What You’re Looking For


Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

So one of the benefits of the traffic increase of having been Freshly Pressed twice is that Google takes me more seriously now, and I get a lot more search engine traffic on the blog now that I did three months ago.

My old blog used to get more search traffic than this one did until recently, and I used to do an occasional post about searches that had brought people to the blog. A lot of the searches on this one are pretty straightforward queries related to a handful of posts, but I’m starting to get enough traffic that I’m starting to see some amusing searches show up.

That said, interesting search strings on SIMP in the last month:

  • where can i get me a machine that i can carry in my pocket to spell words
  • mississippi billboard “we are all losers”
  • crude palm oil will hit to myr 4200 by the end of the month december 2010
  • forest in my pocket
  • my laptop cords powerpoint is like beside my bed sorta thing, and somehow it fell out, and a bit of it was hanging out, and sparks were going everywhere! i was like s—! quickly turns power point off .
  • sam flynn smile
  • www jazz hitt com
  • whats a good lego set
  • transformers imagine 20 years from now get in the car
  • bay town texas makes incence illiegal
  • stone and water in iphone
  • read this sentence from the passage: they both cost the same, and if the two salads decide to get married, they can have a bunch of little salads and send them all off to salad school to take reading comprehension tests.in this sentence, the author is explaining how
  • thas wat made me myne crazy high but i spot a traitor out my lazy eye lady spy i’m tha one they wana hav thea baby by maybe i’m beta off alone keeps me in my zone
  • which are things in that needed in the notice of petrol pump notice on no smokina for what?why?
  • bears in my pocket
  • ugly guy mullet moustache
  • teachers book writing reports on future robots tigers laser lemon limit major minor and valid
  • & i’ve changed? i dont have lighters in my bra, i’m not asking people for ciggs, i don’t have smoker hands, and i don’t believe in cutting myself to ease pain. i have nothing to hide. you can’t find a boy, maybe because you hang out with bad people? i know i get heart broken, but i bounce back. pills, they’re also not the answer, so if you wanna tell me ive changed, then your blind
  • how to make lego armor with play doh
  • clint eastwood my mull
  • give us small topics over usefulness of forest to mankind in hindi font
  • embarrassing incident at harry potter movie and projector
  • what would happen to the demand curve for metallica cds if they became unpopular?
  • piggly wiggly/mississippi
  • what is the meanning of this proverb”he who brings kola brings life but i think you ought to break it
  • show me a picture of a mullet haircut on a woman
  • photographs of squatters living in batcave in brooklyn in early 1980s before closed
  • diluting concentrated sulfuric acid with water can be dangerous. the temperature of the solution can increase rapidly. what are the signs of dh, ds, and dg for this process?
  • what i should do in my house if i am bored and i also dont have any pets or tele and i am bored sitting on the computer too i am a primary student
  • ole miss improv
  • the “chocolate or vanilla” rule
  • soviet futures stories
  • birds take so long to die + angry birds
  • lori skylab
  • i’m david hitt, am i on meth?
  • johnny depp what am i to do? then i recall, in my pocket i have a sketch of something rustic, with limbs; i put it out, and deliver…
  • preacher from huntsville wrote a book
  • well wookie
  • people dying because of facebook stories
  • a nation that loses the _______ of honesty loses its __________.
  • if you were a purple monkey and your dad was a yellow starfish could you drive a limo up a pole at sundown?
  • if your parents not give you 4 presents and everyone elas does what do they do after christmas
  • nasa village of santa
  • a movie then go back farm time of insulin to kill him
  • kid deleted angry birds from ipod touch can you reload
  • grisham’s the confession banned in boston
  • babies have their whole lives ahead of them
  • david hitt cigars
  • what is the luxury of knowing about keith urban

Meet The ‘Press


The logo of the blogging software WordPress.

Image via Wikipedia

OK, so the coolest thing about being Freshly Pressed is that it’s made me more aware of being a part of the WordPress community.

Before starting this blog, I had been blogging using a different, downloadable system, and so I was used to thinking of WordPress just as a tool, and not as a community.  Having my eyes opened has been a great experience. It’s been really cool seeing a post turn into a conversation, and seeing that conversation flow over the borders of just this one blog. It’s been great having some of you stick around after the initial Freshly Pressed excitement so we can get to know each other a little better.

I wrote the other day that I was starting the Daily Post challenge.  One of the things WordPress suggests to help with that is using their Press This tool to use other people’s posts as inspiration.

