Monday, July 16, 2012

Guest Post: Mare Ball: On Following, Awards, Tagging and the Other Mysteries of Blogging

Hello Fellow Alphabet Fans! Today I'm pleased to introduce Mare Ball as our guest poster.

Like me, she is a former educator. Unlike me, she can make a killer brownie ;-) An Air Force wife for 20 years, she now blogs about her life, including caring for her aging parents, and is working on a book about a family Christmas project. I found her post asks a lot of the same questions that I've been wondering about. I'm looking forward to a lively discussion! Please welcome her in true A-Z fashion with lost of comments. She certainly has opened the door wide for your opinion, so let it be heard!

I joined the A-Z Challenge for the first time this year. I’ve only been blogging for two years, and I’d not heard of the A-Z until just a week before it started. It was a wild and crazy ride, but I really enjoyed it. I wrote an A-Z reflection post on my blog about my experience, but I want to highlight some points here.
  1. I was shocked at the number of bloggers that signed up. It was 1800 at one point. I’ve since learned there are 181 million blogs. Good grief.
  2. I really wanted to at least look at every blog listed, but it was impossible. I did check out about half and found 100 that I really enjoyed. I continue to explore the blogosphere, and I’m still discovering blogs I love.
  3. Over the month of April, I developed serious eyestrain, wrist soreness and a flat, achy butt from all the sitting and reading. I’m glad the challenge is only once a year.
  4. I discovered that reading the “about me” page gave me more insight into a blogger than reading their letter-of-the-day post. The prompts were fun and revealed creativity, but I also wanted to know more about the heart of the writer, and the “about me” page provided that.
  5. I discovered that the most visually appealing blogs (and the easiest to read) were ones with light backgrounds, short paragraphs, and not too much clutter on the sides.
  6. I was impressed by the fact that there are published/professional writers who take the time to respond to and encourage other writers. I’m grateful for their generosity.
  7. The A-Z Challenge confirmed to me that, after being away from writing for five years, I still love to write.  I have to write.  It's weird, and I don't get it, but it completes me (in a non-cheesy, non-Tom Cruise-kind-of-way.)   Thanks to the A-Z Challenge, I fell in love with writing all over again.  
I share these points because it tells you a bit about where I’m coming from as a writer. Since the A-Z Challenge, I’ve discovered some things I’m trying to reconcile, and I’d like input from other writers.
  1. The “following” thing. I gained 70 followers over the course of the A-Z, and I followed as many or more. However, I can’t visit every blog I follow daily. I might check in with everyone weekly. It appears, though, that some of my readers comment on every post I write. I’m very touched by that and always respond…but, how do they do that? Does anyone visit every blog they follow daily?
Conversely, I have followers who drop in to follow and never visit again. That’s absolutely fine, but, then, why follow? I’m assuming the number of followers (for everyone) is somewhat deceptive, and I’m trying to discern the value/importance of the following system.

  1. The reading list thing. On my blog roll, I have 126 blogs listed. In the Blogger dashboard/reading list, I see the latest posts from blogs I’m following. If number 6 blog doesn’t show up on my reading list, I assume there are no new posts from that blog – am I correct here?

  1. The award/tag thing. Since May, I have received seven awards. I understand I’ve become more visible since the A-Z Challenge, and it’s very nice to be recognized. But, as one blogger wrote, awards seem a bit like chain letters. They involve answering questions (about yourself), then passing them on to other bloggers. Who may not want them, because they have to answer questions and pass them on to other bloggers. At some point, bloggers you want to give them to already have them. They whole thing, while kind, seems a bit silly. Am I alone here? I’m not ungrateful, I’m just trying to discern the value/importance of the award/tag system.
Thanks for reading. I’m expecting some great input. I might even give out some awards.


Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

Thanks, Tina, for this opportunity!

ToscaSac said...

Blog awards are not as bad as chain letters. At least not the first few you get. Ask me how I know. hahahahaha

The first two I got I saved and did not pass on right away. I hardly knew any other bloggers or any I wanted to recommend.

