Quick Update on My Blog Design and Format

Scott Fillmer Blog Update Design and Portfolio

First of all, I’ll say right off, I’m not a big fan of blogging about blogging, but sometimes I do it just to organize things out in my own mind as well, that’s what this is then. I hear it all the time, if I get a better, newer, and more fresh looking design, I’ll blog more, but that rarely happens. It’s like waiting to do something until the circumstances are just right in your mind, and often times, they never will be. That said, I do think there is a hint of truth to those statements, so over the weekend, after (literally) years of searching, I found one of my favorite customizable WordPress.com designs called Portfolio. So I wanted to make three quick points below today about my world of blogging.

A Little About the Versatility of WordPress as a Platform

WordPress is such an extremely versatile platform. Over the course of 10+ years now, this site has developed into far more than a blog to me, and much of that has to do with the ability that WordPress.com and WordPress.org (there is a difference, see also WordPress Self Hosted vs WordPress.com Hosted Blog Pros Cons :: Review), gives its users. As I have said many times over the years, your blog can be far more than just a place to type a few sentences, you can do that on Facebook. I really have such a narrow view on digital world design and organization, much of which I actually owe to my son and his design abilities, that nothing really ever quite fit my perfect balance of minimalist design, good typography, ability to showcase photography and writing, and so on, but this finally comes close.

A Little About Blog Purpose and Site Organization

Over time, I have begun to heavily filter what I placed on my blog, and what I write on my blog, much to my own dismay. To keep this creative avenue alive in my mind, I actually went to a few anonymous blogs, which as of now, I have combined and imported into this blog, with the intention of continuing those posts alive over here, even if they are trivial, unpolished thought, or just a photo with some comments. These other two sites were specifically for unpolished writing and photos. The writing site was writing only, no photos, and was called Religitic Writing at Religitic.com, which can now be found here under the Religitic tag. The other was photos with only a caption, or a short story, and those are now located in my Gallery and Stories section.

With this new design, I have created a front “home page,” which is a landing page for some featured posts. The rest should be self explanatory by following the menu at the top, but I have a “blog” link now that takes you to the chronological list of posts on my site. I redesigned and updated the About Page and some other organizational things, which hopefully will make navigation cleaner.

A Little About My Intentions Moving Ahead

Throughout the time I have spent on my site I have tried to keep a consistent collection of content, or to remain true to my personal mission statement if you like, and my focus will continue to be for that end. I started this overhaul to my blog earlier in the year (sorry to my RSS readers who are constantly being bombarded with old post updates), and I now see it will probably take the rest of the year to complete. Because content is king, and always has been, that will be the other focus on the future of this site. This means I really hope to continue posting new stories, gallery items, and text only content on various topics that are a little less filtered.

I recently told someone that they really can’t personally create a blog or website anymore where the content was duplicated in another place, or worse yet, just repeat and repeat the same message yourself. So if you can’t be successful in creating content someone else hasn’t already created how can you create anything unique? The answer if you. You are the only you God created, and you are unique in the entire universe. So the only content that is truly unique, is content of your very own, content from your own life, your learning, and of course your own experiences (because they are always different than someone else). And that is what I intend to continue to do here on this site. Create unique original content from what I call life.

If you have a blog, send it my way, I love to read blogs that are personal, unique, and provide some type of value to the world by self expression in life.

Do We Publish Anything With Meaning and Longevity Today?

Edwards Sermons Publication

How much do we write that has meaning and longevity today? While we aren’t, and can’t, all be Mark Zuckerberg (see Mark Zuckerberg and the Biblical Meaning of Success), it got me thinking about the value (and noise) we add when it comes to our photos, videos, and  our writing today. Much like photography when the digital camera boom happened, there was a flood of “uncle Bob” photographers that rushed on the scene, flooding every corner of the Internet with second rate photos. Now 10 years later, photographers, pros and amateurs alike, are adding a staggering 200 million photos to Facebook PER DAY, or around 6 billion per month, and that’s just Facebook, Flickr from February and March 2012, has reached the pace of 1.8 million photos a day, that is up to 28 photos per second in peak times. Same goes with video, YouTube is now receiving 72 hours of video uploads per MINUTE, and I’m sure the same goes with the music industry.

