All posts by Mitch Mitchell

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

Javascript Can Wreck Havoc With Blogs

Over the last bunch of days, sometimes my blog has been very slow to access. I wasn’t sure what it was, though, so I started doing some testing, and it seems that the lethargy has been tracked down to incompatibility of javascript created items that I’ve been adding to my blog.

Of course, we all have a lot of javascript things on our blogs if we’re monetizing them. Adsense is a javascript program. Widget Bucks is a javascript program. Chitika is a javascript program. I’ve had Adsense almost forever, and my blog never ran this slow. I’m not sure about either Widget Bucks or Chitika. I had two other minor things on my blog, both from Grader.com, and I took those off because each one was a javascript program.

Not that talking about javascript slowing down blogs is new. A blog post that probably didn’t get the attention it deserved comes from Alex Iskold’s Technology blog, where he wrote a post titled How Javascript Is Slowing Down The Web. In it, he talks about the problems that can occur when multiple “single” lines of javascript code come together from varying sources. He talks about how javascript performs things sequentially and not concurrently, and that anytime a piece of JavaScript is being loaded or evaluated, everything else has to wait.

Now, supposedly there’s things that can be done for different browsers, but none of those things are absolutes. That, plus it’s very technical stuff; most of us regular folks won’t understand it, let alone what to do with it. However, something I’m speculating is that when there’s two javascript programs next to each other, that’s when things have an opportunity to fail, even if the same company created both programs. When I first removed the Widget Bucks affiliate banner that was sitting next to their skyboard banner, this blog was running much faster. Since then, though, it seems to go up and down. Frankly, I’m not really sure what to do next, other than removing all javascript programs, and that’s not about to happen. It’s possible that it’s related to either the LinkXL or Kontera ads that have recently started running on this blog also; I’m just not really sure.

Luckily, the slowdown time is infrequent, so I hope it doesn’t overly disturb anyone. However, if it starts bothering me often enough, I’m going to start moving things around some more, trying to make sure there’s some kind of distance between all the javascript that’s going on. At least the Daily Puppy widget isn’t javascript; aren’t they cute? Anyway, Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome talks about how javascript works in web browsers, so I’m sharing that here; enjoy!

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Book Writing Series Part Three – When And How To Write

As we move into stage three, I first want to look back at my post titled How Do You Write from a couple of weeks ago. First, at that time I was asking about how people wrote their blogs, as far as it pertained to speed, length of posts, and frequency. I wanted it to be clear that this particular step is going to talk about something quite different, but if you want to go back and read that post, I won’t be mad at you.

First, let’s look at when you’ll write. Pretty much, you can write whenever you feel like writing, obviously. When I first started writing my book, I decided that I was going to write from Friday through Sunday as much as possible, because I needed time during the week to work on marketing my business. Sometimes I wrote in the evenings when the mood hit me, but mainly I wrote on the weekends. I felt that if I was going to progress that I had to schedule myself the time to write.

For some people, they like scheduling their time to write. Big time novelists write in different ways themselves. Some treat it just like a job, spending 8 hours a day writing or researching to write their books. Some writers will decide to write only two hours a day. Some people like waking very early in the morning and putting their time in before going about their day; some people like to have their days to themselves, then work at night.

When you decide to write isn’t as important as having a schedule for when you hope to write. You don’t have to stick to the schedule, of course, but it works out much better if you can. However, always be prepared for life to get in the way of things.

As a for instance, I started my book in late July of 2001. I pretty much kept to my schedule, and things were coming along pretty well. Then, out of the blue, we all know what happened on September 11, 2001. Living in the state of New York, I felt the pain of the day pretty much like most New Yorkers did, being about 5 hours from the event. For three days I did nothing but watch TV until I was able to finally pull myself away from it all. However, it pretty much took me two months after that before I would even come close to consider getting back to the book. I just couldn’t concentrate on it at that point, or anything else, which wasn’t good, but we all deal with shock in our own way.

What brought me back to my senses was learning that my dad had cancer. Earlier in the year he had gone on dialysis, and I had started my own business, and after 9/11 now I’m learning that my dad had cancer. I knew for the first time just how sick my dad was, and I wasn’t sure how long he would be with us. I decided then and there that I was going to finish my book as quickly as I could so that I could tell Dad that I’d written it, and hopefully he’d have the opportunity to read it, if possible.

