The comfort of old friends

Screenshots of the movie Angels & Demons by AdS

The first overseas trip and I don’t mind telling you that I was nervous. Would people wear masks, would there be any issue with passengers, and if it wasn’t Covid related, how about the cancelled flights, lost luggage, and the overall stress that comes with traveling overseas.

So, when we were seated I checked the selection of TV series and movies available. I found myself looking for the old familiar ones. The flight was on time, there were no unruly passengers, yet the first time sitting in a plane for nine hours, it needed something comforting.

I decided to watch Angels & Demons. The book I had read years ago and yes, I also saw the movie. So this time, I could pay attention to the art, the city, the chapels, the statutes, and anything I might have missed the first time when I was too busy following the plot and dialogue.

In the beginning, before Conclave, you see all the priests making their last phone calls before being locked in. Some are filming the Sistine Chapel, some are smoking, and before they head in, they hand over all their electronics and cigarettes. It reminded me of occasions were we are asked to silence our phones. It is rare when I have had to hand over my phone. Even for court, I just lock the phone in my car.

As for the movie, it reminded me of the beauty of Italy, the majestic scenes of Rome, the richness of Vatican (yes, conflicted feelings), and the magnificent art of so many talented people. Right now, I am home. But next time we travel to Europe, I am going to try to swing by Rome and the Vatican.

It is the small things

MontBlanc Meisterstück at the top and the Platinum #3776 Century at the bottom/Photography AdS

There really is no good reason for temperatures in the 80s and 90s but who listens to me, right? After suffering through that sweaty mess for the past few days we were rewarded with several rounds of severe weather that kept you up at night in a sea of blazing lights and roaring thunder. Now that those storms are gone, we are enjoying low seventies with a nice breeze.

I went into the yard this morning. I knew that the storm had taken a toll on our trees. I heard some cracks but stayed inside. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared. One tree in the front yard took all the hits. I sawed off the branches that were partly ripped from the trunk. What is left of the tree now looks like a swizzle stick. I hope it will recover but the damage could have been worse. Nobody got hurt and the house is fine.

One thing that I wanted to do for a long time is to switch the cartridges from my fountain pens. My MontBlanc Meisterstück has been Royal Blue since I got it years ago. I love the blue colour but after almost 16 years, it is time to spruce things up. My Platinum #3776 Century has been light brown since I bought it about two years ago. The colour is too light. I like the Sepia caramel brown from Kaweco better.

So, encouraged by the upper arm exercise of sawing off tree branches I set out to switch cartridges. I got a little over enthusiastic and now have a blue ink stain on the wall behind my desk. It is not a big stain. You can only see it when you get close to the socket, but yeah, score for Alice.

But after getting my hands stained with Sepia ink that got transferred to my glasses, I now have Sepia caramel brown in my Meisterstück and Pigment blue in my Platinum.

I really should not do chores before I had my third cup of coffee.

Enjoy the weekend!

Monday Morning

Photo by Anna Pou on Pexels.com

Last evening, another one died. I think that we have killed about five electric water kettles during this pandemic. No matter the brand or the luxurious model, eventually they all succumb to the rigorous tea drinking routine in our household.

Tea cups here are around 12 to 16oz and when one of us is out of tea, the kettle goes back on.

When we started to get supply chain issues, I stocked up on some items. And I knew that I had bought a spare water cooker, but where was it?

Last evening, I opened every kitchen cabinet including the annoyingly small and unreachable ones above the fridge. I dug into the unfinished basement, scanned every shelf in the pantry, I even checked the linnen closet. No spare water cooker.

Turned out, it is in my husband’s office at work.

I checked online and found great models at Home Depot, Lowes, BB&B, Target, even Kroger. So this morning, I started with Kroger. None in stock. OK, so I drove to the next town. I visited five stores and all were out of water cookers, nothing in stock, and yes, we should have updated our website with the current inventory.

I was a bit steaming and fuming by the time I entered Target. The fumes disappeared rapidly when I saw that they had a few electric kettles left. I check for content, ease of use, and that reduced the selection to two. So I bought both.

Now I am back home, sipping tea, checking email, making notes, and I even had a bite to eat.

All is well with the world again.

How much social media do you need?

Photo by Tranmautritam on Pexels.com

I could not list all the social media (SM) platforms there are today if my life depended on it but I can answer this question: how much social media do I need. Answer: one to interact (Twitter) and one to post images, which I do on Pintrest.

Now you may wonder how I got to that answer. It was trial and error.

When I started my website in 2009, I jumped on all the then available SM platforms after finishing my post. I would share on my feed, in groups, and for a while even participated in ‘comment-for-comment’ groups just to get the cases in more newsfeeds. It was exhausting. I had private and professional accounts, had to keep track of what to post where, remember several sets of passwords, and had to continuously come up with new ways to present these cases.

I wish I had known then what I found out later because not only do these three points below make sense, they produce great results.

Three things to consider

1: How much time do I really have to dedicate to SM?

2: What is the quality of my followers’ list?

3: Where is my site’s audience?

Time to spend on social media

Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

I will be the first to admit that my scrolling time increased during the pandemic so maybe that isn’t a good measure. But, pre-pandemic I really watched how much time things took and, at what times I didn’t mind spending that time.

