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Blog Exercises: Trending

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In social media, trending are topics attracting the attention of most of the people in that moment. Unfortunately, trending topics are self-feeding. If something ends up top of the trending list, it becomes an accident alongside the highway. Everyone wants to slow down and take a look.

Walking by a student glued to their computer, I asked, “What are you looking at?”

Without lifting her eyes away, she replied, “What everyone else is looking at.”

That’s a good definition of trending.

You might think that today’s blog exercise is to find a trending topic and blog about it, but the exercise today is to look at your own trends.

What is on your site that everyone is looking at?

In a lovely response to my blog exercise on naming your favorite things, the author of Tony’s Texts wrote about his favorite things, saying “it made a nice change from the darker posts I’ve been writing.”
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Blog Exercises: Blogging Loss and Grief

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Loss is a part of life. This year, I’ve lost friends, family, and pets, and some days the sadness permeates everything. Other days, we laugh and smile. As with all things, in time, the balance between sunshine and dark shifts the scale towards sunshine.

Grief is often best when shared, at least during the earliest stages. As a blogger, the challenger is when and where to blog your grief.

The first instinct you may have is to blog your grief and loss across social media channels. This is natural. You want to let your friends know what’s going on. You want their support. You want them to feel your loss.

While sharing your life is healthy, is your blog the best place to share your grief?

Sharing the death of a pet on Google+.

The recent death of one of our cats was a moment to educate the world about bad cat food.


Blaring it out across all the social webs might be a good idea, and your natural tendency, but some losses are best shared with those who care the most about you. Sometimes wide-spread notes of something personal and private can back fire, bringing a never-ending flood of positive, and sometimes negative, responses.

If you turn to your blog to share your grief, and it is a personal site, do so. It’s your private space. Share as you wish.

If you decide to publish on your professional site, one focused on your business, professional services and products, that’s not a good place to expose your grief publicly. Possibly. It is all about context. If you’ve set a precedence for sharing who you are opening with your clients and readers, such sharing is appropriate.

Consider limited your social media network exposure to your loss to those closest to you, not everyone following you, if possible.

I believe there is a division between church and state when it comes to social web publishing. Keep what’s privately, truly personal, personal and private.
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Blog Exercises: Priorities

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.A friend’s son was working on a school project when I asked him a question. “Not now, Lorelle. I don’t have the bandwidth.”

Unfortunately, I’ve had to use it over the past month too many times.

Consider this an apology for letting this site lapse recently for these Blog Exercises.

Bandwidth Overload graph.

Research published in “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much” by Sandhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir showcased how focusing on what is lacking in your life induces irrational patterns of thinking, “changing a person’s behavior and laying traps that spring later.”

Research on hunger in the 1994s found that volunteers didn’t just lose weight during the tests, they became obsessed with food, to the sacrifice of other thought. Tests in India with farmers found that before the harvest, when all their attention and worries were about the upcoming harvest, they scored lower on IQ tests than after the harvest when things calmed down. They found that 20-25% of fire fighter fatalities are not in fires but traffic accidents, often on the way to the fire. Fire fighters are trained to concentrate so much on the fire, they forget to put on seat belts and take care when driving to the fire.

When the pressure is on, our focus narrows down to our personal priorities, only motivated by rewards. The researchers found that rural Indians would not find time to get their children vaccinated – until free bags of lentils were offered as incentive. They showed up in droves, making the time.

Thus, when my attention was distracted and prioritizes moved into play, things that brought immediate results and rewards took priority.
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Blog Exercises: Make a List of Everything on Your Site

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Today’s blog exercise will require a little time, magnifier, and a score card.

Well, maybe not one of those items.

I want you to grab a piece of paper and load up the front page of your site in a browser. Zoom in so you can really see it up close and personal.

Start counting.

Title the first list “Front Page” and start counting every design element, navigation block, text blog, every widget, call to action, and graphic you can see on the front page of the site. Inside and around the content.

Don’t count words. Count visuals. What catches your eye. For multiple post pageviews, count each post. Add it to the list.

If your site has a static front page, when you are done, move to the blog page and title a column “Blog” and start counting.

Example of counting all the design elements on a pageview on your site - graphic by Lorelle VanFossen.Go to a single post pageview, a single article on your site. Title a list column (or column on the paper) “Single Post.” Start counting.

If you feel creative, instead of making a list, print out each pageview and number each visual element. Note that not all graphic design elements on a web page will print, so your print version may look different from the browser view.

One you have your list, group like items together. You may have one element in multiple groups.

