All posts by Mitch Mitchell

I'm an independent consultant in many fields, so I have a lot to share.

Comparing Chess To Blogging In 5 Moves

I’ve been playing chess in some fashion since I was 12 years old. I’m not going to say I’m good, but I will say that there are good players I’ve beaten every once in awhile and bad players I’ve lost to every once in awhile but, like pool, I did win a chess tournament when I was a kid, though nothing sanctioned or anything like that.

I guess that qualifies me to write a post comparing some aspects of chess to some aspects of blogging. After all, I’ve compared blogging to poker, a toaster oven, and Harry Potter. So why not, right? That and Sire dared me to. πŸ™‚ Here goes:

1. A big part of chess and blogging is about consistency.

With chess, there are moves you develop as your beginning that you’ll almost always do unless you’re very proficient at the game. You do that because what happens if you don’t is you end up losing to someone who’s been hoping you’ll do something stupid early so they can crush you.

In blogging, consistency means you establish how often you’re going to write and then you try to stick to it as much as possible. If you decide to alter things, you do so with both a practiced hand and by running your own version of analytics to see how it’s going. If you change up either by suddenly writing drastically less or a heck of a lot more your audience might not know how to react to it and thus your game isn’t as tight as you’d like it to be.

2. Every once in awhile you have to shake things up.

Whereas consistency is a good thing for you, if you’re practiced shaking things up here and there could work to your benefit. Back when Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky in 1972, one of the turning points early on was Fischer changing from what everyone knew was his opening move. Spassky was so thrown that he never made a move in the game and resigned.

In blogging, safe is nice and comfortable but people need to be inspired to want to come to see what you have to say next, and that doesn’t happen unless you shake things up from time to time. I wonder how many people thought I was going to write a 2,800 word post on being happy a few days ago, or knew I was going to tell a story about my battle with a wasp, which I won. πŸ™‚

3. Both chess and blogging are predicated on the concept of a good beginning, middle and end.

There are thousands of chess books dedicated only to opening moves; experts consider it that important. There are also thousands of books dedicated to what they call the “end game”. The middle offers millions of possible combinations, yet it’s those middles that result from the beginnings and lead to those ends.

In blogging, at least for me, the best posts are told like stories, and every good story has a great beginning, middle and end. The introduction usually tells people what’s coming, or in some fashion brings them into play. The middle is the really interesting part, the meat if you will, because hopefully the writer gets you engrossed in some fashion such that you can’t wait to get to the end. The end… well, often it’s kind of anticlimactic in blogging, but many will tell you that if you’re trying to make money then how you close is really important, the “call to action” if you will.

4. Going for the draw or storming the fortress.

Two months ago Mitch Allen and myself wrote a joint guest post on one of Vernessa Taylor’s properties titled This IS a Game. It’s Your Move, a look at small business from the perspective of chess, which is probably why I thought I’d already written a post here on chess. We were asked to talk about what we saw was our most important business lesson as related to chess. I stated that sometimes one has to go for the draw when one needs to find balance in what they’re doing if they’re not already on top of things. Mitch wrote that a player can’t go after their goal without some kind of plan as to how they’re going to win in attacking the fortress the other player sets up.

Blogging is kind of like that. Unless it’s a blog like this one that doesn’t have a niche, you almost can’t afford to blog without having some idea of what it is you’re planning. Now to be truthful, I have set myself up so I can write about anything I want to, but I do also have plans. For instance, you know about Black Web Friday; that is planned. You know I write mainly about blogging and social media; that’s planned. Almost every subject I write about on a consistent basis is part of a plan. I don’t deviate all that often from the plans for this blog. I expect that’s why people come back; even though they don’t know what I’m going to talk about next, they do know that there are places I’m not going to go; this is a safe zone, no matter what topic I address.

5. If you play enough chess or blog enough, you’ll get better and find your rhythm.

When I started playing chess against people who knew what they were doing, I was losing a lot of games in about 10 moves. That was embarrassing to say the least. These days I’m not so easy to beat, even if I still don’t win them all (or even most of them against Mitch; Sire and I are pretty much equal). Yet I’m not a pushover; I have my set number of moves I want to get to, and I usually get there if I play someone more than once.

With blogging, I don’t have a set number of words, but I do have a style I like to maintain. This blog is more than 4 years old now, and if you have the nerve to look at the early posts and compare them to the newer posts, you’ll see that I got better at it. The same goes for my business blog and my newsletter; time and practice makes you better at everything. And with both chess and blogging, you get to do it over and over, so you can’t help but get better.
 

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WP Smush.It Issues With WordPress Version 3.3.2

This one will indeed be a very short post, so short I’m not even putting a picture in it.

If you’ve been having problems uploading images since the last WordPress update to 3.3.2 it’s most probably the WP Smush-It plugin, if you’re using it. It’s a great plugin for reducing the size of the images you upload but for some reason, it’s gone wonky with the latest update.

I did my research, of course, and the two recommendations were to delete your uploads file off your server and let it be created all over again and to inactivate all of your plugins and try to upload an image, and if it worked then you knew it was one of those. I actually did delete all my files first because I just can’t do the easy thing (I copied all images to my computer first) and the first image I loaded afterwards worked, but none of the others did.

