Thursday, 4 February 2016

Widget weirdness, a blogspot of bother, and stemming the lost follower lemmings

Source: Etsy
Five years ago this week(!), I had 63 followers. I felt moved to write a post back then about the frisson of pleasure that the little mosaic of avatars gives me whenever a new colourful square pops up, signalling the arrival of a new reader. Someone who is keen to catch every post and not just dip in occasionally. And who hasn't just landed on Bonkers by mistake, as I have long assumed so many visitors do. As I remark in that post:

'You would be amazed how many people find Bonkers about Perfume by looking for avocados.'

In the same post, I also fret about the possible reasons why a single follower recently left:

'Perhaps they were bemused by my post about Californian road surfaces. Or the sheer number of posts about California last month. Even readers based in California would probably agree that the attention accorded to their state was disproportionate.'

So that was then - I lost one follower and it troubled me... Fast forward to January 2016, when I started out with 166 followers, from memory. In the space of a week or so, I lost 23 followers in two huge tranches - 13, and then a further 10. In the whole of 2015 I think I was down one follower, and hadn't particularly worried about that. But 23 in a matter of days is starting to look a lot like lemmings.

Source: Jacquie Boyd via Debutart

And as a woman of a certain age, I am prone to anxiety at the best of times - it is all part and paranoid parcel of the hormonal soup which comes with this mid-life territory. If someone doesn't reply to an email for a longish period of time, I am more likely to assume the person has taken violently against me rather than that they are away, or merely busy. And so my first reaction to this mass exodus of followers was that there were rumours circulating about me somewhere in cyberspace, urging perfumistas to unfollow Bonkers at their earliest convenience. I actually found myself googling various likely permutations of search terms, such as:

'I don't like Vanessa's style of writing / Vanessa / what Vanessa said'

'Stopped reading Bonkers about Perfume'

'Unfollow Vanessa's blog'

'Bonkers about Perfume not about perfume anymore'

Source: YouTube

And more, much more, in that cringeworthy self-critical vein! You see, the fact that I ran two consecutive posts on makeup and skincare around the time this drop off in followers occurred - even though I assured readers that I would be returning to the subject of fragrance imminently - struck me as possibly significant. Maybe people suddenly got fed up with these off-topic posts. Maybe all the followers in question were men, who couldn't give a toss about lipsticks and serum, though I had no way of knowing.

So my working theory at this point was that the skincare posts - in particular my list of vacuous personal discoveries such as tying one's hair back before washing one's face and how to apply eyeshadow(!) - might have been the tipping point that turned people away in droves. And then I suddenly had the idea to google a different line of inquiry, specifically about 'losing followers suddenly on Blogger'.

And to my surprise and relief up popped a recent blog post by a chap called Chuck Croll (the 'nitecruzr' below) on this very subject, which explains what may be going on, namely that Google is eliminating followers who use Open ID accounts as opposed to Blogger / Google accounts.

Here is a helpful extract explaining the problem:

'People Following without Google accounts did not get newsfeed subscriptions.

Followers using OpenID only got their photo icon in the Followers facepile. How would OpenID Followers get a Reading List subscription? Reading List subscriptions require Blogger / Google accounts.

If you look in your Reading List and find this blog listed, you are Following this blog using a Blogger account - since the Reading List subscription is one benefit of Following. If you don't find this blog listed, you may subscribe, using Reading List - or Follow, using "Follow Me". Just use a Blogger / Google account, when you Follow.'


Chuck goes on to say that readers can also follow using Google +, but I don't think I am currently geared up for that, and need to figure out what I have to do in order to be able to post the appropriate gadget in the sidebar.

Now I can't be totally sure that this is the reason for losing such a flurry of followers this month, but given the timing of the post about the phenomenon - and the fact that even my paranoia can be offset with arguments about the 'balance of probability' - I reckon this is what is at work.

