Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Oct 16-22, 2016

Let’s get that mental corn a-poppin’!

Carol Mulligan explores the lore of the pour. The Sudbury Star

What are dreams? Drake Baer shares five of humanity’s best explanations for dreams. Science of Us

Anna Lovind: the shameless introvert.

Suzanne Lucas to employers: please stop punishing your employees for being introverted. Inc.

UpWorthy recommends Marzi’s cartoons to help others relate to intorversion and anxiety.

The Born Again Minimalist examines the gaslighting of the millennial generation.

Transgender rights bill passes key commons vote and heads to committee. The Globe and Mail

Too sweet, or too shrill? The double bind for women. Shankar Vedantam hosts the Hidden Brain podcast for NPR.

The transformative power of Moko. Michelle Duff for Broadly/Vice.

Cath Pound considers the great women artists that history forgot. BBC

Artist Toby Allen, who suffers from anxiety, illustrates mental illnesses as monsters. Bored Panda

Regina activists place warning labels on indigenous Hallowe’en costumes. CBC

I’m just going to leave this here. To the new culture cops, everything is appropriation. Cathy Young for the Washington Post.

Avaneesh Pandey: self-awareness may be a side effect of the brain trying to maximize entropy. International Business Times

Ben Paynter shares news about how the world is slowly winning the fight against Malaria. Fast Company

Sarah Knapton reports on how tool-making monkeys are prompting scientists to reconsider human evolution. The Telegraph

Bec Crew: scientists accidentally discover the process that turns CO2 into ethanol. This could change the world. Science Alert

Ross Pomeroy explains why Bill Nye changed his mind about GMOs. Real Clear Science

The mystery of the Bermuda Triangle may finally be solved . . . by meteorology. Cory Charlton for The New York Post.

Loren Grush explains how the ExoMars spacecraft will make its way to the surface of Mars. The Verge

Catch Space.com’s coverage of the landing and other astro-news.

Maddie Stone: Pluto’s skies look more Earth-like than we’d imagined. Gizmodo

A spiral galaxy defies the cosmic flow. In an expanding universe, it’s actually getting closer to us. Also: how big is Proxima Centauri’s planet? Later in the week, we learn that the Schiaparelli lander (crash) site can be seen from orbit. Phil Plait for Slate.

Can the multiverse explain the course of human history? Andrew Crummey for Aeon.

Puppers! Buzzfeed

Alex and Jumpy, the parkour dog 🙂

 

Just a reminder, this is your penultimate thoughty Thursday prior to my #NaNoWriMo break.

I’ll see you next Thursday, but after that, you won’t get your weekly dose of thoughty until December.

Respect your priorities.

Be well.

All my (virtual) love.

Mel

Thoughty Thursday

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Writer tech: Converting from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

In my continuing indecision regarding whether to make the leap to WordPress.org or not, I’ve been doing some research.  Gemma Hawdon has graciously consented to let me post our conversation.  I’m sure it will be as enlightening for you as it was for me.

____________________________________________________________________________

How long were you blogging on WordPress.com before you decided to make the move?

I was only blogging for 6 weeks before I decided to swap to self-hosted WordPress.

What kind of research did you do and what were your considerations?

I started by talking to a few friends who had already taken the plunge into self-hosted blogging. I was lucky to have one friend in particular, Caroline of http://presentimperfection.com – a marketing and communications strategist – she was extremely helpful.  I think it’s important to seek the opinions of others and to have someone you can turn to for help.

I also read information provided on the WordPress site: http://en.support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/.

Another helpful article was this one by Problogger: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2012/03/04/wordpress-com-or-wordpress-org-which-ones-right-for-you/

In terms of considerations, I wanted to find out which version was more suitable from a long-term point of view. Although a complete beginner, I didn’t like the thought of wasting time and effort building a blog that might restrict me in the future.

What made you decide to take the plunge?

