May 07 2017

#AtoZChallenge 2017 Reflection Post

survivor #atozchallenge 2017 @JLenniDorner

My THEME for the A to Z challenge 2017 was an ongoing speculative fiction story featuring telepathy.

Each letter post was titled and inspired by a commonly misused word or phrase.

The story started with All Intents and Purposes.

For BONUS CONTENT, check out the JOURNAL OF ANAH post.

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spamcookiespam wall

Oh hi! It’s me, your co-host… SPAM.
I’m not actually a canned meat product made mostly from a pig. But the number of times I got a comment moderation message or my comment just didn’t show up… I now live in fear that the Hormel company is going to take me away!

Your comment will be visable after approval

Anyway. My quick review of the challenge this month:

  • I had a post for every letter!
  • I scheduled most of my posts in advance. (Thanks Blog Ahead Mini #1!)
  • This was my SIXTH year in the challenge, first as a co-host.
  • I found the non-linky way to be mostly good. I’m waiting until the results of the survey come in to render my final judgment, as I want to know that people still felt they received comments. In other years, the teams had assigned list numbers, which helped ensure that everyone was visited by a host or their volunteers. I’m curious if not having that system had an impact.
  • I have no compassion for those who complain about having to put five minutes a day of effort into promoting their own blog (via link pasting). Self-promotion is part of blog hops. Expecting someone else to promote you, for free, everyday… that’s conceited. A blog is part of your brand, of who you are, and marketing yourself is your responsibility. Be active and engaged.

Clarification: I do care and want to know about those who had technical difficulty beyond their control. Details, please! Especially note if you told a co-host/ the team, yet no one could help.
It’s laziness I take issue with, particularly in those who expect others to do work for them.

  • I ended my posts with questions or comment prompts.

Hyperlink fail because of Curled quote Tip from @JLenniDorner

  • I mastered hyperlinking years ago. I learned it by looking at what others did and playing around. (If the Native American from Amish/Mennonite country can learn to hyperlink, so can you.)
  • I’m very proud of being part of the A to Z Challenge. And I’m pleased with Anah’s story.
  • I shared posts of MANY others.
  • I followed a few more blogs. (I followed a lot already in the last 6 years.)
  • I added to my Twitter friends!
  • I made a few other social media connections.
  • Hopefully I have some new friends. (Especially in Janet Miles, Ronel Janse Van Vuuren (mind reader — lol), and Natalie Westgate.)
  • There was a lot I learned by visiting blogs.
  • My TBR list went up. I acquired a few more ebooks.
  • The Twitter chats were debated, but not held this year due to time. (Figuring out when to hold them so the whole world can attend. Ha ha ha… yeah.)
  • I’m eager to see if others played the Bingo I made.
  • The timezone of the A to Z posts was fine for me.
  • The A to Z challenge is a priority in my life, and has been for a while now.
  • “A” was the most commented on post (42). I got 341 comments on the A to Z posts. (I had 238 comments last year.)
  • My blog stats for April are in the image below. My views went down -30.89% this year, but comments were up +43.27%

AprilBlogStats @JLenniDorner

I am very grateful to my fellow co-hosts.

This challenge is very much a team effort. There are posts to write, decissions to be made, questions to be answered, graphics, management, more posting, checking this and that, making sure Networked Blogs picked up the blog post so Facebook was ready ontime every day, dealing with html issues, helping people… But when the team comes together and everyone takes a task, it’s doable. I feel that we all contributed. And we’ll keep going, all year, so the blog stays alive for you, the participants.

And now I’m off to a nice, relaxing read-a-thon over at Bout of Books. I need the break!

J Lenni Dorner
Reference and Speculative Fiction Author
A to Z Challenge Co-Host
Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight Organizer
Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight Organizer @JLenniDornerFollow @JLenniDorner on Twitter please WhatAreThey on Facebook pages Networked Blog @JLenniDorner Linky Followers @JLenniDorner Bloglovin

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Take the Reflection Survey!

What was your favorite part of the A to Z challenge 2017?
#AtoZChallenge2017 Badge


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  1. I have taken the survey, thanks for counting me as one of your new friends, LOVED your story and agree with all the things you said about not having the linky list. I did not do a count on my visits/comments compared to last year but I also did miss 4 letters and a couple of days I forgot to add my link to either the official A to Z page or the Facebook page. THANKS for the info about the hyperlink. I could not figure out why sometimes mine would work and sometimes not, it may have been my quotes because when I typed it all out instead of cutting and pasting it worked. Go figure. Thanks for all your hard work as co-host!

