Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Trouble with Blogging

INTERNET PROBLEMS

I've always said that blogging should be an interactive social media--why it's called social media. If you aren't inclined to respond to others and visit them like they visit you (or Like as in Facebook, or RT as in Twitter, or share as in G+) then why even be here?

Only now I'm on the other side because of our spotty Internet in Guatemala. Links not connecting is my biggest frustration-- that "can't connect" or "problem loading page" notice. It definitely puts a cramp in my social media style. When it's bad, I give up and do something not involving the Internet.

It is one-sided, I know, and I apologize. I'm not intentionally ignoring people, it's just life in a third world country.

BOREDOM

When I was new to blogging, I read everything, commented everywhere, and followed everyone, since blogging itself was a novel activity. I am now way more selective.

After five years, one can get bored with a blog if it's the same topics over and over. When I started, I was connecting with other writers and posting mostly about writing and publishing. I no longer blog like it's 2010. Besides, the publishing scene has completely changed since then.  Instead of how to get an agent or a publisher, it's announcements like "why I chose to self-publish."

Self-publishing has taken the blog world by storm, and since I'm not really into it, blogs with that focus aren't relevant to me. We've gone different directions. I wish you well, but I'm probably not reading your blog anymore. Unless you have a fresh and original approach to an old topic.

I'm fascinated most of all by life. I like to know what people eat for meals, where they work, how they shop, what kinds of clothes they wear, where they go for entertainment. I am way more interested in these topics than blog hops, memes, book reviews or book launch announcements. I can read book reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Why do I want to read them on blogs? Especially when it's not my genre of choice. So, yeah, I get bored by that too.

Unless book reviews and author interviews are your platform and people go there for exactly that, like Mason Canyon's Thoughts in Progress, or Women on Writing, it's best to stay with one's own focus or platform. Now, more on that.....

PLATFORM

As writers, our posts should not only be fascinatingly original, but also applicable to the kinds of books we write. My books are about families and food and places and loss and hope and forgiveness. What a broad platform that provides for me! I have so many topics to blog about it's a wonder I'm not posting every day. I could, too, except it would be overkill.

The problem I see with platform in writer blogs is that it's either limited or non-existent. If you write fantasy or dystopian books then why are you blogging about gardening and lollipops? If I'm a fan of your dark, realistic fiction, then I'd have a hard time relating to your blog about Legos and the third grader's latest school project. See? This is not a platform. Which is fine if that's how you want to blog, but don't fool yourself into thinking it's a platform for your author persona.

You write romantic fiction, say chick lit? Then your platform and your voice should reflect it. Talli Roland is a perfect example of someone who does it right. She writes about cupcakes and wine and meeting up with friends and dates with her husband and pictures of her adorable baby. Not to mention mouth-watering photos of where she lives in-- ahem--LONDON. Her blog is like a romance novel come to life.  Now that is a platform.

VOICE

The voice of a blog makes it or breaks it. If I like your blogging voice, I'll read it, regardless of what it's about. Or regardless of what your platform is or your books are about. I go for a clear, strong voice like my dog goes for raw egg. It's irresistible to me.

Some examples of bloggers whose voices I enjoy are

Terri Tiffany
Mirka Breen
Jan Morrison
The Midlife Farm Wife
Ten Lives and Second Chances
The Blutonian Death Egg
Karen Walker

This is a very short list. There are tons of blogs I rarely miss, regardless of the other topics I mentioned. And it's because I enjoy the topics they choose to write about and especially the voice of the writer.

SPAM

Don't you hate endless notices on your email about new spam comments? I finally disabled the email notification for comments. I rarely respond anyway via email, and I regularly check the blog for new, non-spam comments.

I can't stand captcha, but I do have moderation of comments set up on any that come in past 10 days of a new post. This catches most of the spam that otherwise would show up on archived posts.

What I don't understand is when a blogger has both captcha AND moderation of comments on their new posts. This punishes the legitimate visitor. I have to really love you and your blog to fight through all that and leave a comment.

So disable your email notification, disable captcha, and add moderation of comments only for the older ones. In other words, do what I do and we can all be happy.

IN CONCLUSION

I really doubt that I'll ever stop blogging, despite the above-mentioned problems. Blogging isn't perfect but it is an art form like none other, one of a kind, and why it's still around despite all the competition for our Internet attention. It's also how I connect with writers and other interesting people online, which I love to do. To me, it's worth it.

