Interwebs archive

Anything and everything vaguely internet related. Blogging, industry, social media: if you can find it online, I've talked about it in here.

The future of shopping: offline vs online

Last week I had a conversation with Gaz’s colleagues about my budget Monday shops, off the back of a one-off trip to Tesco for a single meal which Gaz did at a cost of over £40. Forty pounds for one meal! This is in comparison to my weekly shop, which I’m quite pleased to have recently got back down under £50 per week, averaging around £35 per week. However my smugness was short-lived, as I was challenged on the fact that some of this shop comes from online providers.

It’s true, I use Amazon’s subscribe & save to do a big chunk of my regular shopping. The ability to set frequencies, quantities etc on items that I use a predictable amount of: cat food, guinea pig food, cat litter and so on… this is invaluable both to my budgeting and planning ahead. Especially with a billion cats at home (slight exaggeration). Not only that, because Amazon’s service gives you incremental discounts on the items in your regular shop once you buy a certain quantity per time period, I currently get 15% off my pet foods, litter, and coffee… yes, we get through a lot of coffee.

This of course got me thinking about how shopping on the whole has changed over the past 10 years. One of the things I mention on my professional site is that I’m a busy mum, and use the Internet for the bulk of my shopping: it’s this frequent use in the role of “consumer” that gives me an important insight into how websites can best provide to their customers, and this makes me a better developer. If I understand the habits of people who buy, I can develop websites that make the most of those habits. Or that’s my thinking anyway.

Online shopping has radically improved over the past decade and as a result is generally my go-to for spending money, be that clothes and shoes or bigger stuff like electronic items, white goods etc. 99% of the time I research and compare a product online, and complete via a cashback or deal website to make the most of my purchase.

Surprisingly though, swiftmoney.com have recently surveyed 1000 members of the British public to see how people like to spend and a whopping 54% of people still prefer to buy in store (taken from the infographic below). In my opinion, shopping in a store — especially for ‘big’ purchases — lacks the flexibility and bargain-hunt-ability of price comparison and specification research. Not only that but with voucher sites, newsletter subscription benefits and aforementioned cashback (which has earned be back over £700 in just a few years, money I’d have not seen again shopping in-store), and the vast amount of online retailers offering comprehensive returns policies, detailed size information, an increase in the amount of media (photographs, videos, 3D views etc) that give you a full picture of what you’re buying… I really do struggle to see where the benefits of buying offline lie.

With ease of access on the mobile these days, my personal habits (aside from regular predictable purchases) are leaning towards bigger, bolder (and more impulsive) purchases on the go. With over half of purchases made on mobile as of 2016 and Google pushing a ‘mobile-first’ index to prioritise sites with a good mobile presence as of this year, I can see this kind of purchasing is only going to grow in popularity as we head into 2018 too. In my professional opinion, if you have an online store that isn’t mobile friendly 2018 will see your online purchases shrink as market share on mobile continuously increases.

Still, for all my waxing lyrical about buying online, this wouldn’t have happened in a store:

A post shared by Jem (@jemjabellargh) on

Maybe those 54% of people have a point.


Click to see full size infographic.

Spend your time wisely

With the recent announcement over on my professional blog that I’m now celebrating 5 years of working for myself as a freelance developer, it feels somewhat bittersweet that I am also announcing the closure of one of my side projects: WAHMweb.

It has been a labour of love over the past 5+ years. Designed originally as an outlet for my own work at home rants, discoveries and so on, it has evolved into a decent resource for parents (and in particular, mums) who are looking to either move into working at home from a full time position, or simply just want to earn a few extra quid while they stay at home with young children.

Unfortunately the project has never been close to profitable, and while that was never the key aim, I can no longer afford to push money into hosting and content development to not even get close to breaking even.

As my notoriety(!) in the WordPress space increases, and demand for my services is reaching new highs every week now, I have to spend my time wisely: choosing to continue with projects which are self-supporting, self-financing, and concentrating the rest of my energies in best serving my clients (and my kids).

I have moved the most popular of the WAHMweb content pieces to this blog, and will transfer and other bits I feel are important in due course. While this is a sad announcement, it does mean that I will be able to focus more time and energy on sharing the things that have helped with my personal success as a work at home mum right here where it belongs.

Thank you to all those who’ve supported WAHMweb over the years.