For example, in my article, “Blog Exercises: To Comment or Not to Comment,” I came up with the following totals.

  • Logos: 4
  • Badges: 14
  • Social Icons: 13
  • Navigation blocks/lists: 11
  • Calls to Action: 22
  • Graphic Design Elements: 30
  • Lists: 10
  • Posts: 1
  • Headings: 11

Here is a breakdown of how I counted all the pieces.
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Blog Exercises: To Comment or Not to Comment

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In the September 20, 2013, issue of the New York Times, an article caught my eye called “No Comments.” It is also available on Umano via mobile app or desktop for a listen.

The article by Michael Erard discusses comments on the web, including a long look back at the history of interactivity on the site.

When we complain about comments, I’ve noticed, we do so as if we’re dealing with some emanation of human nature or the lusty democratic energies of the American soul. But when I went digging into the history of the Web to find out where online comments really came from, it’s clear that they’re the consequences of what was technically feasible at a certain point and how that feasibility was subsequently implemented. We tend to think that comments represent the culture, but in fact the distinct culture of commenting grew out of digital constraints. Given what Web users had to work with, comments were bound to get weedy.

Most fascinating are the perceptions about web interactivity over the years. Here are some examples from the article:
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Blog Exercises: Site Models

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In “WordPress Site Models” I describe the three main formats for a site layout. They are static, blog, and hybrid.

Each site model works for a variety of content and presentation of that content, though some work better for specific types of sites.

A static site model, even in WordPress, uses Pages and not posts to organize its content. This is ideal for a small business, portfolio, or resume site with fewer than 20 pages with content that rarely changes.

A blog model features posts on the front page of the site in reverse chronological order. This is one of the most common site models, putting the most recent information at the top of the front page. Posts are organized by categories and tags, expanding navigation options.

A hybrid site model, sometimes called integrated, comes in two styles. Both feature a static front page with a blog Page displaying the posts in reverse chronological order.

The first style, known as the static front page model, features static content on the front page of the site. This is style is often used for existing sites integrating a WordPress site into it.
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Blog Exercises: The Welcome Page

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.One of the many things I’d like to see gone on the web is the Welcome front page.

Think about it this way. You invite friends over for a party. You greet everyone at the door with a full self-introduction, welcoming them to your place, instructing them on how to visit your home, telling them all about you, your history, the reasons you exist in this world, your passions, and offer them tips on how best to work with you as you know you will be working with them in the future.

The friends you have known for a year to thirty years will look at you as if you are insane. Way over the top. New people to your home might welcome the information but it is too much information too soon and too fast. They might not be ready for all that arrogance. Friends gather at the VanFossens and are entertained by friend, John Doan, on the harp guitar - photography by Lorelle VanFossen.Some of them might like to explore your home, identify the objects that define your personality, listen in on a few conversations, and just hang out and absorb the real you before they commit.

When you create a static front page with such a welcome, or a sticky post stuck to the top of your front page stuffed with your CV and life history, you may have the same impact on visitors.

You have two types of visitors to your site. First time visitors, usually seeking information and a like-mind, and second time visitors, those who found something to cling on the first time visit and they want more. You’ve become a resource, a community, a friend.

If the majority of your visitors are first time visitors, and your site is your portfolio, resume, or virtual business card on the web, stacking all this information on the front page might be welcome.

If the majority of your visitors are repeat offenders, back for more of the good stuff, you are telling them things they already know, taking up space on the front page by standing in front of them and reciting your life story again and again, and getting in their way of what they really want.
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Blog Exercises: Choose an Appropriate Gravatar for Your Readers

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.All WordPress sites have Gravatars integrated into the core. Gravatars are Globally Recognized Avatars, images that represent you in blog posts comments, featured author images (integrated with Gravatars), author images, BuddyPress, and other Gravatar-enabled features.

Near the beginning of this year of blog exercises, you were asked to add or update your Gravatar to represent yourself well on your site and across all WordPress and Gravatar-enabled sites. The avatar image is associated with your email address. When you comment using that email address, the image will be automatically used.

But what about those without Gravatars?

In addition to feeling pity for them, and encouraging them to set up their own free Gravatar profile, you may select a Gravatar image to display within your blog comments for them.

WordPress Gravatar avatars for non-Gravatar members on WordPress sites.
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Blog Exercises: Current Events September

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.It’s time to blog the news and current events for September in our Blog Exercises.

This month, I want you to dig deeper into the news, targeting your specific industry and niche. With several months of blogging the news once a month under your belt, you should have set up some good resources in your feed reader and bookmarks, sources where you can keep up with what’s going on, changing, or newsworthy.