It was shocking to think new fans were excited about my blog. Now a few months later I am enjoying the love as what I shared is being passed around.

I am sure there comes a point where they can be over whelming but it is okay to take your time with them or opt out altogether.

Stopping the chain is not a crime. Although there might be someone new or struggling that could really use the pick me up.

I let the first person who sent me a blog award know that I was delighted and honored. It opens channels of communication.

That is all real fans want. Recognition and link back are secondary.

Cindy Dwyer said...

I use google reader to subscribe to blogs I follow. A blog title will become bold and show the number of unread posts, but remain regular font with no number if there is nothing new.

I glance through every post but fully read only those that grab me. I comment when I have something worth adding or if I was really moved by the post. Or if someone comments on mine regularly, so they know I appreciate it.

I have the same concerns over the accuracy of the RSS feed stats on Wordpress. I tracked daily during A2Z and once picked up 400+ followers in a single day. Highly unlikely! I think unique visitors and page views are more realistic stats to track.

deathwriter said...

I was flattered with the first couple blog awards, but I felt guilty for giving them to others. It is like a chain letter. Granted, it's a complimentary one, but sometimes I get them from people who haven't commented on my blog at all and I'm wondering why. Well, I do have sort of an odd blog, but whatever.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

With almost 1600 followers, there's no way I could visit all in a week, let alone a day! A hundred a day is all I can manage.
Correct. It's actually easier to use Google Reader than your dashboard though.
Pass on a few awards without doing all the requirements if you like. Yes, there are a lot out there!
Glad you had a good time with the Challenge.

Tina said...

On the following thing:

When I first started blogging, I followed the blogs I wanted to read every post of. Then I found more and more interesting blogs, but didn't want to "un-follow" someone and hurt their feelings. (I'm ridiculous when my followers number goes down, just downright childishly hurt, but it goes deep for a reason and has to do with self-esteem issues which come from...and that's not the topic here.) There's only so much reading time in my life, and I try to spend it wisely. I gained 307 new followers during the challenge, and a lot of them have become regular readers, but I still haven't made it through the list to visit back and say thank you and hello and then decide if I also wanted to follow them. That was easy to do when there was one new follower a week...

Which brings me to:

Blog Roll/Blog Reading List/Blogs in sidebar;

If you look at my profile you'll see a long list of blogs I follow. Here's my definition: I like your blog, I want to be able to find it again, I click follow. Or, if I see a new blogger with less than 50 followers, who's an A-Z'er, I follow as an encouragement. I appreciated it when people did that for me. I might go back, I might not. It might have been a blog with topics not really in my sphere of interest, no reflection of the blogger at all. It's my opinion that the number of followers more accurately reflects how many people have visited and found it re-visitable, but that actual followers are those you mentioned who read almost every post you write. The new way of looking at stats (on the newest blogger interface which I know is a whole 'nother debate) on the posts page which shows how many have read a post and how many have commented is, I believe, a much better indicator of how many really are reading you. What I find weird though is when 10 people have commented and it shows that 5 have visited. Does that mean 5 other people visited but DIDN'T comment? Does anyone know? By the way, if I am at your blog, I will comment. Every time. I feel like what's the point of visiting, reading, and then not leaving a little footprint? I sure appreciate the footprints on my page.

I should probably write my own post, considering the length of this comment, but in my intro I told you she asked questions that I also have been asking.

Blogs in my sidebar:
If you're in my sidebar, I read almost everything you write, or try to. I consider it my advertising space for my closest of buddies. (Please don't feel bad if you're not there yet, there are so many of you I'm getting to know - folks there right now have been my bloggy friends since 2009! And have supported me through thick (posting daily) and thin (posting monthly) and have just plain stuck with me, encouraged me, and are the reason I didn't throw in the towel. So if you're looking for something new...I change that space about every three months so that it's as accurate as possible. Obviously, since I've been road-tripping this summer, my regular buds have been left on the side of the road, neglected, while I'm racing around to meet the staggering almost 1800 2012 A-Zers...
If you're still reading, I appreciate you.
Thanks, Mare, for such a GREAT post.

