Blogging provides a community — or a paycheck — to Idaho Falls mothers

Idaho Falls Moms Blog MAIN

Every detail of Valerie Illguth’s life is potential fodder for her blogs.

She started her travel blog, 51 Cent Adventures, six years ago to write about all the unique and under-the-radar places her family visited on vacations. Over the last few months, she has been writing about all the details of Yellowstone National Park that they encountered while living in an RV near the park last summer. In December she joined the newly started Idaho Falls Moms Blog as one of a team of volunteers writing about her life and the area. Her most recent post talked about the effects of her son’s autism.

Why did Illguth enjoy blogging enough to write for two sites?

“I don’t know,” she laughed. “It’s a good hobby. I don’t need to have any other items around than my laptop.”

It’s easier than ever to create a website and share your writings online. WordPress, one of the world’s largest blog-supporting websites, sees more than 70 million new posts every month.

Not all of those blogs will draw in a ton of traffic or earn their creators money — the average WordPress post gets fewer than six views a month— but most bloggers aren’t looking to make it rich as long as they attract some community of readers.

In the last year, a handful of new blogs have started adding their content to the web out of Idaho Falls. One is a collective effort from more than 20 women looking to help local families, while the other is one woman’s attempt to expand her platform to speak about her disease.

The Moms Blog

In August, Idaho Falls became one of the 92 cities represented by the City Moms Blog Network. Idaho Falls Moms Blog, staffed by nearly two dozen volunteers from in and around the city, is the only city in Idaho, Utah or Wyoming to join the network.

Idaho Falls Moms Blog
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Heather Jarrell speaks to a Post Register reporter about the Idaho Falls Moms Blog on Thursday, May 16, 2019.

“We’re kind of a dot on our own over here,” Idaho Falls founder Heather Jarrell said.

Jarrell started the blog as a one-stop location for parents like her to see what the opportunities are for families in the city. The blog gets a lot of traffic from its roundup of the weekend events that will be happening and the guides offering advice on where to find splash pads or host a kid’s birthday party.

“I felt like I was hearing about all these great things that were happening in town and wanted to get all that information in one place,” Jarrell said.

The blog is run by a team of volunteers, many of whom only post once a month. It gives them freedom to write about any subject, whether it’s recent things that happened with their children or advice on what to do during the summer. Some posts are sponsored by local businesses — Jarrell said health-related events have proven especially popular.

Some of those contributors also manage blogs of their own outside the Idaho Falls Moms Blog. Valerie Illguth started her travel blog six years ago while her husband was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. She said her friends enjoyed hearing about the unique places she would stumble across with her husband and children, so she began writing about them online to get a wider audience while her husband was serving.

“He was deployed to Korea and I was at home with four kids. I would turn on ‘Toy Stor,’ and I would sit and write so I would feel like I was communicating with the outside world,” Illguth said.

The Illguths live outside Pocatello and she isn’t the only mother from outside the city limits writing for the Idaho Falls Moms Blog. The blog posts generally shy away from controversial topics or politics but the differing ages and experiences of the writers allow for some variety in the writing styles. Contributing writer Kim Lewis thought that style combined with the local focus of the blog has helped to grow its audience.

“It’s validating to hear from others in the community that are dealing with the same things,” Lewis said.

{strong style=”font-size: 1em;”}Hailey and a Spoon{/strong}

{p dir=”ltr”}Hailey Williams has been managing a YouTube channel for five years, since around the time her second daughter was born. Her videos were focused on parenting and her family life until she was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2016.

Blogger two
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Hailey Williams enjoys the freedom being a blogger provides. Williams is able to work almost anywhere and that allows her to spend more time with her family. She often blogs in her garage so she can be near her two daughters Khloe, 7, and Kaelyn, 5, while they play outside.

{p dir=”ltr”}She switched the focus of her channel to gluten awareness and advocacy. She cut back her number of videos to just one a week but saw her subscriber count rise from just over 1,000 people to nearly 6,000. Last month, Williams used that momentum to launch her own blog called Hailey and a Spoon. She admitted that, before she had launched a blog of her own, she hadn’t been that interested in reading food blogs.

{p dir=”ltr”}“I know if I was going to do blogging it would have to be my style. If I’m not going to like writing that, why would anyone want to read it?” Williams said.

{p dir=”ltr”}That shift in the focus of the blog is not unique to Williams.

{p dir=”ltr”}Former Post Register commentary page editor Katie Stokes ran her own ‘mommy blog’ in Idaho Falls for several years, around the time that blogging first peaked early in the days of the Great Recession.

“It was an easy way to women who were staying home with their kids to pick up some income,” Stokes said.

{p dir=”ltr”}Since then, Stokes said a lot of parents have dialed back on the details they shared about their children. The blogs would stay online forever, meaning an embarrassing story from when a child was 3 could follow them for the rest of their life. Stokes deleted her blog a few years ago in an attempt to remove some of the more personal details she had shared.

