To All the Blogs I’ve Loved Before: My Happy 10th Anniversary with WordPress

wordpress-love-300x295A decade ago – almost to the day – I penned my first post on WordPress about my crazy dog Chili on a blog called Random Musings on Life. I was hesitant, shy, and certainly not confident about that first post, but I knew I had to express myself. The post was personal, contained awkwardly-sized images, and was fun to write. I won’t forget the moment I hit the light blue “Publish” button. I still get that same combination of fear and excitement to this day.

Looking back on 10 years with WordPress, I realize the indelible impact that blogging has had on me, and how it serves as a time capsule of my personal and professional evolution as a writer.

When I discovered the WordPress platform in 2008, it was the tipping point for blogging platforms: Blogger.com (bought by Google in 2003) and WordPress (still independent) were duking it out for dominance, and it seemed anyone with an internet connection was calling him or herself a “blogger.” That became my perfect moment to start writing in public, hone my craft, and freestyle whatever was on my mind. Most importantly, I, too could claim those blogger bragging rights.

I had sublimated my love for writing after a brief stint as a cub reporter post college. Instead of the path to journalism greatness, I pursued higher-paying jobs as a Silicon Valley careerist, first in the corporate tech world, and then in my own marcom business in ’99 (here we are 19 years later!).

Though I did write in my communications roles, most was uninspired and none stirred passion or a strong connection. Think: technical data sheets, sales campaigns, and carefully-crafted emails to higher-ups (though I guess those could be considered creative non-fiction).

Over those early years, I tried to get a handful of feature articles published on the side, but submissions were ignored or editors wrote back with “Love it but we’ve covered this before.” I was always late to the game and, worse yet, I wasn’t becoming a better writer.

That all changed with WordPress: For the first time, I could write whatever and whenever I wanted and get published with the click of a button. Voila!

Many times in 2009, I wrote poorly-constructed but passionately penned blog posts on just about everything: the Barack Obama presidency, the personal effects of the recession, an anti-Facebook rant that now seems prescient, ethical issues of eating meat. You name it, and if it interested me, I turned it into a blog post, or at least a draft. I curated an overflowing list of topics that I would write about one day (many still there). I promoted posts to family, friends, and colleagues. I got likes, shares, and comments. I was in blog bliss.

After a year of flexing my writing muscle, in 2010 I started a new blog called Marketing Sparks (now on my current website). It focused on all things marketing to build credibility for my business, and yes, that hokey word…”thought leadership.”

I even recruited my Dad, an established writer and stellar editor, to read drafts, where he pointed to poor sentence construction or a witty turn of phrase. (Side note: my Dad started his own WordPress blog on education a year after I started mine. Without fail, he cranks out two posts weekly. I am still blown away by his dedication).

My writing confidence grew on a variety of marketing topics: from evaluating Groupon competition to why QR codes are dumb (I haven’t changed my opinion on that); praising Mad Men product placement to questioning cosmetic manufacturers’ claims. In the process, I also tuned up my interviewing and research skills. Best of all, blogging supported my goal to establish myself as a writer, which paid off in spades for business and bylines.

I got a gig as a small business columnist on a popular blogging site after doing a guest post. I was invited to write for a national PR digital outlet after the publisher saw a blog post he loved. (Along the way, I also found out publications’ dirty little secret: many “pay” in bylines when you’re not well known. Fair? Maybe not, but that’s a whole other blog topic.)

Despite the financial downside, the upside was that these articles helped establish my place as a legit writer for hire. I started getting gigs without bylines but with the pay: I was a blog ghostwriter for a famous psychologist, a nationally-known customer experience expert, and a number of CMOs and engineering leaders. I sealed the deal with several clients sharing related expertise on the blog.

During those years I threw myself into writing, I also became a pretty big blog nerd. I attended blogging conferences, a WordPress boot camp, and joined a blog meetup where I met a fellow writer that has since become one of my closest friends. (He’s also replaced my Dad as editor so blame any mistakes on him).

