Thursday, April 2, 2009

Stroking for the Lord: A Million Keystrokes Was It Worth It

From time to time I reflect on why I have done the various book compilations and blog on the Internet. Recently I have been grappling with carpal tunnel so it is a painful process for me to even write at all let alone put up the links to all 348 LDS Missions and write weekly posts on a blog. I have done some reflection on how I developed this condition and what was accomplished. The bottom line is intrinsically why do I blog? And is it worth the mental and physical pain that I have to endure?

As I examine the statistics of my blog Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord, The Adventures of Sister Flora Bruno, and the aggregator Mormon Blogosphere it is questionable whether or not 125,000 hits was worth the estimated million keystrokes that I made.

How do you really measure the effectiveness of a blog. One way is to see how many times it is linked to or mentioned in well-read places. I have made the Mormon Times Today in the Bloggernacle on about nine occasions and Trash Calls on about six occasions. So I have been applauded about as many times as I have been ridiculed. I have been accused of being delusional on the one hand and inspirational on the other hand from such reviewing sources.

Readers of my blog are also mixed about its content. One of my early followers privately emailed me that it was amazing the topics that my mind could come up on a single subject to blog on. Whether you condemn me personally for being self-congratulatory or not the statistics are good for someone who has been blogging only eighteen months.

It isn't easy to come up with material that will interest a person to keep reading a blog. I have used my blog for a variety of reasons including informational purposes, family history, and psychological release. However the primary reason the blog exists is to draw people to discover my missionary compilation book which is on my sidebar (Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord: LDS Prophets and Apostles Speak on Missionary Service).

I didn't start blogging until October 2007, approximately eighteen months ago. Some would say that 100,000 hits for a single blogger is a major accomplishment. It isn't in the league of a John Dehlin's Mormon Stories or By Common Consent or Mormon Matters or Times and Seasons or Millennial Star but then of course my entire staff includes only me with an occasional assist from one of my children serving a mission and I haven't gotten a million hits yet. I am however aggregated on all but LDS Select and he has some problem I have never figured out. He even dissed my wife Bored in Vernal who was on there but in his laziness he would not fix her link when she went to the new blogger. He was one of the reasons I started my own aggregator.

When I started blogging my wife who was a major LDS blogger didn't really appreciate my foray into her territory. She was afraid that people would judge her intellectual and feminist contributions by me a very ultra-conservative Mormon in the Ezra Taft Benson or M. Russell Ballard molds. She was startled after a few months that I started getting two or three hundred hits a day which put me near her three to four hundred level.

She rarely even reads my blog posts since they aren't at her intellectual level. She has however given me guidance along the way. Initially she suggested I comment on other people's blog many who are center of the road and liberal. When I posted a conservative viewpoint it caused them to come to my blog to see who I was. After a few months I developed a following who love to trash me. She actually told me that was a good strategy since the more controversial I was the more that would read me. I never knew from time to time when something would be interesting or provocative. She even told me it would be a service to start an aggregator for solo bloggers who couldn't get picked up by the major aggregators so I created one called the Mormon Blogosphere.

When I put together my aggregator it took me a month of hard wrist numbing typing. I felt the pain as I had to redo the links four different times since blogger was in draft form and would crash with code errors. Intellectually my wife helped me once at lot of the grunt work was done by me. She convinced me to be totally inclusive to allow all solo bloggers the chance for aggregation. I have never taken down a blog for content despite some heat from a few who demanded I remove their blogs if a few fringe bloggers were allowed aggregation. I explained to them you could hold a temple recommend and still be aggregated you just didn't need to look on the right side under the liberal and fringe area. A few saw my point but one or two didn't. My only psychic reward was knowing that if everyone who hated Mormons removed a book about us from the local library only anti-material would exist so I would allow any active member no matter what their perspective access. I don't really peruse that category much so I don't give it much thought. I just allow for differing perspectives. I usually only look at the missionary category.

As to my missionary blog Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord, I have had relatively few comments on any post. The only initial criticism is that my posts are way too long. Most of my audience are lurkers they read my stuff and don't say much of anything. Since a lot of my stuff is analyzing mainstream missionary topics and statements or policies I guess the subject bores many readers. I got all of fourteen comments on the decline in convert number in the United States and Canada. I even tried different interesting techniques that I learned in completing a doctorate in education. I have posted surveys and questionaires.

I don't think forty is a meaningful population to see who was the greatest missionary of all times in the LDS Church. My poll on couples actually was useful when a few couples who took my poll went on missions. My other polls received between ten and twenty responses. My doctoral advisor would have said it was slightly better than a guess on the subjects measured.