So I redoubled my efforts, but I found that I was having some difficulties. Here is where I’m going to move into part two of this lesson, that being the how one writes. I’m a typing guy; lucky for me, when I feel like it, I can type close to 100 words a minute. Some people love typing on the computer, which is me. Some people still use old time typewriters. Some folks like hand writing everything. All of these are good, but there’s something you could think of doing that might help you get over the hump.

I found myself starting to get into some kind of rut, and that was driving me nuts. What I decided to do was head to the computer store and buy some voice recognition software. At the time, I purchased IBM’s Via Voice recognition software, which worked pretty well, although now I use Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking software, which is much better. You go through a training process where you read scripted writings and the program learns your voice, and then you’re good to go. No software is perfect because none of us speaks perfectly, but it’s pretty good, and all it leaves for you to do is go back and do some serious editing. There will never be any spelling mistakes, but that could make editing slightly difficult.

However, this allowed me to really push the rest of my book through. It obviously works better with nonfiction than fiction because it will never spell weird names properly, although you can train it to recognize some names, but it makes things go really nicely, no matter how fast you can type, because you can just talk and talk and have all these words down in your word processing program, and since you’d have to edit your book anyway, it’s easier to go back and only have to remove and retype what you need to. Anyway, I had many points that I wanted to get to as it regarded my book, and I hadn’t written a single thing for any of them other than what was on my outline. So, what I did was go to each point, speak a few paragraphs, just to get something down, then later on while I was editing, if I wanted to add more then I did, and I always wanted to write more. The voice recognition program was just what I needed to push through.

Of course, the final thing about how you’ll write is what conditions you want to surround yourself with. When I was deep into my writing I needed some type of sound in the background, so I’d put on music. It didn’t matter what type of music it was, because I pretty much blanked it out while I was writing anyway. This is opposed to what I do when I’m working from home and writing articles; in that case, I usually have the television on, with the sound down, because it makes me feel as though I’m in an environment where there’s other people around, and sometimes I need that for my sanity. Having a laptop makes life pretty good because sometimes I grab it and go to the library, or to Barnes and Noble if I want a cookie; I love their cookies! I know some people need absolute quiet, and that’s okay also; whatever makes you comfortable, that’s where you want to be.

And that’s the end of step three. At this point, all the upfront preparation topics have been covered, and now it’s time for you to write, figuratively speaking. Next time I’m going to talk about the editing process for your book; come back for more.

Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

by Jack Canfield,
Mark Victor Hansen,
and Matthew E. Adams


Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Mitch Mitchell

Chitika

After months of my friend Sire beating me up about it, I’ve finally decided to sign up with Chitika. Chitika is another PPC (pay-per-click) advertising company along the lines of Adsense and Widget Bucks, but there’s a difference, which I’ll get to in a couple of minutes.

Signing up is fairly easy to do. You put in all of your demographic information, along with a preferred username and password, and make the determination of how you want to get paid. Then you hit the button, and you’ll get an email where you click the link to activate your account.

The next step is to pick the type of ad you want to display, and select the colors. Oddly enough, you’ll have two options, which I thought was odd until I read it a little bit better. I’ll start with option two, which gives you the opportunity to select an alternate link or product to advertise instead of their offering. They do that because of option one, which states that if you select it, the only people who will see the ad are people who come to your site via a search engine. Yup, that means if you’re a regular reader and therefore visit the site any other way, you’ll never see the regular Chitika ads, but anyone who might find you via a search engine will. The idea is that people who come to you via a search engine represents targeted traffic, and their advertisers will pay a higher rate for targeted traffic. At the same time, your normal visitors won’t have to be subjected to the ads. One other odd thing is that, as long as I’m considered as logged into my account, I’ll never see any of those ads either; weird, right?

Of course, that doesn’t mean one can’t represent them with affiliate tags, which I’ve done over there to the left. I didn’t read how much I could get if anyone signs up after clicking on the button; truthfully, I haven’t really paid much attention to any of the affiliate ads as far as how much I could get paid, which I now have to admit is a little strange for someone who’s usually as anal as I can be about these types of things. I guess I figure if any of them make money, I’ve done fairly wel.

