Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Why Bots Shouldn't Write Your Blog Posts

Not long ago, I was browsing on Facebook when I saw an ad for a software that automagically generates blog posts for you.

This was news to me, although it shouldn't have come as a surprise.  As a longtime content writer, I have known for a long time that there are software programs that (badly) rewrite existing content.  Using a thesaurus and a syntax generator to replace words and rearrange sentences, they produce something that can fool the search engines into thinking it's original content.

This kind of software, along with low-paid ESL writers from countries such as India, have always been the bane of a professional writer's existence.  They drive down prices and cheapen content, making it more difficult for professional copywriters to sell well-written and fairly-priced copy.  From the reader's perspective, they've also lowered the overall standards of quality for content on the internet.  It's part of the reason why so much of what you read is poorly written clickbait.

Now apparently software can also write a completely unique blog post, with you just providing it a few key terms and main points.

The thought is mind-boggling, but if you read the comments on the ads, it's also not very effective.  There are a lot of people complaining about the lack of readable quality in the posts.  And it makes sense.  The point of blogging is to write in a more informal style, allowing your own personality to shine through.  A bot will never succeed at that style of writing.

The problem with bots writing blog posts, or even writers who don't speak English as their first language, is that readers can tell.  Awkward phrasing, typos and misspellings, and lack of flow make it difficult to hook potential customers and keep them reading.  Worse, it reflects poorly on your professionalism.

To understand why bot-written content is so bad, think about the purpose of a blog.  Your blog does several things for your business:

  1. It constantly updates your website with new content, which helps it to rank more highly in the search engines
  2. It appeals to potential customers with more varied and interesting content, keeping them on your website for longer and hopefully generating a sale, and
  3. It encourages potential customers to return to your website to check for updates or read additional posts, which also makes a sale more likely.
Bot-written content (as well as, honestly, poorly written content) will satisfy the first point, but probably won't help much with the second and third.  The content is likely to be too dry or awkward to interest potential customers for long, which will cause them to move on faster and may cost you a sale.  And if they don't find your content interesting enough to stick around, they're certainly not going to make returning to your site a very high priority, either.

Having good content is just another part of running a successful business.  There are ways to save money on business expenses, but sacrificing the quality of your content shouldn't be one of them.

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Pros and Cons of Working from Anywhere

Remember how I said my horse was doing better again?  He had a pretty major setback on Monday, so we've been pretty touch and go all week.  This unfortunately means I haven't had time to work on my websites as planned.

There are some definitely advantages to being able to work from anywhere, and I've exercised this freedom many times in my career as a freelancer.  I've worked on client materials while waiting for my electric car to charge at a public charger, while waiting for appointments, and after the kids have gone to bed while babysitting.  And that's not counting all the numerus coffee shops, libraries, and other places where I've gone intentionally to get some work done when I needed a change of scenery.

The current situation has been a little more challenging.  My horse has needed frequent meals and attention, so I've been packing my computer up and taking it out to the barn with me every day.  When I get a little bit of time, I fire up the hotspot on my phone and work.

Being able to work from anywhere carries with it both pros and cons.  It's nice to be able to get my work done even during a major life crisis like this one.  But you know what?  It's hard.  When I'm stressed out about my horse, it's hard to focus on work.  When I'm having to do a lot to take care of him, it's hard to find time to get work done.  I can only work on what travels easily with me to the barn, so there are some things I am perpetually trying to find time for.  And as a freelancer, I don't get paid time off, so there's more pressure on me to find time for it all, too.

As I've been taking care of my horse, I've been around the barn a lot, and a lot of other boarders have taken to commenting, "I don't know how you do it!"  It's an awkward comment for me, because the answer is, "Not well."  I cobble it together, and I get as much work done as I can, but my income and my sleep have taken a hit while my stress levels have skyrocketed.

As nice as it can be at times to work with a view of my horse in the background, I look forward to the day when I can go back to my version of normal.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Camp NaNoWriMo: July session

In just a couple of days, the July session of Camp NaNoWriMo will start.  Are you planning on participating?

I don't know about you, but I feel completely unready for Camp this year.  The April session is almost always a flop for me, mainly because it happens to coincide with the same month as taxes and my birthday.  The first half of the month I'm usually getting ready to file my taxes, and then I'm totally burned out afterward, with not much time to recover and get much writing done by my birthday.

The last couple years, though, I've barely made a showing for the July session, either.  I think Camp is a lot harder to do than the main National Novel Writing Month that happens in November, mostly because there's so much hype and such a strong local community here in November that it's easier to stay motivated all month.  The summer sessions lack that almost completely, though, at least in our region.

In past years, we've tried to get people to come to what used to be a year-round writers group.  Of course we haven't been able to do that the last few years, because of covid and NaNoWriMo's rules against official in-person gatherings during the pandemic.  But even before 2020, the push to get people to do in-person stuff during Camp (at least in the Denver region) had exactly zero effectiveness.

This year, my time has been completely consumed with my sick horse since mid-April, so there's a pretty minimal chance that I'll have much time for Camp.  However I've been thinking again about my novel from last year, and wanting to get back to work on it since I never finished.  I might try to see if I can carve out a little time to work on it in July, even if it's not much.

What are your plans for Camp NaNoWriMo next month?

