Monday, June 4, 2012

the Bad...

Today we continue with Arlee Bird's Challenge analysis
The Good, the Bad, and the Evaluation...

Artwork by Ada Z at
We're gonna talk about the negatives:

        Two weeks ago we looked at the good of the A to Z Challenge. I think it's fair to say that from all the feed back we've received through the Reflections posts and your comments, the positive aspects of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge far outweigh the bad.

         Some of the negatives that have been cited are more personal and were covered  in my post on The Negative Responses to the A to Z that appeared last year.  You can go to that post if you want a more detailed coverage of negatives.

         Repeatedly this year we saw essentially the same negative aspects brought to our attention.  Some of these we tried our best to fix and I'm not sure how we can change them.

The dreaded Captcha:

        The matter of Word Verification or spam filters rests with individual bloggers.  On this A to Z site, on co-host sites, and on some of your sites requests were made repeatedly for bloggers to turn off spam filtering devices to make comment access easier.  Some of the co-hosts and participants even went so far as to leave our requests in the offending sites' comments.  We were somewhat effective, but many blogs still remained that required visitors to get through Captcha to leave a comment.  We tried.

No play, no stay:

       After sign-ups closed we eliminated about 200 blogs from the list that were advertising or non-participant blogs.  Nevertheless many of you discovered more that we missed.  Also as the Challenge progressed there was an attrition rate of bloggers who fell by the wayside.  I'll cover a bit more about this topic of the "blogs that waste our time to visit" next Monday when we evaluate the Challenge as it stands now and ideas on how to make it better.

What if we don't agree with content?:

        There were also some complaints about certain blog content that some deemed as inappropriate.  The co-hosts labored over this issue to a great extent and concluded that it was not necessarily a good thing to get into the business of censorship.  We came to the conclusion that some blogs needed content warnings, but we would not want to be excluding any blogs based on content as long as the other A to Z stipulations were being followed.  We'd like to get some feedback on this issue as we don't want to alienate any of you who sincerely want to participate in the April Challenge.

The Biggest Problem is the biggest aspect:

         The most oft cited problem pertained to the overwhelming size of the list.   Over and over I saw requests to label the list entrants, break down the list into categories, or limit the number of participants.   I think the last solution is not a good one and for me is out of the question.  One of the main objectives of the A to Z Challenge is to build community and we have been doing a pretty good job of this.  Limiting entrants would create a spirit of exclusivity that would not fit well into the idea of reaching out to expand our reach to build communities.

          There are some viable alternatives to labeling and categorizing that I think would present a very workable solution to the problem of the large list.  Some of you are in opposition to breaking things down, but I truly think I have an answer that would be an attractive way to approach this problem.   Next Monday I will explain my plan in detail to see what you think.

           Were there any other major negative aspects that you think I missed?   What more could we have done to get bloggers to co-operate with what was explained many times?  Were there any blogs that you found offensive and if so how do you think they should be handled?

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SueH said...

Arlee -I totally agree with the remarks about 'captcha' (and the even more annoying: 'blog-owener approval required') before a comment can be left. Next year, I think I will just decline to comment if I find these 'obstacles' in my way!

As for categorising the list - I'm 50/50 on that. It would enable me to avoid subjects I'm not interested in, but it would also limit my scope.

The overwhelming numbers mean it is just not possible to visit everyone - it becomes an onerous task to read and comment on everything!

Just as I would not attempt to eat EVERYTHING on the restaurant menu, next year I shall be content to just pick and choose and meander through the list, via the 'surprise me' button and take pot-luck who I find. And that's quite an adventure, isn't it?

A Daft Scots Lass said...

I agree with all the points. The categorizing is a brilliant idea.

Graciewilde said...

No censoring, please. I made my way through about 500 blogs and it was fine with me just to jump to the next one if the content was not my style. I like the open exchange and inclusiveness of the challenge. And so, it goes without saying then, don't limit the participants. I really enjoyed the whole challenge experience - both he writing and the reading. I was able to post every day and I would have enjoyed reading even more blogs but that silly thing called time got in the way.

Tina said...

Nice summary of what we dealt with, Lee.
Here are my opinions.

- don't limit the number of participants. That totally defeats all the work we did advertising and recruiting them.

