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The Quest For Blog Speed, Part Two

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 22, 2016

Two weeks ago I told y’all about the concept of mobile friendliness vs mobile speed and how I’d been losing all this traffic because the speed of my sites stunk even though all of my sites were considered mobile friendly. Well, I’ve been on a major quest to rectify this, and I’d like to share with you what I’ve been doing.

First, let me remind you that on the above post I showed that my friendly score was 100/100, and my mobile speed was 58/100. What I didn’t share was that my desktop speed was 61/100 at the time. All of my blogs were between 54 to 58 on speed and 58 to 61 on desktop before I started. Let me show you where I stand now, and I have to admit that I’m kind of proud, even if I’m not perfect yet:

IJS speed
I’m Just Sharing
Mitch's Blog speed
Mitch’s Blog
Top Finance Blog speed
Top Finance Blog
Medical Billing Answers blog speed
Medical Billing Answers
Syracuse Wiki speed
Syracuse Wiki

That’s not bad, right? I’d have to say I’m fairly proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish… so far. I’ll explain some of the things I’ve done to get to where I am now, while realizing that not everyone will be able to do some of these things unless you’re pretty technical and not afraid to experiment.

First off, let me tell you that upgrading my hosting package to a new one did absolutely nothing for my speed. I waited the 5 days like they recommended, nothing worked, and I contacted them again, only to have them send me the same Google link I’ve talked about previously. I was fairly irked at the time, but after a day I realized that some of what I still had to do wouldn’t have worked if I hadn’t upgraded. So, even though they kind of misled me based on my beliefs, it still turns out I had to do the upgrade anyway.

Why?

Back in 2006 when I purchased my package along with my friend Kelvin, compression wasn’t a big deal for websites. There was talk about making sure your website didn’t take forever to load, but most of us never paid much attention to that because, except for those who used a lot of Flash or tons of pictures it didn’t affect us that much.

These days if you run the Google speed test one of the things it recommends you do is set up compression. If your hosting package isn’t up to date, then it’s possible that no matter what you do as it applies to coding your site either isn’t going to speed up at all or it’s going to look like you broke something.

I ran into both problems. First, I created a php.ini file and I added this bit of code to it:

memory_limit = 120M
upload_max_filesize = 40M
post_max_size = 8M
zlib.output_compression =1
zlib.output_compression_level =9

Initially I was doing all my testing on my Syracuse Wiki blog and this one. The theme I use for this blog is fairly old, even though I’ve made lots of changes to the files, whereas my newest theme is on Syr Wiki. Adding the compression code in the php.ini file made IJS disappear, while it didn’t affect Syr Wiki whatsoever. After I upgraded, both sites stuck around but increased speed by only one point.

There was another part of compression that had to be performed, and this time it was messing with the .htaccess file. See, even though I was on the new package, it didn’t do the compression unless you told it to. Research talked about turning on what’s known as GZIP compression. Frankly, after reading all about it my head was spinning and I still didn’t understand anything about it except what it was supposed to do. I found this code and tested it, and it helped give me a bit more speed:


AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript

By a bit more speed, I mean that both of these pages were now in the 60’s, both sitting at 62. That’s still considered as poor speed, but it was an error message I wasn’t getting anymore and it was moving in the right direction; yay!

Next I decided to try a caching program because I saw a lot of people recommending it. I was hesitant because back in 2008 I had tried WP Super Cache and it pretty much shut this blog down. Still, I decided to try it again, this time using W3 Total Cache.

The initial problem I had was that it conflicted with the WPTouch Mobile plugin, which actually makes all blogs mobile friendly but doesn’t do anything with speed. I found some adjustments I could make and made them, but nothing I did helped to increase my speed. I’ll admit that I don’t fully understand how caching programs work, but as I looked at the Google recommendations caching wasn’t a problem it was talking about so I decided to remove the plugin and try something else.

Before I tried another plugin I decided to address a different issue that kept coming up, that being something about CSS files and javascript files slowing things down above the fold. I know nothing about javascript so I decided to tackle CSS, something I did know about.

