Fifteen years, two months and twenty one days ago I wrote my first blog post. Today, I write the last. It’s been fun – mostly – but these days I seem to blog largely for the sake of blogging. And too much of it involves typing angrily into the internet with little real purpose. I wrote that first post as an optimistic 30 year old, about to embark on a backpacking trip of a lifetime through Mexico, full of wonder at the world surrounding me. I write today as a slightly jaded 45 year old, rather fed up with the amount of ignorance and prejudice that has come to the fore, and unconvinced that the planet is heading in the right direction. Fifteen years is quite a long time. The world has changed greatly. As have I. I am sure you have too.
Carrying on a little bit from yesterday, and the fifteen year milestone this blog reached. When I first started blogging, I did so on an entirely self-built site I created using Adobe Dreamweaver pointing to the first domain name I ever purchased – garydenness.com. Everthing was .com back then, so it didn’t occur to me to do anything different. Dreamweaver is still going, although how strong a product is I don’t know – I have long wondered why they didn’t evolve it into a more WordPressy type product.
Fifteen years ago today, I published my first post on my blog. How time flies. Oh, if I could only go back to being that 30 year old, just about to head off on a backpacking trip to Mexico, and do it all over again. But time is a funny thing, a one off deal. We are stuck in the moment, moving forever forward and never backward. Perhaps this is just as well. Had time moved backwards from my birth, the year would be 1927. I’d have lived through World War 2, the Great Depression and I’d currently be looking forward to (or backward to) the General Strike. I guess I would have lived to see the Moon Landing, but I’d have been too young to appreciate it. So it’s probably just as well that time does indeed move forward – I got the better part of the 20th century.
Let me tell you a story. It’s about that photo up there. I took it just a few minutes ago. That cat has been hanging around the station for a couple of weeks. Today it got bold enough to wander inside and sit on my till. I gave him some milk, and he likes the attention he gets from customers. I reckon he’s going to become a regular fixture in here. Which is a good thing. Every station should have a cat. But the story isn’t about the cat. It’s about the photo in a more general sense.
Three things that I may never tire of. Number One. Looking at the Taj Mahal. It’s a majestic beauty. I’m lucky to have seen it in the flesh with my own eyes. Number 2. Playing around with photos in editors of all sorts. One of my favourites over the last year or so is Prisma. I ‘created’ this one on my iPad using Prisma. Adding an iPad app to complement the iPhone app was a great move. Continue reading
It’s the last day of the year. The day before the first day of next year. It’s time for some resolutions to be set. I’ll try and be realistic. I’ll pay off what’s left on my credit card. It’s 0% interest and there’s not a lot on it, and no urgency to settle it, but I’d like to end the year completely debt free. Apart from the mortgage, of course. That’ll take a little bit longer. I’d also like to save up my overtime payments and have a new boiler put in. Or at least have the cash ready when the current one packs up. It’s Continue reading
My transfer from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is complete. Well, the transfer itself was completed within the space of a few minutes quite some time ago. However, installing a theme, the required plug-ins and tidying things up – that took a little while longer. But it’s almost done now. Apart from any bits or pieces that I may have missed. Feel free to let me know if you find anything broken. Continue reading
My new year wishes come late, I know. I blame my inner Mexican. But then again, everything tends to be delivered late, if at all, on this blog these days. I’ve tired of blogging. Or at least of the sort of blogging I used to do. Long, rambling posts. It requires thought, time and effort. None of which I have spare to dedicate to this little part of the web. You’ve all noticed, I know. It’s there in the stats. The visitors graph reads like the value of the peso. It’s been tumbling year on year since 2011, the year I returned home from my six year stay in Mexico.
It turns out that whilst people liked reading about adventures in Mexico City, they are less interested in hearing about life in Bournemouth. I understand. Entirely. I can demonstrate this with a couple of images from the annual report that WordPress automatically generates. Firstly, let’s look at how often I post these days, shall we? Bearing in mind that last year there were 122 posts. In 2013 there were 146. In 2012 I crafted 196 literary masterpieces….