- I'd hoped that our suggestion to visit 5 blogs a day would have relieved the pressure so many expressed about not being able to visit everyone.

- not having time DURING the challenge to make the rounds is THE reason Shannon and I created the Post A to Z Road Trip. We are meandering the list still visiting and I for one plan to keep going until Jan 2013 when the planning for April will begin anew. It's not too late to join us! Many are beginning with reading all the reflections posts, and then heading back to the big list. Click the badge with the road on the top, right sidebar and get more info!

- censorship bad. Content warning good.

Tina @ Life is Good
Co-Host of the A-Z Challenge
Post A-Z Road trip!

Retired Knitter said...

I think this summary is excellent!

I also think that you can't promote an activity without someone being unhappy about something. NOTHING will satisfy everyone.

I applaud your desire to improve the process and to recognize the negatives reported. Everyone want to feel heard -improvements come from the ground up. BUT at some point we simply have to say ... this is the goal, these are the rules and if it doesn't fit your needs - that is OK too. :-)

I finished this year (yeah!), I am still visiting blogs and will be back against next April to play.

JoJo said...

For me it was mostly the CAPTCHA and non participants and those that dropped out halfway thru. Or people posting short story chapters. I have no time for that. So from that standpoint, breaking down the participants into categories would be helpful. That way I could choose who to visit.

But that CAPTCHA thing....OMG and it's gotten worse too, now that they give you a nonsensical word and then a blurry photograph of a number. I did stumble upon blogs I really like a lot and am suffering thru the ridiculous CAPTCHA to comment.

I don't think I found any blogs w/ inappropriate content at all.

Dino said...

I think you've pretty much nailed the major negatives.

I was guilty of captcha and moderation but turned the captcha off initially as it's really only doing the same as moderation. I then switched moderation off too and have never looked back. My initial concern over doing this was not knowing when folk had commented but it turns out Blogger send an email anyway. also, Blogger's anti-spam filter for comments is pretty good.

I'm one of those against categorisation and for a few reasons. Firstly, I'm not sure where my blog would end up, personal, religious or what? Secondly, from what I can see there would be one supersize category for all the writers and a few miniscule categories for the rest of us. I await Monday's announcement with interest.

I agree with someone else here about content, I skipped stuff I didn't agree with or like the look of. A few blogs had content warnings and I appreciated that. I also enjoyed the Next Blog buttons and really hope they will be working properly for next year.

I'm also glad to see that limiting the participants is not an option, good stuff!

Roll on 2013!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Agree with Dino - don't want the list broken up into categories for many reasons, including the fact I wouldn't know where to place mine.
Jeremy and I had talked about policing the list better before the Challenge begins next year to eliminate ad sites and bad blogs. It can be done!
The only other negative I saw were those just trying to gain followers without interacting. Most people saw through that trick though.
Ready for your suggestions next week!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I guess I'm the only one in the world that CAPTCHA doesn't bother. It took me two seconds to enter the "mystery word". I don't use it on my blog, but it doesn't bother me.

And no I don't think censoring material is right, but it would be nice to know if it's sensitive material--since I am sensitive...sometimes.

I actually went to many blogs that had quit posting early on. That didn't bother me either. I just left an encouraging word on their last post. Let's face it A-Z is a daunting task. :)

I hope we don't categorize either. I like being surprise.

Finally, my one complaint was that I joined many blogs and they didn't do the same with mine which *I think* is one of the A-Z objectives? But honestly, I got way over a hundred new followers so I take back this complaint. :) Can I do that?


JoJo said...

PS Now for some shameless begging: I had 100 followers but today I have 99. Can someone please follow me so that I am back to 100? THANKS!

Arlee Bird said...

Sue H. -- One essentially has to set their own limits for tackling the Challenge. It's a personal challenge with no absolute requirements.

Scots Lass -- I think categorization is the majority preference.

Gracie -- No limits and no censorship is probably the best way to go.

Tina - I think many of us had a compulsion to finish as much of the list as possible in April and 5 blogs a day couldn't do that. Each person has to decide what they are capable of doing.

Retired Knitter -- You're right. We're still tweaking to make things better, especially since each year has brought new problems and questions. We just want to make it work the best way we can.

