Welcome to the Let’s Get Inspired series, where I interview fellow bloggers on WordPress.com about their blogging journey, their process, what motivates them and their advice for other bloggers.
I am always looking for inspiration, and YouTube is my main source of inspiration. But, this year I thought why NOT speak to fellow bloggers on WordPress.com. We have a great community of bloggers here, who all have a lot of experience and wisdom to learn from. So, this how the Let’s Get Inspired series started.
Today, we are going be speak to our seventh blogger of the series, whose handle is ‘pendantry’.
I can’t recall when I started following the Wibble blog. I think it might have been when GDPR was all the talk of the town, or it might have been the threat of WordPress.com forcing us to change to the block editor. Either way, what got me hooked is pendantry’s quick wit and his immense knowledge and expertise in all the technical aspects of WordPress.com. Seriously, he is very knowledgeable and he openly shares these tips and tricks in an easily digestible format that most of us can grasp.
I hope you enjoy this interview. It is full of wit. He has great advice for all bloggers (especially me – lol), and he has included links to some of his blog posts that you might find interesting. This will be a two part interview. Today, we will focus on his many years of blogging. Additionally, I would like to challenge you to spot his BC reference and make a comment below; your prize will be a good laugh.
In part two we explore how he creates his graphics, how he uses social media, what advice he has for us bloggers and we get a bit technical (don’t get scared, pendantry’s post make the technical stuff easy to follow – if you want to!).
When did you start blogging?
I started my first blog on Microsoft Live Spaces in 2006. I wrote a few articles that received quite a bit of flak so I lost heart and deleted the lot. (There’s one post in particular that I wish I’d saved, because I thought it was quite insightful; I keep meaning to try to recreate that one, maybe I’ll get a round tuit one day.) After a bit of a break, I thought I’d give it another go, because I’ve always had this idea that individuals matter and their words can have an impact on the world. The World Wide Web offers the opportunity to do just that.
What made you choose WordPress.com?
I didn’t choose WordPress: after my initial failed attempt at a blog, I tried again and actually became quite happy with Microsoft Live Spaces. I invested quite a bit of time into developing my site. When Microsoft announced that they were abandoning their creation and passing it off to this other organisation, one I’d never heard of (WordPress), I have to admit that my first thought was to give up in disgust. Microsoft was showing its true colours: they couldn’t figure out how to make money out of it, so they were abandoning it. After the crowd that announced (at a ‘Web Designers’ Conference’ that I paid good money to attend) that they intended to ‘own the World Wide Web’ – a scant few months after they’d publicly dismissed the Internet as a ‘passing fad’ – it didn’t surprise me at all that they, Microsoft, gave up entirely on an application that brought people together. I very nearly ditched the idea when I was told that WordPress would be taking over… but I’m glad I didn’t. The initial switch was rather traumatic, akin to the troubles WordPress itself has created by foisting the ‘block editor’, along with all its flaws, prematurely upon its users. I lost a lot in the transition, including all the draft posts I had been working on in ‘Live Spaces’.
What is the central theme of your blog?
I don’t think my blog has a ‘central theme’. It’s a pretty eclectic mix of rants, poetry, fiction and assorted items I’ve discovered over the years that I’ve found interesting for one reason or another.
What are you trying to achieve with your blog?
I have this idea (that some no doubt would consider crazy) that ideas should be shared. I have my fair share of the things; they rattle around in my head, demanding to be released. I don’t mind sharing them… perhaps someone else will take my ideas and run with them. Whereas some might scream “Intellectual Property!” and run to their lawyers, I wouldn’t mind at all if someone were to take an idea I espouse on my blog – perhaps ‘Ye Oath of Giftiness’, or my suggestion for ‘a cure for homelessness’ – and do some good with it. I’d be happy with that; I would feel that I had made a contribution to society.
I also hope to give a voice to those who don’t have one, especially marginalised minorities like the tribes in the Amazon or Borneo, struggling to maintain their own way of life against the lumbering, voracious behemoth of global consumerism. I encourage people to speak up and share their views – although I have had to draw the line on a couple of occasions; I refuse to allow my blog to be used to spread disinformation. As I say on my ‘about’ page:
“I quite understand if you wish to disagree with what I have to say. I just hope that you live in a society that allows you to express that disagreement.”pendantry
A lot of my posts over the years, but perhaps more so lately, are quite simply rants against injustice and the crass stupidity of what I have come to call homo fatuus brutus. What I’m trying to achieve is to help people awaken to the reality that this crass consumerist society we’ve come to accept as ‘normal’ is anything but that.