The Freshly Pressed experience and the Daily Post challenge have inspired me to want to want to become more involved in the WordPress community, and I was wondering if there were any of you out there that would want to work together this year — committing to subscribe to each other’s blogs, read them, comment, maybe do some cross-linking or Press This, and generally just encouraging each other? Or, for that matter, is there a community like that already? ( U3F7J5TE5SDD )

The Daily Post


The logo of the blogging software WordPress.

Image via Wikipedia

There are ideas, and then there are bad ideas.

This, I imagine, falls into the latter category.

I read this thing on WordPress the other day about the Post A Day 2011 challenge.  The idea is, shockingly, that you post on your blog every day in 2011. (There’s also a Post A Week challenge for people who post less frequently, but I’m way past that.)

I’m already pretty close to the post-per-day mark lately (in fact, I might should take the Post A Week challenge to bring my count down), but I thought this would be an interesting project, particularly as some other projects, like Reconstruction, that I’ve been doing wind down.  There have also been some things in the last couple of months that have boosted the profile of my blog a bit, so this seems like a next logical step.

That said — I’m not writing on my blog every day, I’m posting on my blog every day. I’ve already gotten into the habit of scheduling things to publish in advance, and that’ll be part of how I do this.  There are days that are just not days for blogging, ya know?

And, also, to me, to some extent, a blog is shared between a writer and readers. Some of you read via an aggregator or e-mail subscription, and really may not want a post a day from me. If it’s getting to be too much, or not worth it. Let me know.

Otherwise, I’ll see you tomorrow.

Wordle


I’ve been having so much fun with these tweet-cloud and status-summary and whatever end-of-the-year things that I’ve gotten a bit carried away. This cloud from Wordle isn’t even just for this year, and it’s not the top words from the blog, it just picks words from the blog and weights them by usage. That said, it sure is pretty.

Bad Hair Days


Screenshot of wordpress.com showing my post featured in the freshly pressed section

My promo box on the WordPress.com homepage

Excuse me for a moment while I put this lampshade back where it goes, and clean this chips off the couch.

OK. Exhale. Hey! How are you? Looks like pretty much everybody’s gone. I think it’s just us here again.

So regular readers may have noticed something was up the past few days. Even if you didn’t happen to notice how much traffic the blog’s been getting, you might have caught that there were a ridiculous number of comments being posted.

Here, then, is the story of my 15 minutes of bad-hair fame.

I got up Friday morning, and had an e-mail with the latest writing prompt from Plinky.com — “Show a picture of your worst-ever haircut.” I’ve written answers to a small handful of Plinky prompts, and even though this one wasn’t technically a writing prompt, it did relate to a story I’d told recently, so I figured I would write it up.

I got out my senior-year high school yearbook, snapped a quick picture of my senior portrait, and wrote up the story, and then posted it on my blog. No big deal. A bit later, I started working on my “real” post I planned for the day, following up on my trip to Disney World.

Heather and I both noticed that something was unusual around the same time. I noticed that I was getting a high number of comments about the post. and she noticed that my traffic counter was shooting up ridiculously quickly. I went into my stats page to try to figure out what was going on — A lot of the traffic was coming from WordPress.com. Was I getting visitors because of one of the tags on the post? Were that many people checking out the “mullet” tag?

And then we saw — I was “Freshly Pressed.” Of a half-million new blog posts, mine had been chosen to be featured on the front page of WordPress.com. There, for the viewing pleasure of thousands, was my embarrassing high-school senior portrait.

On Friday, I received 3,515 visits to my blog. For point of reference, my previous one-day record was 159. The bar graph showing my daily visits became useless, because every other day for the last month essentially became too small to measure.

On Saturday, it kept going, with 3,482 visits that day. On Sunday, 3,434. On Monday, I logged over 1,200 visits before they finally replaced my post on the front page of WordPress.

To put that in perspective, about half of the traffic my blog as received since I launched it in January 2009, almost two years ago, came in that 72-hour period.

And then there’s the post itself. We watched as the post surpassed my other top posts. There was a moment, not knowing how long it would stay on Freshly Pressed, where we wondered whether it would surpass the previous most-popular single post, One More Bite of the Apple. In a bit of understatement, it did. The previous most-viewed record, for that post, was 540 visitors. My haircut post has received almost 8,000. More people have viewed it than have viewed my blog homepage in the entire time my blog has been up.

So, thoughts about it …

It’s cool. It’s a huge honor. A lot of the comments I received were congratulating me on being Freshly Pressed. It generated a lot of traffic, not just for that one post, but for the site as a whole. About a third of the page views during those 72 hours were for things other than that one post. So there’s that part of it.

