Tag Archives: blogging

What’s this blog all about?

What is this blog all about, well, far from being rhetorical, I had rather hoped that you could tell me that. You see it started off by being given the strapline: ‘London, through the eyes of a working cabbie’. Obviously, it’s about me going on about things in London that interest me, that’s a given. But what is it that is so interesting that I feel the need to put pen to paper, or nowadays, fingers to laptop?

Precise scheduling

I have often suspected that I have more than my share of an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. From the inception of CabbieBlog, I broke down every post into only six categories: A window on my world; An urban view; London trivia; Puppydog tails; Thinking allowed; and The Grill, these categories I have kept for over 10 years, moreover, all posts, over 1,400 now, have been published not only on specific days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday), each day is designated to a particular subject, but to reinforce my OCPD, also posted at the same time of the day at 13.50 London time precisely.

Checking out the archives

For the purposes of this post, I’ve trawled back to the beginning of this year to find that every post still has a tenuous link to London. This is hardly surprising because it is where I live, where I worked, and London is vast, providing plenty of ideas to write about. More specifically along with 13 Sunday London trivia posts, this year has featured five further trivia posts that have taken my interest, three posts about little gems of buildings or street to find in the capital, and curiously 10 blog posts about blog posts, and a smattering of posts about astronomy, quizzes, cabbies and London transport.

The site now has two further regular features, naturally posted each time at 13.50 precisely, Monday’s ‘London in Quotations’ (13 so far), and ‘The Weekly Whinge’ (again 13@13.50).

Now, this is why I ask about the blog’s purpose, for 23 posts out of 65 are about my interests and navel-gazing or 35.3846 per cent and not specifically about London.

Given that Wednesday is given over to ‘The Weekly Whinge’, you might expect that tone of voice throughout the site, its something I refer to for prospective guest posts. You might think that a retired cabbie would be downbeat or nitpicking about – fill in an appropriate organisation here – but generally, I try to be neutral, or positive, simply reflecting what I see without laying the value judgments on thick.

In conclusion

After all that, I don’t think I can now define just what CabbieBlog is now about. Once it was easy, I would see or experience something driving around London and then relate it for your delectation. But now having an audience that is more engaged submitting comments and ‘likes’, many more than this site has ever seen, I can say that it’s all about Londoners, both present, past and those interested in the capital.

Generally, the blog is about the world around me, but I’m sorry to say, it’s still mostly about me.

Pale, male and frail

In the early years of this century, it seemed everyone and his dog were writing a blog. So many were written about areas, now referred annoyingly as ‘communities’, that I compiled a page entitled London Links which amounted to over 100 entries. Today many of those links now disappear into cyber-space, or the sites haven’t been updated for years.

Scanning down this year’s top 100 London Bloggers in 2020 I found that CabbieBlog was ranked at 61. Now, here’s what piqued my interest (apart from the vanity trip, and finding that CabbieBlog was languishing near the bottom), by far the majority of these popular sites featured lifestyle and were written by young women, in fact at least 37, and considering many others were corporate, it would seem over half were written for a young, mainly female audience.
Now, most of these gave the name of the author, usually with a picture of a fresh-faced millennial to reinforce its authenticity that the blog was for younger female visitors.

So it would seem this demographic is still interested in this kind of personal engagement, while older men have moved on to another fad.

In London the enduring blogs lasting over a decade or more seem to be written by those who are pale, male and frail, I’m guessing here, also, unlike the younger ladies, many publish under a synonym. Spitalfields Life by The Gentle Author; Diamond Geezer by himself; at CabbieBlog yours truly writes under Gibson Square; Pigeon Blog is cleverly composed by Brian the Pigeon; the Wandering Scotsman waxes lyrical on London is Cool; Ian Visits apparently is named after its author, Ian; and the possible exception is Annie Mole’s London Underground written since 2003, although not recently, by a woman, who clearly cannot by a millennial.

Blogs written by younger women are read by this particular demographic, I can’t for the life of me see myself reading the Heroine in Heels site. So who reads these older sites often written under a synonym? This is the question for today. Is it only the authors who are pale, male and frail, or are also their readers?

Why won’t the blog just write itself?

In two days’ time, CabbieBlog will be 11 years old. It’s the time of year that I compile my yearly statistics, at the same time I also try to do a little housekeeping on the site.

Those of you who are more curious will have found the London Links page. It’s the sort of project that takes hours to compile, only to be ignored by the author, and it would seem the rest of the world with only 48 views this year.

When CabbieBlog first appeared in cyberspace blogging was all the rage, but over time the long-form post has been subsumed by opinions and information being disseminated in 140 characters.

