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Blog Exercises: Making Notifications and Alerts Work for You

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In the blog exercise on eliminating noisy distractions from your computer, mobile phone, and other areas around your working environment, I wanted you to remove the things that interfere with your blogging time and space, with your creative energies. I wanted you to identify what is getting in your way that you might not be conscious of, the intrusion of technology and nuisances in our lives.

In today’s blog exercise, I want to talk about how these notifications and alerts help you blog, and how to incorporate them into your blogging life and work.

The process begins by identifying the priorities in your work. These may change from day-to-day or be consistent.

Consistent priorities for me are checking email (from too many email accounts), blog comments (from too many sites), social media channels, and news. Based upon the input, decisions and actions are made to respond, blog, or take action.

Notifications and alerts concerning these priorities come first on my list, though I’ve chosen to regulate the time I spend, and when I take the time, to pay attention to them. I will often write first, focusing on books and blogs, for the first hour or two of the day, then turn to emails and social media, controlling my energies and time.

Inconsistent priorities are often based upon clients and projects. If I’m working on an article or article series based upon research material, I may use Google Alerts or alerts from my feed reader of found or updated information relative to the article. These are alerts I want and need now, and the interruption is appropriate.

These are the highest on my priority list. Next come comments and updated information from my other various websites and client sites.

WordPress includes email notification features by default. I’ve turned off email notification of comments, comments held for moderation, and other notifications on the sites I access most often as part of my top priority list. Other sites are set to notify me by email.
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Blog Exercises: Eliminate Distracting Notifications and Alerts

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.I don’t know how it happened but my new smartphone decided to change my notification settings and now my day is punctuated constantly with peeps, gongs, pings, and beeps.

Such noises might not be blogging related, nor appropriate for these blogging exercises – they are alerts to the business of blogging and tremendous distractions.

These alerts tell me someone’s left a comment on one of my sites, followed a site, + or liked it, responded by contact form or direct by email, or through a social media channel. The noises shout at me to stay connected and respond now to each reaction and response to my blog posts.

It’s exhausting sometimes, and definitely distracting.

Four alerts went off during the writing of this post so far.

To get to this point in the article, if I can despite the distractions, I’ve responded to two blog comments, one tweet, four Google+ notifications, and one contact form request to this point, and I’m barely into this article.

Oh, and the cat wanted out, and back in, during the same time period.

It’s a wonder I get any blogging done.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.We all have a variety of distractions that attack our attention. Your blog exercise today is to pause and identify what is pulling your attention away, and establish a plan to restructure all the busy distractions you face every day.

For me, this meant going through all of my mobile apps, both on the smartphone and tablet, and turning off all notifications save ones of priority importance. I then went through my computer and turned off email and other notifications.

I am debating adding a cat flap to my office door.

I’m working on my time management skills to not just manage my time better but my sanity.

I expect you to do the same.

Excuse me, my tablet is now pinging my attention.

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: Time Management for Professional Bloggers

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.My friend, timethief, has done it again with “12 Time Management Tips for Top Blogging Performance,” the inspiration for this blog exercise.

Scheduling enough time for creating original content, promoting it, answering comments, reading and leaving comments on other blogs is not an easy feat. Few bloggers I know are able to blog full time. They have active offline lives to live so they want to make the best possible use of the time they spend online.

I find that time management practices like setting SMART goals and effective scheduling helps me cut through the maze of distraction, and keeps me on track doing what I need to do next to become a productive blogger.

She highlights using an editorial calendar to keep you on track, making appointments with yourself and self-assignments to keep the flow flowing, and fine-tuning your blogging work flow to keep on track.

The SMART method she offers is one based upon the acronym “S.M.A.R.T.” that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to read through the time management and SMART goals articles and apply them to your own blogging and work ethics.

We are all guilty of overstepping our expectations when we set goals. Timethief explains:

It is important to set goals that you can achieve. Setting goals that are too high, means you may not appreciate obstacles, or understand how much skill you need to develop to achieve a particular level of performance.

