Category Archives: blog

blog

Bringing This Blog Back to Life

I have been struggling with what to write about on this blog for the last few years. I’ve written about all sorts of random things, more to keep the blog alive, and keep in practice than for anything else. I’d like to change that. I’d like to write something that was as impactful as the Going Paperless series I did for a few years. But so much of what is written today is echoes from elsewhere that it is hard to know what to write about.

Part of my struggle with what to write is that I enjoy reading blogs that are not necessarily centered around one theme. I prefer to read things that are like old newspaper columns, where the subject of the day could be virtually anything that piqued the writer’s fancy on that day. That is what I have tried to do here, although for a while, I’ve restrained myself on this because of the notion that I got in my head that a blog should be focused and not so scattershot. Well, I’m disabusing myself of that notion now, and while I do plan to focus on certain themes from time-to-time, I’m not going to restrain myself from writing about whatever is on my mind, regardless of how mundane it might seem.

I’ve given it some thought, however, and I am going to start by writing something new. I won’t commit to saying it will be a series yet, but it is something that has been on my mind a lot lately: being a writer in a complex digital world. I’ve sketched out at least three posts on this subject, and you can expect to see them shortly. I stopped writing about going paperless because I felt the posts started to become repetitive. Writing about being a writer in a complex digital world might also become repetitive at some point, and I hope I recognize that before repeating myself too often.

Repeating myself is something that I worry about. This blog has been around since 2005, and there are, as of this writing, 6,421 posts. I’ve written about just about everything, and it is hard to remember what I have written before. Sometimes, I’ll get partway through writing a post, and what I write seems familiar. I’ll do a quick search and found that I’ve written about the subject already four or five years ago. If I have something new to add, I’ll recast the post in that light, but more often than not, I find myself repeating things I’ve already written. So part of my goal with my renewed effort here is to touch on some things that I haven’t written about as much. If you do find me repeating myself, cut me a little slack, and know that I am now consciously trying to avoid that.

As always, I am open to suggestions. I didn’t start blogging with a master plan, but over the years, if I have any one goal, it is to write with an eye toward entertaining, to occasionally write about how I do things, with the hope that others might benefit, and to steer clear of the extremes that might generate a lot more traffic, but don’t add much to the conversation. If you have suggestions for things you’d like me to write about, drop them in the comments, or send me an email.

New Office, New Theme

After trying out one of the newer themes here on the blog for a couple of months, I decided that I liked what I had before better. Today, I’ve reverted it back to the original theme, with a few tweaks for added clarity.

I figured that since I have a new office, the time was right for a new (old) theme. I may continue to tweak things over the next couple of days. But I don’t think the overall theme will change much again for a while.

Domain updates and blogging info

Things appear to be going well with the new blog over on Medium. As I mentioned earlier this year, I’d planned to transition all of my blogging over there. This blog will not be going away, as it is a kind of archive of the 6,000+ posts I’ve written between 2005-2015. However, beginning tomorrow, there will be some changes that will potentially affect readers.

  1. The jamietoddrubin.com domain will begin pointing to my Medium-based blog.
  2. If you want to continue to access this blog, use www.jamierubin.net.

Additionally, I have created an updated About and Bibliography page over on the new blog. I’ve also obtained a new, short domain that points to my About page, for quick access: jtrwriter.me

I’d encourage folks to head over to the new blog and follow me there. If you don’t like Medium’s interface, you can access the new blog via RSS.

REMINDER: I’m Writing Over on Medium

Just a reminder that, while this blog isn’t going anywhere, I am transitioning my online writing over to Medium. I’ve already posted several new things there, and as I pick up steam, plan to do so more regularly. So if you are looking for new stuff from me, head over to Medium.

See you over there!

Going Paperless on Medium

As part of the transition over to Medium that I wrote about last time, I have started to make my Going Paperless series of posts available over on Medium. I have created a “Going Paperless” publication, and I’ve migrated roughly a quarter of the posts so far.

In migrating these posts over to Medium, I considered whether or not to update them. The earliest posts are from way back in 2012, and many no longer represent how I work today. I decided to leave them in their original form for 2 reasons:

  1. They show how I once worked, and the entire series provides an evolution of how and why I changed my habits over time. This might prove useful to others.
  2. Some of the way that I used to do things don’t work well for me today, but they still might work well for others.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to get all of the posts (well over 100 of them) migrated over to Medium. You can keep an eye on the Going Paperless publication to mark my progress if you are so inclined.

