Yeah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking. It’s about freakin’ time! Believe me, I feel the same way. Had I known how long this was going to take and how much work it entailed, I don’t know if I would’ve had the gumption to start. But hey, as one pudgy Prime Minister once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Now that it’s all said and done, I think it came out pretty dang good, if I do say so myself. So what took so stinkin’ long? Did you see that pretty black bar with the Play button up there? That’s what took so stinkin’ long. The written blog now comes as a podcast for all you people who are too friggin’ lazy to read. You know. People like me. 😀 But let’s go back to the beginning first.[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Or enter http://abouttruckdriving.com/truckerdump.xml into your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein
Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?[/box]
This whole ordeal started because I hated the name of the blog.
Admit it. The About Trucking Jobs blog is a horrible name. It was even worse because at the time, the free version of WordPress wouldn’t allow me to have a custom URL. Therefore, I was stuck with AboutTruckingJobs.wordpress.com. You can pay a small fee to get rid of that now, but that wasn’t the case when I first started thinking of self-hosting. As for the blog name, I admit that I read one too many articles on SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I thought that if I had the words “Trucking” and “Jobs” in the title, I’d have a much better chance of being discovered. I guess we can thank the trucking industry’s ridiculously high turnover rates for making those keywords so stinkin’ popular. Clearly it isn’t that important though; because after 4 years of blogging, Google still barely acknowledges that I exist.
I was also starting to run into other limitations. I couldn’t use all the cool plugins on the free version. I couldn’t store video or audio files on the site either. I could always link to my YouTube channel for videos, but the teeny-tiny audio files baffled me. I guess with it being free, I couldn’t complain. It had served me well until I started getting too big for my britches.
You also can’t monetize on WordPress’ free site. Yes, that means you’ll notice a few ads now. Hopefully they aren’t too intrusive. I’ve gone out of my way to make sure they aren’t. If you want to help the show and the blog without spending any money you weren’t already going to spend, there’s an Amazon.com ad in the sidebar (you don’t have to use the search functions–just click on the Amazon logo). Click on it and I’ll receive a small portion of what you spend. Again, your price isn’t affected. Amazon pays me from their cut. If you really want to be nice, simply set your Amazon bookmark for AboutTruckDriving.com and click on the ad before you go to Amazon. It’s only one extra click and although it isn’t much money, it’ll help cover my hosting costs. You’ll also notice a HostGator banner at the bottom of each post. Click that if you ever want a cheap, but good web host with good customer service. At least I’ve had good luck with them. Okay, enough of that.
So that’s when I decided to leave WordPress.com. Within about 30 minutes of paying HostGator for my hosting and buying my domain name from Hover.com, I had a crude Web site up. Using WordPress’ wicked-cool exporting feature, I quickly copied all my blog posts and comments over too. But it did screw up some of the pictures, formatting, and links, so that took some time to sort out. But man, oh man, the site was still as ugly as the backside of a Holstein with the runs. That’s when I discovered that self-hosting wasn’t going to be that easy.
I couldn’t find a free theme that did everything I wanted, so I wound up buying a custom one from WooThemes. That took a lot of tweaking in itself. It’s amazing how hard it is to have different header images on two different pages. Or at least it is when you aren’t a computer programmer. Took me for-freaking-ever to figure that one out. Oh, and did I mention that I had to find good header images and experiment with 8 million different fonts, layouts, and colors to find a combo that I liked? Yeah. Doesn’t help that I suck at that kind of stuff, either.
Having a custom theme also means you have to choose everything to make things look the way you want. Do you want a boxed look? How wide do you want it? What style of navigation bar looks best? What color is your background? What font are you gonna use? What color is that font? How thick do you want the borders of your sidebar widgets? What about page layout? You can imagine how long this took with my sense of color and style. I’m still not convinced it’s all that whoopie either. Let me know what you think.
And by the way, I’m well aware that the mobile version of the Web site isn’t working worth a toot. I found out after-the-fact that I need a plugin to make my custom theme display correctly. A $60 plugin! As you well know, I’m a cheapskate. LOL So that means for the time being you’ll have to use pinch and zoom to read the Web site or listen to to the podcast on your phone. However, if you’ve got an iPhone, you’re in luck. Using Apple’s Mobile Safari app, click on a blog post. See that blue button that says “Reader” in the URL bar? Tap that and you won’t have to zoom in. It cuts out all the junk and gives you nice big text to read. It’s an awesome feature than many people overlook. Unfortunately, Google’s popular Chrome mobile browser doesn’t seem to have this feature. At least not on the iPhone it doesn’t. If you non-Apple users find a way to do this on your phone, shoot me an email at TruckerDump@gmail.com and I’ll pass the word along.
So, anyway. What’s new on this fancy-pants Web site?
