Sunday, May 6, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Reflections Post

Well, I’ve had a week to rest up after the 2012 A to Z Challenge, and boy, did I ever need it.  I never expected the Challenge to be so…well…challenging.  It wasn’t having to write all those blog posts either.  For me, that was a snap compared with all the reading and commenting I did.  That’s where all my real energy went.  And I suppose that’s where most of my complaints lie, as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the Challenge, it’s just that I don’t think I reaped what I sowed.  I’m not sure how many new followers I gained, but in comparison to how many new connections I made, to how many new blogs I followed, it was a pittance.  I chock that up to the number of newbie bloggers I followed overall.  I want to believe these neophytes don’t understand the concept behind returning the favor. 

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and I certainly do not expect every blogger I follow to answer in kind, but when a blogger only has a handful of followers and someone shows up, reads their post, then comments on the content, I think they should at least stop by for a return visit.  But, it is what it is, and I can’t change how others respect the principles of etiquette.  No hard feelings.  I just sometimes wish it was as easy to find and unfollow blogs as it is to do the same on Twitter.  Maybe someone should come up with a Blogger edition of ManageFlitter.

I will say, though, that I did meet a lot of wonderful people, mostly other writers like me.  I found their blogs informative, funny, and educational.  Some just wanted to make a connection, like me, to someone who was interested in the same things they were.  I like those folks, and I loved the generous spirit of their blogs.  Ultimately, that’s why I chose to participate in the A to Z. 

I must say, though, that there were a lot of irritating things about trolling through the list of participants.  For one, that list?  Yeah, way too long!  Insanely unmanageable.  I think I would have liked to see some way to classify the blogs.  I mean, personally, I was searching for writing or writer blogs, folks like me.  I wasn’t too interested in the knitting or crocheting or quilting blogs or what have you.  Yet I often couldn’t tell just by looking at the blog title.  So I tuned in only to take a quick peek around and dash on back out if it just didn’t interest me.  It would be time-saving to have the blogs listed by content, nature, or subject.

Other than that, the things that were like a burr under my saddle were:
  • Google Friend Connect not allowing me to follow and constantly having to re-sign in
  • Music that starts blaring the moment I tune into a new blog and then not being able to turn it off.  (Hey, not everyone likes your taste in music, so why alienate people?)
  • Bloggers NOT turning off that blasted Word Verification feature…argh!!
  • Double Word Verification for each blog I want to follow after following more than a certain number during that day.
  • Bloggers who didn’t take the Challenge seriously and keep up, only posted a few times, or didn’t post at all even though they were listed.
  • Listing a blog that was private and would only allow invited guests to read.  Why enter the Challenge if your blog is private?
  • A blogger not attaching their blog to their profile so I could visit and possibly follow back.

Each and every one of these items made me sigh and roll my eyes.  I’m not sure what’s up with Google Friend Connect or if anyone else had the same problem I had, (and still have) with following blogs, but I found it very frustrating not to be able to connect with a good blogger.  But overall, I had a good time and I met some extraordinary people.

The big question, of course, is will I do it again?  At this point, I’m not sure.  Probably not if there isn’t some way to classify the blogs by subject.  But then again, I’m always up for a good party and the A to Z is the biggest of the year.  I do want to thank all those who dropped by and left comments, whether or not you followed.  I love comments more than anything. 

And to the one man who came back every single day without fail and left a kind comment—Alex Cavanaugh—my crush is stronger than ever!!


Chuck said...

Now I can say I am your number one commenter!

Nancy, you came to me via my Alice In Chains post and I came right back to you. I enjoyed your site and right now I am diggin' your new look...just as dark as my site :) That header is too cool and reminds me I need a make over.

I agree with all your points on the challenge and even mentioned you in my reflections post. Hope you check it out and let me now what you think.

And I took this week off from blogging...I needed it.

D.G. Hudson said...

You're the second person today who has said we need some sort of classification for the blog list, Nancy.

I was cruising some of the posts a little early, and I like the idea. If we're looking for others with similar interests it would sure make the blog-touring easier.