Transitional Notes

I occurs to me to that I have not posted here since back on my birthday. I apologize for that. I’ve got a lot of things going on. Here are some transitional notes to bring things up-to-date.

Retired as Evernote Ambassador

If you haven’t already seen the news, Evernote has transitioned their Ambassador program to a new Community Leader program. I took this opportunity to retire as Evernote Paperless Ambassador. A few points:

  1. I am still an Evernote user.
  2. I retired mainly because I felt like I didn’t have anything new to offer. My posts, while well-received, have begun to repeat themselves.
  3. The program transition seemed like a good time to retire.
  4. I want to use the time I spent writing about Evernote writing about technology more generally. More on this later.

Transition to Medium

Almost a year ago to the day, I wrote about “stagnation and transition to Medium,” something that I ultimately didn’t follow through with. Today, I am more serious about it. I have been spending time formulating a plan to transition my writing from this WordPress blog over to Medium. This transition will take place over several months, and there will be a period of time where the posts that I write will appear in both places. But eventually, this blog will retire and my writing will continue on Medium. I have several reasons for making this transition:

  1. My time is growing increasingly limited, thanks to being busy at work, and with the family. This site is a self-maintained WordPress site, and it does take work to maintain it. That time could be better spent writing. I don’t have to maintain Medium the way I do this site. So that’s a plus.
  2. I like Medium as a writing platform. I like its simplicity, its UX/UI, and its discussion model.
  3. I like the kind of pieces that I read on Medium, and I want to be a part of that. My own take is that Medium represents (or had already subsumed) traditional blogging.
  4. Sometimes, I just need something new. Medium represents that new thing for me.

My transition plan here is not complete, but my goal is to be doing this kind of blog writing on Medium exclusively beginning in early September. With a roughly five month transition, and plenty of reminders along the way, it should make it relatively painless for those who want to follow me over there.

Technology writing

I haven’t been writing much at all lately. A while back I announced my retirement from science fiction writing. I am transitioning this blog over to Medium. I’ve retired as Evernote’s paperless ambassador? So what do I plan on writing about?

I suspect, although I am still working this out, that much of what I write will be tech-based. I want to write more about the influence of technology. I want to write more about technology on a micro (vs. macro) scale. That is, that ways that I use technology to improve myself. I’m still fascinated by quantified-self, and have been working on a project in this regard, borrowing concepts from the likes of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and others. I’ll have more to say on this at some point in the future. I want to write more about coding for wider audience. Coding skills today are like home maintenance skills. Have experience with some of those skill sets can reap large benefits.

Of course, I also want to write about the things I read about, and other miscellaneous things that appear here on this blog from time-to-time.

In conclusion

Things are in flux, and I appreciate your patience as I work my way through them. Beginning with my next post, post will appear both here and over on Medium through the transition, and of course, there will be reminders along the way. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them for you.

What Would You Like Me to Write About?

Since I am buried in work at the moment, as I just mentioned, but hope to begin writing on the blog again soon in the next day or two, I thought I’d toss out a question:

Is there anything you’d like me to write about here on the blog in the near future? Whether it is a specific paperless topic, some tech-based topic, something about writing, or science fiction, or baseball, or whatever. If there is something you’ve been wanting me to write about, let me know by dropping your suggestion in the comments. I’ll do my best to take on those topics for which I feel capable.

Reminder on Site Policies for Guest Posts and Advertising

I must have received a dozen requests for guest post or advertising on the site in the last 7 days. None of them showed any indication that they reviewed the site policies for guest posts and advertising, so I think now is a good time to remind folks of the policies. A link to my site policies is available in the footer of every page and post.

Guest Posts and Advertising

You can find the full policy here, but the gist is:

  • I do not accept unsolicited guest posts and articles for the blog.
  • I do not put advertisement on the site, including paid links to other sites
  • I don’t do link exchanges.

Product Reviews and Plugs

I have a steady stream of requests from folks to review a product, usually software or a service. Here is my full policy on product reviews and plugs, but the gist is:

  • I am not a product reviewer.
  • I generally don’t have time to try out new products and write reviews.
  • When I do review or mention a product, it is always something that I have used myself.