JoJo -- You have pointed out a couple of the personal preferences that show how one must design the Challenge to fit ones own needs and goals. The new Captchas have gotten just plain crazy. Hopefully someone will answer your call for the additional follower--I'm pretty sure you'll get it.

Dino -- I think the suggestions I offer next week will address most or all of your concerns.

Alex -- I think my suggestions will also make policing the list much easier and screen out non-participants. As far as the people who don't interact, that may always be a problem that we can't solve, but maybe we can provide some incentives.

Teresa -- Captcha has become almost like a game to me, but it's somewhat annoying if I don't guess on the first attempt. We're trying to educate others on blogging etiquette but some people will probably never get it. Over a hundred new followers is not bad at all. You did good.


Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

Pretty good thoughts. I would not want to censor either, but I did appreciate the warnings, or having to sign in to go further aspects of some blogs. I could then just move on. I would appreciate some kind of labeling system. I'll check back next week and see what the ideas are there. The word verification is annoying, but since I took mine off, I've gotten spam, (some foul) so I don't know what the solution is to that. Any ideas there?

Lynn Proctor said...

i certainly agree that it would not be a good thing to limit who could participate----and i don't remember finding many blogs that were offensive to me--the only piece of free advice i would offer-i just think january would be a better month

Rob Z Tobor said...

I am curious to find out what category my blog will be entered into if I do this next year as a rebel I hate being categorized. Unless I can have my very own one, which having got round a fair number of the blogs I think I need, or maybe us Brits could have our own one.

Colleen said...

I didn't see a single blog that was offensive and can't even imagine what people could find offensive. (I'm thinking my C post on "crap" might offend someone, but it's not even PG-13) I don't think the blogs that give up on the challenge should be nixed either--just the bad blog links. I think it would be cool to try categorizing blogs, though, to see how that would be.

Barbara said...

I can't wait to see what you'll present next week. I'm very curious as to how these ideas can be implemented, although I liked to say to I back out of my saying that a limit would be good. Your reseaning is good, we should build, not restrict :)
I still keep going through the list, and I love what I see.
Maybe labels would be good, instead of categorisation?
I hope to see A-Z develop to see myself participating next year no matter what :) I <3 A-Z :)

English Speaking Zone

Arlee Bird said...

Mare --I'm not sure what to do about the spam. Most of my blogs see very little and nearly all is trapped into my spam folders so I can screen them. We get a great deal more spam at this A to Z site, but I don't want to limit access here and most of the spam again is screened out by Blogger and put into a spam folder.

Lynn -- No month is ideal for everyone. The first A to Z just happened to begin in April and now that's where it is.

Rob -- I will address the category concept next week. Stay tuned.

Colleen -- What is considered offensive is a very objective opinion, which is why we would not want to censor any blogs.

Barbara -- I will be looking at the ideas of labeling versus categorizing. I think limiting would not be conducive to achieve what we've been trying to do.


Barbara said...

@Lee - I just re-read what I wrote through my phone... it keeps correcting my words, and I didn't even notice up until now. Nevertheless, thank you for understanding :P

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee - I agree with you .. so will look forward to your ideas for telling us what you're thinking of for categories/labelling etc ..

The one thing that I'd quite like mentioning - is that sometimes my comments get lost - ie they end up in spam, or they just disappear, or they get emailed through ..

and some blogs I can't comment on if they use embedded boxes ..

Many thanks - see you anon .. cheers Hilary

Mina Lobo said...

About that CAPTCHA stuff - you know, leading up to the Challenge, the A to Z blog posted loads of helpful tips (like, how to create a "signature" that links back to your site - that was awesome and I use it all the time, now). I think it would be great to have all the tips (including the "how to turn off word verification" info) on one page, after they've been blog posts. That way, you may have missed the info when it was originally blogged, but can easily find it on the A to Z site.

Also; unless folks log out of their blogs and try viewing them as guests, they won't know if the word verification's off or not.

Please, please, please use blog categories for A to Z 2013. Keep the "surprise me" tabs for folks who want to see it all. But categorizing blogs allows for very focused reading and, I think, leaves folks feeling fresher and more likely to leave comments and possibly visit more blogs. (We don't plop down $14.95 on a book we've no idea about, do we? Well, time's as precious a resource for me as money, if not more so.)