Well. It looks a lot different, that’s for sure. I think it’s easier to navigate than my old page, too. It’s got a new FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page that will undoubtedly grow over time. The site now has a prominent Contact Me link in the navigation bar, too. It was buried on the old site. That might come in handy for your Frequently Asked Questions. And the site’s got a page with free stuff. For now, there is a cool 1-page PDF that shows you how to slide your tandems and fifth wheel to get a load to axle out. Even if you don’t need it, download it and print a few copies for those times when you see a rookie struggling to axle out properly. Another cool thing is the full versions of my podcast intro and outro songs are available for free. That’s courtesy of the band, Walking On Einstein. If you find something that looks like a good, free resource for truckers, let me know and maybe we can add it to the Free Stuff page. And of course, the podcast itself is a huge difference. But more on that in a bit.
Other than the addition of the podcast, the biggest difference is the name changes. The Web site is now AboutTruckDriving.com, which I feel is a heck of a lot better than AboutTruckingJobs.wordpress.com. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it rolls off the ol’ tongue better. It’s also more descriptive of what I do. I thought the old name sounded too much like one of those job-hunting Web sites.
And then there’s the name I’m most proud of. The blog/podcast has been rebranded as Trucker Dump, with the tagline: One driver’s insights and sometimes humorous views of truck driving and the trucking industry… and anything else he feels like dumping on you. See? Now isn’t that perfect for me? Bathroom humor galore. There will be more content added to the Web site later on, but you’ll have to settle for this for now. And the Welcome page for AboutTruckDriving.com is well… totally lame right now. I did try to make it amusing at least. And keep in mind that this is a work in progess. Let me know when you find bugs and I’ll do my best to exterminate the little buggers. Again, that’s what the Contact Me page is for.
Now of course, switching my web address means a couple of things. First, I will soon be redirecting the old site to the new one, so if you have the AboutTruckingJobs blog bookmarked, you’ll find yourself jumping over to the corresponding post on Trucker Dump instead. Secondly, I won’t be posting to the AboutTruckingJobs blog in the future. And that means that those of you who were subscribed to the old site will need to re-subscribe to the new one. I thought about trying to figure out who all was subscribed and just transferring your information over to the new subscribe list, but in the end I decided against it for three reasons.
- I didn’t want to assume you still wanted to be subscribed. So if you’ve been looking for a chance to gracefully escape, here it is.
- I wasn’t exactly sure how to find out who all was subscribed, so I’m taking the lazy way out by having you re-subscribe yourself.
- Even if I could figure out how you were subscribed, I didn’t want to presume you’d want to stay subscribed in the same way.
Unfortunately, subscribing to a blog isn’t as easy as it used to be. That’s mainly because not all web browsers support RSS anymore. If you click on the orange “Subscribe to RSS” label on the right side of the navigation bar and the page does something you aren’t expecting, just click on the Subscribe button in the navigation bar and it will take you to a page that should help you figure it out. It will also show you other ways to subscribe to the blog and/or podcast. If you just want to subscribe by email, there’s a subscribe box at the end of each blog post. Type your email address in there and you’re done. You’ll find a similar box on the Subscribe page.
Okay, now back to the subject at hand. I have to say that if I could have just concentrated on the Web site itself, I’d have been up and running in 2-3 months, even with my limited down time out here on the road. No, what took so long was making the content for the Web site. You see, I had a butt-load of podcasts to do. For instance, this is my 90th blog/podcast. And every time I did another blog post, that tacked on one more podcast I’d have to do. And that’s why I turned to my guest posters. I’m grateful that Noble, Sam, Kevin, and Doug were there to take some of the load off. But if you read those posts, you’ll know that I added to the content too, making even more work for myself. That’s why you haven’t seen a blog post for a while. I finally got caught up enough that I didn’t want to put myself behind again. I figured ya’ll could just wait until the new site went live. I trust you’ve survived.
Just in case you aren’t familiar with the term podcast. . .
First, I guess I should explain what a podcast is for those of you who don’t know. A podcast is kinda like a little radio show that is distributed over the Internet instead of the airwaves. Most of them are free, as is Trucker Dump. Some are horrible due to poor production values and/or people who just turn on the mic and start yammering. I can’t do that without boring you and me both to tears, so luckily most of mine is scripted. Other podcasts are awesome. Now I doubt mine falls into that category, but I do think my production value is pretty dang good. The content? Well, that’s your call I guess. LOL I’m just hoping to fall somewhere in the middle. Have a listen and let me know what you think I could do to improve the show. Constructive criticism is welcome.
If you truckers aren’t listening to podcasts yet, you’re wasting a heck-of-a-lot of free listening content. If you have an interest, someone is doing a podcast on it. Sports? Check. Politics? Check. Quilting? Check. Foot Fetishes? Yep, even that. Go to the iTunes Store and type your particular interest into the search bar. I’d be shocked if it weren’t already being covered by somebody.
