The contented gardener

When I first started blogging, I decided not to blog about me. For more than a year, that worked really well. But then something happened. And it changed everything.

Winter garden

Photos from the garden yesterday afternoon. Call this winter? At ankel’s height there’s still lots to see. Bulbs reaching up. A cold snap with a drizzle of snow caused stubborn flowers to droop.

Over a year ago I got a new job. In content management. A great opportunity to turn all my talk about content, social media, and the like, into my daily job.

But somehow, spending hours at work fiddling with texts doesn’t motivate one to sit down at night and do the same thing all over again. Writing about content wasn’t the only problem. It was the editing, finding the right picture, and so on.

And even ‘writing about content’ was turning into a problem. Because it was ‘work’. I don’t mind work, I just don’t need to do one thing anywhere near 24/7. I craved variety. I’ve always loved doing a lot of different things at (nearly) the same time. (I know it’s getting out of hand whenever there are three different books by my bedside and another (two or three) in the living room.)

Content to garden

Then a new topic to blog about crossed my path. My garden. Actually it wasn’t that much of a garden: it was what was left after the houses had been built. After removing most of that one plant species I later learned is called lady’s thumb, because it grew nearly two feet tall all over the place, I let the other stuff grow to find out what kind of weed it was:

  • nice (like the flowery ones)
  • educational (stinging nettles – our son never had accidents with them at home)
  • slightly annoying (dandelions, but making up for it by looking great)
  • a real pain – unless you find a use for it (horsetail)

I’d added some plants but never sat down to decide which bigger plants might really add structure to our garden. It almost felt impossible to put big plants into a small garden. Partially because it would mean ripping out weeds that had grown on me. Sort of. Some of them. Partially because, well, it’s a small garden. Big plants were never going to fit, right?

Garden changes

But here I am after trying stuff in my garden for a whole growing season. I put in bigger plants and I keep seeing patches where more plants would fit quite snugly. I also started blogging about my garden.

Looking back at some pictures I took a few years ago I noticed one thing. A lot of small plants have disappeared. Having bigger plants shade the soil and soaking up nutrients and water has probably meant that the smaller ‘pioneer’ plants have left – after depositing their seeds in case a big shrub or a treelet is uprooted by a storm.

I’ve been able to retain a red clover, so hopefully it will attract bees and the like next spring. The gaps left by the pioneer plants are now begging for inhabitants -they are an open invitation for our neighbors’ cat to crap right in that spot (they don’t have a garden. Just a place to sit outside. And a cat with toilet issues). That’s one thing about some of the herbs: they die back when it gets cold and then the cats move in. Plants with woody stems are better.

Looking forward to spring. Happy New Year!

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100 blog posts, or how to write and write again

Knowing like I know that there are plenty of bloggers out there who publish daily and/or have been longer at it and who must be so far beyond their 100th blog post they can’t even see it with a telescope on a clear day, still I can’t keep from wondering how I made it this far.

Too many ideas to write about…

100 blog posts ContentRamblerAt first I only published once a week. But I sat down to blog every single night, just to build a routine. I had so many ideas they wouldn’t fit into one post, I’d add and edit until I had several topics jumbled up into one blog post. That’s when I wrote How to add focus to every post 😉

Publishing twice a week worked for a while. I would have loved to publish more often but felt I would never get away from my blog if I went down that road.

…or too few

Continue reading

Blogging impressions: the muse of desperate bloggers

Since I started editing and publishing content produced by others in our company, I’ve found it harder to create my own content here on my blog. Spending a lot of time doing content-related tasks like editing, tagging, and the like, uses a lot of the available ‘content energy’.

Blogging is… work? Continue reading

Blogging impressions: when is a blog post ready?

A while ago I decided two blog posts per week was too much while I was getting used to my new job. Now, I’m not so sure.

Blogging on and off

Publishing just one post per week just doesn’t feel right. Especially because it allows me to not log on and write every single night. On the other hand, I needed some evenings off blogging. I still do.

When should you blog? And when is a blog post ready for publishing?

What do you reckon: should I blog – or spend time with you guys?
[Image: HikingArtist.com via Flickr]

A curious side effect of not sitting down to write every day is that I’m suddenly faced with a decision I need to make every day: do I sit down to write today – or will I wait until tomorrow?

Blogging should be your daily routine – not a daily decision

This is exactly why I turned blogging into a daily routine from the start. You don’t want that kind of discussion with yourself:

  1. It takes up time you could spend blogging
  2. It costs energy better spent on blogging (because then you’ll have a tangible result to show for your effort)
  3. Chances are you’ll end up saying something to your other half – or to your kid(s) and they’ll say: “well, then, don’t blog if you don’t feel like it.” How much will you feel like blogging after that type of encouragement?

Enough said.