I pretty much knew then that it was going to be one of two plugins on my computer, either the one dealing with caching or the one dealing directly with images. I chose that one and I’ve had nothing but success since.

Now, if you’re still having problems and don’t use that plugin at all, the other suggestion is still out there for you to try. And now I’m done… oh heck, okay, an image at the bottom. πŸ™‚

 

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Web Traffic Stinks; What Gives?

It’s the last day of April and in a way I think that’s a good thing. I’m hoping for some better things to come, and for the record, I’m talking about online things.

What an interesting month this was. There were some things I did that in the past would have been amazing in raising traffic. Instead, I seem to have taken a hit in traffic across the board except for one of my sites, and that makes no sense.

I had heard that there was indeed another Panda update from Google. I’ve been touched before so I figured that maybe it was done messing with me. Nope, seems not to be the case. This blog dropped about 25% in traffic over the last month, even though I’ve kept up the same posting schedule. Actually, it dropped the previous month as well, but only about 5% so I hadn’t thought much about it, but when I looked at Analytics again I noticed that suddenly on one day it dropped noticeably, which means I was doing pretty well until that point. Heck, I was even listed on Technorati’s top 100 business blogs in 68th place; that’s gone now.

I tried an experiment on my business blog that has always worked in the past. I wrote 18 articles in 15 days, and posted 15 straight days. Over the years, previous tests have always shown that more content equals more traffic; instead, traffic dropped about 10% during the period and continues to slowly drop. Now, this blog not being niched maybe I could see it, though I still wouldn’t like it, but my business blog is fairly strongly niched; no reason it shouldn’t have gone up.

My finance blog stayed almost the same, and my SEO blog did go up, but that one’s still fairly new. The website that made a nice recovery in my mind is my medical billing site, where traffic jumped 25% after falling some months ago, but my Adsense money hasn’t gone up any and that’s slightly disturbing. I got a notice from the Adsense folks saying I should add one more ad unit to each page, but I’m thinking that would be overkill.

Is anyone else noticing traffic fluctuations on their blogs or websites that aren’t positive? I know I’m not the only one, as I was reading a few blogs over the weekend lamenting the same thing. These things are getting out of hand in my opinion.
 

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Black Web Friday – 4/27/12

It’s another week of Black Web Friday, and during the week I was reminded once more why I started this process to begin with. One of my friends wrote to tell me about another list of top 50 whatever online. At least this list had 2 people of color on it, but my friend wrote anyway to ask why there were only 2, and the woman’s answer was that these were the only 3 she’d ever talked to online.

Black Web Friday

Well we can’t have that now can we? After all, the internet is replete with people of color, supposedly one of the fastest growing demographics for creating websites and blogs in the nation… okay, that would be black people specifically, and I thought I’d best go back to that to be clear with my terminology. So let’s see who I can share with you this week.

The site Loop 21 is something a little bit different. It’s a site that has news and commentary like some other sites I’ve highlighted before, but it also has magazine-type articles that I find kind of interesting, and that’s what sets it apart from the others. It also partners with sites such as Huffington Post and the Daily Beast, both definitely not black sites, to show a bit of diversity in its coverage. Very entertaining site.

Okay, I’m not going to lie; I don’t do pilates. That doesn’t mean no one else does them, and even though it’s not my thing, I found the site Pilates For Fitness by Gina Jackson intriguing. She’s a certified Pilates trainer who looks like, well, she does Pilates, and her blog covers other health topics such as dieting, cleansing and yoga. It also has a very cool look and a standard commenting system; if you’re looking to get healthy and want more than learning about my new healthy eating ways, check it out because it deserves a lot more attention.

Are you looking to learn more about working a small business? If so you’ll want to check out Melinda Emerson’s blog and website Succeed As Your Own Boss. She has a lot of articles that pertain to running a small business and articles on how to make it easier to do business as well. She has a lot of bonafides including being a TV producer, and there’s a lot to learn here. And it’s a WordPress standard comment system; gotta love that.

Mavis Nong breaks the mold on Black Web Friday with her Attraction Marketing Online blog because she’s the first non-American, being from South Africa but living in England. I ended up deciding to include her here because she writes a lot of great stuff about, well, marketing online, and I felt that she deserved to be better known as well so she gets in. She adds talking about MLM to her list of ventures, though I’m not an MLM kind of guy, but I know some of you are so here’s a nice resource for you. One post in particular that I liked was when she talked about LinkedIn Marketing giving more of a tutorial for doing it right as opposed to when I talked about the reality of trying to market on LinkedIn. And for the second straight week, all the blogs I named here have the standard WordPress comment system; yay!

There you go, 4 sites to check out as we head into May; wow, it’s going to be May already! Enjoy the weekend and check these sites out.
 