Once again, CSS has modified from when I first learned it some years ago. Back then, the idea was that you put everything that you wanted to modify on multiple pages all the time into your CSS files so you didn’t have to individually code each page. These days you can still do that, but certain types of code are considered as secondary code. By Google’s “definition”, any piece of CSS code that begins with “.whatever” is code that doesn’t need to be loaded immediately along with everything else, and that it need to be put into the area of your HTML coding using < style > codes.

That blew my mind for about a day, and I finally decided to test it on one of my static websites first. When I got a mobile speed of 90 I figured I was on to something. lol Still, this was WordPress template software that I was about to mess with; what if something went wrong? Well, fortune favors the bold, and as long as the bold is careful things usually work out… right?

I opened two Notepad files. In the first one I pasted the entire CSS code into it and saved it onto my computer. In the second I copied and pasted every single CSS code that began with that dot into it and spaced them all apart. Then I added the < style > tag at the beginning of each of these things and < /style > (if you decide to try any of this don’t put the spaces in the code like I did here; it seems that without the spaces it alters the blog post; go figure…) at the end of each one… trust me, there’s a lot of these in each of these CSS files.

I went back to the original CSS file in the blog software and removed all of those dot files, then saved it. After that, I went to the Header.php file and, under the area, near the end of that tag, I added all of the new < style > codes and saved that. By the way, I’ll be coming back to this process in a little bit because it led to something else that was eye opening.

I tested my speed again and both sites were now in the 70’s. I felt pretty good about that but I didn’t think it was good enough. Although I had conquered the CSS issue, the javascript issue was still there, and oddly enough a couple of the scripts messing things up belonged to WPTouch; that was freaky.

I went back into the deep research and tested a bunch of different plugins, but almost none of them did anything for either blog. I temporarily added Zara4 as a photo compression program which affected a file here or there, but it would have been a bit pricey to go back and compress all the images that really needed it. I decided against that for the moment, although I did shrink a couple of images, which includes my image to the top right and the images for my books on the left and that helped a little bit but not much.

The plugin that finally worked for me, along with all the other stuff I did, is called Async JS and CSS. It didn’t come up as an option for me until I came across it on a forum and searched specifically for it to add it as a plugin. The first changes I made to the settings, which were recommended, brought the speed of both blogs up to 100/100, which would have been fine except it erased the content of both blogs from the internet; oops! Realizing that not all settings will work on all blogs, I did a little tweaking and actually had phenomenal speed on both blogs, both over 90; Syracuse Wiki is still over 90, and I’m ecstatic about that. By the way, here’s my settings:

Async JS001
Async JS and CSS

Your question is probably why IJS isn’t still above 90. Well, this brings up back to all that stuff I did above with the CSS code that I talked about above. For whatever reason, on all my blogs I have to disable the majority of plugins if I want to make any changes to those files, otherwise I get a “not found” message after trying to save anything. The reason I had to go back in was because there was still one thing I had to add to the header, that being the code that corrects the Configure The Viewport issue that all older themes and websites will have.

In a previous post I talked about how the recommended coding by Google never seemed to work for me. Well, it still doesn’t! Not on my blogs and not on my websites. I figured out how to modify it, so my code now looks something like this: < meta name=viewport content="width=525” >, where I specify a width size. Google still doesn’t like this, but your speed will improve after you add it.

Because I had to go back in and add it, I did it first on my Syr Wiki site and hit that magic 98; wow! Then I came to this blog and added it and was up to 91; yeow! However, when I added all my plugins back, I dropped down to 72.

You know what this means. One or more of the plugins were messing things up. I decided I had to add them back one at a time to see who the culprit was… or who they were. I don’t have a lot of plugins on Syr Wiki since that theme is newer, but I have tons on this blog. So the process began…

The big culprit turned out to be my Readspeaker plugin; oh no! I added it to my blogs back in 2009 as a way for people to be able to listen to my posts instead of having to always read them. I was kind of an early adopter, and it was a free plugin at the time. What I hadn’t paid attention to is that they’ve never added an update to it, and when I went to their site I learned it’s because now it’s a paid model, and the paid model is updated and coded totally different than the one I have.

By removing it from this blog I jumped from that 72 to where I’m now at 86; sigh… Since I have no idea if anyone was still using it these days I guess it’s time to call it a day; oh well…

That’s how I’ve achieved the new speed on both of these blogs… kind of. It turns out that speed only applies to the main blog page. For each individual blog post, the only way to achieve that speed is to compress any images you might have on those pages. This is partially problematic for me because most of the images I use on the site come from Compfight, which is a plugin I use that searches for Common Creative image files I can use for free, but since those images aren’t actually in my files there’s nothing I can do about the size of those files.

