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Blog Exercises: May Summary

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Is is June already? Where did May go?

If you joined us for these Blog Exercises in the month of May, we were a pretty busy lot.

Time was spent on blog policies and security at the start of the month. I gave you assignments with tips on how to protect yourself by owning your own site and content, developing a strong comments policy, and to create a backup inventory of posts for those “just in case” moments we all experience.

We worked hard on our sites for content structure, organization, and content styles. I gave you tips on how to write poetry and recipes, develop your vocabulary, write paragraph lengths appropriate to web reading, quoting and citations, and more editing exercises.

Here’s the summary of the blog exercises for the month of May. Did you miss any?

I’m planning to have an ebook collection of the first six months of these blog exercises ready at the end of June, if summer plans cooperate. Stay tuned for news so you can get your free copy.

Coming up are more blog exercises dealing with policies, content management and strategies, images and multimedia, podcasting, design, and more WordPress tips and techniques as we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of WordPress and the 7th Anniversary of this site and WordPress.com.

We’re almost to the six month marker. There is still more exciting blog exercises to come this year!


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: Making Lists

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Got a list?

Today’s blog exercise is a technical one. We’re looking at making lists in your blog posts.

You would think that something like a bullet or numbered list would be simple. No discussion or training involved. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as you would think.

In the blog exercise on making a weekly link roundup, these could have been done in a list, but let’s go further with our lists.

There are many kinds of lists.

  1. Bullet Lists: Automatically generated by using the <ul> HTML tag around list items (<li>), a bullet list is a simple unordered list. It may just be a list of words or sentences. It could be a list of titles or links to web pages or sites. It could be a defined list such as this, with a bold face introductory term to give the reader a clue as to what is to follow.
  2. Numbered Lists: Numbered lists are automatically created with the <ol> HTML tag around list items (<li>), numbers identifying the ordered list. The numbers could count items or be the steps for instructions.
  3. Heading Lists: Heading lists are lists created with HTML headings such as <h2>. These often feature numbers counting down the steps or items in the list, the numbers added manually. The specifics are in paragraphs, often with images, explaining the examples or steps involved in the process. The article is usually titled 12 Tips for Better Blogging or How to Repair Your Car in 6 Easy Steps.

From here, there are many variations on a theme. Some people use graphics to indicate the each number in the step order. Others get even more creative.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to play around with lists.

Write an article feature the X number of steps in a process. Show your readers how to do something step-by-step.

Publish an article feature a list of items or links you recommend.

Take time to make your list correctly with proper HTML. Search engines love it and you will score better on their scorecards for the effort.

Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

Would you like to join us and work on these Blog Exercises on your own site? This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles, and you may jump in at any time.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: Building Blogger Relationships

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.During many of these Blog Exercises I’ve talked about the power of linking across the web, especially with bloggers. This blog exercise is dedicated to helping you make the connection you want and need come true.

Do you have a blogging mentor, a blogger you wish to get to know better, feel a connection with, want to learn more from? Today’s blog exercise is to become that blogger’s new best friend.

This is not the time to turn into a stalker, and best friend is a lot to ask. Your challenge is to become visible to that person, let them know that you know they exist, and that you are proud of their work and participation on the web, and how they give so much of themselves to others, including yourself.

Blog about them. Learn as much as you can about who they are, what they do, and how they do it, and brag on them on your site. Share how their online work has influenced you and your site. Compliment the content they’ve published, the stands they’ve taken, the lives they’ve changed, including your own.

The links to the posts they’ve written will generate trackbacks, an invitation to visit your post about them, to which they should leave a comment thanking you for your kindness and attention.

At this point, you may have their email address. Send a polite private note thanking them for their comment and again telling them, in very few words, how you appreciate what they do and how you are influenced by their work.

If you do not hear back from them, leave it. You’ve done your bloggy etiquette for the month. You’ve said thank you and that’s enough.

If they do respond, see how far the conversation goes. Remember, bloggers are busy. They have full lives, often one or two “day” jobs in addition to friends, family, hobbies, and blogging.
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Blog Exercises: FAQs

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.A FAQ is a web page featuring “Frequently Asked Questions.” Does your site need a FAQ?

Most sites do not need a FAQ Page. Yours might. How do you know if your website needs a FAQ?

If your site offers products and services, a FAQ may be necessary to answer frequently asked questions about the products, services, warranties, guarantees, shipping rates and policies, and other answers to other customer service questions.

The key is that if your site offers customer service, it needs a FAQ to cover the typical questions people need to know.

A FAQ page is typically created as a single page with headings featuring the questions and the text below it answer each question.

