Tag Archives: blogging

Regrets, I have a few


The more observant amongst my readers might have noticed that CabbieBlog looks different.

During the run-up to the London Olympics in a rare display of enthusiasm, I moved from the basic ‘free’ blog to a ‘self-hosted’ site.

Indulge me if I relate the difference between these two quite different ways to publish your thoughts.

With self-hosting, you get thousands of designs to display, and a plethora of add-ons called widgets, in which to give the site more variety, with a means to monetize your project.

But this comes at a cost

Hosting for all those keystrokes and pictures; a domain name to find your work on the internet, and the purchase of back-ups should the site become corrupted. I also indulged in a speed optimization plugin, a selection of typefaces; and Patreon as a means for any fans to support the work.

Other add-ons necessary are the yearly purchase of an SSL certificate to give the domain name an https prefix required by Google in its rankings and updating PHP, the programming language used to maintain WordPress for the second time in a year.

Protection from hacking, viruses, and malware. This entailed the removal of someone’s nasties inserted within my missives last year, an expensive and a problem which, believe it or not, got CabbieBlog banned from the internet.

Now, excuse me, but with all that protection the site should have been as sound as the Bank of England. Not so! More malware has been inserted by the back door into CabbieBlog.

Some of my favourite blogs, Beetleypete and Diamond Geezer would seem to have kept with the basic system and are none the worst for it, which proves that content triumphs over appearance.

So I have reverted to CabbieBlog’s second incarnation (the first was a defunct platform now no longer lamented), which will be similar, but different.

So please comment with your opinion, both good and otherwise.

Sorry for not posting any new material these last few weeks, normal service should commence next week.

In Blog We Trust

For regular readers (the few out there who might be left), they will have noticed a change in direction for CabbieBlog during this week. As is the custom here two bespoke posts for your edification – or not as the case may be – were published. Sprinkled amongst them have been a large number of guest posts suggesting hotels one might like to consider when travelling around the capital and wider afield.

[A]s outlined in half-a-million hits and counting this blog has limped along for over 6 years with most of its inherent costs borne by the author. A small income stream has failed to cover the costs of hosting, domain name booking, web design, security – protecting both of us from ne’er-do-wells and research.

Unlike many sites no advertising appears on the home page. The ’What I’m Reading’ on the sidebar is genuinely what it says and not a posh product placement.

So where do we go from here? Hopefully even with London’s cab trade on a downward spiral – more on 10th July post if you’re interested – CabbieBlog is set fair for a few more years.

Forlorn dog

I am still open for receiving Guest Posts, many published gratis; featuring the monthly Little Gem of a London building; inviting participants for the London Grill; and writing about novel uses for redundant cabs.

Hopefully most of you, unlike Andrew who posted a comment about unsubscribing to the blog, will not alight from the cab and stay with me for the ride on this the highest ranking general interest website written by a London cabbie.

Thanks must also go to Al from Camden Pubs for his email taking me to task for this week’s remorseless output.

Tomorrow the man who was both witness for the prosecution and state executioner.

Photo: Pen and Paper Phil Gyford (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Half-a-million and counting

Writing is hard work. Fortunately, that hard work is only mental now, it wasn’t always so. At one time writing meant chiselling on a piece of rock or dipping a quill into homemade ink and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Each piece was unique. Archaeologists haven’t discovered any ancient photocopy machine yet, so making a copy likely meant sharpening chisels again or finding another piece of parchment and mixing another pot of ink.

[N]o wonder books were precious and needed to be protected by any measure. Today, courtesy of Office Word, all the physical effort has been removed. There still remains the mental process of formulating a piece of prose which for some is easy, but for others, including this author, a degree of effort is necessary.

So why am I boring you with the trials and tribulations in writing for CabbieBlog?

Well since February 2009, and before that using other platforms, twice weekly snippets have been posted for your edification, the first being Make a cuppa and do The Knowledge. In fact since a young and still wet behind the ears CabbieBlog burst upon the Interweb, 676 posts have been uploaded, that and an additional 31 pages of priceless information. Many of you have been good enough to post comments, nearly 500 to date, all of which I have managed to give some kind of response. I realise all this material is ephemeral, it will last for as long as I’m prepared to pay for hosting, and will not go down in the annals of English literature alongside Dickens or even Jeffrey Archer.

And today marks a milestone in CabbieBlog’s slow rise up the Google ranking, my half-millionth reader alighted here this afternoon.

Samuel Johnson famously said:

“Nobody but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money” (Boswell’s Life of Johnson, 5th April 1776).

Boswell adds “Numerous instances to refute this will occur to all those who are versed in the history of literature”, though he doesn’t say whether he made this rejoinder to Johnson’s face.

We may not agree with the cantankerous old sage, but who among us ever thought that it was only young writers who were cyber savvy and who cared about making money from their literary endeavours? This site is mostly written by someone who is well past his prime. As for money? At least it pays its way.

Its intention might be to amuse and inform, massaging the writer’s ego along the way, but it’s a trip worth taking as we meander through the streets of this fascinating city with all its curiosities, minutia and eccentricities.

So for everybody who has taken a detour from the shopping site named after a South American rainforest or FaceBook instead spending time wandering down this little alley full of London curiosities a big thank you, and here’s to another half-a-million.

 

Cloud-3.jpg

Photo: Pen and Paper by Phil Gyford (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Happy Birthday CabbieBlog

Today marks an anniversary; it is four years since CabbieBlog started.

Just let me open my presents and blow out my candles and I’ll be with you in a moment.

