Critical Comments

Most of the time I reblog here, and if you are one of my regular readers, then you already know that. First I must digress a bit to put this post in context.

About a month ago, I wrote a post over on my main astrology blog (GrandTrines) in which I talked about the optimal way to deploy content so as to generate the most traffic. I frequently reblog, and I know that brings a fair amount of click-through to SOME of the bloggers that I reblog (depending on whether or not the public likes their content). I even went so far as to post some screen captures of my content.

Almost immediately after that, I was BLOCKED from having my posts (original or reblog) from showing under the “astrology” keyword. While I am not certain of this, I suspect that someone was unhappy with my commentary (or maybe jealous of the fact that I can generate 800 pageviews before a full moon, something I know that only a few others do) and complained to WordPress (though I am not certain what the complaint would be).

I attempted to contact WordPress but was effectively directed to the community forum and have no resolution. (In all fairness, I am not great about checking my email. That takes a HUGE amount of time, and I would rather spend it on content creation or content deployment.)  The other possibility is that, somehow, my blog was hacked though I do not know how that would work, either.  In any case, something went very wrong.

Furthermore, I had a number of connectivity issues (and, yes, I do VPN so I try to protect my connection), and had some VERY STRANGE computer problems. The strangest was the third one. What happened was I had a keyboard “fail” about 4:30 AM (I am an obligate night owl), and WITHIN 30 SECONDS of the “failure,” I received an incoming phone call on my personal cell phone from “unknown caller.” (I NEVER answer those and did not answer this one.) I suspect the keyboard “failure” was some kind of firmware attack. Though I have multiple computers, three of them were “down” within about 48 hours of each other….

All of this happened about a week or two before the attack on the United States’ part of the DNS system (which, it so happens, is MOST of the DNS system), and I have to wonder who or what was the source. The fact is this: if you generate “enough traffic” or are “sufficiently visible” on the ‘net, then you become a target. And, shortly after I became “keyword disabled,” some competitors from the middle east for the “astrology” keyword became quite “active.” (I will not name names, but they are easy enough to identify for anyone interested.)

All of this leaves me reluctant to write the commentary I am about to write, and also leaves me wondering how to approach my blogging given this series of events. Additionally, one other astrologer told me privately (by email) that they experienced certain similar events (and worse!).

I really wish these parasites would do something that would result in their immediate exit of the gene pool; alas, that is but wishful thinking (though I suspect the rest of us feel the same way).

With that said, I return to my regular, intended post.

A relatively new blogger asked me tonight why I do not “ask permission” before I reblog. My simple answer was that it would be “ineffective.” I omitted some details that I think I will add here, and I think that they might be particularly useful to those that follow my writing blogs (Still Another Writers Blog (the general blog), Orthometry (the poetry blog, and surprisingly popular!), and Orthografia (dedicated primarily to writing mechanics (grammar, spelling, style, edits) and marketing (some book reviews but more towards “how to” articles like “how to” promote your book self-published on KDP).

Before we proceed, please keep in mind that I adhere closely to the published WordPress policy on reblogs.  I immediately take down anything I receive a takedown request on (not many of those).  When someone compliments “my writing” I say words to the effect of “glad you liked it (I did too), it is a reblog, you should thank the original author also.”

So, here is the first thing: I subscribe to over 1,500 blogs. That is right. I did not say 15. I did not say 150. That was not a typo: 1,500. I cannot read all of them daily, and I do not.

Functionally, I am a curator (or “publisher”) of material (about 95% of the time, or more, with some of my own material mixed in from time to time, particularly on the astrology side of things), and in many ways my role is similar to that of readers who read, and reject, manuscripts for paper-based publishers. Based on my experiences, I am going to share my “inside viewpoint.” Keep in mind that blog posts ARE different, and not everything I will say applies to paper-based publishing. But I bet a fair amount of it does.

