How do I do this? – 67

Sixty-seven weeks in a row and I still feel as if I don’t know how to do this. What the hell should I write here?

The problem that is incumbent on the blogger is that the format is for relatively small bits of writing to be churned out in relatively short order. Most of us, I imagine, are doing this as a side project and therefore, cannot commit the time required to produce high-quality writing.

Furthermore, if you’re anything like me, you have far too many hobbies and interests that compete for your time. For me, blogging is but one hobby of many; I would say that blogging is approximately 5th on my priorities.

My current method of writing is to sit down in the after-lunch, pre-gym slot and write from the top of my head. I occasionally make notes throughout the week if I have anything I want to include, but that hasn’t happened in a while. I am waiting for that breakthrough where I finally figure out how to write these posts.

Today is the 2nd of February in my timeline, and you will see this in a few months. My plan for the rest of the day is to do a 15k run and then watch the most important rugby match before the world cup. England vs Ireland in the six nations. Come on England!

I have just realised that this is supposed to be a blog about my PhD and I have just been rambling on like a generic lifestyle blogger.

So, at the start of this week, I spent two-days extracting sugars from lyophilised (dried) Rocket. This has become somewhat of a routine measurement, but it does not tell you that much about the quality status of the plant. Generally, after the plant is harvested, metabolism in the plant continues, and sugars are used up for fuel.

By-products from sugar metabolism are used to form various other compounds, such as those involved in defence. As plants cannot defend themselves physically, they often expend a lot of energy doing it chemically – mainly by producing compounds that don’t taste nice to deter predators.

But as I mentioned previously, it is almost useless when assessing the quality of a crop. What it does allow is for comparisons between crops grown during different seasons. Crops that are grown during the summer, generally have more sugar content and are usually of higher quality.

After I had extracted the sugars, I spent the rest of the week dong data-analysis and planning. Unusually, I have found myself in a position where I don’t have any short-term plans. By short-term, I mean to say that I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my week. This is highly unusual for me.

I ended up writing a list of all the events I had coming up, and this included two conferences at the end of the month. Now I have things to focus on and can fill my time. One of the skills I have not yet mastered is the ability to plan for the long term. I have got through life so far, by being what I can only describe as ‘micro-ambitious’. I decide what I want to happen in the next couple of years and try my hardest to achieve that. Most of the time I don’t plan any further than that.

For example, I had no plans as to what I was going to do after my bachelor’s degree. I got offered a job and PhD, neither of which I sought out. I chose the option I liked the idea of the most, and here I am.

blogging on auto-pilot – week 61

It’s now December*, and I have just realised I have been writing these posts for almost a year and three months with only one week missed.

It has been long enough now that I have forgotten where I got the motivation to start a blog from. I know why I am doing it, but I cannot remember where the initial spark of motivation came from. I was probably reading someone else’s blog and thought I should do it.

Anyway, here we are 62 weeks later, and the compulsion to write a blog post is equivalent to my desire to go to the gym. Desire is not the right word, It is more routine than that, and I often write or go to the gym when I have no desire to.

It is a discipline that I can’t see my self breaking free from; this is good news as far as consistency goes, but it certainly enriches my day as much as it used to.

I wonder how many of you out there are also in this state, drifting through the blogging process on auto-pilot?

Perhaps, much like my day job, I need a break so that I can come back more motivated – hopefully.

Taking a break from something you do as a ‘hobby’ seems like a strange concept to me, and I haven’t really thought about it before. I think taking a break from the normal life is the important part. If I have a break where I stay at home for a week, I think I will not get the reset that is required to reset.

Getting away and doing something completely different seems like the correct way to have a holiday for me. Going skiing for example, where I am busy all day doing something else, and I can’t do any work! The only problem I can see if that is wherever I go on holiday, I will always be there.

I think I have just completed my final week of 2018; things have been winding now for a while, and absolutely everyone is on their last legs. Most people in the lab are rushing to finish things so that they can have some time off over the Christmas period and I am no exception. I endeavor to stop doing any work after the 21st of December.

I am going to write a post in January about my year in review. I have lots of different places I can draw data, from such as my health, my finances and blogging statistics. I am looking forward to producing this data-driven blog post. I think it will be as good as my most popular post about my three-month blogging experience.

So look forward to that if you want!

*Yes this was written a few months ago.

One year blogging review

Three months after I had first started my blogging experiment I wrote what has been by far my most successful blog post. It was an account of everything I had learnt during my first three months, and crucially, it was honest. I had many people comment underneath telling me how they knew something strange was going on but didn’t know exactly what it was until I pointed it out.

