Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Putting to bed my erratic series

Back in January I announced a new (erratic) series called Tomboy Textbook. Then I posted once.

I have no idea why that Liquid Eyeliner post has just been sent out again by email to the blog subscribers – one of these little mysteries of technology I suppose, but also a timely nudge because I had been intending to close this (erratic indeed) series.

A lightbulb moment has occurred in the meantime: I started the blog post series partly because I wasn’t blogging much and I thought that would invigorate me. But I’ve since realised that the reason I wasn’t blogging much was because I wasn’t taking enough downtime, time out, alone time – the spaces where deep ponderings happen and epiphanies come to me – that I then share through the blog.

So instead of talking practical make-up and funky shoes, I’ve just been striving for more balance.

Hence no more TT posts, which I don’t think are missed by anyone, least of all me, and today marks the official closure of this short-lived venture. (I had fun with the typography though.)

Thanks for accompanying me through my meanderings.

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Blogging desert and underground water

I have hardly blogged this month, because I am – once again – in the midst of transformation.

Liminality, if you will (it’s the latest word I have learnt and delight in, and it means the space in between where transformation happens.)

This website is about to undergo another revamp and declutter – sometime in the next couple of months. I am furiously pondering, discussing, scribbling on flipcharts, pouring data into my brain and churning ideas out.

Unfortunately, to you, it looks like a blogging desert. I’m sorry.

Unbeknownst to the thirsty traveler, there is underground water all around. It’s preparing to bubble up. It will do so soon – the pressure is building.

In the meantime, most of my writing has gone into the October newsletter. Meet me there, for now? Normal blogging activity will resume as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience during this transformation period.

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I’m stuck, and it’s a good thing. This is why.

Monday morning and the start of a new week. I came back from a week’s holiday in Paris late on Friday, and have spent the weekend recovering. I enjoyed my time away – lots – but I don’t travel well. I get very tired and pretty cranky and fractious and it takes me a couple of days to sleep enough to get over it. (Total achieved this weekend over 3 nights: 37 hours – and yes now I feel normal again!)

Mainly due to my tiredness, I found myself feeling a bit despondent this weekend. Unusually for me, I felt old! (At the ripe old age of nearly 32…) And I also felt like I had lost all motivation. All of it. That I would never want to sit down at my computer and do any more work ever again. (I knew with patience, and sleep, that would pass.) And also, and this is a hard one to admit to, now I find the words appearing as I type, also I felt I have momentarily lost my sense of direction. In my business I mean. I guess without even quite realising how much, I have been processing and reassessing a lot of things lately, partly through the coaching sessions I am having with Meg Ward of Transform Coaching, partly through my own pondering and reading.

Things like, how much money do I *actually* want to be making? Everywhere the message to entrepreneurs is that the sky’s the limit and that a six-figure income is the target to aim for, and grow from there. But actually, do I? Do I really? No. Letting go of that illusory target, and finding out what would actually work for me, is leading to a shift in perspective. Less pressure. Less wants. Less needs. And something else to ponder along the same vein: can I run a business completely free of overheads? Possibly not, but I want to find out how close I can get.

Talking of wants… I want to write a book.  That came, out of the blue, from my first session with Meg. And yes, that feels right. No, I don’t know what it’s going to be, yet. I’m waiting to see what unfolds. But I do want to be a writer, blogger, call it what you will. Quietly sharing what I am. The thought if it makes my heart sing. Writing my blog, my newsletter, guestposting on other blogs, writing articles… all that is *right*. I am about to take the next step. I am waiting to see what direction that is going to be in.

Whatever I do, I want to keep sharing all I can and all I know, for other people to live an authentic life, run a heart-centered business. These catchphrases are everwhere at the moment. I may sound like I have jumped on the bandwagon. (I was going to say I don’t care, but actually I do, a bit. Oh well.) I am striving to live, and make a living, being true to who I am; with honesty and integrity; endeavouring to do only things that bring me joy, so that I am relaxed and have fun and am happier (and incidentally am much nicer to be around and live with than the stress-bunny I know I can be.) That means I want to carry on with the business creative wizardry, and work with enlightened and enlightening, laughter-filled souls who are blossoming into their true selves. (A touch of woowoo for you there!)

So where am I going with all of this? I don’t know, that’s the point.

I know from experience that when I’m feeling stuck, it means I’m on the verge of a breakthrough. So I’m waiting for unstuckness to happen. Cultivating patience. Trusting, and trying not to give in to doubt, that all will become clear soon. This morning’s Note From The Universe was spot on: “Sometimes it just sneaks up on you. You don’t even see it coming. (…) if you were to think about it, you wouldn’t know what’s gotten into you, not would you recall just when. You’d only shake your head whenever you thought of how quickly everything can change… Just something to remember the next time you don’t see something coming.”

