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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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Blog Exercises: Trust the Crowds

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In an October issue of “Science News,” an article on the “Deep Network” monitoring of the sea floor, reported on how the general public may monitor the sea floor through the Neptune system of underwater microphones and web cams through LIDO (Listening to the Deep Ocean) (requires Flash). New discoveries have been made by citizens watching and listening as well as researchers. A Ukrainian teen watching noticed a mysterious creature through the web cam. He described it as a “sea monster with a mustache” and reported the sighting to the scientists through the site. Examining the footage, they identified it as a Northern Elephant Seal, known to dive deep, but never tracked to a depth of 900 meters. In another example, they discovered the song of a North Pacific Right Whale, thought to be extinct since 1951, giving hope to whale fans and scientists around the globe. A great example of science opened up to the public.

Steve Fossett, aviator and explorer - source Wikimedia Commons.Steve Fossett, famous as an aviator and balloonist, the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world in a balloon, died famously, too. When he was reported missing flying his plane over the Nevada desert, web users turned out to help locate the pilot or evidence of the crash. The flight range covered more than 20,000 square miles (52,000 sq. Km), a nearly impossible area to search on foot or even by plane. Google contributed to the search with new satellite images in Google Earth, encouraging people to “put their eyes” on the area through more than 300,00 278-square-foot images of the area. A week after his disappearance, it is estimated that more than 50,000 people joined the effort, the largest and most complex peacetime search for an individual in US history.

When it comes to crowd-sourcing, there are fewer successful businesses than WordPress. WordPress began with Matt Mullenweg saying “there must be something better than this,” and Mike Little responding from thousands of miles away across a continent and sea. Ten years later, thousands of contributors from around the world use WordPress to help millions manage their websites.

Matt admitted to me once that one of the scariest decisions he had to make was to “trust the crowd,” giving up control and delegating responsibility for WordPress to others, and learning to trust the masses to help make WordPress better. I can’t say that I would have been so brave.
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Blog Exercises: Learning From a Mentor Makes You Better

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.What One of the World’s Great Novelists Learned About Writing from David Ogilvy” on Copyblogger tells the story of how famous author Salman Rushdie learned copywriting and writing in general from another great copywriter, David Ogilvy.

Imagine it’s your job to convey the taste of a chocolate bar in just one word. And by the way, you’re not going to get paid for, “Delicious.”
This was the situation Rushdie was in one afternoon when a panicking co-worker asked him to brainstorm a new slogan for Aero, a British candy bar filled with air bubbles. As they batted around ideas, the unthinkable happened. The client called unexpectedly, demanding results.

This particular co-worker, according to Rushdie, “Had a tendency, when he was panicking, to sweat profusely and to begin to stammer, also extensively.” When the client asked him to do something, he said, “It’s impossib-ib-ib-ible.”

Rushdie says the light went on. “While he was still on the phone sweating and stammering, I wrote down every word I could think of that ended with ‘able’ or ‘ible’ and turned it into ‘bubble’.” Rushdie ended up with “Irresistibubble,” which is still Aero’s slogan, over 30 years later.

Panic can be an excellent tool for creativity.

The article features a list of tips Rushdie learned from working in copywriting and alongside David Ogilvy, and these tips apply to blogging, social web publishing, and self-publishing and marketing today.
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Blog Exercises: Bye Bye to Dumb Drafts

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Demian Farnworth of Copyblogger wrote a brilliant article, “5 1/2 Reasons You Should Kill a Draft Blog Post. It’s today’s blog exercise.

In summary, Demian’s tips are:

  1. The idea sounds bad to you days later.
  2. It’s likely to create controversy you don’t want.
  3. It looks like something you wrote last year.
  4. It looks like stolen content.
  5. It looks shallow.
  6. It looks like a lunatic wrote it.

On an off day, my posts resembled that before you see them.

And sometimes, you will never see them because they are unfixable.
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Blog Exercises: A Link List Post to Dazzle Readers

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In blog exercises on making lists and making your lists pretty, we worked on the links, understanding how they work and formatting your styles.

In this blog exercise, I want to focus on the content within those links, the real reason people love those link lists.

I’d like to cite my friends at Daily Blog Tips for their post “How to Put Together a List Post That Readers Will Love” to inspire you.

Author Ali Luke lists the tips to consider when creating a powerful link list. In summary, they are:
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