In the end it was the flexibility of self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) in terms of wider choice of custom themes and the ability to increase functionality of the blog through plugins (i.e. to enhance SEO, email newsletters etc.) I wanted to build something that I would have full control over creatively and (if in the future I’m lucky enough!) commercially. Have I actually utilized many of these options yet? Absolutely not! I’m a little lost to be honest, finding my feet, tepidly…

Are you with a hosting “farm” where you’re largely in charge of everything, or do you subscribe to a hosting service where they have people who can help you with technical questions?

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what a hosting farm is! But yes, I am pretty much in charge of everything (terrifying). I chose to host with hostgator.com – who were recommended to me because they have a solid reputation and competitive pricing. I have the Hatchling plan which is only $3.96 p/m unlimited disk space (you can upgrade at any stage). This plan also offers 24×7 technical support.

Mel’s note: If you have technical support, it’s not a farm 😉

From what you mentioned, there are good and bad points about the move.  What are they and what would you do differently if you had the chance?

The main shock after swapping to WordPress.org was the terror of suddenly feeling completely alone! WordPress.com takes care of everything for you. You feel part of a community because they publish your posts across Reader. When I switched to self-hosted I lost a huge chunk of traffic. Previously, I was gaining 5-10 new followers each week – that has fizzled out to 1 if I’m lucky!! Plus it’s amazing how encouraging those simple ‘likes’ can be – you get none of that with WordPress.org.

To help me transfer, I used a friend of a friend because he was incredibly cheap and he did a great job, but initially I lost all of my followers. I had to contact WordPress in the end and they transferred them across for me, but it took several weeks. In the meantime, I had to post from both platforms. I think If I had to do it again I would use WordPress’ own guided transfers – they cost $129 USD.

I’m still feeling lost on the technical side of things. With WordPress.org you’re the one responsible for stopping spam, for creating and maintaining backups and for updating versions of software. I haven’t taken full advantage of the creative freedom yet because it would mean paying someone to build a logo and banner and I can’t justify that right now; however, I’m learning about new things each day and certainly making progress.

One thing that is working for me is having a Feedblitz icon on my site. Feedblitz allows subscribers to view all of their blogs on the one page (a little like WordPress Reader). Followers who subscribe through this software are generally savvy Internet users and bloggers themselves.

I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve only been blogging for 5 months and it takes time and effort to build a solid following. However, I do feel as though I’m finally making progress. I’m rising in the ranks of Google and Twitter and my traffic is increasing! More than anything, I enjoy the creativity of what I’m doing and the fact that I’m the boss of something that is completely mine.

I think it’s important to figure out what you want from your blog and you’re reasons for blogging before you decide which WordPress version to go with.  For me, the benefits of starting with WordPress.com allowed me to experiment before investing any money. I gained an insight into how people responded to my voice and writing and whether there was a demand for my topic or not.

In the end, I think WordPress.org is better for the long-term if you want to build a blog that is completely yours, which you have full control over – no limitations.

I hope this is of some help – Thanks Melanie for your questions – Happy Blogging!

So what do you say, blogophiles?  Will Gemma’s expereince be helpful to you?  I’ll certainly benefit!

I’d love to hear what you have to say.

____________________________________________________________________________

Gemma Hawdon

Gemma Hawdon

Gemma Hawdon lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, two children, one dog and a couple of rabbits. Having always worked in marketing prior to having children, she turned her attention to writing about 4 years ago and has never looked back! Gemma has published articles in parenting magazines across Australia including Melbourne & Sydney Child and Parenting Express and dabbles in writing ghost-articles for extra income, but her most passionate project is the children’s fantasy she is writing which she never seems to get the time to complete! Gemma is also responsible for running the administration and finances for their family-run business in the building industry.

Gemma’s blog, topoftheslushpile.com, documents the challenges, highs and lows of writing a book and getting it ready to tackle the competitive publishing industry.

A year (and a bit) in the life of Writerly Goodness

This post is one in a series of Anniversary posts for Wordsmith Studio (WSS).

What is WSS, you ask?

It’s a group of people who originally bonded through Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge last year and who have gone on to create a community online, not only through our blogs, but also through social media (Facebook, Twitter (#WSchat), LinkedIn, G+, Goodreads, Pinterest (sorry, not a pinner, so no link for the group there), and probably a few other places that I don’t know about yet).