It feels a little random. There are posts I like, posts I feel good about. That post was just a diversion I was writing to answer a prompt for the fun of it. I didn’t give it a second thought. I had no idea that it would be paid any attention at all. Also, I never had any goal to be Freshly Pressed. It’s a big honor, but not one that I sought.

It’s a little weird that that’s what has been the defining characteristic of my blog. One third of my blog traffic has been that one post. Half of my blog traffic has been caused by that one post. My blog is now basically, historically, “David’s Bad Hair and Other Stories.” It’s like the band that has a huge hit with their quirky one-off song that’s utterly unlike their sound. If I could have picked a post to get that sort of response, it wouldn’t have been that one. I hoped someday to write a post that would get better response than my previous one-day high. I’m pretty sure I’ll never top this level.

I’m annoyed with myself that, yeah, on Saturday and Sunday, I actually spent time thinking, OK, what do I write next? If I get any residual traffic, what would I want them to read next? It may have even had a small effect.

A lot of people commended me for being brave enough to share the old photo. A lot of people saying they were jealous of the response, but wouldn’t have been brave enough to share a photo like that. Me, I’m an improv actor. I get paid to make a fool of myself publicly all the time. I didn’t give it a second thought. Nice that it “paid” this time, too.

That said, I wasn’t sure what I thought about the reaction. A lot of the early comments were basically laughing at my hair, if deservedly so? Was that the only reason I was picked, was because I had a funny picture? It was nice when an increasing number of comments talked positively about the humor and storytelling. Hopefully there’s more to me than just bad hair, and the feedback was very very very nice.

The big question I have is, what happens next? Is there any long-term benefit to this, or was it just a funny thing that happened one weekend? Will any of those people come back? Will my Google reach increase because of the increased traffic? Are there other areas of impact that I’m not anticipating?

So, all in all, it was kind of weird. And, yeah, I was totally taken in, constantly checking my stats during the weekend to old records be beaten and then new milestones be reached.

But I’m very grateful. Grateful for being picked, grateful for the traffic, grateful for the comments, very grateful for the compliments. Grateful for the people who read other things and said it spoke to them, grateful for the opportunity to share those things. To WordPress, a huge thank you, and thank you as well to everyone who stopped by.

And if any of the weekend guests are still here, feel free to stick around and have fun with us.

My Own True Words


know that these are my own true words
even if your approval is my sacrifice
– Rachael Sage, “Sacrifice

“I hate blogging. There. I said it.”

Obviously, there was no way I was going to ignore that status that a writer friend had posted on Facebook.

“Interesting. Why?”

Me, I love blogging.

I’m lousy at it, for any number of reasons. I write sloppily here. My posts aren’t all finely crafted jewels. I’m inconsistent about how frequently I post. I don’t do anything to increase my audience. I don’t have an overarching theme that defines the blog.

But that’s exactly why I love blogging. It’s writing, at its purest.

So I was intrigued by why Laura, a writer, would hate writing. Not only hate writing, but hate pure writing, with no obligations. After all, she writes a pretty decent blog.

The problem, she revealed, is that she writes her blog with a purpose, and the purpose isn’t to write. She writes it as “a platform for my fiction,” she explained, using the blog in hopes that it will make it easier to get a novel published. The blog is essentially another obligation, a part of building a brand in order to become a published author. It’s work.

And she’s not the only one. She cited a blog post I had also read recently by author Don Miller, “To Kill A Blog.”

Miller, the author of a million books, including the quintessential Christian Revolutionary tome “Blue Like Jazz,” had this to say:

So lately I’ve been considering killing the blog. And in a way, the idea terrifies me, because the old adage “publish or perish” is true, and in an age where people aren’t reading books, the adage might as well be “blog or perish” and soon will be “twitter or perish” and I am sure this will all be replaced with an even more brief and perhaps visual way to communicate with each other.

The writing life has changed. And my fear is the true craft is dead.

So the question is, do you publish (blog) what people will read, or hone a craft and publish hard-earned books that may never be read? I’m leaning toward the good book unread.

So here’s a question? What writers have you read this year who have no online presence? Does it honestly make a difference to you?

I wondered how much of Laura’s worry is valid concern, and how much is uncertainty caused by changing times. I’ve seen several people turn blogs into books, but it’s generally a literal transition; they write a blog, it becomes popular, and a publisher binds it so they can all make money off of it. I’m not aware of authors who publish books based on unrelated blogs, but maybe I just don’t pay enough attention to those sorts of things.

