Friday, April 13, 2018

just blogging things (about MEDIA!)

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! It's no secret that blogging is extremely near and dear to my heart. I love reading your blogs. And I follow like... wow, so many. I also love writing here too and find the whole thing oddly fulfilling.

After publishing more than 1,000 posts, I've learned a few tips and tricks about the mechanics of creating blog posts. So I thought I'd share!

Spoiler alert, tho: This isn't about SEO or driving traffic or quitting your day job bc you're about to earn so much bank from equestrian blogging sponsorships. Someone else may have those answers but... Yea, it ain't me.

I'm also not going to tell you how to develop your content or target audiences. As far as I can tell, the most compelling blogs to me, personally, are those with a truly authentic voice. In other words, you do you. Write about the stuff you care about. That's really the biggie, imo.

HOWEVER. I *do* have a couple thoughts about making the process of blogging a little more streamlined. Whether for you as author and creator, or for you as reader.

this post is also serving as a vehicle to share some of the last photos Austen got from loch moy. my blog, my rules!
1. Scheduling posts can be a lifesaver. Have you ever accidentally hit "Publish" too soon? Like maybe you meant to preview the post, but clicked the wrong button and then - oops! - your unfinished draft post went live!

That's happened to me more than once, and it's annoying. Like, obviously it's nbd to revert a post back to draft form and republish it later. But feed readers like Feedly and Bloglovin capture that post content the moment it goes live, and then won't reflect any changes or edits made to it (even if you delete your post, it's still on Feedly!).

In fact, unless you restart with a fresh post entirely (and thus a new url, I guess), the feed reader won't capture any changes. And readers who get your blog updates through those sites will be notified of the new post too soon, and will reach an error page when they click through. So sad :(

I avoid this by scheduling my posts in the future. That's the first thing I do when starting a new post. Typically I like to publish posts early in the morning (4am Eastern time) for all the folks (myself included) who enjoy reading blogs as part of the morning routine of coffee and breakfast etc. Kinda like a digital age newspaper haha.

Tho I get that not everybody writes posts in advance. And there's something to be said for sitting down, hammering out a post, and hitting "Publish." Sometimes tho, it's nice to have that extra fail-safe to make sure you don't accidentally hit "Publish" too soon. Even just scheduling the post for an hour later can provide that buffer zone.

sometimes candid photos are my favorite
2. Tracking your favorite blogs with a feed reader. On the subject of feed readers, I use Feedly, personally. I have a section devoted entirely to equestrian blogs and add or remove content as I see fit.

The nice thing about a feed reader is that it captures every new post from the blogs you follow, and can organize them by "read" vs "unread," and "latest" vs "oldest." However you like. That way you never have to miss a post if you don't want to.

Tho let's say you went on vacation and return to dozens (or, uh, hundreds) of unread posts... you can just "mark as read" as you see fit. Similarly, if there's a post you really liked and want to save it for later, there's a function for that too.

Basically, feed readers are one-stop-shops for managing all your favorite online content, and it makes following my favorite blogs much easier! Ooh and the mobile app is really great too.

3. Managing your Media. As a self described media junkie, I often err on the side of way too many goddamn pictures. What can I say, but that I use this space as a digital photo album?

Simultaneously tho, I've often had slow internet. Both as an author and a reader. Nothing frustrates me more than images taking forever to load. So I've learned a couple things over the years about optimizing load times.

this is .... not the first time i've tried to share my beer with a pony haha
also, see below for more detail, but if there's a portrait oriented picture i really want to use, i'll combine two to get an overall image that's landscape orientation. ie, wider than it is tall
3a. Organizing videos and photos on your computer. I transfer all my media from my iphone to my PC before uploading to the blog. I just plug the phone into my PC's USB port, and a file explorer window will automatically open, allowing me to browse all photos and videos.

This is the precursor of the following points, plus helps declutter the phone to free up space.

3b. Optimizing formats for faster load times. Once I've got all my chosen media moved to computer, I reformat pictures to reduce file size - thus improving load times.

For instance, screen shots from video are a super great way to capture all your favorite action shots, right? (esp bc by my estimates, fewer than 1 in 6 blog readers will actually press "play" on videos, so if there's something you really want readers to see, better to have it in picture or gif form in addition to video!).

