Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Blogging, Friendship, and Community

News Flash! Bloggers Converge on Vancouver Island!

Originally, that was going to be my title for this blog post. That was way back in late July, when the event actually happened and when I intended to write this post. The weekend of July 19, I had the chance to meet with five amazing bloggers, only one of whom I had met in person before. They arrived in the little window of time in between when I returned from Crete and just before I left on my next amazing summer adventure (which I hope to write about soon -- because, you know, pretty soon it will be Fall).

But maybe the delay has turned out to be a good thing, because as the topic rolled around in my mind during my August travels, it shifted in focus a little. I started thinking about how we make friends, how we deepen friendships, and how blogging is one part of all that.

The Big Event

But first, the blogger meetup.

From left: Donna, Ann, Erica, me (Jude aka Dr Sock), Janis, Kathy
The plan was hatched by Donna of Retirement Reflections, who put her head together with Janis of Retirementally Challenged and Kathy of Smart Living 365. The three of them coordinated a plan for Janis and Kathy and their partners to holiday in Canada this summer, and to arrive in central Vancouver Island in late July. Before I knew it, Donna invited me to be part of the get-together, and then Erica of Behind the Scenery and Ann of The Unretired Life joined in too. Of the six of us, two of us were from the central part of Vancouver Island, one from the south Island, one from a Gulf Island, and two from different places in California.

You might have already read about our gathering. Donna wrote about it here, Janis wrote about it here, Erica wrote about it here, and Ann wrote about it here. Kathy cleverly got us all to write lists which she compiled and discussed here.

Donna hosted the weekend (which stretched into several days). She put a huge amount of planning into it, researching activities and excursions for us to join in with, suggesting accommodations, providing meals, soliciting ideas for blogging discussion topics, and herding cats (that's us!). Thank-you Donna!

On Friday evening, we all went to see Deafaids - Beatlemania, a Beatles tribute band that put on a free concert in the community park.
Music in the Park: From left, Donna, Janis, Ann
Saturday was the more structured, blogging-focused part of the meetup. We met at Donna's house and talked our heads off about blogging through the morning, lunch, and afternoon. Yes, there was wine.

We Talked Blogs, For Hours

Look How Serious We Were














 On Sunday, the gang (spouses too) came over to my place for lunch, a tour of my art studio, Notch Hill Art, and a hike. Fun was had by all.

After Our Hike
Tour of Notch Hill Art















10 Things I Wish I had Known Before I Started Blogging

Kathy asked us to each put together a list of ten things we should have known or wish we had known before we started blogging. (You can read everyone's lists here.) I started blogging a long time ago, before blogging communities were "a thing." Things like differing purposes of blogs and blogging etiquette that seem quite obvious to us now were not so obvious more than a decade ago. I was very lucky to have entered the blogosphere just as the phenomenon of blogging was taking off, and it has been fascinating to see how the practices of blogging have changed. In particular, the development of blogging communities of people who share their ideas with each other has been wonderful to observe.

As a blogger, I've changed too over the years. Kathy published a short version of my list on her blog. Here's a longer version.

First a bit of context. I started a blog 11 years ago to get familiar with the process and technology of blogging, for a work-related purpose. I created a blog to use temporarily as a practice blog before building the actual work blog (which is now long gone). I had no expectation of keeping Dr Sock Writes Here going, yet here I am more than 11 years later, still blogging faithfully 1 to 3 times a month.

1. I wish I had known I was going to keep on blogging for years and years, because then I would have given some thought to my blog's name and URL, which were just some silly things that I pulled out of the air because I needed a name to set up the practice blog. The original Gideon Sockpuppet was an actual hand puppet that I made of a a sock in a puppet theatre workshop when I was a teen. If I can ever find an old photo of Gideon, I'll post it on the blog. Gideon (the actual puppet) was a very opinionated fellow.

2. Once I committed to keeping the blog going, I wish I had given some thought to the purpose of my blog. It has shifted over the years. At various times, it has been a technical learning experience, a way to immerse myself in blogging culture, a writing blog, an art blog, a retirement blog, a chronicle of what I have been doing, and a soapbox for my opinions about things. Presently, it zigzags between all of those things.