I did test it on a post that had my own files, which is the first one I linked to above. The first image was already small, at 22kb, but the one with my picture on it was 614kb. After I did my own bit of compression by reducing the pixel size, it fell to 65kb, which increased the speed a bit:

IJS002
Before compression
IJS003
After compression

Frankly I can live with that! 🙂 Course, now I need to go back and alter images that I uploaded on my own. I’m also learning a bit about image quality and how, if my initial file isn’t all that big to begin with, once I compress it the quality drops somewhat drastically (look at the images on this post; they’re all small now but they weren’t all that big before I compressed them).

It seems all this stuff works pretty well, and now I have to go to my other blogs and complete all the things I’ve done with the first two, and if I can get them all into the 80 range I’m going to be a pretty happy guy. However, I have some caveats for you:

First, if you make changes to your .htaccess file and your main page stays but your individual posts go missing, all you have to do is go into your Admin area, Settings, permalinks and reset them.

Second, make sure you save your originals of everything in a place where you can access them in case you need to remove some code that’s not working if you already have that file. As a matter of fact, save everything you’re going to touch, both before and after stuff.

Third, realize that not everything works for everyone. Just like I said about the Async JS plugin above, the recommended settings removed all my content from the web (my files were still intact but no one would have been able to see anything) so I had to test and modify to find something that worked for my blogs.

Fourth… don’t kill yourself shooting for 100/100 for everything across the board because you’ll never sleep well again. I turns out that the two separate links from Google for checking mobile speed don’t even agree all the time; what’s that about? Truthfully, “fair” is probably pretty good, but the higher you can get your score without going overboard the better.

Fifth, image compression the easy way can be achieved by shrinking the pixels of some of your image files if they’re overly big yet probably won’t change how they look on your blogs or websites. If you have any images over 600 pixels on your website or blog, those are going to hinder your speed.

Sixth, if you use WPTouch, you might need to go back into the settings and fix your phone theme colors once you do all this stuff. I had to do that because it made my backgrounds white with all print black until I did. I’m not sure what changed it but it’s an easy fix if you need to correct it.

I’ll stop here because this might boggle some minds. I’ll answer what questions I can because I still have a lot of work to do. The lucky thing about blogs is that once you alter the CSS files and the Header.php file it takes care of all the previous posts going forward. For a website however, you have to make the header change on each and every single page; ouch! Still, it’s better to have a solution that works and only takes modification rather than still trying to figure it all out… at least that’s how I see things.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch Mitchell

How To Block Newsletter Popups From Blogs

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 15, 2016

Anyone who reads this blog knows that the biggest issue I have with many blogs these days are newsletter subscription popups. Although I hate them with a passion, I didn’t mind as much when they showed up at the bottom of the content. My gripe was always that the popups came without giving us the opportunity to even know whether or not we wanted to subscribe to any of the content, and my solution had been to try to never go back to those blogs ever again.

NoScriptOptions
NoScripts menu

That turned out to be futile. I like sharing other people’s content but when you’re on Twitter, you’re rarely sure where a link is taking you. So I’d often end up on blogs I said I wasn’t going to visit again because of the popups, which was irksome because the topics seemed like they’d be really good.

I finally have a solution, it works every time, and I’m going to share it with you. The thing I want to tell you up front is that you have to be willing to either do some work on the back end or just ignore a few things here and there, but it works, it works every time on every blog or website… at least if you use Firefox, and probably on Chrome also.

What you have to do is add an extension to your browser called No Script. It blocks javascript, Java and other plugins from working on your browser, which in effect means no popups or ads or anything else you’re not in the mood to deal with. You can override the extension by adding the website to a whitelist, or you can temporarily allow a website to show everything without blocking it so you can see the types of things that might be on the site.

What happens is you go to a site and you see the content but nothing else that’s javascript related. At the bottom of the page you’re on will be this yellow bar that will tell you how many scripts are being blocked automatically by the extension. At that point you can decide a couple of things.

