Is blogging worth my time?

This morning I read a post titled “Dear Mommy Blogger” by Josi Denise that’s going viral in the blogging community.

It’s, um, critical of the blogging experience.

The social media frenzy, writing fake upbeat reviews of products online, spending money on blogging conferences, commenting on other people’s blogs without even really reading them for the link-back, all of it.

It’s a long post, with a lot of good points.

And it had me re-evaluating my own blogging. Is it worth the time I put in? When I write a post with zero comments, would I be better off spending that time reading with a cup of coffee on the front porch?

But then I look through my e-mails and messages. The one where someone says that I’ve inspired them to sign up for their first Tri. Or that they’ve just finished their first 5k and they wrote a quotation from my blog on their arm to get them through their race. Or that they’re going to *eek!* train for their first half marathon, because they read my posts and realize it’s attainable, even though they’ve got kids and a busy schedule, too.

I’ve received a lot of emails like that since I started doing this 3 years ago.

And I would sit down and write a private e-mail to any one of those people about running, any day. Even if just one of them was going to read it.

I’ve never gotten involved in product reviews or social media apps that follow and unfollow people, so I’ve avoided a lot the experiences Jodi Denise is scathingly critical of.

I started this blog because so many of the running blogs out there were written by distance runners and speedsters. People who’ve run dozens of marathons, at 7 minute pace. People I could admire but not relate to when I was struggling with Couch to 5k and pushing a jogging stroller doing 11 minute miles.

When I sit down and write, it’s because I love what being active has done for me, and I love sharing it with you. I love putting my novice journey out there for the world, showing you don’t have to be winning awards to love running.

Realizing there are readers out there that this blog has helped in some small way, that’s worth it.

You’re worth it.

So here I am.

My top 10 posts of all time

1. Dear Chad Stafko: Ok, we’re happy to be runners. Get over it.

2. Why I put a 13.1 bumper sticker on my car

3. What’s Next After C25K – Choosing Running Goals

4. Long Run Survival Guide – Don’t Make These Mistakes

5. Race Day Strategy for My First Half Marathon

6. 13.1 Bad Jokes For While You Run A Half Marathon

7. Half Marathon Recovery

8. Chilly Half Marathon Race Recap

9. My Half Marathon Training Plan(s)

10. Dread This: An Open Letter to Runners From Your Treadmill

I’m not sure why one of my race recaps was so popular, and I’m a little embarrassed that everyone’s reading my bad half marathon jokes… but I am thrilled that other people are learning from my Long Run Survival Guide!

A runner up that is still a personal favorite is this post from over 2 years ago about the real reason I decided to run my first half marathon. I still have that t-shirt… and I wear it all the time 🙂

Using Lynda.com to learn WordPress, Google Analytics, etc.

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CCO Public Domain from pixabay.com

You wouldn’t believe the things my husband can do in Microsoft Excel.  Watching him is addictive; I have no idea what combination of keystrokes he’s pressing but suddenly everything is auto summing and columns are where I want them, and it’s just… magical.  He never even has to reach for the mouse.  He can do things in Excel I had no idea were possible, and he has redefined my understanding of the program and what it can do.

I’m starting to realize how little I know about the programs I’m using every day.  I have never taken a WordPress tutorial.  I get frustrated just trying to fix the spacing in my “About” page, not even basic html knowledge has helped me there.

I know that Google Analytics could tell me really cool things about my web traffic… if I had any idea how to use it.

Enter lynda.com.  When I asked my Facebook friends where I should go to learn about SEO (expecting book recommendations or links to articles) someone immediately said Lynda.com.  It’s an online software training and tutorial site with monthly or annual memberships.  You can pay as little as $24.99 a month for unlimited access to all their training videos.

Here’s my current to-watch list:

WordPress Essential Training (5 hours 15 minutes)

SEO Fundamentals (3 hours 27 minutes)

Google Analytics Essential Training (3 hours 35 minutes)

Lightroom 6 Essential Training (5 hours 43 minutes) 

There are video courses on using twitter, pinterest and other social media, on how to publish an e-book, and on almost every software I could think of.  You can skip right to the parts that interest you easily, or skim a transcript if you’re not sure you need to watch a specific section.  If you go to lynda.com, you can search their course offerings before deciding to subscribe to their service.

I’ve just started the WordPress course, and have already learned something new (how to set a featured image) that would have been helpful to know several years ago.