I have written 73 posts this year with a total of 20,000 views, the three-month review post has 1800 of these views which makes it responsible for roughly 10% of my total views. If I had set myself a goal when I started blogging, I am sure I would be happy with where I have got to.

I am going to talk about what a lot of people will be thinking about when they start blogging: money. So, how much money did I make with 20,000 views? I lost about £30. I paid this money to remove adverts from my blog, and I also got to choose my URL. So, I have no adverts and no other source of revenue, and therefore I only lose money. If I paid for the premium account where I can place adverts in my blog, I think I would have lost around £70. If you’re not selling something from your site, and you’re getting fewer than 100,000 views I would not recommend paying for any upgrades, you will only lose money.

If you have to decide to start blogging to make some passive income, I would argue that you have been sold a lie. There are professional writers, who are much better than you or I, who make no money doing this, so why should you expect to? If you want to make money from your blog, you need 100’s of thousands of views per month, and to create enough high-quality content to achieve that you will need to work an awful lot. Most certainly a full-time job. As with any media-related job, it is only really the top 1% that make anything close to a living from their blogs.

Most of the people who make money from their blogs are usually using the blog as one of many ways to generate traffic towards their product; making money from merely writing blog posts is extremely rare.

I hope you other reasons as to why you would like to blog; perhaps you just enjoy writing and would like an outlet for it, or like me, you wanted to improve your writing skills, blogging is great.

Playing the blogging game

Aside from improving your writing/communication skills, you probably will want people to read your posts. To achieve this, you just cannot rely on posting and leaving the posts to spread by their own merit. If this were the case, marketing and advertising wouldn’t be the monolithic industries that they are.

So, how do you get the views that you may or may not deserve?

First of all, I want to show you my stats, not because I want to brag, but so I can illustrate my points. If I zoom out far enough, you can see my views for the year.

You can clearly see, that I discovered how to play the game much better in April. In February I published 9 posts and got 42 views; In November I published 4 posts and got over 700. The difference is that In February I had 10 followers and in November I had 2500. So more followers do equal more views; however, I started gaming the system in April and stopped in September, and in those months I had between 2.5 and 3.7 thousand views a month. These are tiny numbers in the big scheme of things but are a still an 8769% Increase over February.

In this post, I explained exactly how I achieved this, and the moral quandary I found myself in, but in short.

On WordPress, as of 2018, you can:


Like up to 120 posts per hour – doing this usually notifies the recipient and prompts them to check out your site. I have found that roughly 5% of posts you like return a view to your site.

Follow up to 60 people per hour – I have not done this other than to find out the limit, so I do not know what kind of returns you can get.

I have not done the research to see how many comments you can leave as I cannot be bothered, if you wanted to do this legitimately you would have to bother reading peoples content and then tailor the comment. Which I doubt anyone would do.

All the above, apply to other social media platforms, with slight differences, but the underlying principle is the same. It’s the ‘hey, come and look at this idea’; if you say this enough, some people will come.

Use this information as you see fit.

I suspect some people are making some money selling scripts to automate all this, but I have not found any with an extremely short search. Maybe there is an opportunity for you if you know how to code!

More advice to new bloggers based on what I have gleamed from a year of blogging.

Below is my stats for the year.



The ‘About this blog’ page is the first page someone will land on if they enter my site. This made up 25% of my views so I would recommend you try and make this your best page!

After that, it is ‘Homepage / Archives’, which is exactly the same thing, so I am unsure as to why it is categorised twice. Perhaps the ‘About this blog’, page was not the home page at one stage.

My blog posts only made up 60% of my views.

Looking at ‘Referrers’ it is apparent where most of the people who came to my site came from, and that is the WordPress Reader. All other sources have fewer than 100 referrals. What should I make of this?

Well, I had 0 following on any other site when I started, and I still have next to none, which is why all my referrals came from WordPress. If you have a well connected social media platform, that you would like to leverage, then you can expect much more views from outside the platform.

Whereas I am trying to grow my followers on other platforms, add me here. You will have a much better starting point if you have a following somewhere else.

That is all I have learnt so far.

I am sure there are ways that you can game the system even more.

One mystery I am yet to figure out is the re-blogging of your own posts. There is one person whom I am always seeing appear in my feed, and the likes on the posts are always around 350. If it was posted 5 minutes or 5 months ago, the likes are always the same. What on earth is going on?
It seems as if he is reposting his own posts every few hours, and they look as if they are new. I am not sure how this is happening, if you know, please post below.

Well, this wasn’t quite as much of an epic as my 3-month review, but I hope there was some useful insight in here. I am still learning so bear that in mind.