One, you can decide to either temporarily allow a site or permanently block it. You can always remove the permanent block in the extensions settings but I’d think hard before doing that. I’m only blocking a few sites, those being Forbes & Inc, which makes you turn off your Adblocker before they’ll let you see their content. I figure I’m not doing that, so why even keep me on their sites, right?

Two, you can decide you want to whitelist a site because you visit it often and trust it. In that case you highlight the address in the address bar, go to the extension in your browser and click on the options button, go to the whitelist menu, paste the address in and push Allow. When you go back to the site you’ll see the page as you expected to see it.

Of course there are some sites automatically whitelisted. Those include Google and Facebook. You can decide to remove those if you wish but why would you unless you’re never going to use either of them. 🙂

The one thing I’m still researching is whether there’s a way to allow certain javascript items to show on sites you visit. For instance, it blocks are share buttons visually on sites and blog pages, although if you’re astute enough to find them and click on them they’ll still work.

This extension is only for Firefox. Chrome has its version of the same extension called No-Script Suite Lite, and it does the same thing as No Script does for Firefox. The only reason I’m not adding it to Chrome is that I don’t use Chrome that often, and the only time I actually do is when I want to see some Flash content that Firefox won’t show (I removed Flash from my computer last year) and, for some reason, Chrome shows it. However, if you add this script you might have to either temporarily or permanently whitelist the site so you can view Flash content.

It took me a while to find this but I finally did. I’ve been talking about this irritation since 2008 when popups were in their infant stage and now I can breathe freely once more. Some people might say this is an inconvenience and yet many people are using Disqus or other inconveniences on their blogs which includes Captcha and moderation of comments; this proves we all have our bugaboos. If anything, this will allow me to share more content because now I won’t know which sites have popups on them, so it won’t be my problem anymore, and it won’t be anyone else’s problem if they decide to add either of these extensions.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch Mitchell

How To Fix The Parsing JSON Error For CommentLuv & Other WordPress Maintenance Tips

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 1, 2016

Once again this weekend, I was visiting a lot of blogs and commenting on them. On three particular blogs they had the CommentLuv plugin, and on all 3 I got that stupid “Parsing JSON Error” message that I’m sure many of you who have visited blogs have received. This time I was irked, because my sometimes workaround, which is to hit the F5 key (after copying your comment in case you have to paste it back) to reset the other person’s blog, in case it’s their error, didn’t work.

DBManager Menu
WP-DBManager menu

This means it was time to do some research. You know what; no one had my answer, and that irked me to no end.

One blog post I found said to go into my CommentLuv settings, open the technical settings, and uncheck the box that says “use security nonce for ajax calls”. That wouldn’t work because it was already unchecked.

Another said to clear your cache, but it assumed we all use a caching plugin on our blogs. I’d tried that some years ago and it crashed my blog, so that wasn’t going to solve my issue.

However, clearing the cache seemed to be a big thing on a lot of forums I looked at, even to the point of clearing your browser cache (don’t do it for this purpose; it doesn’t work). So I was frustrated to no end.

Until I remembered that I do have an interesting plugin that I’m not sure everyone else has. It’s called WP-DBManager, and it’s basically a plugin that accesses your database and lets you, well, do a lot of different things if you look at the image above, which comes up when you click on Database on your main WordPress menu (which appears after you load the plugin).

For the purpose I was searching for however, the choice was Optimize DB. You’re actually supposed to run it at least once a month to make sure things are working well but, like brushing your teeth, who really follows that rule? I ran that option, it only took a few seconds, then I went back to two of the blogs where CommentLuv failed to find my blog posts, ran a quick test (I just put in one word in the comment section, filled out the normal name, email & link area)… and all was right with the world!

That got me to thinking about other plugins I use, though not on a continual basis, that might help some of you. Let’s look at some of these, though it’s possible I’ve written about them in the past (who goes & looks at my old posts anyway, unless I highlight them?).

Another plugin I use to help clear things up is called WP-Optimize, which is similar to the database plugin except it clears out all those revisions we all make to our blogs from time to time and allows you to optimize WordPress core tables… but you have to be cautious with this one because it will warn you that some of the options are only when things aren’t working well.

I know I’ve talked about this one before, but it seems like a lot of folks are having their blogs hacked into lately. It’s called Limit Login Attempts, and it basically allows you to set how many times someone can try a username and password before it locks them out.

