The phone rang. It was my fellow blogger and friend Jolanta Drywa asking if I wanted to head the first bloggers cafe at Poniatowski. For the Leipziger Buchmesse. I said an excited yes! and, in no time, was standing onstage with Marina presenting other local-based bloggers who would tell us about their blogging, interests and strategies. And making jokes out loud. And hearing nice things from readers in the audience about The Leipzig Glocal, and feeling a warm rush. And hanging out with other members of the LeipGlo team. And drinking beer. And thoroughly enjoying hearing the other bloggers.
But it wasn’t always like this for me.
The idea of social media and blogging was something I had to warm up to over time. Back in 2007-08, when management for the newspaper where I worked in the U.S. strongly encouraged us reporters to have blogs to connect with our readers, my first reaction had been one of intense annoyance. What was the point of having a blog if you were basically forced to do it, at the service of your employers rather than as a sort of personal diary? But then I reconsidered – if it was unavoidable and my continuing pay depended on embracing this new modality, I might as well try to get some kind of enjoyment from it. So I launched a poetry blog, and threw myself into it to try to rescue what was left of my motivation for my newspaper job. Soon I started getting a very loyal following of fellow poets (some amateur like me, others actually professional), and a community grew from the blog’s activities into regular meetings and open mics.
Fast-forward to 2016. I’m at the bloggers cafe we organized in Leipzig, talking about yet another blog (this one) that started out as an escape from life’s tribulations (also via poetry at first) and evolved into bringing quite a few talented people together for a common purpose (with poetry becoming much less frequent). I’m hoping that a community will form under the common purpose of including as many voices as possible in our sphere and giving useful and thought-provoking information to people, in and outside Leipzig, on various themes that may be of interest.
Rather than a way for me to escape “real” life, blogging has ended up becoming a way to enhance it. My favorite part at our Intercultural Bloggers Cafe in March was mingling with others offstage, and watching people mingle and network with each other and give and take books from our “book release” shelf near the stage. There was a nice mix of what prolific Leipzig blogger, journalist and bookworm Detlef Plaisier described as “wonderful, inspiring people.”
They all shared with us a little bit of how blogging has complemented their lives in different ways – and in some cases opened wider doors career-wise.
We met the team from Stadtschwärmer, the beautiful, modern-looking Leipzig guide book made as a collaboration with the bloggers behind the popular Kiss & Tell, and which has been quite a success. LeipGlo’s Alexandra Köpping Athanasopoulou (food column) talked about her parallel work as editor for the big international politics open-access journal E-International Relations. Juliane Klinger and her partner, who run the blog Heldenstadtbewohner, told us about the high level of interest – thousands of visitors a month – their personal stories of life, entertainment and a goat in Leipzig has attracted. They wrote a story about the Intercultural Bloggers Cafe for their blog.
Kerstin Petermann, the Frau behind Peterfrau, introduced us to her music blog via a creative approach: She interviewed herself about it, since interviews are a backbone of her blog. Jason D. Smith took us on an illustrated, detailed excursion through The Flensburg Files, his English-language blog on the American and German cultures inspired by Flensburg but based in Jena. Jason also wrote an account of the bloggers cafe afterwards.
To round out the lovely group of bloggers who presented at the Poniatowski/Leipzig Liest event, we leave you with LeipGlo columnist Stewart Tunncliff (who runs The Lingo Guy, Stew Tun’s Art and Leipzig Writers). Here are the top tips he gave for the technical side of blogging:
“Any WordPress user worth their text or code should know Askimet, the AntiVir of spam protectors. But here is a short and sweet run down of the topics I covered and what I have learned in my many years using WordPress.
Back up your shit: No matter if we are new to technology or experienced, forgetting this is one of the biggest issues of staying up-to-date and ahead of the game. WordPress provides a simple solution to this on the menu header bar of the dashboard with the handy Back WPup. For keeping true to content this plugin is as loyal as man’s best friend.
Size isn’t everything: Keeping image memory capacity and sizes cohesive helps a lot. Use this plugin to compress and resize images almost like a Zip folder, so as not to overburden your server.
Less load time: Back in the day you could start to load a software, come back from eating a meal and be ready to go. Nowadays we have less patience, and shorter and shorter attention spans. Comet cache, which used to be Zen cache – or other similar plugins – loads your pages as one whole element instead of each separate image, text, field or frame. So no latency for visitors to frustrate their boredom levels.
WP clean up: Just like every gadget your CMS or back-end to the website can get cluttered with unnecessary stuff. Use this plugin like you would defragment your Microsoft OS or use the third party software crap cleaner.
Look out for Menu changes: I cannot recall when WordPress introduced this feature, but it is not enough to just publish a page like you would a blog entry. Go to Appearance – Menu – Add to Menu and drag and drop to keep all your ducks (pages) in order. I like this feature as it is very user friendly, and allows you to move your main and sub pages around as you see fit.
And last but not least: Never install a WP plugin that is less than 3 stars.”
A big thank you to all who attended our bloggers cafe – whether presenting, asking questions or simply saying hi and hanging out! Stay tuned for Part II of “Why do we blog?”, where we will present insights and impressions from a panel we organized in the Buchmesse hall. Let’s do it all again sometime!