Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A to Z Challenge Reflection

- Reflections of an A to Z -

Where to begin? Wow... I have no clue? Well one thing was clear to my mind towards the final days of the A-Z, and that was that I had had enough. I felt that my mojo was running on fumes and my blogging mind was coasting in neutral. That was when I decided to take a rest from blogging in general and focus my attention to other matters at hand. Since which, I have painted the living room, hallway, landing, front bedroom/office and relocated myself into said front bedroom/office, in which I now type this (still viewing some of the chaos that requires my attention for tidying).

I started running again, only for a little over a mile - a limitation dictated by an ongoing injury to a calf muscle from my Territorial Army days. Actually, 'running' is possibly a misnomer, as it is more like a marriage of jogging/running with my lungs acting as the big balding fat man stood behind a huge drum beating out the pace... but I digress.

I will break this into two sections; Pros & Cons - otherwise I might waffle beyond the 1k word limit (so sue me!) ;)

PROS of the A to Z Challenge:
  1. Awareness - I became aware of a whole new blogoverse out there, populated by a multitude of diverse and eclectic beings, all with a passion for what they believe in and write about.
  2. Inspirational - Some bloggers are purely gifted at blogging and how they present information to the blogoverse and I admire and envy their writing skills and analytical mindset. Two of whom I shall present to you as fine examples of the writing and presentation skills I have mentioned: Amanda at 'Drama, Dice and Damsons', and Elizabeth at 'Elizabeth Twist'. Both lovely people and bloggers I admire greatly.
  3. Dedication - The A-Z Challenge definitely teaches a person dedication to the art of blogging. It is a skill set within its own right and something I am still trying to get right.
  4. Discipline - Another of the big 'D's that come with such a challenge. I will admit, mine was all over the place. There were times I was ahead of my blogs - a feeling I would liken to doing your homework on the night it was given to you by your teacher - and there were times I would literally sit before my pc in the last hours of the day I was supposed to have posted, banging out my post. But either way, it still taught me the discipline required to present a blog post within a given time frame, with the odd slip here and there ;) .
  5. Deadline - I refer to the above with regards to the final big 'D' within the blogging 'Holy Trinity' - Dedication-Discipline-Deadline. I will hold up a hand of confession here, I did post an hour or two into the following day of the required deadline, but adjusted my time stamp to show 2359pm... I know, I'm a bad man. But at least you'll know if you see my posting time as being that in future and take it as read that I was late. I think this happened three times? But yes, it does instill that feeling of 'Oh my God! Look at the time! I need to post... NOW!' mentality, which for me, is a good thing. It gave me purpose and, if truth be known, fulfilment. 
  6. HTML - All I can say here is YAY! I learnt a new skill, albeit a tiny one, with thanks to my HTML guru, Hana. She taught me the basics and through all the posts and linking I have now got this tiny little ninja skill down to a fine art - BUT HTML does sometimes like to mess with your head I have noticed; it seems to know when you are getting all smug, and as you exit the HTML of your blog you see the link isn't working or simply not there? So it is then I find myself speaking in tongues and hammering out a rhythmic cadence on the keyboard, and once this 'possession' has passed, the Gods of HTML deem me worthy of entering my code correctly (even though I know I did it right the first time... bastards!).
  7. BlogoFs - Short for Blogoverse Friends. I now have more than a handful, which I won't even try to quantify with a number for fear of sounding too cocky or offending anyone :) Simply put, there are those of you who have posted comments and have had my comments in return, and I would like to think there are some of you who know if I consider you to be amongst my BlogoFs. Regardless, I have encountered some wonderfully intelligent, witty, erudite and charming people on this alphabetical journey. I admit, we are all out there, floating about tin the nether ether of the blogoverse, not exactly thinking we're all BFFs, but even so, I like to think we do have a community bond kind-of-thing going on, of which I am happy and honoured to be part of. Just don't ask me for money :P
  8. Comments - I love the comments I have received, and a very big THANK YOU for all those who have done so and continue to do so. I feel so loved up I could burst :) Ok, maybe a touch dramatic, but it was meant to make you smile. I did visit and comment on blogs, and was happy to see folks doing likewise, even if they were just passing ships in the night. It's only polite I feel.
  9. Followers - It was wonderful to see my number of followers rise to over the 100 mark, but this is also tinge with a slight sour note, of which I will cover in the Cons section. But the A-Z is a great way to get noticed and expand on your circle of 'BlogoFs'.
  10. Wiki - What a brilliant resource for an A-Z Challenge! I have to admit I spent all of my time divided between Wiki and YouTube, though I'm not linking as they've both had enough coverage from me.