{p dir=”ltr”}Williams’ husband recently earned his technical degree and began working as a mechanic in town, but her YouTube channel and blog has become her main source of income. She runs the occasional sponsored video reviewing a gluten-free product and works with the local gluten-free store Mom’s Place. Last month, she traveled to Utah to create videos and meet representatives from celiac-friendly brands at the Nourish Festival.

{p dir=”ltr”}Traveling to Utah also allowed her to connect with other people who blog about the same subject. Gluten-free recipe blogs are much more common in Utah than in eastern Idaho, which has made it tougher for her to befriend other local bloggers.

{p dir=”ltr”}“There’s not a lot of what I do here. I have a niche, so it’s harder to make an acquaintance or friendship easily,” Williams said.

{p dir=”ltr”}Creating a website over the last month and becoming a blogger has led to changes in Williams’ life. She had to learn about website design and coding without any formal training on the subject. Her schedule moved around to let her post regular weekly content — Monday nights are preparing for her YouTube videos to post the next morning and Friday nights are the final touches for her Saturday blog posts.

{p dir=”ltr”}The trade-off for those nights of work, however, is that Williams can easily spend time with her kids at home or take them wherever they need to go without worrying too much about her schedule.

“I can work from the house, the park, the garage. I like being able to work from anywhere,” she said.


Inside Google’s RailWire Project Which Provides Free Internet That Works

Inside Google's RailWire Project Which Provides Free Internet That Works


  • Google’s free Wi-Fi is available in 140 railway stations
  • The company offers fast-internet access for half-an-hour at no charge
  • Here’s what you could expect from Google’s RailTel project next

Tarun Tyagi, a Faridabad resident, visits Nizamuddin railway station six to eight times a week as he commutes back and forth from work. Only a year and a half ago, to kill time time as he waited for his train, the 24-year-old would read newspapers or roam different platforms. Now he uses that time to download a couple of movies and to update all the apps on his Android smartphone using RailWire’s free Internet.

Tyagi is one of the six and a half million passengers who visits one of over 100 railway stations in India that offer Internet access at over 24Mbps speeds for half an hour at no charge every day. Post this period, the commuters are free to use it the entire day, should they want, but the speed drops to about 1Mbps.

Announced in 2015, RailWire’s Internet is a joint project by Google and state-owned telecom infrastructure provider RailTel that aims to bring free Wi-Fi access to railway stations across India. Google has already deployed RailTel routers and switches at 140 railway stations, and the company says it is on track to double that number by the end of next year.

The free Internet that works

Gadgets 360 spent some time at the Nizamuddin railway station Monday on Google’s invitation and spoke to several passengers who were using RailWire. Several regular passengers and vendors say the service works as advertised, even when the place is crowded.

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A Google executive said the company has deployed the RailWire network at stations in such a way that a passenger would always receive optimum signals. At any point, a passenger is under the coverage of three to four switches – two from the same platform and rest from the adjacent platforms.

“As we scaled our efforts, we have ensured that the network can serve every passenger,” the executive said. However, the company has also reduced the access duration for the fast free Wi-Fi from an hour to 30 minutes.

In a conversation with Gadgets 360, Gulzar Azad, Country Head of Connectivity at Google India said the company is pleased with the way it is scaling the RailWire project, and with the quality of Internet it is providing. “The data speeds that we offer to millions in India with RailWire, and the reliability of the connection, you wouldn’t find it at most international public places,” he said.

But even as Google scales its RailWire project and brings the service to more stations, has the appeal of its free Wi-Fi waned over the past one year as mobile data become more affordable in India? Azad doesn’t think so. He said the arrival of Reliance Jio last year was certainly “a learning experience” for the company, but it hasn’t impacted the growth of RailWire. In addition, people at the railway station continue to use RailWire service.

“At that time [When Reliance Jio was just launched] we were at five million monthly active users with our RailWire project. But since then we have added about 30 to 40 stations and we haven’t seen any decrement in number of users,” he said. A spokesperson for RailTel told Gadgets 360 that the company has observed a “steady growth in both volume of data used by a customer and in adoption of RailWire.”

Moving forward, Google plans to work on two things, in addition to expanding RailWire to another 260 railway stations. The company will make it easier for passengers to sign-in with RailWire. At present, passengers login to the service by providing their mobile number and authenticating themselves by a one-time password they receive on their phone. Azad said the company plans to make the login experience easier. “Later this year, commuters will see multiple ways to login to RailWire,” he said, without offering any further details.

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The other challenge for Google is finding a model to sustain the service. It is working with the Indian Railways and RailTel on this. Today, a commuter only sees one ad when using the RailWire service. It’s the ad that appears on the login page. Would Google ever serve more ads on the RailWire service? Azad told us that there are many ways to monetise, and it doesn’t have to be just ads.

In general, he said, when a user accesses fast-Internet at the railway stations, they are more likely to consume more Internet when they go home as well. This helps several businesses, he said.

Google plans to complete the roll-out of RailWire at 400 railway stations by the end of next year, or early 2019. That would conclude the project. With RailWire, the company only intends to provide free Wi-Fi at railway stations, Azad said.

But the company won’t stop with its connectivity efforts there, he said. Next on the agenda is a project which Google is already working on – turning several Indian cities to smart cities. This is part of Google Station project, which the company announced last year. The idea of the project was conceived based on the feedback received on the RailWire project, Azad said.