So what about writing? WordPress (the blogging platform of choice for many writers and bloggers, added 937,374 new posts, 1,492,356 comments, & 197,044,567 words TODAY on WordPress.com, which doesn’t even include self-hosted WordPress blogs making that number about double. When you add Twitter in at something in the range of 300-350 million tweets per day, you really start to see the massive amount of data we put out each day. Perhaps volume of information written degrades the overall quality of our writing? Would someone who wrote in the 15-17th century have actually had an advantage to writing in the 21st century? Less noise, less Tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, Instagr.am-ing, etc, would probably have given Calvin or Luther more time to write, and write well, right?

This morning I received a notification from the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale that Wipf & Stock Publication has released previously unpublished writings of a series of sermons preached by Jonathan Edwards between 1737-1738. Here is a man who wrote profusely when it couldn’t be done on a computer. He had to write by hand, and even at that often times he didn’t have paper and had to use any scrap he could locate. In fact, he wrote so much that a whole team and museum of people are still sifting through his writings, trying to compile them into volumes. I wonder how much he could have written in the 21st century world. Maybe it would have been less… and not nearly as inspired as it was?

Searching Out the Reasons for Writing Religitic

This is my first actual post on this blog, so titled Religitic, in a while. The title I chose years and years ago for the life we Christians sometimes lead, one that is partly spiritual, partly heretical, and often mostly hypocritical. Therefore, I combined heretic, and hypocrite, with religion and got Religitic. The walk of any believer should be filled with trying to remove the “ic” and add the truly “religious” part, but the word religious today is as dirty as any cuss word we can use.

This blog, domain, and twitter account, was created years ago, but I am just now getting around to working on some of the content. I find myself more and more frustrated with things in our culture, our society, aspects of work, and other things that just make up life. I created this blog called “Religitic” a while back in the hopes that some day I would just start writing in a much more unfiltered way than I do on my own personal blog that has all the bureaucratic filtering of a life involved with office politics, religion, and people’s feelings. It never really happened that way, but I did create a sub-section over here with the tag Religitic, based on writing as described here, a little less filtered and polished.

I find myself so often writing with such a filter that I can’t even say the things I really want to say, not out of a fear of offending someone, but more out of expectations I have created on my other blog. The intent for this was to be able to write without as much of a filter, to generate ideas, passions, and work out my understandings of different topics.This blog is going to be filled with partial thoughts, politically incorrect ways of thinking for our society today, and theories or theologies I haven’t fully understood enough to talk about yet. It will not be filled with photos and fun, but it could be filled with posts from my personal journal, my daily devotionals, or just short ramblings. Hopefully so I can learn, and put my polished work on my main blog. I will still be writing everything from the basic worldview I hold… or that of a protestant orthodox believer in Jesus Christ as the single one and only savior of humanity. If you are looking for polished theologies and fully vetted work, look elsewhere, this won’t be the place.

Please Welcome My Nephew to the World of Photo Blogging

Jacob Marchio Working on His Blog

I’m so excited to see my nephew, Jacob, starting his first blog, so everyone please jump over to his newly created blog at www.JacobMarchio.com and add it to your reader or leave him a nice comment on his first post. After saving up and getting his first Digital SLR camera, a Nikon D3100 (see the post here where we went to pick up his camera), he quickly realized that he wanted a place to post his photos other than his Flickr account page where it is sometimes hard to write in a whole lot of detail.

At this point I have helped a lot of people setup a new blog, but I am not sure I have ever had someone this excited about getting started. His blog will generally be posts about his photography and his interest in astronomy, and for his age, he is quite a talented photographer and astronomer. I am really looking forward to seeing how his blog develops over time, I hope you will check it out from time to time as well and give him some nice encouragement along the way.

Is True Christianity Represented on CNN, Discovery, and History Channel?

CNN Belief Blog

Can we really know the true meaning of Christianity today? The answer of course, is an emphatic yes, of course we can, but the answer always seems to change depending on who you ask. Our culture is filled with blogs and news articles like the CNN “Belief Blog” and the Washington Post “On Faith” section, which constantly adjust the meaning of Christianity to suit their own needs, mostly to be politically correct. Make no mistake, these are secular institutions, writing for a single collective purpose and goal in mind, to make a monetary profit. These are businesses, and in business to make money (nothing wrong with that).