I vote for no censorship and/or participant limits. Insist on content warnings, in the case of the former, with the penalty for non-compliance being removal from the linky list. For the latter, categorizing blogs may well deal with the problems of "so many blogs, so little time."

I'd also suggest some specific A to Z e-mail addresses for participants to write if they want to "report" stuff. Like, "" for requesting someone be notified/assisted in turning off word verification, or "" for that situation.
Some Dark Romantic

Anne Mackle said...

I think the team did a great joban d even doing this reflection and trying to make things better,if only large companies would do the same.Today I have visited four blogs all with Captcha and it is much worse as JoJo said with the photo of a house number and then a word with letters so jumbled you don't have a clue.You have to already spend time writing a comment before you find out you will have to work out the silly letters. These blogs should have a warning,if your going to comment you will become annoyed.

Andrew Leon said...

I do have to say that I'm opposed to censorship. However, categories might help with that if one of the categories was an adult content one.

And I'd really like to see a category for the rodent blogs.

Tracy MacDonald said...

Very well organized listing of the "bad." I agree with most others, censoring would take something away from the posting. I only came across one blog that I was attracted to by the title, but the content was a bit too much for me. I just chose not to follow and made a mental note not to go back, but was not "offended" enough to make a big deal. Categories would be helpful, but maybe also blocks of 200. The Captcha aspect was the most disappointing and frustrating, and working through it from my phone gave me a headache.
I've been continuing to read followup posts and some of the road trip pieces. It's still a great community and I fully plan to participate next year. Already thinking through themes.
A2Z Mommy and What’s In Between

Arlee Bird said...

Barbara -- You're doing fine. Thanks for keeping up with things.

Hilary -- I've been aware of those problems you've mentioned and I don't know the solution. You are not the only one who seems to have this problem, yet I guess others don't. It must be one of those mysterious blogger issues.

Mina -- Be sure to read my thoughts of possible solutions next Monday. The different email addresses might be a good way to sort out issues. We'll have to ask Tina about this since she was taking care of all of the official A to Z email--pretty amazing of her!

Anne -- I think the Blogger people are trying to test our limits with this Captcha thing. It has gotten pretty wacky.

Andrew -- I wonder if the rodents feel the same way about the people blogs?


Arlee Bird said...

Tracy -- Everyone needs to keep educating everyone else about the Captcha issues. Like mentioned about some folks probably don't even realize they have it and still others may not even know or care what we're talking about.


Laura S. said...

Maybe some of the bloggers with the word verifs didn't realize it was on?? Even after they were informed about it, maybe they didn't know how to turn it off?

I'm all for categorizing the blogs in some way, so I'm looking forward to seeing what you've come up with!

Mimi said...

Yes, you hit the main problems. Sometimes i came upon a blog that was totally utterly not something i was interested in. I didn't leave a comment. What could I say? asparagus bending isn't a sport I understand, so why waste time and space?

I don't see a need for censorship either, but categories I LOVE!!!

Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors

Anonymous said...

Lee, I'm keen to see what you come up with next week. One issue that I haven't yet come to grips with probably because I'm new to blogging is what I see as the divide between Wordpress and Blogger blogs and the extra steps one has to go through to comment on a blog using the other platform to your blog. I'm trying to find a way to more easily bridge the divide, especially given the volume of blogs in the Challenge. Any tips,tricks or thoughts would be appreciated. I'd also be interested to hear if anyone else found this to be an issue.


Chuck said...

Lee, I think one of the fun things about the Challenge is the free-form list. Not sorted or delineated. I can see that one of the challenges for the hosts is the time consuming weeding out of inactive, advertising, and no-playing blogs. Running into many of those made me take a completely different tactic to reading and following new sites.

I personally did not run across any blogs one might consider offensive although after the fact there was a blog that contained a religious theme that apparently set some people off. I was sad to see she was turning off her comments to avoid any additional backlash. I believe strongly (as I assume most A-Z participants do) that freedom of speech is paramount. Censorship would be a bad direction to go, however I agree with warning labels. Sites one finds offensive would just simply be passed over. Maybe there is a way for the hosts to view each blog briefly after sign up to see if that subject matter required a warning of some kind. Maybe even color code the racy type blogs in a different color on the list to let everyone know.

