Monday, May 2, 2011

A to Z Wrap up

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.


mooderino said...

I agree, need to be better prepared and better organised, although I think it's necessary to get through it any way you can the first time so you kbnow what to do next time.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm glad I did preschedule all of my posts, although I still didn't have enough time. As a co-host, I tried to visit many new blogs, but I didn't want to forget my regulars. It is tricky balancing it all.
Glad you enjoyed the Challenge!

Claire Goverts said...

@Mood - This was my first A to Z challenge, it was good to work away at it and have better ideas for next year.

@Alex - Thanks. Yes, balancing everything was tricky and I'm hoping writing ahead helps.

Karen Walker said...

My experience was very similar to yours and I found it difficult to manage all those tasks you describe so beautifully here. It is an extremely tricky balance and no one did it perfectly.

Laura said...

I became ill more than midway through so, although I still posted (pretty lame posts), I got behind in my visiting. Next year I want to try to be more organized.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you've got a great plan!

~Claire~ said...

My sentiments exactly! I had a difficult time posting and visiting, especially since I've never posted so much before. I hope to do better next year, and I think organizing will be key in that!! You did incredibly for this being your first A to Z, I thought you had surely participated before.

K.C. Woolf said...

Good lessons! I don't think I could ever be that organised, though. :-)

I know I've missed out on a lot of blogs, but I'm not beating myself up over it. There's only so much time in a day. :-)

Julie said...

Hi Claire!

I just wanted to let you know I have given you the Stylish Blogger Award on my blog, I really enjoy your site and I'm glad to have discovered it during the Challenge. :)

Anonymous said...

I missed visiting during the Challenge. Good to meet you. Congrats on finishing. I’m looking forward to next year!

Claire Goverts said...

@Karen -Thank you. After I reread my post I had a horrible thought that I rambled to much. I'm glad it doesn't read like random ramblings. :)

@Laura -It is hard to write when ill. That's good you were still able to get something posted. I saw that as part of the challenge; posting something even if it wasn't "perfect" or whatnot -just having fun writing something and not worrying about it to much.

@LB -Thanks. I'm hoping my plan ends up being as good next year as it sounds now. I'll have to make sure to stick to it.

@Claire -Thanks. The balance of posting and visiting was tricky, hopefully writing ahead will help with that last year. I've done a few blog events before, but nothing this big. I had tried the national blogging month and couldn't keep up with that. It made me more determined to keep up with this challenge. Having a theme helped (the letters and a topic).

@KC -Thanks. If I plan ahead and give myself enough time I can be fairly organized. I have to make sure not to overdo it though.

@Julie -Thank you :) I'm also glad I discovered your blog for the challenge.

@Stephen -Good to meet you to. There were so many bloggers it would have been challenging to visit everyone. I'm still planning on making more visits this month and whenever.

Sarah Mäkelä said...

I really wish I'd scheduled my posts. Most of the time I was doing them the night or morning of, which wasn't fun. lol But it was great to have the challenge since I felt like I *had* to get the post up.

I adored the spreadsheet you made. It really helped out to keep track of things. I enjoyed being organized and on top of who I visited. I would click through the Linky on Alex's blog opening up like 5 or so blogs at one time and then go through 20 or more trying to find active ones and in a few cases, one I actually had something to respond to instead of "Just visiting from the A to Z challenge."

I did a big push on looking at blogs at the beginning of the month, but I started feeling overwhelmed and it slipped to where I was just trying to keep up with my blog posts, commenting back (which you raised a great point about), and trying to visit my commenter's blogs.

Anyways, I have a Versatile Blogger award for you at my blog. =)

Canyon Girl said...

I had my subjects ahead of time and used photos so it was easy for me and people seemed to like it. If you read my post of today, you know I'm injured and on pain meds, so I couldn't make sense of your post. I know it is a very important one, I now I have questions, I know there are some great suggestions. So, I will make a note of it and come back when my mind is following along. I just wanted to sign in as a follower and thank you for deciding to follow my blog.--Inger

Canyon Girl said...

I guess I already am a follower of your blog. I thought I recognized the pretty purple design. I will definitely be back when I feel better.--Inger

Mary Aalgaard said...

These are all great tips. I need to make use of folders in Reader. I reply to people with email, unless they don't have their email attached, then often, I don't reply. I don't think people generally come back to see your response unless they asked a question.

Anonymous said...

A-Z is a challenge not just for the writing, but as you pointed out, for blog visits as well.

For me, I'm planning to use my blogger blog next year as most of the A-Zers were on Blogger, and OpenID was a headache to comment from!