Tuesday, August 18, 2009

learning at the HLS

HLS recap 2: top 10 things i learned at the summit
the summit had multiple talks, some of which were quite interesting to me! by far the most useful was the discussion called blogging 101. this is kind of embarrassing: i actually had the LONGEST RUNNING BLOG at the summit (seriously -- i won a contest!!), and yet i'm way behind most of the others in terms of the science/tech side of blogging.

part 1: blogging tips & tricks
heather, pictured here, probably already knew all this stuff!

1. RSS feed: you should have a link to your RSS feed at the very top of your page so that new readers have an easy way in. this will encourage casual surfers 'stopping by' to come back for more!

2. relates posts: having a list of related posts at the bottom of each posting is a great way to get readers to click around and explore after reading that day's entry.

3. a distinctive logo is important! brand your blog with a consistent logo and name (ideally one that does not suck the life out of people and make them wonder what is wrong with you, such as 'lostandallalone').

4. clean designs are better. actually, i already knew that one. i think this site's design is pretty clean -- at least i got something right!

5. self hosted > hosted in terms of flexibility. i do wish i had the capability to add more pages (including a 'favorite posts' section), something blogspot does not let me do.

6. use shortcuts!. programs such as windows livewriter or ecto (for mac, which is what i use) will let you post pictures in a fraction of the time (i waste lots of minutes uploading!), and allow you to write posts off-line.

7. photo quality is important. um, i want a new camera. and someone to teach my how to take better pictures.

8. ads: FoodBuzz may pay a bit better than BlogHer. that said, i think i'll stick with the latter. i like their philosophy and i'm not sure this site is foodie enough for FB.

9. spread the word about your site, using social media, forums, and by commenting on others' posts.

10. quality rules all: apparently, if your site/material is good, then eventually you will have success; on the contrary, poor writing and bad pictures will never be widely read. i'm not sure i 100% agree with this, as there ARE some rather widely-read blogs that i think are not written very well, and i actually take some pride in the quality of my material, yet it's been 5 years and WHERE IS MY TV CONTRACT AND BOOK DEAL? just kidding.

part 2: additional info & inspiration
regina, with kath in the background

while blogging 101 was the most useful to me, the most inspiring session was a talk given by a small organic dairy farmer, regina beidler. regina was a great speaker and had a lot of eloquent things to say about the food industry and the humane treatment of animals -- and she showed plenty of cool pictures from her farm to show that she truly had the experience to back up what she was saying. i also learned a lot, turning today's top 10 into what is really a top 14.

things i picked up at her speech included:

1. USDA organic dairy = no added hormones, no antibiotics, no chemicals, no genetically-modified organisms (although i have learned from siobhan that GMOs are not necessarily a bad thing!). in the pediatrics field, we are seeing young girls develop younger and younger (ie, menstruating at age 7 or 8!) and i do think that hormones -- and other chemicals that may have similar hormone-like actions -- in food could very well have something to do with it. they are powerful substances!

2. other requirements of organic farms is that they meet certain quality standards, that they take measures to preserve biodiversity, and that they follow various measures to ensure more humane treatment of animals.

3. nutrition benefits of organically-farmed meat and dairy include a healthier fat profile (more omega 3 & conjugated linoleic acids). organic milk also has higher levels of beta carotene, vitamin E, and other antioxidants.

4. environmental benefits abound as well, including methane reduction (apparently grass-fed cows emit less of the toxic belches into the atmosphere!), preservation of the carbon-absorbing rural landscape, and avoidance of the use of toxic pesticides which build up very high in some water supplies

so basically i was convinced by her talk that it really is worthwhile to invest in products that align with the guidelines above. we made the switch to organic milk upon my return! i'm sure i'll have even more to say after watching Food, Inc.

overall, i liked regina's message that one didn't necessarily have to go vegan to eat in a more environmentally sound/economically friendly/nutritious way. regina herself admitted to 'loving meat', and personally i don't think i could live without cheese (or at least live happily).

planning, people, and paper
loved this little shout-out! i wish i felt that organized this week.


  1. I have to agree with you on your number 10 point where you say some blogs are not good quality writing and get tons of comments. That is so true. I hate it when I see some poorly thrown together post and the person gets like 50 comments! How does that happen?? You're right, you should have a book deal by now!

    Regarding blogspot vs wordpress (or self hosting on a wordpress platform), you can migrate your entire blog; it won't get rid of it.

  2. congrats on having the longest running blog there :) i think that organic dairy farmer session sounds like it would have been really interesting, glad you think so too!

  3. atilla9:43 AM

    I learned alot from your blog today ..all good ideas...you love food too much to go Vegan, trust me on that one

  4. Oh, I am so glad you posted a wrap up of Zesty's talk, I was taking notes feverishly, but managed to miss some stuff, your review was helpful!

  5. Congrats on having the longest running blog! I liked that info on dairy farming, but this conference seems kind of...random? Maybe I will learn the point eventually.

    I don't agree with number 10 either.

  6. kath looks crazy professional!!

  7. Lisa M4:49 PM

    I just read your Meal Planning post (on CNC) for the first time. It's really well written. Nice job!I have a Cook Through question for you...
    How do you mark the pages once you have completed a recipe?
    Also, are you planning another book once this one is completed?
    I'm thinking of doing the same thing because I totally agree with the organizational aspect of having all of your recipes in one place. I feel I'm always printing and tearing stuff out all over the place.

  8. I did not know a lot of stuff Zesty talked about and to be honest, I've been trying to figure out stumble upon for a full year now!

  9. I have heard early puberty in girls is also linked to overeating and obesity-- but yeah, hormones in milk are yucky. Maine's own Oakhurst Dairy was the first in the country to publicly pledge they did not buy milk from cows treated with rBST-- I trust them, even though they are non-organic.

    I also want a camera! Eric has a very hefty digital SLR that scares me, but takes incredible pictures. The digital photography powers-that-be are still trying to squeeze the great image quality into a smaller package, so I am holding out for now.

  10. Great overview of Zesty and Regina's tips! I think their presentations were two of the Summit highlights.

  11. I never realized that there was so much to having a blog...for me, it's just posting and commenting on other blogs. So much more to look into now!

  12. Anonymous8:56 PM

    I just want to present another point of view on eating organic. Though you make very good points about organic products, it does not mean that some products that do not qualify as organic are not equally healthful. Farms have to pay to be certified as organic, and many small farms cannot afford those fees to remain profitable, but still practice resposible farming. What may be even more important for the environment and health is to "buy local."

    - Mom