Decorative Flower
Her Realm, Personal website and blog of Cole
Dec 17

I haven’t blogged in over a month

At least, here. I’ve been blogging in all the other places though. Oops.

This last month has been measured in broken heartbeats, if I’m honest.

It’s also been measured in doors opened to the UPS and FedEx men. The shopping. I’m having such a good financial month, after the annual frustration with the state. I’ve spent a bit of money, purchased some awesome gifts, and yet I have a bit of money left. I am considering a tattoo. A sugar-skull inspired motif on my left thigh. What do you think?

These last few days have consisted of me binging on TED talks about psychology, sex and technology, among other things. This was inspired, in part, by starting and finishing Best Sex Writing 2012 in a course of hours. I forgot how much I like to be educated!

Goliath and his box under the tree

Goliath and his box under the tree

Much of my time has been spent with my sister, who likes to escape her home and invade mine. Her latest thing is asking for homework help that could easily be done over the phone just so she can come over and play video games. She did “help” me put up my Christmas tree, though. It’s blue and silver this year. I didn’t think about how dark blue lights are in comparison to white ones, however. It’s nearly impossible to take a decenter picture!

I’ll end this with a rant. About “Merry Christmas.” And how a million of my Facebook friends — just kidding, I don’t have that many — have posted about how that’s the correct thing to say. And how it’s stupid to be offended by saying it. And they’ll say it regardless.

Yes, I will smile and say “You, too” to anyone who takes the time to wish me a Merry this or a Happy that, even if I’ve never heard of it. Have a good freakin’ Festivus, y’all. But, seriously. There’s a perfectly easy-to-understand reason why Merry Christmas might offend some people.

And it’s not because you celebrate it. It’s because you celebrate it and you assume everyone else also celebrates it. But they don’t. Some of them celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Yule or something else altogether. Some people celebrate no winter holidays, believe it or not.

Despite the fact that so many people proclaim the separation of church and state, the United States is a Christian nation. Winter break includes Christmas but not typically any of the days of Hanukkah, let alone all eight of them. Easter is another holiday that closes down the government and schools. People who are not Christian understand the significance of these holidays. You probably know little about Hanukkah or any other Jewish holiday.

Your normal isn’t everyone else’s default. It’s dangerous and limiting to think that. It’s wonderful to learn what you don’t know — and then to make that something you do know, however.

If you celebrate Christmas, then I hope it’s a good one. If you don’t, I hope other people do not offend you. Either way, I hope you’re not a dick.


Sep 21

Homeless Family Trying to Build Life in Southern Utah

I am writing this on behalf of a fellow blogger, Victoria of Mom Does Reviews. She recently shared her experience running a family of seven people — and two dogs — who have been homeless for most of this year. Victoria has a GoFundMe campaign that fill finally enable the family to have a place to call home. 

Donate Now!

Homeless2[1]

Since January of this year, Victoria Johnny, her husband and her five children have been traveling the country. It might seem like a dream vacation or an alternative lifestyle, but the truth is more heartbreaking than that. The family of seven is homeless, a word that doesn’t come easy to the matriarch. But things could get much worse. A sixth child is on the way.

Fate seemed to conspire against the family, who originally lived in Florida. The Johnnys decided to live out their dreams of starting a home business. Victoria writes at a popular blog, Mom Does Reviews, and her husband tried his has as a handyman. However, while Victoria was able to bring in income  through blogging, it wasn’t enough to support their family of seven when her husband’s business didn’t pan out.

Since then, the family has stayed with friends on a family farm, spent some nights at hotels, camped out in parks and, when there was no other option, slept in the family car. It wasn’t easy, Victoria describes. When the weather was bad and they were forced to sleep in their SUV, they would move all their belongings to a tent. Their homelessness strained friendships when people weren’t able to put up five children, their parents and Ativan two dogs. Potential job leads fell through when the family was unable to establish a residence close enough.

And being homeless isn’t cheap. Victoria estimates that it costs at least $1,800 monthly to feed her family of five and two family pets. She works six to eight hours every day whenever there is a wireless connection around, but that’s not always an option when the family is forced to camp.

Things are finally starting to look up for the Johnnys, however. An accidental job lead in Southern Utah has led the family to a place where they could finally put down roots. Low crime rates, beautiful weather and affordable housing are among the reasons why Southern Utah just makes sense for the growing family.

Before they can finally breathe a sigh of relief, they will have to come up with the money for rental, security, pet and utility deposits — at least $2500. The family is without much of their possessions, including furniture and homeschooling materials, which are stored elsewhere. Victoria has set up a GoFundMe page that outlines stretch goals that include transporting those items to their new home.

