Joie de Vivre

Notes on FitBloggin’

I’ve been to a lot of conferences. Some were organized on shoe string budgets, like a WordCamp for Education held in the back room of a community college, and some were expensive, fancy gatherings, like An Event Apart.  When a conference succeeds, it energizes, educates and unites its participants.

FitBloggin’ was every bit as as nice as An Event Apart, and more intimate. Held at the Marriott in Fells Point, Baltimore,  everything felt just right. Baltimore was lovely and on its best behavior, which let the attendees and sponsors focus on the work at hand.

Photo by Carriedphotography

A lot of other people are discussing the amazing amount of swag given out (new running shoes from New Balance, the Gruve, the Weight Watchers Pedometers, etc), the wonderful food and the collegial atmosphere. Follow the #fitbloggin hash tag on twitter and check on the fitbloggin’ Web site.

Here’s my take on things…

My WordPress Talk

Thank you to  EVERYONE for their questions. I had hoped for a discussion more than a lecture type talk – it was good.

One of the ideas I focused on is developing one’s own Web presence. For a long time, I’ve thought about using Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, etc to draw people to my Web site.

My experience has been mostly the opposite. The people who use these services tend to stay within these communities, for the most part. Which isn’t really a bad thing – but hosting my content there doesn’t always convert into traffic to THIS site.

In the early days of the Web, when AOL was a  main service provider, it acted very much like a shopping mall. You would enter their doors and be bombarded with news, chat rooms, advertising and “You’ve got mail!”. If you were lucky, you could make it out through the back door, across the parking lot and onto the Web. Facebook, Blogger and even are similar in that, when you use their services, you are in THEIR box. They are primarily self contained ecosystems. By placing content within their walls, we contribute to those communities – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but something important for bloggers to consider. Where do you really want your content to be?

New Faces

I want to mention a few of the people I met and things I learned.

I spent some time talking with Jeff at POM Wonderful and learned that their Web site and social network run on WordPress (BuddyPress, in particular). His presentation on Saturday had some interesting statistics about blogging – the “Hobbyist” blogger gets about 10k visits a year, and typically blogs for just under two years. He suggested, in the fitness context of the conference, finding a “wolf pack” to support ones goals as a blogger/athlete/healthy person. I hope he posts his slides somewhere. The statistics were interesting. I liked POM, too.

Next, I hung out with Scott Stawarz (and his wife) – It was good to have someone from my own demographic present ;) .  He’s a good presenter and covered the basics of Search Engine Optimization. I hope to bump into him again.

I attended a fascinating panel called Beyond the Blog: Getting Published (with Charlie Hills, Linda Konner, Jennette Fulda, Caitlin Boyle and  Brett Blumenthal). Brett Blumenthal self published her book and generously offered advice on this experience, and it was interesting to contrast her approach against getting the many rejected book proposals that Caitlin had before getting her book out there.  There’s something about a DIY approach (whether it be for music, art or book publishing) that I find appealing. It’s certainly a lot of work – but the gap between the amount of work a self-published author and a traditional agent-to-publishing-house-author have to do is closing. Linda stressed that, in the current book market, publishers are looking for authors that have a “platform,” which is to say, have a following of some sort. They need to be willing to support the book with signings, interviews, tours and whatnot. Finally,  Jennette Fulda is delightful. I’m looking forward to reading her book(s). She’s a savvy technologist, too.

The keynote address was given by David Grotto, RD, LDN – author of 101 Optimal Life Foods. He posed the question – “If you were stranded on a  island, what 10 foods would you want to have with you?” People called out some healthy and not-so-healthy things. He made the point that we don’t need to abandon our favorite foods to be healthy – we need to ADD foods that are good for us. Simple, brilliant, easy to remember.

Finally, I attended a talk on Using Social Media to Reach Goals: The Power of an Online Community. Someone asked “How do you handle the occasional disruptive person who may infiltrate your community?”

Panelist Benjamin Teal responded this way: “There are what, 5 or 6 billion people on the planet, right? Block a couple of them.” Good point.

Fitbloggin’ 2011?

So, as I said, when a conference succeeds, it energizes, educates and unites its participants. Fitbloggin’ was a smashing, grand-slam of a success. It’s evident that there’s a need for this conference – I hope Roni will continue.


The Sea and Grass

This post began as an abstract comic and developed into several paragraphs about blogs-n-sketchbooks plus an abstract comic. I’ve been posting a mishmash of stuff lately, much to the disappointment of my fellow water tower aficionados, and that got me thinking about writing about making.

I once attended a conference where a fellow talked about  open source software development.   He described a release cycle that including the work (designing, writing and debugging code) and releasing the code (for peer review/testing/acceptance). Don’t work in a vacuum – be a part of a community. Share your work incrementally. Don’t wait until the epic masterpiece is finished and perfect because, odds are, it will be neither. Put your stuff out there. Release, release, release. It’s how one grows.

This idea applies to a lot of things besides software. It applies to things like music, cooking, writing, teaching…art. It’s how we improve in our endeavors.

Last year, I started (and ended) a sketch blog. Its purpose was to support the mission of drawing every day. I thought it made sense to relegate the daily sketches to another site. I learned that not everything that ends up in a sketchbook needs to be (or should be) published. Not at all. And, that THIS blog is the place to release sketches.  It doesn’t matter that a lot of what I post here is quick and slack and unrefined. What matters is that work is being done (like in a sketchbook) and shared (the potential for peer review, chronicling of progress).

Sketchbooks are about thinking and ideas. They are diaries, laboratories, journals – they are messy, private, clumsy, joyous, random and sometimes enlightened places. They are worthless empty and priceless when filled. They are, in my mind, absolutely essential.

All people are creative. We design our lives. We make choices based on ideas, feelings, superstitions, various rationale – aesthetics.

Yet, is it essential to post one’s thoughts/sketches/art on the Web? Maybe. Many artists are discovered only after they pass on to the Land of the Dead, and I’m betting that some were happy in their obscurity. Everyone makes things for different reasons, but I suspect all humans receive the same rewards for their efforts.

Yet,  I bet a lot of those unknown artists would have LOVED to have been part of a scene/movement in their times. Because what is a scene/movement, really? A community. A very special one.  Not everyone is a visionary or catalyst for something “new,” but there are others who need to participate. A cook needs to feed people. And there was a lot more the the beatniks than bongos, man.

This blog supports the other half of  my sketchbook process – release, release, release.  I think that’s important – what do you think?


New! Sketchblog!

I’ve created a new blog for drawings. I’m very taken with the idea of drawing and sketching every day, and posting the work as part of the process. The problem is, I don’t think very much of what I draw warrants posting.  So, rather than post them all here or on flickr, I thought it appropriate to create a sketch blog, with more finished art making its way here.

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