However, most screen shots (at least on the iphone) are formatted automatically as .PNG files, compared to the standard camera photo that's a .jpg. On my phone, the typical screen cap .PNG file is about 1334x750 pixels and 2.30 MB. Compared to a normal camera .jpg photo that's about 4032x3024 pixels and 2.38 MB.

just this one step makes a world of difference in load times, trust me!
In other words, that camera shot has way more pixels for being about the same "weight" file. PNG files are "heavier" per pixel than a .jpg. These exact numbers may vary by cell phone and camera, but probably not by much.

Meanwhile, if you take that same exact .PNG file with the dimensions listed above, and save it as a .jpg (by opening it with MS Paint or similar, then going to "save as" and changing the file type) it drops to somewhere around 400-500 KB. A much lighter file size-wise. This file will upload faster as you write your blog post, and it will load faster for readers visiting your page. Win win.

Long story short, even if you make no other edits to your images, you can improve your post's load performance by reformatting screenshots into .jpg files.

3c. Creating a visually appealing reading experience / Cropping for effect. In a similar vein, here are more ideas for editing your pictures. This isn't for everyone. I get that. Not everyone cares to spend a lot of time (or, uh, any time) editing pictures. Possibly even reformatting from .PNG to .jpg is too much haha. Which, ya know. Fair. It's your blog, you do you!

Also. Fair warning: What I'm about to say may be blasphemy to photographers and media consumers who value high resolution and crisp focus above all else. Again.... I love a nice HQ photo.... but I love fast load times more haha. So I will sacrifice resolution in a picture for smaller file size any day of the week. Sorry not sorry.

(also, if readers view these images from tiny phone screens, does it even matter anyway??)

original screen shot vs cropped image. both images are the same width, but one is way more visually interesting
Personally, I like all my pictures to be about identical in width to my blog's reading pane. For the format I use, this equates to 575 pixels in image width. I also prefer landscape orientation. It just seems to create an overall nicer, cleaner aesthetic for scrolling down the page.

To accomplish this, I open all images in MS Paint (any similar software will work), crop the image to improve focus on the central subject and remove excess "background", then resize the whole thing to 575 pixels. Bonus is that these reduced-size images are all right around ~100 KB in size. They load super fast!

Then, when I upload the image to blogger, I adjust how blogger sizes the image so that instead of the automatic "Medium" size it wants to present everything as, I tell it to use the "original size."

aaaaaand back to awkward charlie face. bc his goofy expressions never get old, do they haha
4. Getting the most out of videos. As I wrote above, by my estimates fewer than 1 in 6 readers will actually watch a video. That ratio drops significantly if you have multiple videos in a post.

Now again, depending on your purposes you might not care. Maybe you want separate videos for your own records and reference. Or like, maybe you have footage from different classes at a horse show and it makes sense to keep them as separate videos. Totally cool.

Personally, I find that where possible (especially for footage from schooling rides and lessons, for instance), it's easiest for everyone if I combine multiple clips into a single video.

I'm pretty sure Youtube has this functionality, but I use Microsoft Movie Maker, a free software on my PC. It's easy to use (for instance, this is how I add captions to dressage tests) esp bc I already move all media from my phone to my computer.

Plus, this software gives you the option to save the file in different formats. Again, in the interest of optimizing upload time (in this case, uploading a video to Youtube on my slow ass internet) I save my videos as 720p. This still technically qualifies as "high quality" (thus not degrading the viewer's experience) but is also wayyyy faster to upload than the default 1080p.

Plus, let's say you've got a video that you think is super awesome, but there's one particular moment in it that you really want to force your readers to see immortalize on your blog. Perfect fodder for a gif, right? Especially if it's about 7 seconds or less. If you create this clip in Movie Maker and save it as that 720p format, it'll upload to your gif-maker of choice wayyy faster.

don't say i never gave you anything! lolol....
On that note, I have been using Giphy lately as my go-to. I prefer to download the finished gif from the website, then upload it to my blog. Tho they also offer an embed function too, but I find the reliability of that embedded gif declines over time. Meaning, a couple months down the road that gif might not work any more.

Whereas if you upload it to your blog it'll stay in your photo archives for whenever you feel like you just reeeeeally need that gif of Emma getting bucked off of a pony named Krimpet. Ahem.