These news blogs ask good theological questions like Are Mormons Christians?, because they are hot-button topics, but they often give politically correct answers, ones rarely correct to true Christianity. The Mormon question is a great example, where the press wants to find some way for Christianity to accept Mormons as Christians. If they knew the differences between Christianity and what the Mormon’s say they believe, they would understand why this is just never going to happen (see a good article A Comparison Between Christian Doctrine and Mormon Doctrine). To a learned Christian, Mormons will never be considered “Christians,” even if the Mormon’s say they are, and that is just one small hot topic today of thousands.

I love the Discovery Channel series “Who is Jesus,” and the History Channel’s The Shroud of Turin, but taking serious Christian spiritual or doctrinal advise from these places would be like determining the true meaning of Christianity via the Discovery Channel and History Channel. Sadly, I’m guessing this is where many people in our culture today decide what true Christianity is and isn’t.

The truth of Christianity of course is only found from Scripture, period. If that’s so can a true biblical view also be presented to our culture by means of a secular for-profit company? I think Charles Schultz was one of the first to try and answer that question in our current day when he had Linus read from the book of Luke. After reading another blog post this morning asking “Can we really know the true meaning of Christianity today?”, it made me think… how quickly could you/we/me answer the question? Would the answer come from our deep seeded bias’ we all carry, or would it be a Biblical answer?

There are almost countless ways to answer that question in truth, but here are two quick ways to explain the true and real meaning of Christianity. It’s simple… we make it complex.

  • John 13:35 Jesus says :: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (something also expanded on by Paul in Romans 12:9-21)
  • Romans 10:9-10 Paul says: That is the outpouring of our decision for Christ… “because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved”

Those are just two quick ways to answer that question, there are many more.

A Milestone in Blogging with My 1000th Blog Post :: Poll

Scott Fillmer Self Portrait

Artificial as this milestone may be, this is actually my 1,000th blog post on this blog! I set a goal a few years ago on My List that I wanted to post 1,000 blog posts, and after about 10 years of blogging, I have hit that with this post. When I think about 1,000 blog posts, it really doesn’t seem like that many, but if you do one blog post a day, never missing a day, it would take 3 years to create that many articles. Since I rarely ever posted every single day, it took me about 10 years to produce 1,000 blog posts, most of which came within the last 4-5 years. I’m pleased to have stuck with it this long, and I’m still learning more and more about blogging, writing, and the topics posted here every day.

Since I’m a numbers kind of thinker it is amazing to see what kind of history you can build when you consistently post over an extended period of time. [On a side note: in actuality this works with just about anything in life that you consistently, and continuously work at over an extended period of time. Anything from the compounding of interest in saving money to a consistent walk with Christ, growing in faith little by little, builds up piece by piece to collectively make something far larger than the size of its pieces. The problem with that, and the great challenge to us today in our immediate satisfaction culture, is that it takes time to build something of value, and we don’t want to take the time, or invest the time, to accomplish this. It can’t be done overnight or immediately, it is only achieved through building up over an extended period of time.]

So over time, within the 1,000 blog posts, there was over 1 million spam messages blocked, almost 500,000 words written, over 397,200 individual click-throughs using 3,197 tags, and 2,731 comments made. The busiest day over the past 10 years was October 11th, 2011 when I posted The Challenge of Being Salt and Light in the Darkness from one of the toughest days in Uganda, and the most viewed post ever over the 1,000 posts was (and still is) a review on a damaged kindle screenI wrote years ago. The most commented and heated conversations on this blog came from, what I thought at the time was a rather mild posting of the lyrics to U2’s Hawkmoon, Jesus, I need Your Love, Hawkmoon, which launched into a debate about God, atheism, and homosexuality, which really had nothing to do with the original post in the first place.

With all that said, I would love to know which category is your favorite between the 4 plus 1 of Faith, Photography, Journal, Tech, and then Sidenotes. Just from the traffic I pretty much understand which category the most viewed, but I am always trying to learn more about my beloved blog readers, so I would love for you to chose your favorite category from the poll below.

Even though I have been blogging for 10 years, I am still continually trying to learn how to create the best unique, genuine, and fresh spot on the web I can from my own personal experiences. Thanks to my readers, and everyone who has encouraged me along the way, I put on this shirt today just for you!