If the FAQ questions are more than 5-7, consider adding a FAQ table of contents with jump links to the answers. It is a simple list of links to each question. The visitor clicks on the link to jump down to the spot with the answer on the page. My article on the HTML link tag features an example of jump links in a list.

Answers to the question should be concise. It may also feature links to more information such as reference articles on your site.

FAQ Pages are created as Pages not posts on a WordPress site as it is a timeless resource on your site. From posts, products, services, and other web pages that provide customer information and support, include a link to your FAQ page for more information.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Does your site require a FAQ?

Today’s blog exercise is to give this serious consideration. Are you selling products and services? Are you asked the same questions over and over again about your site and work? Could customers and readers be better served by providing a single page listing the answers to their most common questions?

Your site might not need one, but you should give it some thought.

If you are a website builder, designer, developer, or sales person, consider adding a FAQ for your customer’s site.

Blog about this? Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task and your FAQ page and learn from how you put it together.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Happy Birthday, WordPress!

Today is the 10th Anniversary of that famous moment when Matt Mullenweg reached out to the world, and Mike Little replied, and WordPress was born. A blog post that changed the world.

Matt Mullenweg asks readers about making a new publishing platform, Mike Little response, and WordPress is born.

Happy Birthday, WordPress!

WordPress 10th anniversary birthday balloons.

I’m off to celebrate with the Portland WordPress Meetup Group of Oregon. Cake?


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: Memorial Moments

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Today, the United States celebrates Memorial Day (not the movie).

The day is dedicated to remembering those who died while serving in the United States military services. Originally known as “Decoration Day,” the holiday started after the American Civil War (1861-1865). While the dates are debated, the first Memorial Day observance as a holiday was in 1864, 149 years ago. If that year is considered official, next year will be the 150th Anniversary of the first Memorial Day celebrated in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. The official recognition of the holiday came with a Congressional Act in 1967.

There are memorial days honoring soldiers in every country and region at different times of the year. It is important to remember.

Living in Israel for so long, the Jewish tradition – command – to remember is absolute. We must survive to testify the truth, to tell the story, to preserve the past so we dare not repeat it. On the walls of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, are the words “always remember, never forget,” a mantra that many recall on Memorial Day.

There are many layers and perspectives on a day honoring war, soldiers, military acts and forces, and the winners and losers as we defend ourselves, protect our borders, protect others, and control the world around us.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Today’s blog exercise is based upon memorials.

Whether or not you’ve been personally touched by war and the military, find a way to blog about honoring those who fight on our behalf, for whatever reasons.

You might be inclined to rant about military action. That’s okay. You may have been in war or served in the military and wish to share your own experiences. You may have been directly involved with the military and loss in the military. All voices, opinions, and stories are welcome as you take on this subject on your site.

Take care to remember that everyone has an opinion. Don’t let that hold you back. You have a right to share your own story, your own perspective on Memorial Day, be it the day of your country’s holiday or not.

Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

SPOILER: By the end of June, I will be publishing the first six months of Blog Exercises as an ebook, the first half of what will become the final book at the end of the year. Stay tuned for news!

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles. You are welcome to join us at any point in this year-long exercise.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: Emergency Drafts

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.I write my blog posts as far in advance as possible, using the future posts/scheduling feature of WordPress to set my posts to release over time, automating the process of self-publishing on my site and giving me time to live my life rather than be tied to my site.

I rely heavily on my Editorial Calendar to keep me on schedule for upcoming posts, but I do something more to protect me when emergencies happen and I need a backup plan to publish on my site in a timely manner.

I usually have 10-30 blog posts in draft form. They are ready to go and set as Drafts in WordPress. All I have to do is hit publish and they are released to the world.

I don’t need these often, as I work so far ahead, but when I do, I love that they are there. I’ve used mine when I’ve been sick and unable to sit at the computer and compose new thoughts. I’ve used them when a family emergency called me away from my work and my site had to continue forward. I turn to my inventory often when on the road and time just won’t let me create new content.

The articles are not timely in the sense that they are associated with a specific date or topical event. They do not refer to dates or reference material that could be considered out-dated if I wrote it in 2006 and released it in 2013. The articles are usually basic tips, techniques, or editorial content that will help readers no matter when they are released.
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Blog Exercises: What Are You Missing?

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Frogs redefine my thoughts about amphibians annually.

As a child, spring was for tadpoles and summers were for frogs in the swamps, ponds, and ditches around my country ranch in the Pacific Northwest. Moving to Oregon’s Coastal Mountain range west of Portland, my winters are spent driving up the foothills like a crazy person, avoiding patches of ice and hopping frogs as they propel themselves across the road in the evening and through the night.

