7 Lessons Learned From Blogging For 10 Years

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, December 30, 2016 at 02:58 PM with 1 comments

photo of Bulleit Bourbon bottle label

On Saturday, December 30, 2006 at 1:56 pm Central US Time, I published my very first blog post here at The Hot Iron. If you didn’t click on the link to read it, it would have taken longer to read this sentence than to read that post. Now ten years and 822 posts later, I am entering my second decade of blogging.

Where every year on my “blogversary” I have written a post to acknowledge it (some more robust than others), rather than simply patting myself on the back again, I’d like to share some of the lessons I have learned over the years of writing.

1. You never know who is reading – Despite knowing the Internet is Earth-wide, I still get amazed as to the reach of what I have written. Whether it’s companies inviting me to dinner or to travel the world, to the one time when someone quoted to me something I wrote myself, the true exposure is something I need to remind myself before I click the publish button each time.

2. Answer a question with a blog post – As the genesis of this blog was out of my former Web consulting firm, I found it useful to use The Hot Iron as not only a means of promoting my business but to create “reusable” content. Whenever someone asked me a question that I believed someone else may ask me, I would create a blog post on it and send them the link in response to their query. It not only answered their question, but made me look smarter as I wrote something on it, and made answering the question the next time all the easier. I still do that to this day.

3. Blogging can help you be a better writer – Before I started blogging, most of my writing was emails and technical specifications and documentation. Over time, I not only honed my writing but found myself greatly enjoying it. Many people have told me that they find it hard to get into a groove on writing, and if you look at my first few posts to those I write today, you will see quite a progression. More on the writing process later.

4. Simply placing ads on your blog won’t make you rich – Some of you may be surprised by this statement, and others of you are surely smirking at it, as you learned this the hard way yourself. From banner ads, Amazon product links to payment services like the former CentUp or soon-to-be former Google Contribute, ads may bring in a little loose change, but it takes a concentrated effort and plan to make real income from your blog.

5. Allow people to subscribe by RSS or email – Many of my most faithful readers are ones who receive my blog posts in their inbox or in their RSS feed reader. Even though Google killed off its Reader product years ago, people still aggregate content by RSS feeds in their Web browser or other services such as Fever. Making it easy for people to read what you write will keep readers reading.

6. Control your blog platform – Over years I have seen people post loyally on a variety of public platforms, from Geocities to Posterous, only to see those services shut down and their content vanish, especially as they never had a backup of their own writing! I am in the business of helping people get their message out on the Web, and I sill profess the best way is to do so is to have control of your Web publishing platform. Your own domain name coupled with any one of the number of content management systems (CMS) out there will give you the ability to manage your message as well as move it if necessary.

7. Blog posts don’t write themselves – Doing the math, I have written and published about 1.5 posts a week. On the surface this looks good, but looking back on early posts – especially those before the social media boom which would have probably been tweets rather than blog posts – there was irregularity and long periods where posts were published and where they were not. It takes a commitment to writing – focusing on actually finishing writing, editing and publishing something. I also like to add original photos to posts, which will take me on a hunt to find the right shot (like the one above at a liquor store – there are worst places to go) and more time. But as I do enjoy writing, it’s also a hunt to find time when I am caffeinated and have thoughts pouring out of my head, as I am as I write this.

Deconstructing Ten Years of Blogging

There are very few things in our lives that we can measure in terms of decades, and I can now count this blog as one of them. For as much work that goes into writing what I share here at The Hot Iron, it is truly something I enjoy doing. This makes the time I have devoted to this labor of love all the more worth it. Feedback from readers rounds out the overall experience, and for that I am also grateful. Now on to post 823.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Stir The Soul

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, November 04, 2016 at 08:08 AM with 0 comments

”photo

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs for winning the 2016 World Series, ending a 108-year championship drought! As a fan of the Boston Red Sox, who ended their own 86-year drought in 2004 – ironically just after I moved from Boston to Chicago – there has always been a kindred spirit between the teams, and I am glad to see them win it all.

As I watched the final out of the game – at home, after leaving the pub where several families and their kids stayed far too late on a school night – I heard the jubilation in the neighborhood of literal screams and shouts. I was happy for the team and Chicago, especially for friends and colleagues – loyal fans who have been waiting for “next year” to finally come.

Though I was happy, I can’t say I was emotional about it. Granted, it was after midnight, but the strong feeling I have experienced when others of my teams – the Red Sox, New England Patriots and even my adopted Chicago Blackhawks – won their championship titles was just not there.

