Remember When Blogging Used To Be Fun?

In the not so distant past blogging used to be something that I enjoyed. It used to be something that I did everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, as well as podcast, develop and find content for our sites. Lately all I do is work on our sites.

It’s not that I don’t like blogging, I love it, but somewhere along the line work encroached to the point that blogging became one more thing and eventually got pushed to the side. Sara feels the same way and by knocking our heads together multiple times we think we’ve come up with a way to fix that. A way to bring the blogging passion back, make all of our sites better and make it all fun again.

Back when we started UrlyBits (which was then called Daily Shite) we were in it for the fun. After time the fun blog we started to share the funny stuff we found on the web started to become work. As it became more popular (and as the money started trickling  in) we saw the potential to turn it into my fulltime job, and, as the money came in and the audience grew we started to feel obligated to post.

Random posts during the day grew into a schedule because we felt that people were expecting content, and in turn, that schedule became an object of stress. That stress wasn’t much at first because we were only doing 5 or 6 posts a day, but then we started thinking of growth.

Growth led us down the path of 9 scheduled posts a day (not much if you think about it, but it didn’t stop there) and as we set goal after goal (10,000 pageviews per month, 100,000 visitors a month, a million visitors a month…) we spread ourselves too thin. Things may have been fine if we stuck with  just UrlyBits but we started launching other sites as well. Some lived and some got killed off quickly because they didn’t perform but each one was more stress.

At this moment, besides our personal blogs, Scrw Media and some random stuff we have 7 main sites that we maintain which require 33 pieces of content everyday. 33 pieces of content will take me about 3 – 5 hours to get together on a reasonable day. On a “slow” day for the internet (or me) it can take considerably longer. Add to the the need to maintain the sites, build community and a social presence, not to mention develop new features and things start to take their toll. It all becomes a but much.

More often than not my 7 am start at on the sites culminates in a break around 5pm when Sara gets back from her day job and then there’s still another couple of hours of work ahead.

Lately I’ve been trying to make it so that Sara doesn’t have to work on our sites when she comes home. As odd as it may sound I actually want to spend time with my wife. I want to have date nights, game nights, bad horror movie nights, spend time and even sometimes just shut myself away and play on the Xbox or learn a new programming language.

I’m not by any means saying that all of this is not possible, heck, I’ve been doing it day in and day out for the past few years, but there is a balance that is quite difficult to find and the resultant stress means that you don’t properly enjoy your “free time” because work is always nagging at the back of your mind.

To quote Bilbo Baggins – ” I feel… thin. Sort of stretched, like… butter scraped over too much bread.”

So here’s the plan to bring to free up some time, bring the fun back to work and blogging and generally make our sites better quality while we’re at it.

1. Cut back on the number of sites.

We’re going to roll 4 of our existing sites together so Unscrwed, Get In Mah Belly (which we hardly touch anymore) and Utterly Cute will all get rolled into being subsections of UrlyBits rather than stand alone sites.

That should allow us to maintain the audience and brand for those sites while increasing the diversity of post on UrlyBits and allow us to provide a more “round the clock” schedule while actually reducing the number of posts that have to be done. The reduced number of posts should also allow us to increase the quality of post as we can afford to be a bit pickier.

Once this is done we should have only 4 core sites to focus on, but that may even be reduced to 3 over time as there is a possibility of rolling Is Viral into UrlyBits as well.

2. More Authors/Contributors/Submissions – Build Community

We have an awesome submissions process in place on all the sites which makes submitting images and videos ridiculously easy and allows contributors to set their links for attribution as well as give themselves credit, but we’ve sucked royal ass at promoting it and building a community that takes advantage of it. This is going to change. Needless to say, a stronger community will actually take some of the workload off of us and bring a lot of the fun back via interaction.

3. No work on the weekends.

There’s nothing worse than working crazy hours all week only to have to work on the weekends, or for me to have to work while the kids are here with Sara. That needs to stop and by scheduling content in advance, better automation, stronger community, I will hit the goal of being able to have the weekends off. I don’t think I need to expound too much upon what having weekends off will mean, but needless to say –  interests, more things to talk and blog about, more time for learning, play and above all more fun.

4. Stop taking ourselves so damn seriously.

Sometimes we forget what we do and get delusions of grandeur. We’re bloggers and content aggregators and we started out doing this for shits and giggles. Every now and we grow a little too big for our britches and take ourselves far too seriously and the community slaps us down in fine style – like recently when we changed to a nice shiny magazine theme and traffic fell through the floor (wish I had read “You just don’t need a magazine theme” first) and were forced to bring back many of the standard blog features of the previous theme. Lets face it, we’re not publishers, we’re bloggers.

Going all “magazine theme” is one of those things that was a result of us taking things too seriously, of feeling like we had to present a professional face instead of the just being ourselves. Well we’re bringing an end to that to and that will be represented in our upcoming designs, attitudes and interactions with our sites and audience.

Going forward things are going to change A LOT on our network of sites and also within our personal lives as a result of these changes.

Just look at the picture of my whiteboards below. Everything written on those boards is either a goal, outcome, or decision made this morning with regards to everything I’ve talked about in this post and many of the action points need far more discussion and planning. You can also be sure that as we discuss these points there will be many, many more goals and action points created for us to execute on.

Once it’s all done there should be far more time for fun, frolics and allowing the passion for what we do to come to the surface… and I think it’s going to be fun getting there.

Whiteboards

Sometimes You Have To Take A Break

Things have been massively hectic lately mostly because of our own grandiose plans to slowly but surely dominate the internet (don’t laugh it might happen someday) with our little network of sites.

As some of you may, or may not have noticed we’ve been rolling out a new design to all of the sites lately, which is a precursor to the even bigger job of bringing them all in together under the one banner. The goal is to have all the sites running as one integrated sited but with each section still maintaining it’s own personality and domain, but being closely integrated beyond what something like WordPress multisite offers. It’s going to be a challenge, and it’s one that is already testing my patience as well as proving that no matter how well you plan something, you can still overlook the obvious.

Take the new design for example. I’ve been slowly rolling it out to each new site with a couple of days in between each for tweaking etc. Even after testing the design in emulators, and actually poking around it using a friends iPad, I still managed to miss a fundamental flaw which was that the main share buttons are off the side of the screen on tablets with low resolutions (1024 or less). I didn’t notice this until today, in excess of 100,000 mobile pageviews later!

Needless to say there was a panic to get extra share buttons worked into the design today so that it would work well on tablets, but not be obtrusive on desktops and laptops.

Our mobile theme is another thing that needs addressing, but don’t even get me started on that. Although if anybody has any recommendations (we’re currently using WP-Touch) feel free to drop them in the comments.

Still, the past few weeks haven’t been all back the wall work. We’ve had some brilliant times and made some awesome memories with friends as we’ve been entertaining quite a bit and making the most of the space offered by our new home. I’m sure nobody will forget the St. Patrick’s Day party anytime soon ;)

Anyway, once the theme roll-out is done I’ll get started on the big integration and then life can get back to being a touch more relaxing.

In the meantime I’m going to try to spend a bit more time with my beautiful wife and maybe a few moments with David Tennant here and there as well.

Paul And David Tennant Cut Out