Do you want to guest post? Shoot me an email or leave me a comment at my place. We'll take it from there.

Tina @ Life is Good
Post A-Z Road trip!

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

ToscaSac - your points are all good. And kind. You've taken the best of the award system and applied it. Thank you for sharing.

Cindy - following through google reader sounds like the way to go. I'm not sure blogger reveals every new post in my blogroll. I'm going to look into google reader. Thank you! And, I think you're right about pages views being a more accurate picture of who's following. That's what I suspected.

Hello, death! :-) Yep, I have the same feeling about passing on awards. They do take some time to work on, and maybe people don't want them. And where do they start? Just wondering...

Alex, I'm impressed that you visit 100 blogs daily! Do you eventually get about to ALL of them, or pretty much check back on the same ones?

Tina - thank you for your input. It was VERY helpful to me. I, too, find I follow blogs to keep them highlighted for me to check in on again. It's kind of a bookmarking system. I DO think that if you have 10 comments and 5 visitors, it DOES mean that 5 did not comment. And I'm with ya...if I've taken the time to check in, I like to leave a word of two.

Julie Jordan Scott said...

I have some of the same curiosity as you do and yet have been blogging a long time!

I read from my google reader, as several other commenters said. I don't follow people because... I never look at my lists. Much easier for me to just go by my reader. I do check those blogs regularly.

You are one of the many A to Zers I never got to know during this, my first (successfully completed) year. Maybe next year we'll cross paths sooner than July!

With Gratitude,

Julie Jordan Scott
On a Mission to Share Word-Love Worldwide!

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

Julie - nice to meet you! I'm not surprised we missed each other, w/ 1600-1800 blogs to view! I'm going to check out your blog now, though. Thanks for commenting. :-)

Emmy said...

I remember when I first started blogging and got awards they just seemed so wonderful and I was so honored- but now yea as much as it is still nice to get they do seem a little chain-letterish.
I have way more followers than I do people that read my blog everyday. But I know there are some that I used to follow and read all the time but just have fallen away from for one reason or another. I definitely don't have time to read all I follow anymore- but if someone leaves a comment on my blog I will for sure take the time to go read their blog- might take a day or too but I will get to it.
Glad you are enjoying blogging

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

It's impossible to read every single post written by every single blogger buddy every single day. So we do the best we can. If someone comments on my blog, I respond, and then visit their blog to return the gesture. That, at least so far, is manageable. Any other visits I make to other blogs beyond that is catsup on the meatloaf. As for the blogger awards and tags, they're fun to get at times. Especially if the well is running a little low on new ideas for a post topic. But just because someone offers an award, doesn't mean you have to accept it. Or pass it on. Whatever floats your boat is fine.

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

Emmy - I'm feeling the same, I think. It's good to hear this from other bloggers. In the beginning, I was feeling pressure to connect w/ every blogger, but it's just not possible. Thanks for commenting!

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

Susan, I like to respond and visit the blogs of all commentators too. I think that's important. Re: awards, I did wonder if there was some award boss out there who was checking whether or not the award rules were followed! Ya' just don't know these things at the start. I do wonder where the awards originate from, though. Thanks for your input!

Stacy said...

Blog awards are nice and I try to play along when someone gives me one, but now and then I just can't...and I am never insulted when someone declines.

As for following...I will "follow" someone if they follow me, just to be nice, but mostly I think bloggers get caught up in the number game and follow willy-nilly to beef up those numbers. I've known some who stress mightily over them. Me? I figure if a couple of people show up then they must like what I'm writing and that's good enough for me. I don't have any desire to be a big blogger and am happy to build relationships.

Anonymous said...

#2 not necessarily

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

- Stacy, I like your attitude. The numbers aren't the point. I found your blog through A-Z and have been popping in since. You are the kind of genuine writer I enjoy. Thanks for sharing. :-)

- mybabyjohn, I didn't think so! Thanks for the verification!

Karen Lange said...