Maybe we can vote on suggestions after all the posts are in.

Carrie Butler said...

ManageFlitter for Blogger would be awesome! I would love to unclog my feed someday... *Sigh*

Colleen said...

heh heh. This is a good reflections post--totally honest and the way you put things made me laugh.

Every so often I clean house of blogs I've followed that didn't follow back and are also not interesting, but it's a pain in the ass. and yeah, the list was very long and disorganized--I got through maybe 15% of it.

Cassie Mae said...

April was such a blur for me, lol. But I had a blast with the challenge and got to meet a ton of new people. Those who commented on my blog every day I made sure to do the same for them. :)

And wanted to tell you, Nancy... I comment stalk Alex's blog for your comments (don't judge me, lol) and I just was so humbled by the times you mentioned me and said such awesome things. Girl, I love you for it and I never did tell you thank you (cuz I didn't want Alex to think I comment stalked his blog, lol) so THANK YOU! :)

Nancy Thompson said...

YOU comment stalk ME? Wow, that's just about the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me, in a weird kind of way! Talk about humbled. Thanks, Cassie!!

mooderino said...

I know blog classification was the main suggestion last year, but it wasn't implemented becuase the idea of stumbling across blogs you wouldn't normally visit has a romantic cnnotation to it. Sadly not how it is in real life. I hope they reconsider for next year.

Moody Writing
The Funnily Enough

Natalie Aguirre said...

I didn't do the challenge, but I think your suggestions are good ones. And it's okay to feel like bloggers, especially the ones with only a few followers, follow back. I get frustrated in that situation too and after a point have stopped following some of them. And FYI, on blogger dashboard on the left where all your blogs are listed you can hide a blog you don't want to follow.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Aw, thank you Nancy!!
The private blog thing - no idea what those people were thinking.
And I wonder the same thing - if the newer bloggers just don't understand returning follows and comments.
We cleaned up the list as best as possible, although I'd like to do better next year. Last year there was NO list clean up, so you can imagine that mess.
Hopefully we can fine-tune it and make it appealing for next year.
Thanks again - you rock!
And so does my stalker Cassie.

Katie O'Sullivan said...

What a great reflection post! I'm still trying to get my own thoughts in order about this April experience but I agree with everything you said, and said so well.

My problem with A to Z this year was too much going on in my "real" life - even though I was able to get my posts written and scheduled, I had very little time to visit and comment. I tried to visit and follow back everyone who came to visit me - but I'm still struggling to make it through.

Tara Tyler said...

you nailed it! my reflections are close to yours! glad i wasnt the only one who felt slighted...

did i tell you i love your new header? i think i did, but it's so hot it's worth repeating!

Hektor Karl said...

I noticed a lot of the same things you noticed, and I love your use of "pittance."

I have to admit I initially liked the idea of one giant list, but if people are only interested in one type of blog (and even some writers only seem interested in basically one genre), it would probably save everyone time and strain and rejection if they were separated off.

Maybe there could be an 'everything' list for those who wanted to be adventurous.

StratPlayerCJF said...

Wow, great feedback, Nancy! Since this was my first A-to-Z, I didn't really know what to expect, and I'm just amazed that I survived it and stayed committed.

But I totally agree with the things you mention -- I'm not really up to speed on the blogging "follow etiquette," but it seems like pretty much common sense that if someone follows you, it's simple courtesy to reciprocate. I certainty try to do that. But then I try to stay with the blogs of fellow writers, like you. Nothing against crocheting or sock-puppets of your pets, but I want to connect with fellow writers and lovers of the written word, so if I were to “follow” a crocheting blog or something like that, it would honestly be in icon-only. That might raise their numbers but it feels empty, and I don't really need those kinds of faux followers either.

And yeah – there were quite a few blogs with heavily locked-down commenting restrictions. I followed the hosts' advice about turning all that off beforehand and I never received ANY spam or inappropriate comments. It's going to stay off – why make it harder for people to comment and follow?

