Tips for blogging

12 July, 2011 § Leave a comment

It is not always easy to come up with topics to blog about.

  • When I was in the Black Poet Society at Michigan State University, we often had people (including myself) that would go through periods of writers block.
  • At the beginning of 2011, I decided I would try to write a blog post per day and it wasn’t easy to think of topics.

There are a few strategies for writing that I have come to rely upon.

  1. As I am going through my day, I like to keep a small piece of paper handy for me to jot down ideas that pop up. These are helpful because without writing them down, I am likely to forget them and never revisit them. They don’t have to be perfect topics, but they plant a seed that can grow to a full blog post.
  2. WordPress.com has built-in visitor statistics. These are useful to see how your visitors have landed on your blog. Once in a while I will see a user’s search query who was looking for something that I didn’t provide. If the topic is interesting, I might add it to my list.
  3. The third and most important strategy is to narrow down your topics. When presented with less choice, it is easier to make a decision. We used this strategy in our poetry workshops, and there is no reason that it can’t be used for blogging. Don’t think, “What would be something cool to write about?” Instead, find a tangible object in your house and think about what you can write based on that object. This drastically narrows the scope, and makes creativity blossom.

Re: Discourses – An Introduction

26 May, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve been reading Racism 101, a book by Nikki Giovanni. In a section entitled “Discourses: An Introduction”, Giovanni writes:

Writing is both a public and private pleasure. We write alone, talking to ourselves, trying to explain the universe in a series of metaphors, hoping to be understood. We mostly put away our thoughts, satisfied that we have written them. Occasionally we take a chance comparable only to skydiving without a parachute: We say to family, friend or lover, “Look what I wrote.”

Parents spoil children. Having been, and, in fact, being, both a child and a parent, I remember the utter embarrassment of my mother taking my poor efforts and putting them on walls. Even yet she has things I wrote in my preschool days. I have done the same to my son. Little notes he wrote from vacations, stories from second grade, are neatly framed, gracing my walls. I don’t think parents do that to hold on to the child; I think we do it to let the child know we are proud of the effort. The only thing more embarrassing than having to look at and be reminded that once we could neither color within the lines nor spell is … well … nothing. Where would we be if mothers didn’t hold on to scraps. How would we know who we are?

Tonight I was looking through some of my childhood writings, and came across a creative writing piece called, “Mom Can I Have A Party”. It appears that I wrote it in 3rd grade and tried unsuccessfully to get it published in the Lansing State Journal. I am posting this here because writers like Nikki Giovanni have inspired me to share one of the places where I came from.

I now present to you, in its raw and unedited form, “Mom Can I Have A Party”:

“Mom can I have a party?” asked Correy.
“Not until the house is clean,” said mom.
“Ok” said Correy. So Correy rushed to the Mini-Mart and bought a vacuum.

The  he went back home as fast as he could so he could have the party.

When he got home he vacuumed all that he could vacuum and threw away every single piece of paper in the house until his mom screamed, “Correy! Don’t throw away ALL the paper away in the house.”

“Okay mom. But it will look alot cleaner,” yelled Correy.

“No it will look alot dirtier,” screamed mom.

“Ok,” said Correy. So Correy rushed outside and got some of the paper. While his mom was washing the dishes Correy’s dad zoomed home in a limo, because Correy’s dad worked for the FBI.

He had some black sunglasses on and a trenchcoat. When Correy was done cleaning he set up the couch and was ready for the party.

Then he rushed to the phone and invited all his friend. He had diet Coke and Minute Maid. “We were on tv and ABC. We also had Shaquille O’Neal come over because we lived on planet Reebok,” shouted a kid.

“Mom! I got two dogs and their names are Snuffleupagus and Princess” yelled Correy. They are boy and a girl. Princess and Snuffleupagus had 5 babies. They looked just like their parents. After the party Shaq autographed Correy’s Shaquille O’Neal plaque. His mom said the house looked like a pigpen. But Correy just went to the TV and turned it on and a McDonalds’ commercial came on and it and it said “Hey! It could happen to you!” So Correy ran to the TV and turned it off.

So Correy rushed to his mom and asked for some money to get a shampooer for the carpet, because their were 15 stains in the carpet. And then he cleaned up the house.(Like at the beginning of the story.)

TO BE CONTINUED………

Wow, it sure is interesting to see where I came from. Without holding on to writing like the piece above, I would have no idea just how far my writing has progressed (or regressed).