Mine is set at 4 times, at which time it won’t accept anymore tries from that particular IP address for 4500 minutes the first time (about 3 days), 300 hours the second time (12 1/2 days) and 900 hours the third time (37 1/2 days). This will pretty much stop any bots trying to get into your blog that way, but you’ll probably want to add the WordPress Firewall 2 plugin to help shield your blog from those suckers also.

The final plugin I’m going to mention is called WordPress Database Backup; that’s pretty self explanatory I assume, but I have mine set up to send me a file once a month in case something happens that causes the blog to crash. Luckily I’ve never had to use it, but I know some folk have lost it all (though there are other ways to find their information; this is just the fastest way to handle things).

I think that should get some things fixed and protected on your blog. Let me know how it works for you.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch Mitchell

5 Things I’d Do Differently If I Was Starting Blogging Today

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jul 25, 2016

Guess what; I’m part of another blogging roundup. This time, I got to be one of 37 people who was asked what our biggest blogging mistakes were. Check that out because there’s some pretty big names on that list; that I got to be a part of it is pretty cool.

Picture 35

Actually, my little contribution led me to looking at some of the things other people had written on that post. It got me thinking more about what I would have done differently if I were starting a new blog today and had someone like those folks, or myself, to give some guidance on the process that would help me to get off to a good start.

Today y’all are lucky because you not only have that link to go to but you have me writing this particular post; you can thank me after you’ve looked at it… and I hope I don’t scare anyone off. Here are 5 things I’d do differently, or at least recommend to anyone thinking about starting a new blog.

1. Write 10 articles

It seems I mentioned this on my post giving 55 tips on blogging but not with much context to it. There’s more than one reason to do this.

First, most people forget that they hated writing in high school and college. If they couldn’t write 500 word papers then, why should they think it’s easy to do now? That’s why they should sit down and try to write 10 articles on their topic.

It might take a week; it might take 3 months. It’s a great learning curve to see if you have what it takes to not only write articles, but you can evaluate yourself to see if you want to continue writing.

Second, this is a great way to have ready made content when you’re ready to launch your blog. You end up having one article you can post immediately and 9 articles you can schedule over time. This gives you more time to write more articles or you can wait until those articles are live before writing some more.

2. Find your writing voice

When I started my first blog I’d already been writing two newsletters for 2 years. When I went back to work on my 2nd book on leadership, which is a compilation of newsletters and blog posts I’d written up to the end of 2008, I realized how rough it was to read those early articles. I was all over the place, trying to stuff as much stuff into an article as I could without any direction.

At some point I seemed to have found my writing voice. If you read my posts over the last 7 or 8 years you’ll see that my style has been pretty consistent. That helps your visitors get used to how you write and what your words will sound like in their ears. Everyone might not like it but if you’re authentic you’ll reach the people you want to reach.

3. Set something up for email subscribers

@-Symbol in Glass Light Orange
Creative Commons License www.elbpresse.de via Compfight

I hate popups with a passion; everyone knows that by now. I’ve never signed up for any type of autoresponder. In retrospect I probably should have thought about it, which I’m still thinking about now, because there’s more than one way to get it done.

I still use Feedburner for my RSS feed, and I always thought that would be enough. Yet, when I launched my last book, it wouldn’t have hurt to have a real mailing list to send notice to the readers of my business blog.

4. Copyright protection

If you look at the bottom of this article you’ll notice a copyright notification. That helps to protect me from content thieves, which unfortunately can be fairly comprehensive from time to time. There was a time period when a lot of my content was being scraped.

I made it hard on myself to find it, and though I found them all, one was hard to get rid of because it was located on some offshore island whose ISP I couldn’t reach. That’s when I decided to start using the plugin called Digiprove, also known as Coyright Proof. It makes it easier to prove that you own the content, because in the day you had to fill out all this paperwork to get your stuff removed and then they took time to verify it before they’d do something about it. Check that site out; it might be valuable long term.

5. Figuring out how to use more of my own images

For some reason it helps to have at least one image in a blog post, no matter how short or long that post is. Turns out we’re all pretty visual people. The hard part is trying to find images that fit every topic, or a topic you happen to be writing on at the time.

