10 Publishing Lessons for Summertime 2009

Preface: I am sharing a learning out loud kind of posting with you today as another iteration of The Talking Story (occasional) Sunday Paper. This is a much longer post than usual, but if the subject matter interests you it won’t seem that long at all – perfect for a Sunday with your coffee :)

I am learning several publishing lessons in the administrative type work I am embroiled in right now, and so I thought I would share them for those of you who also blog or want to do other web-related publishing (RosaSay.com has a good overview of all of mine). Some journaling introspection will likely creep into this too.

If you are not interested in the insiders’ view of web publishing, and mostly read Talking Story for my values, management and leadership writing, feel free to skip this one. You can also hop over to Ho‘ohana Aloha (my Tumblr) and do the Sunday reading skim-over of finds I’ve taken note of there this past week.

Still wanted in print

If you are a blogger or web publisher and are thinking “Oh good, I may like this one —I kinda know what she has been going through…” I will warn you: Reading this may drive you crazy. Continue at your own risk, and only if you believe that ignorance is not bliss. This is also NOT a detail log of what happens when you switch from TypePad to WordPress, sorry. (Hey Jesse, maybe you should write that one!) I have to move forward and have other priorities, as will soon become clear.

Task at hand (that is, at keyboard)

I have an awful lot of work to do with updating links now that I have made this platform switch to WordPress for Talking Story. So, 1. BIG lesson learned folks: Having a dedicated domain (like SayLeadershipCoaching.com for example) versus a /extension to a domain (like TS used to be, at www.SayLeadershipCoaching.com/talking story) makes a world of difference with when you can use broken link apps to help you electronically, and when you can’t.

Thus I am starting with this note to also say I am sorry — I know that you will encounter broken links until all is sorted out. I do have an alert which lets me know when that happens, and so that is how I am lining up my To Fix List; by priority of frequency.

So from here on, let’s forget about the amount of work to be done for the moment, and focus on all the good stuff I am discovering in the process!

Prospecting for gold

As any experienced prospector will tell you, “There’s gold in them there hills” —and 2. blog “hills” are the archives.

I have wanted to purge my publishing archives for a very long time now: Five years of blogging has given me well over 5,000 posts scattered throughout the web, with 1,155 of them here on Talking Story. Thing is, you procrastinate with it a lot: Readers expect new writing and so you do that instead, and archives fall in that category called “out of sight is out of mind.” However knowing there are broken links happening with greater frequency suddenly shifts your sights again.

I didn’t think about this as much when we just converted Joyful Jubilant Learning to WordPress, for there we were able to use technical broken link fixes to do all the work for us. In contrast, Talking Story is teaching me the great value that can be gained when you do work manually. Is it “the hard way?” Yes. Is it “the long way?” Yes, and unfortunately frustrating for others too, however the value is truly exponential. Broken links are becoming blessings in disguise.

There is the obvious: You find a lot you had forgotten about, just sitting in your archives.

3. You get both post and product re-purposing ideas like crazy! I am not going into this one very much — not in this post, and not in practice for my project-at-hand would get too crazy big and I would lose focus. However you can bet I AM capturing all ideas as they come up, parking them and tracing them for later or first/best opportunity.

Let’s move on to this: On the web, older articles are not “just sitting.” You forget that there are other people still reading it, and for the very first time, but in what you consider to be ancient history framing. You also forget that there is no stats-reporting program in existence which will log every page view seen for you: Whatever stats you do see is maybe two-thirds of what is really happening (and that’s a generous maybe).

4. Old links give first impressions. Are they the first impressions you want people to have of you? My priorities are shifting much more dramatically than I expected them to: All of a sudden, I am not that concerned with publishing fresh content. What I really want is to bring all content to best integrity.

Matter of fact: Whatever is not written has become the true “out of sight, out of mind.”

“Link Love.” Maybe not.

This was my dawning realization as the manual link-fixer I now am, as briefly as I can explain it:

When a blogger links a reader to an article in their own archives (or anywhere else for that matter), we do so for added context. The link is saying, “here is more about what I just said” or “here is the back-story you missed before, and I think it is well worth reading.”

Or at least that’s what those links are supposed to do.

Before this comprehensive work, I was far too careless about time-sensitivity. We rely on the titles of our postings to trigger our memories, and we tend to romanticize them as time goes by. We fondly remember the old comments or the rush of traffic back then, and we assume a new reader will like it because an old reader did, but that isn’t always the case. Context does shift over time, and the future being as uncertain as it will always be, that shifting context is hard to predict.

If we take the time to read the article again —as new readers ourselves, new in that we have updated personal context too— we may never link back there at all. Maybe not ever again!