The family doesn’t just want to take, however. After they get their feet back on the ground, they plan to give back to the community, friends and family and even strangers when they can. But this will only come together if they can finally have a home to come home to.

If you’d like to contribute to the campaign, visit the GoFundMe page here: http://www.gofundme.com/efhxfg

You can also read about the family’s plight in Victoria’s own words at Mom Does Reviews:  http://momdoesreviews.com/2014/09/17/homeless-look-like-help-gofundme/


Sep 13

Blogging Comes with Hard Lessons

No, really. I’ve learned some awesome things about myself and my community and computers and the Internet and the world at large from being an active blogger. I’ve also learned some things that are frustrating, disheartening and just plain shocking. For example.

Pictofigo Frustration

This is pretty much me on a daily basis!

People Don’t Understand the Internet

Every week, I get at least one comment on Reviews by Cole from someone who thinks I am the company. Not just that I am somehow affiliated but that I can send them products or perform an exchange or send them a manual or what-have-you. Now, this just perplexes me. Chances are, they performed a search for a specific product and wound up on my site because the manufacturer doesn’t offer information about the specific product. I understand how people get to my site.

What I don’t understand is how they could possibly think that they are anywhere else than a product review blog where I talk about my personal experiences. My site looks like a blog. It reads like a blog. It quacks like a blog. It’s a blog, folks!

Language Is Important

I don’t just mean representing yourself in a professional way. I mean that almost any time I’ve worked with a company whose representative’s first language wasn’t English, it turned out terrible. My not-politically-correct opinion is that a lot of companies that cheaply manufacture items overseas view bloggers as a quick way to get some links with minimal cost on their end because they’re making crap.

It doesn’t matter if these are quality posts or long-term relationships. It sure as hell doesn’t matter if the product works or not. And sometimes I am not better than them. I don’t say “No” even when every sign indicates this is going to be painful from beginning to end or that it’s just not worth it.

Giveaways Are a Chance to Win

..and even if you’re the winner, you shouldn’t count your chickens before your eggs hatch. I recently posted on Facebook on how I had been contacted by a winner of my DX Mall giveaway. Sadly, this company fell into the last category. They’re a bottom-feeder type, and not only were my communications with them downright painful because of the language barrier, but it took them over a week to consider crediting my winner’s accounts. One winner went back and forth with them before weeks before she was finally told that the site shut down.

That’s all folks. I’m a middle man. There’s nothing I can do short of paying for those prizes out of my own pocket, which I just can’t do. I’ve been using a disclaimed about how I am not responsible for prize fulfillment for some time. Basically, this means I can send off your information to my contact and nag them a couple times, but you’re not actually the winner until the prize is in your hands.

It’s a Numbers Game

This might be the lesson that’s been the most difficult for me to come to terms with. While things like user engagement and comments mean a lot to me, it’s stuff like visits and Facebook “Likes” that turn the heads of PR folks and businesses who consider working with me. I know this isn’t always the case, but unless you don’t have the masses visiting your site, you’re likely going to miss out on opportunities that might otherwise be perfect for you.

Another thing is that someone who takes good (or sometimes numerous!) pictures will get more opportunities than I do because I tend to focus on text. I’ve literally left reviews not knowing what items were or how well they worked. I’ve seen bloggers highlighted on social media and forums because of their great photos that literally did nothing to convince me that the brand or product was worth thinking about twice.

I’ve seen this time and again, and it’s tempting to feel anger, but I know it’s not use it. I’ll keep building and getting better. I’ll be grateful for what I qualify for, and that’s included some awesome stuff. But I won’t be quiet when you write a terrible review because you’re hurting more than just yourself.

Also, when it comes to those giveaways? Another numbers game. Consider the amount of work you’re putting in and how much you really need or want that item because I can guarantee a lot of entrants are wasting their time and effort!

I sound more jaded than I feel on a daily basis in this post, but nothing everything about blogging is pretty.


Jul 30

Avoid Making Enemies with Email Etiquette

I’ve had a particularly trying day when it comes to email exchanges. People have sent too many emails and too few emails, and it’s taken over a week for something that could be done with a few clicks of the mouse to even get started. There’s no reason for this. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that someone who is doing these things is unprofessional, and this hurts your brand.

Email is just another form of customer service in 2014, and if you don’t treat it right, consumers will pay attention. When those consumers are also a blogger like me, we write posts like this telling you how to write emails without coming off as a douche or a moron.