***

So. For all you media junkies out there who are trying to get all the pictures without all the slow loading, hopefully some of this has been useful.

Or maybe you have other ideas or tips or tricks (or pet peeves?) that I left off the list? Are there other apps or software that you use? Have you discovered anything that made blogging way easier?

Or maybe you don't really get into all these details and prefer to just bang out the quick and dirty post? Or maybe you're appalled by some of the primitive ways (hellloooo MS Paint!) I go about editing media??

41 comments:

  1. Your MS Paint skills amaze me! 😘

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    1. Yo I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish but {MS Paint} had one of the best {photo edits} of all time. Of all time!

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  2. You do all that in paint? I didn’t know that could be done. I’m so computer illiterate. Basically I use the word press app to write the content and upload media.

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    1. Yea I mean there ain’t nothin wrong with that either!

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  3. I MAY (don't judge) watched you fall off ten times in a row LMAO! :)

    thanks for all this, I usually schedule but once in a while I sit and write and hit publish.....but I am no professional blogger :) HA HA HA

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    1. Lol that krimpet gif is solid gold tho, right??? Now THAT is what blogging is all about. Screw the mushy sentimental stuff and give us some epic fall media lolol

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  4. Great tips! Especially about the Gifs... I have a new source of media on it's way to me right now ;-) So I am hoping to have a lot more video on my blogs. using Giphy would be a great option.

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    1. giphy is great - the only thing that bugs me about it is the processing time. and sometimes, if your clip is too long and the file ends up too big, it'll downsize it without you realizing it. so by the time you've created the gif, downloaded it, and uploaded it to your blog, you'll realize it ended earlier than you intended. tho using movie maker to save the clips as 720p instead of 1080p helps a lot!

      can't wait to see your new media source !!!

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  5. I do literally none of these things because I'm disorganized and fly by the seat of my pants 110% of the time. CHAOS, TOTAL CHAOS.

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    1. lol i know at least part of your statement isn't true - you create and post gifs all the time!

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    2. Yeah but I upload the videos to Vimeo from my phone and then just go to giphy and have it pull the video from the link to create a GIF. The lazy way!

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    3. lol i guess we all define "lazy" differently. some might argue that taking time to upload and create literally any media at all for blogging about ponies on the internet might be.... a touch extra haha.

      the way i see it, however folks want to go about creating interesting and engaging content - all the better! for folks who struggle with storage and internet issues, i've provided a couple ideas for getting around that ;)

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    4. WHAT DO YOU MEAN, SOME PEOPLE AREN'T SOCIAL MEDIA WHORES???

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  6. I can barely find time to sit down and scribble out my disorganized thoughts on a (semi) consistent basis, so I have no idea how you manage to be this organized 😂

    I'm with Amanda -- all the CHAOS! Lol

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    1. lol fair enough! personally i just don't have the patience to deal with slow load times - so it's worth it for me to find ways to streamline that process esp bc i like to use a lot of videos and gifs. now that you have the pixio some of this might be useful for you too!

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  7. Emma has bloggin’ skillz!!!!! Wooo!!!! On a side note- I tried to schedule a pat once and it never published! Though I swear my blogger clock is off but I have it set to the correct time zone… go figure.

    But seriously though- you’re a blogger pro and thanks for the nuggets of info!! But now I just have to figure out how to do these things… ;)

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    1. ugh nothing annoys me worse than when blogger eats a post or gets all glitchy. alas i have no answers there... and re: time zones, mine is set to pacific despite my best efforts to fix that lol. so go figure....

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  8. It depends on how much time I have to write a post and where I'm writing a post if I do extra steps. A lot of my media is coming from my phone, which is backed up to google photos automatically. I can then import into blogger from that cloud storage.

    If I have actual camera photos or my helmet cam then I'm working on my desktop and cropping and uploading. I should resize the images though, that's a good idea. I just have limited evening time adding in parenting duties.

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    1. lol that's sorta the awesome/overwhelming thing about media now, right? we have so many difference sources of it - so many different little cameras and clouds and links and whatnot.... in a way it's nice to have everything so interlinked, but then it's really annoying when like, the internet goes down and we can't access any of it! anyway tho the resizing thing has been a huge difference maker for me in times of slow internet. it doesn't take much time either, just a couple extra clicks!

