Sunday, April 29, 2012

Behind The Curtain

As regulars may know, today is my birthday. Though this blog doesn't get massive traffic, we've got a decent amount of readers, so I thought I'd take some time out on this special day and go a little behind the scenes.

Though I, LA Guy, am responsible for the lion's share of posts, I did not start this blog. Pajama Guy, who is a real person, did--back in late 2004, just before the election. He was most interested in politics, and invited me to join soon after he began. Then, less than a year in, he left.

We've added a bunch of Guys since, as you can see in the upper left of this page, but most of them, for whatever reason, are silent or rarely contribute. Don't ask me why, ask them.

Anyway, since I have been the main writer here, the blog has been more a mix of politics and entertainment, with an emphasis, I'd say, on the latter. Really it's about whatever I feel like writing on. But I do have certain rules, and though most of them could be figured out by a close reading, I feel like I'm the only one who knows about them. So I guess they're for my own satisfaction, since there's no punishment if I break them.

So let me explain what's going on here.

I see the blog as not only a chance to express my opinions, and get comments back, but also as a way to keep in practice as a writer. For a while I put up as much or little as I felt like, but a few years back I decided to post two pieces a day. I usually write them fairly fast, since I have other things to do and, after all, I'm not paid for this.  Perhaps the quality of thought and expression would be higher if I wrote less often, but I'm going for quantity, and if every now and then I hit on something good so much the better.

I don't write two pieces a day, I just post two. Occasionally, I'll put up an extra piece if something comes up suddenly and it's timely--a death, for example--or if some pieces are time-driven--birthday salutes, for example. Sometimes, if the piece is big, like the annual film wrap-up, it's the only post I'll put up that day.

This means that many pieces are held in storage. (The blog didn't always allow it, but I can decide the time and day when any post will go up.) Something like a book review or a look at an old film or TV show can be bumped from its slot over and over--even though I often start the piece with "I recently read" or "I just saw." All I can say is it was true when I wrote it. (I've got a piece on the Twilight Zone that's been waiting about six months to get posted.)

How many pieces are stored up?  It varies, but I usually have somewhere between a week to two weeks prepared, so if I were to be hit by a bus you wouldn't know if for a while. (There are also a fair number of pieces, especially birthday salutes, ready to be published months in advance. I come up with these salutes two ways. Sometimes I'm listening to some music and think it would be good to write about this artist, so I look up the birthday and do it. And sometimes I need a piece to fill up the day so I look for famous birthdays on that date.) I write a lot of the posts--especially the ones that can be published any time--on the weekends, though obviously some, such as reactions to recent news or shows, have to be done with less lag time. Even then, I'll often wait a few days with a finished piece on a timely subject because the slots are already filled.

Every post, with the exception of those I call Stray Thoughts, has a link, even if some are only tenuously related to the post--the way I see it, I'm keeping with the theme of commenting about something that's going on. Nevertheless, pretty much all my pieces can be understood without clicking through to the link.

I also have the capability of putting a link in the title*. When I do, there are three dots in front of it--I'm not sure how many readers are aware of this. I generally don't have links in titles, but, as many of them are plays on words, or allusions, I'll occasionally put in a helpful link to explain what I'm getting at.

By the way, I capitalize each word in my titles, except when I have two titles for one post and the "or" I place between them is lower case.

As for the two pieces posted each day, I try to make sure they're not of the same type--I would avoid two book reviews, or movie reviews, or political commentaries, etc. I also try to make sure there's at least one photo or video each day. (We didn't used to have visuals at this blog, but that was mostly because I didn't know how to do them well.  A format change some years back made it much easier.)

My pieces are almost always posted between midnight and 12:30 am. I don't write them then, I just like starting the day with them, so each date has its own material for 24 hours.  I believe a number of readers have figured this out and wait around to get the news hot off the press. After they're published, I sometimes rearrange them if I think it looks better. I try to avoid too many visuals stacked from one piece to the next, though sometimes this is inevitable.  I also usually prefer the longer piece below the shorter one.

Often, just before they're set to go, I'll give the posts a final check to make sure they read well and don't have any typos (though, as faithful readers know, I often fail at this latter task). I'll also check videos--some of which have been waiting for months--to make sure they still play and haven't been shut down.  Occasionally I make minor revisions in the text after something is posted, but usually to improve the writing, almost never to change content.  If something new comes up, I'll occasionally add a PS to note it (though most PS's are written with the original post).

We tend to get slightly more visits on weekdays than weekends.  If I have a post that's less significant than others (not that you could easily tell), I'll often save it for Saturday, which is our least-read day.

As for the photos, they're added after the piece is written. I try to pick something related---easy enough for movies and TV. I usually go to Bing, since it's easy to work with, or sometimes Google, which has good image updating. These search engines usually offer a number of photos to choose from, and I try to pick the most interesting and/or relevant.

I generally place the visual within the text, usually in the paragraph that refers to what's in the picture. If the character or character are looking to the left, I'll usually put the picture on the right, and vice versa. (That way, it sometimes seems as if the character is looking at or reacting to what I wrote.) If there's more than one picture in a post, I'll try to switch sides.

For videos, they take up the whole horizontal space, and are obviously related to the subject. Usually they're music videos. Depending on the artist, I'll usually choose one to three pieces. I'll often, but not always, place them in chronological order. There's often more than one version of a song available, so I choose the video based on both sonic quality and visuals--not always an easy mix, since some may be great in one way and weak in another.

There are certain posts that have become regulars. Most obvious is, I would think, my "Vanity Plates Of The Month," where I discuss vanity plates I've seen. I started doing it a few years ago. I publish a new one on the first of each month, followed by "Leftover Vanity Plates Of The Month" several days later. Every day I'm on the road I see them, and I write down what I remember when I get home, and use the most interesting.

Then there are annual pieces. There's the film wrap-up, awards for the year, predictions for next year and looking back at last year's predictions. There are certain items that come up each year, like the Oscars, the Tonys and certain sports events which I'm likely to write about. Then there are my favorite TV shows which I'll often recap and discuss.

So that's how things work here.  Any questions?

*I did have this ability, until a new template was forced on me about a week ago.  Now I don't seem able to do it, or at least haven't figured out how yet, so I guess from now on readers will just have to guess what I'm getting at with the title.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now in the next iteration of the technology, if Blogger can provide a word scramble feature that makes grammatical sense, or if our educational efforts finally succeed to the point where no one can tell, then if you get hit by a bus, we'll *never* know.

Happy Birthday!

6:33 AM, April 29, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So many rules. Is this a blog or a doctoral thesis?

1:39 PM, April 29, 2012  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Happy belated Birthday! (I'm one of your weekday regulars - it just seems tougher to find time to catch up on blogs on weekends).

5:27 AM, April 30, 2012  
Blogger New England Guy said...

Is this what doctoral theses look like these days? A competent and informative blog post?

Of course the important question is would Rick Santorum sneer or cheer at that?

8:55 AM, April 30, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would probably make him throw up, but it's time to forget Santorum and concentrate our fire on Romney.

10:10 AM, April 30, 2012  

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