3. I wish I had steeped myself in blogging culture a bit before starting my own blog. I had hardly ever read a blog before I started one. But then again, my approach allowed me to do my own thing rather than running with the herd.

4. I wish I had known that there are people out there who actually read blogs. At the beginning, I threw words into the ether with no expectation that anyone would ever read them.

5. I wish I had learned the principle of reciprocity a little faster. That is, if someone comments on your blog, it is polite to respond to their comment. And if a person who regularly comments has a blog, it is courteous to read some of their blog posts and comment if you feel inspired by what they wrote. (If you have time! There is so little time to read all the wonderful blogs in the world.)

6. I wish I had known that bloggers aren't just strangers on the other side of the world, but real people -- people with shared interests -- that you can actually meet in real life. But now I know that!

7. I wish I would have known how much enjoyment I get from regularly reading selected blogs. You can learn a lot about people, their interests and lifestyles, and other places through reading blogs.

8. I wish I had known how much time blogging would begin to take up in my life as I became more integrated into a blogging community. I presently limit how much blog writing, reading, and commenting I do so that I have time for all the other important things in my life, including my other writing, and my real-life friends and family.

9. This is not an "I wish" point, but an observation. I am endlessly fascinated with ordinary people's everyday use of writing, images, and videos on the Internet to represent themselves to the world, express their point of view, interact with other people, and form communities. Blogs are a great example of that.

10. Oops. No number 10.

Why I Blog

Why we blog and persist at it was one of the topics that we kept returning to in our conversation about blogging at our meetup. That is a big question with lots of answers. I think each of us has more than one reason that we blog. Here are a couple of my reasons.

Having a place to write down my thoughts and combine that writing with visual images was what drew me to blogging. The idea that *anyone* could have a platform for publishing that was not blocked by gatekeepers, high costs, and genre rules was appealing to me. Blogs have democratized publishing. I also like the interactive, evolving nature of blog writing.

Another big reason, and the last one I'll talk about here, is that blogging is a way of forming community. This reason brings us back to the theme of this blog post -- friendship and community.

Making Friends; Deepening Friendships

In these challenging times, we need to form communities. We need to make friends and hang onto our existing friends.

In our expanding social world, one's peer group is no longer just the people living on the few streets nearby, but potentially can include people all over the world who share work interests, hobbies, skill sets, or social concerns. It is wonderful that through online technology we can meet fascinating people whom we never would have known in earlier times. Yet, managing a whole world full of potential acquaintances can seem overwhelming. As we turn away from looking for friends among the acquaintances right around us to seeking human relationships through a much broader sphere, the process also can feel isolating.

Making friends means putting yourself out there: being in places where you'll have a chance to interact with people; taking the first step to start a conversation; engaging with someone by doing something jointly together; helping people and accepting help. Writing a blog is a way of putting yourself out there. Commenting on someone's blog is a way of socially engaging.

In the case of our blogging meetup, we took it one step further. We all knew each other to a certain extent because we had read each others' blogs. But because most of us hadn't met in person, there also were lots of things we didn't know about each other. One thing that all have in common is that we blog. The topic of blogging provided a touchstone, a shared focus that we could all weigh in on.

The topic of blogging provided an excuse to get together, just as doing yoga together, or being in a service club with others, or collaborating on a work project, or cooking together with others to prepare a holiday meal provides a way to get together with people and to come to know them better. 

Ultimately, I believe that it is not blogging per se that builds a community or develops friendships. Blogging is just a technology that extends the reach of our relationships. Rather, it is the process of sharing something of ourselves with each other, being there for each other (e.g., reading, commenting, and keeping in touch), and doing things together (in person) and for others that builds friendships.

52 comments:

  1. This meet-up is the gift that gives on giving! I’ve read about it several times now, and always with a slightly different perspective. Thanks for yours. I love the sense of community that blogging engenders. I started writing for my own purposes too, and was shamefully slow to learn about interaction.

