A-to-Z Reflection [2016]


Problems/issues encountered:

During the first week, I clicked on a lot of blogs with awesome-sounding titles, only to discover they not only never started the Challenge, but also hadn’t posted anything in at least six months. A number of these bloggers hadn’t posted anything in several years, which makes me wonder why they bothered signing up.

Bloggers who quit participating, without an apology or explanation for why they couldn’t finish or slacked off.

Blogs without an ability to leave comments.


Comments only being approved after moderation. There are better ways to prevent spam, and if you’re worried about nasty, abusive comments, you can set your commenting policy so only people with previously-approved comments bypass moderation. Some of the gender-critical blogs I frequent have such a policy, though others keep to the model of approving every single comment, even after we’ve proven ourselves as good eggs.

A link that was broken.

Having to register to leave a comment. I found a number of such blogs I was ready to comment on, only to discover I had to go through the whole rigamarole of registration with a unique-to-the-blogger commenting service. The only exception I made was for a post with a jaw-droppingly hurtful, offensive, ableist meme with a quote from the always-classy Auti$m $peak$, saying those of us on the spectrum have been “taken away” and need “cured.”

Difficulty finding the actual blog part of a website, or the A to Z posts section. This also goes for blogs with multiple posts a day, without the A to Z post on top.

Posts or pages which were too busy. Sometimes a post would be fairly short, but there were a lot of graphics, links, and thumbnails taking up extra space after the main text. I don’t have time to constantly scroll through all that!

People who only signed up to try to promote a business, and aren’t bloggers at all. For that matter, it’s also super-sneaky to use your theme (0r part of your theme) to promote your MLM. I don’t care about your overpriced nail stickers, weight loss shakes, candles, or clothes from the menopause section marketed to young women!


I wrote my posts well in advance (last May–July), so I’d have plenty of time for going back and editing them multiple times, and wouldn’t have to rush through them last-minute. Several posts originally had additional topics which I decided to delete, since it felt like overload. Deleted topics were diphtheria, the Elephant House at Aleksandr Palace (really disappointed I couldn’t find more information and a decent picture!), and the Pauline Laws.

My N post was originally about Countess Natalya Sergeyevna Brasova, Grand Duke Mikhail’s wife, but it felt like too much of a repeat of his post, since it was mostly about her relationships. The last thing I’d want to do is primarily define a woman by her history of romantic attachments!

I considered other topics for certain letters, but decided against them since I felt they were only tangential to my alternative history (e.g., Sigmund Freud, Queen Victoria, Last Rites). I’d also originally planned to do the Aleksandr Palace for A, but it seemed only natural to start with our hero, the entire reason for the story.

L was the last letter I settled on topics for. Other difficult letters were F, J, R, and the replacement for N. The H, X, and Q topics were pretty much limited, since Russian doesn’t have those letters. It was an obvious given I’d have to do Hemophilia and Grand Duchess Xenia (Kseniya), and luckily, I found a Q name related to Imperial Russian history. Y for Yekaterinburg was also the obvious choice.


Post recap:

Tsar Aleksey II (54 views)
Batumi, Georgia (23 views)
The Cathedral of the Dormition and the Chrysler Imperial Touring (34 views)
The Dowager Empress and the Duesenberg (22 views)
Electrotherapy and Easter (22 views)
The Fyodorovskaya Ikon of the Mother of God (19 views)
The Grand Cathedral of the Winter Palace and the House of Gagarin (14 views)
Hemophilia (19 views)
Prince Igor Konstantinovich and the Iverskaya Chapel (20 views)
The Jordan Staircase and Joy (31 views)
Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich the younger and the Kunstkamera (9 views)
The Lower Dacha of Peterhof and Leo (23 views)
Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich (12 views)
Nevskiy Prospekt (10 views)
Grand Duchess Olga Nikolayevna (22 views)
The Passage and Peter and Paul Cathedral (9 views)
Giacomo Quarenghi (21 views)
The Red Porch, Rochet-Schneider, Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, and Russo-Baltique (19 views)
The Semicircular Hall, the Sorbonne, and St. Serafim of Sarov (21 views)
Tsesarevich, Tsaritsa, and Transliteration (17 views)
Uzbek cuisine (23 views)
Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley (10 views)
The Winter Palace (34 views)
Grand Duchess Xenia (Kseniya) Aleksandrovna (19 views)
Yekaterinburg, Russia (17 views)
Grigoriy Yevseyevich Zinovyev (16 views)


I have like ten future themes in mind for future Aprils!