“As a result of this great usage that we are seeing here, we created Google Station as a product platform. Through this we believe, we can create the same experience at other point of convergences. We are looking to partner with various ISPs, exploring several venues, and wherever there is an opportunity to do public Wi-Fi, we will make it happen,” he said. “We are working on smart cities and we are looking at some more partnerships.”

In the meanwhile, people at the railway station continue to enjoy the free Internet. Many say that there is no alternative to Google’s service when it comes to a fast Internet that “always works.”


Top Democrat Provides Update On Trump-Russia Investigation

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We start with a major player in the Senate’s investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia is the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He has called his role in this investigation – and I’m quoting – “probably the most important thing I’ve done in public life.” And he joins us from Capitol Hill. Welcome to the program, Senator.

MARK WARNER: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: If it’s that important, is an investigation by a committee that operates behind closed doors an appropriate forum, or should there be a much more public airing as there was after 9/11 or as there was after Watergate, for that matter?

WARNER: I think it’s really, really important that we come up with a bipartisan report. I also think, to your point, there are certain things that will be done behind closed doors because it involves sources and methods of how our spy agencies work, and people’s lives and techniques could be put in jeopardy.

But it’s also really responsible that we hold public hearings – and I think we’re going to be holding our first public hearing within the next couple of weeks – that we have a report that is going to be public when we conclude this investigation. And my sense would be – the president continues to say he’s done nothing; his people have had no contacts that were inappropriate. Then he should welcome…


WARNER: …This investigation and help it because it would remove the cloud that’s over the administration.

SIEGEL: General Clapper, who until January was director of national intelligence, said that he had seen no evidence of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia. Is that still an open question for the Senate Intelligence Committee and for you?

WARNER: It is still an open question that we have to investigate any kind of contacts between either campaign and Russian operatives before the election. Oftentimes what happens is if one of our traditional agencies, say, like the CIA, will determine some kind of contact, they have to turn that over to the FBI. And that falls into the counter-espionage category. And generally speaking, the FBI doesn’t then make comments about ongoing investigations. So these are all things that we’re going to have to work through in an appropriate way.

SIEGEL: But when you say that’s still an open question, I mean is that because it hasn’t been disproved or because there’s so much smoke that you’re concerned there’s a fire there?

WARNER: No, Robert. I’m saying I’m not going to forejudge where this investigation is going to end up. We’re going to follow the intelligence wherever it leads. We’re going to get to the bottom of this. We’re going to run down all the appropriate leads. We’re going to interview people. And I think we’ll be able to reach our own conclusion. And my hope is, the sooner the better because at this point in time, with all these stories dribbling out on a daily basis, it is – I think it really has caught the attention of the American people.

SIEGEL: What about President Trump’s claim that his lines were tapped by President Obama? Is that an allegation that the Senate Intelligence Committee should investigate, or is it…

WARNER: I would say this, Robert. If we see any evidence and if the president has any evidence of that, we will follow it.

SIEGEL: Is it his obligation to present that evidence to Senate now?

WARNER: I sure as heck believe it is. I mean to accuse the former president of what would be a felony and then not put forward any information, any evidence – Chairman Burr and I’ve said we’ll follow any evidence wherever it leads. But you’ve got to have some evidence. You just can’t put out a morning tweet and then switch to Arnold Schwarzenegger…


WARNER: …And not expect folks to scratch their heads.

SIEGEL: Let’s say that there’s no evidence found of collusion between Americans and Russians – no Russian money entering the campaign, no Russian blackmail against any candidate. Is the fact that Russia tries to influence U.S. policy not in those criminal ways but more generally – if it tries to influence policy however it can, is that some kind of new danger or even a danger that’s unique to Russia?

WARNER: It is absolutely a new danger. I mean the Russians have almost created a new theory of war that says beyond fighting in the land, air and sea, cyber is a whole new domain. And they are experts at misinformation, disinformation. They’ve done this for a long time in Eastern European elections, sometimes much more obviously with old-fashioned payola and bribes. They’re doing it right now in the French presidential elections where they’ve actually put financial resources behind Marine Le Pen – the far-right candidate’s campaign.

So I think Americans – one of the things that disappointed me – I know there was lots going on – that there wasn’t more kind of general outrage with the Russian manipulation in our election regardless of whether there was any contact between candidates.

SIEGEL: And I guess I should ask you about one new thing that happened this week, which was that General Michael Flynn, who had been the national security adviser and is – who had to resign all about what he told Vice President Pence about his contact with the Russians – he has now registered retroactively as having been an agent for Turkey and having taken payments from a Turkish company but with interest that involved the extradition of a Turkish cleric in this country between August and November of last year. Is your committee interested in any conceivable relationship between General Flynn and Turkey?

WARNER: I’m not going to comment on individuals that we hope to question. Just on an individual basis, though, I found this morning’s reports about General Flynn very troubling.

SIEGEL: Senator Warner, thanks for talking with us.

WARNER: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: That’s Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, who is the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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