Follow AllEars.net Founder Deb Wills on her journeys near and far via Walt Disney World, the Disney Cruise Line, and Adventures by Disney as she shares her planning thoughts and details of her trips and various Disney experiences. Deb is also active raising funds and awareness in the fight against Breast Cancer!
Today is Thanksgiving, a holiday tradition that began many years ago with the Pilgrims who came to the United States. It is my tradition at Thanksgiving dinner to share what I am thankful for and hope others do the same. While my life has had its share of ups and downs, I am very blessed to have been given so much. Today is a day, I like to especially think about that and give thanks!
This year has been quite an adventure! The first half of the year was full of family health issues that, thankfully, all turned out just fine!
The second half of the year was spent getting our Maryland home ready for sale and for house hunting in Florida. I won't mince words - this was a VERY VERY stressful journey. It seemed like each half step forward meant two back. There were times I wondered if it would all work out. I'm happy and thankful to tell you it did!
A few weeks ago the movers loaded our home and belongings in Maryland, we loaded our cars and took the autotrain to Florida (Thank you Mike, Carla and Donna for all your tips).
Today as you read my blog, we are celebrating our first Thanksgiving in our new home in a new state, Florida!
It's always been a dream of mine to settle in Central Florida one day. Not just to escape the grey, cold winters of the mid-Atlantic, but to be closer to Walt Disney World. Almost 16 years ago, I founded the AllEars® website. The website took me on a journey I could never have imagined and I still marvel at what each year brings.
Through the electronic reach of AllEars, I have been able to meet some incredible people from around the world.
I have been able to accomplish some amazing things. As an advocate in the fight against breast cancer, I have been able to raise over $300,000 with your help! Huge kudos to the Team AllEars who Run With Purpose and have raised over $75,000 of that total.
With the generosity of many AllEars advertisers and many magic making Cast Members, we recently helped created a week of pure Disney Magic for a very special family with a very ill child.
I am so thankful for all the wonderful, kind, generous people that are in my life. People I probably would have never met, if not for the website.
I am thankful for the past and present members of the AllEars team who help bring you a bit of the magic 365 days a year.
And I am also so thankful for the hundreds of thousands of you I may never meet. You come to the site, support the advertisers and send us emails thanking us for helping you have a magical vacation or even, just a magical day.
I am so very thankful for my loved ones and friends - who smile and laugh with me and are gentle and supportive when needed.
So on this day of thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for all that I have. May you reflect today on all that you have and remember - Dreams do come true!
The polls have recently closed, the counting of the ballots has begun and AllEars® is projecting that the year 2010 will go down as the fastest year in history... by a landslide.
Where did the time go? Seconds turned into minutes, which turned into hours. Days quickly turned to weeks and weeks to months, and here we are again, looking down the throat of another holiday season.
As with all holiday seasons it gives us time to reflect on not just this past year but also all the years of our lives. These years serve as chapters in our lives. Chapters that when strung together make for a book... a book about us.
When I think about Christmas I think about some memorable things I'd like to share with you. It all starts with coming clean with my children, who after some 30 years will finally hear something from me that I thought I would never reveal.
I was Santa Claus. Yes, I was.
A long time ago I purchased a Santa Claus suit, one of the best you could buy. Very detailed, crushed velvet. And I bought a Santa Claus beard, wig, and pair of spectacles from the Boston Theatrical Company. I wanted to play Santa Claus for the 35 houses in our neighborhood and for my children.
I was the chairperson for the Employee Activities Committee for the company I worked for at that time. We came up with some ideas to add value not only to the employees' holiday season, but also to our families' and to those less fortunate than us. One year we decided to do something special, so we contacted a local orphanage and arranged to have the children brought to our building to enjoy a Christmas party. Though we arranged this Christmas party for many years, it is this first year we did it that will always have a special place in my heart.
A few weeks before this party we put up a few Christmas trees in the cafeteria, and on these trees were special cards. Written on each card was the name of a child from the orphanage and a Christmas wish -- that is, what the child was asking Santa to bring for Christmas. The cards went fast. My co-workers were always generous and their generosity and spirit of giving was never higher than during the holiday season.
On that special Friday evening in December the children were bused to our company and we brought them into our festive cafeteria. The memory that I hold very dear happened that night. It was all about believing in Santa Claus.