First thing is this: I have a lot of crap that I have to reject. I know that whenever you “put your heart into” a blog post that it is your child, and it must be very special to you. You love it. You adore it. The fact is, however, that not everyone shares your opinion. You get ten visitors a day, and that is from your friends who are visiting because you keep pestering them. No one is giving you the attention you deserve! They cannot see your brilliance. You get bored with this process and move on.

The consequence is that I do not have to read 1,500 blogs. Ever. Somewhere north of 1,000 of them are dead. (Why do I still have over 1,500 subscriptions? Because identifying the dead ones to unsubscribe can easily kill a day to eliminate, say, 100 to 200 dead blogs. It “feels” like a waste of time, and leaving them in place is easier. But, about once every ninety days or so I have a “purge day” and kill the more obviously dead ones from, say, 2009 or 2010. (I am proud to say the old dead blogs from 2008 are gone, and only the twenty or fewer that survived from 2008 are still in my feed.))

This also means that the BEST and EASIEST to remember blog names are GONE from WordPress. Which leaves me stuck with weird names like “orthometry” for poetry and “orthografia” for writing style. (To paraphrase what someone else said to me today, sounds like I am a dentist who is a closet writer. NOT.)

It stinks, but I do not spend TOO much time being madder than hell about all the single post blogs that left a wasteland of the pool of obvious names because that, too, is a waste of my time, only sightly removed from losing a day of my life removing old dead blogs from the feed.

In theory, that leaves me with somewhere between 100 and 500 blogs to read when my computers and connection have not been compromised by some of the vermin that inhabit the ‘net. Except, of course, it does not happen that way.

For each category (NOT each blog), I have between five and twenty key writers I read frequently: astrology, metaphysics, poetry, writing in general, and some other topics. I typically process them LAST because that puts them at the TOP of the newsfeed, and I already KNOW that my readers want to hear what they have to say. Many of these bloggers I reblog daily.

What I do first depends on what is going on in my life. (Surprise, surprise! Your readers have a F-ing LIFE outside of YOUR blog! It pays to remember that!) If it is a slow day, I will process comments first (almost always responding to whoever chats with me, including the astrologer in India who says “my pleasure” when he says “Thank You” (in Texas that phrase goes with “You’re Welcome” and it feels really weird to get it with “Thank You”)). When I respond to a comment, I also look at the BLOG. That means they almost ALWAYS get their freshest content read (if it is a slow day, meaning no appointments or deadlines).

“Likes” get processed next. If an entry gets only, say, two likes, then I just “read” it in the queue (marking it done), but if I get six or more then I dig a little deeper to see what people are reading and “liking.” Again, I tend to check the blogs of the people who seem “dialed into” what the collective likes. Not only do I do this for the sake of efficiency (which is essential because of the amount I read), but also it tells me who is “in tune” with what is “going on” out there.

Keyword processing is next, and every time I log on I do this for my main keyword (“astrology”) unless I am under huge deadline pressure AND a lunation is happening (New Moon or Full Moon). The fact is that lunations are HUGE traffic builders for astrology blogs, and the best astrology bloggers know this. I have seen some of them post THREE posts prior to a lunation: one about three or four days ahead of time, one the day before (which is when the most traffic happens), and one the day of (which also has SOME good traffic).

People who post AFTER the lunation leave me wondering why they are astrologers at all. They seem to have no sense of timing, and they certainly get almost no share of the traffic. (Maybe that was who I offended, someone who was doing this and was really angry that they only got five page views, instead of 800, on their blog, AND they could not quite “figure it out.”) Astrology in ENTIRELY about “timing,” and, curiously, so is the posting of blog entries. If you time it right, you might get some traffic. Miss the window, and nobody will care that you wrote a Magnum Opus. They will be looking elsewhere for what they desire.

No matter what you write, you need to know the TIMING of your audience.

After I have processed “astrology,” and maybe a few other keywords, I go to my top bloggers. If I have already reviewed their material (and reblogged or not) when I was processing a keyword, then I skip them. Certain outstanding bloggers NEVER show up in the keywords. For example, Tara Greene is an excellent astrologer, but for some reason she does not show up under “astrology.” (Maybe she is blocked also?) She and I have chatted privately, and I give her a special review most days (I am not online EVERY day).