It is your turn to really examine how you manage your blogging. If you have been keeping up with these blog exercises over the year, you should have a basic handle on the writing and blogging bits. Now it is time to up the game as we head towards the end of the year.

Work to be better. Better organized, better at self-management, and better at managing goals and expectations.

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: If You Wouldn’t Do It In Public, Would You Do It Online?

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.If you wouldn’t do it in public, would you do it online?

Unfortunately for many, the answer is a resounding YES!

However, most of us have some…whatever you call it…oh, yeah, class, ethics, moral fiber, manners – etiquette.

I’m not the Dear Abby of social norms, but I’m first in line to tell you that you need to behave better on the web.

Today’s blog exercise will look at some of the rules and regulations – the etiquette – of online behavior.

We got elegance. If you ain’t got elegance, you can never ever carry it off!

“Elegance” from Hello Dolly

Consider this a checklist. The person with the most checks on their list “got elegance.”
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Blog Exercises: When You Assume…

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.One of the class projects for my WordPress college course involved the students working together on a single broken post to find all the errors in the content. Typically, this is a quick test of their basic coding skills, but this quarter’s students are not typical. They are exceptional.

The goal was to identify and fix typical errors found in content. This is an often overlooked issue with any site development. Web designers and developers are quick to leap into the code to find the issue, overlooking the fact that is it often the user generated content, the code in the posts and articles, that cause the break in the design. Many site errors are caused by you or the client pasting in word processing or website content into the Visual Editor of WordPress, bringing with it all the clutter code that cripples the site when the page is published. I’ve spent hours trying to fix sites clients screwed up, only to find the issue in the post not the whole site.

The students discovered most of the errors as part of the exercise. What several of them did with the errors to resolve the crippled code issues was fascinating, and telling. I’m sure many of us might make the same decisions, making this an ideal blog exercise.

One of the errors was with a malformed hyperlink code. The HTML Anchor tag (link tag) wasn’t closed, so the link ran all the way down the page. Instead of closing the tag, one student removed the link, justifying his action with “there were too many links in the article anyway.”

Many in the class, including myself, were stunned by his action and laughed at his assumption.

“What if that link substantiated and justified the entire purpose of the article, and the rest are just supporting documentation?”
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Annual Thanksgiving Orphan Party

You’re invited to the VanFossen
Annual Thanksgiving Orphan Party
Saturday, November 30, 2013

For many years we’ve gathered together anyone missing home, left out of Thanksgiving celebrations, or eager for more social during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. You are invited to join the craziness.

It starts around 2PM. We eat about 6PM, if things go as planned.

The theme this year is “Home.” Bring something that represents home to you, hopefully edible.

Friends gather at the VanFossens and are entertained by friend, John Doan, on the harp guitar - photography by Lorelle VanFossen.

When we were traveling on the road full-time, far from friends and family, we’d throw these impromptu holiday events to bring together whoever was around, in campgrounds or wherever we were, to share stories, play games, sing songs, eat too much, and just hang out, creating a sense of family, or as my friend DeBorah calls it, fambly. Fambly is the family you choose not the ones forced upon you by genetics.

Our home is open to anyone in the Portland, Oregon, area. We’ve had people sometimes travel great distances, but the goal is to create a day where people can be with friends, new and old.

john doan - karla fisher - brent vanfossen - guitar trio at vanfossen holiday party.Join us in the woods for some good company. We talk about WordPress, blogging, social media, woodworking, remodeling, books, writing, work, not work, hobbies, politics, sing songs, play games, watch movies or missed episodes of Doctor Who, and just hang out. Bring a friend. Children welcome. There is a playroom area for them downstairs and children movies to enjoy. If weather permits, short hikes or play outside. There is a hot tub, clothing optional. Well-behaved pets are welcome. We have a cat who sometimes makes an appearance.

There is a BBQ grill for those bringing food to cook or heat up, and the typical (and not typical) kitchen supplies. For those wishing to spend the night, we’ve plenty of room and beds.

We are 45 minutes from Vancouver, 30 from downtown Portland, 15-20 from Beaverton and Forest Grove, traffic permitting. Train pickups and carpooling can be arranged.

