Is GFC Dead?

As many of you probably know, Google will be retiring Google Reader on July 1st, 2013. This news seems to have spawned a rumor that GFC, or Google Friend Connect, is likewise kicking the bucket. Fears abound that at midnight 7/1, GFC widgets across the world will disappear, and people will no longer be able to see their friends’ smiling faces, or be able to keep up with all their blogs, and the zombie apocalypse will be here, the moon will tear asunder, and the sky will fall in.

I don’t use Google Reader, and I don’t use GFC. I don’t even use Blogger! But I know many of you out there, my beloved readers, do. So, I did a bit of poking around to try to get to the truth of the matter. As far as I can ascertain, here’s the facts:

  • Yes, Google Reader is going away. If you use Google Reader today, you won’t be able to use it on Monday.
  • No, Google Friend Connect is here to stay–at least for now. I still hold to my prediction that GFC will one day be a thing of the past as Google try to encourage people to use their Google+ social networking site. But for now, GFC and the GFC widget are safe.

“If Google Reader is going away, what’s the point of GFC?” you might ask. Firstly, it will continue to keep a tally of your blog followers (at least the ones that register themselves in your GFC widget). And secondly, it will continue to update the Blogger Reading List, so you can follow blogs there.

I hope that’s cleared things up for you, and perhaps set your mind at rest. Unless of course the zombie apocalypse happens…!

One thing that definitely WILL be ending at 11:59 Sunday night is my Blog Birthday Giveaway. So, enter… NOW! :)

Blog Birthday and Giveaway!

My blog is TWO YEARS OLD today! Who’d have thought I’d have two years worth of things to say? I certainly didn’t! And now here we are, 566 blog articles later, and still going. I don’t know about you, but I feel like celebrating. And how? Here are two ways you can help me celebrate my blog’s birthday:

  1. Look Back: read some old blog posts and either comment on them, or comment about them below. Perhaps you remember reading certain posts when they first went up, so indulge in a little nostalgia. That’s what birthdays are for, in part, aren’t they?
  2. Look Forward: think about all the potential reading you’ll do if you win…

THE SECOND ANNUAL BLOG BIRTHDAY GIVEAWAY!

Yes, I’m hosting a Blog Birthday Giveaway! You could win EITHER a $20 Amazon Gift Certificate, or $20-worth of Book Depository books. To enter you can Tweet or Blog about the Giveaway, or comment about one of the 566 posts on this blog you like (or do any or all of these three). Use the Rafflecopter widget below to tell me which of these things you’ve done. The Giveaway is open to anyone anywhere (provided The Book Depository ships to you) until 11:59pm (Eastern US Time) on Sunday, June 30th.

What are you waiting for? :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Some Housekeeping

I’ve been blogging for close to two years now (June 17th will be my two year blogiversary… I should do a giveaway or something… anyway–) and in that time I have written over 550 articles. Given the amount of words piling up in this little corner of cyberspace, I thought it was about time I started collecting together articles in a way that people might actually be able to find them. Sure, you can search the blog for things, or you can look up by Category on the side bar. But wouldn’t it be good if there was, say, a handy-dandy tab that would take you to all my book reviews?

If you look at the tab bar, you’ll see I’ve started implementing such changes. The “Theology” tab now links directly to theological papers, and also to the “Christian Theology in 500 Words (or Fewer)” articles I started doing in April (more of these to come!). There’s also a “Reviews” tab which will take you to my Book Reviews and my Who Reviews.

I’ll be adding to these groups and pages, and moving things around as I think of better ways to organize all this stuff. I hope this helps you find things of interest.

A-to-Z Blogging Challenge 2013: Reflections

This year’s A-to-Z Blogging Challenge was, like last year, a lot of fun. I didn’t have a theme, but I did impose two restrictions: I gave myself a 500-word limit on articles, and I committed to writing a piece of flash fiction every Monday that was letter-related. The flash fiction challenge enabled me to dabble in genres and voices I haven’t tried before, and it also kept my creative juices flowing while blogging was taking up regular writing time. As with last year’s challenge, while I enjoyed writing many of the articles, the flash fictions were my favorites.

Of course, aside from the challenge of coming up with blog articles every day, the great benefit of the A-to-Z Challenge is the opportunity to make some new blog friends. I want to give a special shout-out to new buddies Rachael Featherstone, Tracy Kuhn, and Kirsty Stanley. Their blogs were fun and informative, they always responded to comments, and they left comments on my blog too. Thanks, guys! If you haven’t visited their blogs yet, please do so.

