Transition Time

by Laura Davenport, aka WhiteFluffyIcing

Thanks so much for all the warm responses to our announcement that Grace (CostofCollege) will take on the daily administration of The Totebag.

A few housekeeping details:

I will continue to own and monitor the totebagger (at) gmail (dot) com email address.  If you ever need to reach me, you can continue to do so at that address, and I welcome any comments or feedback that you’d like to bring to my direct attention.

Going forward, please submit posts to Grace at gntotebag (at) gmail (dot) com.  I believe I’ve changed the email address in all the appropriate places on the website; if you find that isn’t the case, please let me know.

If you’ve submitted a post to the totebagger address, I will forward it to Grace by copy/pasting just the text into a new email — she will not see your email address unless you contact her directly.

And finally, many of you know that I schedule posts about 2-3 weeks in advance, so you won’t see posts that Grace has actually created for a bit longer.  Her style may differ from mine, and I see that as a good thing.  As always, let us hear from you if you feel there are improvements to be made.

Thanks again for your support during this transition.  You are an amazing group and, truth be told, I still find it hard to believe you all migrated over here.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program…. (i.e., our Monday Totebag post will still run at 10:00 central.)



Man Down (… Again)

by Laura Davenport, aka WhiteFluffyIcing

Gang, we need to talk.

We’ve lost another regular — this time, Mom of Three Teens.  (You may remember her post about favorite cookbooks, wherein she shared with us some of her experience of living in Rome.)

We are a remarkable community for many reasons, our collective civility being chief among them.  But sometimes we slip up.

MOTT cared enough to write in and inform me of her reasoning, so I thought we might walk through this as a bit of a case study.

Take a look at the comments from our March 27 post.  MOTT makes her first comment at 2:23.  She goes back and forth with Rhett a couple of times, and then our elusive friend Kaleberg later makes a reference to her statements.

An excerpt of her email to me:

I will allow that I poorly made my point in my initial post.  However, I was truly offended by one poster’s two responses to my original comment and to my clarifying point.  He deliberately twisted my writing and his comments deeply insulted me.  Another poster’s comment several hours later about the “self-pitying rich” just added to my irritation.  On this blog, we are, by and large, strangers to one another and we trust each other to treat every comment with respect.  It is this trust that makes following and participating in this blog an enjoyable pastime for its …  followers.  In my “real life,” I would not allow myself to be insulted by a stranger in front of [hundreds of ] other strangers.  The same standard applies to my social media life.

Totebaggers, can you see MOTT’s perspective and empathize with her reaction?  Is this bound to happen in an anonymous forum on the Internet?  This isn’t the first time we’ve irritated a regular to the point of them leaving us.  Are we doing our best in this arena?


Happy Anniversary!

by Laura Davenport, aka WhiteFluffyIcing

On June 22, 2012, our shiny new website received its first blog entry, a discussion about music penned by our esteemed Honolulu Mother.

Since then, we’ve discussed travel plans, politics, bucket lists, religion, and household dynamics.  We’ve swapped reading lists and recipes.  We’ve advised each other on parenting, relationships, careers, and personal finance.  We’ve compared life experiences and learned from one another’s successes and failures.

For me, the most interesting aspect of this whole arrangement is the altruism.  We have no stake in each other’s lives — no real reason to assist each other, and let’s face it, no reason to admonish each other, either.  The specific impetus for each of us to contribute to this exchange is unique, but when you boil it down, we all want to be the best possible version of ourselves — and we want that for each other, too.

When the site launched, I felt I was humoring a collective itch to have more control over our discussions.  I honestly thought that doing so would inspire the The Old Site to make some changes, and in so doing, attract us back with renewed vigor — which would render The Totebag obsolete.  It was supposed to be a well-organized, peaceful protest.  Clearly, I was naive.

Today, I want to share with you some behind-the-scenes information about our humble home, and then open up the discussion for what I hope will be honest, usable feedback.

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Today’s entry is officially our 231st, and at press-time, there have been 24,740 comments made.

