The Blog Challenge
I’ve been blogging a long time. My first blog post, I just checked, was April 24th, 2003. I owned a local health food store at the time and dealing with the public can sometimes be trying. We had many good customers, friends really, and writing the blog helped me cope with some of the more annoying aspects of running my own business. The posts consisted of customer interactions, new product launches, or personal anecdotes. Not knowing much about web traffic, search optimization, or blogging even, the site never attracted much of a following. Looking at the Blogger stat page now I see it had all of 1000 page views.
I still write there, but I’ve made it private. It’s become an experimental place, and it still holds a lot of good memories. One of my favorite story arcs was over a 4 month period. A neighbor had found two fledgling mockingbird chicks. Being the resident animal lovers on our street, my wife and I adopted them. We named them Orville and Wilbur. Twice weekly trips to Bob’s Bait Bucket for meal worms, flying lessons in the store, Ranae taking them to Chuey’s on a Saturday lunch with the girls dominated my posts. (Is it any surprise the site had so little traffic?) We played bird songs on the computer because we read that mockingbirds learn to sing by listening.
Wilbur took off one day and never came back. Half of our job was done. Orville struggled with flight and we continued to work with him. On top of additional flying lessons I bought a bell and did a little Paplov conditioning. We would ring the bell and Orville would fly to my hand a few feet away and eat a worm. We kept lengthening the distance. One day while practicing outside, Orville was strong enough to fly off on his own. That night I rang the bell and, with worm in my hand, Orville flew down, gobbled the worm and flew away. For the next month, morning and night Orville “answered the bell”. I’m sure all the neighbors (and you too for that matter) must think me crazy. I would sit in this chair in my front yard and ring the bell. Sometimes it would take a few minutes, but when I would catch a glimpse of Orville flying toward our tree, it was magical.
After about a month, the cats (we own four) figured out that every time I rang the bell we were having a bird over for a meal. Their meal. After about a month, Orville had had enough of their Sylvester looking stares. He was fully grown, did not need our meal worms anymore, and probably started looking for a Mrs. Orville. While he has not landed in my hand for some time, every mockingbird in our neighborhood is known as Orville.
Training Jessie Blog
For my next blog adventure I thought about something that might help other people. I bought a horse in 2007. New to horse ownership and training I wanted to chronicle our journey. The Training Jessie Blog featured training tips, videos, and successes and failures with the hopes of giving other horse owners ideas and inspiration that might help them with their horse. Training Jessie was far more popular than my first blog and got me interested in video. Launching a YouTube Channel was much like a video blog and, while nothing I’ve done has gone viral, I’ve still managed to rack up about three quarters of a million views.
But the real challenge of blogging is “What do you actually write about?”. Sometimes I want to write a piece of fiction. Sometimes I want to give tips on dog or horse training. Sometimes I want to rant about people who don’t use turn signals. And here lies the struggle. It’s not considered part of “best practices’ to have such diverse topics. A blog “should” focus on one thing. Readers “should” know what to expect when they visit my blog. I’m horrible at that kind of stuff. And that’s the other thing. A blog isn’t “supposed” to expose the things I’m bad at doing. It’s “supposed” to highlight the stuff I do well. So, I don’t really know what you’re going to get over the next 13 weeks. After 13 years of blogging I still struggle. But, you’ll get 26 posts is some form or another, because, as I learned from Orville, when challenged, it’s important to answer the bell.