My advice for successful blogging based on a miniscule amount of experience (1 year):

  • Be consistent – this goes without saying to be honest. People cannot read what is not there and people do not normally read the same thing more than once. So you need to keep it coming. I have found writing a few months worth of posts in advance a great fail-safe for when I don’t feel like writing as I can still post regularly.
  • Don’t expect people will read your work just because you have posted it online, there are billions of blog posts online, how many of them have you read? You need to find a way for people to come to your site.
  • There is nothing wrong with thinking big, but be smart and understand that blogging is not a get rich quick scheme.
  • Don’t rely in on motivation as it comes and goes; discipline is the best way to reach your goals. Especially when they will take a long time to achieve.

I wish you all a great 2019 and hope you achieve everything you have planned.

Becoming a hack blogger- Week 29 as a PhD student

Hack blogger mode engaged. I have guests arriving in two hours and fifteen minutes; I need to write a blog post and go to the gym. Therefore, this will be the quickest I have ever written a post.

I have re-potted almost 100 rocket plants this week; we have been growing them in indoor growth chambers at different temperatures, and now they have started germinating, so we have been re-potting them where they will remain until harvest. The reason we are doing this is to look at how growing temperature affects the chemistry of the plant. This will have implications for flavour and aromas; it could be quite informative. I have had to learn how to do all the skills involved in growing crops this way as we go as I  have no experience with crops prior to harvest. It has been difficult and monotonous, but also rewarding as I can now grow things other than houseplants! If there is a zombie apocalypse, I am that bit closer to the Uber survivor I hope to be.

Other than growing plants, I have been trying to write the paper I have been working on. I have completed about 300 words that I am happy with over the course of the week. One of the problems I am having is deciding whether or not a particular piece of information is relevant. I think this stems from not being entirely clear what I want this paper to be about, If I cannot overcome this hurdle in the next week I shall organise a meeting with my supervisor and get some advice. However, I can’t just turn up with an empty document and ask her what I should do so I will continue to struggle for a little bit more and get at least one section filled in. This is one of those things you have to sit back from and realise that it is not going to be easy, especially the first time. I am sure I will look back on this and laugh at how easy it all now is; hello future me, get back to work.

I have really been getting into machine learning this week, and I have been looking forward to following the tutorials and progressing. I have been looking forward to the end of the day when I can justify to myself to down my tools (text editor and keyboard) and start coding. My motivation for extra-curricular activities often goes up and down; at the moment I am certainly at the peak, and I didn’t have guests coming over soon I would undoubtedly be coding for the rest of the day. Anyway, Its leg day and I need to get going, and I wish you all a wonderful day!

Where the word ‘Blog’ comes from.

On my, about me page, I have mentioned that I don’t like the word ‘blog’. This Is mostly due to the connotations associated with the word.

Let us see if you have the same image as me. Approximately, it is a young person, mid-twenties perhaps, with a profile picture standing on top of a cliff or [insert scenic cliché], and the filter used makes it very envious. It’s mainly a picture that says look how great and exciting I am, come and learn how you can be more like me. If you want to experience this post in 4d, I recommend putting on in the background ‘That positive feeling’ by Alumno or ‘make it shine’ by Sophonic or better yet ‘Carefree’ by Kevin Mcleod. Does this put in mind blogging to you?

Since I have said that I do not like the word I thought I should find out where it came from. A quick google search and I am on Wikipedia. Not the best source for academic enquiry, but seeing as this is quite frothy it will do.

According to Wikipedia, the word blog is a truncation of the ‘word’ weblog, as in web-log. This seems to make sense to me; people have kept logs for the ages, and I mostly associate the word with nautical . If you’re keeping a log on the web, it makes sense to call it a web-log. Would web-diary, or webdi have been a better alternative, we will never know. I am sure you can have fun with potential alternatives.

To read the blog of the person who coined the word blog look here!

According to the same Wikipedia page, there are over 156 million blogs in existence. That means that the chance that you’re reading this particular blog is less likely than winning the lottery? It also puts into perspective how much competition there is to be a successful blogger. Based on these numbers it should surely be one of the biggest industries in the world. To put it another way, 0.00064% of bloggers have followed this blog.

My opinion of the average blogger has changed a lot in the three months I have been weblogging. The picture I have of a blogger now is an artisan that produces interesting niche content in many forms for seemingly no other reason than catharsis. Maybe there is a hint of, ‘I know I am better than 95% of people, so surely I will become successful as a blogger’. Superiority illusion is surely a key driver for a lot of things, and weblogging would be no exception.