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    1. Hi Anabel. Because I had such a long time to think about what this blogging get-together meant to me, I went off on a slightly different tangent. As a researcher, language and communication, along with online education and digital media, were part of my research focus. For a long time, I kept my personal blogging completely separate from my research, but eventually my personal experience as a blogger began to inform my focus as an educator and researcher. Life is funny that way.

      Jude

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  2. Hi Jude! What a wonderful "take" on our get-together. And how great that you were able to put out your complete list of "ten" too. Obviously I was going for shorter versions from all 6 of us. And I also really appreciate how you tied it all into the idea of our friendship and community. As you say, I think all friendships take time and intention and our world needs them now as much (or if not more so) than ever. Wasn't it amazing that even with our differences as people, we were able to come together in such a friendly and easygoing way to make something enjoyable for us all? I will remember our time together (and the chance to celebrate your birthday, your art and one of your favorite walks!) for years to come. ~Kathy

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    1. Kathy, we sure had fun together, didn’t we? It is a relatively recent realization and a big surprise to me that blogging can lead to actual real-life interactions and friendships.

      I’m sorry that I sent you such a long list! As you might have noticed, I’m kind of longwinded as a writer (and silent and retiring in person). The list that I published here is even more wordy than the first one I sent you.

      It was Erica’s birthday that we celebrated that weekend. But never fear, my next birthday is coming soon.

      Jude

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  3. A really interesting post, Jude. This whole blogging thing still continues to surprise me. I love reading all the different perspectives on blogging and on life. You made me smile on how bloggers are “real people - people with shared interests.” You described really well how connections happen between people and the concept of community. And yes, developing friendships. I am surprised how many other things we have in common. Bowron Lakes:) I look forward to hearing about your Summer adventure:)

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    1. Erica, yes, we seem to have spent our lives bouncing around this province just missing each other wherever we go. Prince George, Bowron Lakes, Long Beach, and I think we were at Lake Cowichan last month the same weekend you were there but at a different campsite.

      Jude

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  4. Hi Jude - I enjoyed reading all six posts from Ann, Erica, Donna, Janis, Kathy, and yours on the blogger meetup. I also enjoyed reading why you blog, and your thoughts on blogging, friendships and community. Blogging reminds me of pen pals. Both involve writing, sharing thoughts, and developing friendships that may lead to meetings IRL, except with the internet, I now reach a larger audience in one post and get much quicker responses. I look forward to reading about your summer adventure.

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    1. Natalie, I remember the days of pen pals. It was so exciting to receive a letter from someone far away that you didn’t really know. Those were the days when you looked forward to getting mail. My best friend’s family moved away when I was in grade five, and after that we carried on a lively letter exchange in coloured felt pen, complete with drawings and decorated envelopes. We arranged summer get-togethers, and eventually were roommates at university. We’re still best friends after more than half a century.

      Jude

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  5. Hi, Jude - I love that you delved into the deeper questions of how friendships and communities are developed and maintained in our current world. Very thought-provoking! I have reblogged this post on my site.

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    1. Donna, you’re the gal who made it all happen! Thanks so much for planning and hosting it, and bringing us all together. Thanks for reblogging my post, too.

      Jude

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  6. As always an interesting take on what it means to be part of a community. Connections are part and parcel of blogging, but for some people it takes a long time to reach that conclusion-- if they do at all. Thankfully you've fit right into this world.

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    1. Ally, you’re so right about that. Do you think the reason that people are slow to get the part about connections is because we’ve been trained to be passive consumers of content? Book, newspaper, and magazine readers; TV and movie watchers?

      Jude

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    2. Yes, I think that's exactly what happens. Being passive comes easily while commenting takes effort and makes a person vulnerable. It takes a certain sense of self to be able to comment freely and connect whole-heartedly with virtual friends. Many people cannot or will not do that.

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    3. Hi Ally. Despite the explosion of digital media over the last two decades as a primary way to communicate, I think many people who are in late middle age or who are seniors feel uncomfortable with and suspicious of digital communication. The technology does not come easily to those of us who didn’t grow up with the internet, let alone the concept of revealing personal information to anonymous strangers on the Internet. I am sympathetic with that lack of comfort, but at the same time I love the ways that the digital revolution has opened up the chance to communicate, connect, and have agency in the wider world.