And the crossover seems to me to be even less true in fiction. I’d be hard-pressed to name any fiction authors who were known first because of their blogs. Again, maybe I’m just out of the loop, but who are the fiction bloggers turned authors?

There seem to be two major types of blogs — thematic, and personal. For a while, I kept a space blog, a place that was dedicated to news and commentary about space and space exploration. To be sure, these are the types of blogs that are more likely to turn into book deals. Now, I keep a personal blog, a place where I write what’s going on with me and what I’m thinking. Myself, I’m more likely to follow the latter type, even if they don’t get people published.

I blog because I enjoy blogging.

In the morning, I go to work, and sell words to NASA. I come home, and write words that I owe the University of Nebraska. I craft words, made to order, for other people, to make the shareholders, from my editor to the readers, happy.

My blog is for me. I own it, completely. It’s what I want to write, when I want to write it, and nothing else. It’s the blank sheet of paper that I can put anything on I want, without having to worry about whether anybody else likes it.

I write because I’m a writer. It’s what I do. I enjoy putting words together.

I’m blessed that I make money doing it. But if I didn’t, I would do something else for money, and write anyway, for the love of writing. Not for money. Not for fame. Not for being published. But for writing. When writers lose sight of that, they become craftsmen.

My advice to Laura, and to any other writers?

Write what you love. Love to write.

If you can reach a point where your main writing is what you love to write, then awesome. You’ve made it. Life doesn’t get better than that.

But for the rest of us, it doesn’t necessarily work that way. Our main writing is at least as much to please others as to please ourselves.

So find an outlet that is for you. Keep a journal. Start a second blog if you have to. If you feel like you have to write something in particular for someone else, be it to pay the bills or to get published or to get famous, then that’s fine. But NEVER stop writing for yourself. Because it’s the only thing that will keep you sane. If you don’t own any of your own words, if you don’t write any of them just for yourself, there’s nothing of yourself left in the writing.

And you’re not a writer anymore.

There’s a huge difference between Michelangelo and the guy that paints the walls of your house. As a writer, which do you want to be?

Whatever you do, never, ever stop writing for yourself. Always write something that you would still write if you knew no one would ever read it, something you would write because the very act of writing it makes you happy, fulfills the fact that somewhere deep in your soul that has nothing to do with publishing or readers or money, you are a writer.

500!


This is my 500th post! Yay, me! And thanks to everyone who reads!

I still feel like I’m making it up as I go along with this blog, and it feels like it’s a little more free to evolve than my old blog, All These Worlds. was. As a result, feedback is always welcome!

For example, this past weekend, Christina Tutor told me she misses the old playlist challenges I used to do from time to time on ATW. So, for Christina, and in honor of my 500th post:

The Numbers Playlist

Name songs that include numbers in the title, trying to come up with numbers that haven’t been listed yet. Numbers don’t have to be listed in order.

For example, I’ll start off things off with the first three:

– One — U2
– Two of Us — The Beatles
– Three Little Birds — Bob Marley

Here And There Online


My co-author Owen Garriott has donated a signed copy of our book, Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story, for the 2010 annual Astronaut Scholarship Foundation auction. Bidding begins a week from tomorrow, but you must be registered to participate. If you don’t want a signed copy of Homesteading, you can also do some Christmas shopping for me on the site.

I wrote a guest post for Heather’s official NASA blog, Taking Up Space. I’ve been writing for NASA for more than eight years, and I’ve been blogging for almost that entire time, but for some reason doing the two together for the first time makes me happy.

Along those lines, Face2Face director Eugene Banks this week posted my weekly post-show e-mail to the troupe on the Face2Face Facebook page again this week, which also made me happier than it should. For some reason, going on Facebook this morning and linking to my stuff that had been posted on Heather’s blog and my stuff that had been posted on the F2F page made me feel kinda like a writer, which is always a nice feeling.

I finally got tweeted to today by Lori McKenna, which, again, makes me happier than it should. I’ve heard a lot of new songs since her last album, Unglamorous, came out over three years ago, and I’ve been afraid that I would have already heard all of Lorraine by the time it comes out in January. She confirmed that the album will include a song that I’d not heard of before. This, again, makes me happy.

Talking Up Space


I’ve been a bit quieter than usual here lately, and part of the reason is that for the last couple of weeks, a decent number of my spare brain cycles have been going to support an exciting project we’ve been involved in at work.

I’ve written before about the fact that my coworker Heather got approval to write an official NASA blog about her work as an education writer. The blog recently reached the end of its first pilot phase, and is currently undertaking a rather cool project — a live downlink with the International Space Station.