Originally the MNINB Challengers, or Not-Bobbers, we slowly evolved into our own collective.

Part way through the year, a group of fabulous people got together to create the Wordsmith Studio site on WordPress.org.  Since December of last year, a number of members have been blogging regularly on the site as well as on their own blogs.

Others have been attracted to WSS who had nothing to do with the original challenge, and others who participated in the challenge have moved on to other projects.

So now you know, and knowing is half the battle Go Joes! 🙂

Prelude to a kiss challenge

One thing that amazed me was the diversity of people who participated in the challenge.  Some of them had been blogging for years already, or had several blogs.  Others, like myself, were new bloggers.  Others still didn’t start blogging and platform building until Robert’s challenge prompted them to.

I actually started my platform building in September of 2011.  I tried Joomla! first, but found it to be less intuitive than I wanted.  Plus, I was posting a blog more than anything else, and couldn’t figure out the proper way to set a blog up on a Joomla! site.  I wasn’t interested in bothering my techie husband, or in paying someone to sort this out for me, so I looked at other options.

In short order, I found WordPress, and gleefully uploaded the software to my self-hosted domain, labbydog.ca, converting all of my content into proper posts for my blog.

I learned as I went, relying heavily on experts such as Robert, Jane Friedman, and Michael Hyatt and the resources to which they referred me.

Then in February of 2012, disaster struck.  My blog was hacked, and our hosting company insisted in a complete wipe.  RIP labbydog.ca.

After playing around further, I decided, gun-shy and tender creative person that I was, to move to WordPress.com.  On Robert’s advice, I’d purchased my domain name, mapped it to WordPress.com and www.melaniemarttila.ca, A.K.A. Writerly Goodness was born.

At first I was merely attempting to recreate my content and was posting 5-6 days a week.

Enter the dragon challenge

I was already following Robert at the time, and when he announced his April Platform Challenge, I jumped onboard.

For a month, I eagerly awaited my daily dose of platform.  I’d been on Facebook since 2007, and had, as part of my amateur platform building program, already joined Twitter, LinkedIn, and G+, so the days in which the challenge task was to set up accounts on these services I had things a little easier.

It’s a good thing too; otherwise, I’d have fallen waaaay behind.

I learned about having a mission statement for my blog, about using a blogging schedule (doesn’t blogging in this sense sound like a colourful euphemism?  What the blog?  Blogging work!), about calls to action, guest blogs (hosting them and proposing them), interviews, tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, hashtags and Twitter chats, mailing list, business cards, newsletters, Goodreads and other kinds of social media.

By the end of the month, I verged on the overwhelmed.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I cut down on the frequency of my posts.  A new position at work meant that I had even less time and energy to spare for my blog if I wanted to keep up with my novel and other creative writing.

Something I’ve learned is that, as a writer, the writing comes first.  Blogging is a part of that, but if I don’t get my stories, poems, and novels written, submitted, and published, the blog is tantamount to an online journal and practically useless for the purpose of promotion or true platform building.

Now I blog on weekends only, and it’s been working for me, which is the most important thing.  I’ve been getting the writing done and have achieved a greater balance between my professional, creative, and personal lives.

I have several new pages, with links to those of my books that are still available for purchase from the publisher, my blogging schedule (such as it is), an invitation for guest bloggers, awards, and so forth.

I’ve started doing interviews with a number of friends, online and in real life, and was surprised but ultimately pleased when a fantasy writer right here in town contacted me out of the blue on my blog to be interviewed.  It speaks to the unexpected impact that blogging has had on my creative life and the community that I am, however back-asswardly, building 🙂

This post will be my 190th, I have 118 followers through WordPress, and publish my posts to 243 friends on Facebook, 412 followers on Twitter, 112 connections on LinkedIn, and 90 people have included me in their G+ circles.

I’ve participated in a few challenges (October submit-o-rama, I ❤ my blog, and the Just write 2013 short story challenge) and a couple of the Goodreads group craft book discussions.