WordPress Self Hosted vs WordPress.com Hosted Blog Pros Cons :: Review

Wordpress vs GoDaddy Self Hosted

I know many people will be reading this thinking about if they should switch between a WordPress.com site to a WordPress.org (self-hosted) site, not the other way around. It’s been about a week since I made the switch over from being a self hosted blog (almost 10 years on the WordPress.org codex) to now being a WordPress.com hosted blog, and the move, hopefully the last one I ever make in the hosting realm) has been great.

I had always sorta scoffed at the non-self-hosted WordPress blogs. After all, those were just blogs who couldn’t or didn’t know how to self-host, right? Well, my Rule #29 says I have had a change of heart. I am amazed, to say the least, at the difference between the two options, and while each has their own advantages and disadvantages, WordPress.com has built an enormous community of bloggers based on their hosted platform that a self-hosted blog is completely removed from. This is just the nature of self-hosting, you are on your own, you have full control over all the code, can make any change you want to the php files and so on, but you do give up an incredible community of bloggers.

Below is a list of the fifteen best and worst things about the hosting differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org in no specific order. Which one is best for you would be the one that has fewer cons I would think, but I used a self-hosted (GoDaddy.com) blog for almost 10 years until I found the cons outweighed the pros of letting WordPress.com host my site. After one week on WordPress.com I am thrilled. So if you are trying to decide between a WordPress hosted blog or a self-hosted install of WordPress.org Codex, read through the list below first. Any question feel free to ask in the comment, not a problem.

Pros of Worpress.com and Cons of Self-Hosted Blog

  1. Price, free (this depends on if you pay for custom design, domain, and no ads, which I did, then it’s a wash $90/year)
  2. You do not have to handle any heavy coding
  3. Participation in and traffic from the WordPress.com community like, blogs of the daytags, their reader
  4. Possibility to get Freshly Pressed (Five Ways to Get Featured on Freshly Pressed) (happened here on October 2012 with this post)
  5. No SQL Database and tables to backup or mess with
  6. You will not get hacked, or you greatly lessen to possibility of getting hacked
  7. You will not lose your data, it won’t get corrupted, deleted, or all around messed up
  8. The UI (user interface) or dashboard is slightly better than .org version
  9. You do not have bandwidth limitations, sky is the limit if your blog gets hammered
  10. You don’t have to handle the upgrades to the WordPress.com platform (that is often a pain)
  11. Never any down time (even though GoDaddy says they never go down, “connection to database” comes up)
  12. Extremely fast server response times in loading the site and saving new posts
  13. You don’t have to deal with GoDaddy.com (exception see #8 below)
  14. Custom domain mapping available (this is a must for me, if this wasn’t here, I’m out)
  15. Customization of the CSS code (this one was also a huge deciding factor for me, but #14 and #15 are not free)

Cons of Worpress.com and Pros of Self-Hosted Blog

  1. You do not get as much control over your own site
  2. Only customization you can do is in the style.css file (that wasn’t as bad as I thought either)
  3. No control over the code, can’t customize php files
  4. No control over the robots.txt file (can’t set/change crawl rates)
  5. Seems to be harder to get Google to index your site (verdict is still out on this one)
  6. Can’t use plugins (I thought this would be a bigger deal than it is)
  7. Can’t upload a custom theme, only options are theme WordPress.com makes available to you
  8. You will still need a domain to host files if you want off-wordpress.com file storage
  9. Price, could possibly be cheaper than the “free” WordPress.com hosted if you only pay for Godaddy.com $5/mth host
  10. WordPress.com hosted pushes ads on your site unless you pay $30/year to take them off (this stinks)
  11. No ability to host your own advertising on the site from third party vendors
  12. You don’t have any type of FTP access to your files, can’t download the wp-content/uploads directory (this also stinks)
  13. Self-hosted is complete and total control over all php files, do as you like
  14. Self-hosted is a great learning tool for customizing php code, themes, design, etc
  15. Self-hosted you own everything that has to do with the content, the files are your files

The New Daily Photo Blog is on the .net

I am making my New Year’s resolutions early this year (actually I usually don’t make any but I might this coming year), and one of those is to take at least a photo a day for a year. In the past many years as a photographer I have always wanted to put together a daily photo blog that would consist of, at least, one photo a day taken from the previous day. You probably hear this all the time if you are inspired to advance a creative side of your mind, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If you want to be a better poet, try to write a poem a day, if you want to be a better photographer, take at least one image a day, etc.

