Irritated by the Internet

Map of the Internet

classic visual map of the internet, image can be attributed to artist Barrett Lyon

Lately I’ve been irritated by the Internets.  And by blogs, although I’m someone who still reads them, someone who still writes them, and still thinks the longer form is useful.

Blog

This post is divided into parts.

All is not well in Blogland, and like the song from Music Man where he sings about Trouble and it means the new billiard table in town, our trouble is the concept of “monetize.”  It can be lucrative to place ads on blogs, and I have no problem if  a blogger wants to make some cash.  Money is always good, and hey, it’s their blog.

But I do get irritated when some of the ads have positively gotten out of hand, so much so that ads pop up on top of pictures, intrude on the blogger’s writing, and blink and pop across content. Some of the ads are disgusting (see below for examples), with that creepy crawly worms thing the worst.  Because of this, I had stopped reading some blogs, but in the end, I liked the quilter and what they did, so had to find new ways to read.

Blog

Using a Reader to read blogs

So I started by using a reader. I subscribe directly to some blogs, and their post notifications come directly into my emailbox.  But I don’t want all my blogs to come there.  A reader will gather all your reading into one list, and can categorize the blogs (I read both ways).  One well-known reader in quiltland is Bloglovin’ but I have moved over to Feedly.com.

I used to use Bloglovin’ a lot, but  I found it frustrating at how many clicks I had to use to get the blog to leave a comment (I love a good conversation).  And then I started noticing this:

Bloglovin ID blog

They won’t send you to the blog, they send you somewhere in their universe, which as a blog writer, is not helpful news.  It means a reader might might never actually visit a blog, to see the layout, the way the blogger has designed their space. Some writers believe that Bloglovin’ has taken content (without permission) for their in-house blog, broadcasting it on their website.  The blogger-who-wrote-it will not see any of these comments.  Yes, this has happened to me, and frankly, it’s kind of weird, like somebody stole my content.  They will link back to me, but it’s after the fact, so that if I’m not on top of it backstage, I will never know it happened.

Waving goodbye

So I said, I’m done, and left them for Feedly.

Feedly4

opening pages

I never log in with Facebook, instead setting up an account using my email.

Feedly Screeshot

This is what I see when my Feedly page pops up, with the category Fabrics/Quilting highlighted. I chose the magazine view, but you could also choose a list view.  It allows me to read the first few lines of any blog post, and then decide if I want to expand it.  I find I am actually reading more of my colleagues’ posts this way, as I also don’t lose them in the deluge of emails.

The blogs I added (see the very bottom left: +ADD CONTENT to add the blogs you want), I arranged by categories.  The numbers show the unread blogs.

Feedly2

Here’s Afton’s Quilting Mod, as an example.  I clicked on it from my list and the full blog shows up.  I scroll through and read it, then decide I want to leave a comment.

Feedly3

At the bottom of the page, I click on VISIT WEBSITE, and I’m sent to her blog in a new window in a new tab (although this preference can be changed).  Notice the address that shows up in the lower left — I’m referred directly to Afton’s blog to leave a comment, a real plus.

Blog

Using the Reader View in your browser to make posts easier to read.

Reader View 1

Sometimes I’m not in my Feedly, and have clicked on one of my ad-filled blogs. So I use the Reader View.  Safari has always had this, and now Firefox has it too.  First, Safari.

There is an icon of stacked documentson the left in the address bar.

Reader View 2

Click on this, and you’ll be taken to the above view (compare them).  All you are getting is the writer’s content, plus their photos.  All animations, ads, colors, and videos are removed (although you will see placeholders for them).  Click on the stack icon to go back to their website.

Reader View Firefox

I just downloaded the newest version of Firefox.  Above is the webpage without the Reader View.

Reader View Firefox1

The webpage with Reader View.  Click on the little grey page icon on the right of the address bar to be taken to their Reader View.

See also those little greyed icons at the upper left?  Those are also new.  I’m quite interested in the third one, the soundwave icon.  My mother is mostly blind, and now I can now have my Dad set up the webpage for her in Reader View and it will read it to her.  Hooray for easy accessibility for webpages!

Blog

Ads placed to drive the blog writers to pay.  It worked!Quilt Abecedary title
I’d developed an alphabet of improv letters when I ran the Spelling Bee blog some time ago.