      Jude

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  7. Hear, hear, Dr. Sock! Wonderful that you could all get together. And I so agree that blogging expands the horizons, giving a person kindred spirits all around the world.

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    1. Laurie, thanks for commenting. The world has shrunk due to the Internet, giving us all the chance to connect with people beyond our area of residence. For me, one of the consequences of becoming more of a global citizen is that I have become more aware of the challenges we are facing worldwide and I have developed more of a sense of personal responsibility for doing something to help - e.g., social justice, poverty, global warming.

      Jude

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  8. Great list here, Jude. I know some of my friends in the blogging community better than people in my neighborhood. "If someone comments on your blog, it is polite to respond to their comment." This is huge for me. I've stopped following people who post and then don't interact by responding to comments. The interaction is the reason behind the post.

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    1. Hi Jill. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that we can come to feel we really know someone through their writing. Of course, back in the pre-internet years, couples used to fall in love through letter writing.

      Jude

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  9. Hi, Jude! I love that you've delved into your ten (ummm... nine) "wishes" a bit more. I really like #9, that is so true... it is fascinating how we represent - and reveal - ourselves online.

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    1. Janis, you have Blogger profile! Does it help with commenting on Blogger blogs? I am always so frustrated with poor interface between Blogger and WordPress.

      And, yes, construction of identity on the Internet. Not only can we use blogs to reveal more of ourselves than the surface personas that we may use with everyday real-life acquaintances, but also people can and do invent different personas or avatars for some of their online interactions. Very interesting...

      Jude

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  10. I came over from Donna's site. I think the thing I wish I had known when I started was that I can do this. I would have tried to have been more professional from the start. Tried to take better photos, write better prose.

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    1. Anne, thanks for popping over from Donna’s site. Yes, I kind of shudder when I look back at my earliest posts. But it’s all been a learning experience.

      Jude

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  11. Hey Jude (I can't believe I just sung that in my head as I was typing it :-) )

    Great post! Really resonates with me as I am about to celebrate my 10 year blogoversary. I just added your blog to my Feedly so I will see your new posts. Hopefully we can meet IRL someday soon.

    Deb

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    1. Hi Deb. Yeah, isn’t it amazing that the Beatles wrote a song just for me? (Haha). I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you when you were visiting the Island. I had to bail at the last minute because of a family emergency. But I think I read somewhere on the Internet that you might be moving here?

      Jude

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    2. Can confirm! Looking like mid-2020, if all goes well.

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    3. Awesome! So I will get to meet you IRL after all.

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  12. Hi Jude, your get together sounds wonderful, and I'm happy to say I've met Donna, Janis and Kathy in person before! I had hoped of joining you all this time in Vancouver but foot surgery stumped that idea! I have to giggle at your boy's name...my daughter has a dog named Gideon!

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    1. Hi, is this Terri? I hope your foot surgery went well. A few years ago, I broke a bone in my foot and was on crutches for four months. I had to use a scooter at work. It made me really value my mobility.

      Jude

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  13. Oops, I meant your blog's name (yay autocorrect) 🙄

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  14. Dropping in from Donna's post about this one from you. I know you all had a great time at your get together as I've read some of the other posts about it! You mention Gideon being very opinionated. Is that in person and/or here on the blog? I find that if I'm too opinionated that my readers don't exactly like what I have to say. About reciprocity, there are so many that don't care about it like I do. I comment on posts published by the blogs I'm subscribed to. At times, if their post doesn't interest me then I don't comment. I always reply to comments left on my blog. Lately I've noticed a lot of party hosts don't even bother to approve comments I've left on their post thanking them for hosting the party and do they visit a post I've shared onto their party and at least thank me for linking up? No! By the way, I just subscribed to get your blog posts :)

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    1. Hi Dee. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this. I think reciprocity is important too. I always respond to comments. However, time is a limiting factor when it comes to how many blogs I can follow or comment on. I have a small handful of blogs that I regularly follow and I read those ones faithfully, although sometimes with a delay of many weeks. And then there’s a huge number of blogs that I pop over to read from time to time, and I might or might not comment. Thanks for subscribing to my blog!