Of course, I was Santa that evening and Santa and his elves had cake and ice cream and all kinds of treats for the children, but before they enjoyed those goodies the children had to first visit Santa and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. As each child came up to me and told me their wish, I handed them a candy cane and then one of my elves would give them a present. All the children were very excited to come to this party. Well, almost all the children were.
On this particular evening there was one 14-year-old boy who just didn't want to be there. His name was Jeff. It is hard to imagine how anyone could abandon a child, but it is not hard to imagine that the child would grow up wondering why life had dealt him such a hand. Jeff was the oldest boy at the orphanage, and had dealt with his hand for a long time. It was obvious he did not want to be at this party. Santa was a long-lost memory for Jeff.
I knew what Jeff wanted for Christmas -- a bike. Even though Jeff had not filled out a card for our tree, one of the caretakers at the orphanage with whom Jeff had gotten close knew what the teen wanted. He or she had filled out the card and had written "bike" on it.
As the children made their way to me I could see Jeff in line, looking like he was on his way to a root canal. When he finally got to the front of the line, he was a trooper. He knew that the younger children were excited so he played along, but it was clear his heart wasn't in it.
When he came up to me, I called him by name and one of his eyebrows reached for the ceiling. He tilted his head and gave me a puzzled look. I asked him how everything was going and he slowly said, "OK." He wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.
As I was talking to Jeff he did not notice there was a wall of my fellow employees forming behind him. Are you catching on?
"So Jeffrey!" I said, "I try real hard to make everyone's Christmas wish come true, and it takes a lot of work. Sometimes I try so hard my head hurts, and I sometimes forget what's on my list. What was at the top of your Christmas list this year?"
Jeffrey was in agony, but he took a deep breath, thought about the cake and ice cream awaiting him and said in a low tone, "Nothing really."
I began to feel for this boy so much that I went into action real fast.
"Wait Jeffrey, I do remember! I remember what you wanted."
Jeffrey lifted his head, tilted it to one side and again looked at me as if I had reindeer antlers growing out of my Santa hat. I had his attention.
"And I think... I think... HO HO HO! I think there is a surprise for you if you would just turn around."
Jeffrey spun around and saw the bike. The employees had slipped it behind him while I was talking with him. Did I forget to mention to you that we had gotten this teen his Christmas wish?
Jeffrey ran to the bike and just before he got to it he spun back around and raced towards me, sporting a big smile, gave me a hug and said, "Thank you, Santa!" He then ran back to the bike.
As Santa I had to maintain my composure. But Mrs. Santa to my right, my elves, and all the employees were fumbling for tissues, as I am right now, recalling that night. It was a moment that none of us would ever forget, especially Jeff. I just know that somewhere he is enjoying this Christmas season and doing whatever he can to nurture his children's belief in Santa Claus.
So this is what this AllEars® holiday newsletter is all about. Belief. We all need to believe in something, to get us through the day... to get us through life.
That same year I made a number of house calls as Santa. When I made these house calls and had several children with whom to visit, I brought candy canes, jingle bells, and "The Polar Express," a wonderful book that I loved to read to the children. After reading the book I would ask the children to give me their Christmas wishes and ask them if I could give them mine. This was always met with smiles and sometimes excitement. Wow, Santa wants to tell me HIS Christmas Wish?
So I would tell the children that lately I'd been having difficulty making my one-night trip around the world and delivering gifts to everyone.
"Why Santa?" I was asked.
I would tell them that lately people had not been nice to each other and that affected my power. I also told them that what most children don't know is that when they believe in me, I receive energy from them and this energy gives me power to do my job. However, when someone stops believing in me, that's when I feel a little weak and find it hard to do my job. So I asked them if they could help me. Of course by now they were on the edge of their seats, because they had an opportunity to help Santa.
"Yes, Santa!" was the unanimous cry.
I smiled and reached for my sack. I pulled out a jingle bell about the size of a golf ball with a red ribbon on it.
"I had the elves make these bells from the runners from my old sleighs. There seems to be magic in them. I have one for each of you. Before you go to sleep on Christmas Eve I would like you to shake your bell three times and say, 'I believe in you Santa!' If you will do that for me, I will be able to deliver all the presents on Christmas Eve. I need your help!"
