June 11, 2019

A small correction...and a roadmap of sorts

I'm going to start by correcting a bit of revisionist history I expounded in my first post. About a third of the way in, I made the comment, "Shortly after EBW wrapped up, so did the blog." It turns out that wasn't exactly correct. Even with a mind as sharp and nimble as mine (editor's note: good place to insert something moronic like, "big league brain"), the details from seven years ago are beginning to blur around the edges. It felt like my timeline was off so I went back to the source.

I pulled a 2012 site backup out of OneDrive and did a local restore. Yes, it would have been far easier to just hop in the Way Back Machine, but that idea didn't cross my mind until just now. Hindsight. It turns out my final blog post was, "Eugene Beer Week Starts Tomorrow!" An entry posted May 6th, 2012, exactly one day before the start of EBW. So, it appears my blog did not wind down alongside EBW as I initially remembered. It abruptly stopped on the 250th post, the evening before. There we go, record set straight. I feel better.

The point of this post was to share some of the planning that went into the relaunch of this blog and a peek at things to come. As I mentioned in my initial post, I've had several failed starts over the years. Each one went (more or less) like this:

    (receives email)
    "My domain renewal!"
    "I was just working on a blog post, this is a sign I should finish it." (opens OneNote)
    "Oh God, that was a year ago!"
    "What was I even working on?" (checks OneNote more intently)
    "A half written review for a beer I don't remember?" (continues checking)
    "That it, nothing else?"
    "OK, looks like I starting over from scratch, idea time." ([scribbles|types|taps] frantically)
    "Alright, that looks good. There's at least a week of topics."
    "Now I just have to write them...and start thinking of ideas for the next week...and..." (crickets)
    "I know! I'll start with a beer review...and might as well turn on the TV."
    "Hey, a new episode of Teen Titans Go!" (closes OneNote)
    "Wait, what was I doing?" 

A talented writer would say something inspiring like, "just start writing and the words will find you." Only, being a talented writer they would phase it more eloquently. Unfortunately, I am not a talented writer. I tend to just hack away at my keyboard until the word vomit starts taking the shape of semi-coherent thoughts. From there it undergoes additional forming and bending until I arrive at something readable. Never great, sometimes good, but usually readable (editor's note: glowing endorsement!). And herein lies the problem. It takes a lot of effort to get an idea out of my big league brain (editor's note: that works!) and into that aforementioned readable state. So, the thought of having to do that time and time again with no clear direction posed a huge challenge to my relaunch. Knowing my limitations (and penchant for distraction), I made a conscious decision this time around to initially focus on mapping out a sustainable content strategy, not spewing out half-formed ideas.

First, I reassessed my blogging focus. Previously, this was craft beer, with a hyper-focus on Eugene, Lane County, Willamette Valley and outward from there. I also wrote, with much less frequency and fanfare about coding, usually something related to web development. Those that subscribe to the theory of niche expert blogging would point out that I missed the mark on both. One niche was far too specific to ever attract a wide audience and the other was far to broad to actually be a niche. This was easily confirmed by my Google Analytics scores. One thing I did seem to get right on the first go-around (editor's note: by complete luck) was content serialization. I'm not going to spend a lot of time explaining serialized content, you all know how to Google. Serialization works because people like things they are already familiar with, already invested in or able to binge. This is why it's a big deal in my house when a new Dog Man book is released or a new season of The Great British Bake Off airs or the morning newspaper arrives with the next Sally Forth comic strip. Again, turning to Google Analytics, my highest ranking posts were those that were beer-related, not hyper-local and part of ongoing series (Adventures in Homebrew, Going Nano, etc). Using this information, I planned out my broad, overarching themes (blue) of the relaunch: beer, blogging, IT leadership and technology. With that set, I then developed specific categories (green) and individual topics (brown), each representing an opportunity for serialized content over a long period of time.

Beerandcoding Mind Map

Looking at the mind map, you may notice the lack of beer and the near non-existence of coding. And immediately following that, you may ask, "Why keep beerandcoding.com if you are taking the blog in an entirely different direction, wouldn't a new domain make more sense?" Another great question. It also happens to be the same question my partner asked last night. I don't believe my meandering reasoning did anything to convince her, but maybe I'll have better luck with you. In my mind, this blog is a meta example of serialization. We are starting chapter two. I'm not worried about duplicating chapter one, but I do want to continue the story.


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