I’m going to publish two posts per week again – whenever I manage to do so. If I don’t I’ll publish one post on Monday. I’m not yet sure if the other one should be on Thursday or Friday – what do you think is a good day for posting?

Whether I’ll be able to produce a quality blog post every time I have yet to find out. And there’s just one way to find out. Stop whining. Start blogging.

When is a blog post ready?

That’s my main reason for wondering if I’ll be able to publish twice a week. I’ve often felt uncertain about just writing and hitting ‘Publish’. But editing can lead to overediting – and take up way too much time.

So I’m going to be hard on myself and just publish this. After I get a picture somewhere that suits this blog post – and possibly my sense of humor.

And finally a reading tip for you that is similar to one of my earlier posts – only this one is from Weblogbetter.com: Why do you blog anyway? Enjoy!

The art of content curation: mind your p’s

How do you handle existing content so that you add value to what’s obviously already out there? In this post I’d like to distinguish several aspects – levels if you will, or approaches – of content curation. I’ve handily summarized these aspects as the 3 P’s of content curation: pick, prepare, and present.

Some content curators stick to one or two aspects, but for best results, add a measure of all three ingredients.

Pick: content selection (social media)

content curation: pick, prepare, present

Pick, prepare, present – image on Flickr

Many tools, from Twitter search to Scoop.it’s suggested content or Squirro will help you make a selection of content for republishing on social media.

  1. Some accounts on Twitter will retweet just about anything about topic X.
  2. Experts make sure they build their reputation and keep it intact by (re)sharing only quality content.

The actual content stays where it is: on someone’s website.

Pick: content selection (websites)

On the other hand, a number of websites are basically one big RSS-feed by the looks of them – and some of them republish complete articles. If you’re looking for quality content and want to republish articles from certain websites on a regular basis:

  1. you’ll need to arrange something with the content creators and expect them to want something in return;
  2. your content creators may appreciate their logo, a link, and perhaps a banner on your website. One good turn deserves another?

Prepare: edit, edit, edit

Sometimes you just can’t help yourself – you’ve got to edit if:

  • the original content is so crappy you don’t want it on your own website without a bit of editing. You try to keep the good ideas while editing out the bad spelling, abysmal grammar, and bone-headed typos.
  • quality content has gone stale and it’s easy to update it. Sometimes all it takes to freshen up an article is two lines and a link to refer to recent developments.
  • a few headings and subheadings would facilitate easy reading. Some articles just aren’t written for online reading, certainly not on – say – a mobile phone.

Edit existing content on these points and it’s hard to see how you can’t improve on the original.

Present: recreate your content for your audience

Content curation is also about writing and tagging articles for your own audience:

  1. Would your audience use certain phrases – or is it better to literally rephrase parts of existing content to suit your readers?
  2. Does that mean you need to rewrite the whole article to fit new keywords?
  3. What does that do to the tags you add? After all these are based on the actual content – which you’ve changed.

Present: where content curation meets content creation

We’ve come a long way beyond ‘simple’ content curation. Writing for a different audience may involve editing existing content beyond recognition. At some point you’ll need to consider whether you need to keep the original thought only, and write your own point of view in a brand new piece of content.

This is especially true if your audience is interested in, say, video’s or infographics rather than written content. You could argue that summarizing existing information in front of a camera or designing an infographic around it is (high-level) content curation. Or could you?

Pick, prepare, present – how to balance your content curation efforts?

Alternate between levels or aspects of content curation. Finding a balance is important in order to:

  • share your own view on a range of topics;
  • avoid exhausting yourself trying to do everything every single time (unless you’re a pro blogger I guess)

After all, you are your readers’ go-to expert 🙂

Happy blogging anniversary – and a new summer task

While I was writing this blog post I noticed a notification reminding me of my blogs first anniversary:

Blogging for a year: Happy Anniversary With WordPress

It’s been an interesting year that started with wanting to write.

Blogging leads to all kinds of things

In some ways, not much happened. I didn’t get 2000 hits within my first week of blogging. But for someone who just wants to write that kind of stuff misses the point by several lightyears. Continue reading

Blogging stew: mixing content creation, curation, and marketing

If content is part of your profession, you need to keep an eye on all aspects. Not just the bit you happen to be responsible for at any given moment. Why?

  1. Because these different aspects are glued together and you’ll get asked sooner or later: “But what about X?” Although you could say that’s out of your jurisdiction, that answer won’t get you anywhere nice.
  2. Because it’s actually nice to stay up to date about topics that are related to what you do for a living, or for a hobby – like blogging.

Blogging stew: content ingredients

Great-looking ‘Mayan stew’. Click to view on Flickr [cloud2013].

As a content enthousiast you’re involved in content creation, content curation, content marketing, or all of them mixed up into a (hopefully) savory stew. What’s the result of putting in your time and energy? Continue reading