3 Years of Blogging!

Celebrating three years of publishing to the web!

It’s time to break out the bubbly folks because today (15 February) I celebrate my blog’s third birthday. And what a year it has been too with so much to write about as I continued to document the changes brought on both in lifestyle and physical abilities by this horrendous disease.

For the blog itself the biggest change this past year has been in relocating it to a new home here at WordPress, something which was spurred on by the lack of development and limited feature set of my old blog’s home. I’d initially balked at the thought of recreating something like 2 1/2 years of content, and yes it did take a long time, but now that it is done I must say that I take considerable pride in being able to say that the whole of the new site has been created without touching the computer once! Everything you see here on this site is created and assembled using voice recognition software with the occasional movement of my foot controls to operate the screen cursor.

Moving the blog to WordPress has been one of my better decisions. Visitor traffic to the site has substantially improved; in fact it received more hits in its first six months here at WordPress than it did in its first 2 1/2 years in its previous home. There has also been a dramatic improvement in the number of people who have been kind enough to leave a comment or message in the guestbook (including a few nice surprises from people I’d thought had dropped off the radar – you know who you are), and it has been feedback like this that has fuelled my determination to continue developing the blog.

When I re-launched the blog last summer I started experimenting a little with raising its profile and trying to direct traffic to the site, an idea I got from my brother Jason who is very adept at this kind of thing. I won’t pretend for a moment that I’ve started to optimise the site using keywords and repetitive word usage (at the expense of readability) but I did dabble for a while in making use of blog search engines such as Technorati, and social websites like Twitter to try and increase the blog’s chances of being found and by the right kind of people. After all, there’s not much point in writing about motor neurone disease if the people who wish to find out about the disease aren’t aware of the blog’s existence. Surprisingly perhaps it was a subject that initially I had never given any thought to. All my energy had always been spent on creating content. I’d not made any effort to advertise it! So raising awareness of the blog so that I can in turn raise awareness of MND has been something I’ve devoted some of my time and effort to during the second half of last year.

Now as I mentioned last summer in my D+1000 post I feel that I have now reached the point where the story of my descent into quadriplegia has now been told. In addition I’ve also now completed the saga of getting a house extension built as well as documenting the ups and downs of dealing with care agencies. And so after all the turmoil of the past few years I have at last (he says with fingers firmly crossed) reached a point of relative stability. For how long, who can say? But now that I am living downstairs my options on how I wish to spend my time have been considerably increased. It is for this reason that the blog is going to receive less attention than it did last year. With time in short supply I want to spend some of it doing other things that bring happiness to me. I have quite a backlog of things to do which are going to demand quite a lot of my time. I’m also hoping to be able to get out and enjoy the fresh air on a regular basis. I’ve been cooped up inside too long and I want to make up for it. But there is no need to worry because the blog will definitely carry on; in fact for me it’s hard to imagine my life without it as it’s now become a part of me. I will continue to document anything significant that happens and intersperse this with special topics from time to time.

As time marches on I will become increasingly dependent on technology to allow me to communicate with the computer. Speech recognition software is now central to everything I do and that in turn is dependent on my voice. Although I can still talk clearly, and there is currently no indication that this is going to change any time soon, my ability to talk continuously and in an unbroken fashion for more than a sentence or so is diminishing as the months go by. I notice this now not only when I have a conversation but also when I dictate into my microphone continuously for any length of time. Consequently working the computer for a few hours with my voice is becoming quite tiring and it is now quite common for me to write these posts over several days so that I don’t feel exhausted. In more recent months I’ve found it increasingly difficult to use my feet to operate the mouse controls as they gradually succumb to the paralysis. For this reason I am now looking at alternative methods of controlling this aspect of the computer. At the time of writing this post my AbilityNet contact has placed an order for a head tracking system which they have asked me to try. They have also supplied me with a modified game console controller on a swivel arm which may also prove suitable. So yes there are solutions out there, it is just a case of finding the right one for me. The trouble with this disease is that you have to continuously be one or two steps ahead in terms of accessibility technology or risk being locked out.

Before I sign off I would like to express my gratitude to my carers, most of whom at some time or another have been kind enough to take up photographic duties for me so that I can continue to illustrate the blog. I would also like to thank all of you out there who have been kind enough to drop by and stay a while, especially those who took the time to leave a message. They are always very much appreciated.

Mark

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