It was a small group, but a brilliant conversation (we were still there at 10pm). Richard Priestley had brought along a laptop and projector, but there was some problem with being connected to the internet, so we spent the entire time talking about blogs without looking at a screen. He blogs about environmental matters, and has written briefing notes for MPs and given a talk at the House of Commons, among other things. He said he was invited to China to talk to marine engineers on the strength of one blog post he wrote - but it was a case of mistaken identity. They thought he was the director of the project he was blogging about, so he turned them down.
Around the table, I blog here and (for non-Hay-related stuff) at Morwenna's Tower.
Anna started a blog some time ago, didn't update it, and now wants to go back to it.
Antoine is a tech expert and could answer technical questions about blogger vs. wordpress (and was it worth copying your blog content onto both? Answer, probably not.) and what hashtags are for - key words for Twitter, basically, in the same way that I put labels at the bottom of my posts, so that it's easy to find all the posts I've written about Hay Castle by clicking on "Hay Castle" in that area for instance.
There was quite a bit of interest around the table in consulting him professionally in the future.
Lizzie inhabits a very specialised niche of botanical illustration and natural history in her online life.
And there was a lady who had come along to learn more about blogs because she is just starting a B&B (she already runs a holiday let cottage) and wants to publicise it by starting a blog about it, perhaps writing about what she can see from the window about twice a week with photos.
We talked about spam - I don't really get any, because blogspot is protected by Google. Wordpress bloggers have more of a problem (but wordpress blogs seem to have more bells and whistles if you want them).
We also talked about the dark side of social media - the trolls and people who make nasty comments. Richard gets his share of climate change deniers - and even Lizzie occasionally comes across them. She'll be writing about the migration patterns of a particular butterfly, and get someone being furious with her in the comments.
The lady with the B&B (sorry I didn't catch her name) asked how people found blogs. We offered some suggestions to her, and I've been thinking about how I find interesting blogs as well.
The first thing, when you do find a blog you like, is to see what they like in the sidebar and have a look at those blogs. I've gone down many interesting rabbit holes by doing that! At one time, I found a Buddhist blog, about a Scottish Buddhist running a temple in Arizona. That led me to other Buddhist blogs, mostly in the States, including a Chinese-American gay guy who also knitted. His blog led me to a whole group of blogs by men who knit, including a vet in California!
One way of finding blogs I didn't mention last night was by joining discussion forums for topics you're interested in. They can be hard to find, too, but once you're there, people commenting on the forum who have a blog will often put the link to their blog at the bottom of each post they make, so you can have a look.
Downsizer forum, and a couple of other sustainability forums I used to belong to, has led me to people living on smallholdings in Brittany (which led to more British people living in French villages, and Spain, and Greece....).
Ship of Fools, a Christian discussion group (and also the best place to discuss Doctor Who I've found online!) led me to Episcopalian women priests in the States, and Lutherans, and Quakers - and The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley, which is a hilarious blog about a strange Pagan community, led by ArchDruid Eileen and with a whole cast of strange characters, with the odd bit of serious Christian theology mixed in.
These days, my blog list grows organically, by following links from blogs I already follow - and it also shrinks organically, as bloggers stop posting, or I return to a blog and think "Why on Earth was I interesting in this?" or "This is indistinguishable from half a dozen other blogs about patchwork I've seen recently." Mind you, I remain fascinated by a blog which is entirely about sand, Through the Sandglass, so I can get interested in some pretty odd things!
Meanwhile, back at Tomatitos, Richard Priestley will be running his course about sustainablilty shortly. The first meeting is Tuesday 12th April. He's also running a course in Malvern, and was surprised and delighted when a local lady took it upon herself to organise the whole thing for him. She's booked the room, and publicised the event, and all he has to do is turn up and talk!
The next Social Media meeting will be about Google Analytics, date to be confirmed.