It is perfectly okay to ask, but 99 times out of 100 the answer is going to be no.

Sponsors and Transparency

In December 2015 I wrote a post on “Sponsors and Transparency” that pretty well captures my thoughts and philosophy about how I run this blog with respect to paid sponsors. The gist:

  • I don’t promote products I have never used myself
  • I prefer to pay for the products and services I use
  • I try to be completely transparent on rare occasions when I do receive compensation for something I mention here.

Conclusion

Inquiries I receive for a guest post or advertising, or any of the above, that obviously have ignored the above policies get deleted without a reply.

I do get inquiries that demonstrate, or even mention, my policies in a non-robotic way, and I always reply to these, although I rarely acquiesce.

Writing in 2016

Recently, I have been more active on the blog. I’ve been testing the waters, writing short pieces on topics that I find interesting. I have been experimenting with timing and frequency of the posts that I write. All of this is in preparation for 2016.

I spent the last two years writing every day, getting a lot of practice writing fiction, attempting to improve my craft. After writing for 825 consecutive days, I finally decided to take a break. During the break, I thought about the kind of writing I wanted to do next. I realized, to my surprise, that the writing that I had most fun doing was the writing I did on the blog. I felt I’d neglected the blog long enough.

In 2016 I want that to change. While I don’t plan on giving up fiction-writing, my focus in 2016 will be this blog. Blogs may be going out of style, but I enjoy the writing I do for the blog more than any other writing I do. I want to write about a range of topics, not just technology, or writing, or self-tracking. I want to see if it is possible to become a better blogger, and make the writing I do here enjoyable for a wider audience.

Implementing these changes is a work-in-progress. I’ve experimented with 2 posts each day, but I think it is easier on me, and you, to start with one post a day. I schedule these posts for 9 am Eastern time. Posts that appear in this slot represent my main blog writing for the day. Occasionally, I’ll have a post later in the afternoon. These are often announcements, or last-minute items of interest. I have been trying to aim for posts of between 400-700 words, shorter than what I have written in the past. Attention spans are shorter, and I can be a little less verbose.

The rebooted Going Paperless posts will appear on Tuesdays at 9 am Eastern time. I have been considering a second post on Tuesday afternoons on some technology subject, making Tuesdays a kind “Tech Tuesday” on the blog. But the schedule is still evolving.

I realize that a lot of people come to the blog to read the Going Paperless posts, or the posts I’ve written on self-tracking, like the FitBit posts. They are not necessarily interested in the other topic I write about. That is fair, and understandable. The Going Paperless posts have their own RSS feed, and anyone can subscribe to that feed to filter out the other stuff I write here.But I hope folks will give some of the new posts a try.

I have been incredible fortunately with the blog. For the second year in a row, I have surpassed 1 million page views, and while this year’s numbers are down considerably from last year’s, I am delighted that so many people take the time to visit and comment. I have the best audience. The comment threads are always helpful (to me) and informative, and best of all, civil. I look forward to seeing that continue in 2016.

Stagnation and Transition to Medium

After years of grown, activity here on the blog appeared to have peaked right around the beginning of 2015. At that time, the blog was receiving 6,000 or more visits per day, on average. Since then, there has been a steady decline in visits. These days, I’m seeing under 3,000 visits per day for the first time in a long time. Perhaps, the single biggest reason for this is a lack of content. Or interesting content, anyway.

I suppose this is understandable. With the limited time I have to write each day, my focus has been on getting my fiction-writing done first. If there’s time, I’ll might write on the blog. Might. Because lately, I’ve felt stagnant when it comes to the blog. I used to write whatever came to mind, but I’ve shied away from that lately. In part it’s time, and in part I’ve worried about a lack of interest, and that I might come across as trying too hard.

Then, too, I have felt for a while now the need to move beyond WordPress as the primary tool for my blog writing. I’ve considered changing things up, using a new theme, but really what I need is something entirely different. This feeling of stagnation and the need to break out into something different lead naturally into transition.

