Tempus fugit. Part of me is kind of shocked to realize it’s been fully a year since I threw a birthday party for my dear friend Holly right here on this blog. When I stop and reflect I realize how very much has changed since I faked my way through Holly’s Scavenger Hunt and got over a hundred people to wish her a Happy Birthday. I can’t say that I regret writing and publishing Why I Don’t Wear A Button Anymore. But it is clear to me that that post and the discussions that followed it cost me a number of friends.
I’ve given it a lot of thought but have never really reached a firm conclusion. It does seem to me that friends who fight with each other in your comments section don’t remain friends. Sometimes it seems to me as though we are so often talking from so far into our own biases that real communication just isn’t possible. Sometimes I think it just isn’t possible for dykes to get along with conservative old men. And yet I also think that this is base stereotyping that belittles the real and complicated people who no longer visit my comments section. People are strange.
I am preparing to start promoting my book in earnest on Monday. My goal is to sell three hundred copies to newbies, and I’m sure going to try my damnedest to reach this goal. My pen name had a very busy night last night and I am pretty much just taking it easy for the weekend. I am anxious to learn just what is in the box that was delivered to Holly’s house– even though she’s resolved not to open it and tell us until tomorrow. I’d greatly appreciate it if you left a comment to wish Holly a happy birthday. Here’s hoping you are having a peaceful, relaxing weekend as well.
So my friend Holly is in yet another blogging contest, this time with a piece pondering idealism vs. pragmatism. When I think about it, I tend to believe that idealism and pragmatism are not in fact opposed, but are actually two traits that most people balance most of the time. I suspect that everyone has ideals, which might alternatively be described as goals or perhaps even dreams. Because it is Thanksgiving and I am feeling thankful for my online friends like Holly, I decided to put up my first one million eaves mission today, asking those who take the eaves to leave a comment on Holly’s blog post. (If you’re on Empire Avenue, do take the eaves if you will comment on Holly’s post.)
I really can’t explain why I have been so reticent and have not posted to this blog at all in five days now. Sometimes it seems there are thousands or millions of ideas and themes floating around out there, and if only I were a sufficiently skilled writer I could tie one or all of them into most any theme, including idealism vs. pragmatism. Other times it seems as though I just can’t think of anything at all to say. I know that my talent for writing (when at any rate I am in a frame of mind to write) is not a fantasy. And yet all those many days when I simply don’t manage to write anything at all.
Kibble brings to mind dog food and indeed Wikipedia associates this word with both dog and cat food, although it can also refer to chalk and flint rubble or to an iron bucket that is used in wells or mines for hauling water to the surface. With all of these different definitions, it seems to me that this might be perfect word for #definethis. Certainly better than yahoo, which is Merriam-Webster’s official word of the day. I myself turned down a gracious invitation to go shopping with a friend this black Friday morning. In truth, I don’t really like crowds and the fact that I don’t have any disposable income left to spend this month makes the prospect of shopping rather very unappealing to me today. Whether you are hitting the stores with the crowds or hanging close to home today, here’s hoping it’s a wonderful Friday in your world.
And finally today, my sincerest thanks to my friend Lindy Ireland, who suggested today’s words.
OK. So I have to admit that I am at times at least a touch bombastic. Although unlike my friends Holly and Hajra I don’t think that bloggers have mostly gone all vampire and zombie. Though I certainly admire anyone who can use a ten dollar word, where a ten cent word would have done. I can’t in fact say that I am incredulous that Holly has entered yet another contest over on Blog Engage. She seems to be kind of addicted to contesting and I remain frankly in awe of all of the publicity and conversation she manages to kick up. And her friend Hajra shows every sign of delightedly following in Holly’s footsteps.
Hajra and Holly both keep active blogs where they cover eclectic topics– Holly claims to be the queen of the “No-Niche niche”. To me that sees like an almost too clever way of not saying simply that one is a personal blogger who writes about whatever is on their mind. Holly does tend to post a lot more product reviews and contest entries. Hajra is a bit more like me in being heavy on the personal introspection, though as I mentioned she seems to be entering contests right and left, just like dear Holly.
