Reflections on the 2018 A to Z Challenge #atozchallenge

Well, another A to Z Challenge is done and dusted. It was my seventh, and I still consider it the highlight of my blogging year.

In keeping with the way I tend to do things lately, I’m going to stream-of-consciousness my way through this, or to put it another way, riff my way through.

I was finished with all my posts well in advance of April Fool’s Day, i.e. April 1. Unless I’m mistaken, I was done by my birthday, March 25, so that part of the challenge was a piece of cake. (Mmmmmm…. caaaaaaaake….) In fact, I already have my theme for next year, word list and all. You’ll have to wait until next March to find out what it is.

But, as we all know, getting the posts done and sitting in the queue is only half the battle. The other half is visiting other blogs, particularly the blogs of folks you don’t already count among your “blog buddies.” That’s a bit of a problem, because as it stands a good portion of the blogs I follow are people I’ve met during previous A to Z Challenges. I don’t think I did a good enough job of keeping up with the Kardashians people I follow all year, let alone any new people. I think what happens is that I wake up and see there are over 200 posts in my RSS reader of choice (Feedly) and immediately become overwhelmed. By about April 20, I decided to do what I could during April, then do an extended road trip (about which you’ll hear plenty more in the coming days – watch the challenge blog for details) and try and visit everyone who did the Challenge.

I don’t think anyone wants to hear about the technical challenges I had to cope with. Suffice it to say I coped with them. I would like to remind everyone that the WordPress “simulcast” blog is just that, and that if the entries are unavailable there, you can always read the posts on the main blog. I know there are those of you who don’t like Blogger, but the posts you see on the simulcast blog are simply rebroadcasts of the ones on Blogger.

While I’m on the subject of technical stuff, I want to do a shout-out to Jayden, who came up with the idea of using Google Forms and Google Sheets to build the master list of participants as well as the daily lists of posts (which replaced last year’s system of posting your link as a comment on the daily letter page). I’m not sure how long they’ll be out there, so you might want to save them to your Google Drive account for posterity.

It’s always an honor and a pleasure to work with the other members of the A to Z Challenge Team. Arlee‘s blog was one of the first ones I read when I started thinking about blogging myself, and I’ve learned a lot from him in the 6 ½ years I’ve been doing this. J served as our team captain this year and did a fantastic job, making sure everything was done before the challenge began and keeping things going through the month. Csenge is always a joy to work with and ran the Twitter chats and was busy visiting everyone. I’d go to a blog to leave a comment, and nine times out of ten she had already been there. The aforementioned Jayden found a solution to the chaos we had last year as far as collecting links was concerned. I was so happy someone had thought of it that I welcomed her to the team before she actually agreed to be a member. And finally, but certainly not least, there’s Jeremy, who created all the badges and graphics and has A to Z Challenge t-shirts and other goodies available for purchase at his Neato Shop.

I’ll probably have more to say as time goes on, but this is as good a stopping point as any. Thank you so much to all the participants in the challenge, to those who commented whether or not you were doing the challenge yourself, to Arlee for starting this and to the rest of my teammates for keeping it going. Next year’s challenge will be the tenth, by the way, so be prepared for some excitement. See you in the funny papers!

25 thoughts on “Reflections on the 2018 A to Z Challenge #atozchallenge

  1. I know what you mean about being overwhelmed but for me it is a little simpler in that I will only go visit the blogs that I actually might have an interest in, as opposed to you being one of the coordinators and may feel the responsibility of visiting everyone who participates. Way to go for choosing next year’s theme already. I have to think a bit.

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    1. Exactly. You’re not going to be interested in everything when you have a challenge like this one, because no one asks what you’re interested in and writes accordingly. 😉 Seriously, though, I chose “White Sox players from the 60’s and 70’s” my second year doing the challenge, and hardly anyone left a comment. People who didn’t live in the US had no idea what I was talking about, and of the people who did, who wants to hear about a team that was at best mediocre? That’s why my themes since then have been more of the wordplay variety, because (a) I like wordplay and (b) so do a lot of people, especially bloggers. And (c) it’s easy to come up with themes for later challenges, like I did for next year…

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  2. April A-to-Z is a challenge for readers as well. I follow a number of people who participated, but there simply isn’t enough time to read everyone’s entry every day. At least not while maintaining a job and a blog that requires responding to comments, and such. I committed to a few, and I scanned the inbox for the rest. I know I missed a lot of posts, and unfortunately, I doubt I’ll have the tie to go back and catch up, since I frequently have to skip some posts on a normal everyday day.

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    1. After a while I think you need to do that, decide that you’ll make a note of the blog and promise yourself you’ll go back and read them later. Right now, I have close to 400 articles in Feedly just since Sunday….

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  3. I enjoyed reading your posts this year, John. Thanks for dropping by for me, too. I think it was much easier this time with the master list and daily letter list. Now that I’ve done my posts, I hope to have time to go check out some other blogs that were listed. 🙂

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    1. Last year was an experiment to see whether or not something like that would work, and while it didn’t, it was worth trying. There are still a few details to be ironed out about the way we did it this year, but on the whole I’m pleased with the result.