So while I’m waiting and watching for the lightbulb moments, life goes on. The 2011 Moon Diary I have been working on for the past few months is coming along very nicely, and this week is the final push before it is out of our hands and on to other people to do what they do best. It figures prominently in my plan for this week, while I sit with stuckness. And faith. Trust. Enjoyment… maybe, I’ll try.

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Cardiff’s first Illustration Degree show

Tonight I went to the opening of Cardiff’s first Illustration Degree show (i.e. the collection of work by the first lot of fresh new graduates on the UWIC Illustration degree course) – it’s being held from today (4th June) till 12th June, in an empty shop at 22-24 Morgan Arcade (the last one last but one at the bottom of Saint Mary’s Street, nearest to the train station).

I have come away from it buzzing and so impressed. I did put a postcard in the box that said I thought it was most excellent, but I didn’t really have time to ponder quite why I was so blown away (so I wrote something like, “yeah, really good, ta” ;-p).

First of all the venue is beautiful. The show is on 3 levels in a space which is clear, bright and peaceful (even with loads of excited students and lecturers milling around for the opening, which is saying a lot!) – and if you go see the show make sure you check out the floor in the basement!

But mainly I came away from the show totally elated and inspired, because it’s amazing and heart-warming that young artists show so much imagination and inspiration, and also a great depth of reflection about who they are as people, as artists, what their place is in the world – a process which was evident in the work, and not only just the work presented but also in the cards/business cards/branding and accompanying marketing.

I wrote on my postcard that they make the world a better place, and they totally do. It is exciting to live in a world (and a city!) where graduates of that calibre will be putting that creativity, passion and awareness into play in people’s lives.

Hats off too to the academic team; the first show has set a very high standard indeed.

Links:

BA(Hons) Illustration: http://www.csad.uwic.ac.uk/illustration/index.htm

Cardiff Illustration graduate showcase 2010: http://www.cardiffillustration2010.co.uk

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Blog Action Day: Climate change and personal change

I thought the Blog Action Day post at Unclutterer was interesting as it deals with personal change and CREATING NEW HABITS – this could apply to anything, including being environmentally-aware, but it could also be losing weight, starting a new hobby, etc. Worth a read: HERE.

Hope you’re all having a great weekend :)

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Climate change: misinformation and fear

bad-120-90I came across Blog Action Day a couple of weeks ago: to raise awareness of a particular global issue, bloggers can register their website on http://www.blogactionday.org and then all blog about a particular issue on October 15th (in 2007, the first year, it was Environment; in 2008, Poverty). This year, it’s Climate Change. So I blithely registered, thinking somewhat along the lines of: “Of course it’s a good cause, right? Everybody knows climate change is happening and everybody knows it’s a bad thing and in order to stop it we’ve got to… Erm, we’ve got to… Erm, recycle more?”

As I started thinking about it and what I was going to write today, I realised the extent of my ignorance. What is it exactly, apart from hot summers and wet winters for the UK? Our planet has been through climate variations throughout its history so why does it matter now? Are we really trying to save the planet, or is that hypocritical and are we just trying to save our way of life in the West? The planet would carry on existing without us humans anyway wouldn’t it?

Photo by Dana Ocker

I started looking into it. I read government websites (DEFRA), news websites (BBC, Guardian), NGO websites (Oxfam) and good ol’ Wikipedia. I followed links, watched videos (including of he-of-the-soothing-voice David Attenborough), looked up related search terms like climate change denial and climate skeptic.

And I found that I’m still not much clearer about it than before.

Sure, I now know that according to the government and media, while there has always been planetary climate change, since the beginning of the 20th century it has been more rapid and more drastic  than the natural processes would have been. This is due largely to industrialised nations’ carbon and methane emissions (aka greenhouse gases) that accumulate in the atmosphere, trap heat and cause a rise in temperatures. The impacts of global warming on the environment include:
- droughts, adversely affecting crops and food production and quality, wildlife habitats and species (plant and animal) which could face extinction if they’re unable to move or adapt;
- rising sea levels and severe unpredictable weather patterns, causing flooding which will affect drinking water, wildlife habitat and human habitations, and which could lead to an increase in water-borne diseases.
Climate change would increase world poverty and deaths, particularly in developing countries, and is estimated to create a decline of 20% in the global economy. It is industrialised countries’ duty to assist disadvantaged nations who have a lower adaptive capacity, particularly since for third world countries economic development  is often more of a priority than environmental protection. (So… we should prevent them from trying to lead the same lifestyle that we do. For their own good of course. And also ours. Hmmm.)