NEVER ADD PEOPLE TO YOUR LIST WITHOUT THEIR EXPRESS PERMISSION.

You do not have the right to add me to any newsletter list just because I fill out a contact for or enter a giveaway. No fine print makes this even legal. It’s annoying when companies do it and even worse when it comes from other bloggers who should know better because they’ve been on a the receiving end. Just no no no.

Use BCC.

BCC, or blind carbon copy, sends emails to multiple recipients without showing their email addresses to everyone else on the list. It’s rude and unsafe to release another person’s email address.  Even if you trust everyone on your list, anyone whose email address you have trusts you to keep that contact information safe. Fortunately, using BCC enables you to do this without having to individually email every person.

Check your email before you send it.

Make sure you have added all attachments (Thunderbird will ask you if you meant to add attachments. Fix typos. If you intended to copy and paste content, add a link or  format the text in a specific way, do it. This helps you avoid the next.

Email Etiquette

Email Etiquette

Don’t send two emails in a row.

If you don’t take the time to proofread/give your email the once over, you’re going to have to send a correction. This gets confusing and causes clutter. However, it’s not the only reason someone might use to send an email twice.

  • If I haven’t replied to your email in a few hours and it’s not an emergency.
  • If you sent me some sort of press release or invitation to a program and you received no reply.
  • If I’ve told you I have to do X and will get back to you.

The one thing these events all have in common? It’s not okay to send another email just because I didn’t reply unless your previous email specifically stated you required a reply within a certain period. I am either working on what I need to reply or have deleted your email because it’s spammy. In many cases, I reply at night because I am usually awake during third shift hours. Sending a second email will not make this happen any faster and may land you on a reported spam list.

Send as few emails as possible.

Few things are as obnoxious as an email exchange that takes hours, days or even weeks longer than it should because you fail to understand the concept that you can send messages with more than one sentence or thought. Simply being thoughtful will enable you to anticipate questions I might have or information I will need. I don’t expect you to be a mind-reader, but one thing that I frequently run into is that email exchanges take more time (and patience!) than they should because you fail to ask the right questions.

I use email to organize giveaways and reviews more than I use it for any other reason. In fact, I never use it for personal reasons anymore. So my exchanges typically go like this:

  • I send a pitch (or receive one).
  • Company agrees (or I agree).
  • I specify products I’d like to try and send my address.

As a reviewer, the next email I want is a notification of shipping or tracking number. That’s it.

If I am hosting a giveaway, I will send emails verifying the prize, number of winners, shipping restrictions and any entries the company would like. After I receive these replies, there’s no need to reply until I send you a link to the giveaway and the winner’s information.

There are certain points during the review process where there will be a lull. If you understand the process, you won’t need to email me at these times. If you do, you obviously haven’t asked the right questions from the start.

This leads me to my next point.

Know when to end the communication.

It’s like when someone says “Good night” on the phone and the other person says “Good night,” and it keeps going back and forth and neither of you want to keep up the conversation but you feel pressured to do so.

So what would you add to this list?


Jun 03

60+ Keyboard Shortcuts All Bloggers Need to Know

 

keyboard shortcuts for bloggers

I’m pretty proficient at using keyboard shortcuts. In fact, if programs and browsers would let me, I probably wouldn’t even need a mouse or trackpad. Of course, this shaves of a large amount of time from surfing the Internet, but it also makes blogging so much easier. Here are over 60 keyboard shortcuts that will make you a more efficient blogger.

Copy and Paste

As a blogger, I do a ton of copying and pasting – into my blog posts, into word documents, into Facebook group and email among other locations. I save so much time by relying on my keyboard rather than my mouse. Here’s how.

  • Copy selected text/data – Ctrl+C
  • Copy all text/data in an area or on a page – Ctrl+A
  • Undo – Ctrl+Z
  • Paste – Ctrl+V
  • Paste without formatting – Ctrl+Shift+V

Text Editing

These are Windows shortcuts that will work in WordPress, Google Drive and word processing programs. I do not know that they work with Blogger, but I imagine they do.

  • Make selected text bold — Ctrl+B
  • Make selected text italic – Ctrl+I
  • Make selected text underlined – Ctrl+U
  • Use heading 1 – Ctrl+1
  • Use heading 2 – Ctrl+2
  • Use heading 3 – Ctrl+3

WordPress Shortcuts

I keep forgetting about these keyboard shortcuts even though the are amazing. These work in the visual editor.