I’ve posted a grand total of once on the WSS site and am currently waiting to hear from Robert regarding a guest blog on My Name is Not Bob.  **Hint: Look in your spam folder, Robert 🙂

It’s a humble beginning, but I remind myself that platforms take years to build and that until I have something more than a couple of old poetry anthologies to shill, that I’m not likely to have a massive following.  Even then, unless I turn out to be the next big thing for real, I’ll probably only see modest growth.

Next

I’ve been threatening to move to WordPress.org for a while now.  I still haven’t found the time to parse my archives and clean up some of my old posts.  I have to rework some of my images too, since in the early days of my blog, I just did a Google search for my images.  I have to find creative commons equivalents, use my own, or remove them entirely.

Nor have I settled on a new hosting company.  The fear of hack still lives in me and I’m admittedly dragging my feet on this one.

I’m also considering a greater involvement in WSS.  The site is still in evolution and I’m not sure what I can commit to.  Want and need are two entirely different things.  Keeping that distinction in mind will help me stay sane.

What I will do is encourage all of you to visit the Wordsmith Studio site, peruse the wonderful diversity of our members’ sites and blogs (photo bloggers, pet bloggers, health bloggers, poets, fiction writers of all genres, non-fiction writers, publishers, and so much more).  A weekly round up of our anniversary blogs will be posted on the Veranda, so please read on.

Also visit My Name is Not Bob to see some of the lessons learned posts from several of the original challengers.

Many of my online friends have had amazing years, some good, some bad, some demoralizing, and some downright inspiring.  Most of them are far more eloquent than I am.

Consider liking, commenting, sharing or subscribing.  They are teh awesome, with a little awesomesauce on the side 🙂

Happy anniversary WSSers!  Love you all, even if I don’t show it often enough.

Introduction to Participant-Centered Training Delivery

Or, how I spent last week 🙂

Nothing is more fun than three ring binders.

Nothing is more fun than three ring binders. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So last week I was down in Toronto, the Big Smoke, Hogtown (never figured out why they call it that—oh, my friends Google and Wikipedia have discovered the answer: livestock processing was a big part of Toronto at one time) co-facilitating the Introduction to Participant-Centered Training Delivery (IPCTD) course.

Ostensibly, this is part of my attempt to become certified as a trainer through my employer.  The co-facilitation of this course was listed as a recommendation to anyone going through the process.  I didn’t think I would have this opportunity, having been told in the fall that the delivery of this and all other certification courses was being outsourced.

When the opportunity arose, I could not pass it up.

My co-facilitator and mentor for this part of the journey had just been certified in November herself and part of the purpose of our training together was so that she could give me a few pointers, watch out for those unconscious bad habits of the past.

I’ve blogged about Participant-Centered Training (PCT) before, but just to recap for those of you not interested in reading the whole post:

[In PCT, t]he trainer is merely present to elicit the desired knowledge from the learners, to encourage the appropriate behaviours, and to facilitate the process of discovery that will lead the learners to exhibit the desired performance in the workplace.  It’s no longer about [the trainer] having all the answers, but about being able to help the learners, now active participants in their own learning, find the answers for themselves.

The tag line is: Instead of the “sage on the stage,” be the “guide on the side.”

The course is two and a half days long and includes a practical demonstration by the participants, of the techniques they’ve learned.

Prior to the course, I met virtually with my co-facilitator a couple of times.  We divided up the material so that neither one of us would be leading the class for very long.  I read through the material to refresh my memory (when I took the course as a participant, it was 2009 and the course had subsequently been revised) and made copious notes.  I also brought a second copy of all the manuals, flipcharts, and PowerPoint presentations on a USB.

I travelled down on Tuesday morning and helped my co-facilitator set up the room.  That’s one thing to keep in mind with PCT: it may demand less of the facilitators in the classroom, but it requires much more preparation.  There are usually tonnes (I’m Canadian, eh?) of flip charts, visuals, learning aids, and activities to be set up in order for the session to go as planned.

The facilitators’ manual is critical as it lists times and required elements for each section of the course.  Most PCT courses are crammed full of information, the enrichment materials marked as “optional.”  Most of the time, there is no time to address much of the “optional” material, but every attempt is made to at least refer to it and ensure that the participants have access to those additional references and resources.