Yes, it’s a sorry story, isn’t it? And it has to be said, if I’m not writing anything new, then visitor numbers are going to fall. But let’s move on to the next graph, which rather shows that the dire state of affairs that the Mexile currently finds itself in is not entirely down to a lack of new content. Let’s have a looky see what visitors do read once they’ve gotten here…
Well, three of those top five were all written when I still lived and played in Mexico City. The other two? Well, they do appear to be about Mexico. I think my medicinal advice on how to clear up a bit of psoriasis of the scalp must be my most read post ever. By some margin. That’s two or three years running that it has topped the charts. I wonder if anyone ever gave it a go? And if so, did it work for them?
Anyway, despite all this doom and gloom, some of you still take the time to look in and see whats going on now and again. So the final graph. It’s the biggie, too. Who wins the prize for leaving the most comments this year?
Why it’s Kim G. For the fourth year running. Well done Kim. William made a good go of it though, pushing up to second place from last year’s fourth spot. He swaps places with Norm, who tumbles to fourth. Steve is consistent. Third again. Colm is a new entry displacing….me. Apparently, I was the fifth most frequent commenter last year. That, I think was an error.
But this is all a bit by the by. You see, as I mentioned, I’m a bit bored of blogging. Especially now that I have a new job with plenty of overtime available. And money to spend on going out when I have a day off. This all makes blogging feel like work instead of a hobby. I’ve no intention of retiring from blogging, mind you. If this were a job, then I’ve moved from being a part-timer to a zero hours contract. Shorter posts. Published less frequently. Mostly photos. Such is life.
Every year, the magic pixies that power WordPress, crunch up the numbers and produce some facts and figures for their bloggers. Just to let them know how they are doing. Alas, my blog is clearly in decline. But I’ve know this for a long time. It all went a little downhill the moment I left Mexico. But I still enjoy it, so I’ll plod on for another year. Let’s look at the numbers anyway. It’s just a bit of fun rather than the whole story.
My previous posts from 2012 and 2013 show that I can’t quite fill the Sydney Opera House as many time over as I used to be able to. With 37,000 visits in 2013, I would have filled the place for 14 consecutive nights. The year before, I had enough visits to warrant being measured against the Cannes Film Festival. Fifty thousand visits were enough for a dozen festivals, apparently. I post less these days too. Last years tally of 146 was down from 196 the year before. Now we are down to just 122 posts. I’ve become lazy. Or busy elsewhere. Take your pick. I’m clearly not controversial enough either. I obviously need to jump on an extremist bandwagon of some sort and stir a few people up!
Normally, there’s a couple of posts from the current year that make it into the top five. Not so this year. My most popular content is all old stuff. I do wonder where all those people interested in the Mexican Psoriasis Cure come from though. I have noticed over the last twelve months that it’s one of the most read posts on most days. Weird. I know where most people come from though. Google and Steve Cotton. To be struck off Steve’s blog roll would be akin to being struck off the internet.
Who is it that visits anyway? For the most part, a big bunch of lost souls who were looking for something else and quickly went elsewhere in search of it. Then there are the lurkers. Those people who like to have a little read now and then but prefer not to be noticed. Sometimes the lurkers say hello at an appropriate moment, sometimes not. I’m not criticising. I am a lurker myself on other blogs.
Then there’s the regulars. The ones who prop themselves up on my virtual bar and put the world to rights. Kim, once again, leads the list. For the third year running….a hattrick. There’s two new names there too. Norm has been around for what seems like forever. William (or should it be Bill, really?) is a relative newbie. Steve has less to say these days, but then there have been fewer posts. He still moves up one place into three.
This is all becoming a bit too ‘Top of the Pops’. Let’s finish this off. Many thanks to all of those who visited, whether you fled soon after or not. Hello to all you lurkers. You are noticed. Maybe only once a year with this review, but still. You count. And of course, the biggest thanks to all you who leave a comment. Whether it’s just one or a few dozen. It’s nice not having to talk to myself.
Many, many moons ago, on this very blog – albeit on different hosts – I earned a small fortune churning out posts with paid links in them. I’ve told this story before. Paid links can bring in a pretty penny, although not the fortune it used to make me. Last year I must have earned a couple thousand shiny British pounds from posting ads and including specific links in my posts. I even started another blog, Gary Denness Photography, with the intention of monetising it.