Every time -- every single time I did that when visiting a house -- the children would jump to their feet and shake their heads and hold out their hands for the bells. I placed a bell in each child's hand and thanked them individually, making sure I used their names and looked deeply into their eyes. Of course the parents ate this up and even today when I run across these parents they will stop and say, "My children may have grown up, but they continue to believe in the magic of Santa Claus."
It's all about believing.
All of us here at AllEars® enjoy what we do. It's a labor of love. Make no mistake about it -- it IS work, but we enjoy it. We enjoy bringing to you as much information as we can and in the best manner possible. We believe in our brand and follow the lead of a very special lady, Deb Wills, who challenges us to incorporate integrity and quality into everything we do.
Along the line as we do reviews, blogs, photo reports, and lately a live call-in show, we find we get our energy from you... just as Santa gets his energy from the children around the world who believe in him. That's what keeps him going. Your belief in AllEars® and what that brand stands for is what motivates all of us at AllEars®.
You are the power source that helps us find the energy to collect those details about an upcoming event, to do reviews on new restaurants as soon as they open up, to write blogs that help you find Hidden Mickeys, to show you how to take great photos, or perhaps even how to go about training to run a half or full marathon. Your visits to AllEars®, your emails to us, your subscriptions to the newsletter, are very much giving us the same thing as what I asked those children to do for Santa and what I hope I instilled in Jeffrey with that bicycle.
So in this holiday season all of us here are AllEars® want to express our sincere thanks to you for believing in us for 15 years. We hope that you continue to believe in us for years to come as we try to serve you and the Disney internet community as best we can. We wish you the warmest, safest, most joyous holiday season and hope that the New Year brings with it health and prosperity to you and your family.
Oh, and before I forget -- to my daughter Holly, and son Mike, Jr. -- if you two did not catch the confession early on, yes, that was me in the Santa suit all those years.
On November 16th, All Ears announced the FOURTH ANNUAL IllumiNations Party Ticket Giveaway for 10 lucky folks!! To make it more than just a "send us your name" opportunity we ask you to submit a short writeup. This year we asked, "In 30 words or less, tell me why you would like to be my guest at this special IllumiNations party."
This annual event is one way for me to say thank you to many folks that are part of the global "All Ears" family" including members of the AllEars team, some of the AllEars Advertisers, close friends of AllEars, winners of charity auctions and also folks who "won" the free tickets! Each person selected in the giveaway announced Nov 16th was given 2 tickets to the event (list of winners below).
Please send me an email if you are in one of these photos and I didn't include your name!
The evening began by everyone checking in at the Italy pavillion area and receiving a special event souvenir credential.
Lynette and Catherine Huey won tickets via the MagicMeets July 2009 Auction for Make a Wish:
Linda Cobb, AllEars Advertiser Shontell Crawford (DVCbyResale.com) and Vickie Barrett
We went to our special viewing area at the Italy Isola where desserts were a plenty!
James and Linda Dezern
All Ears team members Mike Scopa and Fred Block
Brian Thompson, Justin Muchoney (former Disney Chief Magical Official) and Deb
Buddy and Michelle Carter
AllEars team members Mike Scopa, Michelle Scribner-MacLean and Jack Marshall
Soon it was time for a special showing of Illuminations with the holiday tag:
But wait, there is MORE!
Time for some extra extra magic -- times TWO!
Who is that Deb's talking to, hasn't the park closed????
WOW! Look where we are!
Extra Magic #1 - Everyone gets a ride on Test Track - no waiting!!!!!
On the December 2009 WDWToday Live Podcast, I offered up a pair of tickets to this event for auction with funds going directly to my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Rob and Renee Woods submitted the winning bid ($200) and the person in 2nd place was willing to match that amount so Jeff and Larry Chaney also won tickets.
They got to ride with Deb in the first Test Track car of the night!!!!!
Row 1: Larry Chaney, Rob and Renee Woods
Row 2: Jeff Chaney, Deb and Sara Moore (AllStar Vacation Homes)
AllEars Ticket Winners:
Row 1: Steve and Lisa Pantano
Row 2: Richard Wheatcroft and Diana Fellowes
After everyone had a chance to ride Test Track we were directed away from the regular ride exit and down a hallway. What's going on?
WAIT there is STILL MORE Magic to Come !!!
Oh my gosh -- look who it is....