Good observations, Mare. I really think the A to Z Challenge has wonderful advantages. It's interesting to see how people follow and comment. I have followers who simply read and never comment, so I guess everyone has a different style. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

Thanks, Karen. I'm seeing that there are no real "rules" with following OR awards. That's what I wanted to clarify. I agree the A-Z is a great learning experience!

Arlee Bird said...

Excellent post, Mare. You expressed pretty much the way I feel about and approach blogging.

Cecilia Marie Pulliam said...

First, Mare. I agree with your questions. I believe the reason you blog will dictate whether the followers or the page loads are important enough to really pay attention to.

I started out concerned about them, and fell into the trap of wanting more and more. Then I realized that wasn't why I started my blog. I had other reasons which I won't go into here (they are explained on my Why I Write Tab).

I try to read several of my favorite blogs every week, but that has almost become impossible with so many interesting ones to read. I now try to visit as often as my time allows and that varies. Yet, it seems I read what affects me most when I need it most.

Great points on all responses and comments. Great discussion, Mare.

Oh, one other thing. I know many of my readers are non-bloggers and without an internet ID it is hard to comment, or they just don't understand it is okay to comment. I have had personal feed back from several readers who read every new post and don't comment. That's okay. My stats tell me someone is reading, and I need to keep writing.

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

- Thank you, Arlee. I'm learning a lot from this!

- Cecilia, you're not the first blogger to remark (in other places, not just here) that the numbers can become too important. I know writing is a solitary venture, and the only feedback bloggers receive is reactions from readers - via the "follow" system and the comment box. So, I guess they are important, b/c they let us know our voices are being heard. I do know, like most writers, I write b/c I love it - in the end, it's my fundamental "prompt." So, maybe as wonderful as followers and awards are, they should not define the writer. Thank you for sharing, Cecilia.

Unknown said...

Hey Mare! Came over from your site. :)

No, I don't visit EVERY blog I follow, every day. I do visit pretty much all of them once a week.

Then, not every blog I follow posts every single day, so it's easier to get to them. I don't comment on them all every time I visit. I know I should, because I know how much *I* love comments, but I don't.

Also, I follow a ton of blogs. It's a lot to read every day. I know once school starts up I won't be reading nearly as much, because I simply won't have the time.

For #2, yes, if you don't have posts show up in your blogger reading list, then that blog hasn't had a new post lately.

Those awards. There are two different kinds: "feature" awards, which mostly happens on linkups, because your post was a popular or favorite or most-viewed or whatever. Then there's those "chain letter" things, which I've only done once, and I agree with you--they're pretty pointless. Don't feel like you're obligated to participate. You could just thank the person kindly for thinking of you. I hardly ever forward emails, so why would I do it on my blog?

Also, I'm with you on the "About Me" page. I'm glad to see it's viewed pretty often on my blog, because I put a lot of thought into that, and it's a good way to get to know me quickly! I read them a lot on other people's blogs. :)

kelly said...

I don't even know how many followers I have. I may be unique in that the numbers game just has never been important to me. I do know I have a couple of real-life friends who read my blog, and I write with them in my mind as my audience, so any stranger who pops by is just a bonus.

I have had a service / plugin for awhile called StatCounter installed on my blog for quite a few years now, and I find it gives me what I need in knowing where visitors are coming from and how many have stopped by. I do live knowing my posts aerate being read.

I will follow a blogger if I want to indicate that I really like their blog. I don't know how to use the follow function to get back to them, though, oops! I use google reader for that.

I only write sporadically because I'm so busy with active life I just don't have the time to sit down most days. So I don't expect anyone to be following my every word. I don't always comment either because sometimes i just don't have adequate words available. So I have no expectations from others either. As long as I see a few visitors I know I didn't write in a vacuum, I'm ok.

Sorry of there are typos in this post, I'm writing from my phone and it's difficult and not letting me edit. Another reason I may not comment.

Oh one More thing. 10 comments but 5 visitors might mean there's spam In your trash.

kelly said...

