If you’re lost and need to be some place you’re not familiar with, what do you normally do? Ask for directions, right? If there are things you want to know about people you look up to, you ask questions.
And because asking questions is a surefire way to learn, today, we’re going to deviate from the usual stuff we’ve been writing about at Career Mom Online. We will be featuring one of the finest bloggers the blogosphere has ever known – Holly Jahangiri.
For those who have yet to meet Holly, Holly is a professional writer with over 20 years of experience in technical writing, editing and freelancing. She also writes books for children, two of which are Trockle and A Puppy, Not A Guppy, which are on sale at Amazon.
Holly describes herself as:
On a good writing day, Holly Jahangiri claims (tongue-in-cheek) to be channeling the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, Erma Bombeck, and O. Henry. On a bad writing day, she claims to have poured every last ounce of her creative ability and energy into childbirth, and has two wonderful children to prove it.
Now, the questions we’ve asked are the same questions Holly herself asked the Jedi Bloggers back in 2009. Although the blogging landscape has changed quite a bit since then, the questions she posed are still relevant to the blogging we know today.
Because this is my first ever interview with a fellow blogger, Holly was very kind to let me borrow the questions. Besides, I see it as a perfect opportunity to pass the ball back to her and pick her brain using the same tools she devised.
So without further ado, here’s Holly Jahangiri and her thoughts on blogging:
1. When did you start blogging, and what prompted you to start? What’s the purpose of your blog? Have your reasons and goals changed over time?
I was looking for a way to more easily update my static web site. At the time, you could post to the blog from anywhere and integrate Blogger with your own site. If set up properly, you could publish “automagically” via FTP. These were all skills I lacked in abundance and figured it couldn’t hurt to learn.
In fact, the only reason I had a web site, in the first place, was because I wanted to learn HTML, and I learn better by doing.
I think it was in my first post or thereabouts that I attempted to define blogging – for my own understanding, and for something to blog about. Somehow, that got picked up by Deepak Mankar, a tech columnist with the Hindustan Times, who quoted me and referred to me as a “veteran blogger.” That’s all it took, in those days, to be an “authority” on blogging.
I’m supposed to have a “purpose” for my blog? That has definitely changed over time – originally, as I said, it was to learn specific skills and keep my web site from becoming a stagnant wasteland. I could try to come up with something all important sounding, but my blog is just one of many creative outlets. Some people knit; I blog.
And having my own blog lets me try things – to experiment – without fear of failure. I can learn CSS or play around with plug-ins and I’m not going to mess up your blog.
2. When you are blogging, who is your intended audience? Is your blog attracting your intended audience, do you think – or does it appeal to a completely different sort of reader?
My intended audience is anyone who will sit still long enough to read it. My goal is to totally dominate the “no-niche niche,” and I think I’m doing reasonably well at that.
3. Has your content focus or writing style changed, as you grew more aware of your audience – their likes, dislikes, expectations – or even of the fact that you had an audience?
What’s funny is that most of my readers are bloggers, but a few are not. And those few are kind of vocal in their displeasure when I start “metablogging.” They don’t come to my blog to read “blogging tips” or posts on SEO or how to game Alexa.
Unlike some bloggers, though, I don’t have the energy to keep one blog for technical “how to,” one for poetry, one for opinion pieces, one for short stories – that’s what categories are for, right?
If anyone minds the fact that they never have a clue what sort of post is going to pop out of my brain and into their inbox next, they’ve graciously kept it to themselves all these years. I have several readers who regularly admit to being completely confused, but they keep coming back for more. That makes me feel good.
4. Do you think that blogging is likely to contribute to people’s understanding and appreciation of ethnic and cultural diversity, or do you feel it will just help deepen the divide?
I think it can’t help but contribute to people’s understanding and appreciation of ethnic and cultural diversity. I mean, it’s really hard to hate your friends and your friends’ friends. Before blogging, it was uncommon to have friends we’d never met, weren’t likely to meet, and who lived on the far side of the planet.
Now, we can chat face to face on Google Hangouts and IM each other over breakfast and dessert. I think we’re more alike than we are different, in most of the ways that count. The differences just help keep us interesting to each other.
