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Should You Commit to an A-Z Challenge?



The Challenge: To Do or Not To Do

I have just finished the April 2016 AtoZ Challenge with about 1346 other bloggers. I had two blogs in the challenge, Barb’s Garden Observations and Paso Robles in Photos. The challenge was to write a new post every day in April except Sundays. You could choose your own theme for each blog. I chose Plants for the gardening blog and Things You Might See or Experience in Paso Robles for the other. I have now come to the end of that long road and have experienced both the positives and negatives of the challenge. If you are presented with the opportunity, should you commit to an A-Z Challenge?

Should You Commit to an A-Z Challenge?

Are You Ready for a Challenge?

Before you accept the challenge and start to climb that mountain to complete it, evaluate how it might affect your life. Different personalities might be affected differently. This is especially true if you are not able to complete it. Life happens. Will you feel like a failure if you don’t finish something you start, even if there’s a very good reason for it? If so, maybe you aren’t the person who should take the challenge. I see that many of those who started it did not complete it. It’s easy to fall behind. If you’ve got a lot on your plate already, maybe this isn’t the right time.

Are you the sort of person that will complete it or die trying?  That’s the sort of I am. I almost did die trying. There are a couple of times I maybe should have gone to the emergency room for heart symptoms, but that would have thrown me off schedule and since they weren’t really bad, I opted just to take it easier. Trying to complete the challenge on both blogs often kept me up when I should have gone to bed. I didn’t allow time to fix proper meals on some days.

Count the cost before accepting the challenge. Know your limitations. Know what the challenge requires. I did much more than was required in most posts because I did not want to compromise the usual quality of my posts. Had I just done the minimum, I would not have been as stressed. If you tend to be a perfectionist in your blogging who wants to feel a post is the best work you can do, maybe a challenge isn’t for you. You might be better off posting on your regular schedule on topics you think are important and writing them to meet your own goals instead of trying to do a post a day of lesser quality just to meet the challenge.

Should You Commit to an A-Z Challenge?

Pros of Accepting an A-Z Challenge

I learned a lot doing these challenges. It wasn’t a waste of time.

  • I learned to be more disciplined about my writing schedule.
  • I got some new followers who were also doing the challenge, since we were encouraged to visit others on the linky for the challenge.
  • I started getting more traffic on one of the blogs I had not posted much to this year,  because posting was more consistent and there was more content for Google to search.
  • I improved my vocabulary as I read the dictionary trying to find subjects for those odd letters like “X.”
  • I met other bloggers I wanted to follow.

Cons of Doing the A-Z Challenge

  • I put too much pressure on myself and added unnecessary stress to my life.
  • I sometimes found myself posting just to post on subjects out of my comfort zone in order to conform to the alphabet. This often affected the quality of my blog, which I felt didn’t meet my usual standards when the alternative would be cutting back on more sleep than I could afford. This might cost me followers,  but so far it hasn’t.
  • I was neglecting other online work that ultimately  was more important than getting the challenge finished, but my personality is such that I didn’t want to quit until I completed the challenge.

Would I Do Do the A-Z Challenge Again?

I think I’ll probably pass on it next year. I did it this year because some of my friends were going to do it. I didn’t think it through or count the cost. I tend to be impulsive that way. When the unexpected health situations hit both me and my husband, I still wanted to finish. When Google made a change in policy that made it important to redo links in many blogs, I delayed making the changes because of the demands on my time with the challenge. And besides all that, I’ve used all the “X” and “Z” words that apply to my blog topics.

When all is said and done, I’m not sorry I did the challenge.  I feel good about having reached the top of the climb. It was a long journey, and sometimes I did feel like quitting before I reached my goal when the going  got tough. I have a sense of accomplishment instead of the failure I might have felt had I given up.  If I ever say I want to do it again, though, please give me a little kick.

Have you ever taken this official Blogging from A to Z Challenge that happens in April each year? What was your experience with it?

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Should You Commit to an A-Z Challenge?

 



Is Medium a Useful Publishing Platform for Me?

Is Medium a Useful Publishing Platform for Me?Recently I joined Medium. Medium is a social blogging site that gets its name because it has no problem with people posting content that is only medium length. Evan Williams and Biz Stone co-founded Twitter, and later founded Medium in 2012 as a place for posts longer than those  allowed on Twitter, but not as long as most blog posts.