If I were Mark Twain, I would have a third paragraph which explains how blogging is really like a river and the key is to understand the currents. I’m not actually sure that that is true, though. To me it seems that blogging is more an ocean. There is just so much of it and you can meet and chat with so many people. Only to realize that you have barely scratched the surface of what is there. A river flows to its delta and then disperses. Blogs, like the tides seem to just go on and on forever. In the end, I suppose that the ocean is as tortured a metaphor as is a river for the inexplicable aspects of blogging. But surely these metaphors, weak though they are, are superior to something pulled from a 1950′s horror movie.
I seem to recall, many many moons ago when I got my first computer, someone explained to me that computers are binary– that they convert everything to ones and zeroes and then do the arithmetic really fast. It is a fleeting memory and was honestly of rather little help to me in trying to decipher just one of the items on my friend Holly’s scavenger hunt list.
I’ve long known that I am very much an odd duck. I am probably the only person you know who does not own a cell phone (and doesn’t Want to; though I am hoping to buy an Android tablet this month). And not having a phone, I’m also one of the only people I know who doesn’t regularly take pictures. (The fact that I’m really not good at it seems to matter rather more to me than it does to most folks who lack skills photographic.) While I suppose I could spend a bit of this post fussing at Holly for her very un-writerly emphasis on pictures, I decided instead to try to address every item on her list over the course of three blog posts, this being the last of those three.
I keep odd hours, and my personal “first thing in the morning” is liable to be at most any hour on the clock. I truly love being retired. I go to bed when I feel tired. I wake up when I wake up. And in between I pretty much only do what I feel like doing, when I feel like doing it. But even if I got up at a regular time each morning, I don’t think I would be willing to share with you a picture of what I look like at that hour. Holly on the other hand, is I believe a morning person. I picture Holly first thing in the morning like Lily Tomlin in the movie 9 to 5: in the sequence where they fantasize about killing the boss and Tomlin’s character sees it as a very Disney like affair, in a colorful costume surrounded by legions of animated animals. My favorite song is Billy Joel’s Say Goodbye To Hollywood. The lyric ”you say a word out of line, and find that the friends you had are gone forever” is very, very true in my experience.
So happy birthday, Holly. While I did not exactly follow any of the instructions err rules, I believe over these three blog posts I have addressed every item on your list. And finally, I am at heart a New Orleans boy, even though I haven’t lived in that city for many years now. And even the poorest New Orleanians know that the cake for any birthday is a half lemon, half chocolate doberge cake. Now that Beaulah Ledner has passed away, most folks in New Orleans buy their birthday doberge from Gambino’s Bakery, which bought out Mrs. Ledner’s recipe and continues to make and sell these wonderful cakes. If you can’t get to New Orleans for your birthday, click on the picture to order one from the Ambrosia Bakery.
Some posts just are not meant to be written. A few days ago I got an idea for a post, wrote the title you see above and downloaded the image at left, though honestly I’ve forgotten what the image has to do with the title. I’ve never been twitterpated about memes, although I have occasionally come up with some clever ones. My friend Holly, who will be turning twenty-two on Saturday has a Scavenger hunt contest up on her blog this week.
Honestly, I want to participate, although I am finding it quite a challenge. While I have become known for pictures of pie and other food porn that appear in the background images on this site, the fact is that I can’t shoot a decent photo to save myself. (And for a woman who primarily identifies herself as a writer, Holly is certainly looking for a lot of original photos in this hunt.) I’m not especially frightened of most bugs and wouldn’t mind all that much having my picture taken with say a doodlebug (or even a zyzzyva). But Ron is working intently on the story he is writing and I don’t even know where Joel’s old camera is. (And it didn’t seem to work properly the last time I tried to use it anyway.)
The link in that last sentence is in fact to a picture of a plate of food I prepared, albeit a horrible photo. (The crawfish etouffee was quite delicious.) I don’t know any guys named Simon, so I’ve honestly no clue at all what “Simon says…”. I certainly am not going to do an entire post of Vogonic poetry* although once I did almost, kind of, sort of write about National poetry month. I’ve never made a physical scrapbook, although I have enjoyed pinning lots and lots of photos on my Pinterest boards. Honestly, I’m pretty darned sure that I’m not going to win the $25 Amazon gift certificate that Holly is offering, nor even the prize I really covet– a one month ad on her blog. But I am hoping that I will get at least a few points for creativity with this entry.
