My first day without Internet service, I am having withdrawal symptoms! I don’t know yet which is worse, the withdrawal symptoms today, or the high level of frustration on a day like yesterday when I had to fight Verizon’s poor wireless Internet service every step of the way. I tried to get several posts ahead, preparing for not having Internet access, and I would be working on a draft when my service would just quit. No warnings, no error messages, I would click to add a photo or to save the draft, and my browser would time out, causing me to lose everything I had done since my last save. Thank goodness that WordPress has an auto save feature or I would have really been frustrated.
I really want to go off on a rant about shoddy products and service, but since this is a nature blog, I won’t. I will only say that I am done paying for shoddy. If a product doesn’t work as advertised, it’s going back for a full refund, or some one is going to die. Services that don’t perform will be shut off, or not rewarded. I really want to check my E-mail and my blog stats! That tells me something about myself I suppose. In return, my blog is telling me a lot about human nature, or I should say, reinforcing what I already suspected about human nature.
As much as I have isolated myself from the rest of the human race, I still like to receive positive feedback from others. When I think about that, I think that it is silly, but there must be something deep within us all that requires that we receive positive feedback from other humans. That isn’t why I started this blog, or is it? I started this blog because I had written several stories that I wanted to remember. As I am getting older, I’m finding that many of my old memories are either fading, or blending together and I am having a harder time keeping things straight. I posted a couple of the stories as notes on Myspace and Facebook, to share with friends. I found that neither of those places were really good for organizing what I was writing, so I started this blog. I copied and pasted some of those first stories as posts to my blog, not so much to see what others thought, but because I had put too much time and effort into them for them to be lost in cyberspace.
I have no delusions that I am a great writer, I doubt if I would ever become one if I tried. However, I think that I am a better than average writer, when I put my mind to it. My blog started as my personal journal, a place for me to record places I go and things I see. I thought that if a few people found them interesting, that it would be great, but that’s not why I started this blog.
At about the same time as I started my blog, I was posting a few photos of mine to the social networking sites as well, and people seemed to like them. So what the heck, I’ll add photos to my blog. I didn’t add many at first, for several reasons. One is that WordPress limits you to 3Gbs unless you pay extra, something I didn’t want to do, at least at first. Another is that I had some one “steal” one of my swan photos from a social networking site and was trying to sell it as their own. I don’t want to add a watermark to my photos, I know I should, but I don’t want the watermark to detract from the photo. I suppose that’s vanity on my part. I came up with the solution of reducing all the photos I upload to public sites down to 800X600 and reducing the quality to the point where they’re not worth stealing. That also helps me to not use up my quota of space on WordPress as well, and now I have a pretty good handle on how long it will be before I have to pay for extra space.
I started another blog in an attempt to sell a few of my photos, just as a way of earning a little extra cash to help me pay for my expenses while I am doing my thing, but that has gone nowhere. I am paid up until February for that site, then it will disappear into cyberspace, never to be seen again.
I’ll admit that I would love to earn a little extra from either of my blogs, but that isn’t going to happen. My blog has evolved from what I began it as, and I have the feeling that it will evolve a lot more in the next few months, but it will never be one of the big time blogs that gets thousands of hits per day and turns into a cash cow. That’s OK, the more I blog, the more I love it.
It is still a record of my outdoor activities, and I have fun going back and reading my earlier posts to jog my memory. The photos help a lot, but I don’t want to turn this into a photo only blog either, although it may seem like where it is going right now.
I have a number of drafts started on more serious issues, I guess you could call them environmental issues, that interest me. I know I am an oddball on that account. I am a hard-core conservative as far as my political views, and people have a hard time reconciling that with how much I love nature. I have been disowned by the environmental movement that I was one of the first to join way back in the early days, when environmentalists really wanted to preserve the environment. Needless to say, there will be much more on that subject over time. Especially since I just finished reading an article in the last issue of the newsletter from the Anglers of the Au Sable, of which I am a member, that was along those lines.
Those posts don’t draw many comments or feedback, even though a surprising number of people read them. They don’t get big numbers when I first post them, but they continue to get hits months after I post them. I think that if I could look it up right now, the two most popular posts of mine over time have been “Confessions of a fly fishing snob” and “Victory for the Pigeon River”.
My posts that get the most views, comments and feedback when they are first posted are the ones with pretty pictures.
Of all the links I have in my posts, the ones that get clicked on the most are the maps that I have generated from my GPS unit of the hiking and kayaking trips I have done. The “how to” pages do OK, not great.
I can tell from the site stats from my blog that people are looking for information on two things, identifying plants and animals they see, and places to hike and/or kayak. I’m not much help on the first, identifying plants and animals. I know most of the mammals, but when it comes to birds, wildflowers, or insects, I am not much help. We had field guides in the house all the time while I was growing up, and I have a couple of my own now, but I spend too much time looking for wildlife, and not enough time identifying what I see. Reading other people’s blogs, I find that I am not the only one who gets frustrated trying to identify warblers for example, but other people are much more determined to make the identification that I am. I can normally identify what family they are in, but I spend more time watching and learning their habits than I do looking up their exact name. I need to spend more time identifying them for my blog.