Going forward, I will be doing the bulk of my blog-type writing over on Medium. I’ve been impressed with Medium for a while, but I wasn’t sure why I was impressed until recently. I think it comes down to a few important factors:

1. Simplicity. Medium is easy to use, and far easier to maintain than a self-managed WordPress installation. The time I gain back in maintenance can be used to write the kind of things I’m interested in writing more frequently than I have been.

2. Aesthetics. Medium is beautiful. I love reading things there. There is a simple elegance to the design, that makes reading a pleasure. Then, too, those same aesthetics apply to the writing experience. It is easy to write and format stories on Medium. It had interface that makes me want to write more.

3. The right metrics. Monitoring WordPress metrics became a kind of part-time job for me. How many views? How many clicks? From where? Drilling down into Google Analytics data, when I could be writing. And I’ve come to believe that most of those metrics don’t really mean that much. After all, someone can visit a post but not read it. Which is why I like Medium’s approach: They track one key measurement: “read ratio.” It’s a measure of reads to views, and it tells you how many people are actually reading what you wrote.

4. Discussions. Nothing beats Medium’s commenting and discussion system. You can comment on any part of a story. You can highlight pieces, and recommend the story. Like everything else about Medium, it is simple and elegant.

I want to assure folks that this blog here is not going away. However, it’s function is changing. Over on Medium I’ll be writing about writing, and technology, and paperless lifestyle, and productivity, and baseball, and lots of other things. But I won’t be making announcements over there. That’s what this blog will be used for.

I suppose you can think of it as this blog becoming my author “platform” (I dislike the term, but I can’t argue with its appropriateness in this case.) New publications, new stories, articles, appearances, and things like that will be announced here for those interested.

I have built up a wonderful audience over the years, and I can only hope that some of you will be willing to follow me over to Medium and keep up with what I am writing over there. You can even add my Medium posts to your RSS feed, using this link. I understand not everyone will want to make that transition with me, and that this might be a good time to pursue other blogs, or cut back on blog reading. But I do hope that moving to Medium will help rekindle the fires that kept me blogging for nearly a decade, and that the lessons I’ve learned over the years will make me a better writer because of it.

As an example of one kind of thing I am trying to do over on Medium, take a look at the post I wrote there  earlier today called, “Excavating Old-School Self-Tracking.” And if you are interesting in following along with me on Medium, you can find my profile at: https://medium.com/@jamietr.

A Post-Mortem on Yesterday’s Site Outage

Many of you probably noticed that this site was down for several hours yesterday. I’m not sure of the full extent, but looking at my Google Analytics data, it looks as if the site was down from about 9 am EST to sometime between noon and 1 pm EST. Let’s call it three hours.

Outage

Whenever the site is down I get stressed, knowing that it sucks to come to a site an get an obscure “Database connection error.” I was also annoyed because my host had recommended I move to another server and host platform a few months ago–something I did because they said it would greatly reduce the chance of an outage and improve the performance of the site.

The move certainly did the latter, but as yesterday showed, there was a major outage on the new platform. I spent some time working with the host to find out the root cause (database issues, not related to my site specifically) and what measures were being taken to reduce the chances of this happening again in the future. Being an IT person myself, I can talk their language and that helps a little.

In any case, I feel pretty confident that the chances are small that we’ll see another outage like this one–at least one related to the same cause.

I wanted to apologize for the outage yesterday, and for any frustration it may have caused. I am monitoring things here, and hopefully we won’t see this particular problem happen again.

 

Blog stats for 2014

With 2014 officially over, I can report the final blog stats for 20141. The blog had a remarkable 1.3 million page views in 2014, and more than 600,000 visitors. I’m stunned when I consider those numbers. I can still remember the days when my blog got about 30 pages views per day. In 2014 that was up to an average of about 3,500 page views per day.

Here’s what the day-to-day stats looked like:

Blog stats for 2014

I haven’t tracked RSS traffic as closely as I used to. But when I looked this evening, I found that RSS traffic added an additional 425,000 page views. That brings the grand total to about 1.75 million page views in 2014. That is about double of what I had last year.

Thank you to everyone who comes to the site. I am grateful to have such a wonderful audience. I’ll do another post on the most popular posts of 2014, but right now, I have to give the kids a bath.

  1. Caveats apply. The stats come primarily from Google Analytics. The RSS stats come from Feedburner. All stats must be taken with a grain of salt.