We love to have you join us for this annual tradition bringing together fascinating people to remember what thanksgiving is really about.

If you are interested, leave a comment with your email in the comment form below, or the Contact Form and I’ll send you directions and more information.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: It Still Hurts

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.As my career tangled itself in WordPress, even though I was well known in other industries, I quickly became popular within the WordPress Community – and the target of meanies. Yep, as in the childhood bullies that plague us our whole lives.

Without any marketing or self-promotion, this site and my articles on other sites attracted attention internationally, and so did I. Living on the road full-time, my normal schedule of speaking at conferences and workshops expanded to WordCamps and WordPress-related events. With all the attention came the meanies. Between 2005-2008, a rash of meanies aimed their meanness at me. Call it jealousy, someone with a bone to pick, or people eager for a target, those years were tough as the web exploded with access to millions, and it didn’t take long for the meanies to come out swinging at any target.

I’m over it. I’m so over it, but it still hurts when years later a random search turns up one of those nasty posts, attempts to chop me off at the knees or humble me. Most of these are considered harmless, silly attempts to make me look like something I’m not, even the efforts to undermine me – for the most part they couldn’t find enough wrong with me to aim at, but it still hurts.

It hurts today.

How do I turn today’s hurt, a wound now scarred over that twinges with the wrong move, into a blog exercise?

I turn it over to you.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to think about all the little slights that have come your way over the years, and share what you do to “get over it” and keep moving forward.

We’ve all suffered the digs, jealousy, the meanies at one time or other. I would love to live a life free of trolls, but there they are and we have to live with them.

How do you handle the little hurts that never seem to go away, especially with the ubiquitous nature of the web? Why should a narrow-minded person eager to take shots at anyone they think is “better than me” in 2007 still twinge today?

There are companies that specialize in culling the web of such meanness, as well as your personal overindulgence in sharing poorly on the web. The reality is that they can’t do much except drown it, and I’ve done a good job drowning most of these idiots, but their content is still there, waiting to be found, as I found one today by accident.

I’m fine. I have my ways. I have an amazing supportive team around me ready with hugs and tea, but what about you?

Please share your method for standing tall and keeping to the faithful path. How do you cope?

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: Emulator, Original, or Teacher?

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In a candid interview on The Culture Show, Lady Gaga described the artistry of her work.

I don’t know if any of it is any good, and I’m not sure it matters…it is a life force on its own. I’m still very young, in the duration of my life’s work.

If you look at the early work of many artists over a sphere of many mediums, you can see them channeling and imitating and bringing along the artists they’ve admired and learned from, and their teachers. Later on in their careers that is when the really amazing work begins to happen.

…It’s about the potential. It’s worth it to be a student. To not be a student is to suggest that I create in a vacuum, with no knowledge, with nothing…perhaps that’s something I’ll learn how to do.

Working with clients and students, I find them often emulating other successful sites and bloggers. This is a great way to learn, but a poor way to find your own original voice in web publishing.

A student asked me at what point in their career should they consider themselves “experts.” I told them they could call themselves an expert when their waiting list of clients exceeded their ability to keep up with the demand, or when their voice became their own and others began emulating them.
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Blog Exercises: Expanding Your Social Web Connections

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.“I’m following you because you are a Doctor Who fan.”

I was stunned at those words. Yes, I’m a Doctor Who fan. I’m a fan of science fiction in general, but this year is an exceptional one for Doctor Who fans. It’s the 50th Anniversary of the first episode, a legendary event in television history.

Google+ post inviting the masses to decide what costume Lorelle should wear to the 3D Doctor Who Movie event.How did I reach a Doctor Who fan? By publicly participating in the Doctor Who mania sweeping the world this year, my little blog and blogging reached a new audience.

SEO “experts” preach about how to expand your audience reach, forcing your way into online and in person social groups, but I like the organic approach. I like it when like minds discover each other and find commonality where you might not expect any.

You can do the same.

Look at your hobbies, the things you love to do in your free time. Have you connected with others talking about these things online? Find groups who enjoy doing what you love, and connect.

