My Speaking Idea For WordCamp Victoria

Plans are coming together beautifully for the next WordCamp Victoria, being held January 14th (only 2 months away) at at the University of Victoria, Social Sciences & Mathematics (SSM) building. Here’s my idea:

Wild About Weaver: A (nearly) WYSYWYG CSS Wrangler

Do you want to make some tweaks to your WordPress site, but pale at the thought of editing the CSS stylesheet? Try using Weaver as your basic template. Based on the current basic theme (right now, Twenty Eleven) it then layers its own child pages onto the base, and gives you literally hundreds of ways to customize the appearance. Using its easy-to-understand administration tabs, you can make big or small changes, add snippets of code, and never have to worry about what the curly brackets { } mean… unless you want to. You may even find using Weaver helps you to understand CSS better! 

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4 Ways to Make Twitter Suck Less

A couple of days ago at the gym, a business owner, whom I know and respect for her great blog posts and use of Facebook, confessed to me “I’m a Twitter dropout. I hate all of its rules, and the conversation there is so stupid! I don’t want to know about the new pants people are buying.”

My first reaction was, “Drop out, then. Nobody says you have to use Twitter, and if it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing.” I’ve certainly had days where I felt like I’ve had nothing to say to Twitter, and vice versa. In fact, I had a whole burn-out year where I rarely went near Twitter, and basically stepped back from all social media activities except some personal use of Facebook.

Ultimately, however, I’ve decided that there is much in Twitter that is worth keeping, and there are some simple ways to get rid of the parts that annoy you. Here are a few things you can do on a Sunday afternoon to make Twitter suck less, 7 days a week.

1. Use lists to improve the “Noise to Signal” ratio

If the tweets in your twitter stream are more annoying than edifying, you need a way to filter out the junk. I’ve classified people into lists through third-party Twitter management decks (like TweetDeck, HootSuite and Seesmic) and Twitter started this function a couple of years ago, as well. With lists, you can group the tweeps you follow into whatever works for you – close friends, news sources, music, fitness – and just look at Twitter through those filters. Much better than trying to wade through hundreds of tweets, some from people you followed back months ago and you can’t even remember why. That brings me to my next point.

2. Unfollow annoying twits.

If you aren’t getting value from the tweets that show up in your stream, turn down the volume. “Unfollow” is just a click away. If you take the first step, above, and put your favourite Twitterers into a list, you might get so used to the customized view that you never have to unfollow because you don’t look at that home stream anymore. But frankly, I still look at my “main” stream often, so it’s nice to just not have to deal with incessant marketing messages or self-centred drivel.

3. Spend less time on Twitter – while still posting to Twitter.

I’m thinking of the terrific, engaging posts this friend puts onto Facebook, and how they would work equally well on Twitter. Linking the two is only a step away, in her Facebook account settings. Better yet, she can choose which Facebook updates to share with Twitter by using one of those management tools I mentioned above. I like the ones with multiple columns for your favourite lists and search terms, with scheduled tweets so you can have a creative thought at 2 am that people might see at 8:30.

4. Don’t try to stay on top of it all

One of the most potentially annoying things about Twitter is when you try to read everything that comes across your screen. Can’t. Be. Done. What’s more, it’s way more input than anyone needs. Cut back to a couple of times a day, for just long enough to see if there are any good posts to your lists, and to respond to any mentions. If Twitter only takes 5- 10 minutes a day, it’s far less likely to annoy you. And on those days where the communication is better than you expected, you can take longer, much as you would an important email or phone call.

That’s not so bad, is it? 

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November – No Makeup!

What if, for 30 days in November, you experimented with a new look? One that goes against the current fashions, and sets you a little bit apart? What if, for doing this, you raised money for a good cause? Does it sound like Movember? Exactly – but what if you, like most women, are challenged in the facial hair department? Then how about going without makeup?

This is actually Janis Lacouvee‘s idea, but I think it’s a good one. Like the guys with their moustaches, you can put the money toward charities working on men’s cancers – it could even be the money you save because you haven’t had to replace that colour-match foundation or the extend-a-curly-lash mascara. That’s my plan, since my father won a battle with cancer last year. (Actually, I’ll give more than the money I save – I only occasionally wear makeup at the best of times!)