Again – great thoughts!

jp said...

I understand what you say about following being reciprocal but don't see the point if I'm not interested in the blog.

My dilemma is that I have a bigger percentage of ladies who follow my blog which I appreciate but I cannot bring myself to be interested in knitting patterns.

I did follow your blog because I found things that did interest me but others were not so lucky and I felt guilty about it.

Do I act false and follow these other blogs or stay true and choose not to?

No question about it really.

Carrie-Anne said...

I agree with all your issues, like those hideous captchas and blogs not being grouped by category. I found a couple of non-writing blogs that were interesting, but I was primarily interested in discovering new to me writing blogs. I'm also not too keen on moderated comments. If someone leaves an abusive or spammy comment, the blogger can just delete it when s/he discovers it, instead of making everyone wait for approval of normal, polite comments.

Heather M. Gardner said...

You make some good points but I think that there is something to be said for not grouping the blogs. We might miss something amazing because it wasn't in a category we clicked on.

I had a great time and appreciate the support.

Susan Oloier said...

Nancy, I think you're the fifth one today who has requested a classification of the blogs, which I think is a phenomenal idea!
Yes, word verification, bloggers not commenting back, blaring music (I have my own playlist, thank you) bugged me, too.
But overall, I found some new blogger buddies, which was super nice.
When April rolls around next year, we may change our minds, huh?

running4him said...

Way to goooooo!!!!

Natalie Sharpston said...

Sounds like the A-Z challenge, among other things, gave you had a major tour of tons of blogs... Is it bad to say I'm really glad you did all that exploring [work] for us, and shared what you learned so we don't have to learn the same lessons? Thank you! :)

Hearing blog pet peeves are helpful as I work on making my own blog better - although some are so dang obvious. Blaring music? Yuk. Blogs marked as private? Seriously? Common sense just isn't so common anymore.

P.S. Alex Cavanaugh's blog is the bomb! :)

Cherie Reich said...

Alex is awesome!

And I know what you mean about those blogs that are private. I just don't get it.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I get a little discouraged sometimes when people don't re-follow, but in all honesty, I don't always notice new followers unless they tell me. I probably need to getty better at that...

I joe you give it a shot next year as well. I'm hoping to get around and everyone over the next bit.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Hope. Argh - autocorrect

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I get a little discouraged sometimes when people don't re-follow, but in all honesty, I don't always notice new followers unless they tell me. I probably need to getty better at that...

I joe you give it a shot next year as well. I'm hoping to get around and everyone over the next bit.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I get a little discouraged sometimes when people don't re-follow, but in all honesty, I don't always notice new followers unless they tell me. I probably need to getty better at that...

I joe you give it a shot next year as well. I'm hoping to get around and everyone over the next bit.

jp said...


Unknown said...

I only follow blogs I truly enjoy reading. Unfollowing can be a problem if they are not using blogger as their server.

Unknown said...

I have two blogs I've been trying to stop following and have been unable to! They are not on blogspot. I followed the directions on how to unfollow one, and it didn't work; on the other, I can't find a way to unfollow. That one is really annoying because they post sometimes 3 or 4 times a day and totally clog up my reading list!

Empty Nest Insider said...

You were a lot more organized than I was. I also experienced some of the same issues on a smaller scale. Those unfriendly bloggers don't know what they missed! Hopefully, they'll be able to follow some of your suggestions for next year. Thanks for visiting me so often! Julie

Donna B. McNicol said...

I so agree on the categories...especially as the month went on. Initially it was 'fun' to randomly click blog names but I found so many that I had interest in following and wasted precious time finding out.

I ended up adding NetworkedBlogs and the Linky List besides the Google connect. Gave folks an option for following. I had no qualms about clicking Google connect and following folks, I dont' use Google Reader anymore. I use a stand alone program.

Glad I found your blog...I look forward to your future posts.

Jenna Renee said...

