Well, maybe call this more of a lessons learned for next time post instead.
First off I have to say that participating in A to Z was a blast. It was great to meet new bloggers, write on a theme, have a posting goal, and be a part of something exciting like this. There were times I got overwhelmed with trying to get my posts written while visiting other bloggers and leaving intelligent comments.
That said I have four things I want to do for next year. The first one is the planning ahead item and the other three I can balance time between during the challenge.
1) Write and schedule posts ahead of time. While it was fun posting just about every day it did take time away from visiting other blogs. For me I would have enjoyed the challenge more without balancing posting (as much) with commenting / visiting.
2) Set aside a block of time for Google Reader to visit blogs I'm following. I enjoyed all the first time blog visits, but I found myself missing out on some of the other A to Z blogs that I wanted to read more of. It was tricky to balance those first visits with return visits. I plan on prioritizing the A to Z blogs though I could still comment on other blogs I'm following.
And yes, with Google Reader I created a folder for A to Z for ease of seeing the posts. Reader does allow adding a blog to more than one folder. There were several blogs that were in my A to Z folder along with my writers folder. And I can also use Google Reader on my phone. With visiting blogs I'm already following I don't need to check them off on my spreadsheet which is tricky to view on my phone.
3) Set aside another block of time to visit the people who have been to my blog. When people comment it does make it easier to find their blog/blogger profile than following only. It depends how they have their account setup. I tried to visit everyone who had commented/followed my blog and I think I did a fairly good job. Though I may have missed some people with my time being hit and miss between everything.
4) Set aside another block of time to visit other participants blogs. Pretty much this is the getting out there and meeting new bloggers part. For me this is where I made the most use out of my spreadsheet. I would scroll through it then click a random link to a blog. After reading their most recent post and commenting I would put the date down on my spreadsheet. I figured that way I could do some after challenge stats and see how many blogs I visited and when. (I was also checking off blogs from point 3 if I hadn't been there already - a visit is a visit). I wasn't keeping track of return visits, only when I got a chance to stop by each blog for the first time.
It really doesn't matter in which order I'll do the last three points. And heck, 3 and 4 can overlap. Over the course of the challenge when I would visit back a commenter (point 3) I would find their blog in my spreadsheet. Then after reading and commenting I would return to my spreadsheet and visit some other blogs listed near that one. In a way it was my method of randomly visiting other blogs.
I do also want to figure out how best to reply to comments. I tried to reply individually to comments on my blog but quickly got overwhelmed with balancing things. And I was wondering how many people would stop back and see if their comment was replied to with the mass of other blogs to visit. I did have some people reply to my comments via e-mail which was handy. When I comment on another blog I try to revisit to check for replies but don't always manage to. A to Z or not.
Oh and I am going to put together a spreadsheet again as it was helpful to me to keep track of who I'd visited. And I can share a copy out for anyone else that would want to use it.
So what were your experiences with the challenge? What worked well for you? What would you do differently next year? Granted what works for one person could be stressful for another person. Though seeing what others thought of the challenge sounds fun.
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