Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Long And The Short Of It : A-Z Reflections



First off, keeping the music handy might help, in case you want to fortify yourself :) Because for all you know another mini-dissertation-length post is waiting...




Tadaa! Surprise! not quite. You pays no money, but you gets your choice! Take your pick -


The short version

The A-Z went list-free this year. I went poetry-free for the first time here. I wasn’t sure if I could swing it this time, but I did. 


List-free made no difference to the level of viewer activity on my individual A-Z posts, they remained roughly the same as last year. I know. I'm as baffled as you. It doesn't add up. But when do blogstats make any sense anyways? :) 


In the final analysis my takeaway seems to be, and not for the first time - lists and numbers are not the determinants of the fun that can be had at the Challenge. I had great fun this A-Z, as always. Happy to claim my fourth survivor badge. Congratulations to you too if you managed to complete the Challenge!


As the Arabs would say – ‘Kol sanaa wento tayyebeen, ya nas! Ashoofkum sana il gayi, nafs il waqt, nafs il makaan!’ (All year and you keep well, people! See you next year, same time, same place!)


or

The l-o-o-o-o-n-g version


My A-Z this year was different from last year, from any other year. Firstly, 2017 was always going to be a difficult year anyways, a weird combo of unavoidable surgery and school leaving exams and sundry horrid things like that. To make life more complicated, a series of awful events back in India turned the year ghastly early on. I was buffeted by continuous bad news from every side. In short, 2017 was on its way to become an annus horribilis on the personal front. I wasn’t sure I had the concentration to participate in the A-Z, and when I found it was going list-free - it was another uncertainty to contend with! But the A-Z in April is like plan A for me, has been for the last few years. Once I get a plan A going in my head, I don’t have enough head left to wrap it around a plan B. April without A-Z? How was that even possible?


Every event has its own lessons and its opportunities. And one of the opportunities was to change my approach to my own A-Z. Opt for something flexible instead of having to elaborately work things into poetry, which is what my A-Z themes have always been. So I did just that. 


So. How did the list-free bit go? In short, brilliantly! The whole A-Z felt tighter, neater to me. No dead links, no strident sales pitches, nothing that lowered the tone of the Challenge.  List-free made no difference to the level of viewer activity on my individual A-Z posts, they remained roughly the same as last year. Overall views here were nearly double that of April last year. The number of commenters also remained at similar levels as last year on a post to post basis, even though the total number of A-Z participants felt way lower this year. I know. I'm as baffled as you. It doesn't add up. But when do blogstats make any sense anyways? :) 


While I was quite sure from the start that I didn’t mind the two-second work it took to paste in my links, I do think they tended to get lost, maybe because I am not on Twitter, or prefer not to know the right end of a hashtag from the wrong one :) But as I said, it didn’t affect the views or comments as compared to 2016 when there was a list. Some people managed to land up from the A-Z page, some people came in from the FB links, more from FB than the A-Z blog, to my surprise. I should take FB more seriously :)


For my part, I reconnected with some old A-Z buddies, I found some cool new blogs, I read some awesome posts, learned a few new things both in reading and in researching for mine. I love the sense of community and camaraderie that happens during the A-Z for those who participate in the true spirit of the blogfest. 


The music that bloggers put up this year was a joy, Yvonne and Debbie, I’m looking at you :) and also Mary. I've listened to Debbie D's music more than once as I've gone around reading the other bloggers' A-Z posts. I've borrowed her idea of a playlist to keep the music I put up in one place. And the actual and fictional places some bloggers took me to, wow! - marvellous! (Hilary, Keith, Eva) and scary!  (Nick, Tamara, Arpan


The thought that bloggers put into their posts and the quality and variety were generally très magnifique (Hercule Poirotese can say it much better than plain English sometimes :)  I came away with ideas/tips for my writing. Oh, and book recos galore! (WordDreams, So Much to Choose From) And learnt a swathe of new stuff about 40's films (The Old Shelter). 