Race Car Driver Mickey Mouse in the GM VIP Lounge of Test Track!!!
For the next half hour, everyone got to enjoy the private VIP Lounge at Test Track and a very very unique photo op with Race Car Driver Mickey! A couple of the cast members said they'd never seen Mickey in that outfit before!
Scroll down for photos of folks with Mickey. We weren't able to get everyone's photo but for those we did get, let me know if you'd like a higher res (640 or larger image).
The AllEars team gets to enjoy a photo op with Mickey!
A VERY special thank you to the folks at MEI and MouseFanTravel for the coordination and logistics of making this special event happen! Here's a photo of Colleen, Annette, Mickey and Beci.
Here's a list of the 13 "winners" (we added 3 more pairs of tickets to the original amount):
Margie Mason and Guest
Matthew Evans and Stacy Patterson
Steve and Lisa Pantano
Richard Wheatcroft and Diana Fellowes
Jeffrey and Erika Heller (Jeffrey just returned from serving in Iraq)
Bill and Robin Pappas (Bill just returned home from Iraq)
Gwen and Leland Wilcox
Ron and Debbie Wills
Phyllis and John Fedele
Terri Daugherty and Andrea Dodd
Steven Bassett and Bonny Batty
John and Laura Thompson
Penny and Robert Bowman
Hope everyone had a magical time! See you REAL soon!
It's time for the FOURTH ANNUAL IllumiNations Party Ticket Giveaway!!!!
Have you ever wandered around Epcot in the evening and seen those people in the private IllumiNations viewing areas? Have you ever wondered how YOU could be one of those lucky people?
As a special holiday thanks to all our readers AllEars® is giving away 10 pairs of tickets to a Private VIP IllumiNations Reception to be held in Epcot on Sunday evening, December 13, 2009. Meet time will be approximately 8:15 pm (inside Epcot) with a special after-IllumiNations experience that may last 45-60 minutes after IllumiNations (different from last year's magic :)
You must have your own admission into Epcot.
You and your guest must be 18 years of age or older.
To enter, send an email to email@example.com no later than midnight East Coast USA time on Monday, November 23. Winners will be emailed and announced no later than December 3.
Email Subject line should say: IllumiNations Dream Tickets
In 30 words or less, tell me why you would like to be my guest at this special IllumiNations party.
All decisions are final. I am not responsible for lost emails. This is ONLY for two tickets to the Private IllumiNations event on Sunday December 13, 2009. No other date or event may be substituted. This offer does not include air, hotel, theme park admission, travel, souvenirs or anything else. ONLY the IllumiNations party event.
You may not transfer your ticket.
Anyone who will be in Epcot on December 13, 2009 is eligible.
This is a land-based event and not the IllumiNations boat cruise.
Meet time is subject to change – Meet location will be provided to winners approximately 7 days prior to event.
Anyone from any country who meets the criteria above may enter.
Event may be changed/cancelled at any time by Disney Special Events and/or the weather. No rain checks, no substitutions. No makeup date.
Also on May 1st Kidani Village officially opens. Blogger and Feature Writer Jack Spence will be staying at the new resort and blogging about his experience at the resort, at Sanna and the new recreation area! And if you haven't already seen the Preview Tour Jack had of Kidani Village, be sure to go over to his blog and look at the beautiful photos, there are 3 separate blogs on the new resort!
May 2nd and 3rd is a very special non-Disney event. I'll be participating in the Washington DC Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. As a 23 year survivor this event is very near and dear to me. I want to thank the hundreds of folks who have supported my efforts in the fight against this disease! Together we have raised over $42,000!!!! And still counting!
No sooner am I finished with the Breast Cancer event, then Linda and I pack up for our stay at the brand new Kidani Village! We plan to spend most of our time at Kidani enjoying the new resort and also the flavors of Sanaa! We already have an AllEars meet (tour of Kidani) scheduled which has reached capacity. We look forward to seeing everyone. Joining from the AllEars team in addition to Linda and myself will be Jack Spence, Andrea McKenna and Mike Bachand. To keep up with AllEars Team events and appearances be sure to check our AllEars Team Meets page!