Alas, there’s a major slump in the Page Rank Spam industry. There have been slumps before. But this seems altogether more terminal. All of my revenue sources have dried up. Totally. Which is a pity – the money came in very useful. What has happened to paid posts? It’s hard to say. But at a guess, Google has had some input. A lot of input. I’ve had ‘representatives’ of companies who have run paid posts on my blog in the past emailing me en masse, pleading with me to take the ‘Google unfriendly’ links down. Matt Cutts should also be listened to. And other platforms have clearly come a cropper.
Whatever. It was nice while it lasted. Perhaps the platforms who used to organise paid posts will find a loop hole and reinvent themselves and bring blogging revenue back into my life. But I have not enough faith in that happening soon enough, or in a meaningful enough way, to justify running two blogs. Pft. I barely have enough time to post to one blog. So, my obituary of the paid post industry is accompanied with an obit for my photography blog. It is still there for the time being, till I figure out what, if anything, I want to do with the garydenness.com domain.
I’ve already imported all the posts from that blog into this one. I’ll fix the Camera Lust section into the menu soon. And I’m sure I’ll continue photography themed posts here. Just as I used to. I did like the ability to play around with the photography blog, which was a WP.org site, not WP.com. But I feel more secure on WordPress.com. Less likely to be hacked. Does blog hacking happen? Oh yes, for all sorts of reasons. My blog isn’t too tempting a prize for hackers. But whilst in the Import page, I backed up the blog as well. It seems a sensible thing to do from time to time. You should too, if you have a blog.
For I have sinned. I strayed from the path, and experimented with Zoren. But I couldn’t quite get comfortable with the blocky look. I sampled Origin, a theme with so much promise. But let down by a frankly awful user experience when leaving or replying to comments. I lusted after Kent. The theme, not Clark. But alas, the $79 asking price was too much for me.
I find it utterly nuts that WordPress don’t allow limited time free trials for themes. The Preview feature isn’t enough. I know from experience (ahem) that sometimes a nice looking theme just doesn’t work out once you’ve had a few days to get to know each other. Nearly $80 is a lot of money to spend on something you might not like a few days later. The number of free themes that are released compared to paid themes is disappointing. The number of decent themes being released, free or not, is very disappointing.
So I’ve returned to where I started. The Pilcrow theme. It’s not perfect. I don’t like the widget style. I wish the homepage showed excerpts with a little image instead of full blog posts. I wish the theme was a little wider. But in an imperfect WordPress world, this is the least imperfect theme. I’ve jazzed it up a little with a diamondy background. Which I will probably soon tire of and delete in favour of a plain grey background.
And I’ve planted my political allegiance for all to see. My current political allegiance. In an imperfect Britain, this is the least imperfect party. It is, of course, an awfully long way from perfect. A post will follow on this subject soon, I’m sure. Till, then, welcome back Pilcrow. Are there any dissenters who preferred the other themes? Critique and comments welcome. No dirty protests though, please…
I recently, as in ‘two days ago’, faced the blue screen of death. A reformat of my hard drive beckoned. I’ve had to do this many times before. I dare say I’ll have to do it many times again. This time wasn’t terribly traumatic. Time consuming, yes. Traumatic, no. Traumatic would be the time I had a sudden HDD failure in early 2006. I lost a whole load of blog posts (my blog was a self produced and hosted creation back then) and several months worth of photos.
Today, all my photos are on Flickr. I did that within days of that 2006 HDD failure. Heck, I put everything in the cloud. Google’s ‘Not As Evil As The Rest’ Empire has its flaws and security/privacy issues. But I have allowed it to consume my digital life. My music collection. My mobile photos are backed up to Google the moment they are taken. I don’t bother with MS Office or any of the free variants, and just have Google Drive installed with their office suite readily available for online or offline use. My browser is Chrome and plugged into Google to save all my bookmarks and browsery stuff.
As for my blog. That was the first thing I moved onto a hosted platform. I had used Opera’s browser for years. They had a blog service called MyOpera. The community was brilliant, and I still keep in touch with a select handful of characters I met there. I stopped using the browser when it hit version 10 and broke, and Google brough out Chrome, which was slick. I stopped using MyOpera for blogging in 2009 after I had whored it doing paid posts to the extent it had become a virtual disease unto itself. I later got caught doing those ads, and was banned. Such is life. The $20,000 I earned before that happened was worth it….!