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How I’ve Lost 11 Pounds

For the last couple of months I’ve been part of a test being run locally on diabetics. Since I’ve been diabetic since 1997, I know a heck of a lot of it but have learned a few things here and there. It’s been an interesting process, and there’s still a ways to go.

spinach stir fry

One of the things I’ve sort of been forced to do is look at foods I’ve been eating in a different light. I’ve had to track the meals I’ve been eating every day, along with the times. I was given a book to help me “diagnose” certain things in certain foods and come up with daily totals. One week I had to measure carbohydrates and try to stay under a certain number. Another week I had to measure fat, and another week I had to measure protein.

Some of the numbers were eye opening. I was told that I was supposed to be having less than 55 grams of fat a day. That meant that what I’d been eating for breakfast, a meal I normally skipped but was told that I needed to try to eat during this study, was putting me on the wrong road immediately. Turns out 2 English muffins with butter and peanut butter was 37 grams of fat; ouch. One day I went to a restaurant for lunch and had 6 grilled shrimp, 1/2 rack of ribs, a small baked potato with butter and broccoli; that meal came to 71 grams of fat. You don’t even want to know how many grams of fat one trip to one of my favorite restaurants was, where I had a burger, fries and ice cream.

I was also told that I’m supposed to eat around 4 – 5 carb groups a day. That’s between 60 and 75 grams of carbohydrates per meal, 4 meals a day; yes, I was supposed to eat 4 real meals a day. My English muffin breakfast was at 4 carb groups, so there it was a fine meal. But that second meal I mentioned above came in at 6 groups, and the third meal I mentioned came in at 9 groups; definitely not good.

Once you start thinking about how you eat, you’re ready to make some changes. That’s probably the goal of the program in the first place, getting us actually thinking about it instead of just knowing it. There was also an occasion to view a movie online that my wife sent me called Knives Over Forks that my wife sent me via email that I had no plans on fully watching, but I’m glad I did. There was a guy in the movie who described symptoms that I often feel, and except for the fact that he also had high blood pressure and a cholesterol level that blows mine away (as in way too high), his symptoms matched mine.

I decided to change up my eating habits for awhile, just to see what would happen. The movie talks about a “plant-based” diet, which of course means more of a vegetarian diet, and that was going to be an issue since I eat few vegetables. I had to think about what I would eat. I like spinach and I like beets, both of which stuns many people because I guess it’s not a favorite of anyone else.

I decided I had to change up how I ate spinach, because I would boil it to death then add lots of butter and salt. I decided I was going to saute it in olive oil along with a few other vegetables that I will eat, those being cabbage, onions and carrots.

I also knew I had to toss some kind of meat in there to help make me full because there was no way just eating vegetables would last me longer than maybe an hour. To that end I decided to go with chicken, shrimp and salmon. I have more of the vegetables than the meat, but it’s a nice mix. Along with some spices, I’ve been surprised by how much I like this meal, and my wife has even bought fresh baby spinach, which not only cooks really fast but brings a better taste than the frozen spinach I’ve always purchased.

Obviously I couldn’t only eat this though. So I bought salad stuffs and have that from time to time, and even though the fat content of the only dressing I eat might be a bit high, since it’s the only real fat I have it’s fine for an occasional meal. I also discovered lactose-free milk, being lactose intolerant, and the dietician recommended eating bran and corn flakes if I liked it, which I always have. Since I buy 2% milk it’s only around 5 – 10 fat grams per bowl. And when I eat out I’ve been eating Caesar salads with grilled chicken, grilled shrimp or both.

Oh yeah, y’all knew I just couldn’t totally leave my sweets. So I get to have one chocolate milk a day if I want and I get to break from Friday dinner time through Saturday midnight. However, I’ve found that when I break from the other meals that I can’t eat all that much, so I’ve brought foods home and thus not had to buy a second meal out unless my wife ate what I brought home.

The question is what changes have I noticed? I still don’t sleep all that well, but I’ve only had a couple of instances where, after eating, I’ve felt bad, and none of it was due to the new foods I’ve eaten, but due to eating something when I didn’t have a choice to eat healthy, such as at a couple of meetings, and in those cases my chest burned and one meal put me to sleep 30 minutes after I got home. Not feeling bad after many meals is a major step forward.

The big two, however, are that my glucose level overall has come down, and I lost 11 pounds in less than 3 weeks; whoa! I expected the first might happen, but never thought about the second at all. Frankly, the second one is having a bigger impact on my staying good than the first, because it’s been 6 years since I’ve been able to actually lose some weight, and right now I’m at my lowest weight since 2006; just amazing. I’m 10 pounds from the weight I was able to get down to back then, and if I can continue this I’ll get there.

Oh yeah, I have done some exercising as well, but I haven’t gone overboard. I’ve maybe exercised 2 or 3 times a week, mainly walking, and that has a big influence on my glucose, and the cardio probably doesn’t hurt with the weight loss either.

I don’t want to say my buddy Evelyn is right, but I guess I have to say she was on the right track. I’m not going to become a fanatic, and I know that at some point I’m going to have my ice cream and cake. But I think this is a meal plan I can stick with easy enough because it doesn’t cost as much as what I’d been doing, cooks fairly quickly, and I like it. Still, I might have to find something else I’ll eat besides spinach that I don’t feel I need to add a bunch of butter to.

So, what do you think? Is this something you could do for yourself?
 

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