Photo by Aschaf

Photo by Aschaf

Strategies to deal with climate change haven’t been particularly successful to date. The production of biofuels and renewable energy is still dependent on fossil fuels. Carbon credits capping and trading and energy saving day are reported to have failed so far. Science and engineering have produced a variety of more or less harebrained schemes. Seriously people – a space sunshade? Tethering icebergs? Cloud seeding using chemicals? Increasing phytoplankton in oceans by iron fertilisation? Lasering the CFCs in the atmosphere (when I thought the main issue was CO2)?

In short – it’s time to panic! Or more accurately, the time to really get on the case was 40 years ago (because CO2 stays in the atmosphere a long time), but if we all panic now, we’ve got a chance to leave a half decent planet to future generations. (Disclaimer: “half decent” is not an accurate scientific estimate :-p ). Although… the planet will still be here, even if the future generations are not, right? So who are we protecting – the planet, the populations of developing  countries, or our own comfortable lifestyles?

Interestingly enough, contrary to government and media messages, our actual politicians and heads of government overall show little commitment to the cause past lip service. But in the meantime, everyone is busy focusing on fear. And as we create more of what we focus on, what are we busy creating?

There is a smaller amount of information our there by climate change deniers and climate sceptics. While it is generally accepted that climate change denial is basically done in bad faith by people who think that climate change is actually happening but choose to deny it because they have a specific agenda (think oil companies and energy lobbies), there are also climate sceptics who, in good faith, base their arguments on science and point out that it’s not that bad and that the media aren’t telling us everything and choose to bias their reports in favour of climate change disaster scenarios (now what a surprise, huh?). One really good blog is here: www.climate-skeptic.com and if you read only one article on there, make it this one: the 60-second climate skeptic.

Photo by Kofoed

Photo by Kofoed

So, in this general climate (no pun intended!) of rampant misinformation, it is hard to know who to believe: governments and media who could be lying to further their own interests, or a small number of people fighting the system – we’re erring on the side of conspiracy theories here. I don’t have the knowledge, understanding or access to the type of information I would need to make up my mind based on pure facts. Either I decide to put my trust in one of the above, or I decide to trust no-one.

While I’m here sitting on the fence, I refuse to give any energy or focus to fear. The climate may be changing – and my gut feeling is that yes, it probably is in some measure, probably not as badly as we might be led to believe, but still. I will not create a fearful reality for myself. I still reduce, reuse, recycle and compost; buy vintage (or “second hand” if you’re not pretending to be trendy!); try to buy local unprocessed food; and have an interest in the community networks of Transition Towns. Not because I think it will stop climate change, but because I believe in treading on this planet as lightly as I can. I’m blessed and grateful to be living on Earth and I try to keep that awareness vibrant every day.

Let go of fear. Be grateful, focus on the positives. Let them grow.

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Facebook for business beginners

Image by sitmonkeysupreme

Image by sitmonkeysupreme

People usually fall into two categories when you talk about Facebook – they either love it or hate it. Initially I was a bit wary of it, then created my personal profile and quickly got a bit (very!) addicted to it, then got bored and slightly annoyed with the amount of silly applications and various invitations to become a zombie slayer or take random quizzes. My usage dropped right off but I still liked checking the newsfeed and finding out what my friends were up to on a much regular basis than I would achieve if I were only keeping in touch by email.

Now that I have started using it for business and networking, I enjoy FB a lot more. I’ve been doing some work sorting out and organising my account today, and helping a friend sort hers out too. I thought I’d throw some notes together which would be of use if you’re setting up a business and aren’t sure where to start, so you can benefit from the learning curve I’ve been on and avoid some of the mistakes that I made and later learnt how to correct!

Admittedly, a lot of people are (still?) not on FB for various reasons – a lot more already are though. Depending on the nature of your business – if it would benefit you to be able to talk to many people about what you do – it may be appropriate for it to have a FB presence. If it is – read on. [At a later date I'll put a post together about what you need to think about when you're about to set up your website - if you're in the process now and need it sooner rather than later I can be persuaded to do it asap if you ask me nicely :) ]

It’s worth spending a bit of time initially thinking about setting up a business profile separate from your personal profile, and being clear for each one about what you want on there, who will see it, and what functionalities you are going to need.