5. When you fix broken links, you also discover unbroken ones you wish had broken a long time ago.

Politiek Correct by GALERIEopWEG on Flickr
Politiek Correct by GALERIEopWEG on Flickr

I have had to be brutally honest with myself about something: I am not always linking back for you as my reader. I do it for my own convenience, and for different reasons. I, Rosa Say, had become a link litterer, guilty of throwing too many readers to the information-overload wolves. I have inserted far too many links in my postings, and I am now cutting back. I had good intentions, feeling I was doing a lot of the navigation work for readers, but I crossed over that line where too much of a good thing gets you in trouble. I was pretty proud of my high number of page views, but I now understand some ways in which I should not have been proud of them. I ignored the warning signal they can be.

6. Working with your archives gets you to link (and write) with better focus and deliberate intention. Sometimes links are reference points, sometimes they are for a definite C2A (call to action). As bloggers we need to craft them and plot them better: We do not read our own postings the way that readers do, and must constantly ask ourselves, who is my audience for this particular piece? Sometimes, writing for ourselves is perfectly okay, and readers enjoy coming along for the ride. Just be sure you choose deliberate awareness over blind, haphazard, or downright sloppy happenstance.

Since Talking Story.org was launched just ten days ago, I have newly published eight articles. I have edited and re-published dozens more, some looking nearly brand new. I have totally deleted others, happy to have them be broken links forevermore.

I have also learned to insert joy, journaling explorations and some fresh geeky-girl learning into the entire process. Otherwise it is too much work, and I wouldn’t even bother. If I am to do all of this, I am going for the gusto.

We’re not done.

It’s not just the links. Words and language change too

I warned you that this could drive you crazy. Links aren’t even the half of what you will want to work on. I also said we would focus on the good stuff though, and this brings me to the next point.

7. When you work with your archives, you start to think more proactively about the publishing you do. You think about the completeness of your processes. You realize that you have considered hitting that “publish” command to mean you are done, and it doesn’t mean that at all. It only means “publish so others can see this too.”

If you were to newly consider everything I have talked about up to now, and not take the easy way out, not thinking “I’m not as picky as you are Rosa, I’ll live with it,” (come on now, stick with me) how would you change your publishing process?

Remember: Ignorance is not bliss. Knowledge is the power of renewed energy.

Lead the way, my friend by Pulpolux !!! on Flickr
Lead the way, my friend by Pulpolux !!! on Flickr

You will probably do what I have done: Tweak your publishing process, or add to it. I realized that mine was not nearly complete enough. It could have added significant, self-sustaining life to my publishing foundations. I now have a brand new process for what I do after I publish a post for the first time, and before it begins to slip too far into the archives.

I have set up a very simple trace system which is nothing more than a new rule I live by as a publisher. Every single time I publish a new post, I go back to re-read and newly edit the post which has now slipped 5-back on my list. I find I can now edit it pretty ruthlessly, because it is already old and needs no “fresh post context” anymore: What it does need, is my “archive integrity context” and those are now two entirely different things.

GEEKY TECH TIP: If you have multiple sites like me, you know this is not a simple matter of looking 5-back down your posting dashboard. I am newly using my Tumblr for this purpose, being sure I aggregate everything I publish there. You may use another app instead: The trick is use one with a bookmarklet and/or auto-feed to do the aggregation work for you.

CONVERSATIONAL TIP: One thing I do adore about the new TalkingStory.org is the comment conversation subscription readers can select if they choose to be notified about post updates. Therefore, if I significantly edit an old posting, I can also add a brief new comment that mentions what I did, and only those who had subscribed to the conversation will get that alert.

My goodness, do we really need older archives at all?

At this point, I may have you thinking that you want to keep new readers out of your archives altogether, and focused on the new stuff instead. Not a blanket decision for me, though there are certain old posts I will shake my head at and sigh over. Fortunately, I also started to get back that sense of awe we now take for granted — and shouldn’t: When they have the amazing vastness of the internet to choose from, people all around the world are still arriving in MY archives. Wow.

That happy prospect of a fresh arrival got me to think I could do much better than impulsive, ruthless deletions. There came my next discovery: 8. You can have fun, and talk to people directly with simple, one-link landing pages. I have seized the opportunity I have with simply updating an old link landing page this way:

I am sorry, the article you are looking for has been retired.

It did a great job for me, and for others at one time, and now it has happily stepped aside.

It has been retired so that fresher writing can take its place with dazzling you, or collaborating with you, and sharing in that great feeling of being able to help someone.

I invite you to visit the new and better stuff on TalkingStory.org.

talkingstory_header_09

Talk to me in the comment boxes you find there,

and meet others in the Ho‘ohana Community.

If you still long for your original search, I will be happy to help you.

