Shelter In Place: Blog Binge Reading

I wish I could claim this idea for my own, but I’ll give you a pointer to the guy who deserves the credit somewhere down below.  In the meantime, I’m going to compliment his creativity by using it – shamelessly, I might add.

Many of us around the globe are “Sheltering in Place” most likely our homes.  Some of us are enjoying the squirming that others are experiencing by being trapped for days working from home (if you’re lucky) with your kids well within the margins of separation requested by authorities (say what!? – We love having ours around and when they’re not, we are tempted to borrow some but then, we home schooled and, yes, home schooling does something to minds, young and old).

But that’s all social commentary that you most likely don’t want to hear.  I’m hoping you are interested in some distraction, some ideas for passing the time, something that does not involve 16×7 streaming of Facebook or Netflix with 3 or 4 pauses for bio-break inputting or outputting.

After you get tired of cursing the jerks who started the run on toilet paper, I have (okay, I stole) an idea from a peer blogger, a virtual friend from Zimbabwe name Beaton.  He has a blog site with all kinds of fun stuff written by him in a fun and lighthearted voice that you could easily spend more time on than Instagram (which I don’t touch because it is part of the same 1-3 second attention span ethnography that gave us the mental virus addiction of “memes“.  My mind simply needs time to consume, enjoy, digest and absorb words and images.

An no, I’m not slow.  I’m thorough; and interested in how words work together to compliment (when needed) an image or two.

So, you’re stuck at home.  Your chores are done (yea – right!). You just can’t bring yourself to pick up a book because it doesn’t have a screen (you know that this is true) and you really do need to cold-turkey Netflix for about an hour to purge your soul.  What are you going to do?  Beaton has an answer for you and  I want to promote it and even share in some of the traffic he might create with this idea.

The idea is simple.  Decide to use that screen for something better than Facebook.  You know it’s been a while since you saw or read something that had some meat to it.  Beaton is quite the blogger.  He has taught many others how to get into blogging and has an enviable following from around the globe.  He’s prolific, funny, mildly opinionated (but does not rock anyone’s boat) and mostly loves to call out things in culture that he likes.  I am suspicious of him in one sense because I’ve never heard a snotty or snarky or mean-spirited comment from him – not even for politicians who (no – Gary – don’t go there. . . Okay – okay.)  Sorry about that.  Let us politely return to our originally scheduled topic.

Beaton’s great idea was to add this simple note to a recent quip about dealing with corona, “Stay safe out there and while everyone is else is busy panic buying stuff, you can panic binge read my blog or bookmark for your quarantine read and I will keep you company.”

I pinged him back and told him I love this idea.  I have seen and read so much great stuff on different blogs that are so much more fulfilling than any other screen driven, social media app and – and – you get to respond to the author directly — and even build a pen-pal type of relationship if desired.

But many of you have never touched a blog.  Until a couple of years ago, neither had I but I have to tell you, it is a great way to spend some of your ethernet bandwidth quota  because the people who stand up and maintain these sites, might not be the polished authors that publishers decide write good enough to commit their word-works to dead trees, but many of them are great writers regardless and are accessible as friends unlike what an actual book can readily provide.

Wait! Stop right there.  You are tempted to drop out now; delete this page and move on because you don’t know how to work with a blog site.  I understand because it was just a couple of years ago when I was in that same spot.

You might be thinking that  I’m trying to turn you into a blogger.  Nope.  You’re mistaken.  The little-known truth is that you need not be a blogger to enjoy the produce of blogs.  Folks, there are sharing tons of great stuff to explore, for free and you can meet and get to know authors from around the globe.  If only you knew how to start.

I want to solve this for you and induce you to give one or two for a test read.

Beaton’s site is a good place to start and frankly, so is mine.  My site is different from Beaton’s in a fundamental way so between the two of us, we could really give you a few laughs and a pleasant time with some great writing.

First, this kind of experience works best if you know what to expect.  Blogs are the product of one person’s creativity so each one is different.  It’s like public bulletin board where the author posts pages that s/he hopes you’ll read, like, comment on and share.

I like Beaton’s stuff so I’m frequently there reading and enjoying his work.  His blog site has a main URL as does mine, as do all blogs.

Becoming The Muse  is Beaton’s blog site.

Gary A. Wilson’s Stories in a Dime of Time is mine.

We both have some standard kind of things somewhere on our home pages.  Things like: About links or Follow functions.  Each blogger may have additional custom links that take you to other areas of interest on their site.

Going to a blogger’s home page is one way to learn about them.  You can drop in unnoticed (well, almost) look around and slip back out without having to make small talk with anyone, so yea, bloggers stalk each other all the time.  We’re looking for others who think and write like we do–or in my case, “want” to.

An option that might be more immediately satisfying is to (now imagine yourself staring at that virtual bulletin board but you don’t know where to start reading – wait, didn’t Gary give me a link to something in this pile of articles?  Yes, he did.)  Each post or page a blogger stands up (I’ll explain the difference between a page and a post in a moment) has a distinct link.

The link to Beaton’s post, from where I snatched his idea is here.  Go ahead.  Click on it like you would any other link.  It will take you to his post.  You’ll see surrounding stuff that is mostly part of his chosen theme.  He has some functions that others don’t have, but the meat of his article or essay is right there.  You can read it, enjoy a few laughs and scroll down to where he finishes his thoughts.  There you can “like” the post and, at his choice, you can add a comment.  Until you add a comment, he can only see that someone “viewed” his essay.  If you liked it, he can see that too, but most blog sites need some kind of ID for you, so if you mouse over the photo icons of others who liked his post, you’ll see my name pops out from one of them.  I frequent read and enjoy his posts, so I “Like” them.  I also enjoy bantering with him, so I often add some comments so we can finish each other’s thoughts and laugh together.

