Nagoonberry

This world. This place. This life.


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How I curate UU content

Sometimes we develop our most useful skills without conscious intention.

I’ve always been a reader, and I’ve always been that friend who says, “Hey, I found this thing you should read.”

I never thought that would turn into something I felt called to do—much less that it has a name.

Almost three years ago, UU World magazine invited me to edit The Interdependent Web. My editor gave me freedom, support, and the opportunity to practice curation, week after week.

Here’s a window into my process.

  • Curation begins with love. This is demanding work, and passion sustains it. I care deeply about helping Unitarian Universalist voices find larger audiences. If you’re thinking about becoming a curator, choose something you love, because you’ll spend more hours doing it than you can hope to be paid for—if you’re lucky enough to find a curating gig that pays money; many people are giving away this kind of work.
  • Immersion is essential. A curator cannot expect to occasionally dip her toe into the waters of her subject. I spend hours, not just reading UU blogs, but also participating in UU forums on Facebook. As Unitarian Universalist content becomes more diverse, my daunting task is to follow it wherever it goes. Blogging is the area of UU content where I’m most comfortable; I’m hoping that some of you may begin curating other types of content—video, design, music, etc.
  • Gathering sources never ends. When I began reading UU blogs, Philocrites’ Guide to Unitarian Universalist Blogs was a great resource. Soon I learned about UUpdates, and taught myself how to use Google Reader. Once I began editing The Interdependent Web, my Reader was no longer just a few favorite UU blogs; instead I collected an exhaustive list of every single UU blogger I found. When Google retired Reader, I switched over to Feedly, where my “All UU Bloggers” folder has 391 blogs at last count. And I’m always looking for more. Are you a UU blogger? Do you suspect I don’t know about you? Introduce yourself . . .
  • Scanning and saving are the first steps each week. At this moment, there are seventeen new posts in my “All UU Bloggers” folder. I won’t read all of them. I’m looking for headlines that grab my attention. What grabs my attention? Specificity. Responses to other bloggers’ posts. Humor (including snark). Something that grabs my heart. A clear connection to Unitarian Universalism. Good writing (yes, that matters, even in your post titles). A great track record as a blogger. Anything that catches my attention earns a little green Feedly bookmark, which puts posts into a “Saved for Later” folder.
  • Reading and reducing is where the work gets hard. Eventually, I have to read all those “Saved for Later” posts. Beginning each Wednesday, I review what I’ve saved, and compile the best posts. My goal is around fifteen pieces of content, sometimes more, sometimes less. That means a lot of culling. Some weeks I wish I could send out apology notes to some of the bloggers whose excellent posts just don’t make the cut.
  • Arranging and distilling are the last steps. I could just list the best fifteen posts, images, videos, etc. But good curation is more than that. I look for intentional and coincidental conversations between posts, images and videos. I look for natural categories. Sometimes things get shoehorned together, and other times there are beautiful juxtapositions.  The format of The Interdependent Web—at least for blog posts—is “introduction, pull quote.” I usually arrange, then find the quotes, then write the intros, but not always in that order. It’s a great format, but it’s very blog-centric, as is most of my process. That’s the growing edge for me—tweaking this process so I remember to look for and include images, videos, tweets, Facebook conversations, Pinterest posts, etc.

Since August of last year, when I returned to The Interdependent Web from maternity leave, I have done this work while also adjusting to life as a new parent. Liesl comes home early on Thursday night to watch Willa while I put the finishing touches on the column, but for the most part, curating fits well into the daily schedule of a stay-at-home mom.

Did I answer your questions—or create more?

I’d love to hear from you about how you’re coping with the deluge of content that social media generates. Do you opt out? Are you grateful for your friends who help you choose what to read? Or are you, like me, the friend who says, “Hey, I found this article you should read”?

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I’m still plugging through the WordPress Zero to Hero project with my buddies from the UU Blog Incubator, but most of the assignments have been behind the scenes.

Today I’m working on the assignment from Day 19: publish a post using a format you’ve never used before.

I’m playing with the quote format, and it will be interesting to see how it looks. I wish I’d thought to use it for yesterday’s post, which included an extended quote from a Facebook conversation.

Here’s a quote from fellow Zero to Hero Blogger and UU, Justin Almeida:

I’ve come to identify that “wisdom” is taking what I know, and letting that knowledge be guided by my heart. However, it’s not just a one way street. It’s also taking the passions of my spirit, and running those intense feelings and emotions through my rational mind. In all the decisions I’ve made that have been positive and constructive, I had taken the time to let my mind and spirit have a conversation about my actions.