The site promotes itself as a publishing platform where opinions and stories count more than how many views you get. You can publish content you are passionate about and encourage people to comment on it. Controversy might even invite more interaction.  Posting your words and images is very simple. So what’s not to love? There is no direct monetary reward for your posts.

So why do people publish on Medium? To be read and to interact and, perhaps, to demonstrate their authority on certain subjects so that people may be interested in reading work they publish elsewhere.

Medium has some features other sites do not have. An example is that you can highlight favorite lines of a post to share with others. Your profile page also looks different those on most other sites, which tend to list your own work exclusively. Here’s what my Medium profile looks like. I chose one of my posts (one that used to be on Bubblews long ago) to feature at the top. Other posts are listed in the order in which I posted them on Medium. You will also see that comments I have made on the posts of others are there, as well as posts I have “liked.” Each comment you make on the post of another can becomes a new post for you that you can edit and write more about later. Each post on Medium tells readers at the top how long it should take to read.

Another feature of Medium is that you can import posts from other sites. I  love this feature. It’s especially handy if you know a site you are posting to is about to close. I imported In Quest of the Blooming Almond Trees from Persona Paper. It is still also remains there. I tried several times to delete it and even emailed the site owners asking them to  delete it when it would not delete for me as other posts did. So far it’s still there. Medium doesn’t consider it duplicate content. If Persona Paper does, they might be finally motivated to delete it, since the site is closing anyway. Many people import some of their blogs posts to Medium, but there is still some disagreement about whether Google will penalize it as duplicate content on the site it came from. I’m not willing to risk it.

So why do businesses, bloggers, and freelance writers use Medium when they get no direct income from it? They hope to gain influence and exposure. Some Medium writers have been offered freelance work because someone saw one of their posts on Medium. There are over 725,000 members on Medium who may see your article, and site traffic is in the millions. You may get some new readers or even have a post go viral if some influential Medium members start sharing it. You can link to your blog or website in your post. That will help you try to lure visitors there. You may make connections with others you would not meet on other sites, although it’s also easy to import any Facebook and Twitter friends there as an audience. Medium had approximately 35 million visitors in November, 2015, and that is a lot more eyes than come to most of the other places where I post work.

Have any of my Medium posts picked up significant traffic yet? No. I’m still nosing around, finding a lot of good reading there, and commenting, and hoping to make connections.  I believe if I keep posting I will eventually find what works. I try to post well-written articles there that originally appeared from sites that have closed or are about to close. I’m importing many of my Persona Paper articles in as drafts if I have no plans to use them somewhere else. When I’m ready, or when Persona Paper finally goes offline, I will have those posts saved and ready to go.

One thing that is important if you post on Medium is that you post well-written, grammatically correct articles. People have no incentive to read or share your work if it doesn’t grab their attention or if it’s full of  errors. It may take awhile to discover what people consider interesting enough to share — or even read.

Medium is where you want to post some of your best work as a sort of advertisement of what you are capable of doing. It’s a place to offer people samples of your writing. It is a fishing hole where your posts can act as bait to get people to your own blogs. I would not recommend it as your only place to post your work, since you can’t monetize your posts. Since you don’t own the site, you also run the risk of having it disappear at some time as so many other sites have done recently. It’s always better to own your own real estate on the internet if you don’t want your work to disappear someday without notice.

I hope I’ve given you enough information to  decide whether Medium would be a useful publishing platform for you. As I learn more from my own experience, I will share it by updating this post. Stay tuned.

My Pajama Affiliate Courses Are Worth Every Penny I Paid for Them

What is a Pajama Affiliate?

My Pajama Affiliate Courses Are Worth Every Penny I Paid for Them
Bloggers Can’t Stop Raving about Pajama Associates

Two weeks ago I had never heard of the Pajama Affiliates. Then suddenly all my old Squidoo friends were chatting on Facebook about this great new course they were taking to help them make more money as Amazon affiliates. Now these folks were not new to blogging or affiliate marketing. Most of them have always made more a year than the dismal $13.04 I made in 2015 as an Amazon affiliate. Lesley Stevens, teacher of the Amazon Mastermind Course I’m taking now, made over $50,000 just in December, 2015. When I saw that proof that she knew her stuff I was convinced enough of the value of the course to buy it. After all, a lot of people have learned how to make a sales pitch for a course, but not everyone is offering value.  A Pajama Affiliate is one who is taking a Pajama Blogging course to increase the amount of affiliate income she can make in her pajamas at home.  My Pajama Affiliate Courses are worth every penny I paid for them.