Okay, next point.  Blogs are built around the idea of 2 constructs: posts and pages.

Beaton primarily uses Posts.  You’ll see the most common feature of a blog post near the bottom of Beaton’s link. If you mouse over the [ Previous ] or [ Next ] areas, you’ll see that they highlight and you can click there to go to the previous article or the next one chronologically.  Beaton didn’t code that himself.  The blog site did that because this is what “Posts” are used for.  You can jump in anywhere and binge-read for as long as you can keep your eyes open.  Posts are the way for a blogger to easily create a chain of essays that anyone can click to jump to. As a set, posts are similar to a diary only they are much more flexible.

Finally, the geek in me wants to satisfy my geek readers with a diagram of how this works.  The “data structure” is called a “doubly linked list”.  Blog posts are nothing more that articles with pointers back and forth to the previous and next article.  In this diagram, the yellow blocks would be the readable articles.  The tan and blue objects are the pointers to either the next or previous article.  Blog lists go no-where at either end, but in-between you can easily wander back and forth just by clicking [ Previous ] or [ Next ].

doubly linked list

Blog Pages are different.  There is no notion of chaining them.  Many of you know I use my blog site to curate my story collection.  Each of my stories is a stand-alone item that is not meant to have any real meaning in time or relevance to other stories.  They are nothing like a diary or journal.

I chose to create my stories on blog pages and instead of chaining them together, which would not make much sense, I built out a table of contents and whenever I create a new story, I just add it to the table.  My table of contents lives on my home page but when I share out a story, I normally make a note and share the direct link to the story.  For example.  I think my Buckeye Adventure is pretty funny, but several others might appeal more to you.  You can easily scan through my table of contents for something you’ve not read (or want to read again, perhaps to your spouse or kids, so everyone can laugh together) because the stories don’t chain together in anyway other than I’ve ordered them roughly by my age at the time of the story.

You can easily binge your evening away by reading an article from Beaton’s massive collection and just keep clicking on “Previous” or “Next” as desired, or you can navigate a blog like mine by finding items either in menus or on author-constructed tables of contents.  For mine, you need only return to the table of contents where you can skip a story you already read or jump around as interest drives you.

So – you have two blogs which approach blogging very differently and offer entertainment and stuff to think about, like, and even react to. If you do read either Beaton’s or my work, we would love to get your comments and both of us will get back to you.  You risk only making new friends and dealing with something behind your screen which has more meat that most of what you’ll find on Facebook.

A very cool feature of blog posts and pages is the author’s ability to go back and fix things.  Just a few stories back, a valued reader gave me some great feedback about a story ( A Spinning Girl if interested ) but had some thoughts on it that I had not considered.  Her insights were easy to implement and I had a better story in less than an hour.  Try that with a book, movie or even podcast…

Note :: there are tens of thousands – probably hundreds of thousands of blog sites out there.  They take a bit more work than Facebook which you just scroll through.  Bloggers are trying to write things that are more engaging – but you remain in complete control.

I hope you’ll try more than a few of both Beaton’s posts and my pages.  His essays are often about the same size as mine (less than 2000 words for about a 10 minute read each).  If you like what you find, we both have plenty of other essays or stories and the next step – the big step if you really want to compliment a blogger is to share their items with your on-line friends.  You’ll see the buttons to do this but I like to just grab the URL from the browser and share it directly.  These links drop nicely into your Facebook feed and look pretty nice.  Other social media most likely does the same.

Because bloggers tend to collect sites they really like from bloggers they’ve come to know and love, I decided to give you a few of my favorites with the hope that you’ll wander over and check them out as well.

The Art of Disorder is the creation of Lizl, an amazing micro-photographer.  Her photographs are simply addictive. She has a talent for seeing very small details in nature that we mortals commonly miss.

TanGentalis the biggest challenge I follow.  Geoff is highly productive, articulate with a wider vocabulary, both real and (shall we say) adapted than I imagined possible, published (perhaps self – I’ve never been clear on that) frequently has me laughing out loud and wishing I’d written what he did write and he is certifiably nuts in ways only possible in the land of Brexit.  A few minutes with his work will send you to a dictionary and leave you laughing at what you find.

Trent’s World, is in my experience, the best all-around writer and artist.  He to is prolific and I wonder if the man actually ever sleeps.  Whatever, as long as he keeps writing, I’ll be found somewhere in his pile of readers.

Questions?  Just drop them into the comments section below and I’ll take a run at them.

But, don’t let me catch you gripping about not having anything decent to read, or how tired you are of political arguments and bloviation.  There is some fun stuff in the blogging world – much more in fact that any of us have time to sift through.

But, oh the fun you can have by just sticking one toe into the pool of blogs.  Do give it a try and let me know how it goes.


GW bio card 4

One thought on “Shelter In Place: Blog Binge Reading

  1. I have never seen my blog… or any other for that matter so analytically broken down, it so makes me want to click on the link and go and read the blog you are talking about hahahaha
    Well I do binge read on my blog a few times and get surprised by some of the stuff I have written like a taking a walk in a garden and zooming into plants and the tiny filaments on the petals look like kneeling congregants….
    Thanks Gary

    Liked by 1 person

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