  • Navigate through comments – j (next) and k (previous).
  • Approve selected comment – a
  • Send comment to spam – s
  • Delete comment – d
  • Undo comment action – z
  • Reply to comment – r
  • Quick edit comment – q
  • Move to comment edit screen – e
  • Add blockquote — Ctrl+Q

Press “Shift” with any of these keys to perform the action on multiple comments.

If you’re using the HTML editor, shortcuts are a little different.

  • Bold — Alt+SHIFT+b
  • Italic — Alt+SHIFT+i
  • Blockquote — Alt+SHIFT+q
  • Strikethrough — Alt+SHIFT+d
  • Code —  Alt+SHIFT+c
  • Link — Alt+SHIFT+a
  • Unordered List (ul) —  Alt+SHIFT+u
  • Ordered List (ol) — Alt+SHIFT+o
  • Insert date/time — Alt+SHIFT+s
  • Insert IMG URL —  ALT-SHIFT-m
  • Line Break —  SHIFT+Enter
  • List Item (li) — Alt+SHIFT+l
  • Add “Read More” — Alt+SHIFT+t
  • Publish  —  Alt+SHIFT+p

Modify the elements within your posts with these shortcuts:

  • Insert link on selected text – Ctrl+K
  • Add address to selected text – Ctrl+9
  • Increase width of editor in full-screen mode – Ctrl +
  • Decrease width in full-screen mode – Ctrl – (minus)
  • Reset editor in full-screen mode – Ctrl 0

Blogger Shortcuts

All the copy and paste and text edit keyboard shortcuts should work for Blogger. You can also easily add a blockquote in HTML edit mode by pressing Ctrl+l.

  • Save post – Ctrl+S
  • Publish post – Ctrl+P
  • Preview post – Ctrl+Shift+P
  • Add link – Ctrl+Shift+A

Browser Shortcuts

It doesn’t matter whether you use Chrome or Firefox – we all hope you’re just not using Internet Explorer! – there are shortcuts that will save you tons of time.

  • Open a new tab – Ctrl + T
  • Close a tab – Ctrl + W
  • Reopen last closed tab – Ctrl, Shift, T
  • Switch to tab on right – Ctrl + Tab or Ctrl Page Dn
  • Switch to tab on left – Ctrl + Page Up
  • Open a new window – Ctrl+N
  • Open a link in a new window – Click+Shift
  • Open link in new tab – Click+Ctrl
  • Go back in history – Backspace
  • Go forward in hiastory – Shift+Backspace
  • Search in address/search bar – Ctrl+E
  • Add bookmark – Ctrl+D
  • Bookmark all open tabs — Ctrl+Shift+D
  • Open page source code – Ctrl+U
  • Add .com to a domain name and go to that domain — Ctrl+Enter
  • Add .net to complete domain name and go to domain — Shift+Enter
  • Complete and go to .org domain — Ctrl+Shift+Enter

Facebook Shortcuts

Let’s face it, you probably spend a lot of time on Facebook if you’re a blogger. On a daily basis, I update my Facebook page and communicate in almost a dozen different groups. These shortcuts are a life-saver!

When browsing Facebook in Firefox, press Shift+Alt+ the corresponding number to move to these common pages. In Chrome for Windows, just press Alt+ the number. Ctrl+Opt+ the # in Mac will work in either browser.

  • 0 – Help
  • 1 – Home
  • 2 – Timeline
  • 3 – Friends
  • 4 – Inbox
  • 5 – Notifications
  • 6 – Settings
  • 7 – Activity Log
  • 8 – About
  • 9 – Terms
  • m – New Message

In your news feed, use the following shortcuts to perform common actions:

  • Post a new status – p
  • Like a post – l
  • Comment on a status – c
  • Share a post – s
  • Search using the search bar – /e
  • Open all shortcuts – ?

Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts

Many bloggers rely on Gmail to check their email from their PC, tablet or phone. If I didn’t use Thunderbird, I would rely on Gmail to check my email via IMAP or POP3. Of course, all Android users have a Google account, so plenty of people rely on Gmail for personal reasons, too. These keyboard shortcuts will help you get around.

  • Send message from “Compose” screen – Ctrl+Enter
  • Change “From” in Compose screen – Ctrl+Shift+F
  • Expand or collapse a message – Enter
  • Move between messages in a thread – n (Next), p (previous)
  • Move through message list – Up and Down arrows, Enter to open

Google offers a bunch more Gmail shortcuts that are not turned on by default. Enable them by clicking the gear icon, choosing “Settings”and selecting “Keyboard shortcuts on.”

What are your favorite keyboard shortcuts? Should I add any to this list? Let me know in the comments!


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