 

quilt-abecedarysm

Knowing that if I put them down somewhere in my Sewing Room, they would disappear, I documented how I made them and put them up on a blog.  For a while, WordPress and I had a bargain: they could put up an ad on the bottom of my post, and I’d keep using their stuff for free (I had converted this blog over to a paid blog some years earlier).

Then I started seeing this:

Bad Ads

The dreaded creepy crawly ads I hated were now in between my text, obliterating the the instructions for my wonky and fun letters and words (see the one in the box in the upper left).  I didn’t want to pay a yearly fee to have them keep the ads out (and I suspect — just a little — that some of the more obnoxious ads were designed to encourage me to pay), so I did the next best thing: I moved the entire blog.

Quilt Abecedary New 2019

It’s now back in Google’s arms at: https://quiltabecedary.blogspot.com.  I have links from this blog, above, so you don’t have to remember the address.  But if you ever need some wonky improv letters and words, don’t forget that it’s there.

Blog

White I spend a lot of time on Instagram, I still think that there is a place in our lives for blogs: it’s where we put up tutorials, we comment on the state of the world, we have space to write about quilts and things that interest us (by the way, congratulations if you made it this far).  I don’t want to see blogs go away, so I hope this post will make your reading easier.

NOTE:  If you want to start making your own Feedly list, I’ve put just about all the blogs I read way below, in the footer, but like anything, it’s a work in progress and subject to change.  I update it about every quarter.

 

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Happy New Year 2019

That saying in the title is Welsh for Happy New Year, and one custom is that the children in old Welsh villages would “rush around the village visiting as many houses as possible to collect sweets and money. The visits had to be made before midday, so it was often a race against the clock!”  The gifts were called calennig, and often referred to a skewered apple that the children would carry around.

I have no gifts for you, other than myself.  But then you aren’t rushing around knocking on my door, either.

I have some new readers, and thought I’d re-introduce myself at this time of Happy Old Year Ending • Happy New Year.  (I first learned to say Happy Old Year ending from a well-traveled friend, who said it was from somewhere on the African continent, and although I’ve never been able to corroborate that, I still like the idea of being happy with an ending.)

I’m Elizabeth Eastmond and I am the sole writer of this blog.

 

I first began writing in 2007, sliding quilty posts in amongst my then regular blog, OccasionalPiece, which at this point, is resting (it’s been resting for several years).  The blog name, OccasionalPiece, morphed into OccasionalPiece~Quilt, then I dropped the tilde (~).  When I started trying to find a web address, I shortened it even further to OPQuilt, because who wants to try and spell Occasional or Piece?

Piece originated not in the term “piecing” but from the fact that at the time I started writing online, I was in Graduate School, getting my degree in Creative Writing.  We called our writings “pieces” as in a “short story piece” or “a piece of my novel.”  In my mind it expanded to include my cloth piecings, and any slice of my life–so that’s why you’ll see some travel, some family, current events, cooking, and yes, an occasional piece of writing.  Oh, and art.  We’ve got to have art!

NYC11_18_12c highline

Sculpture on the High Line; the birds perched there, but they are not a part of this piece of art

I keep a listing of my quilts–or as we say in Creative Writing, a catalogue of the body of my work–up above on 100 Quilts, 200 Quilts, and am starting on the 300 Quilts list.  Everything is linked, but not illustrated, and I’m sorry about that.  I would like to have a listing of photos, but that’s in my Someday category.

While it’s traditional on this week to do a year-end round-up of Quilts I’ve Made or lists of Hope I Finish These This Year, and while I love other people’s inventory, this year I found my own lists and write-ups pretty boring (really, can we stand one more look at Frivols?) except, perhaps, for the lovely one below, gifted at a new baby shower:

Deneese baby quilt

Personal stats: I have four lovely and clever children, eleven brilliant and handsome grandchildren, a perfectly amazing and wonderful husband. Our last family photo, since we are scatterered over four states was two years ago, and one was missing even then.  I like the word lovely and use it a lot. I’ve been divorced, remarried, had two major surgeries, a scattering of small ones, but consider myself healthy, and try always to follow my grandmother’s advice to keep my whines to myself, with the caveat that if something interrupts the output of quilting, I might put it up on this blog.  I make mistakes.  I cherish my faith and crave harmony.  I love going to quilt shows.  I like to sing, mostly to the stuff coming in off my playlist.  I am not totally in love with Smart Technology (still having fights with our new Christmas gift: “Siri, why are you singing in the middle of the night?”), but adore my mobile phone and its capabilities. I like to laugh, have a fairly honed capacity for snark, and cry in tender and emotional scenes in movies. In short, I am like you.  I am not like you.  But I hope to count myself as someone who writes something that you’d like to read.