Finally, congratulations to everyone who participated and completed the challenge. I tried to visit as many blogs as I could, but I know I didn’t get to as many as I’d like, and I didn’t always leave a comment. But this is a huge time commitment. Just think–if you can write a blog article a day, imagine how much of your novel you can write if you give as much time to that! I’ve already calculated that if I wrote 500 words for each article, that’s 500 x 26 which is… 13,000 words. That’s about a fifth of a novel! Anyway, well done everyone! And thank you again to everyone that visited, commented, and cheered me on.

In case you’re curious, here’s a linked list of all my A-to-Z posts this year, and a list of all the posts I did last year. The flash fiction and short stories are colored green.

UPDATE: I have compiled all of this year’s A-to-Z flash fiction stories into a single PDF document. You’ll find a link to that document in the “Stories” tab at the top. Or you can just click HERE.

 

2013 2012
Alien Award
Buggles Bloodstain
Cross-Country Companion Can’t Crease the Corner…!
Doctor Who Danke mein Freund
E-Reading Eight English Edwards
Five F-Songs Favorite Fables
Gambit Grimble
Hop Hourglass
Investment in Incredible Industry Invasion of the Dinosaurs
Justification Jpegs that Jiggle the Juices!
Krazy Comic Koinônia
Linguist Lambdin Lovely Links!
Magician Musings on Monday’s Mystery
Names Nightmare
Outstanding Odes Older
Policies Prom
Query Shark Queen for Nine Days
Remembering Random Carpark Tunes
Strike Special Sci-Fi Story
Theodicy Tortilla
Uomo d’Acciaio Übermenschen!
Vanity Press Victorious Volume!
Wonderful Team Member Readership Award Writing
X Marks the Spot X-Men
YouTube You!
Zed Zoe

Did you enjoy the A-to-Z Challenge this year–whether you were a participant or a reader? If you didn’t participate this year, might you be persuaded to next year?

Program Note: The blog will not be nearly as busy over the next week or so (I think I deserve a bit of a break!). For the Doctor Who fans out there (both of you), I am planning to catch up with “Who Reviews” on the current series–I’ll probably take a week and post reviews of the episodes so far. We’ll see. Keep checking back… or better yet, subscribe if you haven’t yet!

Policies

After being involved in social media for a while, trying to keep up with blogs, Twitter accounts, and all the rest, I finally decided I needed to bring some order to my chaotic online existence. If I follow a thousand blogs, it’s going to be hard to keep up with them all. Some will get neglected, and I’ll become a meaningless tally in someone’s follower stats–like the person who’s on the church membership role but never goes to church. So I formulated some informal policies for how I conduct myself online, particularly with regard to which blogs I subscribe to, which Twitter accounts I follow, and who I befriend on Goodreads.

(You will notice I say nothing of Facebook. I have a Facebook account but I don’t use it, except for the occasional visit when someone posts something there I need to see. My status on Facebook is, essentially, “see my blog.”)

Blogging

There has to be something about you or your blog to make me want to subscribe. Either I know you, and have a personal interest in what you write, or I enjoy your writing and take pleasure in reading your blog. I’m not going to subscribe just because you subscribe to my blog. If I subscribe to your blog, I’m committing to checking in with you from time to time. Frequency depends on various factors. More on that in a moment. But if I’m making that commitment, I think that gives me the right to be discerning about which blogs I follow.

I have organized the blogs I follow into groups. There are those I will check on every day. Then there are those I check on less frequently. And then there are those I’ll swing by perhaps once a month if I have time. Which group a blog ends up in depends on various factors. Things that will influence how often I visit include: how often the blogger posts articles, how much I enjoy reading that blogger, and whether the blogger responds to comments. I have to say, I don’t enjoy spending 10-15 minutes of my time commenting on a blog and not get at least a “Thanks for your comment” from the writer. I understand if you’re getting 50+ comments each time, it can be tough. But I like to see some interaction now and again.

Twitter

Similarly, I don’t automatically follow back on Twitter. If I know you, or I like the things you say, or I subscribed to your blog, or I’ve really enjoyed a book you wrote, I’ll follow you. Again, it’s about building relationships, not simply accumulating an impressive number of followers. If you want to follow me, I’m @colin_d_smith.