Pros: Inexpensive. You can do it on your own schedule. Lots of course options. Rankings show whether a course is designed for beginner, intermediate, or advanced users. Transcript available.  The tutorials are divided into small 2-5 minute video clips with detailed titles allowing you to select or skip specific topics.

Cons: It’s easy to sign up, get busy, and end up paying for a monthly service you don’t use.  There’s no engagement with instructors or peers.  You may end up watching video showing you things you already know.  It bills automatically, so even if you’re a month-to-month subscriber you need to actively cancel your subscription.  You need to actually sit down and watch the videos in order to learn, and then practice what you’ve learned so you don’t forget everything after you’ve canceled your subscription.  Lack of accountability or urgency because you didn’t sign up for a course with specific deadlines.

Bottom line: It would probably be faster and better to sit down with an expert and have an in-person tutorial where you could ask tailored questions based on what you usually do in your software… but is that really going to happen?

I’m hoping lynda.com will make me a more powerful and less frustrated user of the software I use every day.

What’s something new you’ve been learning, and how?  Do you have favorite documentaries, podcasts, or places you go to improve your blogging? I’d love to hear from you, via comments or send me an e-mail!

 

 

 

Dozens of Recipes from Williams-Sonoma Smoothie Week

In keeping with the initial purpose of this post, sharing the amazing smoothies bloggers have created for Williams-Sonoma “Not Your Typical Smoothie Week”, which ran from the last week of October through the third week in January, I’ve rearranged this post to share the smoothies first. The background story and updates are in chronological order below them.

The Smoothies!