Insta fitness and chasing tiny

(This post doesn’t have an image attached to it because the search for “thinspiration” to demonstrate what I am getting at turned up some fucking horrific images and I don’t want to contribute to that.)

Despite being a late adopter to Instagram (as per usual; I only downloaded snapchat this week) it is easily my favourite social network for procrastination. As well as engaging with the people I follow multiple times a day, I also frequently make use of their ‘discover’ feed and randomly like/comment on other people’s photos. It’s actually a good way to find new people with similar interests (which I guess is the whole point).

Unfortunately, because I use Instagram as a half-hearted fitness log, and as such follow other fitness folk, my insta discovery feed is absolutely rammed with weight loss posts and “transformations”: picture after picture after picture of women — always women — before their “magical transformation” and after. The before pictures usually feature someone obese or significantly overweight, and the after can be anything up to and including skeletal women (that quite possibly have an eating disorder).

Sometimes the women are even the same person & it’s hilarious how bad some of the fakes are, but that’s another post for another day…

And people LOVE it. They lap it up. Thousands of likes and comments applauding the desire to shrink, to be smaller, to better fit into society’s normal. “Thinspiration!” they cry. Lots of supportive comments, but as is the norm on the Internet, a whole fuckton of fat shaming too.

Why? Why do we — women — strive to take up less space in a world that tries so hard to keep us small and meek and fearful? And I don’t mean the act of weight loss in itself: I am happy to support anyone that wants to lose weight if they so desire, whatever their motivation for doing so. I have obviously pursued my own weight loss goals to better fit the way I feel most comfortable and confident… but chasing “tiny” just for the sake of being tiny?

In a world that has us fighting to exist on an equal footing for pay, for health care, and in some countries for access to basic human rights; in a world that is led by men who brag openly about sexual assault so that we know our place? Deliberately shrinking ourselves seems so counter-productive.

Where are my insta-fitness shots of growth: growing muscles? Growing more confident? Growing competence in a discipline that pleases you? Growing more secure, or growing capacity for fitness? Growing the distance you run or the friends you make through a mutual enjoyment of a sport?

Fuck, grow your plate of cookies for all I care – just demand more. Be MORE. Not less. Never less.

Blogging doesn’t have to be strategies and planning

As I mentioned earlier this month, I recently followed some bloggers on twitter with the goal of inspiring me to blog more. It’s kinda worked: I have a lot of ideas floating about my head at the minute. Whether they’ll making it into an actual blog post is another matter, but step 1 complete. Winning!

However, one of the side effects of this is that I’ve realised how much the blogging world has become dominated by the concept of blogging for fame & money, and as such how everything has to be about optimising for this. Content marketing plans, social media strategies, optimal hashtag usage, best posting times, the right theme, the best bloggers to comment-spam in the hope of increasing your following which increases clicks and eyes and revenue and… aargh!

I’m not sure if people realise but *dramatic pause* blogging doesn’t have to be like this.

It is possible to just open your little blog admin panel and write about something. Write as the words appear in your head, without thinking “should I stick another keyword in here”, or “how many giant photographs should I use to reach peak hipster lifestyle blog status”. Don’t edit the shit out of it, don’t dress it up with fancy words and metaphors… just write.

Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t think about those things occasionally. Heck, the giant lifestyle blog photos are winning me over. I sometimes bung some hashtags on my insta-snaps and look ma: I’ve fixed my broken theme. But maybe, just maybe, once in a while: let go.

17th September

Creative blog post title, huh?

I’ve just come back from Gloucester, where I ran the Great Highnam Court 10km with Katy (again); slightly slower this year with 01:07:23 but I managed to not twist my ankle this time. It has made me realise that if I can run an injured 10km faster than I can right now, I probably need to get off my arse and log some more miles on my feet. I haven’t run more than a handful of times this year and it shows (both speed, and the fact that I’m a fatty fatso at the minute)

In non-running news, I have very recently overhauled both my mail form site and my professional portfolio (which I’m particularly pleased with):

Jem’sMailForm.com
jemsmailform-com

JemTurner.co.uk
jemturner.co.uk

I like the consistent branding/styling and the use of ‘my’ colours from my old logo/branding which I’m hoping to replicate over here in due course replacing this temporary grey theme which I had to throw up to get round some issues with Google. On the flip side, I now actually rank for my own name again which is nice (albeit making no difference to traffic levels, sigh).