Do you blog as a hobby, or do you want to expand it into something more?
It’s just a hobby; I make no money from it. Oh, I’ve tried various ‘money-making’ schemes over the years, such as back in 2007 when I used to convert ‘QWERTY’ keyboards to the Dvorak layout or more recently when I self-published a book, The Eclectic (you can get a copy of that free today only at this link!), but none of these have amounted to even the proverbial hill of beans.
I’ve never tried to ‘monetize’ my site – mainly because that would involve getting sucked into the soul-destroying morass of advertising (an industry that I passionately detest; I pay WordPress a subscription for their ‘personal plan’ just to avoid inflicting adverts on my visitors). I guess I do it because I enjoy the challenge of trying to use words to communicate. I like to think that I do that fairly effectively, most of the time; although I’m very well aware that we all fool ourselves about our abilities, more often than not.
How has your blogging journey evolved?
That’s an interesting question. I’ve never actually tried to analyse the content of my blog before… Let’s see: I’ve just been through my archives and see that in the fifteen years I’ve been blogging, I’ve published 654 posts (though WP-admin tells me the number is 633 – computers! /eyeroll). I’ve charted them below.
Activity in the first five years was pretty sporadic, with a high point in 2011 (probably occasioned by my skiing accident that year – I broke my clavicle and knee; I always knew that skiing was expensive, but never expected it to cost me an arm and a leg ka-boom-chah!), and my activity tailed off substantially in the next six years. A flurry in 2018 (I can’t recall what might have caused that, although that was the year I finally got around to attempting to expound my long-standing ‘eclipse coincidence’ theory) was followed by a very quiet 2019 – I only posted a single article that year, although it is one of which I’m quite proud (how to tell at a glance if the Moon is waxing or waning).
Especially from 2018 on, I’ve made attempts to pass on things I’ve learned, posting articles on such subjects as Gravatar, image optimisation, site longevity, link embedding, mouseover tooltips on links, reblogging, circumventing the flaw in Google Authenticator, time travel, and quoting within comments.
The huge peak in 2020 can no doubt can be attributed to the lockdown syndrome.
Overall, my blogging has been pretty much an eclectic mix of rants (on various subjects including the environment, politics, economics, technology) along with various attempts at poetry and flash fiction. Along the way I’ve recounted my experiences with such things as switching to the Dvorak keyboard layout, learning how to publish an eBook, and my adventures with a dumbphone. I’ve tried a few things to try to encourage collaboration, such as the Multiphasic Phlyarological University (which, despite my best efforts, has never gone anywhere) and, more recently, an initiative to crowdsource blog maintenance (which I call “?Random Raiders!”). It’s all interspersed with various things I’ve discovered along the way that I’ve found especially interesting, such as Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor on the glass harp, even the pessimists got it wrong (originally published in 2013 but recently revisited), the Antikythera mechanism, Overview, how Earth moves, human population through time and We Love the Earth.
If you were to ask me what I’ve learned most from my journey (you didn’t, but I’m going to answer it anyway) it would be an appreciation of the importance of two things: clarity and brevity. I’ve recognised that I have a tendency to meander and digress, and I think that long-winded, convoluted posts, no matter how important their message, do nobody any good. They may still be read, but any point they’re trying to make can get too easily lost.
How often do you blog or carry out blogging related actives?
That varies a lot, and depends upon whether the muse is with me. Sometimes post ideas just come to me, and other times I can think of nothing at all to write. I don’t try to force it. I’ve never allocated myself any set times to write, or time or word quotas or anything like that. I just go with the flow when the mood strikes – and when it does, the usual problem then is knowing when to stop.
Over the last year or so, I think I’ve done some sort of ‘blogging activity’ every day. I’ll develop a post, spend a couple of hours reading others’ blogs via the WordPress Reader, or perhaps visit one or other of my favourite blogs and see what my blogging friends are up to. But, as you can see from the chart above, the last year has been very unusual; there have over the years been ‘dry’ periods where I haven’t done any blogging activities at all, sometimes for months on end.