After the space shuttle Discovery launches on its final flight next month, Heather will talk to a member of the crew while the shuttle is docked with the space station for about 20 minutes. Live downlinks are a rare opportunity, so it’s more than a little neat that she’s getting to do this.

Since this is a project for the blog, we’re bringing an education focus to the event, and we’re doing that by working to involve students in the interview. To accompany the blog, we’ve established Twitter and Facebook accounts that we’re using to get student opinions. Due to government restrictions we didn’t have time to get waivers for, we’re doing that primarily in the form of letting students vote on which areas they’re most interested in hearing asked about. Even so, it’s a very rare opportunity for the student public in general to be involved in an event like this.

It’s a really neat project, and Heather’s doing some great stuff with it (and I’m having a lot of helping).  I encourage you to go check it out and follow and like and vote and subscribe and retweet and share, etc.

Unified Dave Theory


Andy Kaufman: You don’t know the real me.
Lynne Margulies: There isn’t a real you.
Andy Kaufman: Oh yeah, I forgot.
– Man On The Moon

When I first heard that exchange in the commercial for the movie Man On The Moon, it resonated with me, a lot. I very much felt that way about myself. There was no real me.

A friend of mine posted those lines on Facebook the other day, and it reminded me that I needed to write the post I’d been planning, on how I found myself through social media.

I considered it one of my strengths as a reporter, how easily I could fit into what ever situation I was in. I noticed it in college; I could have a great evening enjoying kitschy Japanese cinema with one friend one evening, and be someone else entirely with another friend the next. In newspapers, it gave me the ability to be “one of us” working with a variety of sources; I just sort of fit wherever I happened to be.

Four years ago, if you knew David Hitt, who you knew would depend on where you knew him. There was the upstanding, proper guy you would meet at church on Sunday morning. The knowledgeable space geek you would encounter at work. The clever wit at improv rehearsal.

Around the time that movie came out, I did feel like there was no real me. All of the things I was were true, but none of them was the truth. None of them overlapped with the others, and none of them was more me than the others.

I got married, and the person I was with my wife became the “real me.” Who I really was was the person I was at home every night. I was that person more than any other, that person seemed less like an expediency than any other, so that was the real me. There were still several versions of me — work me and church me and whatever else still existed — but I knew which one was “real me.”

And then I got divorced. Which had two major impacts on the idea of the real me. First, I lost that grounding. Without a wife, the real me couldn’t be the person I was with her. Second, I lost that identity. The real me was married. He was her husband. He was her niece’s uncle. Key elements of who the “real me” was just evaporated.

Today I have a better sense of self than I ever have. What happened between then and now? Three things:

First, and most importantly, I’ve gotten to know myself better. I have a better sense of who David Hitt is to identify the various traits that are intrinsic to who I am. I’ve come to have a better sense of who God thinks I am, and those things are, without question, the real me. Whatever He thinks, chances are, He’s right.

Second, my participation in Face2Face Improv has had a huge impact on me. Making a fool of myself on stage has made me less self-conscious; doing it well has made me more self-confident. I’m more willing to be myself in any situation, which lets me break down the walls between different versions of me and carry traits over. The traits that become more universal are the things that define the real me.

But — and this is the one that’s most fascinating to me — then there’s Facebook. And Twitter and my blog and so forth, but I think it started with Facebook.

On Facebook, there’s only one me. And that one me is friends with people from every part of my life. My family. Fellow church members. Members of churches I used to attend. High school classmates. Improv troupemates. Coworkers. College friends. My counselor. Former employees of former employers.

And that one me shares updates about all different parts of my life. Most of those pictures above have been my profile picture at some point. They’re all different versions of me, but they’re all me — the author, the iPhone addict, the improv troupe member, the hiker, the NASA education writer, the church member, the Ole Miss alum, the loving uncle, the actor.

The thing that Facebook does that changes the rules is bring those things together. Back in the day, the people who went to church with proper, respectable David wouldn’t see him making a fool of himself at improv the night before. The people I work with wouldn’t see me hiking the Walls of Jericho. Nobody but family got to see Uncle David. And things like broken engagements didn’t play out for the entire world to see.

But now, everybody sees everything. Improv people don’t just see improv David; they see the guy that geeks out about seeing shuttle launches, does a whole lot of writing trying to figure out this God thing, enjoys spending time on a mountain, and occasionally gets to do cool things like hang out with astronauts.

And those things — the combination of all those things — that now everyone gets to see are me.

The real me.

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