During the last twenty years I have personally typed in extensive quotes while editing the Teachings of Erza Taft Benson. I was young and active then and had the help of a couple of secretaries Jodi Durrant and Janiel Johnson but I probably put in a couple of hundred thousand keystrokes myself. They actually gave two months of their lives for six hours a day five days of the week in dedicated typing. I spent two years of my life working on the book intense intellectual editing and categorization. Every week in church when I hear someone quote the Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson and I hear their passion about a quote I extracted I think that I had a part in making it possible for them to have that resource. If it weren't for the backbreaking efforts of those of us who made the book possible people would not be enjoying the words of the prophets.

When I completed that project I began work on the Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord quote book. No one helped me to type in the material. I initially typed in a four hundred page quote book that include statements by all the general authorities. I lost it in a computer crash with no backup. I had to type it a second time from almost scratch that time I limited to statements by the First Presidency an Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. One time after seven years I sent a copy to LDS correlation led by Daniel Ludlow who reviewed it. It was submitted to Sheri Dew at Deseret Book who rejected it for undisclosed reasons. I followed that up with twenty years of compiling quotes on missionary work by all the general authorities but adding in topically all the quotes I could find by the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve.

In June 2007 I sent a copy on cd to all the general authorities of the Church. I spoke with the head of Intellectual Reserve about my making it available as a private compilation. I received permission verbally that as long as I put it up on a blog and didn't charge for it the church didn't have a problem with my making it available to others. I spoke with a secretary to the Council of the Twelve also about my intentions in this regard.

I had to retype a significant portion of the quotes since they didn't all go in to blogger very cleanly and had code problems. I took each topic in the book and posted each a separate post but in sequential order. I then created a html list with the book on the sidebar of my blog. As I discover new quotes I have inserted them in to the category. I have cleaned up the posts on two different occasions looking for typos or mistakes.

Several months ago I discovered that none of the sites that concentrate on LDS Missions had a comprehensive list of links about the 364 LDS missions. It wasn't as easy as cutting and pasting though to put them in an organized fashion. I developed a template and went to the LDS Mission Network, Dear Elder, Mission Site Net,, the Church News, and LDS.Org magazines, and Google to extract anything LDS mission related. I had to literally retype out the majority of the information since it wasn't in an easy to read format.

It takes approximately six to eight hours per mission to extract the data from the above sources and thousands of keystrokes. It is a mentally numbing process and can be tedious to pull all the information in one place. Within a few hours Google has my post listed and moves it up near the top of the listings for a specific search such as Argentina Salta LDS Mission. The value in it is that you don't have to consult any of the above sources and can find all mission related information in one place. For me the bad thing is that it took thousands and thousands of keystrokes. Some days the monotony is overwhelming and I question why I am even doing it. Most people couldn't care less.

The only thing that sustains me in the process is as a librarian I remember that my motivation is to help others. I really became a librarian so I could help people. I figure that there are young sisters and elders out there looking for information about missionary work. If I can just touch a few of them through either my missionary book, my blog, or just finding out about a specific mission then I have served a useful purpose.

I remember when I sent a copy of my missionary quote book to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland he was one of only three general authorities who responded back, here is what he said:

Re: Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord: LDS Missionary Quote Book

Thursday, October 25, 2007 5:07 PM
Thank you, Frank. I appreciate your devotion very much. Stay in touch.
I have not bothered him since he is a busy man but the part that is meaningful to me was that he appreciated my devotion very much and emailed me. Even if he hadn't I would still feel what I have been doing is worthwhile and meaningful.

I could take care of the carpal tunnel by having a couple of operations but I don't have the necessary sick leave in my job nor the deductible to have it done. With eight children four in college and one on a mission you have to sometimes sacrifice to make it from day to day. In a few years when I build up enough time and my kids are through with their schooling and missions I will take care of this inconvenience. For now I rest the wrist and keep on keeping on. As a librarian I have to type all day every day as part of my job.

The million keystrokes I have given is my small part in building the kingdom of God. I may not have a visible presence in the church officially but unofficially I have been stroking for the Lord psychically and psychologically for over twenty years through my various publication efforts. Every now and then someone benefits from what I have been doing as they quote from one of my two compilations or quote from my blog. Even though I may not get much positive feedback this is the way I am personally building the church and kingdom of God in my way.


Bookslinger said...

Doc, what cured my wrist pains from typing was a Microsoft Natural Keyboard. It's split, angled and curved. Try one out. It may take a few weeks to get used to, but it will be great.

Dr. B said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I will try it and see if it works.