So many women can’t imagine facing the day without their “face”. This is a challenge to present yourself as you are – perhaps professional, well-groomed – but unadorned. And if anyone asks what you are up to, you can always use “November – no makeup” as the reason.

With only days to go until November, I don’t expect that this idea will cause a groundswell of women to pack away their MAC and Mary Kay. In fact, now might be considered a “pilot project”, to be tweaked and rolled out in style next year. Maybe it would be best coupled with a different charitable focus. I think the idea is worth consideration.

So please, comment, share, and tell me if you plan to take up the November/No Makeup challenge. 

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What the H*ll Happened? My Journey Into Mental Illness

I got an email today from someone I’ve just started to get to know on Twitter – she’s starting a business writing and editing (sound familiar?) and wanted to know why I haven’t blogged in so long.  So it’s time to come clean.  Below is my nutshell response to why I stopped.  It’s as honest as I’ve been in a very long time.

As a summary, I don’t go into detail here about what it feels like to lose my mental health, and what hard work it is to come back.  I want to write about that too, but not right now.  I hope this helps all of you who wondered why they didn’t see @wordspring around very much in2010.

My thanks to Lisa for asking me about blogging.  This probably wasn’t the answer you expected.

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Thanks for the note!  Thanks as well for the question about my sadly neglected blog.  Blogging need not take very long, and it’s a wonderful way to show what you know.  In my case, it wasn’t lack of ideas or lack of time that stopped the posts.  A lot of people stop blogging when they run out of ideas, or when they don’t see it as a priority for their business.  Others barely get started because they are perfectionists, and feel that whatever they do won’t be good enough!  I think I blogged about that – you can help them get over it.

As a writer and editor, this is can be your best form of advertising, and so long as I was running my business, it was a central piece of my marketing.  It could be for you, as well.  I stopped because of a personal crisis, that saw me change direction 180 degrees.

As you can see, I was blogging very regularly through 2009, when I was newly 100% self-employed as a writer and social media consultant.  I kind of threw myself into the deep end of the pool and started swimming madly to stay afloat. Unfortunately, it turns out I’m not well suited to being a one-woman show.  I’m a great teacher, salesperson, motivator, explainer, and a crappy administrator.  So by the end of the year, I was falling apart trying to do everything myself, and too afraid of failure to bring anyone in on a potential trainwreck.  Self-fulfilling prophecy?  Yeah.  By the end of 2009 I had to stop what I was doing for my own mental and physical health, and to save what was left of my relationship with my boyfriend and children, as well.  So I stopped, cold turkey, for months.I got a job that didn’t involve the Internet, and that helped people in a concrete way, selling walkers, wheelchairs, and so on.  It put a paycheque in my bank account every two weeks.  I didn’t look at my email, didn’t go into my office, and stopped attending the tweetups and the Social Media Club I’d helped to found the previous year.  I cancelled (or dropped) contracts.  I stopped answering my phone. I felt like I’d failed and gone into exile.  Only my family and my job got me through the day to day, and during some very dark times last spring, even that wasn’t enough, and I had to recognize that I was really, really sick!  And THAT’s why I stopped blogging.Slowly, one piece at a time, I’m putting myself back together. Ii’ve gotten help for what turned out to be acute mental illness (there, I’ve said it!), and have great counsellors,  good meds, and wonderful friends and family.  We’ve made some changes at the family level, and I’m starting to write and edit again, balancing that with my medical supplies sales work.  I can check email and tweet, lol, and will probably start adding more activities as I am able to handle them.  That certainly includes blogging, because I have a ton of ideas.  Right now, it has taken a back seat to a contract I have (on deadline as we speak!) but it’s going to come back, too.That’s my 5-minute story – with that out of the way, I’d love to meet for a coffee, talk about YOUR story, and get you excited about blogging.  Don’t worry, blogging is a lot of fun, so long as you are not having a nervous breakdown 

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