Anyway, that’s all my exciting stuff out of the way. Best crack on with some work, my overdraft isn’t going to pay itself off.

Twenty-somethings

I followed a bunch of bloggers on twitter today. My grand plan is to follow, be inspired by their energy and regular posting, and thus start posting regularly again.

Hahahahaha.

Realistically, however, I’ve already noticed a worrying trend amongst these ~cool~ bloggers: they’re all young twenty-somethings with no kids, no mortgage and very few of the responsibilities and boring bits of life dragging them down.

(That’s not a diss on these bloggers, rather just a reflection on my own boring existence.)

Of course this made me think back to my own heady days of popularity and millions of pageviews and comments and general life-validation through the medium that is the blog, and I realised I too was a young twenty-something with no kids, no mortgage and few responsibilities.

Obviously the key to being a successful blogger lies somewhere in that revelation… time to sell the kids and the house I guess.

In defence of selfies

I was flicking through a thread on mumsnet last week — procrastination in action — about people who take lots of selfies. The consensus of opinion was that people who take a lot of selfies are vain, insecure and lacking self-esteem. Mumsnet’s AIBU, apparently the last bastion of social etiquette and good manners, thinks that people who post a lot of selfies should get a hobby.

Maybe a hobby like criticising people on Mumsnet…

trolololol

I disagree, of course. I don’t think people with low self esteem post selfies for validation. Quite the opposite, I think often people with truly low self esteem tend not to post pictures of themselves at all for fear of judgement and comments, essentially cutting themselves out of their own history.

Of course there’s exceptions to the rule, in which case do we really need to be telling people who feel so badly about themselves that they’re a piece of shit and should stop posting on the Internet? That they need to do something more productive, or more worthwhile?

Who are these strangers to judge whether or not these selfie-addicts deserve to exist in their little safe space?

Given a choice between complimenting a serial-selfier and taking another kick at their apparently already low confidence levels, should we be defaulting to the kick in the teeth option? If a selfie is taken to seek validation – to justify existing in this world – is giving validation or giving hate more harmful?

Of course the selfie-hate is not a Mumsnet-only thing. It’s a fairly common opinion that people should not like themselves enough to share that with the world. Know your place, selfie takers!

Selfies document progress and milestones, holidays, hairstyles and fashion trends, culture and identity. Selfies are proof that we exist in our own lives: for others, for ourselves, and for potential future generations. They create communities between likeminded and lookalikes, allowing us to experience a truly multicoloured, multiflavoured, multicultural world that would otherwise be out of reach for many.

I take selfies. Good selfies, bad selfies. Duck-face selfies, new hair selfies, suns-out-guns-out selfies. Selfies with the kids and without. Selfies with friends, selfies in the mirror. Selfies on holiday and at home.

all-the-selfies

I finally have a record of my path in life and nobody can take that away from me, Mumsnet or otherwise.

New project: maths, emails, and an empty ISA

What do you do when you try and find a site that allows the re-sale of preloved cloth nappies but the only one that did exist has closed down operations?

You buy the site of course.

used nappies-02As briefly alluded to in the last post, I’ve bought into a new project which I’m hoping will give me an increase in passive income in the long term, but in the short term is a great way of shifting several hundred pounds worth of cloth nappies: UsedNappies.co.uk

The purchase/takeover has not been without issues. The software the site was running on was massively out of date with a ton of potential security issues. The upgrade to the latest version was both a) expensive and b) complicated by poor documentation. Seriously, PHPProBid is one of the worst documented things I’ve ever had the misfortune to use. That said, version 7 is worlds apart from version 6 and it’s growing on me, so there is hope.

I took the decision to restart the site from scratch after I bodged the upgrade and I didn’t want to waste too much time on a rebuild when the site data was a few years old anyway. In the world of nappies, a few years is enough time for someone to finish with and get rid of their stash, rendering the user data useless.

Once the new version of the site was up and running, I created an email to advise the 15,000+ existing users that they needed to re-register. I send my mass mails with Campaign Monitor (because they’re awesome) but the 15k emails went over my limit with them, so I had to get approval on this. I explained the bodged site upgrade situation but they said that the data was too old to be marketed to as-is and I needed to run my list through a 3rd party verification service (more expense). That done, and 12k approved emails back in the system, I actually sent the mail (++expense).