Monday, June 27, 2022

Setbacks

As I mentioned in my last post, this website is under construction at the moment.  My site desperately needed to be updated, as it was more than a decade old at this point, and I was considering changing hosts (although I'm rethinking that plan).

There's still a lot to do on this and another of my websites.  I need to rewrite the content for a few sections of my website that hadn't been revamped in a very long time.  I was planning on working on it this past week, but unfortunately, my life had other plans.  My horse - whom you might remember has been sick - had another setback, this one pretty major, and we had to have the vet out two days in a row.  We spent both days almost entirely at the barn, and as a result, I ended up playing catch-up on what I could get done Thursday and Friday of this week.  The websites weren't a priority, so they got pushed back.

But my horse is doing better now (again) and I have a brand-new week ahead of me, so I'm hoping to do better this week.  I didn't really catch up to where I wanted to be at the end of last week, and I've had a bunch of new things pop up, so I have a lot on the docket for the next few days.  With any luck, I won't have any major interruptions this week, and I'll be able to get a little more done.

As I get through the website redesign and my life gets back to normal, I'm hoping to start updating my blogs a little more regularly.  It's been a minute since I updated this blog on a regular basis and I'd love to change that!

Friday, June 10, 2022

Site Under Construction

Please excuse my mess!

Over the next week or two, I'll be overhauling my website and changing hosts.  I expect my site will come and go during that time, and there are bound to be some confusing things popping up, such as remnants from my old site.

Feel free to browse my blog as I get my list of services, portfolio, resume, etc. back where it belongs.  Thanks for visiting!

This Is My Office Now

Since my last post, there have been some upheavals in my life.  My horse got sick, actually about a week before my last post, but at the time that I posted I didn't realize how bad it was going to get.  He had just been in the ICU, but at the time it seemed like he was going to recover okay.  I didn't realize how much worse it was going to get.

He landed right back into the ICU less than a week later, and spent a couple more days there that time.  When he came home, it was with the plan of feeding him four times a day, which meant that I needed to do two of the four feedings (the barn would only feed him twice a day).

It quickly became obvious that he was still not okay, so I ended up tossing out the vet's plan and coming up with my own.  It meant feeding him six times a day, although that worked out okay because he also needed meds six times a day.  But it also meant a lot of time either driving back and forth to the barn, or just staying at the barn, since by the time I drive back and forth I only have about an hour, sometimes two, at home.

Fortunately throughout the repeated colic episodes, the stays in the ICU, and the first few days and weeks at home where everything was touch and go, my clients were super understanding and gave me all the time I needed to finish my current work.  There were days and even a couple of weeks where I could hardly find any time to work at all, so I will be forever grateful to my clients for their patience during what amounts to the absolute worst period of my entire life so far.  There was a time when I was legitimately afraid we would lose my horse, and he is my heart horse, so of course I got nothing done during that time.

Eventually he stabilized enough that I was able to start getting some work done here and there, and over time I've been able to carve out more and more time for normalcy.  In the past week or so especially, I've really started feeling like I've got something approaching my old life back.  It'll still be a while before we can stop feeding Panama every three or four hours throughout the day, but at least now I can focus on work between feedings, instead of taking care of him and constantly stressing about whether he was going to make it through this.

Of course I still had to figure out how to find the time to get my work done during the day.  Ultimately I decided that driving back and forth all day long took too much time out of my day - the drive is only about 15 minutes each way, but that adds up after a while.  Plus when you consider the cost of gas right now (for various reasons I wasn't using my electric car for a little bit there), it just wasn't worth driving back and forth.

So for now I've settled into a routine where I get up, go to the barn, feed Panama his elevensies (he's almost a hobbit now), and then settle in with my laptop and my phone as a hotspot.  I work for anywhere from two to four hours, depending on how much work I have and how much attention my horse needs that day, from a picnic table in the yard where I can see my horse.

Yesterday one of my barn friends came over to me while she was letting her horse graze in the yard.  "Is this just your office now?" she asked.

"Yep," I said, and laughed.  And I realized it wasn't really a bad view for a temporary office, so I took a picture.


Panama has a scope on Tuesday to see if his ulcers have healed, at which point I'm hoping we can start transitioning him back to hay and fewer meals per day.  With any luck, at some point this summer I'll be able to stop working at the barn throughout the day (not to mention get some more sleep, clean my house, and plan day trips again).  But right now I'm grateful that I freelance, so that when I needed that flexibility, I was able to do what I needed to do.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Big Changes Coming

It's been a long time since I've blogged regularly, and an even longer time since I've updated my website.  I've been slowly letting some of my blogs go, and I have decided to migrate my websites (and my emails) to a new host.

Part of that requires a complete redesign of this website, blog and all.

I maintained this blog for many years, so there are a lot of things that are probably going to break when I overhaul everything.  Years ago, I moved the entire blog to a subdomain and made sure all the images and links went with it.  This time, I'm probably not going to be as thorough, especially since it'll be an entirely different sort of move, and I'll be restructuring the entire site.  I do intend to leave all of the old content on the blog, even though I know some of the images won't transfer with it.

Going forward, I'm expecting a period of construction while I rebuild my site entirely on Blogger, and an outage as I transfer to a new web host.  I expect both of those to happen soon, not this week but hopefully in the week or two after.

It'll be the first time I've transferred hosts in many years, and I'm a little nervous, so wish me luck that it all goes smoothly!