This year no frogs. I haven’t swerved my car once this winter for frogs crossing the road, only the rare bit of suspect black ice. Is it because it hasn’t been cold enough long enough, or just not cold and wet enough? I don’t know.

Copyright Brent VanFossen - Red-legged Frog under leaf in Olympic National Park.

Red-legged frog in the Olympic National Park, photography by Brent VanFossen.

Yesterday, I did a quick swerve around a small tree frog on the road. That’s when I realized it was the first frog of the year. It’s May, late Spring and early Summer here. Where are the frogs of January and February? Were they crossing the road when I wasn’t on it, or has the extreme dry weather this winter changed their habitat and habits?

Thinking about this single frog and all the frogs I missed this year, I thought about what I was missing on my blog or from my blog. Such thoughts are dominoes in my mind. What is gone that once was a regular part of my life blogging? Is the loss a good thing or bad?

When I started blogging long before blogging was a word, even before online journaling, it was hard work to get content up on the web. By 2003 and WordPress, it became easier and faster, and I became more productive. As WordPress improved, leaping forward after 2006 with WordPress.com, I was really rocking. It became so easy to publish, I forgot about how hard it used to be.

When things get easier, sometimes we take it for granted. Such productivity is one thing I was missing as work and life got in the way of multiple posts a day. This year is my year to increase my writing and publishing productivity with these Blog Exercises.

So what else is missing?
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Blog Exercise: Inspired by Photography

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.We are all inspired by photography, a picture that motivates and inspires, that moves us, sometimes to the point of changing our perspective on a subject or on our life.

With all of the power found in photography, over the next few weeks I will be offering Blog Exercises with the emphasis on getting you behind the camera and showcasing your photography on your blog.

In this first exercise, you are to dig through your archives to find a photograph to publish on your site that truly changed your life.

It could have changed your mind, your perspective, or the path of your life.

It might be very personal. It might not. It’s your photograph and your story. Share it with your readers.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Here are the specifics of the blog exercise today.

Go through all those images in your file cabinet, scrapbooks, or digital files and find a single image that you feel represented a change in your life.

It could be the image itself, a moment captured once viewed that changed your life. It could be an image representative of a moment when your life changed.

Tell us the story behind the image and how it changed your life.

Before you publish the story and photograph, including a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants in these blog exercises can check out your blog exercise task and ooh and awwww over your picture and story. You don’t need to explain the why and incentive behind the post, so let the link be enough if you wish.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles. Come join the fun!

SPOILER: By the end of June, I will be publishing the first six months of Blog Exercises as an ebook, the first half of what will become the final book at the end of the year. Stay tuned for news!


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: May Random Editing Day

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.May. It’s starting to warm up outside in the north, and growing a bit chilly down under, but it’s that time again. It’s the May Random Editing Day.

In this Blog Exercise you will need to edit five random posts from among your thousands – okay, maybe dozens of published articles.

What should you look for this month? Here are some ideas.

  • Do a search on your site for summer sounding words. Edit those posts.
  • Look for posts with the least comments. That might be most of your posts or only a few. Edit them to encourage more responses and interactivity.
  • What’s your favorite color? Do a search for that color name (or variations) and edit those posts.
  • Search for seasonal activities based upon spring and summer hobbies, things to do, or subject matter. Edit those posts to better reflect the season if they don’t already.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.As described in the original exercise, your task today is to find five random previously published posts and edit them. It’s the fifth month so five posts need your attention. Use the list in the original exercise as a review on what to look for when editing the article.

How has this editing experience worked for you? I’ve only asked for a few posts, adding to the number each month by one. Are you moving a little faster through them?

Do you find it tedious, or has spring cleaning your blog a little uncovered some hidden treasures, some magic in your prose? I find digging into my archives a joy when I uncover a gem I wrote. Sometimes I get so caught up in the work I forget to sit back and be impressed with myself. :D

Did you find one of those buried treasures, a gem you brushed off to shine again? Show us your best edits by adding a hat tip link to the edited post(s) to this post to generate a trackback, or post a link to the two posts in the comments. Include an explanation of why you are proud of your editing skills. If WordPress moderates the comment because of the links, be patient as I’ll be here as soon as possible to approve the comment. Thanks!

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles. It is never too late to join. You can start at any time and go through the exercises at your own speed.

SPOILER: By the end of June, I will be publishing the first six months of Blog Exercises as an ebook, the first half of what will become the final book at the end of the year. Stay tuned for news!


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: Backups and Alternatives

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.I didn’t expect to return home after a meeting this morning to find I have no telephone or Internet access on this bright sunshine, calm weather May day. I’ve got classes to prep for, sites to review for students and clients, article deadlines, these blog exercises to publish and keep to my year long commitment, and clients needing work done. I have no Internet nor land line. What to do?

