Follow It (for Readers)

Follow It (for Readers)

If you have already subscribed to this blog, and are happy with what you’re getting in your email or news reader, you can skip this post. A few readers had questions, here and on Marian Allen‘s blog, so I said I’d try to answer them. If you want a better idea of what it means to subscribe, what a “feed” and “feed reader” are, and how to control what you read in one, please read on!

What is a “Feed”?

Since this post is for readers, primarily, let’s start with “what is a ‘feed’?” A “feed,” or “web feed,” is created by any site that has regularly updated content – like a blog or ezine or newspaper – and is delivered to readers in a variety of ways, by subscription. For example, you can get updates from this blog in your favorite “feed reader” or “news reader” or “news aggregator” such as WordPress Reader, Flipboard, Feedly, Feedspot – which I use, myself – and others. Calling it a “news aggregator” makes it sound like something exclusive to traditional news media, but it is not. It is simply a way for you to subscribe to updates from sites you like.

Click here to see what a “feed” looks like in its raw and unformatted form: https://jahangiri.us/2020/feed

What on Earth Am I Supposed to Do with THAT?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s the best reading experience I can offer. Still, you can plug that URL into any feed reader or news aggregator you like, and it will “pretty it up” for you. It will transform whatever that is into something readable.

You can learn the feed URL for any web site using an extension like Get RSS Feed URL. This is what you’d see if you used that on my blog:

From there, you click Copy URL and go configure your favorite feed reader to pick it up.

Or you can just click the big green Follow this blog button. Follow.it is a feed reader/news aggregator. Free, lightweight, easy to use. It does have a few features I have not seen on some of the others, like the ability for readers to filter their feed by keywords or tags.

To filter by keywords, click the Keyword(s) box. Enter keyword (this does not appear to support phrases in quotation marks or wildcard searches, so use single, whole words only). To exclude a keyword, use the minus sign (hyphen) right in front of the word, with no spaces: -keyword. Choose title only or title and body of the post.

To filter the feed by tags, click the tags box. This will display tags that were used by the creator of the feed, as shown below.

Hover your cursor over any of the keywords displayed (they are shown in order of frequency of use). Move your cursor up and down the pop-up menu and click to select Must, Must not, or Neutral (clear any previous selection).

At the bottom left of the keywords, you can click Set all to neutral if you want to remove the keyword filtering altogether. At the bottom right, you can display more keywords by clicking Next > or < Prev.

Also, you have the ability on multi-author sites to follow just one author, or several. I do not recommend using this option on my site, because on the rare occasion I invite others to write for this blog, I know and trust them, and I really hope you’ll read what they have to say. If you only want to read what they have to say, you may never receive updates from this blog. It may be useful, though, on a large news site with hundreds of contributors, if you only want to follow a few of them. Using the New York Times as an example:

To filter by author, click the names of any authors you want to follow. Click again to unfollow them.

As new tags or authors are added by the feed’s creators, they will be “neutral” or possibly ignored, so use these filtering features judiciously, or you may miss updates you want to see.

Follow.it also makes it easy for you to choose from a variety of ways to read (and each feed can be customized differently). Maybe you just want to check on the dashboard – or “News page” – on Follow.it. Maybe you want a single daily newspaper (also known as a “digest”) of selected feeds. Maybe you want “breaking news” – updates delivered to your inbox within hours or minutes of when they’re posted! Or maybe you use Telegram, and want to be notified of new posts there. You can customize each feed using the Output channels to send you just what you want, when you want it.

Phone (SMS), WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and other delivery methods are teased as “coming soon.” I don’t know how soon, so let’s just say that this is it – for now.

To get back to the Filters and Output channels page, just click the Follow.it logo at the upper left corner of the screen:

That will toggle between your personal news/settings and the Follow.it Directory. Click to expand the Reading section in the left sidebar, then click All to display All news:

Hover over the lower right corner of an article to display the icons shown above: Bookmark, Mark as read, Hide story, Share (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Email, Buffer, Telegram, or Link), and Settings. Select Settings to modify your filtering and delivery options.