Anyway, I love the A-Z Challenge. I will participate next year and look to improve my work. Keep on rolling!

Arlee Bird said...

Laura -- The majority of the bloggers who signed up for the A to Z Challenge probably were not reading this blog or any of the others requesting that WV be turned off. I'm sure many did not realize that they had WV or that they could turn it off.

Mimi -- I almost always left a comment if I stopped by, but there were some that did not interest me enough to want to go back.

Judy -- The complex issue of cross-commenting between platforms is one that has befuddled many and I know of no solution than signing up for all of them so I can leave comments. I can now leave comments easily on WP, but it seems they sometimes confine me as a spammer and I have to go through hoops to be taken off that list. It's all a big hassle that I don't know any way around.

Chuck -- I like that there are blogs to appease just about every taste. Everyone won't be pleased by every blog and they can move on to another if they don't like it just like we can turn the TV channel. I think I have a solution for the big unsorted list people as well as those who'd like categories.


Dino said...

Hilary, if you're using Blogger, make sure that you accept 3rd party cookies in your browser settings, that should then allow you to comment on embedded comment form.

This worked for me, hope it does for you.


I read with interest about the A to Z. In general I agree with you on everything except "Blog content"
Why you may ask? well one evening I was scanning the A to Z participants alongside me was my grandson, he was interested to see how A to Z worked. I clicked on one randomly and was horrified at it's content.(I am a woman of the world) yet having my grandson witness such filth was outrageous.
The blog in question had no adult warning and to think people complain about my music.
As you know I have done all three challenges and would NEVER put content like that. By the way someone else complained to me about it so I am not the only one.

Apart from that I think the Challenge is wonderful/

Arlee Bird said...

Yvonne-- This chance of unwittingly coming across a blog that one finds offensive is a good reason to have content warnings and an argument for better screening and categorizing of blogs. I am rarely at loss for words to leave a comment on a blog that I come to, but there were a few that there was nothing worth saying because of the content. And yet I saw other complaints about some of the Christian blogs being offensive. There will always be a broad gap of disconnect between certain groups.


Jolie du Pre said...

I would be very careful about censoring blogs who want to participate in this challenge - especially if you want to "build community." Some of us are erotica writers. Some of us like blood and zombies. We may like puppies, and sewing, and children, and travel, and art, and lots of other things, but we may not blog about those. If a person doesn't want to read a blog, then don't read it. Move on to the next one.

Precious Monsters

Arlee Bird said...

Jolie -- I would agree with this, however I would also think it appropriate that if content is what would typically be considered obscene or inappropriate for family viewing it should come attached with a warning so visitors don't have to start reading before being subjected to such content. This makes for another for categorization.


Random said...

I came across no blog that I found offensive that I can think of. If I did, I would simply ignore it and move onto the next one. I don't think censoring or limiting participation would be a good solution.

I like the idea of adding categories, but I agree that it should also be easy to browse the entire list without categories.

Some questions that might need working out: Can a blog be in multiple categories? Would categories be self-selected, or assigned? (Same question with content warnings, if those are used.)

Probably pretty obvious. It sounds like you already have some ideas ready to improve on what is already a great event.

Nicole said...

I think you covered just about all of the big negatives well. The captcha thing is something that I don't think will go away because there are always bloggers who either don't know that it's still on their blog or they just ignore the requests to disable it. So, I think it's just up to the participants to decide how they handle it...whether that be bringing it to the bloggers' attention like you and the other co-hosts did or just skipping those blogs altogether.

I'll tell you, this year, the non-participant blogs were the least fun to visit than the ones with the lease some of the the word verification blogs were up to date on the current (or at least recent, as in the last two) letters.

I like the labeling or categorizing idea. Maybe there could be separate linky lists for one specific category such as writing, general, food, entertainment, technology, parenting, home decor, religion etc. or whatever seems doable.

I don't recall coming across many offensive blog posts, if any. I don't think it's a big deal....just like television, we have the option to change the channel. Some people like MTV while others prefer the Discovery Channel and a few may lean toward the Showtime or Playboys channels....offensive material is kinda relative.

