The Struggling Writer

The chronicles of a freelance writer as he tries to make a living.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

No, I haven't quit Examiner

Despite my lack of updates both here and at Examiner, I'm still (in my warped mind at least) working for them.

Memorial Day week both my personal and professional commitments disappeared. I had no pressing obligations so it ended up turning into a vacation week. I got back to everything else, but I've found it hard to get back to Examiner.

My income is still a laughable $0.40 per hour. Examiner didn't seem to care that I wasn't posting because I never got spanked for being a slacker. So I have neither the carrot nor the stick to motivate me. Plus every time I think about posting, I think of that awful publishing tool (have I ranted sufficiently about how much I loathe that insert-your-favorite-expletive publishing tool?) and I find other things to do.

The work is still personally important to me and I really do want to get back. In fact I'm miffed at myself for missing my Father's Day post since I feel the needs of fathers of disabled kids are distinctly different that those of mothers. I'll have to do a late Father's Day post.

I'm going to try getting back this week, but I'm going to be working 12-hour days all week between actually-paying writing and caring for my niece so it's going to be hard to find time for pro bono work. But, as I say every week, next week will be different.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Are your charitable donations going where you think they are going?

Today's Arizona Republic reports that a network of charities getting donations from the Combined Federal Campaign has been using that money to pay for vacations in France while supplies they claimed had been sent to hospitals sat in warehouses. The worst part is their actions are entirely legal.



Saturday, May 02, 2009

Not posting to Examiner = bad

With my badly organized schedule I went three days without posting and my hits dropped to 6-7 per day. Regular posts are important.

An interesting posting experiment would be to post an article but not network it and see how my hits rise. Then share it the next day without posting a new article and see if I get a bump. Although I'm sure the whole Digg, etc. thing is important it would be nice to quantify how important. I might do that sometime.

Today's article took flocking forever to get up, mostly because I was fighting with how to embed the Google map. My biggest problem was that damn information bubble which goes outside of the window since the map is small but I couldn't figure out how to get it to default to off. In case anyone is interested, the answer is to look for the parameter "iwloc=<something>" and change it to read "iwloc=near". The answer used to be to remove the iwloc parameter entirely but that's apparently no longer true, one reason it took me so long to figure it out. The problem with the whole "internet is forever" thing is there is a lot of outdated information out there, most of it without dates so you can't tell it's old junk.

One more rant about how much I hate the Examiner publishing tool. I'm now at the point where I just write the whole thing including HTML offline then cut and paste into the source window, which at least keeps me from wanting to throw my computer out the window every time I post an article. However the stupid tool likes to mess with my code even if I put it directly in the source window. It removes white space, closes tags, inserts non-breakable spaces and more. I really wish there was an option to just paste HTML and have it posted without the stupid software second guessing me. 99% of my unhappiness with Examiner comes from the awful publishing tool.

Finally a couple of useful tidbits. I found an AP Style Tipsheet which is useful because Examiner uses AP style. I'm sure there's a more comprehensive one, but that's a nice quick collection. Plus I found one way to locate pictures is to search on the Examiner site itself. For example search for "dog" then when the results come up click the AP Photos tab. These are Associated Press photos that Examiner has already paid for and examiners can use, with proper attribution of course.


Telephone Pioneers of America Park, a park built for people with disabilities

Parents of disabled children in Phoenix have an exceptional recreational resource and yet few seem to know about it. Telephone Pioneers of America Park is a facility designed from the ground up for full accessibility. It was the first barrier-free park in the country.



Please, please, please stop using Snap!

There is a special place in hell for webmasters who use popups and an even worse place for those who use Flash popups since they exist specifically to bypass popup blocker. One of the new blogging fads is to use Snap to provide flash popup previews of links. In my book this is one of the most annoying things ever invented for the web since it's just popups masquerading as a supposedly useful tool.

The previews are useless since they are too small to read. You still have to click on the link so the popups just waste time and bandwidth. Blogs become minefields where you have to carefully navigate your mouse between links so you don't actually set off an explosion of preview windows.

Thanks to PSA: How to Turn Off Snap Pop-Up I discovered getting rid of them is easy. When you get one of the windows look in the top right corner to see a gear symbol. Click on the gear and then on "Disable" from the dropdown menu. Another dialog will appear asking if you want to disable for all sites or just the current site. Click all sites, then Save. You'll get a message that tells you to reload the current page to turn off Snap and you are done.

The instructions above might be a little off since I already turned off Snap so I can't look at the dialogs to be sure of all the steps. I don't see a way to turn it back on, but why would I want to?

Death to popups!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Examiner stats are weird

When I posted my state budget article, I saw a big bump in traffic just ten minutes after doing all my Digg, Twitter, etc. stuff. When I posted my swine flu article yesterday I expected the same but I got virtually nothing. Hours later I still had only about a dozen hits. I assumed that there were so many people talking about this swine flu nonsense that my voice was lost in the crowd.

Then today I pulled up my stats for yesterday to see the damage, and I see 126 hits compared to 38 for Phoenix and 49 for the channel. I've noticed discrepancies like that before. Examiner stats for today seem to be wonky but they clear up at the end of the day. The lesson is don't pay much attention to the current day's stats.

Now that I've done a couple of blatant Google-bait articles, I'd like my next one or two to be more useful informational resources. However, I need to get my real work done first. I find I have to tear myself away from Examiner to do the stuff that actually pays my mortgage. It's hard to get interested in writing about business accounting practices or taking telephonic legal depositions, but I need to do that before doing the "fun" writing.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine flu hysteria strikes again

It's been my experience that parents of special needs children have a different attitude than other parents toward incidents like this swine flu scare. Either they get philosophical about it, too busy with actual problems to worry about media-invented ones, or they panic unreasonably. I'm hoping Phoenix parents are in the first group rather than giving in to the frenzy.


[Yes this is a blatant Google bait article. It's the frenzy of the moment and at least marginally relevant to my topic.]