But generally, this blog is about quilts.  Quilting.  Our quilting world.  Things that pertain to it.  It might be about a quilting personality, or quilting commerce.  It is not a newsletter.  It’s my calennig, my gift to you.

Happy Reading.

Happy New Year!

Ralli Quilts and Conversations

Ralli_1 Ralli_2 Ralli_2a Ralli_3

I was fascinated by all the comments left on my last post about whether to not you choose to answer every comment on your blogs.  The trigger, of course, was a couple of articles from 99U which is a site geared toward business types.  In talking about this with Cindy, of Live a Coloful Life, we both remember the early days of blogging, where reply comments were not the norm, but instead of replying to a comment, you’d head over to their blog and leave a comment.  A couple of comments referred to this, such as this one from Barb: “I also would rather someone comment on my blog rather than spending time replaying to my comment on theirs. That would be a great agreement; instead of replaying, comment more on others blogs.”

Ralli_4 Ralli_4a

Some of you came up with your own name for those snippets of comments. I liked Susan’s observation: “‘Nice Quilt’ is what I would consider a conversation ender. If someone says something like “that’s a really nice quilt, I like the blah feature” then I consider that a conversation opener.”

Ralli_5 Ralli_5a

Nancy echoed many comments when she wrote “I like the interaction between people, albeit virtual, through blogs. I have made some blogging friendships of which I am truly glad. I leave comments about blogs that have given me inspiration, a lesson, beauty, a smile, or something to think about–the start of maybe a brief conversation.  I think of blogging as a way to interact with others of like interests. In my smaller physical community, it is difficult to find the more artistic quilters or those who self-design, so I turn to blogs.”

Ralli_6Bed

I’ll leave the final word to Claire about our blog reading, as she describes exactly how I feel: “All this assumes a normal day with a leisurely coffee break while I read email and blogs. Other days I skim and probably miss wonders.”

Well said, Claire.

Ralli_7Bling Ralli_8stitching

All of these quilts are from an exhibit I recently saw in Utah at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art.  They are known as Ralli Quilts, and are from Pakistan and India (see map at end of post). I was amazed at all the stitching, the detail, and the colors (like the quilt above–I couldn’t get my camera to adjust to the deep reds).

Ralli_8stitchinga Ralli_9 Ralli_10

These were all found by Dr. Patricia Stoddard, a friend of my sister Susan (who tipped me off to this exhibit).  The website about these quilts is found *here* and is interesting reading. Her book, a veritable catalogue of the quilts, can be obtained *here.*

Ralli_11 Ralli_11a

I loved the contemporary look of these quilts, many made in the 1970s.  There are several sites that sell newer ralli quilts and can be found by a search on Google.

Ralli_12 Ralli_13 Ralli_14

This reminded me of the Trip Around the World Quilts, a sensation on Instagram last year.

Ralli_14a Ralli_15wholeclothimprov

Improv piecing anyone?  Often the women saved time by piecing printed textiles together, rather than doing their appliqué.

Ralli_16 Ralli_16a Ralli_17

One of my favorites; I put the closeup on Instagram.  It was a good afternoon there at the museum, looking at quilts that are out of our quilting mainstream, a good antidote to the quilt market frenzy on social media.  Their vivid colors and patterns reminded me that time spent with patchwork and colors can bring a quiet satisfaction and an entry into the wider world of quilting.

Ralli_17a

Map

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4-in-art_3

Our Four-in-Art quilt group will be revealing their final challenge of this year on November 1st.  Occasionally we have an opening for someone who wants to play along.  No shipping required, just a willingness to engage in new ideas, new techniques of your own choosing.  Leave a comment and your blog address if you are interested.

Circles EPP Button

And then a couple of days after that, I’ll have my November Circle Block ready to show you, plus a variation that may interest you for the holidays!