Ack, it wouldn't let me sigh in with my wordpress account either. So my blog is

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

Hello Jaime - thanks for coming over! Good to hear that you are a "weekly reader." :-) That's about all I can do, too. I've heard differing views on the reading list...some say only new posts show up, others say not so. I've looked at Blogger for that answer, but can't seem to get that specific question answered. However, I've begun using google reader, and it's very clear there what is new, so I'm just using that. This was VERY helpful to know! Never thought of the awards as being a "forward", but I guess they are. :-) And yep, I'm a big fan of the "about me" pages. I think they give the best view into the heart of the blogger. Thanks so much for all your input!

- Hello, Kelly - I make enough typos on the computer, I think you did very well on the phone. :-) I think Blogger has a stats page too. I can see page views and from where people are checking in.
That certainly is a more accurate picture of readers. You make an excellent point in that some comments might be spam. I've had that happen several times, just recently. I like your perspective. Thank you for sharing!

Unknown said...

Thanks Mare. As always a thoughtful and thought provoking post.

What really sticks out to me as a most helpful piece of advice and something I do myself as well is # 4.

Blogging really is for me about relationships and if I'm reading/following and commenting on your blog knowing who you are is so very important right from the start.

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

Jen, so glad you popped in! We're talking about awards...and I just gave you one! You are one of my favorites. :-)

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Blogging for me is something I need to do each and every day if possible if I don't I go into withdrawl......
I do really would I lie to you......

I do not blog in order to have heaps of followers that is not what blogging is about for me, it is more about getting things off my chest and just writting about my life it makes me feel good and I love to read about other peoples lives and know that the things that happen to me happen to many other people too...........

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

Jo-Anne - I read your comment on my blog, you are a hoot! Thank you for popping in to the A-Z! It warms my heart to read that you love to write b/c you just want to share and connect. Such a pure motive. I'm glad we are blogging buddies. :-)

Anne said...

Hi, Mare!
Great post!
I share a lot of your feelings...about awards (I feel I am asking too much of another blogger when the award calls for passing them on to yet more bloggers...I hadn't thought of the "chain letter" similarity, but does fit...) my "reward" is the sweet comments I receive, though...that's plenty!

I follow lots of blogs, and try to keep up with my faves, but sometimes I do "follow" and then don't "follow up", especially if I don't hear anything from the blog's author...but, I never remove one...when I hit "follow", it means I'd like to keep the connection for later, if nothing else. As your followers keep growing, it gets more and more difficult to keep up.
I have some wonderful followers that comment on every post, and I am always amazed at that! I'm afraid I am not that good a commenter...but I mean well!

I found out about the A-Z Challenge too late this year, but hope to do it next year!


Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

Hello Anne! Thanks for coming over! It seems everyone's intentions are good re: awards and following. Bloggers appreciate being "awarded", but hesitate to obligate other bloggers w/ awards. We're also grateful for followers, but don't take it too seriously. Yes, sign up for the A-Z next year. I would suggest you write some posts ahead, though. A daily post that's specific to a different letter of the alphabet can make ya' a little nutty without some forethought. :-) I appreciate you comments!

Annalisa Crawford said...

The following thing - nope, I don't get to every post, every day. I try to keep up, and then there seems to be a huge wave of creativity which has every one of my 250+ followees posting at the same time! I feel bad, but everyone is in the same boat. I only follow blogs I find interesting though - I don't just do it randomly. Even if people follow me, I'll judge their blog before I sign up to theirs.

As for the awards, I've got to the stage of graciously thanking, but not posting on my blog or passing on. Unless it's exceptional - like the award you commented on yesterday (or today, depending on time zones lol).

Interesting thoughts!

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

Annalisa - thanks for joining in! You did receive a very nice recognition this week. Good point, that bloggers are in the same boat trying to balance the following thing. :-)

another jennifer said...

Following can be tough. For the few blogs I really don't want to miss a post, I subscribe by email. The rest, I subscribe in a reader. If I'm not sure, I'll start following someone on Twitter or FB and read posts from there. I wish I could read everyone's blog, but I have to prioritize for my own sanity! :)

Anonymous said...