But I discovered yesterday that the fat lady had cleared her throat. She’s gonna start singing in March. The Opera experience is coming to an end. MyOpera is shutting down, and its users need to find a new home. There’s lots of genuinely good free blogging services out there. None match the built in community of MyOpera. But the platforms themselves are better, in my opinion. Tumblr is quirky, dead easy and fun. Blogger is incredibly versatile and can’t be beat when it comes to customisation. But WordPress is the most professional of the free services. It’s my choice and my recommendation. A recommendation I have passed on to my Opera friends.
To those who decide to walk this path, I welcome ye to WordPress. It’s a fine new home for your literary masterpieces/entertaining epics/rambling waffles. It’ll take a while to settle in, figure out where everything is kept and to feel truly at home. But I’m sure if you have a good play around, you’ll soon pick up what you need to know. If you get stuck, there’s a section to add comments below, just like in MyOpera. I’ll be glad to help out if I can. But I’ll try and help out straight away. Here’s a quick list of Eight Helpful Hints to start getting the most out of WordPress today….
One thing you’ll probably do straight away is import all your old posts from MyOpera. There’s instructions on doing that here. Once your bits and bytes are on WordPress you might want a way to access your archives. There’s a couple of ways to do this. You can add a Calendar or an Archive widget in the sidebar. But they are difficult to navigate. My preferred method is to create a page, imaginatively called Archive, and just type [ archives ] into the text area, but don’t leave spaces between the brackets and the text. You can look at my Archives page, or the image below, to see the result. Every post in a list. So easy to search. I wish it showed the dates, but you can’t have everything.
Are you wondering what the deal is with that [ archives ] code? Opera used BB code, if I remember rightly. And you could play with the CSS – I used to do that a lot. Those days are over amigos. WordPress isn’t the most customisable platform, unless you want to shell out of a $30 upgrade to access the CSS. But you can still add stuff. The way to do this is with Shortcodes, as described here.
You can customise the header image of your blog though. Every theme has a different sized header, so make sure you’ve chosen a theme you’re happy with before you spend too much time playing with the header images. The best bit here is that you can upload a whole load of header images and have them set to rotate. So everytime someone visits your blog, there’s a new picture at the top to greet them.
There’s lots of ways to add images to WordPress, but the Gallery function is excellent, particularly the Tiled Mosaic option. Upload a whole selection of photo, choose the option to create a Gallery then tick the boxes as shown below, to create something that looks like this.
Future Proof Images
Although I often upload images to WordPress, most of the time I embed photos from my Flickr account. The problem here though, is that if you change theme, and your new theme has a different text box width, then your old images are now the wrong size. There’s an easy cure for this. See the code below. You can see what I’ve done in red. The top set of code is the original. The bottom is the code I publish. It’s width is set to 100% and I’ve removed the height tags. That photo will now fill my text area no matter what theme I use.
There’s lots of ways you can spend money on WordPress upgrades. I’ve been tempted to buy a package and remove the ads, but never taken the plunge. But there is one upgrade I have always paid for. The custom domain name upgrade. I do remember from my MyOpera days that the inability to have a custom domain was a source of frustration for many. The wait is over folks. Go get yourself your own fancy domain name today.
WordPress comes with Akismet built in, to combat spam. But it is far from infalliable. I regularly get blanat spam getting past Akismet’s sensors. No one likes spam. There’s an easy cure for this though. See the image below. Right at the bottom is the key section – make sure you check ‘comment author must have a previously approved comment‘. By checking this box, every comment on your blog by a new user will go to the Pending tray. And it’ll stay there till you mark it as Approved or as Spam. You’ll only have to do this once per user, providing they log in to make their comments under the same name each time.
Ok, so WordPress doesn’t have the tightly knit community that MyOpera has. But you can overcome that. You probably have communities built elsewhere. Probably Facebook. That’s where Publicise comes in, sending your posts to your Facebook wall as fast as you can publish them. It couldn’t be easier.