It is easy to say that your screen time should be limited however, that might not enable you to reach your goals. The better way to keep screen time in check would be to decide on a goal when you log in.

Uploading a new case or a post does not take much time. WordPress can do this for you if you use Publicize and grant WP access to your social media accounts. You can tailor the headline, add a brief description, and schedule the time and date. Once you set up Publicize posting is easy. What you now need is to get people to read and share your work.

Getting your readership engaged to the point where they actually share your work, is time-consuming. You cannot expect others to read and share your work if you never return those favours. What so I do?

On Mondays, I follow #MondayBlogs on Twitter and that streamlines a lot. I usually try to read four to eight posts and then share those on my feed. I do that in the morning and the afternoon. To make sure I get a good selection of blog posts I search for the hashtag MondayBlogs and select not just the top tweets but also the latest on Twitter. I have also made private lists that do not get shared. This way, reading up on your posts is easier as you are all on one Twitter feed. For the rest of the week, I use the WordPress Reader. I try to read up daily in between writing breaks.

Now, to answer the question how much time this all takes, it really depends on your work output and of course, what is going on in my life. I really cannot guess how much time. But you see, that doesn’t matter as it fulfills my goals: reading and sharing. And I learn a thing or two from all of you. What comes next is more important.

The quality of your followers

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

Whichever SM platform you use, unless you have a private account, you will gain followers and not even notice it. I’d like to encourage you to check from time to time who is following you though.

You see, one of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that a big Twitter following amplifies their ability to get shares, likes, or retweets. It doesn’t. Retweets do not come automatically once a follower scans over your post. That retweet can only come from the follower themselves. That’s why the quality of your followers matters so much.

You will find that followers can trickle in one by one or they come in bursts. Some have a big following and some don’t. Which kind of follower is better?

The people who consistently show up in your mentions are the ones to place on a private list. Those are the people reading and sharing your work and you should return the favour with theirs. Now I can hear you wonder ‘what if only two or three people are in my mentions?’

No problem. These two or three people share your work with their followers setting the amplification in motion which gradually expands your reach, getting your work into new people’s feeds and new networks. Two people consistently sharing your work are better than hundreds of followers who never engage.

Your audience

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

After you have been online for a while, check where your readers are. You can use WordPress, Google Analytics, StatCounter, etc. Do most of your posts get seen by people through SM? Email subscribers? Which other sites refer to yours?

Most of my website readers come from keyword searches, google snippets, Wikipedia, or other crime website references. Most of my blog readers come from the WordPress reader and #Bloganuary.

Having this information for my website made it easier for me to decide which SM platforms to keep so I can use my screen time to achieve my goals. I deleted all other accounts. It didn’t hurt my readership or SEO ranking. Pintrest is fabulous for sharing images. I just upload and done. I do not engage much there. Twitter is best for starting interactions, conversations, and collaborations.

Knowing that most of my website readers came from keyword searches, I pay close attention to SEO, tags, and the accuracy of my website’s databases. I link back to other people’s work, to newspapers, and magazines. For my personal blog, I follow back other bloggers, try to comment, and read posts of those who comment on mine.

Is this a perfect system? Probably not. There’s always room for improvement but for now, it works.

Promote your blog on Twitter

Many bloggers, especially new ones, are unsure where to place the link to their blog on Twitter. As a result, they keep repeating the same promotional tweets. Repeated self-promotion does not do well with Twitter’s algorithm and that in turn, does not gain you followers or exposure for your blog. So, if you are not sure where to place a link to your blog on Twitter, this post is for you.

On Twitter, you have several options to place a link to your blog.

1: Use you header to your advantage

Your header can be used for great photography but why not combine the photography with a link? Check what I did below. The header is actually the one that I use for this blog. Now pay attention to what I wrote over it: my blog’s name and where to find it.

Art and photography AdS

Take a picture that you like for your header. Then use a simple editor to type your blog’s URL on it. Adjust the colours to make sure that they stand out, write the full link, save the picture, and upload it to Twitter. The recommended dimensions for header images are 1500 x 500 pixels. This is spot number one. Why? People are more inclined to check pictures than reading a bio, no matter how short.

2: Use the website field

In you bio, Twitter has a designated spot for one link so use that for your blog. If you have multiple sites, consider using something like Link Mix. This is spot number two.

3: Use your bio

Twitter gives you 160 characters to write something about yourself and yes, that may include a link, see here. So, proudly state that your are a blogger (use the hashtag #blogger for optimized search results) followed by your site’s link. To save characters, use a link shortener. This is your third spot.

Now onto spot #4.

Twitter has a pinned tweet feature. You write a tweet and pin it to the top of your feed, see here how. It remains there until you replace it. You can use this to promote your latest book or, to add information for which there was no space in your bio. Check the plus sign in the lower right corner, it means you can add another tweet to the original. This is spot #4 to promote your blog.

What you should not do?

Do not immediately send every new follower a direct message (DM) with your links, promotional materials, and worse, requests that they follow you on other social media platforms. DMs are seen as private territory. Most Twitter users have DMs turned off meaning only people they follow can contact them that way. But even then, DMs are not welcome. Why? Abuse and harassment. So, ask someone if it is ok to DM.

I hope that this information helps you to promote your blog on Twitter!