Discover More Stuff to Read!

Another nice feature of Follow.it is a Member Directory. Only paid members are included – it’s a nice perk. I’ve already picked up half a dozen new subscribers this way, and I’ve only been using it a week!

You can filter the directory by Category, Location, Language, and Keywords.

Tip: Don’t use the Give me a tip what to follow link unless you’re just interested in local news. It will attempt to use your location (or network location) if you allow it. It does not appear to be customizable by interests and the location filtering is only as good as sites that provide their locations. It may be better to enter your location (city, state, country) as a keyword.

The list of suggested sites appears to be sorted by most recently updated.

Still Have Questions?

If you are a blogger, sign up here. Then look for the Help Center (for Publishers).

If you are a reader, see their Help Center (for Readers).

 

 

 

An Engraved Invitation to Follow.it and Follow Me

An Engraved Invitation to Follow.it and Follow Me

Follow Me!

Google Feedburner is finally going into “maintenance mode,” after nearly 8 years of rumored obsolescence, abandonment, or other funky defunctiveness when Goggle terminated their popular Google Reader in 2013.

Marina, at Follow.it*, was kind enough to alert me to the fact that this was, finally, really and truly, happening on July 1, 2021. I think maybe she assumed I had more than 64 subscribers over the past 8 years, but she kindly offered to help me migrate them. She didn’t need to – it was pretty easy to do it myself. If you have fewer than 100, you can – if you have more, you’ll have to get Support to help you. They’re very helpful!

Some of you may be very, very surprised to get fresh emails from me in your inbox! If your first thought is, “Who is this? I never signed up for this!” you did, in fact – but you probably didn’t notice you weren’t getting emails from me for a while when I started a new blog. Or, two new blogs. I hope the emails will be welcome, but if they’re not, it’s just as easy to unsubscribe as it was to subscribe in the first place, all those many long years ago… and I will be over here crying, but I wish you well. Read on to find out how, if you haven’t figured it out already.

For those of you who are new to this blog or just curious about the free features Follow.it has for readers (they’re all free for you readers, and mostly free for bloggers*), I invite you to click the big green Follow this blog button, below:

You will be taken to the Filters and Output channels page:

Choose your Output channels: Newspaper (a daily digest of posts from the feed); Single emails (oh, you eager thing – you want to see each post the minute I hit Publish?); News page (Follow.it feed reader dashboard); RSS (you have your own feed reader); Telegram (how cutting edge of you!).

You can play with Filters: keywords, tags, authors, and popularity, though it is unlikely they’ll match content on the blog and you may get no results at all. You can see the options I’ve chosen for my own subscription, above. Of course I subscribe to my own blog – that way, I know if something goes wrong!

You may, instead, be taken directly to the subscribe page where the only option is Follow or Unfollow. If you see the Manage button shown below, you are already subscribed; click the Manage button to go to the Filters and Output channels page.

Enjoy this little playlist, especially from me to you:

Follow.it for Bloggers

Follow.it is a great alternative to Google’s Feedburner.* Most of the features are free – forever. It’s not a trial. You can see all three pricing levels – the paid levels are based on the number of subscribers you have, and there is a simulator to help you calculate the costs. You can change plans or revert to free easily, at any time. One good reason to upgrade is to get discovered like a Hollywood celebrity – consider one of the paid plans to have your feed(s) included in the Follow.it Directory.

Click here to sign up as a Publisher on Follow.it.*


* Affiliate link: If you do end up upgrading to a paid plan, I’ll receive a small commission.