Since then some of my London favourites have fallen by the wayside. A Peace of London, The Londoneer and the excellent The Accidental Londoner are no more, curiously the domain name The Accidental Londoner now gives you Ian Visits, a comprehensive commercial London site.

With other commitments, it’s not surprising that some are now defunct, and many more haven’t been updated for a long time, including the hilarious Pigeon Blog, written in the first person by Brian the pigeon.

I’ve entitled this post: Why won’t the blog just write itself? After a year when health and other commitments prevented me from writing many original posts, here 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?

When I started, as a little light distraction and after trying various platforms and blog names within a relatively short time, I realised that not only did I have something to say about London, you, dear reader, were willing to contribute with comments, likes, suggestions and occasional guest posts.

The attraction of blogging is writing about a subject you love – in my case, it is London – and sharing your passion with others from around the world. The problem is exacerbated if 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, except, that is, for when I’m trying to think of an idea.

So why would anyone want to put themselves under pressure to write regular posts? As I mentioned, 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 becomes another dead digital spot which even the author seems to forget exists.

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.

During the time I’ve been writing, I have learned a few things about blogging which I will 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.

There’s still a huge audience

According to WordPress, nearly 409 million people view more than 20 billion pages each month.

Blogging is proper writing

It is not easy writing, well not for me it isn’t, each post has to be researched if necessary, it has to be thought out and, before publishing, 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. A London Inheritance, 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 7 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, been paid for running a commercial blog and been given a book deal. Unless you are prepared to work full time on the blog, treat it as a hobby. 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 share you on social media.

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

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 occasionally publish London Grill inviting others to share their views of London, and I’m always open for submissions.

Collaborate with others

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

Don’t give up easily

As I found many blogs are lying there redundant. It could be that the authors are dispirited by a 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, Boris has his faults, but we don’t have to bang in about them.

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.

But be controversial

Give an opinion, people like to read views based on facts and good research, they don’t want polemical tirades.

Remember real life

Don’t get obsessive, much of what you write about will be from real life, but 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.

Go back to school

Try to write without spelling mistakes, and improve your grammar. Your readers will soon tire of trying to decipher your work. I use Grammarly in an attempt to improve my work.

Most importantly

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

Now back to that blank screen with its immobile cursor, awaiting my thoughts for the latest incisive missive.

Bang went my back-up

The notice said: Recovery:

Your PC/Device needs to be repaired. Error code: 0xc0000605

I had only turned off the laptop and started it in anticipation to load a pending Windows 10 update when the notice informed me of a serious problem with my machine or just a peripheral, but no amount of switching and unplugging worked.

It was not the first time that CabbieBlog was unable to upload a post, for no sooner had this site got going, on 31 July 2009 your humble scribe was nobbled. Thieves had stolen 300 yards of pristine BT telephone cable between the exchange and my laptop causing a crisis with no internet for five days. With no Wikipedia to plagiarise, sorry research, I was forced to write using, heaven help us in this day and age, a pencil and notepad.

Telephone cables are often stolen for the copper within them. At Oregon Caves National Monument, America thieves hacked up and hauled away three miles of telephone and Internet cable along a twisting mountain road leading to the remote location, apparently to sell on the thriving scrap market for copper at a value of $3.2 million.

Then, three years ago my laptop, after becoming intermittently slow, was upgraded with a solid-state drive. Now I was looking at this blue screen with its ominous notice, so clearly it was time to call Roger my go-to computer expert.

It appeared that one of my pesky peripherals had blown the nearly-new drive, taking its contents with it. No problem, BT Cloud had been mirroring my every keyboard stroke – or so I thought.

Twenty-four hours later, and £120 lighter, after Roger had installed a new drive, I fired up and downloaded said BT backup. But the data was only half complete, much was missing.

The previous year, in an economy drive, I had switched from costly Dropbox to the free BT solution, and clearly, I had set it up incorrectly. In my defence, BT does have a rather confusing and convoluted way of doing things.

Being a belt and braces kind of geek I had also used the sublime Bvckup2 app to make multiple copies and write them onto a number of storage devices, and not to let down readers of CabbieBlog, after the early incident with the copper cable, I now use WordPress’s scheduler to upload and delay posts; in fact, dear reader there are, as I write 694 posts awaiting for your delectation.

So what can you take from this painful, and costly, incident? Firstly: laptops will at some stage die, usually at the most inconvenient moment. Secondly: don’t trust just one method to back-up your work, becoming complacent and assuming that it is always working in the background is a recipe for disaster. Thirdly: you might adequately understand Windows 10, but one day you’re going to have to rely on a guy with a screwdriver, find one you can trust, just in case; and Fourthly, don’t let down your readers.

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.