Another issue is whether or not someone is “too much work.” Julie Dembowski is an excellent astrologer. I highly recommend her work, and, in my opinion, she is one of the best astrologers on the ‘net. But she has the reblog button turned off, and using the other faculty is quite a bit of work.  She has a very strict policy about using her content. I THINK she might have given me permission to repost years ago, but I am so time constrained already that I cannot take her up on it even if she did. Despite her being absolutely at the top of the game, even if I did have permission I just could not spend the extra effort on it. (But, she’s really good! Check her out.)

Someone I REALLY like in Australia, a cartoonist and his sweetheart, I reblog “anyway.” He has the most difficult to navigate WP blog I have ever seen anywhere. I have dropped a few hints. I WOULD reblog more of the content if I could find my way around. Again, his work is EXCELLENT, but navigation is so difficult that I cannot give him the additional exposure his work deserves.

If you want people to ACTUALLY READ your work, AVOID themes that are “cool” but hard to navigate. If you have ANY question about “navigate,” ask someone else to look at it, and that means someone other than your “hipster” friends who are going to tell you how “cool” the site looks. If ANY doubt exists, pick the simplest and most boring paper-white theme you can find. Otherwise no one will read it because they cannot get past the “secret decoder ring” navigation, you will be bored and get your feelings hurt because no one can “see your genius,” and you will end up one of the dead blogs that have to be eliminated on “purge day.” Unless you are the kind of person who has devoted their lives to a series of “learning experiences” which are really thinly veiled failures resulting from poorly conceived and poorly executed projects, you should avoid this kind of mistake. (I am NOT referring to my cartoonist pal at this point. His work is excellent, and he has a significant body of work. I am referring to the single entry blog that NO ONE visits.)

Avoid making the mistake I am making with THIS ENTRY. What mistake is that? It is TOO LONG. I will lose almost ALL of my mobile audience because it is TOO LONG (the mobile audience is now over 50% of all blog traffic), and many of my desktop / laptop readers have already quit by this point. If you have read this far, then I both applaud you and admonish you to NOT make this same mistake!

Paper-based publishers required a certain amount of length (still do), but that DOES NOT apply in the digital world, and if you pad your work you will both lose and offend your audience. Time is short, and so are attention spans. No one can really tell how long a book is on KDP. TECHNICALLY they can tell, but if you grab your audience and tell them the story they want to hear, then they will love you even if your “novel” is fifty pages.

Another thing to avoid is “preaching” or “sermonizing,” another error I have likely made here myself. However, my hope is that this entry is useful to at least some if not most of the readers of this blog (about writing!).

Back to the main topic, blogging and reblogs. I pick content to reblog that I think my readers will like (and read), and I often do that by seeing what is getting the most likes / pageviews. WordPress can give you those stats. While stats may seem “boring,” they can be the difference between having your blog read, or not, over a longer period of time. If you prefer, the stats tell you where the audience can “see your genius.”

With the time constraints I face, I cannot “ask permission” each time I reblog. And if someone wants that, then I have to take that blog out of consideration. Is that such a bad thing?  (I almost hate to mention this issue.  Out of thousands of reblogs, this has only happened less than five times.)

My services are totally “free,” a hobby that I might convert into a business of some kind some day, maybe. What has caught me off guard is that my better bloggers, typically the ones on my bookmarked lists, learn from reading my blog. I can SEE where they have spotted an idea or technique that someone else developed and integrate it into THEIR blog (and benefit from it).

What that means is that, unintentionally, I have created communities on my various blogs. While they do not chatter the way some do on social media, I can tell that they are reading and learning from each other. That means that I have created a school (several, actually) of sorts, and THAT was my original intention with “Grand Trines” when I started it in 2008. I wanted to explore certain astrology concepts and maybe find some people, both online and anonymous, to discuss those concepts. Things did not quite work out quite that way, but I am still satisfied with what I see.