At the end of May, I'll be heading to WDW again and this time to stay at both Saratoga Springs and the new Tree House Villas. Joining me at the Tree House will be AllEars team members Debbie Koma and Jack Marshall. You can be sure we will be sending reports with photos! I do plan to hold a meet over the weekend of May 30-31 (details not available yet) and we will also have a limited meet at the TreeHouse Villa (details again not yet available). Remember that link above for the AllEars Team Meets? Keep an eye on it!
Things quiet down (at least for me) until August when Bay Lake Tower opens! I will be at WDW the weekend of August 2-4 and have a reservation at Bay Lake Tower on opening day, August 3rd! I won't be able to stay as long as I had planned so Jack Spence will be filling in for me the next 2 nights and blogging with his take on the new resort!
I fly home and turn right around because the 6th Annual MagicMeets Weekend is August 7-9th! AllEars Team Members Mike Scopa, Michelle Scribner-MacLean, Scott Thomas, Glo from Miami, Erin Blackwell, Linda and myself will be at the event.
Later in August I am co-hosting the Quest for the West - Adventure by Disney with my pals Steve Barrett (Hidden Mickeys) and Mike Newell (WDWToday.com podcast and MouseWorldRadio). You can bet we will be filing reports during this trip.
September travel includes the D23 Expo which will be held in California. Then in October I'll be back out west for the Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic Tour. We will be setting up an AllEars meet over the weekend of October 11-12. So stay tuned for that announcement too.
Debbie Koma will be covering Epcot's Food and Wine Festival in October.
In December, I'll be on the MouseFanTravel Fan Cruise and then onto land.
Then there are lots of events I didn't even mention that we will do our best to cover; like Star Wars Weekends, Summer Concert Series in Epcot and much much more.
3 New DVC Resorts in Walt Disney World, 2 Adventures by Disney trips, 1 D23 Expo, plus a cruise and more. Whew! One thing is for sure, I'll be racking up those Frequent Flyer miles!
Here is how you can follow my trips and share in the fun and adventure.
First, when possible, I will file blog reports. I've learned not to say "live blogging" because that is near impossible, but I will be blogging.
Twitter allows me to write a 140 character update and I can also post photos. It's fairly easy to do from my cell phone and provides the quickest way for me to update my status. I can even send photos one at a time via Twitter as well.
So, between Twitter, Facebook and my Blog, you'll be able to follow along with me and the rest of the AllEars Team through out the next several months as we travel across the US to enjoy a number of brand new Disney experiences!
Last fall we did a survey on the AllEars® newsletter and also asked a few questions about this website. We received a LOT of constructive feedback -- thank you! We've been trying to address the issues, concerns and suggestions, making changes here and there where appropriate, and we are still, albeit slowly, sifting through your comments.
Here's one comment we received that I want to share -- below are my thoughts:
"This is not a comment on the newsletter, but rather one on the website. I think that it is unprofessional to promote blogs from a particular trip and then not blog daily -- e.g., a guest blog I followed with anticipation, and then there would be days with no update. Also, the Deb and Steve cruise was very poorly put together (blogging-wise). Day One, update, fast-forward and it still is not updated and the Magic is in drydock now. I just think that if the site is going to promote 'follow along with me' type of blogs, then the bloggers should update daily."
Let me begin by saying that whenever AllEars® has promoted "Live Blogging," we have had every good intention of making sure that the blog was updated on a daily basis. We want to provide our readers with up-to-date information and "live blogging" is one of the ways we can do that. I promise it wasn't a gimmick to get you to click on the links every day. We honestly felt it was something we could do; sadly, we have found it is not always going to happen.
Sometimes while on a trip the unexpected or unanticipated happens -- bad weather, lack of connectivity, illness, or just plain exhaustion! We intend to post a blog, but life sometimes gets in the way.
Our guest bloggers have an especially hard time with this. They are excited, want to share particular aspects of their trip, but have no idea the amount of time it takes to do a blog. They may start out well, but find the task of submitting a blog at the end of a very long day a bit overwhelming.
I can do no more at this point than tell you I hear you loud and clear and offer an apology for not following through on our commitment at times.
To remedy this situation, we've run the last several multi-part blogs from guest bloggers after the fact, rather than "live." Take the recent Animal Kingdom Lodge Concierge blog, for example. I waited until I had all the entries and all the photos before making the blog live online. I'll continue to do that, most of the time, but we still may experiment with "live blogging" now and then.
