The Death of Blogging?

The Death of Blogging?

Okay, okay. I admit that the headline is absolute click bait, but three things happened this week that made me think that the death of blogging is truly upon us.

1. On September 4th, The Atlantic published an article called “Can Mommy Bloggers Still Make a Living?” It tells how a blog (Dooce) that used to make enough income to support both Heather Armstrong and her now ex-husband (plus two kids and an assistant) to being barely active in 2015.

Several quotes are rather telling. The article quotes “well known blogger” Jason Kottke as saying, “The short window of time in which individuals could support themselves by blogging is closing rapidly.” Susan Bidel, a senior analyst at Forrester research, at one point is quoted as saying, “If you can generate enough content to attract a good enough audience by working all by yourself, and you’ll be happy with an income of $50,000 a year, you’ll be fine.” But the last paragraph which is a quote from Armstrong herself is the one that most of my blogger friends on Facebook pointed out:

“I wrote a blog because it was fun, and I loved doing it,” she said. “Then it became my job and I hated it. You never want to get to the point where you’re like ‘Ugh I have to go do that thing that I love? Ughhhh.’”

2. The Cul de Sac comic strip by Richard Thompson that was published on September 8th was next. You can click to link to go see it, but this is what happens:

Little boy: Did any puppets come with this puppet theater?
Little girl: Yeah, there’s a king, a queen, a princess, a wizard, a dragon and I don’t know what this one is.
LB: It’s a blogger!
LG: Oh, what great puppet theater!

As I posted on Facebook, blogging – Oh, what great puppet theater indeed.

3. Then, yesterday, on the MacBreak Weekly podcast, guest host Mike Elgan offhandedly referred to bloggers as “floggers”. Hmmm…

See, here’s the thing – $50K from blogging full time? I don’t think I know any blogger who can claim that and I know a lot of bloggers. Most of us are thrilled if we can make enough to cover the costs of our web hosting and domain registrations.

We blog (or publish web content, if you prefer) because we have a passion for the topic. Years ago, Merlin Mann and John Gruber pointed out that a successful blog needed three things: “obsession + topic + voice”. I’ve written about this before and it’s still true.

But, in a world where apps and songs cost 99 cents, is that enough any more? If no one is willing to advertise with you or pay for your content or give you any respect (see Mike Elgan’s comment above), it may not be.

— Carla

Posted in Blogging, Observations Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Facebook Facts?

Facebook Facts?

The image you see above was created in reaction of all of the so-called facts we see floating around social media, not just Facebook. I named the image “Facebook Facts?” because, in our TL;DR world, we have gotten into the bad habit of sharing without clicking way often. We just see a pretty picture and pass the possible misinformation along.

A while back, I wrote about a quote that I had found that was supposedly from Albert Einstein. As a novice social media user, I had passed it along without doing any research because it came from a friend.

Later on, as I was teaching my Public Speaking students the importance of citing sources, I decided to look up exactly when Einstein said this. Unfortunately, there is no proof that he ever said anything like this. But, thanks to a 2004 self help book author, it was misattributed to the Nobel prize winner who was known to have a learning disability.

I wrote the post I linked above as a way to address this problem and I pinned it on my Pinterest account. And it got re-pinned over and over again. People usually put it on boards named things like “Inspiration” or “Things to Remember”. Which meant that they hadn’t bothered to click the link and read the post. Last week, I couldn’t take it any more and I deleted the pin.

So I would like to ask Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. to add a new feature. No sharing, re-tweeting or re-pinning can be done until the social media user has actually clicked the link and read the article linked to the image. It would be even better if the social media user had to take a quiz on whether they comprehended what the article was saying, but that’s probably too much to ask.

— Carla

Posted in Facebook, Observations, Social Media

Review: Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale

Review Fitbit Aria Smart Scale

Back in 2010, I purchased a Withings WiFi Body Scale. I liked the fact that it would record my weigh-ins via WIFI in my Withings account. Later on, I was able to link it directly to my SparkPeople account too. I even set up a Twitter account so that the scale would tweet out my weight. Shocking, huh?

But, by the summer of 2014, the Withings scale was starting to have some problems. It wasn’t working the way it should and it finally ended up in our eScrap recycling box. So, when Verizon Wireless offered a chance to try out a Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale, I jumped at their offer.

