If any of you are still checking this weblog, you’ll have noticed that I haven’t posted anything new here in a couple of weeks. I haven’t been incarcerated, or hospitalized, and I am not in a coma, I’m pleased to report, but I just haven’t felt up to posting anything, and the longer I have waited to post the more difficult it has been to think of anything significant to say upon my return. Why I have these blockages, I don’t know, but have them I do occasionally, so that’s just the way it is. I’ll use this post to note a few things that have happened and comment on some discoveries I made while I was on my unplanned vacation from posting.
On June 17, Father’s Day, I had an anniversary of sorts. That day marked the sixth anniversary of my very first blog post ever. Given how long I’ve been doing this, you’d think I would have learned by now that if you wish to keep any kind of audience, you have to post regularly. And while I do know that “rule,” I still can’t seem to avoid the occasional dry spell that I go through. I console myself with the thought that this isn’t an occupation but a hobby for me and let it go at that.
During the last couple of weeks I’ve spent a good deal of time helping Paul get accustomed to working with WordPress and publishing regularly to his blog. He has taken to that task nicely, I’m happy to say. As a professional writer of some note he has developed a fairly large following very quickly and his statistics show it. And despite his curmudgeonly complaining about various aspects of blogging, he does seem to have a real passion for it and a delight in the virtual soapbox it gives him.
One of the discoveries I’ve made in the last couple of weeks has to do with Google Reader. If you haven’t yet discovered the pleasure and utility of using RSS (despite my more or less constant nagging all of you to do so), this tip may not seem as significant to you as it does to me, but somehow I discovered recently that if you type a question mark while in the Google Reader you’ll get a transparent display of the various shortcut keys you can use in that application. And those shortcut keys are very handy and make going through a large number of feeds quite efficient.
For instance, the key combination G+A displays all unread articles. Then pressing J moves forward through them one at a time, and K moves backward, should you wish to go back to something you’ve just read. If, while you are on one of the articles, you press V (for view), that individual article will open in a new tab. Ctrl+Tab then shifts the focus to that newly opened tab where you can read the article, and Ctrl+F4 closes that tab once you are through reading it and puts you back into Google Reader where you can press J again to move on to the next article. Shift+S marks an article you are reading as “shared.” (I’ll say more about sharing articles in a minute.) I realize some of you may be saying “whoa that’s way too complex for me to remember,” but once you get the drill down with a little practice, it is actually easy to keep track of the sequence and it makes reading through a few hundred articles very efficient. But that’s why I found it significant to realize that typing the question mark in Google Reader displays the shortcut keys.
Let me return to the subject of “shared” articles. Even during these last couple of weeks when I wasn’t making a post like this to my blog, I was sharing the articles that I discovered online through that little box over there in the sidebar that is titled “From my RSS feeds.” So, you ask, why should I care about the fact that you, Perry, share articles you find interesting in that little box? The answer is my doing that frees you from the burden of having to deal with a flood of email from me in your inbox, pointing out the things that catch my eye on the Internet.
Just to stroll down memory lane for a moment, let’s recall that when most of us first got connected through the Internet we discovered, to our amazement and great joy, that we could send an email to 50 of our closest friends without any effort or cost on our part. So we did. The problem with that is that if you have 50 friends who do the same thing, your inbox quickly becomes stuffed with mail from every Tom, Dick and Sally that you know about subjects that you may or may not have any interest in. And the act, which originally was intended as an act of friendship, turns out to be almost an act of war, or at the very least, an act of intrusion and inconvenience. By sharing things in that little sidebar box here on my blog, I have put the choice to see them in your hands rather than ramming my interests down the throat of your email inbox. That, it seems to me, is a friendlier practice than what we used to do. And what’s more, there is even an RSS feed for those shared items to which you can subscribe if you choose. And if you do, you can scan through them as quickly as you do the other things in your RSS reader.
So the next time I go through one of these dry spells in posting to my blog, I would encourage you to check out the items I’m sharing from my RSS feeds. It’ll help you know that I am still alive and kicking, and you may even discover something there that you find interesting.