I thought I was following you, but apparently I was mistaken. I am now following you! :) I look(ed) forward to your comments to my posts, especially during the challenge, and I look forward to seeing what else you are up to beyond the April challenge! And yes, my biggest complaint is the same as yours... I followed TONS of new blogs and maybe MAYBE got 5 new followers. It's sad!

TL Conway said...

Man, so many thoughts running through my head on this.

First, like someone mentioned above--I've been "unfollowing" the same blog about four different times now and it just doesn't "stick." How annoying!

2nd--yes, to EVERY SINGLE ONE of your points. Extra emphasis on word verification.

I registered late and as a result, was down by the 1600s. I looked around the blogs in my area and was amazed by how many weren't relevant to me (were all the writers early registrants?), weren't updated/participating, or worse, were SELLING things.

I love the idea of categories. I'd love to follow more writers. While I appreciate the travel, gardening, crocheting, and cooking blogs, I'm not their target and visa versa.

Glad I met you, though! :)

Lisa Regan said...

I have to say that it was very exhausting trying to read all the posts and I wasn't even going by any list, I was just trying to keep up with blogs I already follow. I think I actually lost readers in the last month because I simply couldn't keep up with everyone's blogs. Not because I didn't want to, I just didn't have the time for it. I still say you should make your own posts into a writing self-help book!

Valerie Hartman said...

You did it - inspirational really. I am hoping I can join the challenge next April. I love that you reflected on the experience-good and not-so-hot!

Arlee Bird said...

I hear your moans and groans and assure you that you are not alone. I want to do something about the list as well. It will require some smart programming to do it the way I'd like and I'll see what I can do.
As far as the newbie bloggers, I think sometimes it's up to us to educate them. I remember what it was like when I first started out blogging. It didn't take me too long to learn, but at first I didn't know what was going on.

Thanks for being a part of all of this.

A Faraway View
An A to Z Co-host blog

Nicky Wells said...

Nancy, I think you did incredibly well to stick with this demanding challenge. I'm not sure I'd have had the stamina! I hear your pain on the issues, and hence double hats off to you for persistence. I did read all of your post even if I didn't comment on them all (blogger not making it easy for WP users but thankfully I joined Google halfway through, much better!).

Regarding your grips with newbie bloggers... Well, speaking as one myself, cut them some slack. Nobody has probably told them about blogging etiquette and it takes a while to figure out even what seems blindingly obvious in retrospect. They'll get there! Love your blog, your posts, your opinions, your SOH. Rock on! XX Well done again...

Kittie Howard said...

We're thinking along the same lines, Nancy. I also commented there should be general classifications. The list is waaaay too long to click around when time's precious. I also had two people pick me up so I'd follow back, when I did, they dropped me when they thought I wouldn't figure out who they were. Rude! I'm clueless why people with private blogs sign up.

BTW, if you block Adobe from putting cookies, then clean your cache, the problem should go away (according to Geek Squad).

Callie Leuck said...

I have a tip for following blogs, Nancy. I have my RSS reader open when I'm poking through the A-Z list, and when I find one that looks like it has potential (i.e. looks like someone with similar interests to my who may be a good connection) I follow them and put them in a folder in my RSS reader called "new" or, in this case "April." Then I keep watching those and leaving comments when applicable. And if I build a connection, I move them to another folder, like "YA Writers" or "SF Writers" or "Memoirists" or such. That helps me keep track of who I've built some kind of connection with, and who isn't interacting, etc.

Also, I think new bloggers DON'T know the follow-back expectations. Or the expectations to click through to someone's blog and say "hello" if they leave a comment on yours. In fact, many might not even realize that many of their comments are from other bloggers trying to build connections -- they might actually think that people who read blogs are simply touring the internet found their blog and thought it was awesome.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hi Nancy, I just found your blog when I was commenting on Armchair Squid's blog and I am your newest follower. I agree with everything that you said on your post, even though I didn't put out as much effort into visiting as you did.

Hope you'll stop by to say hello when you have a minute,

Kathy M.

Al Penwasser said...