Set-up for the FItbit Aria was much less complicated than the Withings scale. Basically, you just place the scale on a flat (non carpeted) surface within WIFI range and make sure you have the password for your WIFI network. The Fitbit software provided walks you through the rest of the set-up. If you need more help, Fitbit makes detailed installation instructions and screenshots available.

Already having a account and the Fitbit app on my phone also helped with set-up. Once the Fitbit Aria was ready to go, I could easily see my weight and percentage of body fat either on the web or the app.

When you step on the Aria, it goes through several phases as it comes up with your weight and body fat percentage. Multiple users can use the same scale and it will sense which one is using it each time. Be sure to wait until the Aria tells you to step off so that it has time to send your information via WIFI.

The Fitbit Aria doesn’t support as many of the third party applications as the Withings scale, but it does work with both SparkPeople and MyFitnessPal among others. When I started using the Apple Watch instead of a Fitbit Flex as my fitness tracker, I just added the SyncSolve app for iOS to make everything work together. It’s not a perfect solution, but that’s a review for another day.

The price of the Fitbit Aria is about $30-$35 less than the current Withings scale. Both are high compared to a plain scale, but if you are interested in easy tracking, the extra cost of a smart scale makes it worth the money.

My only complaint is that for the body fat assessment to work, you have to step on the scale with bare feet. As someone with poor circulation in my feet, that means taking off my socks and then putting them back on to weigh myself. It’s a small quibble but it may be an issue for some.

When I was done testing Fitbit Aria, I did something I rarely do – I asked if I could buy it. That’s how much I enjoyed using this scale. It’s been a great addition that I am looking forward to using for a long time.

Posted in Fitness, Reviews, Technology Tagged with: , , ,

Why Disclosure Matters

The issue of users of social media disclosing their connections to the content they are sharing has been around a long time. In fact, it pre-dates social media and actually goes back to journalism (both print and broadcasting). But, with the rise of citizen journalists and easy to use blogging software, the issue needs to be addressed repeatedly so that the folks who don’t have a J-School background understand.

I first realized what a major problem this was back in 2009 when I attended BlogHer in Chicago. It was a rude awakening in many ways, but one thing that really stuck me was how demanding (and clueless) some of my fellow bloggers were. At the trade show, a representative from a major camera company shared a story of a blogger insisted that they “had” to send her two cameras (one to giveaway and one for her). Why? Because she blogged.

At a panel later in the conference on the topic of disclosure, the discussion among the members of the panel and the audience got a bit heated. Finally, one of the bloggers shouted, “But journalists get things sent to them all the time!” I couldn’t take it any more and yelled back, “But they send them back!”

A recent post on the Six Pixels of Separation blog raised the issue again. As Mitch Joel points out, with the FTC now monitoring blogs and now holding publishers responsible for “misleading consumers with native advertising”, disclosure is even more important now. Even Facebook or Instagram likes can be taken as a sign of you and/or your blog endorsing a product. Same can go for retweets on Twitter and so on.

Lack of disclosure also does something else. It makes your personal brand less authentic. And when it’s less authentic, it’s less valuable to your readers and to you.

On both and Hoperatives, I’ve tried to be totally open about when I’ve received a review unit or been invited to a soft open to try out a new better beer location as their guest. But, I’m planning to go back through all of my posts to make sure I was as authentic as possible.

I had an interesting Twitter conversation with a long time blogger and friend recently about this issue. She mentioned that she had started waiting to review Disney events/attractions later rather than sooner. She was skipping the private events and going when the general public could also go. She mentioned that it was “funny when you want to post a disclaimer that you did NOT get anything for free.” I replied that I had seen (and done) that on occasion and think it adds authenticity to the review or post.

It’s true. Unfortunately, because of lack of disclosure too often in social media/blogging, I’ve come to assume that when certain users use social media to talk about being at a play or new restaurant opening, I immediately think they must have gotten comp tickets or a free meal. At that point, nothing they say about the event or location is valid for me.

I’ve written before about how you need to be careful what you blog. It’s even more important now with the FTC watching. Now, please be careful how you share on social media too. If you are live tweeting an event for any kind of compensation, be sure to make an early tweet about whether you are being compensated or if you have a connection with the event or product.