In terms of traffic, we’ve had 573,908 views all-time. But don’t let this number mislead you… every time you click refresh, you add a number to that ticker.  The most hits we’ve ever received in a single day was 3,828 on October 10, 2012, the day that The Juggle ran my Q&A with Alison Lichter.  (We’ve come close to that number many times, and frankly, I’m surprised that record still stands.)

The posts with the most views have been, in descending order: “Is Editing a Life a Lie?” by Uncertain, “Dealing with ADHD” by LaurafromBaltimore, “The Nation Reacts,” which immediately followed the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, and “The Political Party Quiz,” submitted by costofcollege.

WordPress recently improved their site stats feature to include information about unique visitors, and it looks like there are roughly 350 unique IP addresses that visit our site on a given weekday (and no, I have absolutely no way to see what those IP addresses are — I just see a composite number).  The highest number of unique visitors I’ve seen for a single day is 389, but I don’t look at this all that often.  My best guess based on my highly unscientific observations is that there are between 400 and 500 Totebaggers in the world, assuming that there’s some churn in that daily 350 number.

Geographically, all I have is views by country (no breakdown for regions, states, etc.).  The vast majority of our views come from the United States, as expected, but we also receive visitors from all over the world.  After the US, the top five countries in terms of traffic are Canada, India, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia, but the full list is as long as my arm — 106 countries in all.  I realize this is the world wide web, and some of that traffic comes from bots, but I still find this baffling.

Totebag Geography

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Now that I’ve given you such specific information, I’ll kindly ask you to do the same:

  • What improvements can we make to The Totebag?
  • Do we need to tweak the posting schedule?
  • Do we have enough topical variety, and if not, how can we expand it?  (Note: I get tons of suggestions for topics, but what we really need in order to expand the topic base is folks willing to actually write the stuff.)
  • How attached are all of you to the Meaty Monday (I just made that up), Ask The Totebag Wednesday, Friday Fun, and Coffee Talk articles in between?  In other words, if I don’t have any Ask The Totebag queries, would Earth tilt on its axis if I ran a Coffee Talk that Wednesday instead?
  • What if I get hit by a beer truck?  Aside from the scheduled topics running out, how would you all ever know — and what would become of The Totebag?  (In real life, having a backup administrator is the obvious answer… but how would I train someone I’ve never met?)
  • On a related note, is there any desire to have a rotation of editor-administrators — to inject some fresh perspective?  Not that there’s much in the way of actual editorializing, other than determining the timing of the posts… but I never dreamed that having our own site would hold our interest this long, so I have next to nothing in mind in terms of a long-range plan.

Totebaggers, congratulations on our first year together!  What do you really think about what we’re doing here?  What’s your outlook on the future of this site?

The Official Totebag Photo…

The good news is that we have an official photo for the site.  The bad news is that I’m not exactly sure how to incorporate it yet.

Regardless, I couldn’t wait to share:

I hope you like it.

By the way, Monday’s post is scheduled for 10am Central, just like Friday’s.  It’s written by yours truly, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what you all have to say on the topic.

Hope everyone had a terrific weekend!  -wfi

Annnd… We Have Liftoff

Wow, this is really happening, you guys.  The first official entry for The Totebag, penned by the world renowned Honolulu Mother, is scheduled to post at 10am central today (just a few minutes from now).  I think you’re all really going to love it!

Here’s how things are shaping up:

Posting schedule.  We’re going to try a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule, with all posts scheduled for 10am central.  Let me know how this setup feels — we can tweak as we go along.

Mondays will be traditional entries, Wednesdays will be advice-based ‘Ask The Totebag’ entries, and Fridays will be ‘Friday Fun.’

For Monday, I’ll be writing an entry about kids and nutrition that will expose my own totebaggery ways and put our collective holier-than-thou values to the test.

For Wednesday, SBJ has submitted the first ‘Ask The Totebag’ topic, which I will post.  I already have another lined up after that, too.  (Heck, I think I could populate the ‘Ask The Totebag’ segment with my own personal questions for the rest of the year.  But don’t let that keep you from sending in yours — y’all will tire of my neurosis very quickly.)

Next Friday is open, but I’m confident we’ll have a topic ready.

Please-oh-please send me your entry submissions and topic ideas! Email them to totebagger (at) gmail (dot) com.