2010 in review

7 January, 2011 § 4 Comments

As 2010 comes to a close, I wanted to cover how my blog did in 2010. Here’s a monthly chart of the of the views since I have started blogging:

Crunchy numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,300 times in 2010. That’s about 15 full 747s.

Featured imageSince the initial launch, the blog has been viewed 10,205 times. I am really happy with the direction of the blog and I encourage everyone to make their own blog as it is a great way to grow as a writer and thinker.

In 2010, there were 42 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 146 posts.

The busiest day of the year was December 26th with 107 views. The most popular post that day was My first public Chrome extension – “Multiple Monitor Full Screen”.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were stackoverflow.com, en.wordpress.com, youtube.com, netvibes.com, and google.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for msujaws wordpress, mstest c++, memristor, youtube playlist downloader, and vs2010 c++0x.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Unit testing MFC with MSTest May 2009
8 comments

2

C++0x support in VC10 (VS2010) February 2010
3 comments

3

YouTube Playlist Downloader December 2008
18 comments

4

The Missing Memristor May 2010
2 comments

5

Using Google Mock outside of Google Test May 2009
7 comments

What’s up next?

My post on Unit testing MFC with MSTest has continued to be one of my highest visited posts. I am looking at creating a follow up post with a sample project, as well as another post about what I’m now using for unit tests (hint: it’s not MSTest).

I will be continuing to write blog posts, and I’m going to try to increase the rate of posting for this blog as the rate of visits has been increasing very healthily over the years.

Writing a critique of a scholarly article

5 September, 2010 § 2 Comments

For the first assignment in my Artificial Intelligence course, we are to write a critique of Alan Turing’s “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”. Now I’m pretty sure I’ve written a critique before and I know that it is not a summary of the paper, but I think having the summer off from graduate school allowed for a relapse on the exact mechanics of a critique.

I took this as an opportunity to ask my friend Jim, who is currently studying for a Masters in Fine Arts from Chicago State University, for some tips on writing a critique. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone, so I’d like to share the tips and offer the opportunity to others for feedback on these tips.

Here are the tips:

  1. Pick a side of the argument that the author made (agree/disagree).
  2. Say what parts of the argument you agree/disagree with.
  3. Spend more time pointing out flaws vs. pointing out strengths.
  4. If the author has a point/counterpoint, double-check that the point/counterpoint are actually opposites of each other.
  5. If the writing is historical in nature, look for predictions that turned out wrong.
  6. What could the author have done better with their analysis.

I also found useful the document titled “How to do a Close Reading” by Patricia Kain of the Writing Center at Harvard University. Although writing a critique and a close reading are, in my understanding, two very different activities, there are useful tips given on how to analyze writings and approach them from different viewpoints.

Those are the tips I’ve got so far. Let me know what you think of them or if you have any to add by leaving a comment to this post.

Usability issue with WordPress

10 May, 2009 § Leave a comment

Writing a blog is a new thing for me. I started blogging back in November, and since then have really liked being able to document new topics that I have learned and other experiences.

When I’m finished with writing a post, I like to go over the post and look up specific topics or special unique characteristics about the post and add them to the list of tags for the post. This is nice because it allows posts to be categorized easily and also allows another way to summarize what a post is about.

In the WordPress interface, there is a textbox for entering in tags. You enter in the tags and separate each one with a comma. When you are done entering in the tags, you click the button labeled ‘Add’. After doing that, then I will proceed to clicking on the button labeled ‘Publish’.

What happens if you don’t hit the ‘Add’ button. Nothing. Except for the fact that none of your tags are saved and your post is published. I’ve done this now countless times, and there could be many ways to fix this issue.

But why don’t I hit the ‘Add’ button sometimes? Could it be that I got distracted while entering in tags and when I came back to my senses I realized that I wanted to publish? Did I get lost looking through my post for a mention that I thought I had included? Is the ‘Add’ button too small and easy to skip over?

I’m not really sure to any of those hypotheses, but I do have some ideas for fixing this.

  • When I click ‘Publish’ and there are tags that haven’t been “added”, I should get some kind of prompt that I may be losing this information.
  • When I type a comma, the previous tag should be “added” but remain in the textbox so I can change it or remove it and it would subsequently delete it from the “added” tags. If I move away from the textbox, then a timer could proc and see there is still a tag that wasn’t added and “add” it.

The first would be the easiest to implement and the second would be the toughest. If somebody came up with a different idea and got it implemented in WordPress I would be just as happy.

Just don’t design software that allows for me to lose my data easily.

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