The course

The course was designed with a nautical theme and contained four sections: Opening and introduction; Methodologies and techniques; Communication, group building, group management techniques, and co-facilitation skills, with the practical component thrown in for good measure; and the Course closing.

The pre-course materials and assignments were to have been printed out, reviewed, completed, and brought with the participants.

The course opening includes an activity first thing to immediately engage the participants in the topic, review of some of the pre-course materials, expectations, comfort rating, course objective, agenda, participant introductions, and an introduction to PCT.

A note on objectives: prior to getting into PCT myself, I didn’t know the criteria for a good course objective.  A course objective should include performance, process, and standard or method of evaluation.

Examples: By the end of this course, you will be able to build a bird house using the bird house building instructions so that the result will meet the criteria described in the bird house schematic.

Or: By the end of this course, you will learn how to process an application, using the application policy, such that you will be able to achieve our 80% quality assurance goal on the simulation test.

Or: By the end of this course, you will be able to use Microsoft Word, in accordance with the Microsoft Word for Dummies Tip Sheet, so that you will be able to create documents for your employer more efficiently and confidently.

And yes, the standard or method of evaluation can be the participant’s own comfort level.

The methodologies and techniques section deals with the different PCT methods of delivery and the specific techniques, or activities that can be used to effectively engage participants.

The next section is the big one.  Communication skills, group building, group management, and co-facilitation are all covered, and then the participants are divided into groups, assigned a topic, and given an hour and a half to work on a 20 minute presentation in which they will demonstrate the skills, methods, and techniques they have learned.

The closing section revisits much of the material presented in the opening to answer the following questions:  Did we meet the course objective and participant expectations?  Do the participants feel they have learned valuable tools that they will take back to their jobs?  Review and transfer strategies are also incorporated.

Throughout the course, the co-facilitators are actively demonstrating all of the skills that we teach.  That’s another difficult aspect of adopting PCT: developing your awareness.  Though PCT takes the pressure off the facilitators to be the “talking head” or subject-matter expert, they have to be aware of everything that’s happening in the class: the participants’ attitudes, changing levels of engagement, the environment, and their own behaviours.

If you’ve done any training in a traditional environment, it’s essentially lecture.  Students sit there like baby birds waiting for their meal to be shoved down their throats.  This establishes some habits that have to be consciously broken when the trainer moves to PCT.

Questioning techniques are paramount.  Relays and overheads fly and form the foundation of debriefing every activity and conducting every review.  Knowledge must be drawn out of the participants, not fed to them.

This can be demanding, especially for someone like myself.  Though I enjoy training and think that I am good at it, I am, at my core, a shy person, and more fond of information than of social interaction.  This makes delivering training an exhausting activity for me.  I’ve noticed that even in the last six months that my tolerance seems to have decreased.  The need to retreat at the end of the day is nigh on irresistible.

Despite this, my co-facilitator said that after the first day, she didn’t notice any bad habits or poor behaviours on my part.  I was a little too fond of the closed questions at the start.  We worked well together and delivered a course that was well-received by the participants.

I won’t be able to review the assessments for a while yet, but there was nothing but compliments flying about the room that last day.

So that’s the Learning Mutt’s adventure for this week.  Tomorrow, I’m heading out of town again and we’ll see if the life of a training coordinator will provide any more fodder for Writerly Goodness in the future 🙂

Next weekend, look forward to an interview with Laura Conant Howard in conjunction with her cover reveal blitz for the upcoming The Forgotten Ones, another pupdate, and, if I have the gumption, my review of the Galaxy Note II as the smart phone writers want 🙂

Goodnight everyone!

Sunday night line up: Once Upon a Time; Beauty and the Beast; and Lost Girl 🙂

Eight metaphors for persistence, and why you’ll want to read this anyway

God help you if you are a phoenix / and you dare to rise up from the ash …

~~Ani Difranco, 32 Flavors

Rise Of The Phoenix

Rise Of The Phoenix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Sunday, February 26, 2012, my dear blog labbydog.ca was hacked, necessitating, in the opinion of the hosting service on which she lived, a complete deletion of all materials.  Even if I’d have been savvy enough to back up, those files would also have been suspect and deleted.  It was a dark day.