However, I didn't get around to as many blogs as in the previous years, this I think tops my personal teething problems of list-free. Last year I made it to over 25% of the linky list, but this year - my feeling is - no. I couldn't quite get to grips with visiting from the individual letter lists because of the time-zone/weekend differences. By the time all US/last time-zoners posted, my day was nearly over and it was time for the next letter, and going back to the previous day's posts was an impossibility given the returns and current letter visits I had to make. I think I managed to return the visits/comments of everyone who visited me. 


Some exceedingly kind A-Z participants read my overlong posts and did not tell me off.  They all have my gratitude.  (How do folks manage that 300 word limit? How?? I need to take a precis course or something!!)


Thanks also to the entire A-Z team for the huge work they do to keep the challenge fun for people like me, year after year. Some bloggers who I think of as dear friends were away from A-Z 2017 for various personal reasons, and I want to let them know they were missed! And some blogger friends who didn’t even participate were with me throughout for each post, however long. Thank you! - Elephant’s Child, Joanne, Martin Kloess and The Silver Fox, I cannot begin to articulate how much I appreciate it! 


To sum up, I wasn’t sure I could swing it this time, but I did - fistpump! In the final analysis, lists and numbers are not the determinants of the fun that can be had at the Challenge. I had great fun this A-Z, as always. Happy to claim my fourth survivor badge. Looking forward to the fifth already. Congratulations to you too if you managed to complete the Challenge!


As the Arabs would say – ‘Kol sanaa wento tayyebeen, ya nas! Ashoofkum sana il gayi, nafs il waqt, nafs il makaan!’ (All year and you keep well, people! See you next year, same time, same place!)







64 comments:

  1. Your posts were never too long for me. My greedy self was always pleased to see them, and went away having learnt things, and anxious to learn more.
    Thank you so much.

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    1. I was so sure that those extreme lengths would put people off majorly. Thank you for not clicking away. I always forget about the word limit and think it is like 500 or something, oh I am just a little over. And then I discover it's actually 300 two days before the start and it's way too late to do anything about it :)

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  2. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one writing a long post to analyze the A to Z. But then again, I did that even though I decided not to join in this year!

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    1. The Reflections post has no word limit. At least not that I know of :) I thought your pre-Challenge analysis was great. Thanks.

      Quite a few people I know didn't join this year, not just because of the list-free format though...just life intervening.

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  3. This was an amazing (packed) surprise. (and a song too) Thank you for the mention.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the surprise. Thanks so much for being here.

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  4. A brilliant summing up of the A to Z, also thanks for the mention. I must say reading your post throughout April was a joy and I learned such alot oabout a different culture from where I live.
    Many thanks again and good luck with your blog in the future.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Thank you for being here through out and for the lovely music you put up. So glad you enjoyed my posts.

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  5. I'm thrilled the A to Z turned out great for you! I hope and pray the situations in India that had you worried are better. I loved getting to know you better and will keep coming around.😉

    The coffee is always on in Caneyhead

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    1. Thank you so much - they are indeed better. It was great getting to know you too, and I'm always for coffee :)

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  6. Wow! What an amazing reflections post to wrap up the challenge . I have really enjoyed your fascinating narratives , rich in History, language, culture , art forms of the exotic Arabiana. Your blog is such a treasure for admirers of Literature.
    Best wishes ,
    Moon
    https://aslifehappens60.wordpress.com

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    1. Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the posts - they are nothing like what I normally post though :) a first time for me.

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  7. Glad it worked well for you this year despite no list. You overcame all the struggles and did it anyway.
    Interesting point about US links going up too late for you to visit. Something to consider next year.

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    1. I am becoming aware of some blogs that were participating only now after the challenge is over :(

      The 'visit system' is definitely something that I need to work on next year, I didn't manage to get a system in place in this list-free format. Was essentially working with four lists - my own little A-Z bloglist, the day's letter, the previous day's letter and the commenters' list here - haphazard isn't the word! Since the same people tended to post immediately before and after me in the A-Z blog, a whole swathe of (mainly NAm) blogs got left out of my awareness set itself, I am now discovering - not good! I will need to figure something out to correct this. Fortunately there's a whole year to do so...

