Category Archives: Blogging

Two thousand Days In a Row!

According to my calculations, today (or maybe yesterday) marks 2,000 days in a row of blog posts!  (At roughly 300 words per post, that’s over 6 megawords, probably approaching 10 megawords.)

“It may not be good, but its consistent!”

My grizzled veteran keyboard is worn out from blogging….

I’ll take this opportunity to muse a bit.

What Do I think I’m Doing

Why am I doing it?  Not for profit—I receive no money for it.  Not for glory—readership is probably in the tens, although most of the response is from robots, so who knows?  I must say that the rare positive feedback is very, very appreciated.  It’s quite a trip to emit this stuff into the empty ether, and every once in a while hear that somebody actually read and appreciated it!  Thanks, folks.

My original purpose was to keep in practice and maybe improve my writing.  Upon retirement, it is important to exercise, including my brain.  And as I discovered, posting even a short piece every day is a lot of work.  I could not have done it if I had to show up for a job.

One of the things I do with the blog is write short comments on things I read.  This has forced me to read more carefully, and think at least a little about what I read.  I’m sure it’s good for me.

With weekly book reviews, I’ve had to read more that 50 books a year—which is my wheelhouse, but is also really good for me.  I read a lot, but this makes me keep moving, and also write up short essays on what I read.

I also wanted to use the blog to develop long form topics for further work, such as articles or books.  Initially, I was thinking of a book about cryptocurrency, about which I post regularly.  But I also wrote quite a bit about the “Future of Work”, especially Freelancing and Coworking Spaces. The latter turned into a self-published book project.

So that worked.  (And I have a couple of other potential book ideas lurking in there, if I could find the energy.)

What Have I Learned

I was interested in experiencing how the web works these days, in a sort of participant observation research way.  Blogging with WordPress has proved to be as simple as I always hoped things could be.  (I have endured a lot of awful software in my life, so I know what I’m talknig about. Well done, Automatic.

I also found that eschewing Facebook means that I’m basically off the air, non-existent, talking to noone.  Traffic is very low, but it has been very noticeable when someone reposts a blog entry to FB—visitors jump dramatically.

I have also seen that the much-maligned Google+ seems to have driven traffic to my site, perhaps through Google searches. And I have little evidence that cross posting to LinkedIn does very much.  But who knows?

Oh, and I have definitely seen the “long tail” effect that we all read about.  Posting thousands of different items gives me hits not just on recent posts, but all the way back.  It’s weird, but true.

Self-publishing was another exploration of contemporary technology that grew out of my blogging.  Writing a book is hard work.  Publishing is much easier than it used to be.  I found Lulu to be astonishingly easy to use.  The workflow isn’t too hard to use, and they have all the steps broken down into menu sized choices.  Well done, Lulu.

Of course, I discovered that selling a book is just as hard or harder than ever.  (Lulu and other people will help you, for a fee.)  Simply having a book available in Amazon, etc., has not resulted in any particular notice or sales.  I even broke down and joined Twitter to promote the book.  I suspect that eschewing FB probably is fatal to any hopes of book sales.

So, I’ve learned a few things.

What’s Next?

I do not know how long I will be able to continue daily posts.  We’ll have to see.  Life may intervene.

Supposing I do want or need to reduce or end the posts, what is a good protocol?  I’ve never looked to see if there is advice on this.  (Most advice is about how to grow and how to monetize—two things I really don’t want to do.)

Is there a way to gracefully shutdown or throttle back a blog?   Should there be posts saying “there are no posts”?  How long should the long tail be left around?  How do you leave something out there without actively maintaining it?

Feel free to contact me with suggestions.

And Onward….

But for now, posts continue.

Read on, if you dare.


2018 Round Up: Stuff I Published in 2018

It’s one thing to write for your own blog, it’s another thing entirely to get someone else to publish what you write!

2018 saw several publications worth noting.

The big one was the self-published book, “What is Coworking?” [4] (with its own blog here).  This sprang from dozens of blog postings over several years, encompassing a lot of research and thought.  See the blog for more info.

To publicize the book, I did a Pecha Kucha talk in October [2]. (More info here. This short talk (available on YouTube) sketches one of the more interesting ideas in the book.

On another topic, I contributed an article to the American Solar Energy Association’s Tiny Watts Blog  [1]. The piece combines my long time interest in community maker spaces with my really, really long time interest in solar energy.

I also contributed an article to the local monthly paper, The Public-I [3].  The article discusses the Clean Energy Credit Union, which I learned about at the ASES conference in August.  A longer version with an interview with the cofounder can be found here.

