my blogging experience

Wow. It’s been a hell of a journey. When I first started michelle studies, I created my publication for SFU students and for people who were interested in bullet journaling, calligraphy, and stationery. I wanted to create a blog that consists of the notes I take in class, written and organized in an aesthetically pleasing way, as well as resources for how to take notes in the way that I do. Over the course of the semester, I focused mainly on this first group. It wasn’t until a couple weeks from the end of the semester that I even considered creating content for the second group. Overall, I’ve think I’ve addressed my audience pretty well through content and design. My website is clean and organized, and the menu makes it easy to find which course a student is looking for. From there, all my notes are organized in reverse chronological order, again, for easy access. 

I think this blog acted as a good resource for both of these audiences. For the students, they could refer to my notes if they ever missed a lecture due to a cold, flu, or previous engagement. Although lecture slides are an important resource, the professor will often say things or give examples in class that don’t make it to those slides. For my second audience, the lovers of stationery and notes, I think this blog acted as a guide for what tools to use and buy, as well as how to construct their journals or notes in a way that was both functional and looked nice.

Over the course of the semester and monitoring the progress of this blog, I’ve learned a lot from Google Analytics (and Instagram insights). Together, they tell me that my audience is based mostly in Canada — the Lower Mainland to be specific. This audience is most likely my peers. Most of my audience access my website through desktop. Very few access my site on mobile. I have not gathered comments on my website. I think I could’ve done a lot more marketing on my end.

Prior to this course, my conception of publishing was based mainly on traditional publishing. I thought publishing was something complex and that involved lots of complex networks and processes that was a closed world to a regular person like me. For example, the book publishing industry is famously opaque. Publishing wasn’t something I thought that I had the ability to do by myself. Now I realize that publishing is actually a fairly simple concept — publishing is all about posting content for an audience, whether that audience is one person, or two million people, and whether that content is a book or a sentence. 

And although I’ve cherished the opportunity to create and own my own space online, I probably won’t continue this blog after this course ends. This is partly because this blog has such a specific purpose, but it’s also because keeping up a blog is a lot of work. Seriously, shout out to the creators out there. Even though I only created one meaningful blog post a week, it took a lot of work to write out text, style my photos, plan what time to post, plan a good variety of content, etc. It was difficult to juggle while I was a student with so many other engagements in my life, and it’s not something I can do meaningfully part-time. 

But I now have these tools in my toolbox that I can utilize in all areas of my online life. I’m less intimidated about putting my voice out there and engaging with people, whereas before this course, I was a habitual lurker. I now have a better sense of what time to post, what content gets engagement, how to think about my audience, and more. In the duration of this course, I learned how to style a photo and make sure I took the photo in the morning and by the window, to ensure that I had the correct lighting. I definitely feel empowered in my “ability to work on the Web and with the Web” (Watters, 2015). I agree with Watters that giving students their own domain on the internet will help them develop their own tools and understandings of the digital environment, since I’ve now experienced it personally. It helps them think about things like what is and isn’t copyrightable (Henein, 2015). 

But just because I have no plans to continue this blog doesn’t mean that I won’t continue refining my online presence. I’m definitely interested in starting a different blog — either one that suits my interests more, or one for professional purposes. Perhaps I’ll do both. It’s unlikely I’ll use WordPress as the platform for that blog, however. With WordPress, I struggled a lot against the affordances of the site. Kaptelinin (2014) defines affordances as “action possibilities provided to the actor by the environment.” An example of an affordance would be a recycling bin having a circular hole instead of a rectangular one. The user knows instinctively that only bottles will, and can, fit into the hole, because that’s what the design affords. Although Kaptelinin speaks mostly about affordances in relation to UI and UX design, this same concept can be applied to the actions afforded by the platform to me. The range of actions I could take in the design and format of the blog were extremely limited. Many themes were very restrictive, some more so than others. I found that I spent a lot of time fiddling with custom CSS, plug-ins, and various workarounds, only to achieve a result that I felt lukewarm about. I feel like I struggled against the affordances of WordPress especially because I had already taken IAT 102 at SFU, where I had the ability to design my own website portfolio from scratch.

I started an Instagram alongside this blog that I’m interested in pursuing. Rather than school notes, I’ll probably transition it to an Instagram that’s based more around bullet journaling. Bullet journaling has a bigger and more community-orientated online presence, so it’s easier to find a following. Furthermore, Instagram is a more visual medium, and it’s also free, unlike WordPress. I fully realize the importance of having a site where I’m not chained to the policies of their platform — where I’m not forced into a certain format and content, and where my data is mine and mine alone. Derakhshan argues for this in his article “The Web We Have to Save”. But the crux of the matter is that we’re in an era where it is difficult to the average citizen to create outside of now dominant platforms like Instagram, because of how little traffic we get. At the end of the day, I’m not planning to become some digital entrepreneur, and platforms such as Instagram suit my purposes just mine. 

So cheers to a great semester — and may I see everyone on the web in the future!

References

Derakhshan, H. (2015). The Web We Have to Save. Matter. https://medium.com/matter/the-web-we-have-to-save-2eb1fe15a426

Henein, P. (2015). You Say Tomaydo, I say no copyright infringement: Recipe book not an original compilation. http://www.mondaq.com/canada/x/439012/Copyright/You+Say+Tomaydo+I+Say+No+Copyright+Infringement+Recipe+Book+Not+An+Original+Compilation

Kaptelinin, V. (2012). Affordances. The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction. https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd-ed/affordances

Watters, A. (2015). The Web We Need To Give To Students. Bright Magazine. https://brightthemag.com/the-web-we-need-to-give-students-311d97713713#.4d7j8rs6x

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