Alan Jobe is the author of Walking Down The Avenue and consults with #indie writers and entrepreneurs about social networking and self-publishing.
*this is a reference to Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy– the Vogons were a blobby race of people who were known for composing Extremely bad poetry
And an aside to Elza– that is a vegan brownie in the background picture today.
I’ve come to believe that switching my focus to this personal blog is one of the smartest decisions I’ve made in my blogging career. For the most part it is a joy to write about whatever is on my mind each day and I am genuinely floored at all of the comments my posts have attracted. While I would not recommend it to anyone who has lots of other commitments I’m also finding that my resolution to post to this blog every calendar day is a good thing for me. I note that with yesterday’s post, I am fully one sixth of the way through my goal, and I’m proud to say I haven’t missed a day as yet.
Not every post becomes popular, of course. There are days when I don’t link to any of my active blogger friends (like Holly, who wants me to stick my head in the freezer), where I don’t do an Empire Avenue mission to draw visitors, shares and comments as well as days when I just don’t bother visiting other blogs to leave a trail of breadcrumbs (err comment back links) and very few people read the post or comment on it. Yet I have been just blown away at some of my posts that have attracted hundreds of readers and dozens and dozens of comments.
And the really wonderful thing is that I am developing a circle of friends and acquaintances who visit regularly and chat with me in the comments section. What social media rock stars never quite seem to grasp is that that social media is all about talking With other real people, whether on their blogs or on Twitter or Facebook or some other web site. I really am proud of myself for sticking with this commitment. And I am genuinely grateful to each and every one of you who reads this.
Sometimes I really do wish that I were the one who came up with the expressions that go viral. I first heard the expression “button dancing” on my friend Holly’s blog. She quotes Hajra Khatoon with coining the phrase “button dance” for the act of clicking all the like and share buttons on a blog post–the high speed intersection of blogging and social networking. It is an apt expression, and more and more of us are doing it every day it seems. Sometimes I do it because a friend sent me a request or offered a few eaves in an Empire Avenue mission. Other times just because I found myself impressed with someone’s comments or content.
It seems to me that button dancing is just one part of what I am coming to recognize as an entire global economy in social recognition. I’ve written before that reciprocity is really what makes most things go around online. In Walking Down The Avenue, I mention the “speed dating” that used to be frequently practiced in the #SocialEmpire Facebook group. Not nearly as naughty as it sounds, speed dating merely involves creating a thread or an event. Each user who signs in to the event visits the Facebook profile or page of every other participant and Likes everything on the page and leaves a comment or two. Sometimes you find interesting information or discover cool things on your friends’ pages. And sometimes real conversations (and sometimes great and or hilarious conversations) take place on Facebook pages. I often find myself shooting the breeze with Randi, Jake and Sharon among many other friends I talk to on Facebook.
Empire Avenue missions fit neatly into the social recognition economy. They allow bloggers and social networkers to give their friends an incentive to do the button dance or to perform any number of other actions that make the recognition economy go around. I’ve used missions to revive the #definethis daily word game on Twitter. I’m having a great deal of fun with my friends who enjoy obscure and unusual words. And I’ve found that the more I succeed in my goal of having fun with my friends online, the more my Empire Avenue scores, dividends and share price go up. What about you? Do you do the button dance? Have you ever like bombed a friend’s Facebook page?
Adding a category cloud in the sidebar made me realize that I really need to do something that will allow me to use the #amwriting tag a bit more. Actually, I hardly feel as though I have “stopped writing”. I am publishing a new 500-word or so post every calendar day, and on some days more than one post. I am making a real effort to respond to every comment I receive on this site. I continue to participate in conversations on Facebook and on Twitter, as well as private chats and IM’s on lots of different sites. I can’t honestly say that I have taken any meaningful break from “writing”. And yet my plan to quickly update Walking Down The Avenue with a new section on Empire Avenue Missions and push out a version 1.2 early in the new year is, I am just a bit ashamed to admit, kind of on hiatus so far.