I also had one rejection which is memorable because the conference went totally insane after not accepting my submission. The paper in question is being revised and will be submitted to a real journal or conference in 2019.

So that’s the high points.  See you in print!

(For the record, Most of my publications, projects, and presentations are listed here.)

  1. Robert McGrath, Tiny Watts – Solar Power For Everyone, in Tiny Watts Blog. 2018.
  2. Robert McGrath, What is Coworking? Is It Participatory Theater?, in Champaign Urbana PechaKucha Night. 2018.
  3. Robert E. McGrath, A New Option to Finance A Clean Energy Future for Everyone, in The Public I: A Paper of the People. 2018.
  4. Robert E. McGrath, What is Coworking? A look at the multifaceted places where the gig economy happens and workers are happy to find community. 2018, Robert E. McGrath: Urbana.

1K Days In A Row!

Today marks a major milestone for this blog:

I have posted every single day for 1,000 days in a row.

Not every post was great, and I expect that only a few people even looked at most of them.

But at least I have been consistent. 🙂

Highlights (?)

I have posted short reviews of over 250 books [Tag], as well as comments on technical and scientific articles (with links to the primary sources, which I actually looked up and at least skimmed.)

I have posted dozens of comments about cryptocurrency, blockchains, and the anthropological follies around these technologies. [TAG, TAG]

I also have posted a number of items on the theme “What is Coworking?” [TAG] These posts have formed the seeds for an upcoming ebook of the same title, in preparation now. Stay tuned for more on that.

I also commented on design, including the Inappropriate Touch Screen Files [TAG], species appropriate interfaces [TAG], and bioinspired design [TAG], robots [TAG ], dinosaurs, Augmented Reality [TAG], and other things have appeared.

I have also discussed “The New Way of Work” [TAG], with my own specific perspective:  you can’t talk about “the new way of work” without talking about the welfare of workers.

I also met a few people out there in net-land, which is neat.

Anyway, thanks to any readers who may be out there.

Things I Have Learned

This exercise has been very good discipline for me, if only because I have had to learn how to efficiently write 100 words or so about something, right now.  (As I approached this milestone, the pressure has been intense to not trip up and ruin the streak.  It’s a relief to make the 1K mark–if I miss a day, I won’t feel so bad.)

With regular posts, daily hits increased from less than about 15 per day to more than 35 per day (average).   (Note: I have incomplete information about traffic, what I see may be an underestimate.)

I know these numbers would be much higher if I gave in and cross posted to facebook, twitter, and the other Dark Forces of the Internet. I know this is true because, on occasion, someone else posted a pointer to a item to facebook or whatever, which generated a spike in hits to my blog.

The highest one-day traffic was a post that was (a) about music and (b) cross posted to relevant fan page on face book. This generated at 100 hits in a day.

By the way, I have definitely seen a long tail effect, with older items still collecting a few hits steadily. For example, one post from 2013 about “big data”, has got a hit or two almost every day for years, totaling a bit under 4,000 hits.

Finally, I actually received a “Colbert Bump”: ten months after posting a review of Brother Jaron’s book, he was on the Colbert Report (plugging the paperback release). My blog got a bunch of hits after that show aired.

So – thanks again to readers out there, and stay tuned if you like it.


Roberts On Monetizing Blogs

As the proud creator of a non-monetized blog, I was interested to read Stacey Roberts about how to monetize your blog.  I’m not aiming to do that, but I was curious to see what Roberts has to say.

The post is about “income streams”, and starts with a diagram as complex as the DC Metro system.

Then there are six phases of what appears to be a 10 year process!  The first phases are basically connecting to Internet-based advertising services.  This is where I would work for advertising companies, at fantastically low rates.  With little or no control over the advertising (much of which is embarrassing or outright immoral as far as I’m concerned.)

If this works, then there are opportunities to leverage the blog materials into a book (e.g., self-published via Amazon).  Also speaking and “consulting”.  At this point, after several years, I would achieve the status of a struggling author.

If all this succeeds, then there is a possibility of things like subscriptions and paid services.  At this point, I would be in the publishing business (not exactly a growth sector).

OK, I sound snarky here.  Clearly, I’m not interested in this kind of strategy myself.  For one thing, I have a deep aversion to giving away my work to any commercial company, especially advertising.   Not gonna happen here.

However, from this and other posts, I can tell that Roberts clearly knows a ton about blogging and monetizing blogs.

And just because I’m not interested doesn’t mean this isn’t a perfectly good model for booting up an independent writing/publishing career.

Have a Look. Pay attention.