51 comments:

  1. Karen, thanks for the mention. Even though I've been blogging for almost 5 years I've never really thought that much about what my platform is until lately. I enjoy sharing books I like and presenting new and established authors and occasionally sharing a post not directly related to books (though most of the time I can tie it back into books or reading). :) Blogging does have its problems, but I think it would be hard to just walk away from it.

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  2. I've been blogging for over 9 years now and have seen so many changes. It does start to blur when it's the same topics over and over. I've been through the burnout and pulled myself back. My voice has changed since I began. At lease it matches my latest book now.

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  3. Karen, I am so glad you like the "voice" of my blog because it's truly my voice. I love what you write here about blogging, because I share many of the same feelings. But like you, I don't think I'll give it up any time soon. Mostly because I feel connected to so many bloggers now I would miss finding out what's going on with them.

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  4. The most interesting thing about blogging, for me, is being able to see a little of how others live. It's like walking along the road and peeping through windows. Some people have the knack of making mundane events incredibly interesting - I think that's what marks out a 'natural' writer - or perhaps just a really interesting personality.

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  5. I think some people are getting bored. I get bored with those who talk only about their own books and nothing else.
    Crap, sorry, I'm one of those who does the reveals and features. I do try to post a variety with each post so there's something for everyone though.
    Not giving up on blogging.

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    1. Alex, I like your movie features. Yours is the only blog I follow that features films and talks about them.

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    2. Thanks, I really appreciate that! I'll try not to suck.

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  6. I'm still a bit fresh to the blogging world, though it's been going on three years for me. I'm not sure I've given as much thought to the why behind most of my posts. But you've provided some helpful things for me to consider when it comes to what I post.

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  7. I've been blogging for a heap of years and I go in and out of love with it. Like an old marriage I try to stay out of the drama stuff and weather the storms. Facebook caused a rift for awhile but I've quit that affair and settled back into bloglandia again. Thank you for liking my voice! And back at you. I try and keep my writing process to the writing site and the living stuff to Living the so-called simple life. It has been fun to post on Sojourner in Labrador too. I guess, like a marriage we bloggers need to mix it up a bit or we might become predictable -death to any relationship. Here's to keeping it real!

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  8. I'm getting really tired of all those blog hops and memes too. I get that it attracts more traffic temporarily, but aside from the other people tagged, is anyone actually interested?

    I've personally struggled with the concept of branding, even though I worked in marketing for ten years. I write very dark books that take place in mostly exotic locales, but I'm not a dark person. I don't know how to write a "dark" blog that people would find interesting, and I've already found they're not interested in my travel posts. I wanted to write about my journey to move to an island, but a lot of the time, there's nothing new to report as we sell our things and save money, etc.
    It's really difficult to know what to write about sometimes.

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    1. Holli, Interesting how you struggle with the branding despite a background in marketing. Perhaps the usual marketing theories don't work as well with blogging? I don't know, but I do know that I always enjoy your posts.

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    2. Thanks, Karen. I think it's always easier to help other people than it is to use our skills for our own benefit. Kind of like advice--easy to give, not as easy to take.

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  9. I can't get interested in the whole brand-thing, organising a platform - I know I should, if I want my blog-verse to expand. But, being honest, I do it for fun. I write because I breathe and if other people join in, then that's wonderful. When it stops being fun, then I'll stop.

    And visitors - they come and go. I hope I make them welcome. I hope I drop by enough other blogs to show I am truly interested in others' worlds. And then I close the computer - I can't spend the time that some seem to devote to it.

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  10. Hi Karen! Thanks so much for the kind words. I've really pulled away from the reviews and blog hops and all that jazz, mainly because I got bored of reading all those myself. I try to keep mine light and easy to read, and also reflective of the genre I write. I'm glad you find it that way, too!

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  11. There are blogs that I didn't follow because they weren't relevant to me either; I knew I'd just keep skipping over them in my blogger feed. I don't know if most people want to know what I eat for my meals, since they wouldn't probably approve; I ate Doritos for breakfast this morning.

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    1. Neurotic, Well, I think it is interesting. What did you have for the rest of the day?

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  12. Yay, I'm in there^ (or my blog is. ) You made my day, Karen.

    I've enjoyed your blog ever since I latched onto the first of your Diamond books: a family worth hanging out with. Now this family has added the exotic to their hangouts. I wonder how Central America will figure into your fiction.

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  13. Hi, Karen. So sorry that you are having spotty internet connections. I hope it gets better for you. Blog/visit other blogs when the internet is cooperative.