After sampling other platforms – including Blogger – in the previous six months I started using WordPress open source software under the CabbieBlog banner on
23rd February 2009.

[N]ow after 434 posts and over 400,000 hits I thought it was about time to say a big thank you to everybody who has checked me out and especially my thanks go out to anyone who has posted comments.

During that time I have learned a few things about blogging which I hope to share with you, whether you are a seasoned blogger, in which case please post your opinion of my summation, or if you are just thinking of starting down the rocky road of blogging then hopefully I can point you in the right direction.

Blogging is proper writing It is not easy writing, well not for me it isn’t, each post has to be researched if necessary and has to be thought out and should be reasonably grammatically accurate.

Blogging is rewarding It reaches out to regular readers and unlike regular writing or journalism you get responses instantly, the comments on your blog mean a lot, reply to them all.

Blogging is not a guilt trip. You shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to write regular posts if you are uncomfortable with that kind of discipline. One of the best London bloggers posts only two or three times per month.

Don’t mess around with your website You are just wasting valuable time rather than writing. However change it when there is a good reason. CabbieBlog was changed last year after over three years with roughly the same design.

Don’t get into blogging to make money It’s hard to make money just from writing a blog. But sometimes quite unexpected things turn up. I have done work for the BBC and I am paid for running a commercial blog, unless you are prepared to work full time on it treat it as a hobby.

Don’t write posts just to make money Focus on integrity. Be happy about what you publish, not what you think will attract readers. Forget the articles you read telling you how to ‘write killer posts’, they don’t exist.

Offer something worthwhile Will your readers take something from your writing? If they do they are more likely to return or put you on their RSS feed.

It’s not all about you Share your personality. It should be a bit of you with some context of the blog’s author. Making it personal is more engaging, but your readers don’t want to read the minutia of your life.

Find a routine I write regularly because I need some kind of discipline to my work, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t, one good post is worth ten poor ones.

Keep your posts short I’m sorry to say that dear reader but most of you on the web have short attention spans, it’s just the way it is – 500-2,000 words are sufficient. If you want to go into greater detail make a separate page with a link so readers can check it out if they wish.

Don’t worry about the stats I know that this post started with how many hits CabbieBlog had received, but worrying about stats again leads to writing ‘killer headlines’ and will reduce the quality of your writing. I check my stats every day and all the search links. Don’t do as I do, do as I say.

Branch out Write guest posts for others and invite them to write on your site. I have started a series entitled ‘London Grill’ inviting contributors to answer the same 10 questions about – well London.

Collaborate with others Send out emails inviting them to write something for your site.

Don’t give up easily Many blogs are lying there redundant. It could be that the authors are dispirited by lack of readers, but it takes time – persevere and try different things. Write for yourself.

Be nice to people Reply to all comments, write with constructive criticism, there has been enough talk lately of trolls on the internet.

Don’t get jealous Everyone seems to be bigger and better. Blogging is an ego trip – get real. A few regular engaged readers are better than thousands of casual hits.

Be controversial Give an opinion, people like to read views based on facts and good research.

Remember real life Don’t get obsessive, much of what you write about will be from real life, there is still life beyond the internet.

Other opportunities You might not make much money but in addition to work already mentioned I have collaborated on two books, one for the 2012 Olympics and another for a French travel guide to London. Your blog is your window on the world and leads to other projects.

Use your blog It says a lot about you, remember prospective employers might just check it out, use your blog wisely.

Most important Enjoy your blog, it is a creative endeavour, take pride in what you produce and how it is designed.

Photo by Los Flowers at Flickr – Knowledge is Power graffiti in Powis Mews

Bloggers block

bloggers_block-1I could have entitled this post . . . and why won’t the blog just write itself, for my New Year resolution that I must spend more time writing and less fiddling with the nuts and bolts behind the scenes of the blog has been broken in under a day.

First I caught the vomiting virus and two days after that came a cold. No work, no London, nothing to write about. Now here’s the thing: You go for months with loads of inspiration and then you’re under the weather for a few days and suddenly it all stops.

[I] am scratching my head staring at a lone cursor blinking in the middle of a blank white screen. So why do bloggers put themselves through this? I started nearly 4 years ago as a little light distraction and after trying various platforms and blog names within a short time I realised that not only did I have something to say about London you, dear reader, were willing to contribute with comments, suggestions and occasional guest posts.

On the 4th anniversary of CabbieBlog next month I’ve scheduled my 21 tips for bloggers, one of which will be that you don’t beat yourself up trying to write on a regular basis. Better to have one good post than 10 bland ones. So why am I worrying because one bi-weekly post is missed?

The attraction of blogging is writing about a subject you live – in my case it is London – and sharing your passion with others from around the world. Look at the map at the foot of this blog for how spreads over the globe CabbieBlog’s readers are.

The problem is exacerbated is your chosen blog is about an unchanging subject – say chewing gum through the ages. But for London, which seems to reinvent itself every 10 years, the opportunities for writers are endless. I know of at least 20 top London bloggers (see my blog list on the right) and curiously many are not born and bred Londoners.

So why would anyone want to put themselves under pressure to write regular posts? Many just start a blog with a few well chosen pieces which become less and less over the first few weeks and then after a month the passion to communicate goes away and http://www.chewinggumthroughtime.com becomes another dead digital spot which even the author seems to forget exist.

For others – myself included – writing is a feeling of catharsis. It costs nothing to put pen to paper and even the most obscure topic will be read by someone in the world who might even reply.

So this week I plan to return to London, its streets might not be paved with gold, but I know somewhere there will be a nugget to write about.

Watch this (blank) space.