The end of an era

A moment of silence to honor the passing of one of the great wordsmiths and intellectual provocateurs, William F. Buckley Jr.

Once in a while I agreed with Buckley, most of the time I certainly did not, but I deeply admired his genius for articulate extemporaneous speaking and journalistic commentary. According the the obituary in the New York Times, Buckley’s 33 years with “Firing Line” made him the longest-running host in the history of television.

He entertained, he inflamed, and he enlightened. And he seemed to enjoy it all immensely.

Today’s favorite Tweet

I’m increasingly fond of Twitter, the online watercooler where you can follow your friends and engage in some back-and-forth. Comments are limited to 140 characters, so the environment favors the one- or two-liner.

I smiles when I saw this one, from a friend of a friend, aimed at followers of the long-running, ever-mutating Dr. Who television series:

Our 2 yr old saw my iphone * desktp wallpapr Tardis picture & said “trashcan”. Clearly needs 2 be sent 2 the Gallifrean re-education camps.

February Seattle weblogger meetup

The February Seattle Weblogger Meetup focused on illustrating your blog with photos, and it coincided with a big photo opportunity: The eclipse of the moon.

Minutes before the meeting, the Samurai Radiologist posted a quick iPhone shot on Not Totally Rad. And Kim, a serious photoblogger, had a stock photo of the eclipse up on Something to Say. Mike, who writes often about radiological issues, talked a little about Mach bands, something we see in photos that might not really exist. Apparently we can blame this on horseshoe crabs.

New to the meeting were Natasha J (“tech lovin’ communications maven”) with daughter Ava (featured often on Natash’s working-mom blog) and Kendrarella. Kendrarella has so much blog-worthy material from her world travels she can’t make up her mind where to start!

Jack Bell (Antigravitas) showed off his new MacBook Air (with lit-up keyboard and glossy screen) and photoblogged the meeting using his iPhone. Bill Boyde explained once again why his blog name (Overdue Bill) is appropriate to his blogging frequency.

Dennis of Orcmid’s Live Hideout brought a serious camera along and we’re looking forward to his photos of the meeting.

Clark Humphrey of Seattle indie news site MiscMedia and I rounded out the meeting. The Seattle Weblogger Meetup group has been attracting quite a few new members; as the transitional organizer, I’m planning on serving up some topic-focused meetings for the next few months, seeing how the group evolves, and recruiting a new organizer in May or June.

If you have ideas for meeting topics, would like to serve as the assistant organizer for a while (you get to approve new members!), etc., please let me know. I’ll be sending out an email to the whole meetup group with this info shortly.

Killer content

What if my picture went on every website or piece of content I write? Whoa.

Most of my current projects involve collaborations with designers, programmers, project managers, and other writers and editors. I have a lot of responsibility, but not a huge amount of control. Sometimes, when things aren’t turning out well, there’s a temptation to say “Fine, you’re happy with it this way, we’ll do it this way,” — even though I know that the product, as it stands, isn’t very good.

Of course, this would be a pretty dim thing to do. Because I want both a final product I can show to prospective clients and a client and team members who would refer me to work on other projects (plus give me repeat business). So I take a deep breath and start the conversation to figure out how to advance things from “just OK” to “really great.”

I was inspired tonight by something I saw when my husband and I went grocery shopping at the Ballard Market. He was headed off to the bread section, I was turning left at frozen foods, when I spotted a table of food samples in the distance.

“It’s Dave!” I said. My husband stopped, looking around for someone we know named Dave, and not seeing anyone.

Dave,” I repeated. “From Dave’s Killer Bread.”

Dave, the fellow manning the food sample table, had been instantly recognizable to me even though I’d never met him. That’s because a drawing of him — tanned, muscular, with a long hippie-style ponytail — is on every package of the whole grain bread we use.

We went over to meet Dave and taste some samples of his breads. I marveled at the confidence and risk that goes into putting your name and picture on every single product that you make — to say nothing of getting out there and calling your brand “Dave’s Killer Bread.”

I’ve seen people taken aback because my business cards say I’m a “web content guru” instead of a “web content writer and producer.”

What do you supposed they’d think of “Karen’s Killer Content?”

(Speaking of content, the story behind Dave’s Killer Bread may make your head spin.)

Blogging secrets

Some of the work I do involves helping clients figure out how to blog for their businesses or “ghost blogging” for them (in cases where the primary purpose of the blog is to generate a steady flow of fresh content for search engine optimization).

If you blog for your own business, for a client, or just for fun, it’s worth checking out the “7 Dark Truths” about blog subscribers (i.e., your steady audience) written by Nick Cernis of Put Things Off for ProBlogger.

The truths aren’t really all that dark (well, maybe #2 is) but they make the point that blog traffic doesn’t just happen. You have to invite it.

Reading and writing

After writing non-fiction all day, I like to read fiction at night.

Currently my husband is reading Terry Pratchett’s latest, Making Money, out loud to me while I cook dinner. About a thief who finds himself in charge of a banking system, it’s so good that sometimes I put dinner on the table and we just keep reading until the food cold! If you haven’t read anything by Pratchett, the bestselling writer (alongside J.K. Rowling) in England for the past decade, I’d suggest you start with Jingo.

While Pratchett writes speculative fiction that sounds suspiciously like literature, Michael Chabon writes literature that sounds suspiciously like speculative fiction. I just finished Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union about a police detective in Sitka, Alaska (which in the book is a fictitious Jewish community created after the 1948 collapse of the state of Israel). This delightful book may well be the best-written novel of the decade.

The tale of two websites

Occasionally someone says “I’d love to know what you think of my website.”

No, actually, you probably wouldn’t.

But don’t worry, because I won’t be providing any feedback about your site unless you pay me for it. You see, website analysis is part of what I do for a living. I analyze websites for effectiveness: Do they get across the message the individual or company wants to communicate to the intended audience?

Of course, the criteria for effectiveness vary. Does the accountant’s website look serious and well-organized? Does the artist’s site look creative? Does the interior decorator’s site look fashionable, and show plenty of large pictures of completed projects? Does the photographer’s website put attention on the photography rather than the words? Does the online store site make it a breeze to locate and purchase items? Is the writer’s website crisp and to the point?

This evening a writer I know asked a group of us to take a look at her new professional website. I clicked over to it and groaned. It was so…wrong.

New website? The design, colors, and typeface were tired and 10 years out of date, and the text went on, and on, and on. There was a bio on the “About Me” page, but also lots of redundant bio information on the text-heavy homepage. The headshot was boring. The writing style was bland and wordy. The subheds were corny. Worst of all, the bio of this 50-year-old writer included a long paragraph detailing ho-hum campus activities and student awards from 30 years ago.

No, I’m not going reveal the URL of this sad website. But I’d like you to see the website of a mid-career writer whose online presence is a paragon of effective communication. Oh, and you’ll love her new mystery novel, too.

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