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  8. Nila, i'm sad that i missed almost all of your posts this year. I didn't do A to Z myself because i felt i was being squeezed from every direction, but then, so were you and you got through with flying colors! Congratulations on your achievement. I hope you are extremely proud. Wishing you and yours peace, good health and good fortune for the remainder of 2017!

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    1. Hi Susan! Your posts last few years have been absolutely superlative, I have enjoyed each one enormously, they've made the A-Z experience richer for me certainly. You were one of those who I missed acutely! :) but you've got to do what you've got to do. I had a real struggle to decide whether I should commit to the Challenge, and in the end I did take it up. It provided a distraction and an escape from all the *&^% that was happening back home. And the research/writing calmed me down, always a therapy, so I'm glad I did.

      Thanks much for the wishes, which I reciprocate most sincerely! Stay well and happy.

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  9. I didn't read as many of your posts as I wanted to, but I want to congratulate you on a theme well done (and a theme well needed). I had some of the same concerns about the daily linky as you did - I think I missed out on some good blogs.

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    1. I didn't even realise that I was missing out on some of the blogs till the last few days of the challenge :( Thank you for visiting during April and now.

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  10. Your blog this year was a must read. Point of view, point of view, it was nice to have a good view of Arabia versus the stereotypes.
    I'm sad to read this was a rough year for you. I understand completely and feel so pleased with what you produced. I feel the same as you do about A to Z. It has introduced me to so many good blogs. And I do appreciate the mention.
    I'm looking forward to your blog this year. Ann

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    1. Thanks for being here Ann and I am so glad you enjoyed Arabiana. It is an outsider's POV, but from someone who's been around for some length of time, whatever its shortcomings and biases.

      I enjoyed reading your posts and I always love book/author recos. (As if my TBR isn't exploding already!) :)

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  11. Well, i'm just glad i found your blog!

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  12. Hi Nila – great reflections post … I agree with your list free notes ... and like you I didn’t suffer from loss of comments and things were roughly the same – old friends visited occasionally, new ones slipped in as regular viewers and commenters.

    Interesting about the FB v A-Z blog connections … not sure that sways me to FB … I totally agree re camaraderie, old friends, new ones and excellent reads …

    Re the 300 word limit – if one is writing content with value, I think it’s probably impossible to write within the limit – short fiction pieces, notes to some music, architecture – probably possible. If there’s value – as there is most definitely here – in the post – then longer is fine … we know what we’re getting into as we start reading …

    Your A-Z was fabulous … so interesting and so important for us all to read each and every post … and we can listen to the recommended music as we read … cheers and it was a delight to click in and be with you along the A-Z route once again … cheers Hilary

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    1. Thank you Hilary for that thoughtful critique - of the post and of this A-Z.

      I'm not sure I'm swayed to FB either :) all that seems to happen on my feeds there is re-sharing of inane memes and some craftily inserted ads, very little original content. And the political posts uff! they have been of a harshness that ends up bothering me even if I am not directly involved...I did paste in my links there for some of my posts when I remembered, but as for switching to it in preference to the A-Z blog, nope, nevah! :)

      Thanks once again for your support, appreciate it more than I can say.

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  13. I have to agree with you there: 2017 started off as not a nice year (let's just say that), though for me, last year's April was far worse.

    I didn't bother about the comment section of the official site either. I mean, I did post my links, just in case, but like you, I feel they went lost in the huge comment section. I managed my challenge through socials in the end. I'm not on FB, so for me it was mostlry twitter, a bit of G+ and above all the bolgs themselves.

    I too feel there were a lot less people taking part this year, which is a shame. But things needed to change, I do understand the organisers.

    It was another fantastic chalelnge and I'm very happy we connected (and thanks so much for mentioning my blog, I appreciate it).

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    1. I don't think I did much 'managing' at least I didn't do that bit well :) Promotion on social media is not my forte let me just put it that way. Both FB and G+ I find a little difficult to negotiate, and sometimes a bit off-putting as well. I think my traffic was due to the links I left with my comments on the blogs I visited mostly, but people did come in from the A-Z blog and from FB too, double the number from FB as compared to A-Z main blog, which shocked me a little at first :)

      Definitely there were less people participating, my guesstimate would be around 600-700, at any rate lot less than 2016 when the list started with more than 2000. But this I thought worked in favour - only the fully committed bloggers took it up, the sincerity quotient I feel was higher this year, most of the themes/posts were well executed.