And those of you who are trying to get your clients and their products placement in blogs and other social media? Please stop rewarding the ones that violate disclosure rules all the time. How valuable is that placement if the person giving you coverage isn’t authentic?

Posted in Blogging, Facebook, Observations, Pinterest, Social Media, Twitter Tagged with:

Round Up: Fitness and Fitness Tracker Reviews

As February slowly ebbs away, my fitness and fitness tracker reviews are still some of my most popular posts. Here is a list of all of them to make them easier for you to find.

FitBit Flex

Garmin vivoFit

FitBit Force

UP by Jawbone

Zombies Run! 5K
More Thoughts on Walking and Zombies Run! 5K
Zombies Run! 5K – Completed

Ease into 5K App

Fitness Tracker Reviews

Posted in Fitness, Reviews

Review: Garmin vivofit

Garmin Vivofit - grey

When you think of the original GPS units, one of the first names you think of is Garmin. It only makes sense that a pioneer in that market would move into the fitness tracking wearable market. The Garmin vivofit is actually just one of their ventures into wearables.

Garmin Vivofit - black

Unlike most of the other wrist band based fitness trackers available now, the vivofit comes with a battery that lasts over a year so you don’t have to worry about charging it every few days. For many folks, that’s a definite plus.

Because of that battery, the display is on all the time which means you can easily look at your wrist to see your exact step count or by changing the display, the time. This was one of my favorite features since it means that the vivofit can replace my watch. There are six different screens available to display: time, date, steps, steps goal (seen above), miles, and calories burned.

In addition, the elongated red arrow at the top of the display is a reminder to the user to move. The long main arrow means it’s been an hour. Each little arrow in front of the long one means that another fifteen minutes has passed.

Another plus is that Garmin makes XL bands easily available unlike FitBit. I wish they sold you just one instead of three in a pack, but at least you can get them without jumping through hopes.

Garmin Vivofit - red

Like the FitBit and some of the other fitness trackers, the Garmin vivofit will track your sleep though the results on the phone app aren’t as detailed as the FitBit. Holding the button on the band takes you to the sync mode, then sleep (seen above) and finally pairing mode which is only used infrequently.

The Garmin Connect Mobile app is used with several different Garmin devices and I think that’s part of its downfall. I had problems pairing it to the vivofit at first, but discovered by dumb luck that being out of wifi range seemed to solve the problem. As I mentioned before, the detail available could be better, but to be honest, I’ve seen first.

Also, with the current version of the vivofit, the device does not automatically sync with the app. You have to open the app, put the vivofit in sync mode and then make the app sync.

Another problem is if you want to track your food intake with the Garmin Connect Mobile app, the only way you can do it is by using the My Fitness Pal app. As a long time user of SparkPeople, that’s a problem for me and from what I’ve read, it’s a problem for other people.

While researching this review, I discovered that the vivofit 2 is coming some time this first quarter. With it comes the ability to auto sync and it appears to have a way to more securely attach the band to your wrist. While you may want to wait for the vivofit 2, you can get a really great price on the current vivofit model right now.

My husband has had three FitBit units die on him so we’ve been looking for an alternative fitness trackers for him. After testing the Garmin vivofit, I think we may have found it.

Posted in Fitness, Reviews, Technology Tagged with: , ,

Disney Travel AFTER the Holidays

Check out this Disney travel blog post that I wrote for The Magic For Less Travel blog. If you are looking for a great time to visit Walt Disney World, consider waiting until after the holiday season is over. There are lots of advantages to traveling then as long as you keep a few things in mind.

Interested in visiting the Mouse and Florida? Contact me for a free, no obligations travel quote for your Disney vacation!

Disney Travel after the Holidays

Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Travel Tagged with: , , ,

Review: HTC One (M8)

With the number of Android phones coming out each month, sometimes it’s hard to know which one to even look at when you’re shopping for a new phone. I’ll give you a hint: You need to check out the new HTC One (M8).

HTC One (M8)

Also available for Windows Mobile, this latest offering from HTC is something to behold. The brushed aluminum design feels great in your hand and looks good too.

The 5-inch full HD display is really crisp and clear. I love both the size and look of the screen. Photos really popped on the screen.

HTC One (M8) also comes with a Duo Camera with UltraPixel. What’s UltraPixel you ask? It’s a feature of the Duo Camera which “lets you add 3D-style depth and change focus after snapping a photo.”