I was going to cancel my old TypePad account when I was completely done with my WordPress conversion, but now I think I will keep it. I am constantly thinking of the redirects I can do little by little over time instead of rushing this, and that annual TypePad fee is starting to seem like quite the advertising bargain for the search spider goodness it continues to give me — and our Ho‘ohana Community goodness I am so passionate about sharing.

Archive explorations can go forward too, not just backwards

As you can tell, I now have a complete paradigm shift with archives. I used to think of them purely as history and documentation of a past time line. Now I think of archives as connective anchor points which trigger more learning, and that learning can be found in several different directions.

Node by Uqbar is back on Flickr
Node by Uqbar is back on Flickr

9. There is no rule saying you can’t put a new link or new content in an old article, and in fact, that is probably the best edit you can do for it!

I have become a more practiced published writer over the last five years, and fact is my new stuff is way, way better than the old stuff. I am sure that yours is too. In the spirit of Talking Story, I just know in my heart mind and soul that we have a ton of interesting conversations we can still have. Whether we have them in an older posting or a new one shouldn’t matter: The posts are just catalysts, and we are the activators.

Gold you can prospect in the archives:

Add Conversation to your Strong Week Plan.

I have opened comments up on my older articles here so I can test this theory, and we shall see what other results of my 10 Publishing Lessons for Summertime 2009 will come to the forefront.

This has gotten much longer than I originally anticipated it would, so let’s wrap up with this:

If you don’t work on your archives, no one will.

Before you even begin to think, “That’s okay,” NO, it’s not okay. We bloggers need to stick together in continually raising the bar on how we write and with our reputation as noble publishers. We don’t publish our writing intending to create blog post graveyards.

Here is a link I want you to please take when you are done reading this posting:

“What’s in it for me?” is a Self-Leadership Question.

We who blog must be Alaka‘i [the Hawaiian value of leadership] and lead the way with publishing integrity on the web by merit of our great example.

More important than that, is how much you will be amazed by the brand new ideas which are triggered for you once you commit to this archive-cleaning project with me, so please do. Tackle your own archives. Start today. Here is number 10 with the biggest reason of all:

10. Publishing integrity will awaken your creative capacity. One of the first big issues my broken-link project spun off into creatively solving was how badly I needed to completely revamp my blog categories here on TalkingStory.org. It was something I could not say no to any longer, and I am handling it concurrently, slowly but surely. And then Providence interceded: In working with my blog categories, I suddenly saw some business model clarity that had stubbornly eluded me for quite some time. Thinking about the repercussions this clarity will have throughout Say Leadership Coaching and Ho‘ohana Publishing is incredibly exciting and energizing for me.

Trust me on this one: I set about writing only on the highlights for you. If you start to work on your archives — content, links, comments, all of it — you will never get writers’ block again.

I learn from you all the time, and it is something I want to keep doing.

Your turn to write now, and my turn to listen and learn.

Art/Photo Credit Postscript: “Prospector” by ToOliver2 on Flickr.

Longtime readers may be thinking, “Where have I seen this drawing before?” and I used it on this MWAC article: Are you a Conversation Killer without realizing you are? Three Tips to help.

Comments

  1. James H Shewmaker says

    Rosa,

    Your article touches on some of the points that I have been struggling with.

    I am looking for a platform that does most of the things which blogging platforms do but which does not focus on the chronological but rather on the categorization. I also want it to have some of the power of a Wiki, but not for other authors but rather to provide a method for constant revising which still allows for the validation of citations.

    Perhaps, I can illustrate this by referring to the book “Managing With Aloha.” It is obvious to a close reader of the book that at the time of the writing most of your audience was working in Hawaii or had a subsidiary in Hawaii or was planning to relocate to Hawaii. Now, although your in-person management coaching company’s clientele is primarily based in Hawaii, your personal voice is heard around the world. Therefore, you might feel the desire to revise this or that sentence or explain the definition of a Hawaiian word in a slightly different way. Your original material is still valid but you might feel the need for a rewording. If you came out with a second edition, it would not be too difficult for a term paper writer to distinguish in her citations which specific edition that she was quoting.

    But what value would there have been to writing the book as if it were a diary. Very Little.

    On a blog when dates are placed, there is a implication made that older material is less valid. And yet although the point that you make in this article is correct that time shifts perspective, and in the social realm that link networks become less and less focused and tend more and more towards irrelevance, yet much of what is written remains valid if it was written regarding objective information.

    The other problem that exists is that research is hampered by the diary like style of blogs. A researcher has to rely on tags, links and search tools to arrive at her information. If she went to the Library, she could use the Dewey Decimal system. But blogging platforms do not accommodate easily revisable dynamic categorization.