      On the flip side, many of the late timezone posters I never got to see at all, and I am pretty sure they never got to see me either.

      I enjoyed the detailed and interesting expose you did of Noir films and I learnt a whole heap of things at yours. Thank you for that and for stopping by here.

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  14. I'm glad you were able to take part. Congrats on being part of this and I hope to see your blog in it again next year!

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    1. Thank you! I have every intention of doing it again next year unless something unforeseen intervenes :)

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  15. Normally I get bored reading pieces that extend beyond 300 words, infact I rarely bother to launch into them - I have a very short attention span, and find myself skimming rather than reading. And then along came you! I could have read your posts if they were twice as long! Thankyou thankyou thankyou for an entertaining and informative month.

    Amble Bay: Reflections and other things

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    1. What can I say? I seriously struggled right upto the day before to trim down...and I did pare my posts back - entire topics and paras chopped, but still came nowhere close to that 300 word mark.

      Thank you for your patience and time!! and for the idyllic tour of Amble Bay.

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  16. I have read both versions, and I mostly agree with you. Especially in the sense of community. The challenge has taken a lot of time, true, but it has brought me joy and fun, and a lot of discoveries...

    And, this morning... It also brought me a postcard from you! :D
    The postcard make it feels even more real, so thank you. I will send you a postcard back soon!

    -----
    Eva - Mail Adventures

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    1. Talk about snail mail! That must be the snailest mail ever :D it's taken almost a whole month to get there...thank you for letting me know!

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    2. It is postmarked on 15 April... Anyway, I was abroad during a week, so I don't know really it it was that snail... Anyway, with mail the most important thing is that it arrives! :)

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    3. Oh, absolutely! Now that my 'test' pc has reached, I have others waiting with me which I will arrange to post :)

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  17. I agreed with you, comments do get lost especially when there are about over 200 of them and some of them are repeats. I think I read almost of them but not quite because there were so many that I find it a bit daunting so maybe I sort of skimmed a few and missed some great post, who knows.

    congrats on finishing the challenge. have a lovely day.

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    1. I don't think I managed to read the whole of the comments even once! I got there somewhere halfway through when maybe 40-50% of the bloggers had posted their links. Kudos to you for going through the entire lot!

      Thanks for the wishes and for stopping by.

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  18. Your theme was absolutely fascinating and kept my attention from beginning to end, Nila! I'm only sorry that I fell behind and missed a few. You've done a great service by educating us and dispelling various misconceptions, along with sharing the beauties of the Arab culture. No worries about length, here. ☺ Thanks for the mention and may the rest of your year go well! إلى اللِقاء

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    1. Thank you for the reassurance. I agonised over the length of each, but there were too many topics and after a certain point chopping things off ends up losing most of the sense. Next year - I am doing bullet points! :D

      I particularly enjoyed your music and posts, though I too missed a few here and there, which I will catch up on sometime...Thumbs up for the Arabic goodbye! :) Mumtaz!! w ma salama! :)

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  19. Since it was my first year, I have no comparison to the linky list. Loved your posts, Nilanjana. Your blog is on my list of those I want to revisit to read all of your posts. I missed many days due to my own time constraints.

    I wondered how the time zone thing might be an issue for those of you in early time zones. For me, it was no problem but I am toward the end of the zones. Congratulations and well done!

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador | A to Z Reflections 2017

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    1. The time zone issue as it related to new blog visits did not at all occur to me prior. I was just worried about having to mould my schedules around the US time zones, which the A-Z admins took care of before the start even.

      I missed out on many of the last time-zoners, and yours was one of them, landed up pretty late, but I have every intention of catching up over the next few weeks. I am fascinated by all travel and both the Americas.

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  20. You did the hard work and it paid off. Thanks for the shout out but I am a happy loyal reader. I learned a lot and enjoyed your posts. Long or short- congrats.

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    1. Thank you, much appreciate the support!

