Category Archives: Zero to Hero

Tracking my efforts to follow the January 2014 Zero to Hero challenge

Day Thirty: Think big picture

01Today’s assignment: Extend your brand, think about a bigger strategic plan for promoting your online presence, and set a goal for the next 30 days.

Before I launched into this task, I thought back to why I started this blog the first place.  Conveniently for me, I had set out some reasons why I thought it was a good thing on my oldest site, Welcome to Baskerville Manor.  At some point I discovered a place in Windows Live where I could also write stuff and thus began Occasional Stuff, which was moved to WordPress when the Windows Live blogging option was discontinued.

Cut to almost five years later. Between 2009 and now my life changed quite a bit, work is different, younger family members have moved on and for the first time in ever such a long while, I not only have time to think, but also enough mental energy left at the end of a working day to get down to writing about what I think. I was just as inclined then, as I am now,  to digress off into a range of experiments with the look and feel, bells and whistles, and not actually post anything.   A lesson learned from five years ago is that it is not always easy to think of topics to write about straight off the bat, and it really is necessary to exercise those old writing muscles a bit before those topics start coming to me easily.  Not that I am short of things I want to talk about, but how to approach them and what to deal with first, or, when it comes down to actually writing, whether I really have anything to say are factors that brought me to a full stop back then.

On 2 January, in Daily Prompt: Progress, I essentially set out my agenda for the coming year, and although this  post lists another ten points, they boil down to one thing – I want to write some decent posts that are worth reading.  While the judgement of that will lie with the other people who read them, I am not in a huge hurry to extend myself to a larger audience until I have nailed the writing – my feeling is that if I engage in developing an online presence when I don’t have good, or at least interesting, content, then the chances of repeat visits from people I attract through promoting my presence at this point won’t be adding me to their favourites, or coming back another day to see if there is anything new from me.

So my strategy, if you can call it that, is to continue following the writing challenges, and along the way, find ways to turn the prompts into mini-platforms for the myriad of things I want to write about.  Along the way I hope to develop a better writing discipline, more fluency and a clear picture of what topics I can really work with.  I won’t be actively chasing more visitors, but I will be doing my best, through my posts, to keep the lovely new people who have been calling by interested in coming back for more.  So there you have it – my 30-day goal.


Zero to Hero – Picture from:  Get to know your brand (further reading if you want some!) – Roundup – Zero to Hero

Roundup – Zero to Hero

zero-to-heroIn the second week of January I decided to have a bash at the Zero to Hero challenge, which proposed that following the exercises would increase my knowledge of how to use WordPress to best advantage.  It was primarily aimed at new bloggers who perhaps would not have much experience of messing about with the available tools in WordPress, and in that context, I think this would have been a very useful tutorial.  The thing is I am already an inveterate tweaker and had delved into most of the tasks that were suggested during the month, so I did find participating every day to be something of a chore.  That being said, I’m glad I took this on, because it prompted me to get my digit out of my orifice and do something about getting people to read my deathless prose, and I did learn about a few things I hadn’t discovered through my normal trial and error approach.

Did my readership improve? Well, I have also taken up the Daily Prompt challenge and from looking at the viewing stats, that was far more effective in bringing my blog to the attention of others, largely because of the pingback setup, which for some reason was not operated on Zero to Hero.

So, rather than re-hash all my thoughts on the daily tasks, I’ve listed them all below. The first link on each line should bring you to the task as described on the day, and the second and sometimes third links are my responses.

