My best attempt at "symbolizing" community
My best attempt at “symbolizing” community

Beyond the solitary writing exercise and the somewhat “dry” technical aspect of managing a website, blogging includes a more social component. Indeed, posting an article online is a bit like sending a bottle off at sea: you hope that, somehow, it will be found in the cyberspace and that someone will care enough to read it, subscribe to the blog, follow it, and maybe even interact with you. Crazy, eh?

I think I’d still write even if no one was around to read, but let’s face it: having a small audience makes things much more enjoyable. For me, this is not a popularity contest. Sure, everybody says that… But I mean it. I refuse to compete with anyone but myself. I decided popularity contests weren’t for me back in middle school, and I got a nice reminder of why the other day when I asked Mark which one he liked best, the cute dog he just petted or mommy. Don’t worry, I still made him dinner. No, I didn’t serve the dog…

People are often quick to make fun of lame websites, poor grammar use, navel-gazing thoughts. This is not my blogging community. The blogs I follow are funny, informative, thought-provoking, serious or touching. One of the reasons why I started blogging was because I genuinely enjoy reading articles online. Blogs were a great addition to my reading habits—books, mostly literary fiction and thrillers—because each provides an interesting snapshot of a person, a situation, a place. For me, reading blogs is like getting a spoonful of each ice cream flavour at the store.

Today, I still follow around 50 personal blogs in English, French and Spanish, plus dozens of bigger new outlets and online magazines. Of course, not all of them publish new content every day and many stop blogging along the way, but I enjoy following these authors and their 1,000-word-or-less updates. I’m mostly drawn to the lives of other immigrants, not just in Canada but around the world, and I love travel blogs, articles on cultural differences and good writers with a sense of humour.

I try to foster a good community spirit around this blog as well and do my part to thank all those who took the time to read my thought, share insight or debate around a topic. I reply to every single comment, usually once a day. If a new reader also has a blog, I always visit it, out of politeness and curiosity. This is how I discover many gems, hidden in the World Wide Web! However, I never “force” myself to read a blog if I’m not interested in the main topic.

Although everybody seems to complain about troll and online bullying, I rarely have to deal with such annoyances. Spam is my biggest issue, but Akismet takes care of it.

I don’t participate in link exchanges, contests or memes much anymore, mostly because I got tired of it and I found very little value in these activities. Link exchange is often a “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” and many blogs are abandoned by their author, but I still have a list of my favourite often-updated blogs here. As for memes, a few are fun to read but I find most are “fillers.” Once in a while, I follow up on interview requests (duh, it’s flattering…), participate in real-life events or even meet up with other bloggers in person.

Anyone can also contact me through an online form. Every week, I receive dozens of emails that mostly fall into three categories. First, typical blog services spam, such as:


I came across your website, and noticed that you may be interested in getting lazer targeted traffic to your website fast. You can get 5,000 targeted people interested in your businesses niche coming to your website in only days.

Best of all, unlike pay per click where you can spend thousands to get this much traffic, we are offering it to your business for only $39.00.

Since I don’t give a fuck, I hit “delete.” See how easy it is to manage a blog?

The second category is trickier, this is people with questions related to Canada and immigration. I used to reply to everybody, then I got tired of it. A few years ago, I publish “guidelines” and How To NOT ask for help. Now I simply ignore questions that are no prefaced by “hello” or other normal social niceties and urge me to “answer fast” without any “thank you” thrown in somewhere. I don’t have the time nor the skills to untangle immigration matters, mentor prospective immigrants or marry someone for citizenship (no, really) and I have zero patience for people who expect me to be at their service.

In the third category are genuine questions, usually specific and relevant, comments following an article or fun offers. I reply to all of these emails.

Now, your turn, dear community!

Do you care about the number of readers/comments you get? How do you discover new blogs? Do you have any cool blog to recommend? Can we stay friends??


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  1. kiky June 13, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Since I write to keep my sanity, I blog to keep me insane :)) It doesn’t really matter how many comments I made. But you know, years ago some readers do hate me for mixing up my language and english. I guess they stop reading mine. hell..yeah..some words are better in English and vice versa -___- I am not good at choosing language.

    However, there is a trend in my country lately, a paid writer/blogger. for me, it makes their writings are not enjoyable, probably because they were paid to write some positives things about a product/restaurant or an event. once I read one of your post that said ” do not left your day job…” or something like that, I feel like I want to show them. A friend did quit his job as an accountant to be travel blogger…it’s his choice tho.

    I usually find a new blog thru a forum or Instagram account and find yours when I was considering moving to your side of the world (eh..have i told you this?)

    oh em geee….such a long comment! -__-

    1. Zhu June 13, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Eh, don’t stop using some English, I love it… I get to pick up the gist of your posts! 😆 Funny how some commenters tell you how to do things, especially when it goes well beyond the simple suggestion. Some trolls have way too much free time!

