Saturday, June 27, 2009

Summer Stock Sunday - 5 / Blog Improvement Project 9 - 10 - 11 - 12

How would you like to be mowing your front lawn, when this walks up the driveway?

It happened to me today. Of course, we have a shared driveway with our neighbours, Mack and Freda.

And this is Mack.

I'd never seen him in his dress uniform, though. I said, "Hey! Can I take your picture?" He of course thought I was kidding.

But I would never kid about a thing like that. So here, for Summer Stock Sunday, I give you Master Seaman Eric MacDonald, known to one and all as Mack. He was all spiffed up for a big ceremony over in Halifax:

"The Consecration and Presentation of the Queen’s Colour

For Canadian naval officers and sailors, this is a once in a career experience.

Photo by Mike Dembeck

More than a flag, The Queen’s Colour is a symbol of respect to military service, representing heroism and honour. Having been proudly displayed for thirty years, the current Queen’s Colour is ready to be retired and replaced by a successor.

Over 100 members of the massed band of the Navy comprising members from the renowned Stadacona, Naden and Naval Reserve bands will provide the musical backdrop as 400 sailors and officers from across the country march in a display of precision drill and pageantry. A 21-gun Vice Regal Salute will be fired from the ramparts of the Citadel, while a low fly past of maritime aviation will provide an air element to the event.

The formal parade will be presided over by Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaƫlle Jean, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada."
- Dave Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

For more Summer Stock Sunday, visit Robin at Around the Island.

As you can see, it's been awhile since I've written a post for the 2009 Blog Improvement Project. So let's catch up, shall we?

For Week 9, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness - she runs the challenge - asked us to partner up with another blogger and give feedback on each other's blogs.

I was paired up with Suey at It's All About Books. We contacted each other through email, asked questions and gave feedback. This was a good exercise, I thought, especially since neither of us had been to each other's blog prior to this exercise. Totally fresh eyes for this one.

Week 10 concentrated on Anchor Text, which is the word or group of words used to create a link to another post/article/site on the Internet. I discovered the importance of anchor text and how it relates to Search Engine Optimization when I read Ian Lurie's For Dummies book on Web Marketing.

Search engines use the linked words to drive traffic to your blog, so using Click here - as I've often done! - isn't the world's best idea. I've been very aware of my anchor text since Week 10. Thanks, Kim!

Week 11 was an analytical exercise comparing bloggers' book reviews to those of professionals. My computer tower was in the shop for that one, so I have yet to do it, but I'll post the results once I get it done.

Some interesting trends Kim discovered when she reviewed the results were:

"Most professional reviews don’t include a rating system, but a lot of blogger reviews do.

The biggest difference between blogger reviews and professional reviews was something we already sort of knew — bloggers use a lot more personal references. From these reviews, bloggers averaged about 9.75 personal references per review. Professional reviews had only about .25.

One thing I noticed is that professional reviews are a lot more varied — some are just a paragraph, some are basically full-length articles. Blogger reviews tend to be a little more consistent — similar lengths, etc."
- Kim

Week 12 is the current challenge. Kim wants a Mid-Year Review.

Find your original BIP goals post and take a look at what your goals were.

My very first goal - in starting my blog in the first place - was to design my day around sitting in front of the computer on a daily basis and writing. I figured that the habit of daily writing would eventually lead me to finishing my five in-progress manuscripts.

Check. I'm closing in on my gardener story and plan to type The End by the end of the summer.

I had to define what my blog was for, and this is what I came up with:

A Piece of My Mind is a blog that celebrates the arts, encourages the creative, cheers the artist on and revels in the wonder of life.

My new goal was to showcase art work in my sidebar. I've had a new art show every month for the past six months and have really enjoyed putting them together. I love the fresh update it gives to my blog on a monthly basis.


I set myself onto this challenge knowing I'd be pushing myself out of my comfort zones.

Sometimes reading the new challenge makes me realize I will have to stre-e-t-ch in order to do it. Writing posts with different sorts of content than I normally do was a bit difficult. The Blog Basics was harder than I expected, as I really enjoyed having a piece of art work at the top of my sidebar, but switched that for a picture of myself along with the About Me section. I realized that I personally enjoy 'meeting' a blogger by having that info at the top of the layout, so I moved the art work down a bit.