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  14. How I love people who speak their mind:) I think that is what grabs me and I am always interested in what people do, say or believe in or like to generate my mind to actually think:) I have not been here for over a week-went to the Jimmy Stewart museum and the Lucille Ball Museum and now have shingles! Ughhhh So keep blogging despite the issues with internet stuff:)

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  15. Wow. So diggin' what you are saying Karen! I too have been blogging awhile, over 5 years and have standards that must be met.(An odd statement from a woman whose blog meanders at times, shall I talk of pig castration or our over-involved government? Decisions, decisions.) I do know I hate too much advertising, too many contests and too many cat pictures. Really the cat pictures get me the most. I guess I don't do fluff very well. The blogs I follow most are also those with ...Attitude? Voice? Charisma? This post has prompted me to do my own about the blogs I enjoy just as soon as I check out all those other bloggers you mentioned. Thanks so much for the shout out!

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    1. Donna, Your post today about milking the pigs was one of my favorites. I read it to my husband and showed him the pics and we both got homesick for Illinois farm country.

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  16. Hi Karen. There's been a lot of bloggin' thinkin' lately. I expect it is because everyone is so busy with all types of social media that they only whirl by a few blogs these days and rarely even comment. I prefer blogging, but as I write different types of books, I can't just blog with one style, but I like to spread some Aussie culture when the spirit moves me, and travel, too, as it's a delight of mine. Good for Talli, but I read a recent post of hers where she wonders why bother blogging anymore?

    Thanks for the visit. I wish you well there in your third world country. It looks beautiful.

    Denise

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  17. And how could I miss an opportunity to say how I hate Captchas!!!

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  18. So agree about the Captchas - they're just a deterrent. I understand a lot of what you say about blogging. At the end of the day I do it for the sense of community, and also as a sort of diary of my progress (or lack of it!) I'm less obsessive about it than I used to be - sometimes I'm more active, sometimes less so...

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  19. For me, Karen, I try to keep up with it and build a platform, ever so slowly, for my memoir about going to college with five children in tow. Voice, attitude, subject matter. I agree with most of this information, although I don't have enough followers to worry about Captchas or long lists of comments. And about the internet...grrrr! Thanks for sharing, Karen!

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  20. I wondered why I was getting some new visitors! Thanks for your kind words. I have been struggling to decide whether I wanted to blog anymore or not. I loved reading these comments here. like you, I used to blog regularly. then Facebook took over. I like that you let us know on facebook when you post a new post. that's usually how I find them. thank you again! I can't wait to start blogging with some of these new people.

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  21. I love the blogging world and I would love to have time to visit all my favorite blogs everyday but I can't.

    Sometimes my internet keeps me from being able to comment like I would like to - life in a rural community sometimes equals spotty internet.

    I agree with a lot you have said. I do think a blog's voice is everything ... and sometimes it is really hard to discern. I'm interested in a ton of things but almost everything I write comes back to Him. My journey is one of finding Him in everything I do and everywhere I go.

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  22. Hey Karen I'm going to use this post as the backbone of a post of my own, unless you come kicking and screaming at me not to!!!

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  23. Hi Karen – oh I’d hate to go back to a slow internet – freaks me out when a blip occurs now, which it still does!

    Yes – can quite agree re some blogs being boring … I like the ones who write seriously about subjects and to me are of value … I go and read some bloggers with reviews as you mention eg Mason …

    I do write about things that interest me and if I’m prodded I’ll write on a subject a commenter has asked about .. I definitely do not want people to be bored by my content – they may find the information ‘too much’ – but I go with my own flow …

    Platform … I just blog – what’s next .. usually no idea …but content is essential … and topics to suit ‘my readers’ … Talli has got it right hasn’t she .. and Alex keeps garnering readers in – thank goodness for us lesser mortals …

    Captcha .. spam I don’t get a lot – but I do delete those I do, as I don’t want anyone to get caught by them …
    If a new blogger comes by and it looks dodgy – I check them out and whisk them away as fast as I can … and I should do it for followers …

    Agree with you for the rest of the post … and am glad to read you’re not going away … and will I’m sure see you around .. cheers Hilary

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  24. I came here via Denise Covey's blog. I agree. My blogging style has changed since I began too. I try to keep within a certain realm of topics. My biggest deal right now is adding more personality to my posts. I tend to be more analytical 'just the facts mamam'. As a matter of fact, I was planning an upcoming post about this in my head just today!