Task:   Day One: Introduce Yourself  –   Who I am and why I’m here 
Task:  Day Two: What’s your name?  –  Edit your title and tagline, and flesh them out in a widget 
Task:  Day Three: What’s on your mind?  Didn’t do this one, can’t remember why
Task:  Day Four: Explore the Neighborhood    –  Find five blogs you like 
Task:  Day Five: Love Your Theme   – Try out new themes 
Task:  Day Six: Try a New Element –  Publish a post that includes a new element
Task:  Day Seven: Personalize Your ThemeDo some more personalizing
Task: Day Eight: Make Your About Page Irresistible – Didn’t do this one, I’d been twiddling with that page the day before and was getting a little bored with that. I’d also found another writing challenge.
Task:  Day Nine: Head Deeper Into the BlogosphereNaPloPoMo
Task:  Day Ten: Add Two Widgets –  I didn’t but I wrote about it anyway – I also experimented with menus, because I prefer to balance navigation horizontally and vertically
Task:  Day Eleven: Leave Three Comments –  Leave posts on three blogsThe Liebster Award 
Task:  Day Twelve: From Comment to Postwrite a post that expands on one of your comments
Task:  Day Thirteen: Build a (Better) BlogrollCreate, edit or expand your blogroll
Task:  Day Fourteen: Blogger’s Choice! – reading and commenting – I spent so much time on that, I didn’t get round to posting about it
Task:  Day Fifteen: Explore Visuals and Content – I didn’t do this one, it was tantamount to offering an alcoholic the keys of a brewery
Task:  Day Sixteen: Personalize a PromptPublish a post based on your own personal take on today’s Daily Prompt
Task:  Day Seventeen: Increase Your Commenting Confidence – As per Day Fourteen
Task:  Day Eighteen: Activate a Social NetworkZero to Hero and Beyond
Task:  Day Nineteen: Publish a Post in a New-To-You Formatpublish a post in a format you haven’t used before  – Trust
Task:  Day Twenty: Add a New Page  –  Add a new page to your blog
Task:  Day Twenty-One: Build on your last post –  I didn’t do this one. It involved social networks again and I’d gone to town on social networking on Day Eighteen 
Task:   Day Twenty-Two: Try (Another) Blogging EventDraft a post for (another) blogging eventCee’s Fun Foto Challenge–Found in Nature 
Task:  Day Twenty-Three: Publish a Roundupthat links to posts on at least three others blogs and tell us why you love them
Task:  Day Twenty-Four:  Chat with other event participantsvisit five other participants in the event your chose on Day 22. Leave at least two comments. (Read and comment more if you can!)
Task: Day Twenty-Five:  Add one more custom touch – Good God people! Don’t you know by now that I’m a member of Blog Tweaker’s Anonymous? Have mercy.  Yes I tweaked.  No, I didn’t write about it
Task: Day Twenty-Six: Set up a few more drafts for later –  Today’s assignment: look back over what you’ve published. What have you been most proud of? What are the common threads? Which have been most popular? Create and save at least two draft posts with ideas that come from those
Task: Day Twenty-Seven: Revisit a task – Today’s assignment: Pick your favorite of all the tasks we’ve done so far, and revisit it. How can you continue to grow? (Bonus: revisit a post that’s been on your mind, and make the edits you’ve been thinking about.)  I’m going to be realistic about this. There were too many challenges this month. I’ll revisit this later, when I’m done with Zero to Hero 
Task: Day Twenty-Eight: Build on your popular content Find the post that has received the most views, likes, or comments, and write a related follow-up post
Task: Day Twenty-Nine: Create an Editorial Calendar – Ha! I did that during the task for Day Twenty Six

Task: Day Thirty: Think Big Picture –   Extend your brand, think about a bigger strategic plan for promoting your online presence, and set a goal for the next 30 days.

Day Twenty Eight: Build on your popular content.


Graph-300x300Find the post that has received the most views, likes, or comments, and write a related follow-up post. 

WordPress stats tell me that my all-time most popular post is The Liebster Award – it wasn’t actually necessary to check the stats because the nature of this post was bound to attract visitors.  This one carried links to eleven other blogs, and invited their authors to write a post which linked back to mine.  The trick in this was they had to then link to another ten blogs in the same post, and as each person who accepted the invitation acted, the number of pingbacks to my original post increased exponentially.

This was a nice exercise, it provided an opportunity to give affirmations to other bloggers, I really liked getting my invitation and those who responded to me seemed to be very happy about receiving theirs. But this type of post isn’t something I would like to do regularly, because it would become tedious and possibly turn my blog into an out and out “selfie”. (And let’s face it, having a personal blog is a major selfie as it is – I like to keep up the pretence of having something interesting to say about a variety of topics, thank you very much).