Keep your personal profile personal

Image by Trevor Coultart

Image by Trevor Coultart

First of all, your personal profile page should be just that – personal. You don’t necessarily want your business contacts to know you’re about to bake a cake or have bought new socks; the groups you choose to join and artists you are a fan of are not relevant to your business activity. You don’t want to have to constantly be checking yourself from sharing information with your friends and family about what you do in your downtime. And most of all, by keeping your business dealings separate, you can keep your privacy settings on your personal information as high as you like them.

By the way, since 13th June 2009 you can have a “vanity URL” on your personal profile page. This means that instead of your profile having this kind of extended URL: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/profile.php?id=1620308868&ref=ts, you can set it to look like this instead: http://www.facebook.com/noreenblanluet. Not necessarily a huge amount of use, but tidier. Now, the important thing to think of here is: always set your personal profile vanity URL to your own name. Sounds obvious saying it now, but initially there was a lot of my business stuff on my profile as I hadn’t clearly split the two, so I set my vanity URL as http://www.facebook.com/beamazingtoday. You can change your vanity URL/account username once and once only! So choose wisely.

Groups and pages

For your business, you’ve got a choice of creating either a group or a page. There are pros and cons for both, but personally I think a page is better for most businesses. Read on…

With a page, people add themselves as fans. With a group, people join the group. Some people say that it makes a difference to one’s commitment to the business (more commitment if you actively join, more passive attitude if you just become a fan). Personally I think that’s a pretty minor consideration – other factors are more weighty.

Photo by Missha

Photo by Missha

Fan pages are visible to anyone (including not on Facebook), and they would come up in, say, a Google search (try Googling “beamazingtoday” – the FB page comes up top of the list). This is good as far as web exposure is concerned! (This doesn’t happen with groups.)

Addendum (added about 24 hours later): About the FB pages being indexed in major search engines – I was thinking about this earlier today and realised I haven’t actually emphasised quite how important that is – especially for a new business with a new website. I will post in more detail about getting started with a website at a later date, but basically it can take months before your new website even appears in Google and the other big search engines. Having a fan page in FB means that you can stand on the shoulders of a giant, which is very well indexed in all the major search engines, and which means you’ll appear on there very quickly. (Twitter and LinkedIn are two other giants also worth using – and I will also post about them in due course – but because of their different formats and purposes, I still think FB is the first one to concentrate on as it can communicate the most information to the general public.) Getting as much exposure as possible is incredibly important, and difficult to achieve, for a new business! That’s probably – even if you ignore everything else – the best reason for having a FB page for your business.

Structure-wise, a fan page looks very much like a personal page. There is a wall (for newsfeeds) and an info tab, you can have notes, boxes, photos, links, videos, a discussion etc. The structure is quite flexible and you can add and delete several of the elements according to your needs. All your updates appear in your fans’ newsfeeds – the communication is immediately out there, and it keeps you present in people’s minds, as opposed to groups where people have to actually check in regularly for the latest news (unless you message out – more about this later).

A group only has one page (no tabs) and holds some info and recent news, a discussion board, wall, photos, links, and videos one above the other. I find that when a lot of information has accumulated over time, navigation is not as clear as on a fan page.

Additional bonuses of a page: you can push your blog feed through to your FB page (your posts appear in your newsfeed as well as in your notes – just take a look at the beamazingtoday FB page). You can sync your Twitter account with your FB page so that your updates on FB are automatically pushed through to Twitter. Each one of your fan pages can have its own username URL, which means you can have an easy to remember (and to type in) URL on your business card or website, such as http://www.facebook.com/beamazingtoday (this is not available for groups).

One advantage groups have over fan pages is that you can “bulk invite”, i.e. easily invite all your friends to join by sending a nice personalised message. Also, any group member can also send bulk invites to all their friends, and spread the word easily and more widely. With fan pages, you can suggest the page to people but it’s a bit dry as you can’t personalise the message. Instead it’s a good idea to message people personally to suggest they become a fan – a bit more work but once you have a template that works for everyone it’s a nice (semi-)personal touch (kinda like: “hello, I have a professional page at blablabla, I would really appreciate it if you could become a fan, and even better if you could spread the word to people you think would be interested in what I do, thanks a bunch, your support is appreciated as these are early days in my fledgeling business, blabla – feel free to use :) )

Your FB updates box

Your FB updates box

Now this last point is both a pro and a con: when you send a message to all the members of a group, the message drops straight into their inbox. When you send an update to the fans of a page, it goes into their updates box (a separate folder which sits just under their inbox). Personally, I like it – it keeps things separate; my inbox gets horrendously cluttered by messages from various groups I’m not really *that* interested in. (But then, I’m freakishly tidy sometimes.) But it’s a fair point I think, that to stay at the front of people’s minds with a group (unlike the fan page whose updates will slot naturally into the newsfeeds), you have to keep messaging people and filling their inbox. And they may not be that interested… With a newsfeed you can choose to hide updates from people/pages you’re not too interested in. With messages filling your inbox, you don’t really have a choice – bar leaving the group, which is counterproductive to our purpose! However, having the fan page updates in a separate updates folder can also be a bit of a disadvantage – if people are not that FB-savvy, they might not even notice that there are unread messages in their updates box.