Don’t start pushing your credentials at them immediately. Follow the example of The Doctor and flash some psychic paper identification their way and then become immediately interested in everything they are doing. It isn’t about you. It’s about them. You want to know them. You want to learn from them. You want to join them.

As you both come to trust each other, your professional experience will become of interest to them, and possibly the group.

I down play my work as much as possible when I’m involved in non-blogging activities. I like getting my fingers dirty, volunteering for the jobs no one else wants, helping out as much as possible. Too soon someone gets curious and googles me. It is then that I get asked to teach them how to blog and connect on the web. I do what I can, like a doctor, to help without an office visit. They become fans and what I do doesn’t get in the way of the hobby and the reason that brought us together, and we all win.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise is to expand your hobby online activities to connect with a wider audience.

Keep it personal and fun. It can be like my enthusiasm with Doctor Who, sharing it with the great masses of fellow enthusiasts, or more personal. My husband is an aerospace engineer specializing in commercial airplanes, but he’s a woodworker, too. He loves the online chat groups and forums discussing serious wood and woodworking tools. He loves going to the meetings and learning from other woodworkers. As they get to know him, they will come to him and ask structural or electrical questions. They’ve learned to trust his skills and knowledge, too.

I’ve found that a healthy hobby life creates a healthy blogger. It opens you up to new possibilities and ideas, not just new friends and relationships.

Blog about this topic? Please 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: Thinking About Next Year’s Plans

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In “Blog Exercises: Intentional Blogging” I encouraged you to review the first exercises in this blog exercise series, putting emphasis on the intentions behind your blogging.

I’d like to check in on your editorial calendar today.

In “Blog Exercises: The Editorial Calendar” I discussed the importance of adhering to a schedule with your blogging, planning posts throughout the year, and beyond.

I introduced you to the Content Project Form to help you flesh out your ideas and document them as you go.

Today, I want you to review those exercises and update your calendar. It has probably slipped a bit by now. The next year is coming and you need to make sure you are still on track and have a plan for next year as well.

Throughout the year I’ve assigned exercises to help you fill your calendar such as weather posts, monthly current event posts, industry event announcements and news, seasonal activities and topics, anniversaries and birthdays, holidays and memorials, and a wide range of timely post ideas. Go through these examples and add them to next year’s editorial calendar.

Look for more items to add to your editorial calendar next year. As you blogged this year, you probably discovered or were reminded about important events in your industry or life worth blogging about next year. You also stumbled on ideas for articles and article series you’d like to cover. Get those on your calendar for next year.

This year, I joined NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month in November, an international social event to encourage fiction novel writing. I knew about it for many years, but I’m a technical writer, not fictional. This year, with the encouragement of a few writing buddies, I entered the month long challenge writing my own technical stuff. Maybe one year I will be brave enough to do fiction, but I didn’t want to be left out so I jumped in with both unprepared feet. It’s been an amazing experience finding new great friends and writing buddies, and feeling like I’m part of something. I’m going to add a series of articles in advance and during NaNoWriMo for those wishing to blog their experience or stories during the month. That’s going on my editorial calendar.

I’m not sure if I will continue these daily blog exercises in honor of the 10th Anniversary year of WordPress past the end of the year unless the demand is great enough, but it won’t be daily. There are so many other topics I’ve been holding back on that I’d love to share, including tips, tricks, and lessons on specifically using WordPress, one of the great loves of my life. I’ve added plenty to next year’s calendar on those topics.

What about you? What lies ahead for you? It’s time to start adding those things to your editorial calendar.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise is to review your editorial calendar, update it, and prepare for next year.

We’ll revisit this again before the end of the year, but start thinking and planning now. Document those ideas and get them scheduled on your calendar. The further out you plan your site, the more energy and enthusiasm you may commit to it.

Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback if you blog about this topic, 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: Intentional Blogging

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.One of the things I work with in teaching writing for the web and blogging is to blog intentionally. I call it “content with intent.”

Content with Intent

From the very first of these Blog Exercises I’ve preached content with intent, blogging with every intention filled with purpose, goals, and incentive. Specifically self-incentive, a self-motivated force that keeps you on track, purposeful, and focused on your readers.

