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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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Blog Exercises: Dissecting Post Categories

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In a recent article, Noah Weiss shared his struggle to figure out categories and tags on his personal site. I know many of you following these Blog Exercises have also struggled to figure out your categories, so I thought Noah’s site would be a perfect example, He has gratefully given me permission to rip his category concepts apart so we may all learn more about how categories work on your site, and you can improve your own category choices on your sites in this exercise.

In a nutshell, categories are your site’s table of contents, tags are your index words.

You would think that the concept of categories and tags wouldn’t be so difficult to understand, yet people struggle with them, often harder than they need.

Example of the front of the site of Noah Weiss.

Noah Weiss is a grad student at Northwestern in the United States going for his doctorate, and already a well-traveled and adventurous spirit. He describes his blog as “adding the ‘b’ to his hand-written logs,” sharing the stories of his life, travels, and thoughts on the world around him.
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WordPress Anniversary: Comment Spam Lessons

It’s hard to believe that I’ve learned much from comment spammers over the years. I’ve learned that they are among the most hated folks in the world, yet you have to respect them as well.

As I look back on ten years of blogging with WordPress on this 10th Anniversary year, I realized that comment spam has been a popular subject on this site.

My site is not very interactive. I tend to publish articles that leave little room for discussion. Yet, like most of us today, this site has had more than its fair share of comment spam. Thank goodness that WordPress.com and the WordPress Community, along with dozens of other forum and web publishing platforms, have to protect them. Akismet is one of many projects created by Matt Mullenweg that make the world a better place and I’m so grateful.

I’ve watched comment evolve from email spam to being a nuisance on blogs to a billion dollar industry representing more than porn, casinos, and mortgage companies. The growth – nay, explosion – of comment spam in the last ten years has been stunning.

A recent story on The World radio show described how Chinese are learning English to improve the odds of catching a big fish in phishing scams:

According to the cybersecurity company, Mandiant, hired to investigate how the New York Times was hacked, one important tool hackers are now employing is “good English.” Moser says it’s a sign of the times.

“We know there are at least 300 million people in China learning English right now. That’s the population of the US. So there’s got to be lots of people good at learning slangy English,” says Moser.

It’s true, these scams have gotten a lot more sophisticated says Andrew Howard. Howard studies the effectiveness of phishing at the Georgia Tech Research Institute by writing and sending what he calls “ethical phishing emails” and measuring how many people click on the dubious link.

“In my experience even a really poorly crafted email, we see click rates in the 20-25 percent rate.”

Improve language skills and that click rate will rocket up. It’s up to us to be smarter than email and comment spammers, not an easy task.

In “The Secret Recipe of Comment Spam Comments,” I shared a broken comment template form that came through my comment spam. It featured the secret sauce recipe spammers use in bots and templates for human spammers to slam our sites. It was a study in well-formed comments, comments designed to fool you into thinking they are legitimate.

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Blog Exercises: List Your Resources

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In “Blog Exercises: What Are Your Reference Articles” your blog exercise was to identify your reference articles from within your site and list them on a Page or in a post as a reference list. Today’s blog exercise is to identify and publish your resources beyond your site, the reference material and sources you count on for your site, specialty, and industry.

By featuring your resources, you become a source, a reference and resource to your readers and others.

In the early days of the web, people wanted to be the only resource, the one-stop destination. This didn’t last long as the magic that created the web is based upon the practice of sharing. The more you share the work of others, the more valuable you become as a resource.

There are many ways to share your reference and resources with readers. If you have a set list of solid references and resources off your site, consider creating a Page listing them. Group them together by commonality and purpose such as I have with the many resources on such as WordPress and Resources.

You may also wish to write a blog post featuring a collection of reference and resource material off your site. Smashing Magazine specializes in such post. Examples include The WordPress Community Offers Advice to Beginners and Exploration Of Single-Page Websites. I’ve written many including the popular “Hundreds of Resources for Finding Content for Your Blog,” “Blogging Resources and Sources to Help You Blog,” and “Blog Resources for English Language and Blog Writing.”

The key to creating a good resource list is to group the related topics and sites together. You may feature the list as a list, include it with words explaining why you recommend these resources, or with screenshots as well to create a visual connection to the content.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to create a resource list post or Page on your site featuring external references.

Experiment with this model. Consider doing one the traditional list format, then make one with the same list with screenshots and explanations of each link in the list. If you have many resource collections, consider releasing them once a week or once a month in different formats to see which style your readers respond to the most.

If you blog this exercise, 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.

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.

Blog Exercises: Fall in Love with Words

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.

There are certain clues that tell you how much a restaurant will cost. If the word “cuisine” appears in the advertising, it will be expensive. If they use the word “food,” it will be moderately priced. However, if the sign says “eats,” even though you’ll save money on food, your medical bills may be quite high…

I think when you eat out you should have a little fun; it’s good for digestion. Simple things. After the waiter recites a long list of specials, ask him is they serve cow feet.

Have fun. Be difficult. Order unusual things: a chopped corn sandwich. Rye potato chips. Fillet of bone with diced peas. Peanut butter and jellyfish. Ask for a glass of skim water. Insist on fried milk. Chocolate orange juice. Order a grilled Gorgonzola cheese sandwich on whole-wheat ladyfingers. Then top the whole thing off with a bowl of food coloring and a large glass of saturated fat.

- Brain Droppings by George Carlin

In “Blog Exercises: The Don’ts of Blogging,” “Blog Exercises: Stand Up For Freedom of Speech,” and “Blog Exercises: Site Policies and Bloggers Code of Ethics” I gave you Blog Exercises about swear words and setting the guidelines for freedom of speech on your site, citing George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words routine by example of how the laws in the United States have put limits on what we call “freedom of speech.” Today’s blog exercise puts the emphasis on creative use of words, not just protection of words. It’s about having fun with the words and bringing your audience along for the ride.

I adore George Carlin’s unique humor and passion for words and language. His fight for freedom of speech and identifying the words that cannot be said on radio and television (and elsewhere) wasn’t the start of his fascination into language. It just escalated the passion to great heights. Words became play things, objects to study, investigate, dissect, and persecute.

Today’s blog exercise is to explore your own creative use of the language. Find fun ways of saying things. Look at the words and phrases you use. Have fun with them.

Here are a few George Carlin comedic quotes to help you get started.
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Blog Exercises: Who Changed Your Life?

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.This is one of the special Blog Exercises this year, a chance to really celebrate who you are and those who helped make you.

As we travel through life, people change our lives on a daily basis as well as for a lifetime. Today’s exercise is focused on those who stepped in your path and caused you to deviate, saving your life and changing its flow forever.

We often forgot to honor those who guided us along our path, the life changers. We lose track of them, often reminded of them by a death notice, a triggered memory, or accidental path passing.

There may be many, there may be few. It’s time to celebrate one of them.

There are so many who changed my life, influencing how I think, the decisions I’ve made and continue to make, my perspective of the world, how I speak, even the way I hold my body and walk through this life. Is there a single person I could highlight? There are many, so part of today’s blog exercise is the challenge of choosing. Today, do only one, not a collection of those who changed your life. Just one. Another day, celebrate someone else.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to blog about someone who changed your life drastically, possibly dramatically. Someone who influences you still today because of their actions back when.

Share the experience, tell their story, help us understand how this person made you a better person.

The post may include links, photographs, video, whatever it takes to tell the story and share it with your readers, helping them understand a little more about who you are and why.

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.

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.

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