5. Do you share your personal experiences or opinions in your blog, or do you keep your readers at arm’s length, presenting “just the facts”?
I’m pretty much an open book. That is not to say that I just spill my guts at every turn, but I’m me; you know me through my writing, if you’re paying any attention at all.
6. Have you ever participated in any organized blog-based activism? What was the event? Would you do it again? What was the best/worst thing about participating in something like this?
I’ve participated in several efforts, over the years. “Blog Action Day,” the anti-CPSIA campaign to save handmade toys and books, the efforts to stop SOPA and PIPA from passing, among them. I think the best thing is the sense of being a part of the solution, but the worst is being confronted with apathy – and I don’t just mean other people’s.
I’m not Mother Theresa. I’m not some tireless, totally committed humanitarian with a cause and a torch to light the way. And every time I’m involved in a “cause,” I see people who are – or seem to be – and I admire them, even as I have to admit to myself that I’m not likely ever to be one of them.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it makes me feel good for getting involved, but it also leaves me with this nagging certainty that I could do more, and I could do better.
7. Have you ever used your blog to raise funds for a non-profit organization? Which one? What prompted you to support that organization, and do you think that blogging is an effective way to do that?
I have. Every year, I raise funds for Relay for Life, to benefit the American Cancer Society. I’ve helped other bloggers promote their causes and donated to a few, too. I think it can be effective. I think the Jerry Lewis Telethons were more effective, but given my talent, my relative lack of celebrity, and modest budget, I’m holding my own. 😉
8. Do you ever blog about politics, religion, sex, or other “hot button” topics? Why or why not?
Of course. Why? Because that’s what people want to read about. Because I’d rather people give me the raised eyebrow than a yawn. Because I enjoy being a thought-provocateur.
9. What’s your policy on moderating comments?
I completely forget I’m supposed to do that. I have several hunky bouncers who keep an eye on my seedier clientele, and they do a wonderful job of keeping out the riff-raff. Too good a job, some days, if truth be told. My friend Marian Allen runs this Facebook page called “Spomment of the Day,” and I rarely have anything to contribute.
A few of my blogging friends have mysteriously “disappeared” and I wonder if it was something I wrote or something they did, you know?
10. What’s the most important thing that blogging has taught you?
To give people the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, and to be exceedingly grateful that English is my native language.
11. Will you be blogging a year from now?
Assuming I’m alive a year from now (and yes, I do plan to be)!
At the moment, Holly is participating in the Blog Engage 2012 Year-End $1000 Winner-Take-All Blogging Contest via this thought-provoking article: Pragmatist or Idealist: Can a Blogger Be Both? Feel free to head over there, read your heart out, leave a comment, vote and share. Making people, bloggers or not, stop and take a moment to look inside of themselves is one way to show the world we care.
Latest posts by Maricel Rivera (see all)
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Holly Jahangiri says
Wow! Now I can add “one of the finest bloggers the blogosphere has ever known” to “veteran blogger” – I think I just overshot my 15 minutes of fame! 🙂 Thank you, Maricel. I had a lot of fun with this – you turning the tables on me was a surprise, but gave me a chance to rethink all these questions from a different perspective!
Holly, thank you for helping me out with this very first interview of mine. I’ve been meaning to do it for ages, but a lot of things got in the way. I am so glad you are the first ever blogger I interviewed. Yes, you are one of the finest bloggers the blogosphere has ever known. I’m sure other bloggers can come up with better titles for you. 🙂
Holly Jahangiri says
Well this title’s just inflating my head… widen the doorways! Back up the 18-wheeler to help me carry my ego… 😉
I can think of a few titles: “Silliest Blogger,” “Most Frazzled Blogger,” “Frenetic & Peripatetic”… *snicker* I need more coffee. I’m going to be out for a bit, but thank you, again, for this wonderful interview and post. Who doesn’t love a post that’s dedicated to them? I feel like such a celebrity this week… 😉
Larry James says
I have meet Holly on Blog Engage and I think she is most certainly one the friendliest bloggers I know. I have read and voted for a few of the articles she has written. She is a very good writer. Thanks for doing this Maricel, I enjoyed getting to know Holly more.