That is, until I saw this. Click on the embedded video below to play it, or click this link to watch the video on YouTube.

The video is from Budweiser and was released on the morning after the game. It is an extremely creative piece, combining modern video of Chicago and its fans watching the game and vintage video and audio of the late legendary Cubs announcer Harry Caray, edited to match the final out of the game. It’s as if Caray was alive today, making the call himself.

This got to me. And I finally felt the emotion I would expect to feel, as I have felt in the past when not only a team of mine won, but for other exciting events in my life.

Why it got to me is not surprising. As someone who grew up in an age before ESPN (interestingly, ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen was a local sports reporter where I grew up before he started the cable network) and the ability to see games all the time, we may have gotten 1 or 2 games a week on TV, but radio was where all games were broadcast. In those days, play-by-play announcers had a much different style than they do today; they were much more conversational, and in the absence of today’s computer-generated bombardment of stats, filled gaps with anecdotes that gave you a broader sense of what it was like to be in the ballpark.

Where I knew about Harry Caray and his antics in Chicago, for me it was Ken Coleman who was the play-by-play announcer for the Red Sox. An older gentleman, his mellow voice was a contrast to today’s announcers, and it was like listening to old Uncle Ken telling the story of today’s game.

To say they don’t make them like that anymore is more than cliché. Where Coleman, as Caray, did not see a World Series for their teams in their lifetimes, it was nice that this tribute to Caray was crafted.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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About My Deconstructions

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 08:19 AM with 0 comments

”photo

When I started writing here at The Hot Iron, the name came from the expression, “strike while the iron is hot.” Though my entry into the world of blogging could be considered more functional than creative, taking burning topics – whether business, technology or personal – and boiling them down was far from anything new to me.

Much thought has gone into the direction of my blog lately, which is one aspect of the thought into my greater self. As I have considered the focus on what I write, I have also focused on how I write, namely in the approach I take with covering a topic. The product of this quest is what I am calling My Deconstructions.

What is a deconstruction? As I write here and elsewhere, I will strive to take my analysis and reporting on a topic and conclude it by breaking it down into essential points and conclusions. In some regards it will be similar to my book takeaways; rather than rating a book I share what I gained from the time spent reading it. In some cases it is a summary, and in others I look back on something I took from it and am surprised I came up with it! The deconstruction may be takeaways, action items, next steps, essential components, revelations or something else I haven't thought of a category for.

Like anything, I have already started writing these and will see how it evolves. As a reader, whether your first time or as a long-time one (and I know there's a few of you out there), I welcome your thoughts and feedback as this new approach appears in my future posts.

Deconstructing Deconstructions

Why shouldn't what I write about deconstructions have one itself? As time is always of the essence, taking the time to make or reiterate the main points from something is always useful to whoever is consuming it. It also helps the reader understand your main points, as you never want to assume someone has gleaned them from reading your work. In the end the reader – you – will say if these deconstructions are helpful, and please let me know in the comments to this post either way.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Nine Years Of Blogging At The Hot Iron

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 12:00 AM with 3 comments

”photoTypically the inspiration for something I write here at The Hot Iron comes from something that impacts me. It could be a conversation I have with someone. It could be a book I read or a product I try. It could be something I experience. Whatever it is, it will drive me to put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – to share it with the people I am fortunate are reading here.

Annually something occurs that I have addressed in various ways, the anniversary of the launch of this blog. With my Hello World post on December 30, 2006, I met a goal of launch a blog by the end of that year, and also launched something that is now entering its tenth year, racking up over 800 posts and over 7 million page hits.

Writing this post is always different from the others. Rather than try to come up with something profound or prolific (or any other adjective beginning with “pro”), I will simply say thank you! Thank you to all who read this and all who have inspired me to write over the last year and years. I have gotten more excited about blogging in 2015, and I am looking forward to more sharing and conversations in 2016.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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”Giving

With the holiday season upon us, and the accompanying shopping season long under way, it's time to take a break, be thankful and support the spirit of the season and participate in Giving Tuesday.

On December 1, 2015, you are encouraged to close the tabs in your Web browser showing the latest deals and open up a Web page for a worthy charity, and allow me to suggest Barrel of Monkeys.

For over 17 years, Barrel of Monkeys has been teaching creative writing curriculum in Chicago public schools and in after-school programs. These programs are offered to elementary school kids and help them not only in their writing but to learn a little more about their creative side. The teachers in the program are also professional actors and improvisors, and they take what the kids write – from a single sentence to a short story – and adapt it into sketch comedy. This comedy is first debuted to the kids in their schools, and throughout the year Barrel of Monkeys puts on performances to the public showcasing some of the best of this inspired comedy.