I’ve just previewed this page, and it looks to me like the Yoko theme doesn’t do anything special with quote formats. A block quote still looks like it would in a standard format post. And I don’t like the way Yoko does block quotes. It uses a different font, and the text is larger. It doesn’t look good, IMO.

I suspect that if I purchased the upgrade that lets me play with fonts, I could fix this, but I’m not planning to do that. For now, what works is what I did yesterday: italicize the quote, and indent. This non-designer thinks that looks much better.

What do you all think? Do you agree? Disagree?


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Zero to Hero, Day 13: Blogroll

Today’s Zero to Hero assignment is to build a better blogroll. I did some of that when I played with widgets and themes. The new theme’s right columns looked really cluttered (still does, a bit), so I created a page, just for links. I also trimmed the links list down to size.

The big news is that I’m thinking about creating a guide to UU blogs; my Feedly list of UU blogs is nearing 400, and people often ask who I follow.

The great Philocrites used to maintain a Guide to Unitarian Universalist Blogs, and UUpdates is a great place to follow most of the UU blogosphere. I’m hoping to recreate something like Philocrites’ list—clustered into types of blogs, with a short description of each one.

Don’t hold your breath, though. Most of my writing these days happens while Willa naps, or late at night.


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Pens and notebooks

I have a recurring pattern: when I recommit to the writing life, I buy new pens and notebooks.

I tell myself that to be a writer, I need the right tools. That without the right tools I cannot write. That I cannot write until I have the right tools. 

I’m in a pens and notebooks phase right now—the blogging version. The Zero to Hero project has focused my attention on widgets and themes and Facebook Pages—all good, all part of gathering an audience.

But without writing, why bother gathering an audience?

Today’s Zero to Hero assignment is to leave three comments on blogs I enjoy. And I’ll do that later, while Willa’s napping. But now, while I’m finishing my breakfast, and Willa’s watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, it feels good to write.


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We’re in a stretch with Zero to Hero where the tasks don’t generate posts. If you look closely, you’ll see a few changes here—a shorter “About” page (with more coming), links moved to their own page, new widgets, the new Yoko theme, etc. Lots of growing and learning growing happening behind the scenes!

Again, many thanks to Christine Slocum for her leadership.


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Zero to Hero, Days 6 &7: New and Improved

Compiling The Interdependent Web makes my Thursdays busy, so yesterday’s Zero to Hero post didn’t get written. Here are the assignments for yesterday and today.

Day 6 assignment: publish a post that includes a new-to-you element.

As I wrote earlier, I need a haircut. A poll is a new-to-me element, so I think I’ll have you help me decide what to tell my hair stylist!

I’ve also been thinking about coloring my hair. Sometimes it’s a craving for a wild color—a streak of red, green, purple, etc. Other times I just want to cover the gray, so I don’t look like Willa’s grandmother. I’m not great at maintenance, so maybe subtle highlights are the way to go.

Thanks for your advice!

Day 7 assignment: create and upload a simple header, or test out a few different backgrounds.

When I changed the theme to Yoko, I chose a placeholder photo, but it didn’t feel just right. Yes, I love McCarthy, where the photo was taken—and where I participated in a very helpful writing workshop. But the photo of airplanes is more about Liesl than it is about me, and this is my blog.

Here’s the placeholder image:

mxy

After a tour through iPhoto, I chose the image you see now in the header. It’s what Girdwood often looks like.

This world. This place. This life.


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Zero to Hero, Day Five: Love Your Theme

Today’s assignment: try out at least three other themes — even if you’re happy with the one you have. Include at least one you would never think of using.

This task is both fun and difficult.

I love clicking “preview” on a theme, and watching my blog transform. It’s a chance to play with possibility, to stretch, to imagine—without any real investment.

I didn’t really plan to change anything.

I like my theme. I worked hard at it—a while ago. The header is a photo Liesl took on a whale-watching boat tour. I like the green accent color.

It’s comfortable. I don’t feel like changing it. Particularly since Liesl and I are looking at big changes—changes that might mean a new blog. New context, new blog.

But maybe I need to do just what I don’t want to do. Just what I don’t feel like doing.

For the past few months I’ve needed a haircut. I feel so much better when my hair’s freshly trimmed, but I haven’t made time. Inertia. Well, and mamahood.

But what a boost it will give me once I find the energy and get it done. And I’ll need that energy for the changes coming our way.

So maybe my blog needs a makeover. Maybe the snipping and trimming and reorganizing that comes with a theme change will give my writing—and my life—a bit of zing.

yokoAs I looked through the theme library, the only one I liked was “Yoko.”

Yoko. Someone who disrupted the comfortable, dared to change what everyone liked, made something new.

Sounds about right.

 

Photo by Earl McGehee, used under a Creative Commons license