I hope some of that helped out! 🙂
Once upon a long ago, I received a letter through the post. This was very long ago. Age wise, single digits. So long ago that receiving a letter through the post was rather exciting. I didn’t get letters, generally speaking. The occasional statement from Midland bank, referring to me as ‘Master Gary’. Or a reply from a short lived school sponsored foreign penpal. But this letter was entirely unexpected. It was my introduction to the infamous chain letter. The sort where you have to respond to six friends, or bad luck will surely befall you. After all, this chain letter has been going around, unbroken for decades. Centuries. Maybe King Henry VIII once participated.
I was uninterested in the chain letter, put off by the threat of a house potentially falling on me whilst walking to school. Yet bothered enough by the threat to participate. Chain letters are an investment free practice run at pyramid selling. When I got another a few years later, I binned it. Chain letters still exist, but they are digital know. The purest form is spread on Facebook, with soppy messages that you must copy and paste for 1 hour as your status. I’m more likely to defriend someone posting those than join in.
There’s another digital form of the chain letter. One just for bloggers. The most popular of which is the Liebster Award. It is a bit cheesy. But I enjoyed reading the entry on Kim’s blog. And truth be told, I’d enjoy reading a bit more about some of my favourite bloggers. It’s kinda an extension of the Workstation Photo, started by Señor Calypso. I shouldn’t just lurk, being the internet voyeur. I guess I should participate.
Official Rules for the Liebster Award
List 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the questions designated by the blogger who nominated you.
Place YOUR nominations for the Liebster Award! Nominate five (or more) other bloggers that have fewer than 200 followers. Make sure to notify them via comment/email, etc.
Make up a set of questions for those nominated bloggers to answer.
Display the Liebster award badge on your blog!
Liebster Award Questions : Eleven Facts About Myself
1. I started smoking when I was 15, and shot up from a shortish 5’6″ to a lofty 6’2″ in less than a couple of years. 2. I punctured a lung in my late teens, due apparently to my growth spurt. 3.My first friend at my first proper school was on Jim’ll Fix It. I wrote in, but was never invited on. I’m no longer as jealous as I was. 4. My favourite bridge in London is the Albert Bridge. You’ve seen it in the movie Sliding Doors. 5. I still have a piece of pencil lead embedded in my wrist, 30+ years after it got there. 6. My first ever pet was a goldfish called Fred. He died while I was away for a weekend, so our neighbour replaced him hoping I wouldn’t notice. My mum joined in and called him Fred. I did notice, but a tradition was set and I subsequently owned over 30 goldfish all called Fred. 7.If I had to pick between Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, I’d have a nervous breakdown. Perhaps I’d just settle for Cindy Crawford, my original teen crush. She’s still pretty hot at 50. 8. The first football team I ever supported was Arsenal. For just two weeks. This is my dirtiest little secret. 9. I was born in Perivale hospital in Ealing, West London. 10. I was once robbed of £2 after winning a game of pool by a boy who went on to become the 2000 Olympic Super Heavyweight boxing gold medal winner. He ran away from me when I gave chase. It’s perhaps best I never caught him. For me, not him. 11. I have never had the BCG, nor had Measles or Mumps. I live in fear of germs.
When did you first consider moving to Mexico, and how long did it take to make the dream reality?
At the end of 2002, I’d truly had enough of working for Chevron Texaco. The Area Manager was an abysmal chap. The job was unrewarding. I’d served my time. I fancied moving abroad. Mexico wasn’t on the list of potential countries. But when looking for cheap places to do a TEFL, an institute in Guadalajara came up trumps. It was so random. I went to Mexico in the middle of the next year having booked my course. But I spent three months travelling around the country without ever seeing the inside of a classroom and then came back to the UK. I had to consider Mexico as a permanent base a second time for it to become reality. And I will have to consider it a third time to make it permanent.
What do you like the best about living in Mexico?
The sun and blue skies. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t understand, then you aren’t British.
What’s your favorite Mexican movie?
Like Water For Chocolate. I’m not much of a Mexican movie buff to be totally honest. I’m guessing Machete doesn’t count as a Mexican movie. Shame.
What’s your favorite and least favorite Mexican foods?