    Yipe, but I do tire of seeing the same basic post everywhere. Same topic is ok, but put a new spin on it.

    Oh yes, and captcha is a dirty word!

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  25. Great post (Alex sent me here).

    I've been blogging for nine years, and it has evolved several times over. Back in 2005 when I started, blogs were pure online diaries. Very personal. But eventually, commercialism took over.

    Back then, posts were VERY long, and followers were very intense in their follow-ship. Comments were long dialogs back and forth, probably because of the personal nature.

    These are the days of micro-blogging because of the lack of attention span.

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  26. It is good to be back, Karen. And as Denise said to me, this doesn't have to take a lot of time. I guess I worry about content. But there are ideas everywhere, and since I've got myself out there (thanks to WiDo!) as a memoir writer, I figure I have LOTS of topics that I'll probably play around with on Word during times when I can't concentrate on any sustained reading, and at times when I have to pay attention to Jen. Anyway, thanks for your encouragement. The one boggling thing right now is how this all connects to Google+, and the fact that I got myself scrambled with too many new gmail addresses. But for my purposes, I think it'll work.

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    1. Forgot to say this is a great post. Agree with everything you say.

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  28. I've noticed most posts are kind of similar. I only read the ones that stand out and honestly resent feeling obligated to read a "read my book" post just because commented on my post. I'm mostly taking a break from blogging and intend to build a platform to target people that would read my books, not just other writers.

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  29. I write thrillers, and my blog does not reflect that because thrillers are tense and full of conflicts, and sad. Who wants to read a blog about that. I have two recurring hosts. Phyllis talks about marketing, and let's face it, things change on a daily basis. Hank write satire, which lightens my life, so I figure it might lighten yours too. I find visiting all the blogs I need to visit in a day exhausting. I'm not getting enough writing done. I'm also trying for the 3rd year, to sell our home. I don't know how bloggers like Alex C. do it. I think I need a shot in the arm. Thanks for writing this post, Karen. You've really nailed my problem. I think it's time to sit back and rethink this whole thing.

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  30. I've been blogging for a while, and I think it's impossible to keep the same topic going forever. While self-published, I don't intend my blog to be all about that . . . ever. I try to focus on writing, life, faith, and writing topics - I write fantasy, so a post about swords isn't too out of the way for me.
    Best wishes on blogging onward!

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  31. I agree with you, honestly. I think we all have to attract new readers to our blog occasionally because people do get tired of our topics and move on. I do the book blurb thing (but NEVER reviews), but only to build relationships and support other authors. Even at that, I try to keep that as the minority of my posts. I'm thinking about building it into some fresh content, as well, to give people something to comment on. I personally prefer to read about other people's lives. Writing tips are nice--but anecdotes and personal stories are most interesting to me...always have been.

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  32. Hi again Karen. Just popping by to say thanks again for letting me bounce off your post. I've never had such LONG comments in all my time blogging, except when I blogged about using images.

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  33. When I first started blogging and knew nothing about it, I never thought of it as a social interaction experience. I thought (and in many ways still do) that a blog was merely a place to express whatever a writer was trying to say and if people wanted to interact then they could.

    I'm still trying to figure out how to have a sizable audience who reads regularly with a core of commenting readers who stop by regularly. I guess I have that to some extent, but I'm always interested in larger audience.

    For me a blog is a great place to experiment with subject matter and play with writing. I'm not necessarily promoting anything for the time being.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  34. Karen you make some good points here, which I can relate to, though I may have committed some of the cardinal sins you mention. I think a blog needs its own 'brand' / voice, as you say. If it's not distinctive, or if it's wishy-washy and irritating then it does lose its appeal.

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  35. Excellent post. The blogging world has DEFINITELY changed, and those who haven't evolved with it are definitely doomed to fail. I love your attention to real life. Too often bloggers are focused on their niche rather than garnering readers. (Not that I'm great at this...) You make a great point.