    1. Thanks for visiting regularly this month!
      That curl is a pain for a LOT of people. (My fellow NaNoWriMo people who love Scrivener have ALL suffered at the hands of the curly quote.)
      I’m glad you liked the story.

    • David on May 7, 2017 at 6:45 PM

    Hi – Thank you for the story, I will be back to finish it off in due course, and will be flagging it as part of my AtoZ Roadtrip write up. Thanks also for the interesting reflection post – it would have been good to hear more about your experience as a co-host though.

    I was in two minds whether to post a comment: the lack of compassion bullet point was not only provocative, but rather abrasive. One of the things that I like about the AtoZ Challenge is the inclusively and this comment came across as exclusive.

    Whilst I take your point about putting in the time to promote your blog, the effort must be commensurate with the result. I had a lot more engagement both in terms of visitors and comments than last year. This might be due to a number of factors, but I do know that I had fewer click throughs from the AtoZ homepage. If it had just been 5 minutes then it might not have been quite such a problem, but I frequently had problems, which seemed to stem from me trying to log in with WordPress rather than Google. I might be a klutz, and maybe if I’d had the time to look into things a bit then I could have sorted it out. But my blog is supposed to be for fun and frankly at the moment I don’t have the time to spend looking into this.
    On the flip side, I know that the comments format made it harder to find interesting blogs. Most of the blogs that I looked at over April I already knew about, or found via friends, or visiting the people who visited me.

    When the non-list format was announced, A very wise blogger said that they were going sit this year out, because they had been a beta tester enough times that they didn’t want to do it again. Having been a beta tester this year, I’ve given my feedback. Personally I’d like to see the list return. If it doesn’t, whilst I’ll take part again, I doubt that I’ll bother to put a link in the comment section as this year it really didn’t seem to be worthwhile
    Find on Twitter:

    1. There was another person who had a similar problem, and one of the co-hosts helped that person. (I believe John was the fixer on that.) An entire “plan B” was made for anyone experiencing the issue you mention. Who did you reach out to anyone on the team for help, and using which method?

      I once had my blog hosting shut down in April and had to learn WordPress and migrate my whole blog while in the midst of the challenge. I spent the time because it was important to me. I reached out for help because it was important to me. Having time is all about deciding what is most important. Something that is “just fun” might be less important. Putting a link in the comment section is a chance to bring more people to your site. It was never a requirement. The Linky List was never a requirement, when it existed. The hosts only stepped in if someone was abusing a rule (such as exposing underage persons to adult content, or trying to use the challenge to “sell sunglasses” and other phishing scams).

      I do thank you for your opinions. We use feedback to figure out what’s best. We welcome ideas that work for the hundreds or thousands of people who join us.

      I’m not sure what else you’d like to know about my experience as co-host, but I’m happy to try to answer questions.
      There were fewer volunteers in 2017 than in 2016. A linky list of our volume requires a lot of people to look after it. There simply were not enough eyes and hours in the days. The non-Linky decision was already made when I was brought on, but the reason and logic behind it became obvious to me within minutes, and I fully understand and support the decision. The co-host team is amazing, and I’m very proud to volunteer with them. Ideas are brainstormed, problems are discussed, and it is clear that everyone has brought a strength. Arlee has a captivating personality and is a natural leader, Alex is wise and friendly, Jeremy is on top of the graphics, Heather is extremely dedicated and organized, Zalka is friendly and insightful, and John has excellent tech knowledge that’s blown my mind more than once.

      I like to think I bring social promotions and enthusiasm to the party, but knowing oneself is a lifelong quest, so I can only aim for those goals, not say definitively. It might be why I have such little compassion in that are– because I had to figure out (a few years ago) how to make time, how to find time, to put my blog and my brand out there. How to market myself, because no one was going to do it for me. So I spent not just time, but money, to learn. My blog and social media accounts are part of my writing career. To me, the challenge is like Santa and the opportunity to post my link is a gift. Others may not feel the same way. Self-promotion can feel unnatural or inconvenient to some. I can understand that. But people who say, “why can’t the hosts just visit the hundreds of blogs every day and copy the links themselves and share them for us,” no, I don’t think that’s right. You’re welcome to disagree. That’s the beauty of opinions and free speech.