9 thoughts on “A to Z Reflections 2016

  1. Oh, I’m glad you’ll do it again, despite the annoying blog readings, or not, and commenting problems. I enjoyed reading your posts. You do so much research, and yet, it doesn’t just read like a post on Wikipedia.

    I didn’t go off the list at all to read blogs. It is too frustrating. I stick to the ones who post on the Facebook page for the IWSG. That way, I know they are participating, and have posted that day.

    Mary at Play off the Page


  2. I have to admit I found some of the difficulty you talk about myself. I didn’t manage to go through the list of blog, but I covered nearly the entire list of theme reveals, and a lot of blogs didn’t actually do the challenge. I’m not sure, but I’m under the impression that there were less non-active blogs last year, especially on the theme reveal list.

    Going crazy in order to leave a comment is annoying. I dont’ see why bloggers should make it that difficult. Don’t they want comments?

    Congrats on you rchallenge. It was a very good one, with obvious, solid reserch. I enjoyed it 🙂


  3. I’ve just dipped into a couple of your A to Z posts, I thought I’d struggle as history is really not my thing but you’ve managed to make them fun 🙂

    I think the things that irritated you about the challenge were the things that bothered me too, I only decided to join this year at the last minute, mostly because I knew I’d be short on time all around, so anything that wasted my time searching for posts was annoying!

    I wonder if people sign up and forget, or just sign up purely to drive some traffic to their blog?

    I was quite lucky that I didn’t come across too many “buy me” posts 🙂

    Great reflections and impressed by your research and your prep!!

    Mars xx
    @TrollbeadBlog from
    Curling Stones for Lego People


  4. If I found blogs that weren’t posting I just didn’t visit them again. I’m not a fan of jumping through hoops to leave comments either, although I don’t mind if the blogger wants to moderate their comments – it really makes no difference to the person leaving the comment. Congrats on finishing 🙂


  5. I’m still working my way through as many participants as I can, so I’m glad I’m still plugging away and found another fellow history nerd. I love that you had a well-defined theme, and bonus points for tying it into your book. This is the perfect way to participate IMO. I didn’t do that b/c I’m a moron and new to this challenge. But of hundreds of blogs I’ve visited so far, this is the strategy that makes the most sense to me as a writer who blogs (as opposed to a plain ol’ blogger).

    Happy to report I encountered few if any Captchas. So far, so good. The other ones with a couple of boxes to tick aren’t too bad – I don’t mind them. Ditto on brazen sales pitches – have not seen many of them yet.

    As for the inactive blogs, I didn’t see many of those, either. I saw a few in the second half of the month, that looked like they had given up after about letter N or thereabouts. So my impression was that the admins were doing a great job weeding out the quitters.

    Agree on the comments being approved. Makes you wonder if they’ve had some past issues with trolls. Reminds me of my Twitter pet peeve: True Twit validations. Whatever!

    One thing I do appreciate and will try to remember to do in future is to clearly identify what my theme is, not only at the reveal but maybe with a small blurb at the beginning of each post. Many blogs I’ve seen (not all!) had some kind of theme, but it was often a headache trying to track down exactly what it was. As the challenge progressed, I found myself drawn to the more organized, theme-based participants, even if it was on a topic I’m not typically interested in.


  6. This was by far one of my most favorite blogs this year. I loved your theme, your details and your research, and your thoughtful insights into history and the human nature of famous people. I am really excited about the book! I can’t wait to read it 🙂 I’ll review it all over the place.


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