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  36. I read about your post on blogging on Denise Covey’s blog yesterday. I don’t think my blog is relevant to you and your readers are you are mostly writers, and I am not, but I still thought I’d give you my reasons for blogging. I tried to explain these reasons to Denise and this is what I said on her blog “I started my blog to talk about my growing up in Paris so that when my grandkids grow up they will be able to read it. Since I don’t know if the blog will be up then I get my blog printed in book form every 6 months. But it evolved – my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer 2 years ago and has no short term memory. But, and that is a big thing, if he reads my blog he remembers our trips, and I make him read my blog to help his memory and I ask him to correct my English to keep his mind engaged. That is why my posts have so many pictures and are long. I am trying to keep him from losing his brain as long as I can. But, if anyone likes to read my posts, so much the better, because I have to stay with him 24/7 and it gets lonely – it’s nice to get blogging friends to read my blog and I read theirs.” I use moderation of comments because I receive a lot more spam than comments. Yesterday I had 78 spam comments! I don’t have any other “social media” outlets so I enjoy reading comments and try to reply as much as possible. My blog is eclectic with no platform, just what I think at the moment. I do enjoy blogging and would miss it if it went away. I enjoyed your post and read all the comments you received.

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    1. Hi Vagabonde - what a wonderful reason to continue blogging - as it jogs your husband's memory: that's an advantage that many wouldn't think about.

      Excellent ideas on helping him keep his mind engaged - helping you with his English as well has no doubt other ideas coming out of the blog ... that's great ...

      Looking forward to joining you on your blogging journey .. cheers Hilary

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  37. I think for so many life gets in the way and before you know it, your daily posts become weekly, then monthly. Visiting other blogs narrows to those few you absolutely love. Commenting, depends on if you have anything to add or not. It is sad to see how its all changed. Some of my favorites aren't blogging at all anymore. It makes me sad.

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  38. That was great Karen! I apologize in advance, because this is going to be a long one.
    My blog used to be all about my writing. Each post was a potential paragraph or chapter, relating to one of the multitude of writing projects I was working on. I fell into the trap of following a bunch of writing blogs, simply as a networking and learning tool for myself. You support them and they support you.

    After a while, I found out some things about "followers." Some of them are as phony as the day is long. They only follow you, so you will follow them, advertise for them and buy their book. You can pretty much tell who they are; based on the type of comments they leave. Then it dawned on me that most of these folks, who have no problem handing out advice on how to write, edit, publish and market their books, haven't EVER published a darn thing. If you comment on a hundred of these blogs, you will get a hundred comments back. You miss commenting on a few of their posts and you will never see a comment from them again.

    There are several writing type blogs that I continue to follow though. Not so much because they are about writing, but because I like the person behind the blog. I will always read Alex Cavanaugh’s blog. I may not have time to both read and comment on everything he puts out, but I read ALL of his posts. I like him and always find something I like there, or that I’m interested in. Besides, Alex is the hardest working man in all of blogdom. Mary Pax is much the same to me. Talk about a platform, she is a sci-fi author and an astronomer at the same time. I always felt the same way about your blog Karen. You didn’t just talk about the industry, you actually lived it. Lived it on every level and didn’t mind helping people out. There are other writers who I also really like, but this is too long already. I always liked your blog and I think I can relate more to it now, than I could before.

    Anyway, I started a photography blog at the same time. Nobody is trying to publish anything and it’s not usually based on a tit-for-tat commenting relationship. It took me a while, but I finally realize that it’s not always the content of a blog that causes me to follow it. I have to like the person behind the blog, or I want no part of it. There are blogs that I really like and bloggers that I really like, that I just don’t have time to get to. I read a lot more blogs than I comment on, that’s for sure. I comment when I have something to say.

    So my blog went from one for writing and one for my photos, to a combined writing/photo blog. Now, several years down the road, I blog about the things I like to do. Primarily, that is traveling around the southwestern U.S. looking for interesting things to do and see. There are more photos than words and people seem to like it. If anybody reads this long comment, thanks! I wouldn't blame you if you didn't.

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  39. Wow! I just looked at my comment and I probably wouldn't read it.

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    1. Pat, I read every word of your comment as well as all the others people made here. I'm fascinated by what everyone thinks about blogging-- why they do it, how they've changed over time, what they hope to gain from it. Thank you for reading my blog through the years, and thank you for your insightful comment.

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  40. You have made an interesting move and I look forward to reading more of your posts. My blog is eclectic. Lots about flowers, books, occasional travel, and lots more that pops into my head. Nice to meet you here.

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  41. Good blog, Karen. Sorry you have the internet troubles of a third world country. But the glorious scenery there surely compensates a little!

    My blog started out being mostly writing and travel but is now veering in the direction of my first love--art!

    Mary Montague Sikes

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  42. I just want to thank all of you who have commented and/or shared this post. For some reason, it really touched a chord with a lot of bloggers. It rather surprised me, because it was so long and dealt with a lot of issues others have said better than me. I read all of the comments and I truly appreciate the time you took to share your experiences and feelings about blogging.

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