So assuming the 23 lost followers (at the time of writing that is - they may not be the last to go!), were booted off Bonkers by Google rather than deserting of their own accord, I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to them all - even though they are almost certainly not reading, or only if they are supremely determined! I hope you can figure out an alternative method / widget that works for you if you would like to receive notifications of future posts. There's Bloglovin and Follow by Email of course - I hope those are additional options, and not also dependent on a Google account.

Yep, as I said in my 2011 post, I remain 'a fair weather computer operator' and am not a little nonplussed by this widget weirdness, and readers apparently running for the hills...

And if the mass exit was in fact because of something I said - or the topics featured - I am sorry about that too, though I shall probably never know...!


Carol said...

Hello V: Yeah, lots of lost followers due to Blogger stuff - first a few weeks back, and more just recently. I also should try to figure out that Google+ app - maybe later on (though hahaaa, I probably won't get to it for a long time!)


Blacknall Allen said...

Dear me! Google does that? Oh well no surprises as it is Google's world we inhabit these days.

I wouldn't know dear, because I have few enough followers anyhow, but the ebb and flow of readers is probably a natural phenom. If you occasionally write about things other than perfume the obsessed will go elsewhere but your readers who read you for your particular voice and humor will stay. I mean that's why I read the Financial Times, so I can enjoy Lucy Kellaway, and she writes about lots of things besides business!

Tara said...

Thank goodness you figured out what was afoot, V. That's definitely it. There's no way all those people would suddenly desert at the same time or at all. You've done off-beat posts for a while and BaP is all the better for them.

Oh and just when I've learnt "facepalm" you throw "facepile"at me :)

Sun Fontaine said...

Well, I hope that it was Google - but nonetheless - if you lose followers because they don't care for your style or posts, that's nothing to fret about. You should be uniquely you and at least you know that the ones that stay love you for that! :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

I am sorry but kind of reassured that you have also experienced a drop in followers - I should have asked my fellow bloggers first and nipped the paranoia in the bud, haha!

If you get to grips with the Google + app before me, give me a shout! xx

Vanessa said...

Hi Blacknall,

You make a good point that it is Google's world we inhabit these days - soon we may even be looking at it through Google glasses!

I agree that readers come and go, but this was such an apparent stampede (well, 20 odd seemed like a stampede to super sensitive me!) that I couldn't just let it wash over me, and had to investigate.

What would be ideal is if the perfume obsessed skipped the beauty posts and came back later, but I realise that may not be the way things happen. Yet I feel sufficiently interested in makeup and skincare - where I am still finding my way/feet relative to perfume - that I will post about such things from time to time, regardless of the consequences. I am no Non-Blonde, but Gaia does manage to toggle between the two themes. There again she has always done that, so readers know where they stand, I guess.

Lucy Kellaway is great!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

LOL at 'facepalm' and 'facepile' - I have just learnt the latter thanks to that blog post. So maybe we should say that I 'Chuck' it at you, hehe.

You're right, it is true that I have done off-topic posts from time to time and appear to have got away with it. Actually - and this is an unintentional spin off - two of my skincare posts have ended up in my top ones of all time(?) in the blog sidebar. Though I don't believe I have ever done a couple of such posts back to back, so that could have put some people off. Anyway, I did relax when I found out about this widget weirdness on the part of Google!

Vanessa said...

Hi Sun Mi,

Thanks for stopping by with your take on things. Alarmed as I was at the time, I know I want to write about those other things, and accepted that that might be the price to pay!

Tiffanie said...

Hi Vanessa, I am also of a certain age where I am prone to flights of anxious musing. Don't fret, I am sure many readers are lurking about. I follow your posts via Feedly, and it works well for me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on kittens, fragrances, and other lovelies.

Anonymous said...

I think you are being totally paranoid and of course people do not leave en masse. That would be totally weird. We read Bonkers because it´s bonkers. Aus. Google controlling our lives - that is quite annoying. Bussis. xxxxx

Vanessa said...

Hi Tiffanie,

Nice to hear from you with that vote of confidence, and I am glad I am not the only one to be prone to bouts of anxiety, hehe. I hadn't even heard of Feedly, so am pleased that it works for you.

Vanessa said...

