Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pet Blogger Challenge 2013: Repeat Offenders

Woo hoo! For this year's Pet Blogger Challenge, we are first-time repeat offenders! (Is that an oxymoron?) We get to go back and look at our Challenge from last year and see how things have changed. I'm quite excited, not just because I truly love a good survey, but also because I hope this is really the post that's going to get me back into blogging on a more-than-once-a-week-or-so basis. 

Before I plunge into the questions, I'd like to say thanks to Go Pet Friendly for being such a gracious host. 

1. How long have you been blogging and provide a link to your post from last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge so we can refresh our memories. I will be coming up on my 2nd blogiversary this April. I started the blog right after we brought Desmond home, on April 1, 2011. Here's a link to our post from last year (when I was still writing in all lowercase): Our First Pet Blogger Challenge
2. What do you consider the most important goals you set out in last year’s post? My goals involved redesigning the blog, going to a pet blogger conference, and talking more about my ABC student trainer experience. 
3. Have you made progress toward those goals, or have your goals changed over the past year? Um...I accomplished basically none of those. However, I think if not for the hurricane, I'd have been posting about the end of my externship with my mentor trainer and my shelter practicum. At this point, I'm on a six-month hold with school. And I have some secret fears about the whole thing. Maybe I should post about that...

All that being said, I still really really want to redesign the blog. It's just hard to find the time to do it. Or, rather, when I have a span of hours on end during which I have no plans, I either find another way to fill those hours or I want to relish in catching up on quality time with my couch & DVR.
4. How often do you post? It's been a bit of an odd year, as three fairly major events affected my posting. Not that I've ever had a schedule, but before September (due to a job change) I had much more time to blog, and due to a death in the family and Hurricane Sandy (that jerk), I spent the spring and the fall/winter mentally focused on other things. For a while, I was posting 2-4 times a week. I feel like 3 posts a week is the ideal number. Posting 4 times is time consuming, both for me and for readers, and posting 2 times a week can make the blog feel blank, plus it's not great for traffic. 
5. Has your opinion of blogging on a schedule or as the spirit moves you changed?
Not at all. I don't run this blog for money or fame or anything like that. I do it for fun. A schedule would make it no fun anymore, because my real-life schedule is all over the place. I actually stopped letting myself feel guilty about not joining up with as many blog hops and blogville group activities as I once did. The first year, I felt like I had to be part of everything in order to both grow the blog/keep an audience and be considered a "good neighbor" blogger. Now I'm more comfortable with the fact that I am not the same person or the same blogger as other bloggers who are much more involved with things. And that's OK. I envy their ability to fit this level of blog commitment into their lives, but I no longer am feeling bad about myself for not fitting it into mine. 
As for the question regarding how I know when a post is post worthy, the simple answer is I don't care. And that's not to say that I take my readers for granted, but it's to reiterate the fact that I started this for fun, for myself, for a group of people who were interested in how Desmond's life in his forever home was going. Did that audience expand? Yes. Do I love that? Yes! 

The blog did grow into something a bit more--I talk about health issues a lot and do quite a few pet product reviews and giveaways--but what makes something post worthy (other than agreements with third parties, like review posts) is basically if I feel like posting it. Every so often, I do post something that resonates with a larger group of people, and that's awesome, but if I spent all my time trying to create that post, I don't think it would work, and it certainly would not be any fun.
 6. How much time do you spend writing your blog per week? How much time visiting other blogs? Share your tips for staying on top of it all. Again, it used to be a lot more time--an hour a day and a few hours each weekend. Lately, it's an hour or two every week, tops. I'd like to get back to somewhere in between those things.

Google Reader is how I get to other people's blogs. It's great for reading things super quickly. It's not great for commenting on blogs, which I still find extremely time consuming and daunting. There are two sides to commenting: saying something meaningful because you really have something to say; and commenting for the sake of making the rounds. I often read posts and love them or simply agree/can relate. So those are the posts I would like to comment on--but I rarely have anything groundbreaking to say and often just want to say I loved it or can relate. But that kind of commenting can look like I'm "just making the rounds," and so I find myself getting frustrated and not commenting at all. Or saving the posts for later when I "have more time to think" and then never getting around to it. I often have 50 or so "saved for later" posts in Reader and most of them are over 2 months old. What's the point of that?

I want to comment, I really do. But the amazing comments from other readers/bloggers are always so well thought out, that I feel ridiculous coming in--always days or weeks or months later to begin with--with some silly meaningless comment. 

And now for a rant about commenting: I cannot stress this enough (I'm sure I've said it before), but I find the plethora of commenting systems super annoying. Everything needs a login or to be connected to some other account; half of them require clicking a freakin subscribe link via email; and those !$#^ING captchas are going to be the death of me. PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GET RID OF YOUR CAPTCHA! I get it, you don't want spammers, but why are you making that the reader's problem?? You should be approving your comments then. It should be the blogger's problem, the blogger's chore--not the reader's. And the folks who have captchas AND approval. Oh dear me, that is frustrating. Captchas make it nearly impossible to comment via smartphone, by the way, which is where a good portion of folks (myself included) do their blog reading/commenting. End rant.
7. How do you measure the success of a post and of your blog in general (comments, shares, traffic)? Comments are definitely a big part of it (is that ironic now?), because you can see right away, from afar, what the response is. I haven't actually checked on my analytics in months, but I used to check them every week pretty much. Hits on a post--that's meaningful to me, too. And when I remember to look at my social sharing buttons, I'm always thrilled to see that people have utilized them. Makes me smile. 

I also measure it based on how many contacts I'm getting from third parties (guest bloggers, publishers, pet product manufacturers). These people tend to not want to waste time, so I feel that each contact is a notch in the plus column. And I'll say this: since the hurricane has significantly slowed my posting, I have gotten many less bites from third parties. 
8. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one issue you’re having with your blog, what would it be? Oh goodness, will someone please come and redesign the blog for me? Please, please. Don't make me do it. I don't wanna do it. Please let me wake up and the blog will be magically all redone and pretty and lovely and fancy and working perfectly. 
9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2013?
Well, there's that dastardly redesign... But I also still would love to go to BlogPaws. This year's conference is within geographical reach, but due to the house rebuild and not knowing where I'll even be living by May, it's a bit hard to plan for/commit to. Plus, we just got not one, not two, but three wedding invitations for May-September (are we really not done with this yet? sheesh. though don't get me wrong--i love a good wedding.), so I'm not sure I can justify the extraneous funds for BlogPaws. It's not 100% off the table yet, but I'm leaning much closer to not going than going at this point. Major sad face.

Check out everyone else who is participating in this year's challenge!

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