Dive deeper.

Are there sources you haven’t tapped yet? Dig deeper and spread your net wider.

As a professional blogger, I have collected over 1000 resources for news, tips, techniques, and resources to report on and help me blog better. The list tends to grow rather than shrink as I constantly add new rising blogging stars blogging about blogging and WordPress, and I love being surprised with new sources that I’ve missed along the way.

There is nothing more boring than reblogging the news from the same sources. Expand your list. Expand your world.

As I gather up all these resources over time, it helps me to create resource and reference articles featuring many of my best sources. Readers love it when you share your sources with them, letting them in on your secret stash, so to speak.

Examples of such resource and reference posts include:
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Blog Exercises: Volunteer

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.I’ve spent years contributing in many ways to WordPress including on the , Forums, and . The other day I was cleaning out tabs in my browser and stumbled upon an open forum post. I wondered if the user’s question was answered. It was, but not well. I added a better answer.

Four hours later, I’m still on the forums answering questions, going back hours and hours into the past to answer the posts with no reply yet. I looked at the clock and screamed at myself. I have work, real work, paying work. I have deadlines. Commitments!

But is it so much FUN! Seriously. I love it. I could spend days and weeks doing nothing but helping these poor people out having trouble with their sites, desperate for help. It’s so rewarding. It’s also a joy to play detective, digging through the help and support files, reading through the source code of their websites, and searching the web for answers to their problems. I love it. Totally addicting.

There is a time and place for volunteering, and clearly, a balance must be kept between income producing and pro bono work, but today, it’s all about the giving.
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Blog Exercises: Top X Tips – The Numbered Post

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.One of the traditions in blogging is the numbered list post.

You’ve seen them. “The Top Ten Software Programs.” “9 Things to Do with Clay.” “The Best 99 WordPress Tips of All Time.” “Top 13 Cities to Attend a WordCamp.” “Seven Ways to Find Love.”

Numbered post titles and topics work. Want proof?

Examples of numbered post titles and topics on Mashable.

I did a check when writing this post and Mashable, famous for numbered post titles, featured so many, I stopped counting after 24. I’ve put a collage of them in the graphic above as examples.

The rule of thumb for numbered post titles are to use odd numbers with even numbers divided by 5. The sequence is 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, and so on. Big numbers are 25, 30, 50, 75, 99, 100, 101 and so on.

There are always exceptions such as “12 Reasons Why You Need Lorelle’s Blog Exercises for Your Blog.” Maybe you could only come up with twelve.
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Blog Exercises: Mashups

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.One of my favorite odd-ball mashups is the movie Moulin Rouge! Released in 2001, the movie features Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, and an outstanding cast of top notch actors singing their way through a Bollywood-style production set in a 1899 France cabaret. There are few original songs in the film. Instead they used pop songs and mixed and mashed them up into new versions to fit the storyline. It took director Baz Luhrmann over two years to gain rights to all the popular music from the past 30 years.

The Elephant Love Medley incorporates more than 12 songs into a single piece, a love duet between the two lovers in the form of a dialog suing classic lines from “Love is Like Oxygen” by Sweet, “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” by Sammy Fain, “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles, “Pride (In the Name of Love)” by U2, and “Silly Love Songs” by Wings and Paul McCartney. I love it when lyrics from “Heroes” by David Bowie, “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton, and “Your Song” by Elton John slip in.

In a fun alternative mashup, “Good Old FshnLoverBoy” put together a YouTube mashup using a few of the lyrics from the film’s version of that song along with the actual originals of the popular songs – as if they were written by all those performers and composers.

[Please note that YouTube has made some of these videos not directly playable from this site. I've used images wrapped in links for those. Click through to watch the video on YouTube. Sorry for the inconvenience.]

Moulin Rouge Mashup Video of original songs from the Elephant Medley.

A mashup is an article, video, audio file, or other web app that uses content from more than one source to recreate a new production. Medleys are often considered a form of mashup. Consider a mashup a collage of words, sights, and sounds. YouTube is filled with examples of mashups, and the television show “Glee” features music mashups on a regular basis, often as homework assignments for the kids, mixing opposite concepts together as a challenge.

In 2010, a colorful flash mob was organized on behalf of the City of Seattle to bring awareness to traffic and pedestrian accidents performed the Glee show mashup with the original choreography featuring umbrellas, Singing in the Rain/Umbrella. A fun mashup of city government education and social phenomena.
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Blog Exercises: If I Were to Teach a Class

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.If you were to teach a class, what would you teach?