Finally, and this is pretty important if your business is involved in setting up and managing events of any kind, with a fan page you can create related events but you cannot actually *host* an event – i.e. you have to manually invite guests and these must be from your (personal) friends list. There is no way (so far?) to invite all of your fans with one click; so if you have a bunch of fans who you don’t have on your friends’ list, they won’t get invites directly. There are ways round this, e.g. updates, posts to newsfeed to publicise the event, etc – but it’s worth thinking about. Groups allow you to host an event and automatically invite all of your group members.

So – in summary…

… and in my opinion: with a fan page you can build better long-term relationships with your fans, readers or customers, whereas a group is more useful for attracting quick attention, for example for a one-off event or maybe series of events. You could even have a fan page for long-term stuff and a focussed group for something more specific.

Additional miscellanious thoughts

You can create a memorable web address for your personal profile as well as your groups and your fan pages, such as http://companies.to/beamazingtoday. This is also available with: band.to/, artist.to/, politician.to/ (presumably for trendy FB politicians – I haven’t looked up any!), facebook.dj/ by adding the web address application to your profile. Now that the vanity URLs are available, I don’t see any real point in this, but it may be worth doing anyway just so no-one else uses your business name. (And if you have a group, you can’t have a vanity URL (yet?) so that would be useful.)

What a FB fanbox looks like

What a FB fanbox looks like

You can also put a fan box on your website or blog, which will show a small amount of information directly linked to your most current FB fan page information – e.g. your fan page photo, latest page news update, etc – and people can add themselves as a FB fan of your page without even leaving your website (apparently!). The link (“add fan box to your site”) is under the photo on your fan page, and takes you to a page for customised widgets.

Don’t you just love the word “widget”?!

Hope this is of help – do leave a comment and share how you use FB for your business. What have you found works for you and doesn’t, and why?

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Cocooning – also being published on someone else’s blog!

I have been pretty quiet lately – I’ve been mainly wrestling with “web 2.0″ and getting my head round web hosting and WordPress and social networking and other bits and pieces. Things in my life seem to going off in each and every direction at the moment – I think this is the time for me to regroup and gather my energies and be more focussed. I started off by having a really long lie in this morning, and I feel worlds better for it. :)

In the meantime, I did contribute a tip to the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur blog about how to discover your hidden talents – and I’m delighted that it has been used. It’s here (number 49) along with another 54 contributed by various readers – check it out!
http://www.toiletpaperentrepreneur.com/blog/how-to-find-your-hidden-talent

It’s nice to have my stuff used by someone else – however small the contribution – it feels good :)

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Migratory blog… :)

I’ve been meaning to blog for the past few days and indeed have a few ideas and started articles staring at me from my “draft” folder… However – I found out last night how to merge my website with this blog, i.e. to have them all on the one website (www.beamazingtoday.co.uk) which would mean all my info in the same place, a brochure website with blog updates, and also no adverts on my blog!

I’m going through such a steep learning curve at the moment, it’s magical and unreal and it sometimes feel like my little brain is going to implode. I was chatting to a friend this morning and saying once I have got my head round all this using the web to promote your business [Twitter, Facebook pages, LinkedIn, search engine optimisation, blogging, etc etc] I should probably write a blog article – and share some of what I’ve been spending the past month teaching myself about! :)

Anyway. That was an aside. I found out this morning that unfortunately the company I have been hosting my websites with ever since I’ve had my first website… doesn’t support the blogging software I want to use. I’m moving a step up in my technological endeavours and it is time to bid them good-bye after several years of effective services. I’ve just transferred the domain name and purchased hosting with a new whizzy company that supports WordPress, so in the next few days (once all the registration is done and files are created their end and whatever clever stuff they need to do to set me up) I will be migrating this blog over to www.beamazingtoday.co.uk

Then there will be more interesting blogging happening. Thank you for bearing with me in the meantime while I blog about not blogging ;-p

Catch you all soon!

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