The light at the end of the tunnel

It was a dark week, truthfully.  Labbydog.ca was also the mail server for me, my husband Phil, and my mom.  It took a couple of days just to get everything re-established after the wipe.  Phil is a computer genius though, or as a friend of ours once said, an ass in jeans (a fine one, admittedly), and email was restored in short order.

I had some of my materials saved as Word .docx files, but by no means all of them.  How to rebuild?  More importantly, where to rebuild?  I wasn’t about to trust my next effort to the same hosting service, who essentially blamed me and my importation of add-ons and plug-ins (A.K.A. “scripts”), intended to protect my blog, for its very destruction.  I investigated each one and only downloaded them after the recommendation of an online guru. So what was I going to do?

I considered my options.  Both blogger and WordPress allow the importation of domains, and thanks to Robert Lee Brewer’s excellent advice, I had purchased melaniemarttila.ca in January.  It was my intent to move my blog to the new domain in February or March in any event, which is why I (oh-so-foolishly) hadn’t backed labbydog.ca up.

Robert, you saved my virtual ass, and my online sanity.  Thank you.  There are no words.

Getting back on the horse

I mucked around with blogger for a day or two, but I really didn’t want to start entirely from scratch.  I liked WordPress, was comfortable with the admin portal and the intuitive interface.  So I started a new blog on WordPress, transferred my domain, mapped it, and prepared to wade back into the blogging fray.

No use crying over spilled milk

I was seriously depressed, but the disease is an old frenemy, and I know how to deal with him.  The bottom line is that I can’t worry about things I have no control over.  I have to focus on the things I can affect in a positive way.

Depression and writing:

People have asked me since the dreadful day, “Why?”  Why indeed would anyone want to hack my innocuous wee blog?  I wasn’t particularly controversial.  I didn’t have a lot of followers.  It’s not like they were taking down some corporate mogul, or politician, or even a celebrity.  So yeah, I’d like an answer to that one too.  Why?

Wishing won’t make it so

You’ll have to track down the hacker and ask his or her maliciousness yourselves.  Quite likely, the culprit is not even a person, but some hack-bot, a lackey bit of code sent out to do its vile master’s bidding.  So why?

The short answer is: because she or he could.

Hacking, trolling, griefing, phishing, propagating malware, and other acts of online evil are all about bullying and the abuse of power.  You deal with it the same way you deal with any other kind of abuse, you speak up, share your story, and hope to hell you save someone else by your sad example.

I will share Wil Wheaton’s online motto here: Don’t be a dick!

[Wom]an with a plan

Labbydog.ca 2.0 = Writerly Goodness on melaniemarttila.ca.

From here on out, I’m saving everything I post in Word.  Once I have Writerly Goodness up and running, I will institute a back up routine.

When was the last time you backed up your blog, novel, training course design, or insert anything you’ve spent a lot of hours doing here?  Don’t procrastinate any further: save your work.  Now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait …

[W]e can rebuild [her]. We have the technology …  Better than [s]he was before.  Better, stronger, faster.

~~The Six Million Dollar Man, 1974

So yeah, I’m going to go back to the drawing board.  I’m going to repost as much as I can remember of what I used to have on labbydog.ca, but I’m going to do it better (I hope).  For example, ‘My history as a so-called writer’ isn’t just going to be self-serving or shamefully confessional.  I’m going to try to put in some meat for the writerly.  I’m going to try to answer the questions: why should I care, and what’s in it for me?  I’m hoping for some serious takeaway action.

A weekly schedule should give the project some structure: different categories on different days.

I’m trying to learn/do/create/be better.  And I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know how I’m doing.

Never say ‘die’

The takeaway here: in writing, as in everything, if you love what you’re doing, you can’t give up. You won’t be able to.  Sometimes, though, you might need a little help.

Some curation, and maybe inspiration:

What have you had to overcome to do what you’re passionate about?  Ever felt like a phoenix rising from the ash?

Comment, like, share, subscribe!  You know you want to 😉