week. They may get less frequent – but I think at least one a week is essential.
I have to have 1000 words on a topic before I can accept it as suitable. As they get larger, I may split topics. If it turns out to be three posts, I have to have all three ready before considering posting the first one.
What is the format and style of each post?
All I really thought when I started was that it should be colloquial, chatty, almost completely rambling, and at least 1000 words. I have developed into a sort of continuing style, generally between 1000 and 1500 words (sometimes a little over 1500). I accept that I may duplicate what I say sometimes.
I stick to proper but informal (English) English. (I put in dashes and brackets deliberately, and make chatty references to previous posts.) Once the post is finished, I may visit it once or twice but I avoid trying to make it a literary classic. I am interested in linguistics and very aware of American differences. Because my early posts had many international viewers, especially from the USA, I annotate the US versions of vocabulary and usage when I can.
I have to have pictures and I aim at two or three (sometimes more) for each post. Some come from Wikipedia or other free web sources; some are my own; and when I’m desperate I use some cartoon-like pictures from a CD I have of clip art.
And I have drifted into the format of cryptic and literary titles. I try not to give away too much in the first paragraph to encourage people to go beyond the entry in Facebook!
How accurate is it all?
I don’t like saying this – but sometimes I may get it wrong. (Only sometimes!) Partly, it’s because I don’t remember everything, but more often I remember things without remembering accurately the dates they happened. Relatives and friends sometimes seem to remember it differently in minor details – they are probably right some of the time. I do try to check historical details – and Wikipedia is my constant companion.
Has it been easy?
Yes, it has been much easier than I thought. The first one was slow and difficult, while I worked out my style, but I soon got into it. In a way, it gets easier with every post, but I am already wondering how much material I have for the future.
What has been most difficult?
Finding an audience – because I don’t actually know who reads my posts. WordPress make it easy for me to notify all my Facebook friends and followers on Twitter when a new blog comes out. They provide statistics but, with no details. It’s hard to distinguish ten people from one person looking ten times. I think I have two or three very loyal relatives who pick up the Facebook notice every time (and some who consistently ignore it). My 1000 twitter followers are largely unimpressed.
I have found some groups and communities on Facebook, which allow me to extend the notice to others who share a common interest – Ilford in the sixties, Highlands (my Primary School) and St Andrews (where I went to church). Some views must come from them but I have no way of knowing. (Somehow I have been read in a dozen countries.)
When people either ‘Like’ or comment on Facebook, I assume they must have read at least some of the blog.
How do you find WordPress?
Battling with WordPress has been quite difficult. It’s a useful site but its ‘Themes’ are incomprehensible. It has ‘Widgets,’ ‘Posts,’ ‘Pages and ‘Projects,’ without clearly explaining what they all are. I have experimented a bit and tried a few themes. I may change themes again once or twice. Site access on a laptop or via the WordPress app is useful but far from user friendly. Stats are useful but incomplete (and frequently change in random ways!)
How many blogs do you intend to do?
I can’t answer that. I look avidly at the stats that WordPress provide for me. Every time I issue a post, I hope for lots of views. Sometimes I ask myself: “If the number of readers drops, would I stop doing it?” and the answer usually is: “Probably not.”
I have enough material for at least another twenty posts, probably lots more. It would be nice to keep going for at least a year – but I may make them less frequent. (At the time of writing, I have four completed, one in outline, and two other topics lined up.)
How can readers provide useful feedback?
This is my ulterior motive [and a test of whether I actually have anyone who reads to the end!] Ideally I would like people to use the ‘Follow’ process on WordPress, and it would be nice to have comments actually on the WordPress posts (which can be done anonymously). If you like what you see, please share on Facebook or retweet on Twitter.
If you have any comments or positive criticism, please let me know – on WordPress or Facebook or Twitter. Also let me have suggestions for topics of future blog posts.
Maybe your suggestion will appear next …