Thoughts from the Minnesota Bloggers Convention

Minnesota Blogger Conference

I am new to blogging and, to be honest, I don’t have an enormous audience. The Wandering Lostie just notched its 1,000th view and most of my traffic comes when I tweet a link. It’s a very modest endavour in that regard, but it is something I want to be more serious. To that end, I attended the Minnesota Blogger Conference a few weeks ago in St. Paul.

I could fill a mountain of screen space with my eight pages of notes. One of the things I like most about blogs and blogging is being exposed to other people’s perspectives, so I want to use this post as an opportunity to provide mine about some of the questions and topics the presenters and panelists covered. It is outside the normal course of topics for this blog, but it’s about blogging. I think blogging about blogging is always germane to blogging.

Blogging as a passion.

I used to work in politics, a very passion-driven line of work. I left because even though I am still very passionate about it my passion diminished enough that I could imagine myself doing something different. It’s a fine line, to be sure. Blogging strikes me as very similar. I talk in my About page about how I became interested enough in television to write about it. Listening to more successful bloggers talk about how passionate they are made me wonder if this is something I am passionate enough about to put in the time and effort to attain the audience and respect they do. I believe it is. I enjoy this. However…

I’m in a rut right now, and it is all Walter White’s fault. I binged the entire series in the four days leading up to the finale. From the pilot at 7 p.m. Wednesday to the finale that ended at 9:15 p.m. Sunday I watched nothing but Breaking Bad. It totaled about 48.5 hours of program time in 96 hours with the longest break being 6-hours for a wedding. Put another way, that’s two full days of watching one television show in a four-day span. Insane! (I’ll have more to say about Breaking Bad and binging TV shows when the TV year slows down.)

I loved Lost so much it boosted how much I enjoy other shows. Breaking Bad caused the opposite effect. I was enjoying FOX’s new Sleepy Hollow until Bad made it feel like a children’s book. Even an 8-season stalwart like Criminal Minds can’t work up the drama for me that it used to. All of this means I’m less excited to write, which is why there hasn’t been much new content lately. I hope this is a temporary post-Bad phenomenon.

How do you write? 

I was surprised to hear Ed Kohler and Purple Jesus Diaries writer Aaron Wahlstrom say they write directly into their platform. I compose everything in Pages so I can write in a word processing mindset. When I type right into WordPress it is much more difficult to get in the part of my mind where the writing lives. In that way I’m with Kate in the Kitchen and Kate Arends, who talked about shutting the world out and finding a quiet place to do their blogging. If I am writing a review or a column I almost always shut out the world and dig in.

Typos.

“When people email me about a typo in my blog…I just don’t care.” – Ed Kohler. I care. I obsessively care. I loathe typos. If you see one, please email me about it. I will feel bad about myself but it will help in the long run.

Making a connection. 

A question from Missy Breggren’s session addressed how you know your blog is making connections. Style and fashion writer Zhenya Hutson and happy person Jennifer Prod of talked about comments and outreach from other bloggers as things that tell them they are on the right track. This is something I’d like to attain. Right now I’m me talking largely to me. Forming connections with other bloggers in the television field and boosting site comments are long-term goals.

Other topics. 

Rich Neumeister has been fighting for open government at the Minnesota Legislature for well over 30 years. He asked a great question I want to touch on: What about adding other topics to your blog? Like I said, I worked in politics for a long time and still have strong feelings about it. But I promise you will never read a political post on The Wandering Lostie. Ever. If I’m writing about a show that is heavy on politics, such as Scandal or The West Wing, I will use my political experience as an asset for writing better posts. That does not mean you’ll see me espousing a position on taxes or Obamacare. You can take this promise to the bank.

People have asked me if I plan to blog about politics, and I appreciate the compliment in saying they would be interested in what I have to say. My answer is if I wanted to be immersed in politics I would have stayed in it. I also want to reduce the impact politics has on my online identity, most of which came through Twitter via my previous jobs. Now I’m trying to use the Twitter equity I earned (is there such a thing?) over the past several years to become known for other things. Such as this.

Analytics. 

I can’t begin. Go to http://www.jeffalytics.com and read everything.

The future of blogging. 

This was a great panel with Blois Olson, David Brauer, Lee Odden and Greg Swan and moderated by Julio Ojeda Zapata. It was pretty heady stuff, here are some highlights.

“Blogs should just be called media.” – Blois Olson. I tend to agree.

David Brauer rarely goes to the local papers’ homepages anymore. He finds news from links in his Twitter feed. I tried doing this a while back and found that I missed too much news. I also tried exclusively using the papers’ iPad apps and had the same experience. I want my online newspaper reading to feel as close as possible to scanning a regular newspaper. Twitter has potential for that if I took the time to make a list of all the news sites I follow, but they update so much it would be impossible to digest all of it. There is a new social links feature in the upcoming release of Safari that will aggregate links posted by people in your social network, so that has potential as well. Flipboard replace the void Google created by dumping Reader. It is probably the closest to a real newspaper experience.

“Social media shouldn’t make you sad.” – David Brauer. He’s right. We have the Twins and Vikings for that. How many times did Josh Freeman look at the sidelines after a play Monday night with his hands up like he had no idea what he was supposed to be doing? I think he’d be right to feel angry about being thrown out to play in that situation. And the Twins, don’t even get me started.

Talking about the plethora of social networks available, Greg Swan said think about what ones will be around in the future. This is why I stick with the big ones. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn give me everything I want from social media. I am not inclined to join others until I am clear about what they offer me that these three don’t. Tumblr is a great example. I’m on it but rarely use it because it duplicates Facebook and Twitter. I mostly use it for posting things that I don’t think are worthy of the other three. I’ve also used it to post thoughts on a variety of topics that don’t fit anywhere else. I briefly considered putting The Wandering Lostie there but decided WordPress is a better long-term solution.

“Figure out a way to reach people who care.” – Blois Olson. Great point for building your blog audience. I will need to do this for my blog to grow.

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