      Thank you for commenting. I’m glad you did.

        • David on May 8, 2017 at 2:40 AM

        Thanks for the response – your comments on your experience as a co-host are exactly what I had in mind.

        I will be honest and say that I did not pass the problem along to a co-host. It did not even occur to me that that is something that you would want to hear about.

        With regard to the issue of the linky list, I understand it is a complex situation, and there are probably as many opinions as there are people who know about the challenge. However, I’m not suggesting that the co-hosts should be checking links everyday – this is clearly a waste of talent and resource.
        People have a responsibility to manage their own pages, but not everyone knows what they need to do. A knowledge of coding is not required to set up and run a website these days and most people go with a blogging site because of its ease of use. On this basis then, offering some tutorials on the background management of a site might be helpful. Again, not something that is incumbent on the co-hosts – reach out to the community.
        The community wants the challenge to be successful; it also needs to be sustainable. Asking the co-hosts to deal with little problems is not sustainable.
        Find on Twitter:

        1. Glad I could give you the reply you hoped for. 🙂
          When I was a helper (rank below co-host), I checked in on 40 blogs three times a week, based on their spot on the linky list. That’s in addition to visiting other blogs. That is, actually, exactly what the teams did. Hundreds had to be weeded out as the month went on. Not to mention the ones that needed repair.
          We have several tutorials on the blog. If there’s one we’re missing, I’d love to know, because I WILL make sure it gets written. If it’s something I don’t know how to do, I will figure it out or find someone who has the knowledge to get it written. That I promise you.
          The thing about “little problems” is that they aren’t little if a bunch of people have the same one. That’s when the team gets busy fixing things.
          Thanks for replying.
          I believe there are several matters that you and I agree on far more than you’d ever guess.

  2. I know there’s an Oreo version of everything these days, but Spam Oreo? That feels all kind of wrong to me.

    But back to the matter at hand… waiting for my comment to be approved can be annoying, as often I couldn’t see any previous comments as they hadn’t been approved yet. That’s a gripe for me.

    Well done on your efforts as co-host. I know there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that most of us don’t think about. I think the daily linky list was good in some way, in that people logging on to the site every day were likely to see your post. But I think many forgot to do it and there was the issue of seeing the same commenters every day.

    I really enjoyed your story, although I got a bit lost towards the end due to some other issues taking my attention away from the Challenge. I will have to catch up!
    Nick Wilford has this post to share A-Z Challenge 2017: ReflectionsMy Profile
    Find on Twitter:

    1. Pretty sure it was an April Fools image, the Spam and Oreo.
      The comment approval waiting game sucks. Sometimes it just happens. And sometimes there are folks who don’t even know they have a spam folder.
      Some people did forget to leave links. And some people didn’t know how. And other people just decided not to link at all and let the chips fall where they may.
      I’m glad you liked the story.

  3. Lenni, I agree to all of your points.
    The lack of a linky list wasn’t too much of a problem for me, but I don’t think the posting on the comment section of the official blog worked too well (see my reflections for the whys). Still, it didnt’ hurt either. Truth is I didn’t really mind it.
    In the end, I think the challenge may be managed completely on social media, that’s what worked for me.
    I really missed the Chat.

    But it was a great blogfest of networking and sharing, at least for me, and I thoroghly enjoyed it 🙂
    Find on Twitter:

    1. I also missed the chat. If enough people agree on that in the survey, perhaps I’ll try to run it next year. We’ll see.
      Not everyone uses social media. We have some people who only used the blog, some only FB, and some only Twitter. We’ll see what the survey says.
      Thanks for stopping by.

    • Debs on May 8, 2017 at 4:22 AM

    I empathise with the choices made by the A-Z team in not providing a sign-up list. I’m somewhat surprised to find one of the team stating – in such punchy terms – that they have no compassion for my choices. The majority of participants were already researching and writing their blogs posts for April when the announcement was made. For those bloggers who have to put their careers and family reponsibilities ahead of their blogs, this left insufficient time to research a solution. Those bloggers who are able to prioritise their blog over and above these responsibilities are – genuinely – very fortunate.