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  9. Great post! I tend to do things a lot more manually (create gif's in Photoshop, image cropping in photoshop, etc). But yeah, pretty much the same principles apply. Smaller file size = faster loading = better user experience.

    Also- coming from a photographer's point of view, while I wish all the pics on my blog were high-quality, I am SO okay with grainy zoomed in images over nothing at all. Any kind of image is going to be better than mountains of text without end- because that tends to be where I exit stage right on a blog post.

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    1. definitely agreed that pixelated blurs beat out no pictures at all, any day of the week haha! and yea, for me, faster loading really is the holy grail. and i figure, i could spend 30seconds optimizing a file for faster loading up front, or... ya know.... that same 30seconds over and over and over again whenever i want to load that heavy page on my blog haha

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  10. I love the scheduling of blog posts - makes it nice if I want to sit on it for a few days and re-tweak things.

    As for videos - I post as much as I can, mostly bc it's for me to look back on and review as the year progresses

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    1. videos are the best. the absolute best. except when they take literally three hours to upload, wtf internet.....

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    2. i agree with that! especially when they are only 50 seconds long.

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  11. I think your blog is rad, that is all

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  12. These are great tips! I have a mac, and one feature is a "preview' of the photo. Since I also have a giant monitor attached to my laptop, the HQ photos my Samsung takes get big. Take a modified screen shot and voila! A high-res, low kb file. It works haha. And I use iMovie. It works pretty well! And yes scheduling is great! I used to do that....when I had less things to do and more content to blog about lol. But your blog is awesome! I love reading it!

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    1. yup anything that helps preserve quality in the image while also reducing overall size sounds like a winner to me!!

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  13. Oh man, I miss MS Paint; the mac options are just not as good. Switching to wordpress made my blogging a lot easier. Sometimes I was spending more time fighting with blogspot about a picture than I was getting the post written.

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    1. MS Paint is like.... the most underrated software on the planet i think haha. i find so many uses for it!!! it's like my own version of the buffalo, no part goes to waste!

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  14. I watched the Krimpet gif a million times... One of these days I WILL meet Krimpet though! The question is, will I meet Krimpet or Charlie first... That remains to be seen...

    I'm just happy when I get a post out. Occasionally they're scheduled, but mostly they're written AT work so... Oops. If I could write more at home, I'd schedule more.

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    1. april 21, girl! no excuses!!! if i'm dragging charlie's pitiful ass out there, you better be there too!!!!! michele will never forgive you if you miss out, probably! (ok i'm sure she *would* forgive you, but is it worth the risk????? lol)

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    2. Don't worry, my plan IS to be there, but I don't exactly want to jinx horse soundness... I mean, Charlie has enough issues... right? So everything is tentative... And I haven't actually been on Batty since... the day after Thanksgiving... Maybe I'll lunge him today? I'm going to be away Sunday through Wednesday for work which makes thinks worse and have a musical tomorrow so I can't ride then either... Life doesn't cooperate, does it?

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  15. Starting with Feedly and will begin experimenting with other stuff. Thanks!!

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  16. Should I mention again that Mr pony should become a hunter! Lol I am open to taking him..... Just saying lol

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  17. Congrats on 1000 posts! Also totally hear you on the picture size - I've been trying to move pictures off an old laptop that are all like 1 and 2 mb each and it's been a total pain in the ass haha. Small is better! I'm thinking about trying feedly... I love my wordpress reader but when I'm on my phone I can't comment on the blogger sites I follow unless I open them up on my browser (like now lol) so if it could fix that it'd be super helpful!

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  18. Ha ha I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't click on videos. I also do not have your (admirable) devotion to resizing images but I spend an UNHOLY amount of time taking and editing media. I'm a weirdo who mostly does that on my phone then, then I just back up to google photos and directly upload to ze blog. I'd like to be better about gifs. Maybe I will make an effort this year.

    Probably not. Ha.

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  19. This is a lot of fantastic information in one place! I love the point about scheduling way into the future to avoid accidental publishing.

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  20. I love this! Also, I agree that giphy is the best and I love the ability to include video in short clips :)

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