Larry, thanks for dropping by and for the comment. Yes, Holly is very friendly. She always makes everyone feel welcome. And even if she disagrees with a certain point raised in an article, she has this knack to disagree agreeably. 🙂
Holly Jahangiri says
Oh, my gosh. Okay, you’re going to have to widen the doorways to let my head through – it’s official.
Larry, thank you so much for the kind words. That goes both ways! I love knowing I can count on your support over there on Blog Engage – that means so much. That’s the reason I stick around there, too, you know – the people. That’s about all I get out of blogging – friendships. I’m not really “making money online” (but shhhh!! don’t tell – they’ll send the imposter police after me!)
Suresh Khanal says
It’s always worthy to read posts by Holly and its great that today I got to read about Holly herself.
I am interested to read that definition of Blogging from Holly which was reported by Hindustan Times. It would reflect the maturity in Blogging today. Maricel! if you can please ask her for that.
Finally, liked her concept of giving benefits of doubt and would appreciate a bit elaboration.
Hello, Suresh. Thank you for visiting my blog. I agree that posts by Holly are always a joy to read. She has THAT gift. Before I published this post, I, too, frantically searched the Internet for the article in the Hindustan Times where Holly was quoted and thus her veteran blogger status. I’m not sure, or maybe I just didn’t search hard enough, but I didn’t find it. Yes, that’s something I should be asking Holly about, too. Thanks for pointing that out, Suresh. 🙂
Holly Jahangiri says
Suresh, I’ve written to ask Deepak Mankar if he still has a copy of that column (it was from his column “Quite a Take” back in 1999 or so, I believe) so that I can get the quotation right (pretty sad I don’t even remember what the heck I said, isn’t it?) He blogs, himself, by the way, at popgoestheslop.blogspot.in
As for giving benefit of the doubt, I think it’s really important to remember that we’re not all writers- – and that we don’t all speak/write English as our native language. (Or conversely, that if we don’t, we may have an imperfect understanding of things like sarcasm, satire, idiomatic expressions, etc. – and that Google translate usually gives only the “gist” of the meaning, not necessarily an accurate reflection of exactly what was meant.) So I think that in order to avoid WWIII over something incredibly silly, we ought to try to put what’s said in the best possible light, and assume that’s what the person meant, unless they clarify it and prove otherwise.
And if someone says something you find offensive – realizing that we don’t all have the “right” to run around completely unoffended throughout life – it’s a kindness to ask for clarification. Did they really MEAN to be offensive or hurtful, or were they just criticizing something that perhaps they were fair in criticizing, but choosing their words badly? Is it a cultural thing? Most Americans I know tend to be fairly straightforward and blunt, but generally we mean well. In some cultures, it’s more appropriate to be exceedingly polite, even if you can’t stand the other person and don’t mean well at all. You can see where that leads to misunderstandings! 🙂
Suresh Khanal says
Thank you Holly for clarification and how well you’ve explained the sweet nature of blogging. I truly appreciate that.
Hope to see more from you. Happy blogging!
Holly Jahangiri says
Still haven’t heard back from Deepak. For some reason, I picture him searching through boxes of printed clips. 😉
That was a very interesting interview. Thanks so much for giving me this chance to get to know Holly just a bit more.
Hi, Alan, thanks for visiting. I am glad you liked the interview. 🙂
sally brown says
I feel so honored to know such an awesome blogger! I love the interview and love Holly’s writing. My only wish is to meet this awesome woman one day soon. Great interview! Sally
Holly Jahangiri says
That would make me very happy. It’s gonna happen – you know it is! One of these days!
Thank you for coming over, Sally. I love Holly’s writing, too. I also believe you and Holly are going to meet one of these days. 🙂
Holly Jahangiri says
Morning, Alan… 🙂
Dear CommentLuv, on half a cup of coffee, I’m doing well to muster a civilized, “Good morning.” Must thou make me muster more?