Thinking about our Dialogue: Comments


E-Mail Concept
(illustration from *here*)

Okay, quilters, fess up.  How many of you feel compelled to answer back every comment that shows up on your blog, whether it needs an answer or not?  Those comments land on our blogs, our IG feeds, and sometimes Flickr posts, then often make our way to our email boxes.  Do you need to respond to them?  Should you respond to them?

According to the 99U article on being efficient with our time, we should not respond unless there is a question.  Yet Seth Godin observes that “many people do, because there doesn’t seem to be a great alternative. It’s asymmetrical, and productivity loses to politeness.”

So according to Godin we choose being polite vs. being productive.  You should know that I am the Thank-You-Note Queen of the Universe, taught well by my mother.  I try to write a thank you to every gift, or acknowledge some kind gesture.  I believe in thank you notes.  But the digital universe is not the same thing as the real world.  I say, if the the comment requires some response or has a question, I try to answer them. However, I don’t write back to every comment on my blog because some are of the “drive-by” quality: “nice quilt,” or “great colors” or “Awesome!” I’ve left a few “drive-by comments” myself and I’m just acknowledging the blog post or the blogger’s work or the subject, and I certainly don’t expect a response.

In a related article, Elizabeth Saunders recommends that “Before you send a reply, ask yourself: are you responding just to reply, to show you’re paying attention, or just to say “thanks?” If so, you’re typically wasting time that could be spent producing something of value and only encouraging people to respond, thus adding more email to your inbox.”

She has a great point, but some of my treasured long-distance friendships have come about because of the correspondence that developed from their first comment, and I’m loathe to pass up a gold– or a silver — friend.  As Scott Belsky says, “My thinking: email may drive us crazy, but it is still a form of communication with people, and communication helps build relationships.”  It’s a balance. Often comments springboard me to a new post, as engaged readers have interesting things to bring to the conversation.  I often view this whole process as a dialogue, reading each comment carefully, weighing and considering what was written, enjoying our discussion.

What do you do?  Do those comments in your inbox nag you until you answer them all?  Or do you use Saunder’s advice, responding when needed?

To Reply, or Not to Reply? Blogging Buzz

I guess the first thing to get out of the way is to ask one of the big questions:

Question1

No, that’s not it.

The big question is: why do you blog?

And if you are like most of the blogs I see in Blogland, the answer falls into these categories:

  • making a living at quilting
  • want to make a living at quilting
  • will never make a living, but still have hope
  • pleasure of sharing my quilts
  • love to write and would write about making tires, if necessary

And then the next question:

Another question

Wrong.

Here it is: What do you expect of the people who visit your blog?

Should they leave a comment? Visit only? Not steal your content (it happens)? Not copy your ideas without attribution (it happens)?  Which leads us to the really big question:

JosephCampbellBigQuestion(from *here*)

When I first started my blogging adventure, in September 2006, I didn’t even enable comments, coming as I was from the “pure” experience of a Creative Writing degree where it was always expected that you would write from within yourself.  Soon after that, the digital world exploded and during grad school a few years later, even though we were still yearning for that isolated writing experience, the reality of the market now loomed large, and we had classes on marketing, selling your novel, pitching stories, being aware of What’s Out There.

And that now is the world in which we quilt bloggers find ourselves, I think, which means that the pure excitement of sharing our quilts, our ideas and just chatting up the room seems to be slowly sinking into the swamp of Making Connections, Pitching My Stuff, Pick Me! Pick Me!, and so on.  I think I participate in all of everything, as do most of us.  But I was quite struck by the thoughts on Carrie Nelson’s blog, LaVieEnRosie, about how so much of blogging has become about advertising.  Carrie is one of my heroes in the way she blogs truthfully about her life, so I really perked up when she next said:

With blogs, I’m also betwixt and between about responding to comments.  I feel horribly – terribly! – guilty when I don’t answer each and every comment with an e-mail but since I can’t bring myself to send just a quick “thank you for commenting” – I think we all know I’m a bit chattier than that – do I answer just some?  And if I don’t get to it right away, is it awful to respond a week or ten days later?  That might be worse than not answering it at all.  So I stick my head in the sand and hope the e-mails answer themselves.