    Yet I want the platform that I am seeking to provide a means of two-way development of the content. I want a platform which allows the visitor to play a role both in having an affect on what I focus on in creation development and in providing critique for revision purposes.

    Further, I want a platform which will allow a visitor to cite the current version of an article, and for that citation to always be able to be validated even if I should decide in the future that I disagree entirely with that which I had written in the earlier version.

    Unfortunately, at present I am still somewhat vague about some of the features I will need. However this article of yours will probably get read several times by me while I am attempting to crystallize my specifications.

    This will be invaluable. Thank You.

    • Rosa Say says

      I am glad you found this useful James. Thank you for taking the time to read through it all!

      Ironically, it was one of those postings which was diary-like, in that it was a journaling of my thoughts within the process of a project that is mostly me-relevant. I was learning so much along the way I hoped it might prove useful to others, at least in different parts of it.

      As a writer, and someone who knows she writes to think things through, indexing and archiving have always been of great interest to me. I was not yet a web publisher when I wrote MWA, and when I think back to the creation of that paper index versus what I do today using digital tools it serves as quite a telling picture of my own evolutionary growth in both writing and publishing over the past five years time.

      I understand your struggle, for the use of categories versus tags has challenged and frustrated me in several different blogging platforms. A big switch for me in my current TypePad to WordPress conversion includes a very simple distinction that is driven but what I now understand I can do with coding, but fact is I could have done it before with TypePad as well — I just hadn’t experienced the html/css template learning yet.

      By the way, the “simple distinction” is that one category for post is optimal, and in contrast, I can use as many tags as I wish to, with my category design now connected to my strategic business model. That one sentence would make for another very long post, and it illustrates how today’s so called ‘user-friendly’ web platforms remain quite a mystery to even the most experienced users.

      I love learning to do all of this myself, yet I am also realizing that there is a cost to my do-it-myself-to-learn-it tendencies. Ultimately, my writing up of a post like this with my lessons-learned is my way of coming to my own personal reckoning of the learning I am willing to experience no matter the cost, and strategically growing into a decision to be smarter about developing new partnerships with others much smarter than I am! I would also love to turn a lot of this over to an intern or virtual assistant now, for once the learning has been experienced, the repetition of job execution is way too costly for me to keep handling in light of the other projects I have. It is definitely time to invoke the Pareto Principle; that guideline that says 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your results.

      I think you also came to the best conclusion in your comment, understanding that you are “still somewhat vague about some of the features [you] will need” and that you must further attempt “to crystallize [your] specifications.” You can then tackle this from the standpoint of means leading toward a crystal clear end ”“ one you desire most of all.

  2. James H Shewmaker says

    Rosa,

    But what you wrote in your reply to my comment about the time that it takes is the whole problem.

    I can create a website from scratch and create a menu system and folders, then I can open an RSS document and manually enter in all the feed items. Then I can open a metadata document and basically do with each document what Adobe Bridge does with photos. In other words, I can do it MANUALLY.

    So if a platform forces me to spend a lot of time doing things manually, whats the point of even working with the platform. Quite Frankly, A lot of the platforms feel as if they are getting between me and the publishing instead of empowering me to publish effectively.

    I don’t need all the plug-ins and versatility of the world’s greatest blogging platform and I certainly don’t want to have to learn how to work with php or Ruby on Rails or any other server side programming environment. I just want to be able after having written my content to present the material in a way that is easiest for readers to access, research and cite, critique and discuss without it taking me an extra hour to handle the internet publishing technicalities.

    James

    • Rosa Say says

      Well then James, it sounds to me like you are closer to knowing what you want than you think. If you cannot find what you wish as a platform you purchase “as is” your next step is to hire a programmer to create it for you.

      For me, there is still much value as “the point of even working with the platform” – I very much enjoy the learning it takes me through, and my writing this post was to celebrate and share that process of learning exploration.

      Do I wish for better technological advances and true user friendliness? Sure I do, but meanwhile I figure I will gain what I can from what presently exists (and what I can afford.) Said another way, I suppose I enjoy the hunt and have not yet reached the level of frustration you have reached.

  3. Rosa Say says

    An update, one week later: Relating to this bit of what I had written above:

    I have had to be brutally honest with myself about something: I am not always linking back for you as my reader. I do it for my own convenience, and for different reasons. I, Rosa Say, had become a link litterer, guilty of throwing too many readers to the information-overload wolves. I have inserted far too many links in my postings, and I am now cutting back. I had good intentions, feeling I was doing a lot of the navigation work for readers, but I crossed over that line where too much of a good thing gets you in trouble.

    Here is another, different view posted today by Gavin at Servant of Chaos (and I do nostalgically agree with his sentiments): What Happened to the Link Love?
    Good conversation in his comments, looking at this from several angles.