For instance, blogging; what do you put up for blogging? There are some images I’m able to get from Compfight, which searches for Creative Commons images you can use via Flickr, that work nicely. But sometimes you just can’t find the right image for everything.

I have at least a few thousand images of things I’ve taken on my own. True, many of them might not fit a specific topic, and “experts” say that one should try to fit images to whatever you’re writing about. But as I read tons of blogs and news stories and I see images that skim the edges of a topic at best (let’s face it, when all else fails a lot of these websites with articles just throw up pictures of beautiful women) I’m thinking that there might be a place for more of my own shots.

This is one reason I’ve been putting up more of my own images on my posts this year. I figure putting a picture of myself, either alone or with someone else, works well since I’m the writer. If I had the talent I could caption many of the images I have to make them fit; that’s something some of you could learn. There are few images from the early years of this blog or my business blog, and I think I could make those articles more appealing with an image or two.

There you go; 5 things I wish I’d started doing when I started my blog, that I’d do if starting a new blog. What do you think?
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch Mitchell

Takeaways From The Blogging While Brown Conference

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jul 21, 2016

A week and a half ago I wrote a post talking about the need I felt to go to the Blogging While Brown conference in Washington DC after a week of reading & hearing about too many racial issues in the news. My initial plan was to write my follow up post about the conference and post it this past Monday.

IMG_20160717_110317_resized
George & I

Two things got in the way of that. The first is that I realized that I had missed writing about my 1,700th post by one, so I had to get that in there. The second is that I didn’t get home until after 1AM because my flight got delayed a couple of times, then I couldn’t find my car at the airport (hey, I was tired! lol), so I wouldn’t have been in any condition to write the article once I got home. Luckily I wrote the other article before I left & scheduled it for this past Monday, while saying I would write a second post this week talking about the conference… this is it. 🙂

Those of you who read these posts (I think 10 of you lol) know that I don’t necessarily write traditional posts like everyone else. Thus, what I write might not conform to your expectations. They’re going to be my honest thoughts, so if you went to the conference be prepared for that. However, I didn’t have a bad time there so there won’t be any negative shockers that will upset anyone… at least I don’t think so.

Further down I’ll be embedding the video I did of my entire weekend in DC to add a bit of flavor to the presentation, but for now, let’s get into my observations, takeaways and commentary.

1. The location wasn’t what I was expecting

This isn’t good or bad… just different. It was held at the Marvin Center… which turned out to be at George Washington University… which happened to be a college that’s actually a bunch of buildings on city streets with restaurants and shops around it that would be easy to miss if you didn’t know it was there.

That part is shocking because supposedly they have an undergraduate class of 26,000 students. However, those numbers are different than any other university I’ve known. For instance, out of that number only around 11,000 are undergraduate students, which means the majority of the students are graduate students; that’s just phenomenal! Second, there are more female undergraduates than males; that would have been a nice ratio when I went to college. lol Third, the college is just under 57% white, which means the college if fairly diverse, ranking at #477 in the nation.

Most of the presentations at the conference were in the theater, which was intriguing. There were breakout sessions in a room on the 3rd floor and in the cafeteria area. As for the food… well, at least they had food. 🙂

2. The people were what I was expecting

It’s rare that I’ve had the opportunity to be around so many black people like this. Not counting family or weddings, the last time I was around this many black people was 1995, when I left my job at Syracuse Community Health Center to go work up north in Wayne County (that’s in New York for those of you who don’t know where I live).

This was a pleasure because I had a feeling I knew what I was walking into and I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. Everyone in that room gave off a feeling of accomplishment, whether they were young or older (I was one of the oldest people in the room; gasp!). If y’all had any stereotypes of what a gathering of black people might look like this would have blown your mind.

It was nice being in a room full of professionals in many industries. Some were solopreneurs (that’s a word now lol); some worked traditional jobs. Everyone was extremely nice. I only ended up getting a picture with one of the presenters, but could have had way more. I felt really comfortable with this group, which doesn’t happen often these days; that was nice.

3. No one knew me

IMG_20160716_103450_resized
Me & Yasmin

That’s not totally true. I knew my buddy Yasmin Shiraz was going to be there and it was great being able to finally meet her in person.