Today’s blog exercise is to teach a class online through your site.

This blog exercise does not have to be complicated. Do you have a favorite recipe? Share it with your readers with the techniques involved in preparing and serving. Do you have a favorite hobby? Share tips for that hobby or a technique involved in the process.

Are you an expert on a subject? Create a list of the things someone should know about that subject in a tutorial. Or reminisce in an educational format on what someone needs to know about this industry in order to succeed.

Whatever your subject matter on your site, there is an opportunity to teach, to become the instructor, the expert on the subject eager to share lessons with the readers.

You may write the educational exercise out, create a video or audio file, incorporate a slide show, gallery, or whatever tools you enjoy working with online.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to become a teacher and teach your readers something.

Be creative. There are so many ways to teach today. Explore the possibilities on your site.

If you are familiar with Google+ Hangouts or other live chat programs, consider combing a social sharing event with your blog lesson or tutorial.

When you’ve published your tutorial, 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. We’d love to learn from you.

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.

Update to WordPress 3.6.1 Now

WordPress NewsIt is upgrade time again. Time to upgrade your WordPress.

WordPress 3.6.1 Maintenance and Security Release was announced today. It includes fixes to WordPress 3.6 and some security issues, so this is a mandatory update. users are automatically updated, as are all those on managed WordPress hosting like WP Engine. This update applies to self-hosted versions of .

There are critical security issues that this update fixes, one reported by Dave Cummon, a Northrup Grumman subcontractor for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an intriguing story there, I’m sure, and proof that there are WordPress fans and contributors everywhere doing everything imaginable.

You may read a list of changes to WordPress in the WordPress Trac or check out the release notes on the WordPress Codex for more information.

Do not be foolish and delay this update. While it may not happen, in the past some evil doers took advantage of those who did not update, bringing heartbreak and frustration to many. These updates have been applied to so they have been tested and vetted.

Update now.

Issues with Updates

A very small percentage of WordPress users are having issues with the new update. For the past few years, very few issues were reported if you keep your site regularly updated when new versions are released, and updated your WordPress Theme and Plugins when updates are available.

If you update and find your site and the Administration Panels go to a blank white screen, it is most likely an issue with a WordPress Plugin. This is quite rare and this is the traditional method for resolving the issue.

  1. Log onto your server with FTP.
  2. Go to the Plugins directory under wp-content.
  3. Rename the directory to pluginsback. This will automatically deactivate all of your WordPress Plugins.
  4. Attempt to login. If the login is successful, there is a conflict with one or more of the WordPress Plugins.
    • If the login is not successful and you still see a white browser page, rename the wp-content/themes directory to themesback. This will disable your WordPress Themes where a conflict may reside.
  5. Once logged in, go to Plugins and check for updates. Update any Plugins that need updating, even if they are deactivated.
  6. Go through the Plugins one by one, check the front of your site, to determine which one maybe causing the problem.
  7. If you find a Plugin causing issues, with FTP you may rename the Plugin folder to deactivate it if your site goes white again. Contact the Plugin author for help and an update.
    • If the issue was with Themes, go through the same process with your WordPress Themes.

If the issues persist, search the for similar support requests to find an answer, and if you find none, report it for more assistance.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

Blog Exercises: Blog Your Favorite Song

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.

It all began the day I found
That from my window I could only see
A piece of sky.

I stepped outside and looked around.
I never dreamed it was so wide
Or even half as high.

The time had come to try my wings
And even though it seemed at any moment I could fall,
I felt the most, amazing things,
The things you can’t imagine if you’ve never flown at all.

…The more I live the more I learn.
The more I learn the more I realize
The less I know.

Each step I take, each page I turn,
Each mile I travel only means
The more I have to go.

What’s wrong with wanting more?
If you can fly – then soar!
With all there is -
Why settle for just a piece of sky?

Lyric excerpt from “A Piece of Sky” by Michel LeGrand, Alan Bergman, and Marilyn Bergman from the movie “Yentl” directed by Barbra Streisand

If I were to choose a single song to be my theme song, this would be it. Since the first time I heard this song, it has defined my life. While the song is powerful, it is the lyrics that influence my lifestyle, my way of thinking, even my decision-making.

Even today, 30 years later, I stand before my students in my college classes and sing it in my head, a song for all students eager to learn. “The more I live the more I learn, the more I learn the more I realize the less I know…”

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to blog about your favorite song and its influence upon your life.

Take care not to violate copyright, using proper citation methods. If using the lyrics as I have done, do not quote the entire song, just the sections that help make your point.

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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