So, we’ll see how it goes on the blog. Sire states that Chitika brings in more money on his blog than Adsense; I guess another test will tell the tale, but, since this blog brings in almost no Adsense money, it might not be a fair fight.

Book Writing Series Step Two – The Planning

In step one of this series, I talked about the concept and why it’s so important to do upfront thinking. Near the end, I mentioned having an outline or a journal or both. In this step, I’m going to talk about those two items just a little bit more.

writing a bestseller
Compfight

Whenever I’m going to give a presentation, I always start with an outline. I like to try to write down all the main topics first, then break them down into subcategories. This helps me focus on what I want to cover and need to cover, based on the time frame that’s been allotted me.

I do the same thing with everything I have to write, including this series. It helps me know where I want to take my content, and helps me make sure I’m not forgetting something. Having an outline doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll remember everything, but it’ll make it less likely that you’ll forget the most important things.

I have outlines for other things. Because I travel a lot, I have an outline, or list, of everything that I might take on a trip with me, whether it’s a road trip or a plane trip. As something new comes into the picture, I add it, and if something can be deleted, I take it off. I always create my outlines in Excel, because it’s so easy to modify at a moment’s notice.

At the present time I have four other books underway, believe it or not. I don’t know if I’ll finish any of them, although I expect that I will finish at least one of them since I’m halfway through. It’s a detective story, oddly enough, since I spent some time talking about that in the first part of the series.

Before I decided I wanted to write the story, I created an outline for it. I did this because in my past I’ve started countless numbers of books, and one of the things you learn pretty quickly when you write fiction is that it’s easy to go off point and start loading your story with things you just can’t remember, and you’re not sure where they came from.

Every fiction writer will say the same thing, whether they have an outline or not. J.K. Rowlings, for example, talked after the last book about the fact that she had actually planned on killing Arthur Weasley, Ron’s father, in the fourth book, but decided she just couldn’t do it, and that he would make the rest of the series go much better if he stuck around; it did! 🙂

I’ve got a nicely detailed outline for my detective story, and yet I’ve already gone off point a few times, adding things I never expected to add, because they seemed to fit at the time. It makes my outline even more important because I know where I want the story to come back to, and therefore I’ll figure out how to get back there. For someone like me who might need to leave at a moment’s notice, an outline helps me get back to where I was and allows me to continue on the path I’d already started.

For my first book, my outline was crucial because it helped me decide the different stages I wanted to take, as well as which stages needed fleshing out. For instance, in one part I decided to come up with different employee types and give a synopsis of each of those types. That wasn’t one of my original thoughts, but it came about while going through my outline the second time.

Writing
Jonathan Reyes
via Compfight

When you use an outline, it can be just be a sheet of ideas, not necessarily in any order. You’re going to go through it a few more times, and that’s when you’ll be able to establish the direction you want to go in.

Now we come back to the journal idea I’d talked about before. Journals don’t have to be overly detailed, but having one helps you keep all the players together in your mind.

In my detective story, I introduced a character whom I hadn’t had in my original outline, and decided this was someone who knew the main character when they were much younger. Suddenly I had someone in my story I didn’t know all that well, and I realized that if he was going to be in this story, I needed to know more about him.

I wrote a very short bio for him, just so I could not only remember who he was supposed to be, but to make sure I’d keep spelling his name properly throughout the rest of the story. Believe it or not, even small things like that happen from time to time to many writers, and often they’ll be missed by editors, who get so used to looking for grammatical errors and not necessarily misspelled names, especially if those names aren’t normal.

I don’t want to scare anyone by using the term “journal” because journals don’t have to be all that long. If you’re writing something up about a new character who might play a part of even minor significance, it could be as short as one or two lines.

The idea isn’t to totally detail every character who’s going to be in your story; after all, if you do that, it starts to restrict what it is you want to write about. At least that’s my theory; I do know writers who write full blown biographies of every person in their story, which once again includes Rowling. I think I’ll go with saying that if you need to know your characters better then knowing more about them in your mind will help you stay on point, but maybe minor characters can be skipped.

Writing is supposed to be about creativity, no matter what you’re writing. But journaling, along with having outlines, gives you the assistance needed to remember who your character is, what your point is, and after that, you can go wherever you want to go.

And that’s the end of step two. What will step three be? Stay tuned.
 