One other point I would also like to mention is that we are all volunteers. No one is getting paid to blog. That said, we certainly do not mean to appear unprofessional in our presentation, not in the sense of being sloppy or careless. So the point of the remark is valid and has been given consideration.
Last but not least, I want to give KUDOS and a huge shout out to AllEars® team member Laura Gilbreath! Laura is really quite good at blogging each day (or darn close to it) when she commits to doing it! Thank you, Laura.
So, I thank you for this comment -- and all of the feedback you all submitted on the survey and the emails you send us every day. We will make every effort to follow through on all of our commitments -- not just when it comes to "live blogging," but in all aspects of bringing you the AllEars.Net website and the weekly AllEars® newsletter!
Here are more comments (and a few responses) from the ALLEARS® Blog Central feedback survey!
COMMENT: "Calling these "Blog"s implies that they are updated nearly every day, which I know is a lot of work, but it would be best if one of the many blogs could have a new entry each day. That would keep me coming back. Thank you for all your hard work!!!"
DEB: The ultimate goal is to have a team of bloggers so that there is something new each day. Right now, we are still in Phase I and flexing our muscles a bit to see what possibilities exist. Your feedback in the survey is helping us to form the Blog Central Team!
COMMENT: "Your "blogs don't support comments, which is a major feature that turns the blog from a static experience into an interactive one - the main reason I don't read your blogs often is the lack of commenting."
DEB: You are correct, comments are a major part of blogs. We have chosen, at least during Phase I, to not allow comments. We are considering this for a future enhancement.
COMMENT: You "should have younger demographic 18-35 type." AND "The only thing I like to add would be that you don't have a younger demographic rep to add their thoughts on your blog. For example, Pleasure Island is virtually empty of useful info for a club setter. Just throwing that out."
COMMENT: Folks both loved and well, didn't care for, our Blogs about the Mediterranean Cruise. One reader writes: "3 Bloggers on the same cruise seemed like a waste, especially when I had no interest in the European cruise."
All Ears Blog Central will provide a more up close and personal view of Disney through the eyes of those blogging. Our topics will be broad and will include Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, special Disney related events, basically anything under the umbrella of Disney.
The topics on the blogs may also weave back and forth depending on what's going on and where we happen to be. For instance, in less than 2 weeks Deb, Mike Scopa and Steve Barrett will be attending the annual MagicMeets event in PA. We plan to blog from that event and also have readers blogging live with their reports! We plan to do the same at MouseFest in December.
We have several niche blogs - like Mike Scopa's Running with Mickey series and Steve Barrett's Hidden Mickeys quest; more are in the pipeline! Have an idea for a Disney blog -contact us! Some readers expressed interest in learning more about Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland.
Now specifically regarding the Mediterranean Cruise reports -- It just so happened that the Med cruise was the first ever Disney cruise in that part of the world. In the broad world of Disney travel, it was big news. A number of All Ears® team members decided to travel together on that cruise. Disney did not (nor do they ever) pay for us to go on a trip and report about it. Each of us spent our own money for our vacation cruise. Yes, it was our vacations. The blog reports were not the reason for taking the cruise - but we felt it was important enough in the world of Disney Cruise Line that we wanted to take the time and share our experiences with you.
I know this is a long response but the bottom line is we now offer 3 distinct mediums for you to obtain your Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise line, and Universal Orlando information: the AllEars.net website, the weekly AllEars® newsletter and the AllEars® Blog Central. If you are looking for objective, general, non-personal information head over to the website and newsletter.
COMMENT: "I would like to see a forum for all readers to post their opinions & anything pertinent to the Disney experience. I enjoy rate & review very much, but I would like to see more place for reader to post & discuss their thoughts."
DEB: A week doesn't go by without someone asking if we plan to have message boards. The simple answer is no. We have given this a great deal of thought, consideration and analysis over the years and will continue to do so. However at this point in time, we believe there are a large number of Disney forums available for those interested. We do have Ears to Ears™, a moderated forum on yahoogroups (email firstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe)
COMMENT: A Blog "written by a local Orlando person, a current events type blog would be useful. Even information out of the newspaper. Upcoming weather forecast for the week, news regarding the airport, road construction, reminders about the time of year, (i.e. don't forget Star Wars weekends going on during June weekends), etc."