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  21. Congratulations on your finish!

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  22. Despite the length (yes they were a tad bit long) I enjoyed coming back everyday to read them!! Kudos on finishing like a champ!!! Cheers

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    1. Haha that tad bit long gets the understatement of the year award!
      Thanks for being here.

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  23. Your posts were a daily must read for me - brilliant, informative and often dance-worthy! You could have posted 10,000 words and I wouldn't have missed any.

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    1. Now that is am idea! JK, I'm going with bullet point posts next year for sure :)

      Thanks for your support and making it all so much fun.

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  24. I agree that the fun of a to z is in the doing of it, athough getting comments and reading other blogs is good too. I never even think about a word limit. I enjoyed your long posts and the way you broke them up probably made them seem shorter than they were.

    Finding Eliza

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    1. I have generally used the challenge to broaden my own writing horizons, that's my primary motive, though the comments and feedback are great bonuses to have. And I do enjoy the reading tremendously, some of the bloggers put up such amazingly interesting, well-researched, exceptionally articulated posts - just pure pleasure to dig in!

      I think breaking up my posts under different subheads so that a reader could exit practically anywhere is the only thing I got right with my posts this year...thanks for your visits now and last month!

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  25. I didn't mind the length of the posts, there was so much great information to take in. Glad you enjoyed the Challenge this year, it really is a unique event. Thanks for the mention!

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    1. Good to know! The Challenge makes April a fun month for me. Thanks for visiting now and last month.

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  26. It's funny because I felt the lack of a linky list left the challenge feeling disorganised - I guess it's all about perception :)
    Debbie

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    1. It is indeed a matter of perception :) Before I looked at the stats I too thought it must have had some negative effect. But my blog stats don't support that view. As I said the lack of the linky list has had no negative impact on my blog traffic or comments received, quite the contrary in fact - overall views were almost double, individual post views, and number of comments were also higher this year for me than April 2016.

      Listfree did impact my own visiting 'fresh' blogs, but that is my own personal snag rather than an issue of how the challenge was managed. This is something I intend to address next year a little more systematically, along with length of posts :) Thanks so much for stopping by.

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  27. The music and the information you shared about Arabic culture was indeed eye-opening. I can say, that I had many preconceived notions that were changed through your posts.Thanks for sharing and congrats on completing

    Click Here to see what Mrs. Dash Says

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    1. Thank you. Glad that April turned out enjoyable for both of us.

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  28. Congratulations on completing the 2017 Challenge despite the difficulties you were facing. You did a great job. I think the compelling nature of your posts helped to keep readers coming back for more.

    Thanks for your excellent reflections on this year's Challenge. It was an experiment for the A to Z Team and looks like it all worked well enough for you.


    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Thank you for your warm words. The experiment did work out for me personally, much better than I had hoped or expected. Except for the new blog visits, but that's a teething problem - I'm sure I will be able to sort it out with time.

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  29. Currently listening to Mary's Reflections playlist. How fun!

    Anyway, I'm one of those people that like the list, because it incentivizes my clicking on blogs that may not have topics I think I am interested in. Plus, I was pretty typically one of the last to post my blog post on the A-Z daily letters. And even when I was one of the first, it was hard being sure to go back and read even more posts from the previous day's letter. I just didn't like it. :( Glad it didn't affect your blog views, though!

    Also, glad your personal struggles didn't prevent you from participating this year! Now that A-Z is over I'm having trouble getting back into the blogging groove. Lots going on in the world right now which has me overwhelmed. :(

    With Love,
    Mandy

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    1. I completely get that there is a certain level of comfort with the linky list, it is one centralised single page which helps with the visiting. I know my visiting kind of fell apart because of the new system, I couldn't get to grips with it. It segregated the bloggers into time groups and I really don't know how to overcome that yet. But it does look like the team has decided to go with this new format, so I'll need to work out some mechanism to adapt. Hopefully I'll do better next year :)

      Thanks so much for stopping by and hope all the on-going issues and real life challenges in your world get sorted out soonest.

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  30. Well done for making it to the end of the challenge. :-)

    Cait @ Click's Clan

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