Content with intent begins with identifying your purpose, your intent.

The first posts in this Blog Exercises series were to help you determine that. Go back and read them again. Consider this review time.
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Blog Exercises: Taking Inventory on What Keeps You Blogging

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.The recent major desktop computer crash has left me reeling. I thought I had all my data backed up. For the most part, I did. What I didn’t have backed up was my programs.

Getting back up to speed fast, I’ve had to prioritize the programs I had download and install. Yes, download. Who gets a program disk any more? It’s all on the web, on the cloud.

As a professional blogger, I live on the Internet. My life’s work is web-based, but I still rely upon good old fashioned software to keep me blogging up to top speeds.

To keep me alive on the web, I installed the following first:
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Blog Exercises: Current Events for October and November – Interview

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Due to the computer crash and trauma lately, October and November Blog Exercises for Current events is combined.

In my college courses, one of the student assignments is to interview someone within the WordPress Community. The WordPress Community is a broad field of participants and activists, from users to professionals building their career on the spine of WordPress.

Your two month combined current events exercise is to find someone in your industry working on the latest and most current aspect of your industry, and publish it on your site.

If you are a parent blogger, who is the current disruptive force in your arena? Are you a blogging chef, sharing recipes and tips with your audience? Then find someone who is pushing the boundaries with food today and talk to them.

Lorelle interviews Matt Mullenweg at WordCamp San Francisco 2009Blog about the military? This week paid tribute in the United States to veterans, so that would be a topical interview this month.

Living in the United States? Thanksgiving is coming up. Why not interview a turkey farmer? Or look a little further ahead and interview a Christmas Tree farmer. Where we live, we’re surrounded by at least 20 of them.

Blog about a company or a company representing your industry? Find someone in the company making a difference or changing how your industry will work in the future and talk to them.

Intimidated? Remember that they put on their pants one foot at a time, so quote my mother, and give it a try.

You don’t have to go to famous. Go for up and coming, someone making waves that hasn’t been acclaimed as “famous.” Sometimes the newcomers are the future leaders. Look around for the noise makers and quiet trend setters and share them with your readers.

It may be a video interview, online or in person, an audio interview or podcast style presentation, a Q&A done on phone, online, or email, whatever works for both of you. The more you can do this at their speed, making it easier for them, the more likely they are to agree.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.As part of our monthly current events we’re combining two months in one for this Blog Exercise, and encouraging you to share someone in your industry with your readers.

Keep the interview timely, and help your readers learn more from someone’s perspective, possibly different from your own.

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: Ingredients of a Professional Site

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Two questions on the same day triggered this blog exercise.

I was asked by a student in my WordPress class recently what defined a “professional blog.” I told him it was one that met all the criteria for a well-designed, well-formed site that met web standards. This is a good definition, but lacked specifics.

A message on my phone from an old friend shook me when they informed me that their employer’s site had been selected recently by the Web Pages That Suck team as a site that sucked. They couldn’t figure out why and they needed me. I took one look at their site and screamed, knowing exactly why they sucked. Explaining it to them was another matter. They liked it. It owned them.

Hopefully this blog exercise will answer both of their questions and help you understand what goes into a professional, well-designed, and quality site.
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Blog Exercises: Marketing Yourself as an Artist

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.A friend forwarded “99 Ways to Market Your Art” from Copyblogger. While it is targeted towards artists, it applies universally to bloggers – no matter what you are blogging about.

You’re an artist — a writer, musician, illustrator, or dancer. Maybe you’re into doll sculpting, keepsake jewelry making, fashion photography, plain air painting, or composing ambient electronica.

You’re pretty brave when it comes to creating, but the mere thought of marketing your work might make you break into a cold sweat.

Would you rather be shot out of a cannon than toot your own horn? Is balancing on a tightrope more attractive to you than asking people to shell out money for your masterpieces?

If so, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

You are not alone.

The tips are brilliant, what you come to expect from Copyblogger contributors, and your blog exercise today.
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