{Review} The Elements of Blogging

It’s 2014 and everyone knows what a blog is. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your first blog, a common question is, “Where do I start?”

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books about how to blog: tips about things like creating a domain, SEO, choosing a theme (or designing your own), etc. All of these are important but what if you don’t care about generating thousands of hits to your site or are overwhelmed by all this stuff you have to apparently learn to run a successful blog? Then look no further than The Elements of Blogging by Jacob Miller (kineticbear.com).

In The Elements of Blogging, blogging is boiled down to the basics – content. From tips for coming up with ideas, harnessing creativity and imagination, and most of all the motivation to keep up blogging, Jacob’s book will endlessly inspire. Interspersed throughout the book are stories from fellow bloggers (including yours truly*) about how they got started blogging.

True to Jacob’s style on his blog, Kinetic Bear, the ideas in this book are presented as suggestions and guidelines rather than rules and can be a helpful, refreshing reminder for bloggers who might feel as if blogging (and successful blogging) has become determined by traffic and numbers, not quality and content. If there was a self-help book for bloggers, this is it.

You can buy The Elements of Blogging on iBooks and Amazon, or download it as a pay-what-you-want PDF. Learn more about Jacob’s book here.

*I was one of the first readers of The Elements of Blogging, as well as one of the people who helped edit it and contributed my story. I am not paid to write this review. I am simply sharing a great book by a friend.

Written and published with Desk Publishing Machine.

The Turk

Despite being an antique technology, automatons still manage to enchant us to this day. Considered the ancestors of our modern technology, automatons have been an object of fascination since they were first invented and remain a popular subject in fiction as well, such as Hugo by Brian Selznick. There is one automaton that perhaps inspires the most fascination of all: the Turk, a chess-playing automaton that was invented in eighteenth century Austria-Hungary by Wolfgang von Kempelen.

The Turk by Tom Standage is a biography of this remarkable machine that managed to astound – and confound – millions, playing against several famous figures in history including Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte. Invented by Kempelen to impress Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria-Hungary, it was an immediate sensation and he would tour Europe showing off the Turk as it would play live chess games in front of crowds. The period in which it was invented was ripe for possibility: civilization was between the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution and the Turk was seen as an example of the kind of possibility that could be made with technology, inspiring inventions beyond its automaton and chess-playing origins, such as the power loom.

After Kempelen’s death, the Turk was nearly forgotten as  it was put in storage until it found a new owner and once again its beguiling magic mesmerized the world.

Despite being eventually revealed as an elaborate hoax, which is explained in Tom Standage’s book, it’s still a marvelous invention and still amazing to watch in action, even almost eerie, in this 15-minute video, below. The video seems to be from a documentary that sounds like it’s narrated by Morgan Freeman and also includes the author being interviewed. I’m afraid I don’t know what documentary this is from, so if someone knows, please let me know in a comment.

As I read The Turk and after I’d finished reading it, I was inspired to play chess again. Each chapter is introduced with a fun piece of chess trivia, whether an opening move, endgame, or puzzle (some of the names are especially enjoyable, such as one puzzle named after Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign) and epitaph from a well-known chess player as well as diagrams of particular chess moves.

Whether you like history, automatons, or chess – or all three! – The Turk is an enjoyable and engaging read. For those of you who like web comics, Sydney Padua (of Lovelace and Babbage comic fame) pointed me in the direction of this web comic about the Turk called Clockwork Game.

Welcome Obscurity

Welcome obscurity. It seems a funny thing in a world that’s focused on overnight successes and celebrities and big brands, but here’s the thing: they were once obscure, too. And even overnight successes aren’t truly overnight, they just seem that way afterward.

Obscurity allows you to experiment, and make mistakes without the whole world watching and that’s a good thing. Later on, the bigger and more popular you get, those early days will be remembered fondly and even missed.

Published via Pressgram

A Good Thing: Less is More

REWORK: “Constraints are advantages in disguise. Limited resources force you to make do with what you’ve got. There’s no room for waste. And that forces you to be creative.”

One of the ironies in life is that one would think that with unlimited resources and freedom that it would be easier to create, when in fact it’s often the opposite. When it’s limitless, it’s also easily disposable.

Published via Pressgram

What’s Your Excuse?

In REWORK, the authors express how a common statement many people make is that they don’t have enough time whenever they want to pursue a new project, whatever it is. If you really want to do something, you’ll find the time or make it. Then you’ll discover if you’re really interested or if it’s just a phase.

This reminded me one of Ken Robinson’s stories in THE ELEMENT. He talked about always wanting to learn to play the keyboard but if he really wanted to, he’d be practicing everyday.

Published via Pressgram