    As for the tutorials you mention in your post to David, did anyone consider producing a site header for them? I’m not sure how one would know about their existence, unless you happened to check the A-Z site on a day when they were published, presumably?

    The tenor and tone of responses to the lack of sign-up were decidedly “just get on with it”. From that there’s no way I felt welcomed to approach a host with irritating problems which – if faced in my day job – I’d work through to find a solution. Nevertheless, when giving feedback in my day job, I’d be expected to mention those issues and not be told off for working through them myself rather than bothering an expert.

    I’ve held my hand up to be part of the team next year. With a year’s notice, I can prepare myself, my family and can make appropriate arrangements at my day job to give the Challenge my focus. Even those of us who aren’t full-time bloggers or fortunate in their priorities can manage most things with appropriate notice, without it … not so much.

    A-Z Challenge 2017: Reflection
    Find on Twitter:

    1. More notice probably would have helped a lot of people out.
      It isn’t a choice to do or not do something that I lack compassion for, it’s the people who complained by suggesting that the handful of co-hosts should do the work for them every day. That we should each “just go to 200 blogs a piece each day, find the post for the right letter, and then post it.” In addition to commenting and everything else.
      Hopefully there will be a high number of volunteers next year to increase the number of happy participants.

        • Debs on May 8, 2017 at 6:23 AM

        Aaaaahhhhh. OK, in those circumstances, I’d have been positively punchy too!

        I look forward to getting to know you more in the run up to next year (presuming you’re going to co-host again which is a large presumption I realise).
        Find on Twitter:

        1. Oh yeah, as long as I’m not in a hospital or abducted by space aliens or something crazy (ha ha ha), I’ll be volunteering.

          The day I got that message, the one where the person suggested I just do the work of getting links and posting it all myself instead of making the participants do it, it was the same day I had been egged for being a Mexican. (I’m not, I’m Native American. Granted, I don’t think anyone deserves that treatment. I’m just getting really sick of the hate, and the people who are PROUD of their hatred.) So it was pretty much the worst day in April for me, and yeah…

          I’m happy to help people. I love passing on knowledge and writing how-tos and such. But no one benefits from the “just do it for me” system. I had hoped the person was kidding. Nope.

    • Jamie on May 8, 2017 at 5:03 AM

    Have fun with bout of books! The challenge was fun. I took the survey.
    Jamie has this post to share #AtoZchallenge 2017 Reflection PostMy Profile
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    1. Cool! Thanks.

  4. I absolutely agree with your reflections 🙂

    The social media aspect of this challenge worked wonders for my blog – and writing a hook for each day’s post when I add the link to the official blog was a lot of fun. But maybe that’s just the writer-me liking to practice writerly things…

    I’ve done the survey and my reflections post will be up this weekend after I’ve had proper time to reflect (time doesn’t really exist the same way for writers as it does for the rest of humanity).
    Ronel Janse van Vuuren has this post to share Interview with the Authors of the #HeroLost Anthology #MysteriesOfDeathAndLifeMy Profile
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    1. Yes, we writers get our very own clocks. Deadlines? Ha! 😉

  5. I enjoyed your fiction though I couldn’t manage to read all of the posts during the challenge. I came back and caught up with them later. Thank you for all the work you put in – both as a participant and as co-host. I’ve been a minion on Alex’s team and so I appreciate the huge work it is to keep the challenge fun and glitch free for everyone.

    I did have problems with pasting the links in – I realise now it’s due to those very quotation marks in the image! – but that got sorted once I stopped copy pasting and typed in the code – a little more time consuming but not a big deal.

    I am not particularly good at navigating the SM platforms or at aggressive self promotion through them, this is totally my problem and I certainly don’t expect anyone, least of all the co-hosts, to promote my links for me.

    Best wishes always,
    Nilanjana Bose has this post to share The Long And The Short Of It : A-Z ReflectionsMy Profile

    1. Would you want a tutorial on Social Media platforms on the A to Z blog? Might that help?
      Thanks for your feedback.

      1. That would indeed be helpful. Thanks.
        Nilanjana Bose has this post to share The Long And The Short Of It : A-Z ReflectionsMy Profile

    2. I wonder if a hyperlink converter could be made. One that could catch errors (the quotes are curled, your wp-admin page isn’t the right link, etc). I’m hoping a good solution is invented or discovered in the next few months. I know I plan to search.