DEB: We are considering this for a future enhancement.
COMMENT: A few of you wondered about my current sig: "Life IT too short."
DEB: Well, I was goofing around one day with friends - who were giving me a hard time about traveling so much. They kept asking why am I always going somewhere! Without thinking I twirled around and responded with "Life -- IT too short!". They laughed and it became my current "saying".
And I"ll end with one last reader's comments: " I enjoy the blogs and remind myself to read at least 1 or 2 a week. I have been receiving the newsletters for a few years and absolutely enjoy all the information and updates that the allears team shares. Thank you for the dedication, and commitment to helping us Disney loving people feel like we are on vacation even when we are not by guiding into the "World" each week. I can tell you all put lots of time and research into making sure the most recent information is available. Very gratefully!!!"
Those of you who answered the survey all the way to the end, know that we were giving away AllEars goody bags to 10 random respondents. All winners have been notified via email and we've heard from 9 of you. Your packages have been mailed.
Congrats to: Debbie Williams, Joni Stacy, Bill Vandiver, Isabella Pedone, Joanne Covell, Jenifer Hughey, Charissa Banks, David Hammack and Amber Keen. Still waiting to hear back from the last respondent whom we've emailed twice!
Once again, thanks to everyone for taking the time to provide important feedback on AllEars® Blog Central!
Thank you to everyone that took time to fill out the AllEars® Blog Central Survey! We closed the survey at 1000 responses. To the over 700 of you that entered your email addresses for the All Ears goody bag, we are in the midst of contacting you.
Mike Scopa and I discussed the results in length and want to share some of your comments.
So here goes....
We asked some general Disney questions including these:
What is your favorite Walt Disney World theme park?
By far you chose the Magic Kingdom as #1, followed by Epcot #2 and then the Disney MGM Studios and Animal Kingdom were a distant 3rd and 4th.
When was your first visit to Walt Disney World?
About 80% of you chose the 1973-1999 time frame, with the majority visiting for the first time between 1980-1989!
Then to questions about blogs like these:
How familar are you with blogs?
The overwhelming majority were familiar with blogs.
We asked you to list your 5 favorite blogs and actually learned about a few really good ones ourselves!
Now specifically onto the All Ears Blogs.
Navigation! -- One of the main things we wanted to learn from the survey was about our navigation! Can you find the blogs easiliy? Is the navigation easy? etc.
COMMENT: You shouldn't have to do so much scrolling on the Blog Central Page to get to the lists of current blogs
DEB: You are correct. We set it up that way in the beginning so that folks unfamiliar with our bloggers could read a little about them before heading to their blogs. We will be modifying that page for easier navigation in the near future.
COMMENT: I find it confusing that if I click on one blog entry on the Blog Central page I get only this one blog entry and not all of them in their chronological order. I am never sure how to get to the page with all the entries of one particular blogger.
COMMENT: Your link to Blog Central does not appear in all the headers of the website.
DEB: We have begun work on these navigation suggestions.
COMMENT: I'd welcome a single, consolidated option to read everyone's blog postings -- a "mega blog" with an easy URL that combines the posts from all of the individual blogs..... It's easier to skip over a blog posting that doesn't interest me, than it is to navigate to all the individual pages that do.
DEB: Actually, this is something we have planned for later this year. Our blog software is currently beta-testing the next version. It has some great new features including the ability to combine all the blog post listings in one place. So, look for it in a few months.
We asked what topics you'd like to see?
Theme parks were favorite followed closely by Dining, Resorts and Special Events. In addition, you offered some other suggestions:
**It would be fun to follow someone through the process they go through to set up a Disney vacation.
** More peeks at the "method behind the magic"
** More DLR and some info from DLP, TDR and HKDL (maybe by guest bloggers?) We visit WDW mainly but I love info on the other parks.
** More about park happenings and how current things being made or are under construction are coming along.
** Trips in action. Loved living vicariously through Deb's recent trips. Made you feel like you were there. Sort of....
** Let's get an Anita Anwser Blog too! :)
DEB: Thanks for all the great suggestions you made. We want your feedback so we can bring you the types of writeups you're interested in. For those of you who want an Anita Blog -- well, you'll have to email her directly.... she's still pondering!
That's it for Part I. Look for Part 2 soon.
Thanks again to everyone who filled out the survey!.