Back to Blogging After a Break – Check Out What’s New

Enhancing the blog with new features for community members

- | 111 Aha! comments | Posted in category: Blogging

Woman happy with new feautres

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.

New blog features

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

Since the WordPress theme we use at Aha!NOW is BuddyPress and bbPress ready, it did not take much thought to incorporate them on the blog.

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.

1- Connections

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.

3- Messaging

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.

4- Forums

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.

Commenting System

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 readAre 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.

Thumps up badge

Achievement System

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.

[wysija_form id=”3″]

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

Don’t forget to rate the post and give your vote! Thanks. 🙂

Show Comments

111 Comments - Read and share thoughts

  1. Pritam Nagrale

    2014-07-14 at 12:24 pm

    Hi Harleena,

    Welcome back! Nice Article written after a long break. It’s totally different than others. It’ll help a lot to do more new things with my blogs. Thanks for sharing nice article.

  2. LeslieZ

    2014-07-14 at 7:30 am

    Wow Harleena, you have been busy. I don’t know how you fit a vacation in with all the work you’ve done on your blog.

    You have definitely taken engagement to a new level. I wish you a lot of success.

    I will be very interested to see how the comments section works. So I’ll be stopping by to keep up.

    Glad you were able to spend time with your family. That’s what’s important. I just did a camping trip with my extended family over 4th of July.


  3. Jodi Aman

    2014-07-14 at 7:01 am

    Best of luck with all of your changes. The forums seem so be over what I am capable of joining but this post gave me some valuable info regarding commentluv. I have been having trouble with it, but am afarid if I change I will lose all of my old comments. I will follow the link and make my decision from there! Thanks for the tips!

  4. alvinchadwick

    2014-07-14 at 2:37 am

    Welcome back to the blogosphere, Harleena, good luck with your future blogops!

  5. Sarah Park

    2014-07-13 at 7:45 pm

    Hello Harleena,

    I’m so glad to see you back! My cousin have attended an Indian wedding last month and she was saying how beautiful everything was! I wish I can bear witness to one myself! I can’t wait to see the photographs. Also interested in what you have cooked up over your vacation!

    Great to see great improvements here at Aha!NOW! I’m really excited. More power to your site!

  6. Sylviane Nuccio

    2014-07-13 at 5:28 pm

    Welcome back Harleena,

    Wow, congratulations on your new forum. You never cease to improve your platform and that’s really commendable.

    Even though I don’t feel ready myself to get rid of Commentluv any time soon, I can see how someone who has that many comments would reconsider because of broken links has you’re mentioning here.

    Of course, CommetnLuv is also a way to give back, so that’s why I really like it too. I don’t think that in your case, it will make a difference, but as you said you can always get back to it.

    Glad to see you back Harleena and I hope you’re all well rested.

  7. Tanveer

    2014-07-13 at 11:41 am

    Hi Harleena,

    Nice to see you again. It seems you enjoyed a lot. It was indeed a long break. I think we bloggers need such breaks to rejuvenate ourselves and increase productivity. We indeed missed you. Now that you are back, the blogging community will buzz with activity once again.
    All the best.

  8. Augustus

    2014-07-13 at 10:13 am

    Guess I came late to the welcome party… Lol, it’s good to take a break once in a while, it does not only give us me with our loved ones, it gives a chance to see things from another perspective, it’s just like when soldiers retreat during war, the get to restrategize and plan about their next attack which you have done perfectly well with Aha-now.

  9. Atinder

    2014-07-13 at 9:24 am

    Welcome Back Harleena Ma’am after a well deserved break.

  10. Jayme

    2014-07-13 at 5:16 am

    Harleena! I’m so glad you’re back and better than ever, I see!

    Glad to hear you have a fab break away. Trust me, we did miss you, ok I missed you and your words of inspiration more than ever on FB!

    Woohoo to the Jetpack Comments. I’ve been wanting to do that with my other blog myself. I know a lot frown on it but for me, it’s much better. So kudos for you doing it!

    Now for a silly question, how do I sign up for the forum? I think it’s truly a fab idea and I hope others find the value in it as well!

    Again, glad to see you back. You were definitely missed!

  11. Michael

    2014-07-12 at 9:07 pm

    Welcome back to the blogging world!

  12. lisapatb

    2014-07-12 at 6:02 pm

    Hi Harleena, welcome back!

    I wondered how your time away was going. It sounds like you enjoyed yourself and actually relaxed. You really DID stay away from it all. Good for you!

    I love the changes and the community you are building. I do miss CommentLuv though I have to admit 🙁 I understand you may go back to it. Nothing wrong with testing new things here and there, right?
    Great to see you back Harleena and enjoy the weekend!