At this point I begin to wonder how email marketeers make any money, because out of over 12,000 emails I had a 43.94% open rate with 3.84% unsubscribing — despite me clearly stating in the mail it was strictly one off to notify them their account was gone — and only 1.61% clicked the bloody website link.

ONE POINT SIX ONE PERCENT.

A third of that 1.61% have since re-registered on the site, giving me a current cost per user (adding up purchase price, software, add-ons, branding, etc) at approximately £23.43.

My ISA is currently barely above empty and I’m shitting bricks in case any big expenses come my way, but I’m crossing my fingers that the risk will pay off in the long term. Of course, you can help a girl out and give me some like / follow / share love if you like:

And if you know someone who uses, or is thinking about using cloth nappies? Tell them about the site of course :)

The eeeeeend!

It’s here! September 30th! The last day of Septemblog! I can now proudly say that for the first time in around 15 years of blogging I have successfully completed a blog-a-day challenge.

I completely failed my supplementary challenge to leave 5 comments / follow someone new every day, and it’s probably best you don’t look at my ‘official’ septemblog page, but if I’d made that compulsory I’d have definitely failed weeks ago.

That said, if you’re trying to increase your comments, hits or overall engagement, setting yourself the X comments on blogs per day goal is a must. It shot my hits up, which just goes to show that when bloggers say “commenting is dead”, what they actually mean is “I can’t be arsed to comment any more”.

Engagement has also gone up on my blog Facebook page, with more likes and more posts reaching a greater number of people. I’m not sure if that’s Facebook being clever with some sort of frequency == relevancy algorithm, or whether it’s just the inevitable more posts == more likely to post something someone will want to read.

I did write another blog post today, one that is less ‘meta’ and less cheaty, but I’m keeping that to myself for the time being as I’m not sure my idea will take off yet. You’ll just have to wait and see for that one. In the mean time, yay septemblog!

4 days to go

Yep, four days left in September and I’m getting seriously meta up in here: blogging about blogging about blogging.

I don’t know whether it’s just the fact that I’ve been seriously rushed off my feet for the past week or so, what with travelling to and from Brighton for the SEO conference and then fitting all the work into another short week to get to the last (r)evolution conference on Friday but I’m starting to find it really difficult to blog.

I have a few in progress drafts but the words just aren’t flowing. I’m not even finding any inspiration in my own writing prompts, having used a few already. (And yes, I know that the Septemblog page is massively out of date because I completely FAILED to keep up with everyone else’s posts.)

In an attempt at not giving up at the last minute this is my plea to you guys… is there anything in particular you’d like me to write about? Are you after a follow up to any earlier posts? If you could ask me anything what would it be? Help a blogger out here…

Web Heroes

I’m currently stealing wifi from Gaz’s work in Shrewsbury having spent the day at the last Shropgeek (r)evolution conference.

As the last talk – by Andrew Clarke – came to an end I got thinking about my origins in web development.

In some ways it doesn’t seem like 5 minutes since I was publishing my poetry, fangirling over Zelda and other games, and telling the world about Neopets, all on Geocities. And yet technically I’ve come a long way: thanks to the likes of Andy Clarke, Jeffrey Zeldman, Jonathan Snook et al.

Shropgeek has introduced me to some of my ‘web heroes’ over the past few years, for which I’m grateful. They paved the way for the likes of me, stirred up passions that it’s easy to forget when you’re knee deep in bugs and trying to figure out how to get the maximum value out of a project to ensure you actually make a profit.

It’s so easy to forget why I started this web stuff, and I love that days like today remind me of the spark.

A few quick words on #BrightonSEO

I’m sat in the concert hall at the Brighton Dome waiting for the keynote before I leave to head for Gloucester.

It’s been a great day with some really motivating talks – considering I came for networking potential rather than specifically learning, I’ve taken away some great points and things to try out on topics from content marketing to local SEO. Highlights for me include the talks by Greg Gifford, Paul Madden and the 20yr old with the multiple social media accounts churning out shit tons of content (who’s name, embarrassingly escapes me at the second!)

Was also great to finally meet some familiar names and faces. Ryan Gibson, who has been invaluable in giving advice on everything from monetising content to weight lifting (maybe I should mix those two?) and Alex Moss who I know of through Rhys, a long time bloggy friend who I still haven’t met (but hopefully will when I travel to Manchester for WordCamp in October).

A fruitful day that’s left me buzzing with ideas. Hopefully that positive energy will carry me through tomorrow’s 10km in Gloucester…