After The Liebster Award, the second most popular post in the last month was my response to Daily Prompt: Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy – very few words, a cute picture of a cute black and white dog. No surprise there either – the more apt the picture, the more likely the casual viewer is to stop and take a good look.  Monochrome Chloe is set off beautifully against the two blocks of colour behind her.  I’ve got hot pink to draw attention and blue for a nice calming effect – and my model is just gorgeous.  The Facebook and Twitter shares, favourites and likes on this one were pretty good too.

You will see other ideas I have on this topic in my post tomorrow – Pressure: Influence.

Going forward, I’m not sure I want to rely on lists of other blogs to court visitors, but because I love and am very proud of my pets, you will see plenty of cute animal pictures Smile

Zero to Hero – Picture:  Healthcare Supplies

Day Twenty-Six: Set up a few drafts for later

writing-tornToday’s assignment: look back over what you’ve published. What have you been most proud of? What are the common threads? Which have been most popular? Create and save at least two draft posts with ideas that come from those.

Alongside the Daily Prompt and Zero to Hero challenges, I’ve been following NaBloPoMo January 2014.  Because the list of topics are published at the beginning of the month, and they are all on a theme, I decided I would write them in batches, one week in advance, thus leaving time during the week to tackle the challenge tasks that were being posted on a daily basis. In addition, I have always been in the habit of starting little bits and pieces to use later.

Two things struck me when I started to look back over what I’ve published and at the other blogs I’ve visited in the last month:

  1. The blogroll style does not easily lend itself to organising your posts. You can use categories and tags, but even if you do remember to categorise and tag consistently, unless your reader understands whatever your system is, they may not pick up on a collection of themed posts, or a set of related posts
  2. The tone and content of my posts varies depending on my frame of mind at the time I wrote them, and the time I had available to write.

So the two draft posts arising from these exercises will be roundups of my Zero to Hero and NaBloPoMo January 2014 challenges.  To make it easier for visitors to navigate, I’ve started a sub menu which I will use to highlight posts that summarise whatever monthly challenges I engage in, and I will make them live as soon as I have completed each challenge.

For NaBloPoMo January 2014, I will link back to the relevant posts via pingback and for Zero to Hero, I’ll do it with manual links, and over the coming month, I’ll be able to see which one works best.  Just for fun, I’ll also post a poll to see if I can get some organised feedback on which format makes the most sense.

Zero to Hero – Picture from Vanseo Design –thoughts on writing a blog post

Day Twenty Four: Chat with other event participants

esurance-facebook-feedbackDay Twenty-Four:  Chat with other event participants – visit five other participants in the event your chose on Day 22. Leave at least two comments. (Read and comment more if you can!)

I was rather peeved with this one – I’ve already been visiting event participants , leaving comments on interesting posts and responding to others when they are nice enough to comment on my posts and I’ve enjoyed doing that. And didn’t we already do something like this on Day Fourteen?  Yes we did – and then we did more of the same on Day Seventeen.

I don’t tend to leave comments for the sake of leaving a comment, I prefer to take up space on another person’s page when they have said something that is meaningful or interesting to me. If I want to chat, I’ll do it through Facebook or Twitter, which are designed for that purpose.

The result of this exercise is that more people who have already been visiting me began posting comments, which leads to more conversation and guess what? Although it is very nice to chat, I’ve been spending time bouncing between my notifications and the various posts where the comments are located trying to make sure nobody is left out than actually chatting. It’s actually quite a headache, especially if some nice person responds to my reply  – because of the number of comments, I couldn’t readily remember what they were talking about unless I bounced back to the original post. 

Here’s hoping that the level of comments will settle down once everybody has done their homework for this on, and we will return to a more natural flow of conversation. In the meantime, if you are one of the people that I seemed to ignore, I promise you – it was not on purpose! 

Shame on you WordPress – if you want to turn your site into another Facebook/Twitter, shouldn’t you make the navigation between posts and comments a little smoother? 

Zero to Hero – Picture from Healthcare Leadership Blog – Zero to Hero Roundup