 

 

Movement: Mind and Soul

Movement: Mind and Soul

For the next six to twelve months, at least, I’ll be focusing on writing poetry. Not to the exclusion of anything else, of course – but with an eye towards publication. That means no more posting it online, until it has had its fair shot at the footlights of publication – poetry journal, contest, anthology, or book. No “previously published” material is loved in the hallowed halls, and I have been an undisciplined writer all my life, shoving scraps of paper in drawers, posting bits online, here and there. When you have a full-time career and no plans to leave it, it’s difficult to write poetry or fiction seriously. It simply cannot compete for time and energy. So you shove it into drawers. Or share it willy-nilly, like these:

And a few posts on writing poetry, if you’d care to join me:

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

Little Prompts for People Who Think They Can’t Write a Poem

Little Prompts for People Who Think They Can’t Write a Poem

Recently, in the Garden of Neuro Poetry Circle, I ran across a poetry prompt:

Monday Poetry Prompt: Backyard

I thought that this might be an excellent exercise for young writers and novice poets, as well as those who are more experienced. As the prompt says, you can use your own, very real back yard – or the one that exists only in your imagination.

First, observe and take inventory. 

What does your “back yard” look like? It doesn’t have to be a yard, and it doesn’t have to be real. It could be the view from your window, if you are an apartment dweller. Maybe it’s a community garden. Maybe it’s the back yard you’d like to have, some day. Maybe it’s the back yard you have today – and the one you’d like to have, some day. Let’s take inventory. Write notes and take photos; don’t just trust to memory. Mine looks something like this:

There’s a ladybug, rescued from a little birdbath in the back yard. She was surrounded by debris, but when I put my finger in the water, her tiny legs began to wriggle. I left her to recover in the shade of the Daikon leaves, in my vegetable garden, where she is protected from birds. Not pictured, but seen within the past few days: crab-like orb-weaver spiders, praying mantises, and a scoliida wasp with blue-black wings and a blood-red body, frantically darting from one squash blossom to the next. Its nest appears to be in the bell at the top of our wind chimes. Perhaps not the wisest or calmest place to start a home.

There’s a nice green compost bin, and a holding pen full of brown leaves my husband’s collected, that will eventually be mixed into the green scraps. Herman the dog-vomit slime slime mold lives inside the green bin, and now sleeps in the rich soil of my vegetable garden, where he feasts on dead and decaying things.

That raised veggie garden has been a learning experience, and there is a corner garden that is more wild than not – with volunteer holly bushes, crepe myrtles, and a plethora of spider plants and canna lilies that have crept under our fence from the neighbors’ back yard.

There are tall trees that shade us and saplings that try to reach the sun through the dappled shade cast by live oaks and Bradford pears.

There is also a sundial and an area laid out with blue rubber tiles to be an outdoor exercise and play area. Because this is a recent project, there are scraps of wood, rocks, glue, and bags of sand and concrete laid around the patio.

This is all visual information.

Pay attention to all five senses!

What do you hear? Birdsong, a lawnmower, children playing on the other side of the fence? A garbage truck, perhaps. A leaf-blower. Cars. A summer breeze, tickling the windchimes. Waking up the scoliid wasp, maybe.

What do you smell? Flowers, compost, petrichor. Earth. Freshly rained on? Or parched?

What do you taste? I pulled a few of the Daikons from the garden – they were in desperate need of thinning. I couldn’t resist rinsing one off with water from the outdoor garden hose and biting into that underripe and slightly-too-bitter crunch. A basil leaf. A pinch of fresh oregano.

What do you feel? Focus on touch, not emotion. Did you wander the back yard barefoot? I can’t, these days – well, I risk a foot full of pricklers from the carpet of weeds that winds its way through the grass, if I do. Still, barefoot girl that I am, at heart, I do risk it. I hop from one sun-warmed paving stone to another, avoiding the pricklers and the river rocks, the bits of broken stone. I let my toes sink into the cool, soft dirt while I try not to think of what might be wriggling underfoot. I dig in a mud puddle with a stick and transfer an earthworm to the garden, marveling at how fast they are when they’re trying to get away.

What symbols or themes begin to emerge?