‘About The Totebag’ and ‘About The Name’.  These pages are complete!  Thanks to all who helped form them.  It’s really neat to have immortalized our long-running totebag reference.

Comment format.  It seems that we all liked the idea of threaded comments, but very few of us enjoy the actual experience.  I have switched the setting back to non-threaded, so we can take it for a spin, and I’ve opened a poll on the topic below.  If you feel strongly about it, be sure and vote!

The Totebag photo.  Speaking of voting, the last poll was a landslide in favor of the organic apples and totebag photo.  I’ll make that change over the next few days, and possibly tweak the overall blog layout in the process — more on that soon.

Contributor bios.  Saacnmama and cal atty have expressed an interest in doing this.  If you two will email in your bios, I’ll write one for myself and post them on a new page, and we’ll see how it looks.  Others are obviously welcome to send their bios, too — but putting up three of them seems like a nice way to test out the idea.

On a personal note, I’m “tickled to death” about seeing you all here, as we say in Texas.  For now, every single comment gets emailed to me, and it’s been really cool having all of you buzzing me on my phone throughout the day (although I’ve been on the road lately and haven’t been able to respond very quickly).  Let’s see how much fun we can have with this!

-Laura, aka WhiteFluffyIcing

Getting Organized

First, let me say: I’m floored at all of the hits and comments we’ve received here.  I naively thought that I could set up the site, mull it over, decide if you guys were serious, and announce it at some opportune moment.  Not so!  Wow.

We have a few more decisions to make before we get started:

‘About’ and ‘About The Name’.  Honolulu Mother and Upstate NY Dad graciously wrote the ‘About’ page.  (Thank you!)

I thought it might also be nice to immortalize the origin of the totebag reference, either on a separate ‘About The Name’ page, or incorporated into the existing ‘About’ page.  Thoughts on that?  (See the comments on the ‘About The Name’ page itself for more details.)

Posting Schedule.  One of the things that frustrated many of us on the other site was the erratic — or lack of a — posting schedule.  I think a daily schedule might be a bit lofty at first.  How about Mondays and Fridays, to start?  A regular topic on Monday, to be chewed on through Thursday, and then a fun topic each Friday?  Or Monday / Wednesday / Friday?

In addition to the weekly schedule, what time of day should we schedule the posts to go up?  SF Mom mentioned that the 8am Eastern posts are mostly exhausted by the time the west coast folks are on-line, and we’re in full hijack mode.  Suggestions here?  Perhaps certain days of the week are always posted at a given time?

First Entry.  Honolulu has graciously volunteered to write the first entry, and we’re loosely aiming for Friday, June 22.  Who else wants in?  Check out the new ‘Suggested Topics’ page and email entries to totebagger (at) gmail (dot) com.

Optional Bios?  Saac suggested that we consider creating a page for brief bios, for those interested in participating.  Thoughts on that?  Does that have you all running for the hills?  They can be as vague/anonymous/humorous as you like…

Theme Photo.  I’m trying out the polling feature for this one… let’s see how we do:

Setting Up Shop

Well, here we are.  I hope you all weren’t kidding about starting a supplemental blog.

I certainly wasn’t kidding about crowd sourcing the thing!

Theme Photo.  The first order of business is aesthetics.  We need to replace the default photo (of the steering wheel) with something more fitting with our theme.  Unless any of you want to volunteer your photography skills, I prefer iStockphoto for this task. My official suggestion is this photo, although I’m sure there are better ones out there. Suggestions for a photo?

Tagline.  We need to determine whether we want a tagline under the title at the top of the page, and if so, what it should be. My tongue in cheek line won’t cut it — I was just trying to be funny.  Any thoughts?

The ‘About’ Page.  Who wants to volunteer to write it?

Comments.  Last but not least, leaving comments here will let us test drive the functionality.  I’ve allowed nesting replies to comments up to three levels deep, but we can change the setting to allow up to ten levels.  I can also customize the number of hyperlinks allowed in the comments — right now, comments with two links will automatically go through, but those with three links will be held for approval.  Any preferences on this?  I certainly don’t want to play whack-a-troll all day.

There are hundreds of settings to tweak for just about every aspect of the site, so speak up and let me hear your preferences….