Sounds like you had the same experiences as I. I'll be getting to my reflections post sometime today (I hope). I'm still kinda wiped. Like you, not by writing, but by reading and commenting. Exhausting! Glad the pace has slowed. :-)

Lauren said...

Man, I had problems with GFC too. I don't know what it was, but a lot of blogs I had to go manually add. And then having the switch to the updated interface right in the middle kind of freaked me out.

I personally didn't even bother with blogs that had music. I just closed them down.

I didn't count on the amount of time to read and comment either. I think next year if I join again I'll write and schedule my posts beforehand so I can just use my time to read and comment so I can get to more blogs (especially since I'm guessing next year will be even bigger!)

Arlee Bird said...

I think Callie makes a good point about newbie bloggers. When I first started I figured people would find me by looking up my topics on Google and then would leave comments. I tried to use a lot of key words so I show up better on searches. It took me a few weeks to realize that in order to receive comments I mostly had to visit other blogs and leave comments on their sites and comment back if someone left a comment on my blog.

A Faraway View
An A to Z Co-host blog

Unknown said...

Nancy, I am really wondering if Alex is a robot. I do not know how he finds the time to visit so many blogs on a daily basis! It is just mind blowing!

Some of the comments you made happened to me as well which really ate into my time allowance!

I found it difficult to keep up with other followers and forge ahead down the never ending list...

But that being said, I found overall that the A-Z Challenge was a rewarding experience and a lot of fun!!

Kittie Howard said...

Thanks for stopping by, Nancy. Your comment is always brings a smile. I'm seeing more and more comments around about the Challenge's month and a lack of an anchor among the blogs. There were so many commercial blogs in the list, it frustrated. Anyway, I don't think I would've been so ticked about the reporter if he'd had the simple decency to call me in the first place about doing the book. Hard to explain, but all that just didn't sit well, although I've decided to charge onward and too my thing.

Mark Koopmans said...

Love the honesty - you go with your big, bad self :)

I agree with your main points, especially about listing like with like (if that was at all posssible next year.)

Maybe we can do a Z-A and just sit back and wait for comments before commenting :)

PS.... too cute the comments when you respond to Cassie :)

Weaver said...

Yes, that was a problem. It's nice to follow people because at least there's a chance I might get back to their blogs. It was hard to find new people and visit more than once because there were just so many people participating this year. The thing I loved about A to Z is the people I connect with, not just visit and never see again.

Julie Musil said...

Excellent perspective, Nancy. I honestly don't know how Alex does it. He's like a machine...but a super nice and encouraging one :)

Word Verification...don't get me started...

Can you email me your Twitter handle? I want to follow you!

ShaunaKelleyWrites said...

I am so with you on the music... and not just on blogs, on every single web site. Unless you are a band, why blare music???

Barbara said...

I agree with you on the classification part, I'd love that too.. going through same-subject blogs put me off for a while. I would like to hop around certain blog genres too, and possibly hop on to others only if I wanted to... but first of all I'd like to share the love with like-minded bloggers / or with others I simply enjoy.

Congratulations on surviving the Challenge - looking forward to seeing you next year.

English Speaking Zone

Jeremy [Retro] said...

Reflection is a good thing, You have done a great job on the A to Z Challenge...
Hopefully you were able to use one of my banners/badges for the Challenge, had as much fun designing them as seeing them around the blog world.

Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
A to Z Co-Host
My New Book:
Retro-Zombie: Art and Words

M.J. Kane said...

Hi Nancy! I feel your pain! Sometimes it's hard to find good blogs, especially if your on a time schedule with writing and everything else going on in your life. I've never heard of the A-Z challenge before...don't know the rules, but not sure I'd have the time! But it's always good to make a new friend. Probably why I spend too much time of FB and Twitter. LOL. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts! Oh yeah, I followed your blog too!

Susan Bodendo/Super Earthling said...