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    2. Oh you're most welcome. Yes that how I do too. There are some I follow and never go without leaving a comment for them although it may be a later comment than others...then sometimes I'm the first to comment :)

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    3. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to keep up with all the wonderful blogs out there. There are just too many of them.

      Jude

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  15. I found my way here from Donna's post. I appreciate your thoughtful considerations about blogging. I can relate to much of what you stated, especially #4,5,& 6 and #10 - it seems that there is always something more to discover while blogging. I'm intrigued by your blogging world remaining in Blogger - I started out there, but then switched to WordPress. Do you have thoughts about how to connect outside of one or the other? I can only comment using my Google account, not my blog access. I wonder if that limits readership in anyway for you? My blog is www.quaintrevival.com - I'd love to hear from you and hear your response to my questions. But...I also know how much time all of that takes. I wish you continued joy in your blogging efforts!

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    1. Hi Shelley. Thanks for coming over from Donna’s blog and leaving a comment. I like Blogger. I find it simple and straightforward to use. By contrast, I have heard many WordPress users complain about how WordPress keeps changing elements and adding complexity. Although I know people who have switched over to WordPress, it is quite complicated if you want to keep all the years of posts from Blogger in your new WordPress blog.

      I don’t like the fact that Blogger and WordPress are becoming less compatible with each other over the years. A blog should be open to anyone to read and comment without having to create a profile on every different platform. For WordPress blogs that I regularly read, I used have to enter my credentials once and then the blog remembered me for subsequent comments. But WordPress has changed something in its basic platform so that now I have to type in my credentials in full every single time I comment, which is very time consuming. That is, unless the blog owner has installed the widget “remember me.” Maybe it’s how WordPress is trying to capture more of the market share - making it hard to see, get to, or comment on other blogging platforms?

      Jude

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  16. Visiting you from Donna's blog... I really enjoy this bloody retrospectives. I think you've captured a lot that I've been contemplating too - especially re purpose, changing direction and blog title. My blog was originally a place to capture all of those moments that start with me saying "and anyways..." I love how it's helped me find my writing "voice" and thank it for the people around the world that it's introduced me to.

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    1. Hi Jo. Thanks for stopping by. I took a quick peek at your blog. It is wonderful to meet other writers, and the blogosphere can be a great place to do that. I, too, find that blogging is a way to always be writing, which is important because writing is one of those things that you learn by doing.

      Jude

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  17. Hi Jude!

    What a wonderful post about your meet-up and I think it is a good thing that you took your time (were very busy in August) before writing this one, as it provided for reflection and created a different take about the weekend, a bit later than the others. So much fun you all had. I wish I could have been there! :-)

    Like you, I have been blogging for over a decade and never had a real niche. My first blog "It's Irie" was about our sailing adventures and I started it in 2007. I wrote a post 2-4 times a month, for eight years, to keep our friends and family abreast of our adventures with text and photos.

    I started Roaming About in 2015, once we sold our catamaran and were onto a different lifestyle. Still, no niche, more of eclectic writing about our life on the road and house and pet sitting, expenses, my writing, and...

    We can do what we want with our blogs, but the purpose of it kind of defines its layout, focus, and structure. Like you, the blogging community was a new discovery for me with this second blog and it is one of the highlights. The biggest negative to me is the massive time commitment needed, especially to read and comment to other blogs. I just can't keep up with it, especially when on the road... :-(

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    1. Hi Liesbet. It would have been so fun if you were here this summer again for the blogging get-together. But you have been having a very busy summer of travels elsewhere.

      You’re so right about the massive time commitment to keep up with reading and commenting on blogs. I’m a bad blogging buddy because I don’t keep up :(

      By the way, I have just been reading through all your posts since I last commented on your blog. I haven’t been able to comment though, because comments are closed on all of your older posts. (I just read all the June posts last night.)

      Jude

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  18. I love this post and yet another take on the infamous Blogger meet-up! My blog is still in its infancy comparatively and I am still learning and finding my voice. I enjoy the process, but it is the connections that make it truly worthwhile. It is amazing how quickly we become 'invested' in each other's stories and look forward to the next chapter.