CONS of the A to Z Challenge:
  1. Draining - I did find the whole A-Z Challenge a draining experience towards the end, mainly on my mental faculties concerning X, Y & Z. 
  2. Followers - Although getting over the 100 mark with 'followers', it is a rather empty exercise, as I have noticed that roughly only 10% actually comment on any kind of regular basis. The rest just don't bother, and some of these are ones I have commented on two or three times. In the end I give up visiting and commenting. So I have to wonder the worth of accumulating a big number of visitors, when most really only follow you in order to get a follow back and increase their own number - it reminds me of that FaceBook mentality of some folks aiming to have as many 'friends' as possible in a seemingly futile gesture of justifying their existence within the world.
  3. Comments - Is it me, or do folks seem loathed to post comments that also delve into a constructive analysis? I do get a touch of nausea with some of the 'you go, girlfriend' styled comments time and time again on blogs. I know it is good to be positive, but it is also good to be helpful, constructive and offer opinions. Simply saying 'Great post' really, to my mind, doesn't constitute a valid comment. Same with my stories and poems, if folks read them and didn't like something about them or hated them, I'd wish they would say so. Comments should help the blogger/poster grow, think and mature.
  4. Less Men, More Women - Usually, this would be a topic that many men would be smiling about, but for me it is the reverse. My ratio of female to male commentators seems to be 10:1 - ten females to every male commentator. Which normally I wouldn't bat an eyelid at, but in feedback to posts/stories/poems it seems the females are leading the way in all areas? To some it might look as if I have aimed my audience at females alone, but not true. It seems the writing aspect of the blogoverse is dominated by females, whereas the gaming/role playing side is male dominated. Plus I wonder if guys out there reading my poems are actually shy of commenting. But I gotta  love you gals for commenting :)
  5. Poor Blog Designs - Ok, I know my own blog is rather dark and sombre in appearance, but in my own defence it was done that way to reflect the tone and mood of the genre for which it was initially created: that of the role playing game. Admittedly, it does seem to have become a different beast in terms of content (may the Gods of RPG forgive me!), but that aside, I feel it isn't too dour or difficult to read(?). But some blogs I've encountered are just terrible. Damned awful colour schemes, poorly thought out backgrounds, transparencies and text colours - not to mention fonts. Seriously, using a Script font for a body of text throughout a blog is a no-no. Trust me, I know, I have a degree in graphic design (believe it or not). I've come across one blog where the font is in navy blue, on a background of possibly 50% opacity with a picture behind that. I had to highlight the text in order to read it. What are those people on? Anyway, grumble over.
  6. Comment Responses - This is now my pet dislike. Taking time out to comment on someone's blog, to my mind, deserves a reply back. It is something I try to do, and would like done in return. So you've got 15,000 blogs on your 'blogs I follow' list - so what? Be nice and reply to those commenting on your own blog first. I have stopped following many blogs because of this. I tend to give bloggers several chances, and if after the third comment on a third posting of theirs I still get zero response, then I'm gone, stopped following and deleted them from my 'blogs to follow' list. These just strike me as folks who don't give a toss about the comments, but want the high follower numbers. I rather have a low following of folks with a 100% comment factor than three digit followers and comments down around 10% - which oddly, is what I have got.

Well, that's all I can think of. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Am I glad I did it? Yes. Would I do it again? Maybe.