I do have my smart phone. My tablet is WIFI, so it is out, as is the laptop. I’m limited to my phone or I can pack things up and go down to the local hotel and cafe with free high-speed wireless and work from there. I give the phone a try, then give up as the access is so slow and just work without wires. Then I find out that the whole area is down and isn’t likely to be back on until 3AM, or possibly later. Argh.

Several programs I now rely upon won’t work unless I’m connected to the web. Those are out. It’s back to traditional software to keep working, which brings me to today’s blog exercise.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.What are your backup plans and alternative options for keeping your blog going when the going gets tough?

Do you have alternatives when the power goes out?
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Blog Exercises: Prepare for Summer

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.It’s Editorial Calender check-in and check up time.

May is the shift from spring to summer. From blossoming flowers to green leafed trees casting shade, the weather is changing, bringing warmer days to the northern hemisphere and colder temperatures down under. For those of us living in the Pacific Northwestern United States, we are experiencing record high temperatures and trips to the emergency room for sunburns and heat exhaustion are on the rise as we cope with a sudden summer before we’ve even had spring. It’s a time for change, too fast for many.

Summer brings out parades and princesses such as the Southern Bell Princesses of Mobile, Alabama - photograph copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Summer brings parades and social activities outdoors. This Southern Bell Princess chats with a child during a festival in Mobile, Alabama. Photography Lorelle VanFossen.

While many consider the move from winter to spring to be about renewal, May is also a time of change and growth. Most of the baby animals have been born and are starting to find their own way in the world. Plants are blossoming everywhere bringing their sweet scent to freshen the air. Lawns are starting to be watered and mowed. It’s time for spring cleaning, sweeping out the dust and spider webs, cleaning windows and hanging clothing out to dry in the fresh air. People are shedding the layers of clothing for layers of sun lotion on bared skin in their desire to increase their Vitamin D and seek darker skin tones.

May is a time of health, energy, vitality as we move into the next season in the northern hemisphere. For those in the southern hemisphere, it could be the opposite as people start to hunker down for the chill.
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Blog Exercises: How to Write about Something Someone Else Wrote

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In the early development of the web, blogs were classified as echo chambers, vessels of redundant content as every original idea was shared, reshared, quoted, and spread across the web at rapid speed. Some estimates state that less than 2% of all the content on the web is original. It’s mostly regurgitation of the same stuff over and over again.

Yet it is critical that we share and spread news of innovation and bright ideas, brilliant thoughts and moments in time with each other. That is the magic of the web. If you like it, share it with your friends.

Example of a blockquote on Lorelle on WordPress.We love to share. Reblogging is easy on WordPress.com. Yet, how do we write about something someone else wrote and share their perspective while not contributing to the echo chamber?

In “Blog Exercises: Quoting and Blockquotes” I described how to quote, going into more detail in the article, “Copyright: How to Quote and Cite Sources.” Read these first if you are unfamiliar with how to create a blockquote and properly provide citation.
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Blog Exercises: Excerpts and Continue Reading

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Encountered the front page of a blog where the posts ran on and on and on and on, stretching across the length of the page?

Do you ever wish you had more control over the length of your posts on the front page of your site?

This Blog Exercise explores the use of the “more” feature in WordPress, the ability to control the excerpt of a post for viewing on the front of your site, and how to write excerpts.

We begin this exercise by explaining what an excerpt is, focusing on how WordPress uses the term.

An excerpt is a summary of your post article or the first few sentences of a post as it appears on the front page of the site.

Many WordPress Themes feature excerpts on multiple post pageviews, the view of a generated page featuring more than one post such as the category pageview, search, tags, archives, and author pageviews. Few WordPress Themes force an excerpt on the front page of the site, leaving the decision up to the site owner.

In WordPress, without touching the code, you may easily set the excerpt length on your posts, automatically truncating them for the front pageview of the site.
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Blog Exercises: How Long Are Your Paragraphs?

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.How long are your paragraphs? Have you measured them lately?

One of the telling differences between traditional writing and writing for the web is the length of the paragraph.

Look at the example below. Which is easier to read?

example of long verses short paragraphs in blog writing

On the left, the paragraphs are huge, long blocks of text. On the right, the paragraphs have been broken up into smaller chunks.

Most people find the shorter length paragraphs easier to read on the web.

In traditional writing, paragraphs could go on for pages without breaking, as could run-on sentences, taking the reader on a journey across many words and pages, turning the page as the eye scans the story, gobbling up every word.

Few writers on the web can get away with that form on their sites.
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