Glancing through what I’ve written, I see a whole ecosystem. But unless I want to write an epic poem, I may try to narrow my focus to something like “birth” and “death” – how new life emerges and is nourished by the old, the dying; how it breaks down and builds up before becoming part of the cycle, itself. That may lead outside the garden, into the philosophical. Sometimes, a “back yard poem” strays from the back yard and explores uncharted territory. Follow where your thoughts lead.

Or I may focus on something even smaller.

Sunny and yellow
Herman, Eukaryotic,
Greets the squash blossoms.

Silly little Haiku! But it’s a start. Start small; start big. They key is to start.

Elegy at the Bird Bath

Lady, who told you you could swim?
You were meant to fly;
Not to float upon your own reflection
Waiting for a clever robin,
Or a hungry, ill-tempered jay
To pluck you from the placid pool –
Cool on a bright, June morning –
To pick you, all blushing red
And speckle-freckled
For their breakfast appetizer.

 

Lady, you were meant to bring me luck.
To dine, yourself, on sweet little aphids.
Oh, how they rejoice at your downfall!
But Heaven helps those who pray for their prey –
The mantis exacts swift vengeance,
Leaving the summer squash un-nibbled.
And I have pre-empted the robin’s repast –
A wriggling earthworm, uprooted,
Dumped beneath the Daikons, unaware
Of criss-cross shadows, a netted sky,
Shielding it from the watchful jay.

Now, it’s your turn. Please give this a try, then share your poems in a comment or link to one in your own blog. I look forward to reading yours, too!

 

 

 

 

 

Fun with Instagram! #30DaysShowVSTell (#AtoZChallenge)

Fun with Instagram! #30DaysShowVSTell (#AtoZChallenge)

I was distracted from the #100Words100Days flash fiction challenge on Instagram by the annual A to Z Blogging Challenge; then I was distracted from the #AtoZChallenge by the #OWFI21 Instagram Photo Challenge. I was distracted from all of them by the Toastmasters District 56 International Speech Contest, and the only prize I won all weekend – May 1, 2021 – was First Place in OWFI’s Technical/How-to category. As a retired technical writer, it would have been embarrassing to admit that I hadn’t even placed in that one!

At some slap-happy point in the week leading up to juggling both Toastmasters and OWFI conferences, I discovered that I was far more popular impersonating a sunny yellow slime-mold than I was as an author. In just 24 hours, “Herman,” a boisterous and personality-loaded example of Fuligo Septica, aka “dog-vomit slime mold,” the sentient alien-like creature that came from my compost bin and invaded my veggie patch, had garnered his own fan club and started an Instagram account.

This was all so much crazy fun that I decided to throw you all a new Instagram challenge! But instead of being strictly photos, I thought it might be fun to illustrate writing concepts using visual imagery and words. Feel free to sketch, draw, paint, use photos – go wild! (Well, keep it PG “wild,” please!) I don’t believe in asking people to do anything I’m not willing to do, myself, so I’ll be playing along! Start whenever you start – you don’t have to wait for the first of the month, or a month that has only 30 days in it, or a month with an R in it as if diving for oysters. Start tomorrow. Skip a day if you need to – self-care matters, too! But put some thought and creativity into it and let’s see what we can come up with. They say “show, don’t tell”? Well, let’s show the world what that looks like, while sharing some writing tips or examples! Homeschooling parents: Have the kids join in the fun.

30 day instagram challenge using writing concepts

Be sure to use the hashtag #30DaysShowVSTell – I’ll follow it, and feel free to leave your links in the comments, below.

I also use Instagram to promote Cy-Fair Super Speakers Toastmasters Club and bToasty Toastmasters Club. Both of these clubs welcome visitors during any regular club meeting (we meet online, and Cy-Fair Super Speakers has resumed “hybrid” meetings: both online and in-person, simultaneously).


In case you’re thinking, “Hey, isn’t the A to Z Challenge thingy over already?” Yes. Yes it is. But I signed up, and I’m determined to finish what I start!

I’ll tell you about another “distraction” in an upcoming post! Distractions are better than dogged determination to plod through life without ever veering from the plan. Trust me on this.