For those of you who do actively look at my posts you will now I like to promote beginner blogs, or blogs with a very low following in the hope of directing more traffic their way, opening them up to new blogofs and drawing them into the heart of the blogoverse community. It is something I am quietly passionate about, as I know how it felt when I started out, not knowing if I was doing the right thing or not? 

So to you folks who have warmly welcomed those placed in the 'Blog Spot'-light, I thank you all over again. Without you ladies and gentlemen, my efforts would be nought. So spread the word, and I urge you to create you own 'Blog Spots', and keep the community alive and ever growing.

So now I close by leaving you with this:

- A to Z -

A to Z, a challenge for me,
a gauntlet I use to test me.
Eagerly I sit and type,
on Wiki and YouTube
 I spend many a night.

Smug smiles and hearty applause,
I type my HTMLs with stops and pause.
Back to Compose, I hit my button,
only to find the bastard thing's
dumped 'em!

Back to Edit, away I go
this time with caution, 
I type slow, type slow.
Hitting Compose I check my links,
big smiles again more time to think.

Images next: I trawl the web.
Yahoo and Google, I find the best.
From story to poem, and A to Z
I find an image to link a thread
With Photoshop magic, I Insert Image.

I've numbered, I've posted,
and comments I've left.
I've followed and follower been,
across many a blog, so many I've seen.
So this is it, time for an end,
A to Z over for us, 
my friends.


Copyright © 2012 by Mark Kelly


Julie Jordan Scott said...

I didn't get a chance to know you during the challenge but wow, are you thoughtful in this post. So many details about the Pros and Cons. I think my biggest Con is I comment a lot and quickly (and always more than GREAT POST!) so Wordpress sents my comments to the SP#M box regularly. HATE IT! I also wonder why people will Retweet posts, praise posts and yet not comment. What is UP with that? I am glad you completed the challenge and I don't think you are a bad man for changing the time of an entry or two to come before rather than after midnight. Is there an A to Z police? Hmmm. Good Question!

Deborah Walker said...

Ah, now you've made me self-conscious. I sometimes add my 'Great post' posts. Just as a general acknowledgement to a post I've enjoyed.

Mark K said...

lol... easy tiger - I wasn't pointing any fingers, just letting folks know what irks me so. But I think you can breath a sigh of relief as I don't think you're a serial 'Great Post!' person. I think you can be let off if it's not habitual, which I doubt it is.

And I've started writing poems outside of the blogoverse, but it feels different and I don't know why?

Mark K said...

Nice to see you here at the hearth, Julie :)
Thank you for stopping by and posting a comment. Also good to see someone else with a similar mindset to my own. I'll stop by your blog to have a peek at what you're up to, I might even end up following if I like what you're writing ;)

Deborah Walker said...

*laughs* Easy tiger? I haven't heard that for so long. Are you a manc? I love regional expressions.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Great post! (Just kidding.)

I'm on the fence about bloggers not replying to comments. I think a lot of people feel that the comment leavers are not likely to check back. That having been said, I made a greater effort to reply to comments people left on my blog during A to Z, and I found myself thinking through some of the thornier issues I'd posted about a lot more thoroughly. It is a good exercise to reply to comments, even if all they warrant is a "thanks."

Some people do check back. I do if it was part of a convo I was especially interested in. (So it depends in part on my leaky memory.)

Thank you for the shout-out. Really, what a nice compliment.

Elizabeth Twist: Writer, Plague Enthusiast

Elise Fallson said...

I have similar opinions about comments and agree that the number of followers you have may not be a good measure of readership. But to those trying to build a platform to launch their book(s), high numbers become increasingly important. But then again, I'm no expert. I've only been blogging since February and have yet to finish writing my first book. I'm at the point right now where I have a small core of regular commenters who are really great and makes blogging worth all the effort I put into it.

btw, Great post my brother!! :P

Mark K said...

More than welcome, and it is the truth... I swear, honest, guv'nor!