However, no one else had any idea who I was or what I did and that was kind of a shocker. As I said in the video, it’s the first time I’ve ever gone to a conference where no one knew who I was. I thought that with all the things I’ve done and people I’ve met over all these years online that I might meet at least one of the folks I’ve talked to. Nope; didn’t happen.

Thus, for the most part I tried to stay quiet and just take things in. I almost did it for the entire conference but I asked one question and that turned into something else that I wasn’t expecting. Folk were trying to give me advice that would have been helpful if I didn’t already know what they were advocating. Yet, because of all the attempts they made I’m doing an experiment on Facebook the next couple of days that I’ll get to write about at another time, so that worked out fairly well.

4. Few real bloggers or conversation about blogging

Okay, time to get real. During the opening session on the first day of the conference the moderator asked the audience how many people didn’t have a blog… and half the people in the room raised their hands. I was shocked by that because I had assumed that the overwhelming majority of people were bloggers. Turns out that was the first shock.

The second shock was that, in general terms, no one really talked about blogging… at least not in the ways I’ve always talked about blogging or the way a lot of bloggers talk about blogging.

There were no real conversations about writing, content, how often, etc. True, there were a couple of people who talked about scheduling blog posts along with scheduling how to promote oneself using tools, and there was the conversation about trying to find one’s voice when blogging. A guy named Linal Harris talked about storytelling and how it can make your blog compelling; I liked that a lot.

So, if no one talked about blogging all that much, what did they really talk about?

5. It’s all about the hustle, recognition and sponsorships

Dasha

If you want to feel old, just listen to younger people who are bloggers but not the type of blogger you are (or at least I am) talking about how they’ve figured out how to engage their audience so that they can generate money from their readers. Some have been highly successful at it, even if they were what I’d call non-traditional.

For instance, one young lady named Cari Rene and her sister have carved out a style empire by making one unique choice. They model all their own pictures but they only wear either white or black clothes for the most part. The images are high quality and compelling, and they’re masters of photo editing. By switching to that style they’ve been able to make a career of being image consultants as well as models. As for the content, you can look at 2016 and see they’ve only posted 5 articles, and in the previous two years just 72 articles. As I said, to people like me it’s a non-traditional way of blogging, yet they figured out how to use the blog to create a career; that’s so smart!

At one point Yasmin said to me “We’re doing things all wrong.” It certainly felt like it, that’s for sure. And yet…

6. Almost no one who presented is sustained by only blogging

This is important, and it’s something I had to figure out later on. Some folks were independent but had used blogging as a means to a better end, something I’ve talked about when I’ve mentioned the different ways people can make money via their blogs other than trying to sell products.

I consider myself a content creator, but I’m also a consultant. I make the majority of my money by consulting, yet I haven’t figured out how to translate my business blog into a money making machine. The thing is, I’d rather turn this blog into that machine because it’s better placed. I’d also like to figure out how to turn my finance and medical billing blog into money making machines because both are better niched for specificity. These young people have that part figured out, and with way less content than I have. I ain’t pretty but I do have a following in some places; maybe…

7. Other platforms are valued more than blogging

Well, this was a blow to me. More time was spent talking about all the other ways to reach people than blogging. Sometimes the talk was about how to promote one’s blog posts but overall the conversation went towards things like podcasts (which I’m not doing) and live video (which I’m definitely NOT doing) using platforms like Facebook Live and Periscope.

Those are definitely viable ways to reach an audience and lots of people seem to enjoy that these days. Frankly, it’s another thing that makes me feel old because for the life of me I can’t figure out why so many people are interested in absorbing a few seconds here and there of someone’s life (Snapchat) or need a daily dose of wisdom that may only last for a day (Periscope). What was interesting is that a few people did acknowledge the longevity benefit of YouTube; whew! lol

I think that’s enough of that for now. All in all I had a good time, learned a lot even if it wasn’t what I was expecting, met a lot of nice, intelligent people and might even think about going to another conference some day. In the meantime I’d like to highlight a few more people who I saw at the conference that I haven’t already mentioned; not all of these folks are bloggers:

Gina McCauley – she’s the founder of the Blogging While Brown conference
Dayvee Sutton
Arsha Lones
Lucrecer Braxton
Sheila Marmon
Vashti Patrick-Joseph
Alexzandria Cormier-Hill
Dasha Guyton

And now, the video I talked about:


https://youtu.be/ofUYYms51vY

 

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