      Paid blogging is big here too. I do publish sponsored content once in a while, it pays the bills (literally, hosting bills mostly). It represents less than 1% of my articles, so I’m okay with the compromise but I understand it gets frustrating for readers to simply read product reviews.

      1. kiky June 13, 2016 at 9:21 pm

        I get to pick up the gist of your posts ==> hahahha, that’s sweet, thank you.
        unfortunately, you can’t use google translation either, too much Indonesia slang and local content if I ever write in my language 😉 even for an Indonesian who has been away from their country for quite some time.

        1. Zhu June 13, 2016 at 10:59 pm

          Oh, I know… I tried 😆 I find your language fascinating though, as a linguist.

    2. Bee Ean June 14, 2016 at 5:04 am

      Hi Kiky,

      I’m interested to read your blog if you don’t mind giving me your blog address. I’m a Malaysian living in France, I would like to read a blog that has Bahasa in it.

      1. kiky June 14, 2016 at 10:12 pm

        HI BEE-AN! greeting from Jakarta.
        are you from KL?

        1. Zhu June 15, 2016 at 2:57 pm

          *I love when people connect here :-)*

  2. Frenchie au Canada June 13, 2016 at 10:52 am

    I love finding blogs by lurking in the comment section and clicking on links. I used to have an English blog, I maintained it for 5 years but ended up putting it private, and now I write in French, It’s an enjoyable outlet for me and I like the interaction with readers and other blogs. However, like you, I am not doing it to compete or get millions of view.
    As a matter of fact, for me and my blog, it’s good to keep it small enough that I can be honest and without worrying about who might see it… It’s a delicate balance 🙂

    1. Zhu June 13, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      I think I found yours through Lexie’s blog. I liked your comments, they were thoughtful, beyond the usual “loved it, thx bye!” so I was happy to see you had a blog.

      I’m not worried about my privacy. I feel… happy with what I share and what I keep private. This balance works for me. I use “Zhu” because it’s easier to write and remember than my full name, but my real identity is not a secret. My blog was found many times by many employers and they usually liked it 😆

      1. Frenchie au Canada June 13, 2016 at 4:57 pm

        I’m pretty comfortable with what I share, I make sure of it 🙂 But it’s a bit different since you work freelance I guess? I don’t know, I was always worried that it might be frowned upon by a bigger company, or that everyone in my office would know everything about me…
        And I’m kinda hiding because I worry my friends (I used that in the broad sense of the term) who don’t read blog may not understand it. Hence, why it’s not linked to my Facebook for instance 🙂
        And I try to always be thoughtful in my comments since I see them as a way to start a dialogue (like here 😉 )

        1. Zhu June 13, 2016 at 10:58 pm

          I worked for the government and a Crowd corporation before, and for the latter my director definitely read my blog 😆 As a freelancer, now I see it as my portfolio. Let’s face it, I have so many articles that I doubt anyone would read them all and know all about me. I don’t know… I feel in control of what I share, unlike on social networks like FB (which is why I’m not on FB in the first place). There is nothing I’m ashamed of that I shared, although I do try to avoid swearing at work!

          A few of my friends in Ottawa read the blog occasionally. My mum deciphers it when we travel, other members of the family as well I think.

          What’s off limit to me… the house, our exact address, pictures of Mark that are too intimate (i.e. bath pics, etc.) I don’t post pictures of my family but Feng and Mark (usually when we travel). Some mothers keep their kids’ identity private, which I completely understand. My philosophy is that anyone can take a picture of Mark outside and share it so whatever, at least I take good pictures of him. If as he grows up he wants me to stop talking about him, I will. I make sure I never embarrass him.

          1. Frenchie au Canada June 14, 2016 at 1:09 pm

            Sounds like you are pretty clear on what your limits are… I think part of the issue is that I’m still trying to figure that out… Though of course our address (and even the name of our town come to think of it) are private for me.
            As for the pictures you put of Mark ,and what you write about him, for what it’s worth I think you strike a great balance. Some people end up sharing way too much (he pooped today, he has issues with his foreskin…) or putting pictures that should be kept private. But as you said, a picture of him outside somewhere is not a private moment.

          2. Zhu June 14, 2016 at 3:15 pm

            Now all I can think of is “man, I never worried about Mark’s foreskin… should I???” 😆

            I’m not on Facebook and my friends are not oversharers so I never had to endure pictures of first poop, first diaper disaster, etc. Which is great, because I have very little patience for that. Honestly, the only super weird picture I have is… ahem, my placenta. What?? I was curious to see what it looked like after birth, so I was taking pictures of it 😆 I had just given birth though, so that’s my excuse.

            I never given that much thought about these privacy issues. I think I was lucky that I started blogging fairly early on, before Facebook, and I mostly wanted to tell stories rather than doing a “me, myself and I”. So obviously there is some navel-gazing involved as I use the first person, but I’m interested in the world, cultural differences, etc. rather than my own life.