Goodreads

Come one come all. No policies. I’ll be anyone’s Goodreads friend! You can find me here!

Do you have any policies for social media? Do you think I’m being too strict, or not strict enough?

Blogging from A to Z Challenge

m4s0n501

You might already be aware, either because I’ve mentioned it on Twitter, or you’ve noticed the big orange widget on the sidebar, that I’m participating in the “Blogging from A to Z April Challenge” again this year. “What in the name of sweet Cadbury’s is that?” you may ask. Let me save you a click on the aforementioned big orange widget. The “Blogging from A to Z April Challenge” is a blogging challenge that entails writing a post every day for the entire month of April–excluding Sundays. A letter of the alphabet is assigned to each day (April 1st = A; April 2nd = B; April 3rd = C; April 4th = D, etc.), and each blogger uses that letter to inspire the day’s article. Why exclude Sundays? Because there are 4 Sundays in April, and 30 days (the number of days in April) minus 4 days makes 26 days. There are 26 letters in the alphabet, so that makes one for each day. This also honors those who don’t like blogging on Sundays, and it gives us all (readers and writers) a break.

While the challenge states you can blog about absolutely anything, there are some ground rules. First, you have to incorporate the day’s letter somehow–even if it’s a proper noun. Second, your blog posts need to be at least 100 words long to show you’re at least breaking a sweat to do this. I mean, a challenge isn’t a challenge if it isn’t somehow challenging! You don’t have to come up with an overall theme for the month, but some find it helpful. Last year, one blogger (Kimberly) did an alliteration challenge, where she came up with an alliterative sentence for each day based on that day’s letter, and challenged her readers to come up with better ones. I recall someone else used mythical creatures as their theme.

Last year I challenged myself with coming up with either a flash or a short story every Monday, using the letter of the day to inspire the title. This gave birth to Bloodstain, Hourglass (one of the best short stories I’ve yet written–IMO), Nightmare, Tortilla, and Zoe. In fact, for some of these titles, I asked commenters to make suggestions, which was a lot of fun.

I’ve yet to formulate a plan for this year, but this much I do know: I’m going to limit each post to 500 words maximum. This will be a great exercise in word economy, and push me to be clean, concise, and creative in my word choices. I also want to repeat the Monday story challenge, which, combined with the 500-word restriction, means I will need to come up with flash stories based on the letters A, G, M, S, and Y. Beyond this, we’ll see…

Have you thought about participating? The sign up is still active. Last year, over 1,700 people took part, and they’re hoping for a lot more this year. Check out the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge blog for more information. And if you want to read some of my posts from last year, check out the archives on the right (go to April 2012).

Some Year-End Blog Stats for 2012

For those who like such things, I thought you might like to know what was popular on my blog in 2012. This is the first time I have a complete year to report on–which is an achievement in itself, I suppose. Let’s begin.

Last year, I wrote 274 blog articles. Of all the articles I’ve written since the blog began, these were the top five most visited in 2012:

 

  1. Banned Book Profile: The Harry Potter Series
  2. Book Review: THE SHINING by Stephen King
  3. The Graham Cracker Question
  4. The Truth About Captcha
  5. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: Why a Study on Romans?

Now, I have no idea why these were visited. Maybe people were looking for pictures to use on their blogs, or maybe they were genuinely interested in the articles. Who knows? It’s interesting that many of these were actually written in 2011, which goes to show that their high visit-rate was cumulative. That is, these were articles that were visited by maybe a handful of people most days last year, as opposed to articles that got hundreds of visitors over a few days.

Of  articles written in 2012, these were the most visited:

  1. The Truth About Captcha
  2. What Happened to Google Friend Connect?
  3. Sunday Devotional: Philippians 4:8
  4. Google Reader Subscriber Stats
  5. Friday Fives: X-Men

Again, I can only speculate why these were visited–but those were the ones with the most hits.

It appears my blog visitors came from 143 countries! Most were from the US, with the UK and Canada not far behind (you know who you are, Robin, Cole, Emma Maree, Jaime…).

The article that generated the most conversation was my Road Trip Wednesday contribution for July 11: A Novel Improvement, where we talked about movies that improved upon novels. There were 56 comments (including my responses) to my suggestion that the movie version of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA was better than the book. While opinions differed about that, I think we all agreed that Meryl Streep was amazing.