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    1. Suzanne, thanks for your comment. Your point about how we become invested in each other’s stories is so true. I stopped over at your blog and read about your preparations for Dorian. I hope things are ok there with you.

      Jude

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  19. Hi Jude,
    As was said before, this is the meetup that keeps on giving...loved "meeting" you through Donna's brainstorm to get together on Vancouver. I am new to blogging, less than a year, but your list was very relevant to me. I especially liked your last paragraph
    "I believe that it is not blogging per se that builds a community or develops friendships. Blogging is just a technology that extends the reach of our relationships. Rather, it is the process of sharing something of ourselves with each other, being there for each other (e.g., reading, commenting, and keeping in touch), and doing things together (in person) and for others that builds friendships."
    Blogging is, for me, not only a creative outlet but entrance into a beautiful new community of bloggers. I have never met ANY of them (someday!) but have shared so much of myself that I do count them as friends.
    And, yes, this blogging relationship takes a lot of time.

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    1. Hi, thanks for taking the time to comment. At first, for me, it was all about learning how to do the basic technical stuff, like how to post a photo, or how to create a link. I was surprised and delighted when someone actually found my blog and commented, and gradually, as I read many, many blogs on all kinds of topics, I began to return again and again to certain ones and to comment regularly. I think it is a learning process that takes time.

      Jude

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  20. I'm so glad Donna brought me over here. I'm constantly expanding my blogging world in glorious ways, and I include you and your "Socks" blog in that. I had a laugh over your 'wish I'd known' points and how you began your blog with the Socks name. But it's also true that once we get out there, and people find us and read our stories and comment and follow us, well by then it's too late to change a name! I've been told over and over again that my blog should be my full name of Pamela S. Wight (used of course for my published books) but when I started my blog 8 years ago (yup, 8, hard to believe) like you, I didn't know there were a bunch of people out there who would really read my posts and get to 'know' me in wonderful ways. So I sued the name that my creative writing students created: Roughwighting. And now that I think about it, I don't think I'd change a thing. Happy Blogging to you for many more years to come.

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    1. Hi Pamela. Thanks so much for checking out my blog. I love meeting other authors, and of course, other bloggers. I visited your blog and read your hilarious account of your summer vacation at the shore (which, of course, probably did not seem nearly as amusing while experiencing some of those things in the moment, like sitting in a boiling hot, stinky car all day, or having the sink and dishwasher overflow.) Aren’t blogs wonderful for keeping one’s writing muscles strong??

      Jude

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  21. I also enjoyed reading about your meet-up, Jude, and your insights about blogging. I still remember the thrill of the first comment on my blog, and I've responded to every one since then. I visit and comment on as many blogs as I have time to. Like you, I do have to limit myself, or it could become a full-time job. I hope to meet up with all of you in person sometime in the not too distant future. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your summer!

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    1. Hi Christie. I’d love to meet you sometime too. As you know, I’ve visited your blog lots of times, even though I’m not an official follower. I don’t follow anyone by email because in my previous work life, excessive email was one of the factors that contributed to my sense of burnout. I don’t want to replicate that experience now that I am happily retired.

      Did you know that your Blogger profile does not connect to your blog? I was going to pop over there to see what you’ve been up to and couldn’t find a link.

      Jude

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    2. I don't subscribe to a lot of blogs either, Jude, for the same reason. Though I do follow several. Thanks for the information on my Blogger profile. I'm not too familiar with Blogger, but I'll see what I can figure out.

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    3. Christie, as you probably noticed, I did find my way to your blog. I couldn’t remember your URL so I popped over to Donna’s blog and clicked on your WordPress profile on one of your comments there. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

      Jude

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  23. Hello Jude,
    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about blogging as a way to extend friendships and build community. I wonder to what extent bloggers who find this are feeling disenfranchised in their own 'physical' friendship groups or communities? Upon reflection, I think I probably started blogging because some of my friendships were changing and I didn't really feel like I had much of a voice within these relationships. As time has gone on and my circumstances have changed, I think now it's more about having a message to share, and seeking to influence others with my writings.
    Kind regards,
    Jo

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