Hi Val,

I guess it was quite a far-fetched idea really, but maybe that is all part of being bonkers in the first place!

And yes, Google's meddling can be a pain at times. xxx

The Scentimentalist said...

Re: follower attrition - don't forget that many bad pennies will turn up again eventually ;-)

And google+? Meh. I never recovered from that particular "innovation".

Thinkingmagpie said...

Hahaha, Vanessa, sorry but I had a good laugh at your paranoid state. Once a Bonker's reader, always a Bonker's reader. Who can stay away from your fantastic writing? ;)

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

Hey there Vanessa,
I am still reading but come through from my blog roll. I was subscribed to a lot of blogs but something happened to my yahoo account a while ago and they all stopped feeding to it.
Anyway, don't frett. I love your writing, and your sideways thoughtful meanderings.
Portia xxx

Tatiana said...

I follow you, but not by any subscription, because this computer stuff is beyond me. I get tired of asking my Dear Husband for computer help. So I just check in a couple times a week to see what you've written, or not. I rather enjoyed the skincare, eye shadow posts.

Ines said...

Hehehe, I think the paranoia thing is a general female thing, as hormonal balance changes throughout the month. I know I suffer from it too. :)
Glad to hear your followers didn't leave of their own volition. ;)

Anonymous said...

You could write about any subject and I would still love reading your blog! But of course I am partial to perfume and kitties. Technology is quite beyond me; all I do know is that it is constantly sneaking up on me and causing havoc. I can't imagine anyone would willingly stop following you and I would blame the dark forces ....

Vanessa said...

Haha, I would never call my readers 'bad pennies'.

Google + is a complete mystery to me, I'll be honest.

Vanessa said...

You are too kind, Thinkingmagpie. Appreciate your loyal readership!

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

That's exactly what I do to read my favourite blogs. Then every so often I notice that one is missing for some reason - probably due to the complete format meltdown I experienced last year - and add it back in, as my own blog roll is a convenient and systematic way to hold a reading list.

Interesting that you have had problems with your Yahoo account - these feeder systems are a law unto themselves.

LOL at 'sideways thoughtful meanderings' - that's a pretty neat summary of my posts! xxx

Vanessa said...

Hi Tatiana,

Thanks for following in your 'low tech' but equally effective way! You would never need to check more often as I probably post once a week and occasionally slightly more.

It's good to hear that you enjoyed the skincare and makeup posts. :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

When you get to my age, I am afraid (oops, more fear!) the paranoia is generalised rather than at certain times of the month, as it used to be. Ah well, it might pass eventually. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Thanks very much for stopping by and for assuring me that it is most likely dark forces at work rather than a bunch of disaffected readers jumping off a cliff, hehe.

I completely agree about technology - I don't think I will ever catch up with its dizzying pace of change and wrongfooting!

More perfume and kittens will definitely be on the cards...;)

Pats said...

Hi Vanessa, i do understand your anxiety pet. It must be disconcerting if you see that people have left. But as everyone above has said, there can be numerous reasons - and most of the reasons probably have nothing to do with what you write or dont. There seem to be so many ways of subscribing - wordpress, email, google+ - its confusing. I mainly rely on email to let me know that you have posted and then i go look and sometimes (usually) comments.
I love all your posts, no matter what you write about, and i will always read.
In addition, you are even more special as you come from the 'motherland', mucker! lol. Patsi x

Anonymous said...

Completely off topic, but I got the Travalo package today! The classic one is the one I know already, and the Milano looks very classy indeed. Thanks to you and the Travlo folks...AnnieA

Vanessa said...

That's great news, AnnieA! I will pass on your comment to the Travalo lady.

Vanessa said...

Hi Pats,

Aw, thanks for your lovely, reassuring comment, and for your understanding of my silly reaction.

I am glad the email system for hearing about posts works. Blogger is so beset with problems that I would half expect it didn't, even though I have a 'Follow by email' widget in the sidebar, hehe.

Delighted that you enjoy my writing, and proud to come from the motherland! Just wish I got back there more often... x

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that a mass departure has everything to do with Google's updated motto: "do no harm, but own the world (which will require some harm)." Also totally understand the paranoia.