One thing that I really noticed was different from other phones were the dual front speakers. These give you much better sound than you can get from a single front speaker. It really made a difference when listening to music with wide variations in volume like classical music.

The thing I liked least about the HTC One (M8)? The name. Hard to remember and I’ve noticed that many consumers just say they have an HTC One without realizing that there are several models of the HTC One.

The HTC One (M8) is available now at your local Verizon Wireless store for $149.99 with a two-year contract.

Posted in Reviews, Technology Tagged with: , , , , ,

Zombies Run 5K – Completed!

This past Sunday, I finally completed my eight weeks of training using the Zombies Run! 5K app. It felt really good to wrap it up and get ready to move on to the regular Zombies Run app.

I knew I could do the five kilometer length because I had done it before (soon after I wrote this post about my training). But one of the best things was that I also had my best pace of this training. In fact, my 18:40 min/mi pace was much better than my previous best of 19:03. And it felt good. That truly was the best part.

If you just did the math on when I started and when I finished, you may have noticed that it was longer than eight weeks. I ended up having to stop for over a month due to injury. Nothing serious, but I tried some different shoes that once again tore up my heels badly. In fact, six weeks later, I’m still having to cover my heels with large band-aids in order to be able to wear any walking shoes.

So, along with the red Fit-Bit wristband I treated myself to after completing the training, I’m also going to finally get some new walking shoes. I’ve got a recommendation for Tri-State Running in Edgewood, KY and hope to go there soon. I plan to take the two old pairs of shoes I’m currently using to show how shoes wear when I walk in them. Hopefully, they will have a solution to my heel issue. This keeps happening far too often.

I’ve purchased the regular Zombies Run! app and I was happy to see that all of my 5K training “runs” (I’m still walking) carried over to this app. I’m looking forward to starting this new program and hearing more about the adventures in Abel Township as they fight off the zombies.

Runner Five reporting for duty!

Zombies Run! App

Posted in Fitness, Observations Tagged with: , , ,

Review: Belkin WeMo

RadioCarla Review WeMo

The Belkin WeMo line works great with the new Amazon Echo. Review to come very soon!

One of the highest compliment a reviewer can give a product is an acknowledgement that they liked the product so much that they bought one. An even higher compliment is when a reviewer buys more than one. The Belkin WeMo is one of those products for us.

The Belkin WeMo line of products are home automation devices that also can help with home security. The Verizon Wireless store has three different WeMo products available. All of these WeMo products work with your existing Wi-Fi network and let you control your lights or home electronics anywhere that your smart phone or tablet has an Internet connection (3G or 4G LTE).

The WeMo Switch ($49.98) plugs into a wall outlet so you can control home electronics or lamps from your mobile device. Using the WeMo app, you can set schedules with your Android or iOS smart phone that can help reduce energy costs in your home.

The Belkin WeMo Light Switch ($49.99) lets you to turn lights on and off from anywhere you happen to go. Unlike the regular WeMo switch, the WeMo Light Switch replaces a wall light switch so some DIY skills are needed.

If you want to know more about the energy use of an appliance or piece of home electronics, the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch ($59.99) is the one you want. Trying to figure out which appliance is sucking the most electrity? Plug each one in a WeMo Insight Switch and you can get quick access to how much energy each device is using.

We had a WeMo Switch test unit to try out recently. We’ve always had a floor lamp in our living room that was on a timer. The timers got more advanced over the years, but it was still just a timer set to come on at the same time each day. And anyone watching our house would notice that the time the light went on and off was always the same.

The scheduling available with the WeMo is so much better. Instead of coming on at the same time each day, you can set the WeMo to turn on the lamp at an hour before sunset. Then it automatically adjusts as sunset times change throughout the year.

We usually have the lamp in the living room set to go off at a set time too. But some times, you want to go to bed earlier and the light is still on. Or you go to bed and forget to turn off the lamp. With the WeMo smartphone app, two clicks on your smartphone and the light is off. And it won’t change the schedule for future days.

We loved how the WeMo switch worked for us so much that we ordered two of them before we returned our review unit. The second one is on a floor lamp downstairs that comes on weekdays during regular working hours. It’s been working great and now I’m wondering what we can use a third WeMo for next!

Posted in Reviews, Technology Tagged with: , ,

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