Sometimes I think that comments are just comments–not requiring a reply.  When I leave a comment like “Great quilt!” I don’t really expect a reply at all.  But other times I’ve been pleasantly surprised when a reply has come, and over time it has deepened to a correspondence of some sort.  However (and she peers over the top of glasses), I know several bloggers who feel so swamped by their own success, of the imperative to thank everyone who comes by, that they withdraw from blogland, retreating back to their studios to Make Stuff, which is — if you think about it — the main reason to have a blog.  And I also cringe a little when I happen on a blog where they cheerfully say “I want to grow my blog!” as we are expected to carry away a task from that honest goal, and as I slink away I feel guilty, because certainly one of the true pleasures of blogging is building a community of like-minded folks.

So, does this strange cultural custom of expected replies to comments enhance your appreciation for a blog?  Do you leave comments regardless of whether the blogger will answer you back? And if you blog yourself, do you feel compelled (and I chose that word purposefully) to answer back all your commenters?

Do Tell.

On Blogging, Part 3 (final)

Now about this wonderful monstrous hydra we’ve created: blogging.  If not conquered, or at least managed, it will sink us all.  First some thoughts from others.

Rachel of Stitched in Color writes a fine post aimed at new bloggers, with her own list of Readers’ Pet Peeves.  I laughed when I saw two of mine on there: “blurry photos” and “people’s feet” (I get tired of seeing pedicured toes, so thought it amusing that others have the same reaction).

Ez of Creature Comforts gives her advice for blogging:

“Be passionate. Blog about something that truly matters to you. Believe in yourself and be an active and friendly member of the blogging community. Oh, and have patience! It might take a while before anyone knows you exist, but keep at it and never be afraid to ask for help when it is needed.”

Here’s mine:

No guilt.  No apologies if you don’t blog, but do give us an explanation if you’ve been away for an interesting reason, like you went to Australia, or had a class in color theory, or just spent time walking the beach with your children.  We do want to know how you recharge your batteries, and we might follow your lead.  I always love those posts about trips, esp. to New York’s fabric district!

Decide whether you are a “commercial” quilt blogger, or a “personal” quilt blogger.  While we’re happy to have both, it’s sometime irritating to have a personal quilt blogger suddenly start pitching a product or an online fabric shop in that “advertising” way.  I’m always happy to learn about new products from the bloggy world, but we readers recognize that those who take money from their enterprises have an obligation to sell.  And you know quilters: we love to buy, but hate to be sold. (And this includes Too Many Giveaways!!)

Blog only when you want to. While they say the muse inspiring writing only comes if you apply your backside to a chair, sometimes it’s better wait a day or two for an interesting idea than to force your blogging to a schedule.  Caveat: if you are blogging as a line of work, then you have to treat it like work.  You know, show up with interesting content, a new idea.  It’s about the showing up part that’s important (but be aware of the previous idea of commercial vs. personal). Which leads me to my last idea:

Avoid too much secondary content on your quilt blog.  This falls into two categories:
1) personal stuff that overwhelms the quilting stuff. Moderation in all things–open another blog for yourself if you find that most of your posts are about your cat.  Or kids.  Or whatever; and,
2) importing from others to fill your own blog space.  While those who run design blogs do this quite frequently (you can only redo your own house so many times), I think that we as quilters have many things we can write about as we sew.  And while a nod to inspiration is good, I like seeing all topics of the sewing universe on quilt blogs, from the new trend of sewing clothing (all things Old are New again) to how you like to put on your binding.  There’s also the technical aspect: too many videos is a drag on our bandwidth.  Again, moderation in all things other than quilting.

Be a blog reader and commenter.  We can’t read all the blogs all the time.  Choose a few of your favorites and read fairly regularly. I’ve made some great friends by doing this, and they have widened my circle as well.  Think of it as the new pen-pal system.  Follow some links occasionally to gain new inspiration.  But perhaps a time limit for  computer viewing is a good idea, as we all know we have quilting to do!

Forgiveness and Fun.  I’ve tresspassed just about all of the above listed pieces of advice at one time or another, and we should have a bit of forgiveness tucked away for bloggers, just like we do for when we stitch in a tuck and hope no one notices.  And FUN!  Yes, hopefully blogging is enjoyable.

Above all, write what interests you.  Be yourself.  Share with us your struggles.  Avoid cattiness, but healthy dose of snark can be fun.

Be true to yourself.  E. B. White, a famous essayist, noted that “Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself . . . the true writer always plays to an audience of one.”  But if you write it, we’ll read it!

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Coming Wednesday!

Project Gingham Reveal!