I probably do this more than I realize, but I want to thank every blog visitor, and especially those who visit regularly. I have absolutely no idea how many people have subscribed to this blog by some means, but I gather there are some of you out there just by the regularity of your visits. I can’t tell you how nice it is to know that I’m not just typing to the ether, and there are at least a few people who read most, if not all, of my posts. Thank you thank you thank you!

Please feel free to use the comments to offer any words of encouragement, and especially let me know of articles on this blog from last year that were most memorable to you. This isn’t an exercise in ego-inflation (well, perhaps it is a little bit), but it tells me what kind of articles you like to read–or what kind of articles I write best. Which then helps me make this blog better and more useful.

NaNo Update and Blog Followers

If you’ve been keeping track, either as one of my NaNo Buddies, or by dropping in on the blog periodically over the past few days, you’ll know that I’ve been doing quite well on the NaNo-front. Not as well as some of my Buddies (Cole, for example, who either types very quickly, doesn’t sleep, or both!), but better that I expected. I’m pleased with the way the novel’s going, too. There’s some character development happening that hasn’t happened in previous attempts at writing this thing, and some story elements I hadn’t thought of before that I think definitely enhance it. You can see my current word count in the little blue NaNoWriMo widget in the sidebar.

You might also notice in the sidebar that I have removed “Linky Friends.” In fact, I now have no “Friends” or “Followers”-type widget. This doesn’t mean you can’t follow my blog. I still have multiple means for you to keep track of my blogging activity (RSS feed, e-mail, etc.–see the sidebar). But here’s why I’m no longer providing a visual tally of who’s following this blog:

  • I honestly don’t know how many people are subscribed to this RSS by some means or another. Aside from the handful of Linky people, and those that tell me they’re following, or who seem to comment regularly, I have no way of keeping track. By far the most useful means of tracking followers was Google Friend Connect, largely because a lot of people used it (and still do). But since the demise of GFC on WordPress blogs earlier this year, nothing has come along to replace it for us WP users that’s of equal popularity. My reasoning, then, is: what’s the point of showing a tally (i.e., Linky Folllowers) that I know isn’t a true representation of the number of people following this blog? It may not be far from accurate, but it’s still inaccurate.
  • Let’s face it: there are people out there who will value a blog by the number of followers. If you’ve got 10,000 followers, you must have something important to say. If you’ve only got 10 followers, perhaps you’re still finding your voice and, who knows, your blog may not even be around in six months. That’s the thinking, anyway. Personally, I don’t subscribe to this view. I follow blogs because I like what they have to say, or I feel I connect in some way with the author (common interests, similar sense of humor, etc.). I’m not criticizing those who evaluate blogs by the number of faces on their follower widget; that’s their choice. Rather than try to persuade them to think differently, I’d sooner just remove what might be an obstacle to them taking my blog seriously.
  • Related to the last point, I have to ask myself: why am I showing those followers? Is it to say “look at me–I have followers!” or is it to encourage me in my blogging? The latter has been a reason for a long time, but it’s becoming less of one. I know there are people who read this blog fairly regularly, so if I need encouragement outside of my own love of wordsmithing, there it is. I don’t really need a follower widget to keep me blogging. That leaves the first reason (“look at all my followers!”), and if that’s the only reason for having a widget, I’d sooner not have one.

So, for those reasons, I’ve removed the Linky followers widget. Thanks to all of you who make time in your week to read this blog. You’re a large part of the reason I’ve been encouraged to keep going over the past year. And as long as people read and comment, I’ll carry on blogging.

Finally, a big CHEER to all my fellow NaNo-ers! Keep up the great work and the amazing word-counts! :)

P.S.: To all my friends in the UK, have a fun and safe Bonfire Night!