How long does it take to write a blog post?
That varies too. I spend quite a bit of time browsing YouTube, and sometimes I’ll find a particularly interesting video there and just post that on its own, allowing it to stand – or fall – on its own merits. I might spend a few minutes trying to compose an appropriate title, allocate relevant keywords as tags and categories, perhaps create an image, but that’s about it. Or I might find an exceptionally insightful blog post elsewhere and reblog it, which again doesn’t take all that long; a few minutes to add a preamble, and a few more to edit it immediately after posting to assign tags (since otherwise WordPress just applies the category ‘uncategorized’, which is no good to anyone).
The majority of my posts, though, tend to take some hours to compose. I’ll agonise over word choice and arrangement, attempting to knead in entertaining, gripping (well, I think it is anyway) prose, massaging the content into what I believe to be the best configuration. I don’t doubt that I’m fooling myself a lot of the time. I try hard to imagine I’m somebody else reading my words; but who can ever really do that?
How many times do you proofread, edit etc.?
That’s an ongoing process. I’ve never subscribed to the ‘write then edit’ maxim that suggests that you throw words onto a page and only then go back and edit; I tend to do most of my editing as I go along. I’m blessed – or cursed, depending upon how you look at it – with the ability to spot typos. They kind of jump up and down and shout “look at me!”. Even double spaces scream at me to collapse them.
Having said that, I don’t always complete a post in one sitting. Sometimes an idea for a new post will occur to me, but for one reason or another the composition won’t gel – in which case I do just sort of throw everything into a draft, and return to it later. Sometimes, that’s much later; looking now, I see that I currently have 69 draft posts, and I’m more than a little surprised to find that the oldest of those is almost ten years old! I really will have to do some housekeeping on that… one day 🙂
One thing I’ve learned to do is to use ‘preview’ – a lot. I usually preview posts several times, because even when I’m convinced I’ve crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’ in a post, when I hit ‘Preview’ and give it ‘one last’ read-through, I almost invariably find (yet another) typo, or see some wording tweak that I think will be an improvement. It seems to me that there’s clearly something psychological about that extra step, that halfway house between ‘completion’ and ‘publication’. Or maybe it’s just me 🙂
Another activity I spend a fair amount of time on is ‘re-edits’, revisiting old posts where I notice that something needs attention. Thanks to ?Random Raiders! I’ve been doing quite a bit of that lately, as other ‘raiders’ have pointed out bad links, missing videos and the like on several posts on Wibble (and once I’ve dealt with those, I return the favour by visiting a ‘?random’ page on their site). I’ve long held the view that blogs are a composite work; I feel they’re more than just a mass of throwaway articles with the latest most visible simply because it happens to be the one on top. Sure, there’s dross lurking in anyone’s previous posts; a lot of content simply gets out of date (but may still be worth retaining for historical reasons, or simply for nostalgia). But there are often gems to be found, too, and I think it’s a pity that those posts get buried. Fandango’s Flashback Friday helps to bring those to the fore, though personally I prefer using the time machine that the WordPress ?random function provides.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
I have a desk in my room at which I sit and write. Far more years ago – BC, Before Computers – than I care to think about, I used to write longhand, but the memory of the cramps in my hand I got from doing that are enough to prevent me even considering trying it nowadays. And then, for more years, I typed on a Sholes (‘QWERTY’) layout, but that was just hunt-and-peck, using just a few fingers. And because I was constantly looking down at the keyboard, that used to give me serious back pain, as my posture was all wrong. Back in 2007, I taught myself to touch-type (on the Dvorak layout) and I’ve never looked back.
A bit of a digression, there – sorry about that – but the point is that I need a desktop, a keyboard, and a computer to write. I’ve never bothered with a notepad (the pencil-and-paper variety); if an idea bubbles up, I just make a beeline for my PC. And even though I now (after many years of resisting it) use a dumbphone, the thought of trying to write anything longer than an email using that makes me shudder.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying “No, sorry, you can’t have a picture of me at my desk because a) I’d have to spend a half-day tidying up the mess on it, and b) I’m ugly as sin and it might put your readers off their dinner.” I’m afraid that the best I can offer you is this:
How do you generate ideas for your blog topics?