I could blame poor @Dups and the #EAv team. It is true that they are listening to user feedback and implementing some refinements to the new featue. The fact that you can now target your mission by four fairly limited criteria, does bring additional functionality to the feature, although I am crossing my fingers that as Brad Grier indicated in a post in the #SocialEmpire group on Facebook that they may make it possible to restrict Missions by the length of time an account has been active on the Avenue. This functionality would bring Missions from ‘that’s nice’, ’through Hey! I can use this to drive traffic to my new blog’ (how many of you first visited this site through an Empire Avenue mission– leave a comment to raise your hand!) to ‘I can use this to target my book to the folks who need it the most’. Let them earn eaves for reading a book that they really need to read. It could be my Eureka! moment on Empire Avenue.
So I resolve again to put the new blog aside and actually work on writing my book. (I wonder if my successful writer friends like Brent and Susan go through this procrastinating sort of routine?) However of course I am not going to do it until I Schedule this post. (With a daily deadline I am FAR too anal to leave it until it is the day it is due to start working on it. And if as I intend I put this in the hopper just before midnight on Tuesday January 17, I will be two days ahead on the schedule, and obligated at least in Theory to open up the manuscript and try real hard to force myself to working on the new section. And yet I know that my Inner Lazybones (I KNOW I have to give him a name but unlike Holly I’m not quite self-confident to call him something like Prunebutt) can still make endless excuses.
“But I said this new section was going to be part of the advanced guide, the book for social media professionals and I’m scared they will laugh at me and tell me in no uncertain terms that I am not one of them.” (‘You’ve been making and keeping great friends with incredible people through online connections for more than 20 years now. You’re even smart enough never to tell people you’ve been “doing social media” for twenty years. Why even Anise Smith appreciates that.’) ”But but but… you’re doing so good and your share price keeps going up, and the new blog is really doing well. Surely you don’t want to stop that!!”) ‘Well of course I don’t. I’ve got two days in the can. I might let you talk me into working on and scheduling a third post, but if there’s three days in the can I have no other deadline it is inexcusable not to at least try to complete an assignment’. “BUT BUT BUT….”
I don’t honestly know what Lazybones will come up with after I schedule that third post. But who knows, maybe you will see the #amwriting hashtag from me again before too long.
Holly is fantastic writer and blogger who does an amazing job of making each interaction feel up close and personal, yet she still manages the trick of seeming to be everywhere at once. Whether you’re a social media wiz with 20,000 Twitter followers or a brand newbie blogger who is still puzzled by ’tweet’ as a verb, Holly’s most excellent post will tell you things you really need to know and link you to some of the best information out there.
Once you’ve read Holly’s piece, be sure to leave her a comment and join in the discussion.
This post has nothing whatsoever to do with poetry or National Poetry Month, which it so happens, happens to be April.
Time is a funny thing. We’ve all heard the expression “time flies”. And just as often one hears bored people talk about time moving ”as slow as molasses.” Since signing up on Empire Avenue, it seems that I have met a zillion or so new people. Honestly, I didn’t really notice the days and weeks passing that much. Yesterday morning I unlocked an achievement on Empire Avenue that informed me I have been on that site for 30 days now. And stopping to think about it, WOW!, what a month this has been.
My long time friends who were with me when I burned out a bit on writing a book review or three every day, and came to the realization that my books blog would never, ever earn enough to cover hosting fees no matter how great I made it, will recall my ill-conceived foray into creamed corn. I’m not in the least bit sorry that I attempted naively to start a social networking blog, nor do I have any regrets about pulling the plug on it after just a few weeks. But I do find it ironic that since deciding to focus on this personal site that I’ve become acquaintances and Twitter friends with guys like Chris Baccus and Scott Monty. I am so very, Very, VERY thrilled to have met Holly Jahangiri, with whom I am in the process of launching The Remarkable Association of Writers Who READ. I have cared deeply about literacy and adult literacy education since my high school years (no fooling, (e)NATION!) and I am realizing today that with the new RAWWR!! project I am following the excellent old advice about following my passions.
I’ve also really enjoyed playing #definethis on Twitter everyday, and getting to know some of the ace players like the extraordinary poet @gavroche and @definethis herself– who like my blogging buddy Cardiogirl I know a fair bit about her life, but not in fact her name. (Which echoes my reflections on the great name vs handle issue.) After a month on Empire Avenue I am yet a few thousand eaves short of being an e-millionaire. But the real value of the friends and relationships I’ve made and the new projects I’ve become involved with is, as they used to say in the Mastercard commercials: Priceless.