Why I Became a Pajama Affiliate

Last year I purchased a different course on making money blogging and I paid much more for it. Then when I got into the course, again a video course, I discovered that the two teachers made most of their money selling courses and eBooks they had made rather than through the affiliate marketing programs of sites like Amazon. They made most of their money by getting email addresses and marketing their own courses and programs by email . They were teaching their students to make their money the same way. I haven’t finished that course yet. I’m not eager to start writing courses and newsletters. I don’t think I know enough to offer value yet. I saw proof that Leslie has made a lot of her money in Amazon commissions, the same way I’d like to make it. She is a genius at affiliate marketing.

As I pondered whether to purchase the course, my friends continued to rave about it. They claimed they were already starting to make more sales than they ever had before after watching just the first few videos. Although I don’t prefer learning by video, once I signed up for the course I saw that the main points in the video are reviewed in writing under the videos.

That is very helpful for people like me who don’t like to watch things over and over. If course members have questions or want to get feedback, they have access to two private Facebook groups for members only. There is no time limit for accessing the course videos or the Facebook groups. If you can’t afford to buy a course, you can rent access for a limited time at a lower price.  This course often goes on sale, but sales come and go so fast it’s best to just click the image to check the current price. The details are on the page describing the Step by Step Home Blogging Course for Beginners. Just click the image below.

 

My Pajama Affiliate Courses Are Worth Every Penny I Paid for Them

 

I’m Getting Value

One thing I’ve learned so far is that if I want to make money, I am going to have to learn to do keyword research. I have always ignored this before because I found it confusing. That is one of the first things the Amazon Mastermind Course covers. Today, since I have already learned so much I can apply immediately, I signed up for Bonus Buyer Keywords. and Free Advertising with Social Media course. These courses have taught me a lot it would have taken me hours of research to learn on my own. The Affiliate Masterclass advertised above is often on sale for a limited time. It has just been updated and improved. If you click the link above you can see the current prices of all courses. Usually one or more is one sale. That includes the brand new Affiliate Marketing Classes Business Bundle that now includes the Affiliate Masterclass and the best of all the other courses. It’s the very best value for your money. Get the Affiliate Marketing Classes Business Bundle now if you have not yet purchased any of the other courses. If you already have a course, you may be able to upgrade at a reduced price. You can even sample the best of the courses for free. 

In the past I have been rotten at affiliate selling. I always felt that some of the people taking the course with me now had had their Squidoo lenses locked for good reason. I thought some of the ones I had seen were spammy, with about three paragraphs of text and rows and rows of product images. That is not what I wanted to write. I don’t like writing catalogs. When I looked at the blogs course teacher Lesley Stevens had written and used as examples to follow, they weren’t spammy at all. They offered real value to readers, and I could immediately see why she got so many sales from them. I would like to blog like that. This informative course is taking the guesswork out of how to do it. I don’t think I’ll be making $50,000 next December like Lesley did this year, but I sure could use $50 a month to start while I’m learning. What a bonus it would be to make even more!

This is your chance to start increasing your blogging income by working smarter instead of harder. Don’t miss this opportunity to take advantage of whatever sales are still in effect as you read this. Now you can sample the best of the courses for free

How to Promote Your Blog on Triberr

Why Join Triberr?

Giraffes: Join a Triberr Tribe
Join a Tribe at Triberr.

For years now I’ve seen references to Triberr as a blog promotion tool, and three days ago I decided to join. It does two things for me right now. First, I have more people  who promote my blog on Twitter, and I have more blog readers and views. Second, my Twitter followers have increased. This is all done without buying followers or joining some sort of exchange

Triberr can help you get your blog promoted on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I have chosen to only promote mine on Twitter, since I don’t consider my blogs appropriate for sharing on my Facebook pages. It would duplicate what I already post on my Facebook business page. As you join tribes on Triberr, other tribe members see the feed for your blog and there are tools that make it easy for them to share it on social media. This results in more people visiting your blog and more people promoting it on Twitter.

How Do I Get Started on Triberr?

When I first joined the site I was quite lost. I had to understand how to find my way around. Here’s what you need to do.