Nancy, I just found your blog through Chuck's wonderful Apocalypse Now blog. While I didn’t participate in the challenge, I truly admire those who did, and I've been visiting the links Chuck included in his A-Z wrap-up post. :)

Your post really struck home because I've been having similar experiences. When I find a new blog and love it, I'm so delighted to have connected with someone I feel shares my interests. So I comment and eagerly await their return comment. You know, kind of like running to the mailbox each day when waiting to hear about a submitted manuscript. LOL A good 75% of the time, my brand new bosom blogging buddy never comments back. It’s like high school all over again—or like having a manuscript rejected.

I kept nodding “yes” as I read through your burr under the saddle list at the bottom of your post. I’ve encountered each of these frustrating things and they leave me scratching my head in wonder.

Wonderful post, Nancy! Congratulations on completing you’re A-Z challenge! :D


Ella said...

I so appreciate your honesty! And my head was nodding as I read your list!
The word verification was a pain.
I am glad you were part of the journey. Don't think about next year will make your head spin.
Congrats on finishing the crossing line~

Claire Hennessy said...

Ha ha love your honesty. Call a spade a spade! I agree with most of your comments and I know I commented on loads of blogs that never returned the favour, but I suppose that's how it goes. It was an intense challenge. The idea of categorising is great - I too am not interested in knitting etc, but I also found I liked some poetry sites which I would never have gone to otherwise.

Aleta said...

I liked your honest review of the A-Z Challenge. I have participated in similar challenges and met a lot of great bloggers that way.

I imagine if people had to define their blog by one aspect, you'd find a lot of them falling into "general/family."

As for the word verification, ugh. I can't stand it. But it's a necessary evil. I turned it off for a while and then was bombarded with spam. No fun. Verification back on. :(

Oh and Alex... he's great, isn't he!

betty said...

Visiting from A/Z post challenge reflections. Congrats on finishing it. I share some of your frustrations, especially with word verification. I also found that the spam comments I get are far and few between and usually end up in spam so all I have to do is click not to publish them. I may not follow every single blog that follows mine but what I do is check out every single new person that visits my blog and leaves a comment; I check out their blog and write a comment on their latest post, thanking them for visiting my blog and then commenting on what they wrote about. Sometimes I think it is something I might enjoy reading more of so I follow. But if I follow a blog, I follow it. I read pretty much all they post and comment on pretty much every post, so I choose carefully who I will follow.

I enjoyed the challenge. I picked up a few new followers; I followed a few new blogs. It was overwhelming at times, trying to do it all, write, comment, work full time plus mandatory overtime, spend time with family. I got tired a lot in April. but it was a great experience.

Just not sure I'm going to repeat it next year.

I hope you have a great weekend!


klahanie said...

Hi Nancy,
I know you have been anxiously awaiting one of my um 'award winning' comments :)
As you probably remember, I would not get involved in the challenge. Although, ironically, my satirical, sometimes serious, alternative postings to the alphabet challenge, brought further awareness to it.
When it comes to 'followers', I like to think that someone follows another blog for genuine reasons and is not doing it to try and increase their own following total and blatantly self-promote.
I, considering the length of time I've blogged, might see to have relatively few followers. However, the positive interaction I share within the genuine blogging community with decent folks such as you, Nancy, makes me know we can be force for all that is good.
Well done on doing the challenge and I have big respect for that thoroughly decent chap, Alex J.
You look after yourself, keep smiling and happy writing.
In kindness, Gary

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Here's hoping someone is listening, and next time they'll categorize the themes, so navigating the sites is easier. It still astonishes me when I leave a comment and receive no reply or visit. It makes me think of my mother. LOL. Long story, but she was strict about good manners.

I could read your posts any time. Sorry I've been tardy lately.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I'm used to not getting any return visits. I think that ratio is about 1 in 4, maybe 1 in 5 don't return a visit. It's the nature of the beast. It's not going to stop me from visiting, following and commenting though. And it's still fun visiting new territory :)
Great reflection of the A-Z Challenge.

Livia Peterson said...

I agree the A to Z Challenge is challenging - trying to keep up with everyone is nearly impossible. And I love Alex Cavanaugh too - he's an awesome gentleman that makes this writing community thrive.

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