  13. Dr. Diana

    2014-07-12 at 3:49 pm

    Hello Harleena,

    Its long time! I missed you a lot in previous days. Happy to see you again with updated blog. You have added so many new features to your blog. Its really helpful for your readers. I wish for your success in future.

    ~Diana Hardy

  14. Priya Sharma

    2014-07-12 at 11:09 am

    Hi Harleena,

    Welcome back!

    Good to know that you enjoyed your short-vacation away from the blog. Though, no surprise that you still sometimes ended up thinking about your blog. 🙂

    I love the idea of having a ‘travel & food’ section as I believe in variety. If the idea feels right to you then start the category!

    Wishing you lots of luck & Happy weekend!

  15. Ahsan

    2014-07-12 at 9:33 am

    Hello Harleena,

    Nice to see you back in Blogging World. I am eagerly waiting to read your upcoming post. Hope your break from blogging make you more energetic & vigor.

    Have a nice day 🙂

  16. Obasi Miracle

    2014-07-12 at 5:27 am

    Hi Harleena,

    I am to say welcome back to you after such a long break, I visited a-while back and was greeted with the under maintenance message.

    I knew ’twas all for some great and positive changes like the ones you ‘ve just implemented. Honestly, I will pick disqus, lyfre, and Google+ over jetpack.

    But its good you’re only trying out the jetpack commenting platform, hopefully we’re gonna see more great changes as time progresses.

    You also did awesomely with your forum section, this means we’re in for some great learning the coming days.

    Do have a strong and healthy week Mam.

  17. Adrienne

    2014-07-12 at 4:32 am

    Hey Harleena,

    Well, welcome back is right and I’m so glad you had that time off although it sounds like you thought about us a lot. We are SO touched! I know that family is so important to you and spending it with them celebrating being together but you’ve made a lot of friends online too. Just knowing you were off enjoying yourself although you were missed was worth it.

    Wow, you’ve got some changes going on here. Okay, I’m not the best person to give advice about a travel or cooking section since I’m not a big traveler and I don’t really cook. Yeah, it’s sad but true. I’m sure though that you have plenty of people who will be eager about these both.

    The forum sounds interesting but I’ll probably hold off for now. Way too much on my plate to end up in there doing things that aren’t being productive for me. But I do love to meet people and chat as you know.

    As for the commenting system, I can’t fault you for wanting to test things out. I just have one thing to add that SO many people get wrong. CommentLuv is NOT a commenting system. It’s just a plugin to help you get more people to your blog and reward them with link love. It has nothing to do with the system where people actually comment.

    Good luck with the changes and hope everything goes for you as planned. Enjoy your weekend and I guess next week you’ll be jumping back in full force. Have a good one.


  18. Lorraine Marie Reguly

    2014-07-12 at 2:30 am

    Congratulations, Harleena, on all you have achieved with your blog – and you break!

  19. Theodore Nwangene

    2014-07-12 at 2:18 am

    Hey mate :).
    I’m so happy to be here today you know. Its been quite a long time since i visited last though, i tried visiting you few days ago but was told that the blog was under maintenance, now i understood why.

    To be candid, I’m so much impressed with all the changes you’ve made here especially the forum/community. This will indeed take the interactions here to the next level:).

    I think incorporating food and recipe to the blog will not be a bad idea once you can handle it which I’m sure you can.

    Finally, I’m loving the Jetpack commenting platform and if at the end of the day you recommended it, i might as well try it on my blog.

    Welcome back Harleena and my regards to your family.

  20. Mainak Halder

    2014-07-12 at 1:16 am

    Hi Harleena,

    Summers in India are very hot in some regions and a break during the summer is much needed. So nice to see you after a blogging break. 🙂 and nice to hear that you are to start a cooking section. Sorry, I cannot cook much but my fiance loves cooking and she cooks a lot while helping me with blogging too. So, I can tell her to follow your blog now for new cooking recipes.

    And happy to hear that you have started a forum and best of luck to you wishing you success with it. BTW, changing the commenting system brought a freshness to the blog and I really like this.

    Wishing you a great day.


    • Harleena Singh

      2014-07-18 at 9:20 pm

      Hi Mainak,

      This summer was very hot and I’m glad I took a break.

      I’m sure your fiance is already a good cook if she loves cooking, but yes she can learn more when I start the cooking section on the blog.

      I did start the forum and am still working on it to improve it. I’m glad you like the new commenting system, though I’m going to soon replace it with another commenting system to experiment what works better.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and do have a great weekend ahead! 🙂

  21. Monisha Kapur

    2014-07-12 at 12:23 am

    HI Harleena

    Welcome back!! Sounds like you had an amazing, fully packed, vacation. Congrats on your relative’s son’s wedding! Indian weddings are so much fun 🙂 And glad you were able to re-connect with cooking 🙂 Cooking and I have a bit of a love / hate relationship… I always have good intentions, but the food (especially Indian) never really comes out right… Would love it if you were to blog about some recipes to try 🙂

    What fabulous new changes to your blog. I love the idea of having forums, what a great way to connect with others. Thanks for offering so many social building avenues to the community!!