          3. Zhu June 14, 2016 at 3:16 pm

            Je me le garde pour ma lecture du soir 😉

          4. Frenchie au Canada June 14, 2016 at 3:30 pm

            Haha had to laugh about the foreskin. We were talking about the American obsession with circumcision with the Scotsman the other day. I was referring to someone talking about their son who had a foreskin infection and it was sore. I’m pretty sure their kid will resent that when they get older….
            And I can understand taking a pic of your placenta. I used to work in IT and people would sometimes have their pictures play in the background when their computer went to sleep. I learned from that that people take much much more intimate pictures during birth, and that they really should be kept in a private file….

          5. Zhu June 14, 2016 at 7:00 pm

            Oh, these pictures are private! I mean, come on… is that something you want to stare at every freaking day???? A swollen vagi… oh, never mind 😆

            I skipped these pictures actually. I was busy getting that kid out and I’m pretty sure Feng was busy staring at the ceiling and listening to me scream. I think the very first picture is this one:

            And if you are curious:

  3. Frenchie au Canada June 13, 2016 at 10:54 am

    And I just realised I’m on your list! Thanks 🙂
    I would absolutely add your blog to mine if I had one BTW

  4. Bee Ean June 14, 2016 at 5:13 am

    It is nice to see a comment when I post (thanks Zhu for always leaving a comment). Real comments are interesting, I still read back comments I had a while back on Socialists vs capitalists topics, heated dicussions sometimes.

    What I love is the exchanges with people and sometimes able to help. I get an email from time to time asking me about live in France, how to get married in France, cost of living…it reminded me of how I was having the some hesitations / doubts a while back.

    I also like to blog about cultural differences, when I read back my posts, I’m surprised as how I have well accepted certain things or still have trouble accepting others ( like kisses with everyone, I still have hard liking it).

    1. Zhu June 14, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      I love your articles because you are living so close to home (well, really, “home”!) and you have a multicultural family as well. I can relate to some parts of your life and I love questioning “normal” French customs!

  5. Shannon June 14, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    I discover new blogs now anymore mostly from recommendations from people I know. Or possibly by clicking on links on blogs I really like.

    I’ve fallen out of blogging these past few years partly from lack of motivation, partly because I feel the community has changed. Do you ever feel that way? I keep trying to get back into blogging but just haven’t found the right inspiration yet.

    1. Zhu June 14, 2016 at 7:02 pm

      I feel the change too! I keep on wondering if it’s just a change in my tiny corner of the web or whether it’s a more global change. I like READING blogs. I don’t care much for Instagram, Twitter (although it can be entertaining) or vlogging. Yet, I feel people go for these easier media now.

  6. I Say Oui June 14, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    I am SO flattered to be on your list of blogs, you have no idea!!

    I do care about how many people read, and dialogue is even better, but at the same time I don’t publicize my blog through any social media sites and often don’t think of mentioning it to people I meet even though it is public.

    I don’t remember how I found you, but I’m glad I did, as your writing is at times entertaining, at times informative, and at times reflective. Basically I think people are drawn to blogs they can connect with in some way or another. And you’re right that they’re a peek into other people’s lives.

    1. Zhu June 15, 2016 at 2:58 pm

      Aw, don’t be flattered, you’re fun to read! I like the way you analyze your environment and I enjoy your writing, so I hope other readers will follow your adventures.

  7. Lexie June 17, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Yesss, j’en ai deux découverts il y a peu que je te recommande : Papa pis dada, un blog de père dans un couple homoparental, et la parfaite maman cinglante Deux blogues québécois. Je lis pas mal de blogues d’expats, qq blogs de cuisine, je zappe sur des blogues de création couture ou de chroniques de bouquins aussi à l’occasion. Je ne crois pas avoir un très grand nombre de followers mais j’aime ça avoir des gens avec qui discuter. J’ai remarqué que ceux qui me suivent sont des gens qui ont pas mal les mêmes idées que moi. À chaque sujet un peu polémique j’attends le commentaire qui me fera me demander jusqu’où va la liberté d’expression pis si j’ai le droit de le supprimer, mais je crois que ça vient avec la célébrité en fait 🙂

  8. Gail at Large June 26, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Re: spam. A plugin I started using at least a year ago that’s much better than Akismet is WP-SpamShield. I tested them individually and together, and the best scenario is together. WP-SpamShield had a couple of false positives, but otherwise it works like a dream. I also use it for the contact form.

    1. Zhu June 26, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      Thank you for the tip!

  9. Saskboy June 28, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    I get very little blog spam now, probably because I only write about weekly instead of daily. I just realized I haven’t even looked at my blog stats or referral links, in months. Part of this is from keeping a journal off my blog for a while.


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