Black Bean and Blueberry SmoothieMaria, pinkpatisserie.net
Red Velvet Cake in a Glass (V w/o jello)Le, fitfoodiele.com
Bloody Mary SmoothiesAlice, hipfoodiemom.com
Strawberry Banana Bean SmoothieJess, hellotofit.com
“Egg Nog” SmoothieAlexe, keystothecucina.com
Green Sand Egg Nog SmoothieDarlene, theteaenthusiastsscrapbook.com
Hawaiian Bliss Cacao Vanilla Smoothie (V)Meghan, recipesforcompassion.com
Not Your Typical Berry SmoothieCharlene, paperandinkplayground.com
Roasted Carrot Apple Coconut Smoothie (V)Vee, honeylemontea.com
Red Hots Apple Pie SmoothieSarah, sarahnspice.com
Raspberry Kombucha Smoothie (V)Jen, savedbythekale.com
Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie (V)Kim, beautyandthebumpnyc.com
Gingersnap Smoothie (V if using vegan cookies)Farihah, spicesbites.com
Edamame and Kale Pina Colada Smoothie (V)Liz, cookingbymoonlight.com
Ginger and Beetroot SmoothieSofia, moco-choco.com
Pumpkin Spice Smoothies (V)Margaret, theplantstrongvegan.com
Green Mango SmoothieAbby, manilaspoon.com
Gingerbread SmoothieDiana, thedreameryevents.com
Matcha Almond Honey SmoothieJen and Kelly, thefwordblog.com
Peanut Butter Avocado Smoothie (V option)Melissa, lovebugliving.com
Dark Chocolate Candy Cane Smoothie (V)Amanda, positivelyamanda.com
Tiramisu SmoothieLaurie, love-laurie.com
French Toast Smoothie (V)Veronica, thevegetarianginger.com
Sweet Roots Beet Smoothie (V)Sarah, curiouscuisiniere.com
Beet & Citrus Green Smoothie (V)Tashina, logicalharmony.net
Elvis SmoothieJen, burpeesforbreakfast.com
Not Your Typical Smoothie (V)Courtney and Hillary, thebeautymarkgirls.com
Kiwi Avocado Protein SmoothieLaurel and Bec, athletefood.com
The Standard Drill (with radishes!)Lisa, themeaningofme.com
Blueberry Yum Yum SmoothieCarole, thesweetchick.com
Tropical Spirulina Smoothie (V)Jenn, asimplehaven.com
Cranberry Coconut Smoothie (V w/o honey)Marisa, margaritasintherain.com
Naughty and Nice Festive Smoothies (V)Lynda, homelealass.com
Easy Avocado Smoothie (V options)Salma, thewritebalance.ca
Brussel Sprouts and Raspberry Smoothie (V w/o honey)Rakhee, boxofspice.com
Avocado, Banana and Raspberry SmoothieFareen, foodmamma.com
Wacky Winter Smoothies (V options)Jennifer, skinnychef.com
Chocolate Covered Cherry SmoothieCatherine, foodiecology.com
Strawberry Smoothie CubesAla, wallflourgirl.com
Butternut & Persimmon Paradise Smoothie   (V)Emily, rainbowdelicious.com
Mixed Berry SmoothieLaura, brightandbeautiful.com
Chocolate Covered Matcha Smoothie (V)Juliane, stylenectar.com
Autumnal Sweet Potato & Papaya Smoothie (V)Charlene, charspillane.com
Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie (V w/o honey)Grace, foodfitnessfreshair.com
Tropical Green Monster Smoothie (V)Laura, guiltfreefoodiecutie.com
Superfood SmoothieLaureen, artandthekitchen.com
Peppermint Chocolate SmoothieAmy, the-savvy-kitchen.com
Cranberry Citrus Green Smoothie (V)Trish, tagsthoughts.com
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (V options)Maria, mariamakesmuffins.com
Avocado and Date SmoothieMolly, thisyuppielife.com
Gingerbread Dough Boy Smoothie (V)Margaret, kitchenfrau.com
Sweet Potato Pie SmoothieTalya, gracegritsgarden.com
Exotic Smoothies – 6 Tasty CombinationsElizabeth, familyfocusblog@gmail.com
Vegan Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie (V)Linda, veganosity.com
Pomegranate Green Protein Antioxidant Rich SmoothieCara, momswhoshake.com
Persian Cantaloupe Smoothie (V w/o honey)Ahu, ahueats.com
Chocolate Maca Protein Shake with Fresh Almond Milk (V)Cat, neohomesteading.com
Kale + Cranberry (Sauce) Smoothie (V)Sarah, lafemmeepicure.com
Immune Boosting Pink Lemonade Smoothie(V)Ashley, bloomandnourish.com
Fresh Juices and Smoothies (V)Rachel, aliveinthefire.com
Carrot Orange Sunshine SmoothieKaren, thetastybiteblog.com
Pumpkin Spice Latte Smoothie (V)Kim, welcomingkitchen.com
Breakfast Cauldrons and Pumpkin Cookie Dough (V)Claudia, breakfastdramaqueen.com
Peaches and Coconut Cream Smoothie with a Secret (V options)Tori, gringalicious.com
Happy Tummy Happy Holidays Smoothie (V)Ronda, thedomesticcurator.com
Eye-Opener Smoothie (V)Nadia, thinkingskinny.com
Blueberry Oatmeal SmoothiesMelissa, servedupwithlove.com
Green Smoothie with KaleMarjorie, apinchofhealthy.com
Egg Nog SmoothiesMelanie, fortyeighteen.com
Almond Joy Power SmoothieJulia, energywebring.com
Chestnut Choco Oats SmoothieAlice, mitzyathome.com
Christmas Cranberry SmoothieSarah, handmademood.com
Fruity Protein Power Smoothie (V options)Nancy, organichealthylifestyle.com
Moose JuiceLinda, getreal4health.com
Sweet Potato Pie SmoothieDenise, littlemarketkitchen.com
Kale Cookie Butter Cinnamon SmoothieJen, prettylittlegrub.com
Eggnog Gingerbread Smoothie (V options)Sam, pancakewarriors.com
Vegan Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (V)Kelsey, thelittleredjournal.com

Backstory:  I was recently contacted by the Community Coordinator for Williams-Sonoma and asked to participate in “Not Your Typical Smoothie” week.  A quick google search for “Not Your Typical Smoothie” led me to discover that it’s evidently been Not Your Typical Smoothie week for several months, with bloggers developing recipes and linking to Williams-Sonoma blenders throughout both November and December.  I found dozens of participating bloggers.  Searching the Williams-Sonoma website, the Williams-Sonoma blog, and the Williams-Sonoma twitter account came up with no evidence that they’ve ever shared anyone’s recipes that they developed. So I e-mailed Williams-Sonoma and asked them why they hadn’t shared any of this amazing work with anyone.  Their reason?  The original e-mail I received wasn’t from Williams-Sonoma.

williamssonomaresponse

I don’t understand why someone would impersonate a company to solicit recipe blog posts and pressure bloggers to put links to Williams-Sonoma blenders on their website.  I do agree that the practice seems inconsistent with what I’d expect from a company like Williams-Sonoma.  When I wrote about companies soliciting blog posts yesterday, it hadn’t even occurred to me that someone would be impersonating the company.