The Social Media Carnival got me a Twitter account, and I enjoyed Twittering. That really pushed me out of my comfort zone! I don't tweet very much, but what I do enjoy about having my tweets automatically linked to my blog is the added spiciness of short bursts of new material for the blog. I actually found a few new bloggers through Twitter, so it's all good.

Look at the ProBlogger list of 69 questions to review your blog.

This will make a post all its own.

Reset your goals. Get rid of goals you’ve accomplished, and add new ones that make sense.

After I look over those ProBlogger questions, I will do just that.

Answer the following questions:

1. What BIP task have you liked most? Least (including ones you have skipped)?

To be honest, the very first one where I had to take a look in the mirror and define what my blog was for gave me the most pleasure. It lead me to my monthly art show, to creating my new Through the Opera Glasses arts feature which appears on Tuesdays, and to inserting my word counts for each of my works in progress into my sidebar. A daily reminder for me - to get cracking.

Least - I haven't had a least favorite. I have skipped the analytical book review one, but only until a later date.

2. Which tasks have been the most helpful? Least helpful?

Most helpful was the Blog Basics one. Having to rethink my sidebar set-up and my blog intro was really good for me. Least helpful? Hmm. Perhaps the Leaving Good Comments one, as I already quite enjoy commenting on other blogs.

3. What are the top three things you still would like to work on this year?

I'm not much of a techie. Things which come easily to some leave me all adrift. Like widgets that measure visitors, for example. I don't have any way of tracking my blog traffic at the moment.

Increasing my commenters and increasing my traffic in general appeals to me, strangely. I know, I know - write great content, and they will come...

It would be kind of cool if my book reviews gained some cache. How awesome that would be.

4. Are there any blogging-related topics you feel like you know a lot about and would be willing to write a BIP guest task on?

Hmm. I'll have to get back to Kim on that.

5. Any other comments about the BIP?

My biggest comment is a huge THANK YOU to Kim for coming up with this idea in the first place. And for putting in the time to run this year-long challenge.


Ms Snarky Pants says I use google analytics for tracking my blog traffic. I can get kinda obsessive with it. LOL

Heather says Very interesting about The Queen's colour. As for the 2009 Blog improvement project. Good for you for continuing the challenge.

Robin says What an honor that he gets to be part of such an important ceremony.


MsSnarkyPants said...

I use google analytics for tracking my blog traffic. It's pretty darn easy to set up and has some great statistics. I can get kinda obsessive with it. LOL

If I haven't said it before, I love the new design of your blog! And not just cause pink is my favorite color. ;)

Anonymous said...

He looks very handsome in uniform!

Heather said...

Very interesting about The Queen's colour. Funny How Blogger brings out the Camera's. I was the only parent that had a camera at the playground today. I felt like asking for emails so I could capture and email some memories for them.

As for the 2009 Blog improvement project. Good for you for continuing the challenge. Is there an exam at the end of the year I'll have to cram for?

Happy Summer Stock Sunday

mother in israel said...

Statcounter is good too.just don't get addicted! is a great site for blog tips and in April it hosted 31 days to a better blog.

Robin said...

What a very dapper looking neighbor you have, and what an honor that he gets to be part of such an important ceremony.

hip chick said...

He looks very handsome in his uniform.

Julia Smith said...

Ms Snarky Pants - Thanks for the nudge. I just signed up for Google Analytics.

Ellievellie - You should have seen his face when he realized I really did want to take his picture!

Heather - It's pretty cool that Mack was chosen to participate. And you can keep doing the BIP. Kim reminds everyone that you can do whichever exercises you want, whenever you want.

Mother in Israel - I'm going to put my blog through the ProBlogger questionnaire.

Robin - He's the World's Best Neighbour.

Hip Chick - He's a sweet person, too.

Dianne said...

what a handsome young man :)

Travis said...

Thanks for the account of the Queen's Colour. I'm always fascinated by the traditions of the service.

Julia Smith said...

Dianne - He looks like a young whipper snapper, but I believe he's got a few miles under his belt.

Travis - Me, too!

Akelamalu said...

Ooooo I love a man in uniform! :0