My favourite is Barbacoa, which is always at its best when served in a little road side eatery just outside Huichapan. Least favourite? I can’t remember the name. It was served on tostadas, and I thought it was a tough bit of vegetable. It was actually part of a cow foot. I didn’t finish it. I’m also not fond of putting chili powder on fruit.
Who is your favorite Mexican musician?
I guess Mana. Or maybe Molotov. Naming a musician is hard. I love the sound of mariachis. Can I name a song instead? I think I will then, if that’s ok. There’s one song which brings memories of Mexico flooding back. And there’s one version which particularly brings the background smells, noises and atmosphere of Mexico DF to life. It’s a corny choice, but I truly love this rendition…
If I were a pure ‘stats junkie’, I’d use Flickr not just for my photos, but to blog from to. I get far more exposure there than I do here, or on the Mexile proper. Check out the screenshot above. Only twice in the last month did I get fewer than 200 views. Eight days saw more than 1,000 visitors. One day topped 3000. Th rest were mostly between 600 to 800. It won’t be long before I hit half a million views in total.
I might experiment one of these days, and write a blog post to upload with a photo. Just to see if it increases views on that photo and whether I get much interaction from visitors. I’d be interested to see what happens. I won’t make a habit of it though. While you can blog from Flickr, the comments system is a bit meh, and the whole operation is nowhere near as slick as WordPress. But perhaps I should try and utilise those views more, given my desire to monetise my blogs. Perhaps just adding my web address to each photo I upload.
Recently I came across an advert on the Guardian – Blogging Masterclass courses. They’ll take you by the hand and guide you through the jargon, how to sign up a WordPress account, how to customise it, how to add a domain name, how to use social media and how to use text and images. At a staggering £400 per person. I kid you not, £400 per person. Pound Sterling. Real money.To be fair, the price does include lunch. Which really, really needs to be caviar and champagne. And plenty of it.
What the heck?! I’m in the wrong bleeding job! Seriously. I need to start my own business providing basic tuition to
gullible old folk with more money than sense ‘beginners’. The first course will be entitled ‘How To Get Online And Survive The First Hour On The Web Without A Nigerian Scammer Emptying Your Bank Account‘. Anyone who is willing to pay £400 for a WordPress beginners course is surely going to be interested in what I have to offer. And by emptying their bank accounts myself before any shady character in Lagos has the chance, I will be delivering the service as promised.
I’m sure there is a career out there somewhere for me in web design/tuition/writing/something or other. I just need to find my niche and then find the time to fill it. Till then, I will continue to regale anyone who passes by with whatever I am droning on about in this here blog. Writing a bloggers guide did occur to me, but I dropped it. It’s been done before. A million times.
I will say this. Blogging is free. Don’t be paying anyone £400 to essentially teach you what you’ll pick up yourself within ten minutes of loading up your web browser. Just plough ahead, and learn with experience. If you’re really unsure, then watch someone else have a go. This is where I introduce the most famous non-blogger on the Mexican blog scene. Now an ex-non-blogger. Gringo Suelto is up and running, after many years of vague but unfulfilled threats to start scribing his own blog rather than scribbling all over other peoples, in their comments sections. Kim G has generously scattered his wit and wisdom far and wide across the blogosphere for years, but now has a blog of his own to call home. Yay!
Gringo Suelto is going to be an interesting blog to read. First of all, because the writer has so much to share, so many stories to tell and a way with words that is always thought provoking and engaging. But it will also be interesting to see how he develops the blog. What style or theme he settles on. Is there a ‘technical art’ to blogging? I have my theme. One of them is to base a post around my photographs. So here are four photos. Completely irrelevant to this post, but there’s just not enough to say about them to merit a post of their own.
Four photos on A4 that I found recently. I took them ten years ago. My old Honda Pantheon scooter, a couple of snow scenes from our garden/field and my sisters pet owl. I sold the scooter when I fled to Mexico, the snow eventually melted and the owl escaped one day, never to be seen again. Yes, I’m pretty short on inspiration. Scraping the dregs from the bottom of the blogging barrel. I just have nothin’ far ya. Perhaps now is a good time to click on the link to Gringo Suelto and escape the tedium of the Mexile…