I mean, just look at that whole TIME magazine (was it TIME? I forget the name of the magazine) controversy about that breastfeeding mother on the cover. There are people who find that offensive but I'd be willing to bet that there are other people who would read that particular magazine issue and find nothing wrong...they would treat it just like any other issue that was previously published, regardless of what was on the cover.

I'm not sure that the A to Z Challenge needs to be in the business of censoring blogs. If it makes participants more comfortable, however, the co-hosts could make a list of what they may find generally offensive: Nazi signs and support, Radical pro-life -or- pro-choice writings, violent images of dead animals, or something like that...whatever, and then remove blogs from the list that fit that bill.

Again, I think it's best to just "change the TV channel," you know?! The bloggers behind the offensive blogs (whatever they are) will soon get the hint that maybe the A to Z Challenge may just not be the right fit for the audience that they are trying to write to.

Arlee Bird said...

Random -- I've got most of your questions pretty well covered I think. Obviously offensiveness is in the mind of the beholder. There were a few blogs that I found to be offensive and likewise with other readers. What some found offensive was very different than what others found offensive. It will be a sticky issue to resolve, but I would like to think that most bloggers would have the dignity and respect for others to be aware of what many do find to be offensive. More answers coming next Monday.

Nicole -- Your points are well taken. My concern is situations like Yvonne mentioned earlier or the case of some of the teen bloggers who might be participating. I myself am no prude but I do have a problem with those who are just trying to be offensive for the sake of the offense whether it be shock value, a need to rebel, or some sort of feelings of inadequacy or anger that is manifested by in our face rudeness. We don't all get off on that sort of behavior, but granted there may be another side that is totally offended by religion, fantasy, romance, or anything else. We can't please everyone, but we don't want to run people off in droves either.


Adena (aka cre82learn) said...

Seems like you made most of the points. Even though I hate the capcha, I still left a comment because I know I love receiving comments. Fortunately, I did not run across any offensive sites but I think if you can list the participating blogs by categories, this can be avoided if they are in their own category. It was disappointing to find some blogs that either never participated or stopped halfway thru but overall, it was a great experience and I will do it again.

Unknown said...

A pretty comprehensive list, I think.

Another complaint I received from bloggers was not receiving enough comments in return for blogs visited and comments left. Not sure what we can do about this, other than raise awareness about commenting on all blogs visited to build a better community spirit.

LB said...

I support categories. The list is LONG, and intimidating, and i went to several blogs that I had no interest in the subject of. I'd rather read blogs that fit my interests and that i might want to actually follow and go back to again, and as a semi-blogger I would rather that as well.

And you can also use them to make adult mature content blogs (if that was the issue?) a category so those who would be offended know to skip them.

KC Weldon said...

Enough people have bashed on CAPTCHA I won't even get started, except to say that it needs to die. Very rapidly.

But as for categorizing, maybe you could create really generic groupings: Writing, Hobbies, Lifestyle, Personal, Religious, etc. Then for those who write about anything and everything Grab-Bag. It would help give people a starting place if they're looking for specific types of blogs.

I didn't come across any offensive blogs or blogs that were totally outrageous for children, but maybe you could have bloggers choose a rating for their blog when they sign up. You could use the movie rating system; most people are familliar enough with it to choose the right rating for their blog. Beyond that, it's way too hard to guess what's going to offend someone. For every topic, there's someone somewhere who's offended by it.

Arlee Bird said...

Adena -- Maybe we can come up with something that will be an incentive to get to the end. ?? ideas?

Damyanti -- I don't know what we can do about this. I was mentioned often. Some people get it and some never will because they probably don't care or just don't get it.

LB -- Can we please everyone? Probably not, but we might be able to come closer to doing so.

KC -- A movie rating style system would be a good idea.


Eliza Wynn said...

I actually don't mind CAPTCHA, other than the name. I think I only ran into it once or twice during the challenge.

I had occasional problems trying to load pages or leave comments. I believe someone else also mentioned comments that disappeared, even though there was nothing that should have caused the blog owner to delete them.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you post next week.

loverofwords said...

Content warning a good thing, but not all do this. I did see a blog that really offended me, but just went on. I think some do it just to get a reaction, so perhaps no reaction is best? For the most part, I think you editors handled a huge job very well.