If you want me to have to “ask permission” each time I reblog your comment, be certain I will not do that.  It is not feasible. Be certain that I will unsubscribe from your blog. I cannot justify spending my time on it. Enough people benefit from the additional traffic (assuming they are writing something someone wants to read) and the opportunity to learn from others that I simply do not have to do that; we have a community.

One other thing, I had someone comment that their work was “heart felt.” I can only assume that they think the other bloggers writing poetry are not “heart felt.”  (I would like to hear what some of my other poets think about this.)

My intent, here, is not to “beat anyone up.” My thoughts are to help those who seem a bit far afield from the realities of the blogosphere.  If you present yourself as being a writer, do you think about what you say? Some of the writers on WordPress are meticulous in their craft.

Here is a list of some of the best writers in astrology (in my opinion). It is not an exhaustive list, and I am certain to leave someone out. But, these are some of the best:

Andy Candypants (Journey by the Sea)

Anne Whitaker (Writing from the Twelfth House)

Anoop Astrology (Vedic)

Clarissa (Viva Combusta)

Eliza Bassett (Eyes of Heaven)

Diane L (Libra Seeking Balance)

Tara Greene

Venus Lotus

I also like some others, notably Jbuss who is just too abstract for most readers but who I enjoy personally. (I reblog his work even though I know a fair number of people many not “get” his sometimes rather arcane analysis.) I also like Dreamweaver 333 (“The Oracle Report”) although “The Oracle Report” comes out so late in the day that it is only of limited utility to myself or many of my readers. I also like Monavie Voight though she does Numerology and Tarot cards; she is a good oracle though I do not really “grok” how she does what she does. I also like “Minute Astrologer” who is similar to Dreamweaver 333’s “The Oracle Report.” Jaguar Spirit is a relatively new addition with a focus on Native American mythology / beliefs, and I like them also. If I missed you, and you are one of my regulars, then it was an accidental and unintentional oversight. Obviously I am not addressing the commerical astrologers though I like some of them, notably Cainer, Holiday Mathis, Georgia Nicols, and Kelli Fox.

But the real point is that the masters usually “get it right.” Sometimes Tara Greene is a little long, but the rest tend to be very short, with Eliza Bassett being the shortest. I bet she has the BEST (most) mobile traffic! All of them are CLEAR in their writing, and ALL of them make it very easy for me to reblog and easy for my readers to read.

I am certain I have left out a number of other good ones who tend to post less frequently, maybe at the lunations (every two weeks) and change of seasons (four times per year, eight if cross quarter days are included) and maybe certain retrograde / direct stations (Mercury about three or four times a year).

I have not listed my poets or other writers for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I am still tuning the process a little AND I am getting a little tired AND this post is TOO LONG already. But I will mention a FEW of my favorites: Afzal Moolla (Scribbled Verse), Asha’s Blog, Brenda Davis Harsham (Friendly Fairy Tales), By the Mighty Mumford, Robert Okaji, Sarah Doughty (HeartString Eulogies), and Tony Single & Tetiana (CrumbleCult,

Poetry newcomers I like “at the moment” (let’s hope they last): Ana (Bittersweet Diary), Articulate Wordss, Eyes + Words, Frank Solanki (not a true newcomer but a well seasoned poet; however, his work and blog is new to ME), and Words from a Little Person.

Check online and you will find a ton of MFA programs in “Creative Writing.” Those guys know what the market is like. A ton of people plan to be the next Stephen King or Robert Frost or Virginia Wolfe. I know that my efforts are imperfect, and with some people (usually the single entry blog guys) I have been blessed with a gift for pissing them off. So, please do let me know when you find that MFA program in “Curation of Online Content” or an MFA in Publishing (NOT “writing” BUT PUBLISHING). Let me know, and I will look into it. 🙂

If I had put all this juice that I put into this post into my Nano project, I would be more than 3,300 3,400 words ahead.

We, alone, choose where we spend our time.