I don’t have any techniques for doing that. As I mentioned earlier, the muse is either with me, or not, and I don’t fret about it when the ideas don’t come. I guess that’s why writing is just a hobby for me; I enjoy it too much, when doing it, to risk creating a situation where I might be obliged to come up with some words, any words, just to pay the bills, meet a deadline, or keep a boss happy.
How often do you publish a blog post?
I currently publish something about once a week. I went through a phase about a year ago where I published a post every day, but that was unusual. At the time I was scheduling a post every day and was always a couple of weeks ahead, but eventually I ran out of steam. I still schedule posts in advance; WordPress’s ‘Insights’ feature has been telling me for ages that four in the afternoon is the ‘best’ time, so I schedule for then, perhaps a few days in advance unless the content is particularly ‘hot’.
Out of all your blog posts that you published to date – which 3 are your favourite?
Woah, that’s a toughie. Ask me on a different day and I might come up with three others, but today I’ll offer you these:
- How far did Marvin fall?
- How to tell at a glance if the Moon is waxing or waning
- The illusion of free will
I like those three because they all involve epiphanies: a mundane one about a mistake in one of my favourite stories; a useful fact about the Moon that suddenly struck me one day, and the mind-blowing one on a possible way to reconcile the concepts of ‘fate’ and ‘free will’.
Oh, and here’s a bonus one: homo fatuus brutus: veni, vidi, abii, which is, I think, possibly my all-time favourite post. Unfortunately, the link at the end of it (which is supposed to reveal that “veni, vidi, abii” is Latin for “I came, I saw, I went”) has a problem in that the Google Translate widget always suggests that the translation is just “I came, I saw, I “ – yep, that’s right, “… I (nothing)”. Maybe, in a way, that fits, too. Every time I visit that Google Translate page, I edit it to correct it, but my amendment never sticks. Maybe I’m just wrong in my belief that “abii” is Latin for “I went”? (WordSense agrees that I’m not wrong). Yes, it’s a futile endeavour, but that’s pretty much the whole point 🙂
What do you love about blogging?
I’m an old fogey. I remember the days before the Internet – before computers, even. In those days, most individuals had no voice. You could buy books and newspapers (remember them?) and read them, you could listen to the radio, and you could watch TV. Almost all of the words and thoughts we consumed came from others. Oh, sure, it was possible to write an opinion piece and send it in to the ‘letters page’ in your local rag on the off-chance that they might print it, or even create and publish your own newsletter. You could write a book, and maybe even get lucky and get it published.
But when the Internet came along it suddenly became easy for absolutely anyone to get their words out where others had the chance to see them; for me, that’s when the magic began. I’m not talking about ‘social media’; I’m no fan of that – especially lately, when it’s being used to spread so much misinformation. And while what you had for dinner may have been tasty for you, call me insensitive but I’m really not that interested in hearing about it (unless it was something really bizarre, like Broiled Kraken or Loch Ness Monster au gratin). WordPress has its flaws (*cough* block editor *cough*), but it’s built around open source. I particularly like WordPress’s mission (“to democratize publishing” and “to make the web a better place”) and especially the attitude they take towards bloggers’ words (they encourage us to express ourselves freely, and they don’t claim any ownership rights on content – see the terms of service).
WordPress’s stats tell me that there are just under 180,000 words on my blog. And (apart from those in just one guest post) they’re all mine! 🙂 That seems a lot, but I know I’ve written many times that number over the years in various places… many of those will still be ‘out there’, somewhere, but those on Wibble are all neatly in one place, relatively easy to find.
And of course, last but not least, there’s the friends I’ve made here. There are many different fora on the interwebs, but WordPress is the only one I’ve found that has such a genuinely friendly community. To me, ‘blogging’ means ‘WordPress’. And I love it. Or I wouldn’t do it.
What don’t you like about blogging?