    Take care!
    – Monisha

    • Harleena Singh

      2014-07-18 at 9:12 pm

      Hi Monisha.

      Thanks for the welcome!

      Yes, the vacations were great and even the wedding was enjoyable! I enjoyed the surplus time I got with cooking too.

      I’d love to help you with the Indian cooking from as much I know, if and when I start the cooking section on the blog.

      Thanks for being a part of the community. I’m still working on improving the new community features including the forums. I’m sure that once all is done, it would be a great experience for you and every other member of the community.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and do have a great weekend ahead! 🙂

  22. Steen Rasmussen

    2014-07-11 at 11:23 pm

    always nice to take a break, even for themselves. I’m about to get my own blog to drive and still have plenty I have to say, but welcome back’m looking to see what you find on

    • Harleena Singh

      2014-07-18 at 9:05 pm

      Hi Steen,

      Thanks for the welcome. Wish you all the best with your blog!

      Have a great weekend ahead! 🙂

  23. Sayantan Mahato

    2014-07-11 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Harleena,

    It feels glad that you are back now. We all missed you a lot.

    The blog’s now looking more awesome and professional now.


    • Harleena Singh

      2014-07-18 at 9:03 pm

      Hi Sayantan,

      Thanks for the welcome. I’m glad you like the new changes on the blog.

      Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend ahead! 🙂

  24. Sebastian Aiden Daniels

    2014-07-11 at 10:19 pm

    I am glad that you enjoyed your break Harleena. Interesting changes you are making. We shall see how they work out. I don’t know if it is possible, but is there any way to make the forum prettier hehe.

    I am interested to see how this achievement system works. It is a very cool idea and I hope it works out. I look forward to the upcoming weeks.


    • Harleena Singh

      2014-07-18 at 9:01 pm

      Hi Sebastian,

      The new features on the blog are still in its trying and testing phase, and I’m working on to improve them and provide a better community experience.

      Thanks for pointing out that short coming in the forums and hopefully will sort that out in the coming days.

      This is the first time I’m trying out the achievement system so I too am anxious to know if it will work or not. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. 😉

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and do have a great weekend ahead! 🙂

  25. lisa thomson

    2014-07-11 at 9:15 pm

    Hi Harleena, welcome back! Your blog was dearly missed. You have such a wonderful community here and I’ve met some interesting bloggers and genuine people! I’m not sure what the new stuff is such as jetpack. Looking at the comments now I see it’s similar to disqus. Your changes sound fantastic. I love the idea of a cooking section here at AhaNow.

    • Harleena Singh

      2014-07-18 at 8:56 pm

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for the welcome! I’m glad to be back among you all. I too love the community and its members; this blog wouldn’t be where it is without it!

      Yes, Jetpack in a way looks like Disqus but it is different. Though I might be trying other commenting system too very soon.

      I’m glad you like the changes and the idea of a cooking section. I’ll let you know when that starts.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and do have a great weekend ahead! 🙂

  26. Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    2014-07-11 at 9:05 pm

    Hi Harleena, Welcome back!

    You were dearly missed while you were gone. I thought of you nearly every day! Your warm friendship and excellent articles bring so much into the lives of so many.

    Congratulations on all of the big changes to your blog. Well done. I figured you’d just do a new theme but you shot for the stars! I am looking forward to checking it all out. I hadn’t heard of Buddy Press before but I love the ideas of forums.

    I will miss CommentLuv on your site. It does come with burdens, but I’ve been able to manage them better by being more picky about the links I will allow.

    I love, love, love the idea of you covering cooking topics. Indian food is so delicious and you would be a great teacher. Would you be doing videos (please)?

    No matter what you do, you will be successful, Harleena. Great to have you back! <3

    • Harleena Singh

      2014-07-18 at 8:49 pm

      Hi Carolyn,

      Thanks for the warm welcome! I’m really touched by your kind words. You’re a true friend to have and thanks for all your loving and caring thoughts. 🙂

      I’ve implemented the changes and put on new features on the blog but still need to improvise on them to give a better community experience. I’ll let you know when that happens. I’m glad you like the ideas.

      I’m trying out Jetpack comments and after that I might switch over to the native WP commenting system. Just wanted to experiment these systems and see if they work any better.

      Wow, its great to know that you too like Indian food! I just love to cook but I don’t know if I’ll be a good teacher in that. Ah.. videos, well if I do start the cooking section, then probably I’ll have to do the videos. 😉

      Thanks for your wishes and for sharing your wonderful thoughts. I appreciate them very much. Do have a great weekend ahead! 🙂

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