  1. Sign up for a Triberr account. You can use a Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn account to log in, but be sure you use the one it’s easiest to use. Example: I connected a Twitter account that I don’t usually have in Chrome one one computer, so I opened my account using that Twitter address on a different computer where I will also use Triberr in the same browser. If you only have one Twitter or Facebook acccount, it doesn’t matter. I haven’t connected my other social networks because I only want to share my connected blogs on Twitter.
  2. Get information on how Triberr works. Once your account is active, some pop-ups will appear to help you find your way around. I suggest you read them. Read documentation in the support center to learn about streams and tribes. Learn how to join a tribe here. Learn about what you see under your stream tab at the top of your pages here.
  3. Join a tribe. This is tricky. If you click your Tribes tab at the top of your page, you can scroll down to the section that says Explore Tribes. To the right of the suggestions you see, there is a heading Finding an Awesome Tribe and there is a drop down menu where you can choose categories to explore so you can find some close to your interests. Don’t be hasty in choosing a tribe. Explore several, including their members and their streams. I will write more about joining tribes in a future post. You want to choose a tribe with a subject related to the blog you want to connect to your account. With a free account, you can only connect two blogs. They should be the best blogs and the ones you post to all the time.
  4. Connect your blogs  in the blog settings. To do this you go to your account dropdown menu at the top of the page and select settings. It will look like this. You decide which blog you  want to attach to each  tribe. Decide carefully, since you  can only  change that blog assignment once every thirty days. Click the Add Blog button. Your will want to get the Triberr plugin for your WordPress blog. There is no plugin for Blogger blogs. Once you install your plugin on your blog, you will come back to this settings page and click Show Blog Token to get the number to put in your settings on your Triberr blog plugin.  It sounds more complicated than it really is. Triberr Blog Setting Screen Shot
  5. Assign one blog to each  tribe. To do that, click the Assign Tribes button and follow the instructions.
  6. Start interacting and sharing posts of others in your tribes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Started in Your Tribe

After you have set up your blog, it is ready to feed into the stream of your tribe. But it won’t do that until your chief makes you a full member. Everyone begins as a follower.

Before you join a tribe, click the Members tab. See how many people have been promoted to members. The more that have been promoted, the more likely it is that the chief is active and approving people quickly. You can also see under the Conversations tab how quickly the Chief answers questions. I was approved within two days for full membership in five tribes. I’m awaiting approval in some others. At the end of each profile page you can see what tribes the member belongs to in case you want to check out some of those tribes. You will see my current tribes at the very end of my profile after all my blog posts.

If you demonstrate that you plan to be active by sharing the work of others, the chief may promote you to member status. Then your work will start feeding into the stream for other members of your tribe to see. You can speed up this process by making sure your profile looks good. Change the default cover profile cover photo and upload an avatar. Here’s my profile. Then comment in your tribe under the Conversations tab. Explain a bit what your blog is about, your interests, and anything else that might convince the chief you’d be an actively sharing member. What you write should be tailor-made for the tribe you joined. Pasting the same comment in a bunch of tribe pages won’t cut it. Each comment should be unique to that tribe. Here’s an example of what I wrote for my favorite tribe, A Thing of Beauty.

I write daily about photos I take around my local area on the Central Coast of California. My special interests are the vineyards, the river, native plants and trees, gardens, and local art. I look for anything beautiful or unusual. I’d love to be a full member here.

The chief there is very active and helpful. She will also explain why if she doesn’t promote you to member.

I hope I’ve given you an idea of what you need to do to get started at Triberr.  If you have questions, feel free to put them in the comments. If you are a member of Triberr, feel  free to link  to your Triberr profile in the comments. If you aren’t a member and you believe your blog is worthy of a wider audience and just needs to be discovered, join Triberr and see if it does for you what it’s doing for me. If you join a tribe and it isn’t a good fit for you, it’s easy to leave it by clicking leave next to your name on the member list.

Now go have fun  exploring Triberr.

A Review: Grammarly — a Help or a Hindrance to Online Writers?

Blogging on Three DevicesNot long ago I heard by way of the social media that Grammarly was a great little program for checking grammar and spelling online. How many of us don’t make typos or accidentally use the wrong word? I seem to have trouble with my shift key when typing a capital I, for example. It’s a pain to go back and correct it, and sometimes I even have trouble seeing the mistake when I proofread. I expected that Grammarly would solve my problems. So I installed it to Chrome as a browser extension.