As part of my evolving interests, when I moved the Marketing Sparks blog to an expanded website in 2014, I started looking more inward at my business and blogged about issues freelancers face, offered tips working with clients, and other related topics.

Now in 2019, another big change is coming: I’m moving my website to the WIX platform for technical reasons. Luckily, I can integrate my WordPress blog so I’ll bring my followers and SEO with me!

On my 10th year with WordPress, going down memory lane is a reminder of what a wonderful canvas it’s been to explore my writing. It is a living, breathing journey that will continue to evolve.

I thank my readers for all of their support along the way. Your clicks, shares, and comments will never be forgotten.

See you on WIX!

 

Image credit: PhotonicsSweden

 

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Blog Power Grows Up at WordPress Camp

wpstarrynightIt was my first and last WordPress Camp in San Francisco, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because it’s outgrown its location and will be transformed into a global event next year. It’s no surprise either, with the WordPress mission to “democratize publishing” on a trajectory to being realized. Fact: WordPress powers almost 25% of all sites on the web or 342 blog posts a minute (that’s 7.9B annually). After 11 years, WordPress hasn’t just arrived, it’s getting its extreme close-up. This was also reflected in the topics. My expectations of widgets and coding were met with many “big picture” presentations. Here were some of the more interesting old-to-new themes (get it? get it?).

The State of Word

Matt Mullenweg, WordPress God and co-founder, with his low-key, wry and affable demeanor, talked honestly about the bittersweet growth of WordCamp from 9 to 81 and outsizing the Mission Bay Conference Center. Other topics included the site fixes coming up this year, including better managing the reviled plugins that frustrate its users, security issues tightened up, and cleaning up the stats system and making it more user-friendly. The big hope? The  dream of an auto-updated WordPress site instead of the current patchwork of versions and manual upgrades (Side note: ironically, WordPress often makes random changes to its interface, both small and large, which I’ve always found a bit odd and discombobulating. Then again, WordPress is free so I can’t complain).

It’s a Multi-Device Platform World, Let’s Deal With It

Sizing right or “responsive design” on mobile, tablets, and PCs is a no-brainer these days, but we need to think about this equation differently, according to Luke Wroblewski, who runs a digital design and strategy firm. He gave a fascinating talk about how human behaviors and ergonomics associated with them are equally important as quantitative factors like distance, size, and other “hard facts.” The free-flowing, multi-device platform world we live in now ranges from the smallest of computers, like Google Glass, to ginormous LED screens that we slide seamlessly among for the technology we need at that particular time. How we interact between devices, sometimes simultaneously, counts as much as anything else. Taking all of these factors into consideration is key for product development of the future. In other words, using human behavior and environment as guideposts, devices will be designed according to what we do with them, not by their physical form. In many ways, this is new territory.

Know Blog Rules But Break Them, Too

We’ve heard a million times about how the consumer ultimately decides what your brand is, but according to Internet-famous bloggers at WordPress, your blog should ooze and seep your personality, in a good way. Crafty Chica enthusiastically talked about finding your purpose and style within “the lane that works for you” (while also spreading the word “glitter” generously in her talk). Or as Chris Lema put it, “Take a corner no one is fighting for” when you choose your blog topic, and go bold with a strong stance. He pointed out that readers are tired of lists and how-tos; they crave and expect more these days with all the content out there. Why do you like one SEO strategy more than another? What is behind your opinion? Writer and academic Christine Harkins pointed out that, “Blogs exist for two reasons: to move people to action or to connect with people.” She defined blog voice as “writing the way you talk, sharing what you know, and telling the truth.” Amen to that. She even offered up a smattering of amusing copyrights suited just perfectly to the personality of the blogger.

So look for this impromptu copyright on my blog one of these days: “If you’ve got a big following, go ahead and steal my stuff—I’ll just quote you later and take credit.”

Image: Moufflets blog (and Van Gogh), WordPress logo contest, 2009 entry. I hope it won!