The downside is that people put in work to develop a recipe for nothing in return. The upside is there are a ton of really great smoothie recipes out there with fun ingredients, showing the creativity and talent of tons of bloggers, and I’ve now found them via this google search. Which brings me back to the downside, that Williams-Sonoma didn’t solicit these posts and therefore they won’t receive publicity from the company.  Their readers still get to enjoy these recipes, but I think they should get more than that!

The more I sifted through search results, the more amazed I was at the creativity, passion and enthusiasm of these bloggers who so generously took time to create posts on this topic, thinking it was for Williams-Sonoma.  They should be seen, and I’m going to share them with you here.  I’ve labeled the ones that are vegan so fellow plant-based enthusiasts can find them more easily.  Enjoy!

PS – If you participated in Smoothie Week for Williams-Sonoma and your post isn’t featured here, please let me know in the comments section and I will add it!  There were so many that it’s taken time to compile them all, and I am sure I’ve missed some.


smoothieweekheather

 

williamssonoma
One of many e-mails from bloggers I reached out to saying they’d added links to Williams Sonoma as well as developing the recipe, but never received anything in return.

1/14/2015 12:30 p.m. Update: The @WilliamsSonoma twitter account is telling me that the “Not Your Typical Smoothie” campaign is actually being run by Williams-Sonoma.  They’ve promised to explain the process.  I hope these bloggers get publicity for their work!

williamssonomatweet

1/14/2015 evening update: I’ve received an e-mail from Williams-Sonoma and responded with some questions and an urge for more transparency in the future.  They will be featuring selected recipes as part of their #30Days30Ways and #wswellness campaigns this month.  I am pleased that some of the participating bloggers will get publicity from Williams-Sonoma, that’s a big deal, and they have some incredible smoothie posts to choose from!

My take-away is that for bloggers and companies to have positive and mutually beneficial partnerships with one another, clear communication of expectations on both sides in advance of content creation is key.

I encourage participating bloggers in “Not Your Typical” Smoothie Week to give Williams-Sonoma feedback. Communication could help shape the way they run future campaigns.

williams-sonomaresponse

williams-sonomamyresponse

Update 1/16/15: I received an e-mail last night from Williams-Sonoma stating they have selected recipes to share via Facebook and Pinterest, and their digital media team will notify bloggers in the coming days.

I look forward to seeing the ones they’ve chosen.

Update 1/23/15: Williams-Sonoma sent a tweet this morning with a link to their pinterest board “Not Your Typical Smoothie” where they’ve featured 27 smoothies from their 3 month “Not Your Typical Smoothie Week” campaign. They promised a Facebook compilation album also, still waiting for that to go live.  When it does I’ll post a link there, also.

As this whole thing unfolded, four goals developed.

1. To make bloggers more aware of the need to ask questions before working with companies.

2. To make Williams-Sonoma aware of the way their partner Heather handled the campaign, ie that she was running “the first installment of Not Your Typical Smoothie Week” for several months running, pressuring bloggers to add links to Williams-Sonoma blenders on their website in exchange for social media coverage they then went months without receiving, and setting artificial deadlines for bloggers who worked hard to develop recipes at busy times in their lives because they were excited to participate…. only to discover the next week was again “smoothie week”.

3. To encourage Williams-Sonoma to provide the social media coverage Heather promised bloggers they would receive.  (Some of these bloggers have been waiting since before Halloween.)

4. To encourage Williams-Sonoma to finally end “Not Your Typical Smoothie week” and improve how clearly they communicate with bloggers about deadlines and what bloggers will receive (and when) in terms of social media publicity if they decide to participate in future campaigns.

Conclusion:

Williams-Sonoma has continued to correspond with me via e-mail.  I believe they’re now aware of how this campaign was managed, and how many bloggers feel about it.  They’re going to provide social media coverage to selected bloggers this month.

williamssonomaresolution

All that remains to be seen is whether “Not Your Typical Smoothie” Week is finally over, and if they’ll run better campaigns in the future.  I’ve sent them one (hopefully last) more e-mail asking if Heather will stop sending out e-mails asking bloggers to participate in “Smoothie Week”.  This is what I received in reply:

FinalWSemail

Thank you, Williams-Sonoma for continuing to correspond with me, for featuring some of these recipes on Facebook and Pinterest, and for considering changing the nature of future campaigns.

Best wishes to all my fellow bloggers.

You may enjoy this post from another blogger that Williams-Sonoma reached out to:

I Don’t Work for Free (and Neither Should You) by bellebrita