If it's any comfort, a number of commenters (not a word according to spellcheck) on Robin's blog complained about being apparently unsubscribed and other glitches. It wasn't apparent from Robin's end.

I am very content to follow by email. I appreciate that you allow anonymous comments as I am not signed up with any of the other mechanisms. I notice many bloggers don't have that as an option -- I suppose filtering can be come a nightmare or entice the trolls.

Some readers seem to think that a blog exists for their benefit -- recently someone complained on Gaia's site that they came for make-up posts, and she should not have to see any perfume posts. Sigh.

As for what you write about, please keep it up. I love the variety and your distinctive voice. I agree with thinking magpie: "once a Bonkers reader, always a Bonkers reader."

-- Lindaloo

Undina said...

Vanessa, first I wanted to tell you not to get upset because those were not real followers: you haven't noticed that 23 people stopped commenting on your posts, have you? But then I realized that my thought came from the fact of NOT having this feature on WP, so, of course, there I notice when somebody who used to come and talk to me stopped doing it but I don't really know how many people actively subscribe to my updates. At the same time, I remembered how recently I got slightly upset (as in "what happened?") when TwitterCounter (!) reported to me the loss on 1 (one!) follower. Out of 1000+. I don't even really use Twitter! I don't know who those @@ are - and still it was unpleasant for whatever strange reason. So I completely understand your paranoia - but still, don't be upset: it's definitely not you, it's "them" - be that unloyal readers or Google.
Just imagine the horror of answering to 166 comments ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Lindaloo,

Thanks for your detailed and bolstering comments. ;) Google is definitely intent on world domination - it already knows way too much (and nothing!) about my life, based on all the targeted ads that pop up.

That was interesting about the problems Robin's readers were experiencing - the plot thickens.

It would never occur to me to exclude anonymous contributors, and I only get the occasional bit of spam and the even more occasional troll. The last one I managed to block by narrowing him down to an ISP in my blog stats. It was a bloke too.

What an odd attitude to take to Gaia's blog, especially as she has always featured both kinds of product, rather than suddenly diving into a new topic.

And thanks for your ongoing readership - it is much appreciated.

On a sidenote, I appear to be in a holding pattern at 143 followers ie none have gone since I wrote this post!

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

You are quite right that the lost followers were almost certainly not regular commenters. I guess it was the empty boxes where faces used to be in the avatar mosaic that seemed a bit forlorn. And you go on to say you can relate to the feeling from your lost Twitter follower, haha. I don't really use Twitter either and wouldn't mind losing a follower there I don't think - assuming I could recall how many I had to start with. I think it was in the high 800s, but with that degree of vagueness a few could come and go and I would be none the wiser!

I have got over my paranoia now, thanks, and am ready to believe it was a quirk of Google. And goodness me, yes, answering 166 comments would be a full time job! Birgit used to get lots, especially on the Monday Questions, and it always impressed me how she turned those around.

Undina said...

... and then some of the commenters come back to continue a dialog! Every time I wish more of my readers would read my post and answer my questions, I remind myself how much time I spend when I get more than my usual 9-12 commenters per post.

Poodle said...

I think this happens more often than not on a lot of platforms. I think that people haven't posted in a while and when I look into it I see that somehow they have been dumped from my Wordpress reader list. It's happened to me quite a few times. So the bloggers have been blogging but I had no clue. I can't tell you how many times I've had to refollow a blog and I feel awful because I know they must be wondering why I left.

Vanessa said...

Haha, so they do! You are right that answering comments is time consuming. To be honest, my concern about the lack of followers was never really about the comments aspect so much as the disappearing people in my avatar 'block', just the plummeting tally of people as it seemed at the time, though it has stabilised now, touch wood. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Poodle,

Thanks for stopping by with yet more examples of widgets behaving weirdly. It is kind of you to be concerned about bloggers feeling abandoned - my post is evidence of just that! At the same time, what a nuisance for you having to refollow blogs. So many odd things happening with this whole blog mechanics issue.