As a member of the Board of Directors of Barrel of Monkeys, one may say I am biased as to how amazing this organization is, its people and the work it does. But don't believe me – see it for yourself; whether its in one of our performances or hear it from the kids and teachers themselves.

For Giving Tuesday 2015, our goal is to raise $3,000 towards our annual appeal. Can you help? Click the giant red button below and you can make a tax deductible donation online in any amount.

”Donate

If you're still not convinced, watch this trailer for our Giving Tuesday campaign – the actors are our artistic and education directors – showing some of the depth of talent and dedication to the organization.

If you have any questions on Barrel of Monkeys, check out our Web site or share them in the comments to this post, and thank you in advance for your support!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Why I Am Walking In the Chicago Liver Life Walk On June 13 2015

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, May 25, 2015 at 11:48 AM with 0 comments

photo of Mike and his MomThis year marks 15 years that I have laced up my sneakers, grabbed a bottle of water and a few family and friends and walked along a body of water for a great cause in memory of a great person.

In 2001 I participated in the first of what is now called the Liver Life Walk, a walkathon in support of the American Liver Foundation, or ALF. It was literally a few weeks after my Mom lost her battle with primary biliary cirrhosis, or PBC, an autoimmune liver disease that inflicts women. At the time I really knew little about liver diseases, heck about how the liver works in concert with all of your body. Since then I have learned much, including the work the ALF does in research, education and advocacy for the fight against the many forms of liver diseases.

As I have done in the past, I ask you to join me, whether literally in walking with me in Chicago on Saturday, June 13, or by supporting my team, The “A” Team, by making a donation.

It goes without saying what this means to myself and to the cause. Thank you in advance for your support.

Donate to the Liver Life Walk


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Revisiting My Web Site Redesign Checklist

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, May 01, 2015 at 12:22 PM with 0 comments

photo of The State of Your Web Site Web Redesign Checklist

There comes a time when we reevaluate something we are doing. This thing may be an ongoing activity or something is simply still “around” that requires little to no attention, but is something we are aware of. The thought process involved in determining to continue or suspend something can be interesting in itself, and can lead to a go or no-go or a change to what it is we are doing.

Among my seemingly too many projects and activities is something I am still proud of, but wondered if I should keep it out there. About 5 years ago I launched The State of Your Web Site within my former Web consulting firm. It is a checklist of 34 items which I felt are important to the vitality of a Web site. As I later wrote in a post about the process of creating it and naming it, a lot of work went into it. That being said, should I still keep it out there in the Internet eye?

The evaluation process boiled down to 2 points – 1 for and 1 against it. The con is the amount of time that Is needed to keep something like this current, as tools and technology and trends are always evolving and changing. As it is almost 5 years old now, there are some parts of it that are in need of updating. The pro, however, is that people still seek my advice on their Web site, despite that I no longer offer that as a service any longer (if they need someone, I simply refer them to Visible Logic). For that reason alone, I felt it was worthwhile to keep The State out there, and to spend some time to update it and keep it fresh.

Once I made this decision, another “pro” came to mind – this is a good way to keep my own Web skills sharp. As I am still in the profession of building great Web sites and Web applications, to have a “home” for my research and thoughts would be an ideal use for the checklist.

The first step of this process is to do just that – establish a new location to host and offer The State of Your Web Site. This will be the place where, when I review the checklist items and update it, I will post and announce the updates. What better place than right here, at The Hot Iron? Going forward, you will be able to find the latest post on The State at thestateofyourwebsite.com. Right now that link points to the very post you are reading. If a new post had more current information, the link will redirect to it. By clicking on the image at the top or this link you can view the original version of The State – as I said, it came out in 2010, and the list does need some updating, but as you review it you will find some “timeless” items to consider for your Web site.

As I work on updates to The State I of course welcome your thoughts and comments on it – on the list overall to specific elements within it. You can leave them as comments to this post or contact me directly. Your feedback will be vital to the validation of changes to The State of Your Web Site, and I thank you in advance for your time.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Guest Post On The Barrel Of Monkeys Blog On The Big Wedding Gala Fundraiser

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, April 01, 2015 at 08:47 PM with 0 comments

Barrel of Monkeys logoThis past Saturday night, Barrel of Monkeys, a non-profit education arts organization in Chicago, held its annual gala fundraiser. Barrel of Monkeys teaches creative writing to schoolchildren in Chicago, and what the kids write is adapted into sketch comedy and performed by the same actor-educators who are teaching them. It is an amazing program that gets even more amazing results, which is why I am proud to be on its Board of Directors.