Mark K said...

'My brother'?! Is this a writer's thang, ma'am? I'm so out of touch with hip-talk these days - I never know what'sin vogue or not?

I can see why more followers the better by which to spread the word regarding written projects, but they are only good if they are commenting on your work, otherwise they serve no more purpose than a pretty miniature patchwork quilt on the side of your blog.

Maria Zannini said...

That was a thoughtfully constructed post. I would never do one of these blog hops. I have work to do and precious little time to get it done--especially at this time of year.

As for commenting, I always reply to comments. But I only comment on other blogs if a post moves me to do so. Since your posts are truncated, the first paragraph has to motivate me to click and read more.

Ref: painting
That's on my to-do list this week. One more room and I'm done.

Mina Lobo said...

Possibly, a "scientific" or sort of evolutionary-biology-of-the-sexes take on the majority of comments coming from chicks rather than dudes would be that chicks see you as prey (if you'll pardon the expression) and dudes view you as competition and, therefore, aren't inclined to help you snag all the luscious babes.

OR, as the US media likes to crow, chicks LOOOOOVE to talk and commenting on blogs is one expression of that. (Dunno if UK media talks that same smack about us gals.)

OR, chicks (again, in the US) are sort of socialized to help and support, and see commenting on your blog (or anybody's blog) as an expression of THAT.

Or I'm just talking out of my butt. It's been known to happen. :-)

Some Dark Romantic

Mark K said...

Commenting seems to be a very personal thing, so I'm starting to realise, and the manner in which comments are structured also seem to reflect that.

Good luck with the painting :)

Mark K said...

I'd vote for #2 & 3. Unless of course, you've just have a very talented butt?

Hana said...

Aw, I'm still so proud you've gotten so into blogging, I knew you'd do well! haha
Okay, I've decided that after the hand in next week I will start blogging, just can't decide if I should stick to my art or just do general stuff?

Nikki said...

Great post :D I agree with you about the following thing. I sometimes get followers who don't even comment, even when they begin following me. It's kind of strange. It's funny you mention about there being mostly female bloggers, I do find that now but when I first began I felt like there were more males than females.

Congratulations on finishing, anyways :D It's kind of weird going back to normal blogging, isn't it. I kind of feel like I'm talking to myself now because there aren't any rules on what to write!

Mark K said...

Thank ye, ma'am. I'd say go general with art thrown in, at least that way you can make the art side a bit of a highlight to the rest of the blog content :)

Looking forward to seeing you up and running and in my 'Blog Spot' ;)

Mark K said...

Well done to you also, Nikki :)
I don't think you ever did get round to reading my story, did you? Shame that, I was quite curious as to what you'd have made of it :)

Regarding the comments side of things - I do know some folks never comment, but follow a blog they like religiously, which I find kind of creepy, as it's almost like being stalked. But then, I've also heard of bloggers who turn off comments altogether as they are not interested or bothered about receiving comments? But for me that would be like posting to no one but myself, which seems pointless?

Mina Lobo said...

Well, I don't like to toot my own horn (or butt), as you know, Mark. But yes. Yes, I do.


Some Dark Romantic

Nikki said...

I read most of it on that journey home but then uni work took over a bit. I have more exams coming up in the next week and then I am free free free so I will finish it/reread and finish it and tell you what I think :D Thanks for reminding me!

I've seen bloggers who I've really wanted to comment and found that their comments are switched off. It seems odd, since I like to ask questions a lot and find out what other people think, but maybe they're just collecting ideas and talking to themselves and stuff :) I think it would be flattering to know that someone is reading and following religiously, for them to like what I write that much, but it does sound kind of creepy too, I guess!

EvalinaMaria said...

Congratulation on finishing the challenge. During the challenge I didn't visit as many blogs as I would like to but, cross my heart, I'm visiting every single one with the reflection post (and I'm almost done)! I am so glad my journey brought me here.

Evalina, This and that...

Mark K said...

Thank you so much for stopping by - nice to meet you also :)