So, I have setup scottfillmer.net to be that place. Setup using a custom Tumblr blog, it will serve as a quick single daily photo post, and starting around December 1st (I do my annual things from December 1 to November 30 instead of January 1 to December 31) I will be posting a single photo from the previous day. It will be unique material to that site, not duplicated over here, so jump over there every so often to see what’s going on.

:: This has been moved over to http://mymisc.us

How Do You Make a Maximum Impact on Something?

After using tumblr for two plus years i finally figured out what it is good for, rough drafts or incomplete thoughts. Where my blog is for more polished and complete thoughts, tumblr makes a great place to throw out the unpolished. Below is an unpolished, incomplete thought process of a blog post i am working on right now.

This question above is something i have been thinking about and struggling with for years, perhaps more than a decade. How do you do something that will make a lasting impact, that will make the maximum impact? The short of it is i have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what it is you are talking about, it can be making an impact on anything, your work, missions, an individual, a blog, financially, or playing a video game.

My answer. To make the maximum possible impact you have to make small, incremental, continuous progress towards a stated, or unstated, goal, which continues to an almost unspecified length of time. This is how Dave Ramsey would tell people to build wealth, this is how you build a community on your blog, this is how you make a difference in a person’s life, you do it one small step at a time and keep working at it on a continual basis. What doesn’t work? Doing what i call dart-board ministry. Throwing darts at a board and either doing something only once, or continually changing your methods, objectives, and goals. This is the fastest and easiest way to kill all momentum and progress.

Tribes, We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin :: Review

Catalyst Conference in Atlanta

Catalyst Conference in Atlanta

I have written over 615 blog posts on this blog that span some 8 years from March 2001 until now, and today I am breaking new ground on my blog.  Back at the beginning of 2009 I decided that this year I was going to read more, which wouldn’t be to hard to achieve.  I have never been a big reader of books, although I read a ton of material on blogs, news, and other media areas, but it almost always comes from looking at a computer screen, not paper.  Taking a small amount of inspiration (I say small because I can’t keep up) from Brian on his quest to read a book a week, I thought I would just try to read “more” than I did last year.  So, this happens to be the first book I finished in 2009, and therefore the first review as well.

This particular first book, Tribes by Seth Godin I happen to given a copy by the author during the Catalyst conference where he was speaking.  Naturally I do have some photos of Seth talking about his theories on Tribes just before he gave away 12,000 copies to every person in the arena that day.  I will not have personal photos of each author, but in this case I do.

Tribes, We Need You To Lead Us // Seth Godin

I asked someone who finished this book before I did what he thought about Tribes, and his reaction was lack-luster but interesting.  He said “it wasn’t a how-to book, I didn’t know what to do with it when I was done”.  That was actually a very good description of the book, Tribes isn’t a how-to book, but a book that talks about how we go about being successful as leaders to build a following, or how we can fail at it miserably.

More than about the Internet, yet spawned by the growth of social networking, barriers to building a tribe have been removed and we have basically been set free to build (lead) our own tribe of followers.  In many cases we are already leading a tribe and don’t even know it.  Blogs, facebook, iPhone users, Twitter, or amazing restaurants that only open once a quarter all have followers that need a leader.

Probably my favorite line in the whole book comes down to this: “Change isn’t made by asking permission.  Change is made by asking forgiveness, later.”

Tribes is a great leadership book, a quick read, and Seth follows his own advice in the book at the end when he says:

Give this copy to someone else.  Ask them to read it.  Beg them to make a choice about leadership.  We need them.  We need you.

Here are a few of the highlights I took away from the book

  • Leaders don’t care for the “official blessing” they use passion to lead not threats to manage
  • In every organization everyone rises to the level at which they become paralyzed with fear
  • Heretics are too numerous to burn at the stake.  So we celebrate them
  • Change isn’t made by asking permission.  Change is made by asking forgiveness, later.
  • Religion at its worst reinforces the status quo, often at the expense of our faith.
  • Real leaders don’t care about getting credit where credit is due

If you have a chance to pick up the book I would recommend it, if you know someone who has a copy and has already read it, tell them to read the last page and hand it over.