The fundraiser was called “The Big Wedding” and was based on a story written by a student in a past creative writing course. A performance of the sketch was part of the event, and it was a not-to-miss event on the city’s social calendar.

You can read my thoughts on the event in my guest post on the Barrel of Monkeys blog. After you read it, I welcome you to peruse the entire Web site and learn more about the entire organization, especially its weekly showcase of sketches, That’s Weird Grandma, which is performed every Monday night year-round (and Sundays for the month of April).

If you have any questions on Barrel of Monkeys, or are thinking of taking in a show, I welcome your questions in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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New Mobile-Friendly Design For The Hot Iron

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 10:11 PM with 0 comments

screenshot of the old design of The Hot Iron

As a regular reader of The Hot Iron, you may have noticed something a little different here, or perhaps you did not. In either case, I’d like to tell the story about the new look to the blog’s Web site, only the 3rd one in its 8 years.

Over the history of this blog my emphasis has always been on the content – updating it as often as I possibly could. As a result I have purposely not put a lot of emphasis on the design of the site. Plus, as many people read the content by email and RSS feed, some may never even see the actual Web site itself at thehotiron.com that often.

Google Made Me Do It

The catalyst for this latest change was as the result of an email I got from Google’s Webmaster Tools, a bundle of services designed to help Web site and their ranking in the search engine. The message stated that the Web pages of The Hot Iron were not mobile-friendly. Google tags Web sites as mobile-friendly on the search results page of a search performed on a mobile device, and does not for those that are not. That was more than enough reason for me to undertake this effort.

More on the actual task of integrating the new mobile-friendly and responsive design is in this post I wrote on sourcegate, a tech tips blog I run that also serves as the test site for all of my blogging technical work.

You can see a screen shot above from my iPhone of what The Hot Iron used to look like. If you are reading this on a mobile device, you can tell it is a lot clearer and formatted towards the mobile browser. If you’re reading this on a PC or Mac, simply resize your browser window smaller to see what it would look like – go ahead, try it!

So what do you think? It is easier to read or does it make a difference to you or not? Your feedback is welcome in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Blogging Guest Lecture At University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh #uwonewmedia

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, February 13, 2015 at 04:54 PM with 0 comments

photo of Mike Maddaloni presenting at UW-Oshkosh

Photo credit: Wilke (‏@Wilke_411) via Twitter

Yesterday I had a distinct honor to guest lecture to college students on the topic of blogging.

I was invited to speak to 2 classes at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh by journalism professor Dr. Sara Steffes Hansen. As part of her classes where she is teaching the students all aspects of blogging, each student is building a real, public blog. What better way to learn blogging than with real-life experience?

As someone who has his own blogs and has built blogs for clients, I have learned on the job about blogging as well as keeping up with trends and changes to blogging over the years. One challenge was focusing on key elements to share with the students and keep it to a brief presentation with time for their questions. Another challenge was that I would not be able to be physically in the lecture hall on the Oshkosh campus, yet deliver my messaging in an interesting and engaging way.

As with my own writing style, I decided to tell the story of how I got into blogging myself and then focus on areas that I felt were important to the students, including the art and science of writing and writing on a regular basis, plus some key pointers about blogging such a sharing and social media integration.

For the presentation itself, I created PowerPoint slides and used technology from Personify to literally insert myself into the PowerPoint presentation so that when the students were looking at the screen they saw both the slide material as well as myself, as you can see from the picture above. As the Personify technology is extremely unique in itself, I'm already writing another post on using Personify and how I was successful in conveying myself, my style and my message to the students remotely – watch for it soon.

I have posted the slides from the presentation to SlideShare and you can link to it here or view embedded below. I kept the slides at a high-level and spoke to the details so that the students did not have to read slides, and by using the unique Personify technology I was able to make that happen very well. If you look at the slides and are wondering about the references to Ernest and Edgar, those are to 2 “other” famous Chicago-area writers, Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Rice Burroughs, as I used them as examples of different approaches to writing.

Thanks again to Dr. Hansen, the team at Personify and the students who asked great questions and shared the presentation on social media. It was great getting back into the classroom and I am looking forward to my next opportunity.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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