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Digitally displayed artwork by Stewart Tunnicliff.
Digitally displayed artwork by Stewart Tunnicliff.

Blogging – Learning by doing

By Stewart Tunnicliff

Would never say I am an old head at this as I learn a lot as I go along, and the blogging sphere changes quite swiftly.

I have been blogging seriously as theLingoGuy (http://www.goodopenenglish.com/) since 2009, and came to Germany originally during the Geocities days. It was a nice little playground, which I used to help youth centres and teens create their own sites in 6 easy steps. This was way before Blogger or WordPress were offering what now has become the trade benchmark. I prefer using the latter, although have used the former, as WordPress is a lot more tailorable and customization is what you need to stand out from the rest. My blog at the moment has changed from being just about lingo, to also arts. I am phasing out my personal site stewtun, as I see that arts cannot be a detriment to the brand I have built as theLingoGuy. Especially as there is a language to art.

The experience I have garnered I thought might interest you as takeaways. So here are some tips I’ve put together:

1. Make it your passion Blogging is time consuming and in most cases will not pay the bills. So know why you wanna blog, and choose the theme and the content well, otherwise your motivation will quickly fade. I have my very productive phases, of course. I do not only use it as a way to express myself and display my art & writing. But if I do it regularly, it helps keep my creative writing pen set well-inked. My passion is split between art and writing, and merging the two has been what I think is a good recent decision.

2. Be open to criticism, but know what you want – Often people will tell you this is how it should be. This happens in every profession. And I have had some unwarranted criticism concerning the purpose, the content and the layout. If the tips come from an expert or someone who has a site I admire, then I will take it seriously. All opinions should be taken on board, but some with a byte of RAM.

3. Be wary of the cowboys – You will be approached by people over the net through email or even leaving comments on your site. Some of this is just to drum up business for themselves. Unless they offer you a solution to whatever they say needs improving or show knowledge of your content and purpose, do not even give them the cyber time.

4. Expand your net – Try to collaborate with other blogs and sites. However, be pragmatic about this; not just any old url, but one which has a like-minded person behind it or has similar intentions to your own. Otherwise the collaboration just gets bogged down in unnecessary disagreements or the effort outweighs the benefit. Even open your blog to guest blogs, as this drives new traffic to the site. And the guest blogs often give a very unique voice different from your own.

5. Know your tools and platform – Just like back in the day of Geocities, there are some awful ill-conceived blogs out there. If you are serious about blogging, take the time to learn about the platform you are using, and never think you know everything. It is a lifelong learning process. For WordPress.org, use plugins, such as:

Askimet – to keep the spammers away.

Smush it – to reduce image memory size to minimize the impact on the capacity of your file manager.

WP-reCAPTCHA – to really keep the spam at bay.

Zen Cache – creates static html files for cache-cleaning and faster loading.

Huge IT Gallery – best gallery to use if you have a site that has a lot of images to display.

Screenshot from Stew's blog.
Screenshot from Stew’s blog.

The above is just a short list of my plugins; I have just about worked out which plugins work best for what I want.  Keep an eye on my blog as the new pages will become populated by migration from stewtun. And there will be an increase in content in our “More European” section, as I feel very strongly about the rise in nationalism in Europe and the anti-European vibe in the media and on the net currently.

Besides running www.goodopenenglish.com, I run a non-profit site (www.leipzig-writers.de) and offer reasonably-priced hosting, i.e:

Irish writer and photographer – http://thefolksonthehill.com (work in progress)

New Zealand Artist – http://amandatomasoa.net/

And now that I have changed the purpose to both arts and writing, I have also changed the template from what is used on my Leipzig Writers and Amanda Tomasoa pages. Although it was a good standard layout and one of the quickest loaders, it just did not suit my change of focus.

That’s it for now. Keep a-blogging!

Coming from a theatre and performance background, and being a celluloid aficionado, it only seemed right that Stewart aka theLingoGuy pursued this through his other passion of writing. He is also very excited by the theatre and documentary scene developing locally, particularly English Theatre Leipzig, DOK and GlobalLE. However, he keeps an eye on the ground breaking stuff in the Fringe, Slam poetry, Battle Rap and the many fusion genre TV series and films. As you can see, you can expect a diverse palette of stage and screen choices, as well as other passions that he will paint from with his words.

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