    • lissa on May 8, 2017 at 8:27 AM

    you have a point about commenting and promoting your blog, I have no problem with spending a few minutes posting my link. if you really want people to read your blog, you have to promote it or at least let people know it exist. I think for some people, they are used to the linky list and sort of gotten attached? sometimes it’s hard to change your ways.

    thank you for hosting A-Z. have a lovely day.

    1. Blogs, books, artwork, causes, … anything that’s out there, if one wants it noticed, some effort has to be made.
      Thanks for your comment.

  6. I wasn’t a fan of the new system. Not because it took a couple of minutes of time to promote a post – I agree completely with you that if you can’t be bothered to spend a couple of minutes on promoting a post then maybe this isn’t for you.
    I won’t bore you with the details of why I didn’t like it here (they’re in my reflections post) but for next year, if you don’t want a huge sign up list, I would suggest sticking with the daily promotion but rather than using the comments, have a daily linky list for each letter. This still ensures only active participants are joining but it gets rid of all of the issues with doing it in the comments.
    Find on Twitter:

    1. A daily linky was a tossed around idea. It doesn’t fix errors (links posted incorrectly) or prevent phishers. But all of this will be discussed by the team. Thank you for your feedback.

  7. I was worried this year without the linky my comments would be lower, and they were but not a whole lot outside of the theme reveal (That was had a HUGE difference so not having the linky there really hurt.) My main complaint with no having the linky was it was harder for me to find new blogs. It took more time to scroll through the comments and because of my health I didn’t always have the energy for that. But I did manage to find a few new blogs and I had a good time.

    TLDR: I enjoyed the challenge and think no linky list is a mixed bag but not enough to deter me.
    Find on Twitter:

    1. The current consensus (from what I’ve seen so far), is that people want something better than Linky. Easier to use, but more comprehensive, and able to catch errors all by itself.
      There are a few months to find out if it exists…

  8. I just want to give you a wrap for your straight talking, and your bravery for the survey re Anah’s story. I’ve posted my reflection on my blog so I won’t regurgitate it here, suffice to say, for me, it was a success and I will return in 2018. Cheers.
    D.A.Cairns has this post to share 2017 A to Z Blogging Challenge reflections postMy Profile

    1. Thanks!
      The survey is because I really did write the story just for the challenge, but then a few people commented and suggested it should be more. Why think alone when I can borrow the opinions of the group? 😉

  9. I love how interactive with us you are on social media. I know Arlee and John both visited me and Alex, not officially but as an ambassador. To me this all flowed better. Some aspects may have taken a little time, but the reward was knowing where you were going, always finding something when you got there and usually really enjoying it. I tried to remember to tweet every post I read. I shared other places as well, posts I liked/loved.

    I missed the chats. 😢
    Find on Twitter:

    1. I shared a LOT of posts. I hope it helped people get more blog visits!

  10. The idea of Spam Oreos started my morning off with a disgusting sounding concept.

    Great comprehensive observations, but I guess we’ll discuss more among the team later.

    From my brief overview, my blog views seemed to be down considerably while comments stayed about the same or were up. But this has been the trend throughout the past year even before A to Z started.

    Thanks J for your very intense and innovative approach as a Team member.

    Arlee Bird
    Arlee Bird has this post to share Reflections of 2017 A to Z (#atozchallenge) & #BOTB resultsMy Profile
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    1. I’m really looking forward to the survey results and getting to discuss those with the team. I feel excellent brainstorming coming!

    • Cait on May 10, 2017 at 2:32 PM

    Thank you for your work on the challenge this year. I really enjoyed taking part and wrote a lot of things that probably wouldn’t have gotten written had I not taken part.

    I did feel like over all traffic on my blog was reduced this year from past years, but I figured out a system for linking my blog on the daily posts and it wasn’t any great hardship. The great thing about the daily posts was that if someone skipped a couple of days they could pick up where they left off or go back to the earlier letter and leave their comments on those.

    I’m planning on working through the Reflections list and then perhaps working backwards through the letters to catch up on the series I missed. 🙂

    Cait @ Click’s Clan
    Find on Twitter:

    1. That is certainly an advantage! Thanks for your comment.

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