Not much. Well, there’s the WordPress block editor, and the way it’s been foisted upon us all without it being properly tested before being rolled out. It’s sluggish, klunky, quirky and glitchy. And there’s the fact that the theme I’ve used on Wibble for the last decade (‘Twenty Ten’) is ‘retired’, and the Happiness Engineers sometimes use that as an excuse not to give me support with problems I encounter. Oh, and speaking of support, I really like the WordPress ‘live chat’ support system; it’s really handy to get immediate help when needed rather than having to wait for emails to bounce back and forth. But I found out (quite by accident) not long ago that it’s no longer included in the ‘personal plan’ (I’m still entitled to it at present because I signed up for a two year personal plan back when it was included). Bit sneaky of them to change the rules like that without telling me about it.
But really, that’s about it.
What is your biggest blogging lesson?
You have a lot of difficult questions, and this one is probably the hardest so far! Let me see… well, the World Wide Web is based on links. And the heart of blogging is the community. So, if I were to advocate a ‘lesson’, it would be to combine the two: words on their own are good, but words linked to others’ words are better. And links are good, but they’re best when the one at the other side of the link is aware that the link has been made. WordPress’s ‘pingback’ mechanism allows exactly that.
To illustrate: I could link to the home page of my friend Goldie’s blog. But there’s barely even a snowball’s chance in hell that he’d ever get to find out about that. If, on the other hand, I link directly to a specific post on Goldie’s blog (I’ll pick the one where he talks about pingbacks, entitled ‘Pingbacks – the illusive mythical creatures of WP’) then I know he should get a pingback notifying him that someone else had linked to that page. (By the way, Goldie: Did you mean ‘elusive’?)
Oh, and I know you only asked for one ‘lesson’, but here’s another tip that might come in useful for some: the basic, free, WordPress plan comes with ‘just’ 3Gb of storage space for media files. I say ‘just’ in quotes because it makes me laugh: that’s absolutely oodles of space – more than enough, if you optimise your images. Because I pay for the ‘personal plan’ for Wibble it has twice that, 6Gb. But I’m only using a fiddly 0.5% of that 6Gb, and the reason my usage is so low is that I’ve always optimised my images to make them lean. This not only saves on storage space, it also means that the pages load faster, too.
That’s something I learned long ago, when Internet access was accomplished via dial-up using a modem, and bandwidth was precious. As an example, if I take a single photograph on my dumbphone, that will be absolutely huge; maybe 3Mb, or even more. It doesn’t take a great many of those to fill up 3Gb. And they’re equally gigantic in terms of pixel dimensions, too; much, much bigger than is necessary for a web page. Editing them so that they’re smaller (my rule of thumb is no more than 350 pixels wide) cuts their size down immensely. Instead of 3Mb per image, we’re talking maybe 2% of that, 60Kb per image (or even less). As for how to do that, you’d need image editing software (I talked about that earlier)… and here’s that link again to my post ‘Turbo-boost your site by optimising images’.
What keeps you blogging? Do you find it hard to juggle life and blogging?
It’s not really a question of ‘what keeps me blogging,’ it’s more a matter of ‘I can’t imagine a time when I wouldn’t want to.’ There’s so much injustice in our world, and as the old adage goes, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Yes, my audience is tiny and a lot of my posts are simply rants tilting at windmills, but I’m glad that the opportunity exists for me to get my thoughts ‘out there.’ If the best I can hope for is to give someone a smile occasionally, well, though I could hope for more, that’s still good enough for me.
Are you inspired, motivated?
I hope you have enjoyed part one of this interview. I also found his journey of blogging interesting and his experiments with different keyboards to alleviate back pain fascinating. Most of all I appreciate pendantry’s free sharing of his many posts on the technical aspects of WordPress.com (which, I think we will all find useful). He has also shared an important post on how we can optimise our images to ensure our blogs load faster. And finally his responses really give us a sense of his personality.
In part two, we discuss how pendantry uses social media. We learn about the software he uses for creating his graphics. We also get a bit technical (don’t get scared, keep an open mind, it might be helpful), and finally, he will share his advice for us bloggers.
Do visit again next week to read part two which will be quite interesting. In the meantime, please do take some time to visit his blog Wibble. Pendantry is the seventh blogger I have interviewed as part of this series, below are the other six, please do take time to read their interviews.
Images: Feature image created on canva.com, pixel, and the other images have been supplied by pendantry (therefore belong to him!)