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Book Writing Series Step One – The Concept

This is the first part of my series on writing and publishing a book. I want to make a few things clear, if I may. One, not all of these concepts are specific to writing “print” books. Many of these concepts can be used in writing ebooks, magazine articles, short stories, or pretty much anything else one wishes to write. Two, all of these steps aren’t concrete; these are my opinions on the steps one should take, or things one should think about.

Writing
Pedro Ribeiro Simões
via Compfight

This may seem like the most basic step to most people, but it’s actually the one that keeps a lot of people from starting. Every person has to first decide what they want to write about, but it has to be more detailed than what they think.

For instance, you may say you want to write a detective story. Okay, what kind of detective story do you want to write? Do you want your main character to be a male or a female? Is it an agency or an individual? What kind of detective agency; serious crimes, following around people cheating on each other, finding lost children? Is there a particular area of the world your detectives are living in, and do you know enough about that area to write plausibly? What race is your main character; weight, height, background? Are they funny, serious, brooding, good looking, ugly, troubled, perfect, educated, rich, poor, sexual? Are they well known, well liked, well traveled, or are they the opposite? Are they more like James Bond or Easy Rollins or Kinsey Milhone? Or are they actually something else entirely, but end up doing detective like stuff, such as Dirk Pitt or Stone Barrington?

Or maybe you want to write a book about travel. Are you going to try to cover the entire world, or just a specific segment? Are you going to talk about places you’ve been, or places you’ve researched? Will there be images? Will there be history? Are you going to talk about the foods, the demographics, the politics?

Perspective is always key when you decide you want to write something. Almost no one gets away with writing about something they really don’t know anything about. Many years ago a friend and I decided to write a short story about a guy who ran a mining company on the planet Mercury, and how, on his return flight back to Earth, settings on his ship had been altered and, instead of flying back towards Earth, he was heading towards the sun, and had to try to figure out a way to get things changed before he was killed. Sounded like a plausible thing for us, as I wrote the storyline part and my friend dug into a little bit of the science. We submitted the story and got rejected soundly, saying our science wasn’t close to being legitimate enough to make the story plausible. Though the storyline was a pretty good one, we were way out of our realm in trying to write a science fiction story to pull it off.

I told you about my book, which I’m not going to mention here, but expect it in the next post; hey, I get to plug also, right? 🙂 Anyway, it’s a book on leadership and management. I had been thinking about writing that book for years before I started. I had always been the leader of my group as a kid, and when I got my first real job, I worked as a regular employee for 8 months before I was promoted to management, and I’d been in a leadership position ever since until I went into consulting, and even now, I always go into a consulting assignment in a leadership or independent role. While I was a director, twice the place I was working brought in survey companies to question the employees on management, and both times I came out as either the top ranked leader or tied for the top ranked leader. I always had other managers and directors and supervisors coming to me to ask how I would handle situations involving their employees. I felt that this was a subject that I was imminently qualified to write about. And even with that, I still did a little bit of research, because I wanted to have some statistics behind me while I was giving my tips.

Every book written doesn’t necessarily need to have research done, but if facts are put into a book they need to be somewhat accurate. For instance, if you mention the name of a song and the group that sang the song, it had better be correct, unless you’re writing an alternate universe story. If you’re a male and writing the story from a female perspective, you’d better be sure you’ve captured how women think and act correctly, and not just your impression of how women are.

Anyway, this all leads to what all the preparation and concept of what you’re going to write is all about. No one sits down one day and starts writing a book. Most probably, you’ve been thinking about something for a long time. Hopefully it’s become a passion for you, but it’s possible that you’re a hired gun; the process is the same.

What I recommend is to create an outline or a fact sheet, or both. An outline helps you determine in which order you want things to happen in your book. It also allows you to group common themes together if it’s a nonfiction book, or keep the flow of your book together if it’s fiction. A fact sheet allows you to put down facts that you garner from research, or write more detailed biographies of characters you introduce in your story. I know one guy who actually writes mini diaries of all the characters in his books, even if they only appear in one chapter, if he gives them a name. That way, he feels he has a better chance of capturing their personality properly as his story goes along, in case that character gets introduced again. But that’s for another time.

This gets us started on our series. I hope you’ve picked up at least one or two tips, if you needed them. Be looking out for part two of this series.
 

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