Whoa! It’s been about a month I’ve been away! I cannot believe that I took such a long break from blogging. I am sure neither can you, but I am glad to be back. 🙂
I hope you all are doing great and are in the best of your health and spirits. You have been in my heart and thoughts all the time.
Honestly, I have missed you all and I confess that I did want to resume blogging hardly midway during my summer break. I had to do a lot of self-convincing to hold myself back!
There is always a lot to do in blogging. I know I have missed a lot, but it is never too late, because you can re-start anytime, and there is always scope for lots of work and progress.
My mantra is to be positive. I always look ahead – the past is only there to teach us lessons, and you should never let it bog you down or make you sad.
You experience real happiness by being in the present moment and in your positive attitude about the future.
Instead of the missed opportunities, I see great scope and possibilities.
Optimism is not an option but a compulsory quality to have in life for success, growth, and to bring happiness into your life.
Before I start blabbering about what’s new on the blog and brief you about my fresh blogging plans, I know you want to know all that I did in my break. This holiday surely recharged me!
So, here’s a short account of my blogging break. 🙂
My Blogging Break
I took the break for myself and my family, and I’m happy that I did 🙂
Among the things I did was going on a short vacation to a hill station with my family and met my cousins.
I realized what good your family and relationships can do to your life. Being with them makes you feel good and you cherish those moments for a long time.
Apart from the real world socializing and traveling, I indulged in one of my love of life, which is cooking!
Oh yes, I love to cook! In fact, my children were the ones anxiously looking forward to my break for this reason. They didn’t spare me and wanted me to cook something new every second day! 🙂
But blogging did not completely leave my mind, and while cooking too, I had thoughts of starting a cooking section on Aha!NOW!
The thought – “Why not have travel and food categories too on the blog?” kept buzzing like a bee in my mind. Well, I’d love to know what you think of the idea. 🙂
During my blogging break, I also attended the wedding of a relative’s son. For those who are not aware, the Indian weddings are a long affair and the various celebration events can keep you busy for many days.
Whew! I had to take my time to rest after such a hectic break, which even though kept me away from blogging, but kept me busy otherwise.
It was in the first week of this month that I actually started working on the blog along with my husband, Vinay.
We decided to make some changes and bring on some new features. I’d like you to know them all.
Starting New Blog Features
Aha!NOW is blessed with a great blog community. I am grateful to all the visitors, readers, and commentators for creating such an active and engaging environment.
It’s no secret that the interactions and discussions are the key features of Aha!NOW that perhaps makes it a little different from other blogs.
We decided to work on our strengths and develop it further. We looked for a few options to enhance the interactions and discussions on the blog, and settled on two of them.
Active interactions and discussions with BuddyPress and bbPress
But it did take time trying out the various features, making dummy friends, for which we had to keep the blog on maintenance mode for a few days.
By enabling BuddyPress and bbPress, we now have four cool features to increase and improve the Aha!NOW blog community engagements.
Until now, you could only interact with other community members through comments on the blog posts.
Now, you can connect with rest of the Aha!NOW community members in a more better and direct way.
You can know who the other members are on the member’s page, what they’re doing in the activity stream, and whether they’re online too in the sidebar widget.
You can also check out their profiles, learn more about them, and decide if you’d like to connect with them and want them to be your friends.
2- Making Friends
There are great chances that you’ll find more like-minded friends on Aha!NOW. The reason is simple – you all are here because of common interests, and that is the biggest bond-creating factor in friendship.
You can send the other community members a friendship request. If they approve it, then you can add them to your friends list and even make a group of friends, or be part of many groups of community members.
To increase your interactions with friends and within the groups, you can message them publicly or privately.
You can always update your status, just like Facebook, which will go out to all the community members directly from your profile.
If you happen to view the profile of another community member, you can always write on their wall to convey your thoughts.
However, you can also send them a private message, for their eyes only.
You can comment on the messages, like them, delete them, and even spam them to report to the admin if they are bothering you.
The admins and moderators will make sure that you’re not troubled and have a pleasant experience on Aha!NOW.
Having taken care of the interactions, it’s the turn of discussions to take a new and advanced form.
You know that I always wanted to create a platform on Aha!NOW where people can share their problems, seek solutions, and help each other.