Great post, Mare! You are one of the A-to-Z participants I feel I've gotten to "know" a bit. I appreciate your comments and I love your blog. (Us AF wives have to stick together! LOL)

The whole "awards" thing confuses me, too. But I think I'll eventually figure it out. LOL


Sharon Hamilton said...

I do like what I'm doing today, just hopping around when I have a few minutes. Have to be careful, cause I can get snagged and then no writing for the day. Yes, I've done that!

I too loved the A-Z and have done it for 2 years. I've met people I would never have met before, and can trust that pretty much everyone is a valid individual I'd like to be in e-space relationship with, some more limited than others. But others! Sisters and brothers I never had. And it helps to hear things from other writers, especially, who write in other genres.

But I do it hit and miss. Because that's all I can do. The only organized part of my day is the actual writing, and I protect it with everything I've got.

Great post.

Melanie said...

As usual, I'm with you on most of what you say. I didn't do the A-Z challenge but my sister did and I gained at least 5 followers from her. I also don't understand those who "follow" but then never seem to read or comment. I try to comment on the ones I read so that I can have some type of connection with the blogger.

Also, I like the awards when I'm in the mood for them but getting the same one over and over just kind of seems like the awarding blogger just wants to get rid of it and fast. Some of those things are fun, but I've found that I get way more feedback from just a general post. Most people don't care about another's favorite color or best vacation spot. Just my opinion on that.

Glad to see you here, popular girl!

Arlee Bird said...

. I also don't understand those who "follow" but then never seem to read or comment.

I have what I think of as cosmetic followers, or followers for the sake of appearance--I would rather have 1300 than 130--and I likewise follow many many blogs. Every blog that I follow I have read and commented upon at least once and for most more times, but I cannot read and comment on all of those on a regular basis. And thank goodness all 1300 of my followers don't comment on each of my posts--I'd never be able to keep up with all of those commments.

I see nothing wrong with going for numbers to make a good presentation when others see your blog, but in reality the ongoing relationships are much smaller than those numbers.

Tossing It Out

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

Another Jen - you work into following gradually, pretty smart. :-) Subscribing rather than following does offer a more selective approach. Thanks for stopping by!

- acommonsea - I'll have to give you an award, so you can get some experience with them! :-) They really are a nice idea. Go, Air Force! LOL

- Sharon, I hear ya! I can waste HOURS reading blogs and commenting. And then writing goes by the wayside. It's a tough balance. As crazy as this sounds, it's comforting to hear that bloggers struggle w/ the same thing. Thank you for sharing.

- Mel, as usual you make me laugh. Some of the award questions are a bit mundane.
But once in a while, I'll discover something about a blogger that is like me,and I do get a kick out of that. OH well, it's been great to hear everyone's views. That's why I wanted to do this. Thank you for popping in!

-Arlee - "cosmetic" followers is a good term. I guess more authentic relationships have to start somewhere. :-) Thanks for popping in twice!

Tracy MacDonald said...

What a great post. I loved the A to Z for many reasons and did start following a lot of blogs and I got a lot of followers too. But, yes it's very difficult to keep up with every blog that's in my Google Reader, even though I try. I've found that the best way for me to keep up with blog reading is to subscribe by email because then I can access it from either my phone or computer (love the smart phone).
On awards- I've always felt flattered to receive the awards, mostly because it means that someone was reading my blog and likes what I have to say. Passing them on is more difficult because as I find that the blogs I follow are all part of the same circle/genre and those blog owners have already received the same awards.
A2Z Mommy and What’s In Between

Elizabeth said...

You brought up so many great points and I enjoyed reading many of the comments people have left also. We'd all probably love tens of thousands of followers, but if even a few people are helped, blessed, encouraged or amused by my blog, it's a wonderful thing.

Marianne (Mare) Baker Ball said...

- Tracy, thank you! It was a great dialogue w/ good input, so I'm very grateful to everyone who responded. It is funny that, with awards, eventually, all your bloggy friends have them!

- Elizabeth - I thought all these comments were insightful. I learned so much from this. And you're right, if just a few like what you're doing, that's a good feeling. Thanks for stopping in!