      I’m going to go back through the list and visit the blogs I missed as well, after I follow up with some of the folks that visited me. Maybe I’ll do something like this guy did: https://thatssojacob.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/june-2016-blog-project-postmortem/

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    1. I think that’s what I like about it. It IS a stretch, especially for someone who hasn’t been blogging long or who isn’t used to coming out with something new every day. Glad it went well for you!

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  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Great Reflections recap and I’m so appreciative of your kind words toward me. Honestly, I would have had a difficult time this year without you and all the other members of our great Team. You all made 2018 one of the best A to Z years ever!

    I can’t say “thank-you” enough.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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  5. Hi John – it’s doing what we can isn’t it … well that’s the way I look at it. I just enjoy visiting bloggers and seeing what they’ve written – thankfully people tended to find me … but reciprocating is so important – I love blogging … not every subject is my forte, ,
    ‘guess what music being one’, but I’ll be around and will engage. Take care – you do so much … and keep us happily involved – cheers Hilary

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  6. I’ve become more of an A To Z Challenge Enthusiast than participant. I found it difficult to keep up with the bloggers I chose to follow during this event. In theory I want to read everything everyone wrote, but real life gets in the way. Isn’t that just a shame?

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  7. John,

    I understand overwhelmed. I just do what I can but I certainly make a point to respond to comments, do return visits, and leave my footprints at those sites. Anything showing up in my inbox may not always get looked at during April unless I have spare time. Yeah, I know you’re laughing at that one, huh? Everyone did a great job. I’m wondering how important the Master List is with the daily link up, though. That’s the only one I looked at throughout the month. Congrats on finishing your 7th year of A2Zing and many thanks for your encouraging visits & comments, my friend. Have a good day!

    Curious as a Cathy
    5-Get2KnowMe Questions, A2ZReflections, & BoTB Results

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    1. Some people like the master list, some like the daily lists, so we gave people a choice of both. There’s also the list from the Theme Reveal and the one from the Reflections posts. Between all those sources, we’re going to capture everyone. I suppose at some point we’ll need to analyze and accumulate all the data to see how many we really had. Sounds like a job for Doctor Database! 😀

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  8. Yup, I felt overwhelmed and I feel bad that I have not visited people who came to my blog every day and plan to rectify this. Good for you that you already know what you are writing and have the list planned.

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    1. The way I see it, I have eleven months to catch up with everyone and explore even more blogs, so it’s all good. Really, there are only so many hours in a day, and a lot of those are spent tending your own blog, and you know how difficult it is to keep up with comments.

      Next year’s theme just came to me one evening while I was playing Two Dots, which is kind of a mindless game that allows your mind to wander (though not too much). You have to take advantage of these things as they come to mind, kind of like planning blog posts or, really, anything. Thanks for joining us this year

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  9. John, during April (while doing something completely unrelated and random) I also had a lightbulb for my next A-Z topic. Gave it a quick exploration and realised I could get through the alphabet (even the tricky letters), so I’ve filed that bit of paper away and hope I can find it again next year.

    I set a goal of 2 new blogs every day and managed to hit just a smidge over that for my total. But it is very draining time wise and falling ill, as I did, makes the task rather overwhelming. But I’ve met some lovely people and had a lot of fun, so no regrets.

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    1. I use Evernote to keep all my “random bits of paper,” so I don’t lose them, because trust me, give me a piece of paper and I will lose it.

      Two new blogs a day is a good target, and I’m happy you were able to reach that, despite illness and lack of time. Meeting some lovely people and having a lot of fun is what the challenge is all about, after all, and thank you for participating!

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  10. First, a belated thank you to you and all the others who made A to Z possible. You don’t get thanked enough. Although it would be nice to be a Holton’s Hero one day and display the cool badge I find myself totally overwhelmed with each challenge. Kudos to you, once again

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    1. You can display the cool badge if you want. You don’t even need to do anything. Holton’s Heroes was my group of “minions” whose task it was to sweep thru the monster Linky list and find everyone who had signed up but wasn’t doing the challenge, who would then tell me so I could tell Alex to permanently expunge that blog from the list. Before last year’s challenge, Alex said he didn’t want to do that anymore, and we agreed that it was a soul-crushing experience. That’s when we decided to abandon the huge Linky in favor of what we did last year, which was a mess and got a whole bunch of folks mad at us for having the audacity to do such a horrible thing. I think this year we found something that works well, with the big list and the individual letter lists where people can check in on a daily basis. If you have any ideas how we could improve the logistics of doing that, by all means, let us know.

      The challenge is great because of the people who participate. Thank you for joining us this year!

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  11. I’m impressed that you had all your posts scheduled so far in advance and that you’ve already planned for next year. I was so busy that I ended up having to write each post the night before-definitely too much pressure! I struggled to visit all the blogs as well, but I am looking forward to the road trip. I really liked the Goggle form method this year, it worked well. Thank you for co-hosting and congrats on another successful challenge.

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    1. Thanks. I think this might have been the first year I wasn’t writing challenge posts during April. Well, I mean, there was the extra Q post necessitated by my inability to look at a calendar…

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  12. I wonder how anyone without a blog reader, kept up with more than a handful of posts. I use inoreader.com, ever since Google Reader took a dump. Then I use FeeddlerPro on my iPhone & iPad in addition to inoreader on my MacBook. Definitely helped me stay on top of new posts!

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