I find the forums as the perfect alternative to the “Share Your Problems & Solutions” (SYPS) posts. I’ve created a forum for each category on Aha!NOW and would be open to suggestions to create more if required.
I preferred a central discussion area so everybody benefits from all the discussions. All forums are open and public as of now, except a few that are created by the admins.
A Few More Blog Changes
There are a few changes that might not be very obvious but I hope they will be welcomed by the Aha!NOW blog community.
The other biggest change we made was replacing the CommentLuv commenting system with the Jetpack commenting system.
I can see a few raised eyebrows, frowns, quizzed, surprised and all kinds of looks on the faces of my blogging friends!
You might like to read – Are Blog Comments Really Required
Don’t get me wrong – CommentLuv commenting system is great and I still recommend it, especially for the newbie bloggers – to adopt it in their initial blogging days.
I am going to try out the new commenting system to see the results, or else would be back with CommentLuv of course. 🙂
My reasons to remove CommentLuv were its increasing disuse by commentators and never-ending broken links. More so, this step was highly recommended by Harsh in his recent interview.
You can even read about it in his post about how to moderate comments.
I did my best to mend and sort the broken links, but I wanted a commenting system that would bring more comfort and convenience at this stage of blogging.
I surveyed and found that most WordPress users opt either for the native WordPress or Jetpack commenting system.
The edge Jetpack has is that it allows social logins, which I’m sure will help many of my non-blogging audience.
I am sure that all bloggers are aware of Google’s recent changes in linking policy and the emphasis on co-citation and co-occurrence. You never know that Google might take the Russian road and decide to make a linkless web.
In any case, the link love that you receive from the Aha!NOW forum profile page and from within the blog posts will be of much higher value.
I think you would succeed more in taking people back to your blog by actively participating in the community activities including forums, than just by leaving the post links in the comments.
I always wanted to give back to my community and reward them. That’s why I chose an achievement and badging system.
Now, the registered community members will get points and earn badges for their activities on the blog, interactions with the community, and discussions on the forums.
You can maximize your points earning potential by contributing your knowledge and experience, as well as by increasing your participation in the community activities.
I’m in the process of creating and finalizing the rules for this system, but for now, I’d suggest you try out all the new features of the blog to start earning points.
I’m planning the incentives and awards for the achievers.
Besides the badges, I’m thinking of providing an opportunity to feature the top achievers as guest bloggers on Aha!NOW and have some free giveaways to the Aha!NOW community members.
Look out for the newsletter where I’ll inform you about the final achievement and award point system.
If you aren’t yet a subscriber, you can join now by subscribing to the newsletter to keep in touch with the latest developments at the blog.
Besides, I am also shifting the blogging schedule from the earlier Tuesday and Friday posts, to posting on Monday and Thursday now – so stay tuned for the next post on Monday!
Your Feedback as a Community Member
So, what do you think? I know there would be mixed feelings and thoughts; I’d honestly like to know them all.
My intention is to give the best to my blog community, which I know, consists of bloggers and non-bloggers too.
Though the changes I’ve made are going to stay for some time, considerable enough to bring out results for a comprehensive analysis, I’ll keep the option open to revert to the old system.
I always like to make changes in life as well as on the blog. This is a new experiment and its final status will depend on YOU – my awesome Aha!NOW blog community.
I feel that the new activities and forums can also increase the participation of my non-blogging friends and help them integrate with the greatly active blogging community.
I want you to try out all the features and let me know the ones you like and the ones you don’t. Also, suggest the changes and improvements I should make.
Please read this post with all the detailed information on how to go about using the new features.
Blogging is all about CED (Content + Engagement + Discussions). This is our effort to make Aha!NOW an enhanCED blog.
Have a ball and enjoy your new experience on Aha!NOW. We’re still in the process of rolling out some of the changes, so please bear with us if you have any inconvenience – but do report them to us.
Share Your Thoughts –
What do you think about the new blog features and the changes on Aha!NOW?
Join the discussions on this topic in the forum, or create a new topic in the blogging forum to share your thoughts and experiences. Or, contribute your awesome comments as you do normally in the comment box at the end of the post.
Either way, I’d love to hear from you.
Take care and be blessed. 🙂
Photo Credits: FreeDigitalPhotos
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Posted on: July 10th, 2014
Last Updated on: July 11th, 2014