Now I’ve been using it for about two weeks. I’ve had a chance to see it in action. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it. Like most applications of this sort, it cannot read my mind. I have a graduate degree in English and taught high school English. I have also been paid to proofread and edit the application essays of international students to graduate business schools in the United States. I know the language.

Either some of what my professors taught is now obsolete, or Grammarly isn’t as accurate as I am. It makes what I consider to be grammatical errors when it urges me to add or get rid of commas, change verb tenses, and make other changes that would hurt, not help, my writing. I also often catch my mistakes before Grammarly does, and just as I’m about to correct them, Grammarly pops up with a screen to “help” me that gets in the way of my correcting the mistake on my own by covering up the text I am trying to correct.

I would probably be better off editing the document on their website. It’s not such a problem there. When you edit the document on their site, the mistakes are just underlined in red for spelling errors and green for grammar and usage errors. Then you just click the word and Grammarly points out the suggested corrections. If you want to use them, you click their corrected version. If you think they are wrong, you click to ignore them. You don’t have those annoying pop-ups. Here’s a snipped example of what Grammarly did when I uploaded this document  to them. This is the first paragraph before I corrected it. To accept their suggestions, I would click on the green. For an explanation, I would click the down arrow. To ignore, I would click the x at the end.

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Snip of Grammarly Corrections 1
Snip of Grammarly Corrections 1

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Grammarly is most useful to me when I make mistakes in typing or when programs auto-correct me incorrectly and put the wrong words in. It makes it really easy to change my frequent mistakes in typing, especially in the use of the shift key. It also catches me when I accidentally use the wrong homonym. For example, if I type What do you hear Jamie? Grammarly might pop up with a note that asks “Did you mean to say Here?” I then click to ignore. Grammarly missed telling me that I left out a comma. The sentence should really read  What do you hear, Jamie? But if I type Are trees are dying. Grammarly might ask me if I had really meant to say Our instead of Are so I can be aware of my mistake, which a normal spell checker would miss, and correct it with a click. Eight Ate is a humorous way to learn your homonyms.

Although Grammarly might be thought of as a blessing to those learning English, it might be a curse, instead. Grammarly does often make mistakes. I am using the free version and I don’t know if the premium version is better or not. In the free version you are often told you are making a grammatical error by, for example, using the wrong tense of the verb to be. Usually this is in a phrase where I’m using a participle as a noun or an adjective. Here’s an example: The man mowing the lawn is my friend. Grammarly might prompt me to correct mowing‘s verb tense, but I’m using it as an adjective to modify man, not as a verb. When Grammarly makes these kinds of suggestions, it usually does not give you a solution you can click. Instead it mentions the problem, and you have to know the language to know how to correct that mistake yourself.

Here’s another snip from some nonsense I uploaded to Grammarly for correction. I deliberately made mistakes to see what Grammarly would tell me. Grammarly’s suggestions are on the left.

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Snip of Grammarly Corrections 2

 

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I give Grammarly a “C” on its suggestions here. It missed correcting the first sentence which ought to read James hates sleeping. It did catch me using Our instead of Are. It did catch the error in gets and suggested a proper correction. I think it missed the first error by thinking that James was a plural noun instead of a name ending in s. This shows that no automated program will catch everything. A program like this is only useful for those whose English skills are sufficient to know which corrections are valid and which suggestions to follow. It is a good cross-check to use after you’ve done your human proofreading.


If you are not yet proficient enough in English to discern which suggestions are valid, you need to have an accurate English handbook on hand for reference. Here is one I use myself, Writers Inc. I first found it when I was teaching my children at home and I thought it was the best English writing reference I had seen for the secondary level. It is user-friendly and it’s easy  to find what you need. It has a complete proofreader’s guide that answers any questions you have about punctuation, grammar, usage, and mechanics. In addition to that it tells you how to do any kind of writing project you may encounter as a student with model writing examples. It is not only useful for students, but also for writers who need a quick reference. For example, it has several pages of homonyms and easily confused words explained so that it will be easy to tell if you were using the correct word or whether you should take Grammarly’s suggestion to change it to another word. It also explains how to fix the most common sentence errors. I love having this book on hand.

The way you write a sentence makes all the difference in what it means. Be sure you say what you mean. Proofread what you write. Use aids such as a writing handbook or a program like Grammarly. Making one mistake with a comma could cost a life.

 

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