I did a little redecorating around here this weekend. (If you’re reading via an RSS reader, click over and have a peek.)
This redesign is actually a bit of a big deal. I actually purchased a theme and modified the CSS myself to make it look more like me. I learned the basics of CSS years ago, but my skills got rusty as websites got more automated. I’ve been taking lessons at Codecademy to catch up to how things are done today, and it’s coming back to me bit by bit.
(I designed the new logo and background too, but I usually do that so that’s not really news.)
For me, blogging is writing, design, and technical skills coming together to create something interesting and usable. Since I’m a hobbyist, anything I pay for comes out of my pocket. I don’t have the money to hire a pro to do it right the first time.
I’m doing this for love people. Like a sucker.
I’ve learned a lot about patience and have built my skill set by doing my own website for the last 13 years*. To be clear: I’m not a pro developer at all. To say otherwise would insult so many talented craftspeople and I don’t want to do that. I’m a print designer by trade so I understand the importance of making content visually appealing. I’m always surprised at how much easier it is to create websites that look like real websites – not the Geocities-style stuff of the late 90s and early 2000s I produced. It’s honestly getting easier and easier in a lot of ways. It’s more complicated in other ways, but I love learning how to uncomplicate it.
I got this site completely redone in less than 24 hours. I did a lot of other things in those 24 hours too – I wasn’t completely glued to the computer. It’s the fastest revamp I’ve had in years, if ever. The future really is amazing.
* There was a period between 2007-2009 where I was on a web service that provided pre-made templates that didn’t allow for much deviation. Whenever a customization feature was introduced, I always tried it out. I discovered I liked having more control over the output.
I came back from the third annual Blissdom Canada inspired to write more (thank you Haley and Ali). I also got ideas and tips for improving my iPhoneography skills (thank you Schmutzie). I had told Haley that I needed to ‘kick my own ass a bit’ and I think this conference has helped me do that. I’d like to thank all the organizers and speakers for all the work they did to make it a success.
(An aside, when I told Sean that the conference was at the Sheraton Centre downtown, he looked at me and asked “are you staying at the Sheraton Hotel in Canada? Have you been selected to represent the school at the National Grammar Rodeo? Sean makes me laugh. This line is from Season 7, episode 21 of the Simpsons. I couldn’t find a video clip of it so you’ll have to catch the episode in syndication sometime.)
I was thrilled to be able to tell Susan Cain how fascinating I found her book in person at her book signing. When I showed her my Kobo with her book on the screen, she told me that it was the first time she had seen the ereader version of her book. To think she had to come to another country to see it! That makes me smile.
I also stayed in a hotel room all by myself for the first time. This is a big deal for me.I wrote about wanting to do this back in January 2011 but haven’t been able to make it happen until now. When I bought my conference ticket, I booked the hotel room that day, knowing I could always cancel, but also knowing that I wouldn’t. I’m a person who needs her alone time and I don’t get nearly enough of it. (Funny, I’ve written about this before too.) As much as I was enjoying the conference and all the learning I was doing, I couldn’t wait for that window between sessions where I could check in to my room, dump my stuff and sit down in the quiet for a few minutes before I got back to the noise of hundreds of people at a conference.
I finally got that opportunity, but it was cut short because it was in the window of time before the aforementioned Susan Cain went up on stage to speak about introversion. There’s a joke in here, right? I was not missing that talk, so I put my stuff down and zipped back downstairs and took part in the rest of the conference. I did not regret my choice. I learned from all of the speakers, and the questions that were asked of them.
I had considered skipping the closing party to enjoy my purchased solitude. I didn’t have a costume and I had been stuffed up most of the day so I wasn’t sure I should be unleashing karaoke on anyone*. My need for a few drinks and a few laughs (and let’s face it, the karaoke) trumped my need for solitude at that point and I had a good time with everyone. Of course, I lived up to my introvert ideals by having the best moments when listening to conversations and occasionally contributing versus cutting it up on the dance floor. (Dancing can be fun, but it’s not my strong suit.) At the end of the night, I went back to my quiet room, had a great sleep in a king-sized bed and lounged around Sunday morning before I packed up, checked out and went home.
So Blissdom gave me a lot this year – more than what was on the website and in the conference brochure. I’m saying out loud that I plan to make the most of what I’ve been given. I hope you do too. How do you plan to improve your blog or other online work?
* I don’t get my love for karaoke either. I am totally on Team Introvert, but for some reason, I love doing karaoke. I think it’s because it’s a forgiving medium. You can be bad and people will still cheer you on. My experiences around karaoke really need a post of their own.
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Isn’t it neat that there are so many ways to get great content from many sites automatically? I love the efficiency of the web.
Some backstory. Like many other bloggers, I previously used Feedburner to manage my RSS feed. Service has been shaky and rumors of its demise have been rampant. (See these posts by Schmutzie and Cecily for more context.) I’ve opted to stay with WordPress’ built-in RSS feed rather than move to a paid service for now. If I decide I want more data about my feed (everyone loves stats right?), I may move it again, but for now, this is where it’s staying.
I found out this morning that I made the shortlist for the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Canadian Weblog Awards! Lifetime Achievement means “for weblogs created before January 1, 2005″. (Clearly the weblog is still a relatively new medium for communication.) I submitted hellomelissa.net on a lark just before the nomination period closed. I wasn’t sure if submitting myself for nomination was proper etiquette. I figured the worst that could happen was a polite note from Schmutzie telling me that sites need to be nominated by other people and I should try again next year. No harm no foul.
I also wasn’t sure if hellomelissa.net was good enough for submission. I also submitted to Best-Written and Best Life Weblog. I knew that all of these categories would be full of lots of writers I read and admire. And they totally are.
See what happens when you take a little risk and put yourself out there? Remind me to do that more often.
Best of luck to everyone who has been shortlisted with me in the Lifetime Achievement category: Cheaty Monkey, Coin-Operated Boy, Urban Daddy and Weighty Matters. There are some great sites – and people – here. Good luck to all the other nominees too.
Make sure to check out the first-round nomination list too – there are so many great blogs to discover here.
Thanks again to Schmutzie and to everyone that has volunteered to jury these awards. That’s a huge pile of work.