So what exactly is so hard about making podcasts?
Well, it would’ve been even harder if I didn’t hold an associate’s degree in Music and Video Business. If I wasn’t already familiar with audio editing, I probably wouldn’t be rolling out this podcast until I was checking into a nursing home. So here was the process. Bear with me.
For each blog post turned podcast, I needed to have relative quiet. That’s not easy to come by when you’re constantly surrounded by idling trucks and busy streets. Sometimes I just had to grin and bear it. Yes, you heard that right. I do all the recording in the bunk area of my truck. I’m betting that’s even more of a challenge in the future since I won’t have the benefit of waiting for the perfect moment of truck stop silence. Still, I think for the most part my microphone does a pretty good job of keeping the worst of the noise out. By the way, I know someone will ask, so I’ll just tell you now and get it over with. I use a Blue Yeti microphone and do the recording on my beloved 15″ MacBook Pro using the built-in GarageBand software. The Yeti is a good mic, but if I had it to do over, I’d get one with less sensitivity so I could block out more noise. Not to mention the stinkin’ thing’s as big as a freakin’ tuba.
So for each blog post, I had to write an introduction and outro (which are both unique for each individual podcast), record the intro, then read the blog post, then read the comments from readers (and future listeners), and answer them (starting at Episode 24), and then record the outro. Since I’m apparently incapable of speaking in coherent sentences, this took longer than it probably should have. In the beginning it took an hour to record a 5-minute podcast. And that’s not even counting the editing! I’m a lot better than I was in the beginning, but it still takes me about 20-30 minutes to record 10 minutes of audio, depending on how well my tongue is working that day. And you know that many of my blog posts are waaaaaay longer than 10 minutes of reading.
As for the editing process, it can take 1-2 hours to edit an average length podcast. I have to insert the music and sound effects, cut my original recording into about a million pieces, put them all back together, and mix the sound levels. Surprisingly enough, I manage to do that well enough to keep people from thinking I have a speech impediment. Now add in all the time experimenting with different formats, intros and outros, and general trial-and-error that comes with learning a new skill, and you can start to get an idea of why this took so friggin’ long.
So now I’m done with that podcast, right?
Nope. Now I have to convert it to AIF (to have a good archive copy), convert that to MP3 (for you good folks), insert the album artwork (which I also had to create), enter the name, episode title, length of the podcast (and all that other good junk), write the show description (complete with clickable HTML links for the show notes), create the RSS feed, upload the file to my web server, insert the little audio player you see above into the blog post, and then hit my knees and pray for 3 days that there won’t be any technical glitches. Then do it all 89 more times! I have to say that all of this little crap would’ve been 1000 times harder if I didn’t use an app called TextExpander. If you’re on a Mac and you do a lot of repetitive typing, just go buy it and I’ll let you put one of my nephews through college when you feel like paying me back. Yes, you’ll love it that much.
So all that to say this. Sorry it took so long, but I hope now that you’ll give me a break after hearing the whole monotonous process. I’m going to try like the dickens to get back to writing and recording on a more regular schedule than I did before. Don’t get too anal with me though. I can’t control my loads, where I’m at, or how loud my surroundings are. I’ll do my best to make up for the long absence though.
But alas, I’ve encountered one major problem.
I need your help with something. Do you remember when I mentioned that I read and respond to comments from readers and listeners? Well, those comments have been building up for the last 4 years. I no longer have the luxury of time, which means I’ll be strapped for content to fill the feedback section. So here’s what I need from you. If you’re a curious non-trucker or you’re considering becoming a trucker, write in with your thoughts and any questions you’ve ever wondered about how trucking works. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll ask around and try to find out.
If you’re a trucker, I really need you. You see, I’d like the Trucker Dump blog/podcast to be an excellent source of information for those interested in the trucking industry. I really think it could be, considering that most of my topics can be classified as “evergreen,” meaning that the information doesn’t change much over time. So you can see, I really need you experienced truckers to weigh in with your opinions, insights, experiences, and stuff I may not have thought of. If I’m right about something, back me up and lend credence to what I’m saying. That way the readers/listeners won’t think I’m just a blow-hard… even if I am. On the other hand, pipe up and tell me when I’m out of line or you have a different opinion on a subject. It’s always good to hear both sides of the story.
So… how can you comment?
Well, if you’re on the blog, keep scrolling down and leave your thoughts in the comments section where everyone can see them. Or if you’d prefer, you can shoot me an email at TruckerDump@gmail.com. So help me out here, folks. This feedback section is going to get lame pretty quick without your help. And speaking of the feedback section, if you’re listening to the podcast, you may find yourself playing a fun little game with each new episode. Well, I hope you find it fun anyway. Cuz it’s a pain-in-the-tookus to do. I’ll leave it at that.