Family Blogs and First World Problems

A number of months ago, my oldest daughter started her own blog. She too is an aspiring writer, and she wanted to get involved in the writer community a bit more. Not only is blogging good for that, but it’s a good way to stretch the writing muscles and the creativity ligaments. I didn’t make a big fuss of her blog when she launched it because I wanted her to establish herself in her own right, and make her own way. Yes, I was being Dad. But I think she’s started to do that, so I want to encourage you to go visit her blog. You may have already without knowing she’s my daughter. Please don’t hold that against her. You may even like her better, which is fine. Really. *sniff*. Seriously, though, go visit her blog, leave comments, and generally be the nice people you all are:

hermajestywriter.wordpress.com

My wife has also just launched a blog. She’s loves cooking and food-type stuff. She also like to tell stories. Mix all that together, and you have her blog, Quips and Cuisine. Again, she’s just started, so there’s not a lot there right now, but she intends to post recipes and food-related stories from her childhood… and maybe from our family! Eeek! I’m vegetarian, and she makes some great veggie food, so you can expect an interesting mix of cooking ideas. Pay her a visit, leave a comment, and check back from time to time to see what’s new:

http://quipsandcuisine.wordpress.com

Finally, I’m sure you’ve all seen this, but in case you haven’t, my SecondBorn brought it to my attention. While I don’t want to belittle anyone’s suffering and hardship, no matter how small it is in the grand scheme of things, I think this helps us get some perspective. And it’s funny:

Have a great Monday!

Friday Fives: Top Posts

For the last article in my Blog Birthday Celebration week, I’m giving you TWO top five lists. The first is a list of the top five blog articles of all time according to WordPress stats–as of the time of writing, of course. These are articles that people have gone to directly (usually from a web search), not including the home page, which by definition would be the most visited post. Here they are:

Top Five Blog Articles to Date (Statistically Speaking)

  1. Banned Book Profile: The Harry Potter Series: Last year, during Banned Books Week, I ran a series on banned books, featuring a different book each day of the week. I don’t recall these being big hits at the time, but clearly people keep going back to them (either for the article, or for the book pictures).
  2. Book Review: THE SHINING by Stephen King: I mentioned this one as a “slow burner” on Tuesday. Reviews as a whole don’t seem to get a lot of initial interest, but, over time people seem to hunt them out.
  3. Banned Book Profile: The Hunger Games: See #1.
  4. Who Review: Revenge of the Cybermen: I’m not sure whether it’s my review of the classic Doctor Who story Revenge of the Cybermen that people are interested in, or the picture on that article.
  5. The Truth about Captcha: I have referenced this clip a few times on Twitter, and I still think it’s really clever. If you grumble and complain about Captcha–or reCaptcha–watch this.

The second top five list is five of my favorite articles–which is not really a top five, I suppose. Some of these were popular at the time they posted, some perhaps not so. Either way, I enjoyed writing them, and I still enjoy reading them. I hope you do too!

Five of My Favorite Articles

  1. Favorite Book Cover: My first ever Road Trip Wednesday contribution. I was overwhelmed with the number of comments and kind words I received, and I made new blog friends that day. Road Trip Wednesday has helped me find a lot of great blogs and great blog friends over the past year, so this first RTW article will always be special.
  2. Query Success Stories: I had just started querying my novel when I posted this. The article contains links to some well-known YA writers’ query letters. BUT the main reason I like this post is because I link to an interview I found that Janet Reid did with the BBC’s World Service back in 2009. If you want to hear the Query Shark herself talk about queries, and discuss finding Dan Krokos–you should check it out.
  3. The Victorian Yorkshire Pudding Experiment: My WIP is set in Victorian London, and I was reading some history books to get a feel for the atmosphere of the period. In the course of my reading, I came across a “recipe” for Yorkshire pudding, so I decided to have a go at making it. This is the story of what happened…
  4. RTW: The Name Game: The Road Trip Wednesday from January where we discussed pseudonyms. I like the picture, enjoyed writing the article, reading everyone else’s articles, and reading the comments people left. Fun fun fun!
  5. Hourglass: I hope it doesn’t sound too egotistical of me, but I really like my fiction! I could have listed any one of the stories I’ve written for this blog, but this one stands out for me because it’s my first attempt to portray a dystopian world. Since it’s a short story, though, I have to world-build by hints and suggestions. I’m pleased with how it turned out.

That’s it for Blog Birthday Celebration Week. Starting Sunday, we begin the new schedule (or lack thereof). Thank you all so much for sticking with me over the last year. I hope you’ll continue to do so.

Don’t forget the Blog Birthday Giveaway!

I’m giving away a choice of a $20 Amazon Gift Card, or $20-worth of books from The Book Depository. The giveaway is open internationally (as long as The Book Depository ships to your country–assuming that’s the option you choose if you win).

And finally, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my SixthBorn–my youngest daughter–who turns 8 today! :)

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