What I really need is a partner, some one to join me in my excursions who is good at identifying what I find. That’s really tough though, as I find few people who actually want to spend time in nature. Over the years, I have kayaked or hiked with hundreds of people, and for all but a very few, they were all focused on getting to the end. It is like driving with little kids in the car, I heard “Are we there yet?” or “How much farther do we have to go?” way too often.
When I am outdoors, the journey is the important thing to me, the destination is just a spot on the map, nothing more. To me, the whole point of going hiking or kayaking is to spend time outdoors, not to see how fast I can complete a hike or a float. I do go with the flow of the rivers when I am kayaking, I match the personality of the river. On fast rivers I go fast, on moderate rivers I travel at a moderate speed, and I go slowly on slow rivers. But, no matter what speed the river flows at, I want to take the time to look around and see the plant and animal life that live along the rivers, not put my head down and paddle from the put in point to the take out spot.
It’s the same thing when I am hiking, I may do a 10 mile hike, but it takes me all day to complete it. I take my time, stop to watch the birds, to photograph flowers, and enjoy my time in the woods. I don’t care at all how long it takes me, I know I am there for the day.
There have only been two people with whom I did well hiking or kayaking with, Spud and Larri. They were both as likely as I to be kicking over rocks to see what was under them, or to stop and admire the tiny wildflowers growing next to a trail. Spud was pretty good at identifying things, better than Larri, but there was one advantage to being outdoors with her, large blooms of certain wildflowers put her in a romantic mood, if you know what I’m saying. 😉
I’ve never understood the rest of them, they all claim to love being outdoors, but then, why are they in such a hurry to get away from it? That’s a rhetorical question by the way, no need to try and answer it. Part of the reason I don’t have all the information I feel as though I should about some of the kayaking trips I have taken the last few years is that the rest of the group was always in such a hurry that I didn’t have the time to make note of things the way I should have. It seemed as if every time I stopped, some one ahead would flip, or get in some kind of trouble, like getting stuck in a logjam, that I felt I had to stay with the group the entire time.
Back to what people are looking for when they come to my blog. When it comes to places to hike or kayak, I am much better at that. There aren’t many rivers in Michigan’s lower peninsula that I haven’t floated at one time or another in some type of watercraft, at least not on the west side of the state. I am not going to say that I have walked every mile of every trail, although my legs feel like it at times, but I do get around. I could spend all my available blogging time adding pages and posts on hiking and kayaking places, but two things stop me. One is that if I am going to do them, I want to do them right, with photos and maps. Many of the places I’ve been, I have no electronic record of the trips, and I think that the photos and maps tell people much more than my words alone. The other thing that holds me back is that the people who use that information never bother to leave a comment or click the like button to say “Thanks”. Maybe I am being petty, but if I go through all the work of helping people plan their trips, then they should at least have the courtesy of saying thank you.
That gets me back to the site stats and search engine terms people use that bring them to my blog. I hate to admit it, but I do like seeing how popular my blog is becoming. There is a part of me that wants to take this blog in a direction which will make it even more popular than it is now, but there is also the part of me that wants to keep it as just a journal of my times spend in the woods or on the rivers. It is easy to get caught up in the number of hits my blog gets, and trying to post what people are looking for. Then it dawns on me, they are finding my blog the way I have been doing it, and I ask myself, do I want to pander just to run up my stats, or do I want to make this blog what I want it to be?
I know, I have done several similar posts to this one, but it’s my blog, and if I want to pause and reflect on what I am doing here, that’s my prerogative. That’s one reason I didn’t sign up for a new Internet provider before I ended my contract with Verizon, to take a short break. (Some break, one day and I am blogging again, albeit in a word processor rather than online)
Pictures are all well and good, I enjoy photography, and I enjoy sharing my photos with others, just as I enjoy their sharing their photos. I know the photo posts boost the site stats for my blog, but I have been getting lax as far as my writing goes. I need to get back to writing more, and using photos to illustrate the story, rather than have the photos be the entire post, with just a few words to set up the photos.
You should know that I am now on my second day without Internet access. I haven’t written much as you can see, between short bursts of gibberish, I have been doing a lot of thinking about my past posts, and what I want to do in the future, and I think I have come up with a plan.
I have also found out that the apartment complex where I live has added a wi-fi hot spot to the community building, woo hoo! I think that will work out well with what I have in mind, time will tell. When I learned that though, my first thought was to grab my computer and rush over there to get back online, check my E-mail, and site stats for this blog, but I am holding off until I finish this.
So that you know, I’m not planning any major changes in my blog, just tweaking what I have been doing, and coming up with more of a defined style. I do want to do more writing, and using the community building hot spot should work out well. I can do the writing at home, then post from the community building once I have it done.
I have also signed up for the WordPress photo of the week challenge. Once a week, they E-mail a theme, then you have one week to come up with a photo to fit the theme. It sounds like it could be fun, we’ll see. So that’s it for now, as always, thanks for stopping by.