Skip to main content

New Year's Re-evaluation: Your Help Is Needed!

 

Hi, everyone! I posted the following comments as a footnote to the recently released Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #49 recap. They're pretty important, so I wanted to be sure everyone sees them and takes a moment to respond. The future of Cookie Connection and our challenges depends on your input!

Here's essentially what I said in that post, with a few contextual edits . . .

The New Year is always the time that I sit back and reflect on the past year - what's been working well and what's in need of re-thinking - and that's exactly what I'm doing right now with our Practice Bakes Perfect challenges. With participation as low as it was this month (just 13 entries), I have to question whether our challenges are continuing to serve your needs as cookie artists. And given the large amount of time they take for Christine and me to prep, I have to question whether that time is being well spent. Christine has created what I think is a super, knock-your-socks-off challenge for our #50. I'll be using it as a litmus test to a certain extent. If participation isn't off the charts for that one, then it's probably a sign that it's time for some changes or something brand new.

In the meantime, I ask that you help me out with some feedback. I'd like to know:

(1) If and how you think participation in the challenges could be improved? At their height, the challenges had 30 or more entries each time, just for a reference point.

(2) If you think these challenges should continue in their current form, be tweaked, or be transformed into something completely new? (Please elaborate on any changes you'd like to see.)

(3) And, thinking beyond the challenges, what new or different features, if any, would you like to see on the site in 2022 that would really grab you and make a difference for you as a cookie artist?

I'd love to hear from you, ideally prior to January 22. Please feel free to leave your comments and ideas under this post. If you'd prefer to email me (sweetlife@juliausher.com) in private, that's certainly fine too.

Again, thanks in advance for your input. I hesitate to act without complete input from all of you, as I firmly believe that communities like ours remain their strongest when members' opinions are heard and when members are happily and wholeheartedly engaged.

Attachments

Images (1)
  • Challenge Q&A Banner: Photo by Steve Adams; Cookie and Graphic Design by Julia M. Usher

Add Comment

Comments (27)

Newest · Oldest · Popular

I so enjoy the entries of the challenges as much as the posts from all the cookiers. I am  just an old lady that makes cookies for family and friends, not for sell. I am not good enough to enter the challenges and would hate to see them end. I do understand how time consuming such projects are to organize and judge, however.

I like challenges. But I haven’t had de opportunity to make them because of time the most of the time

but I think they are useful

alao I think that it was a difficult month, many of us had work and there a lot of sick people right now for the pandemic

i love to learn so any knowledge is useful

Difficult times last 2 years for everyone,isn't elusion. From other side I understand you all guys, Christine has to do a lot aroud organization each Challenge,you judge,sponsors much efforts.I love to take a part of challenges,I learned a lot due them.Each knowlege is very useful.Give a bit time please❤️

Last edited by Petra Florean

I enjoy checking out the posts. I don’t feel inspired to enter the challenges after seeing a lot of extremely technical entries that are outside the scope of what we do.

It's a challenge for ourselfs. I love it becouse we learn a lot also due the process ,don't forget you have every time guidance and tip links where to find tutorials how  and most of time I tried for a first time so the point is to not affraid try to do something absolutely new❤️ Take it  like a chance to learn ,to join it to have a fun and  maybe to win wonderful prices❤️

Last edited by Petra Florean

Even though I have yet to partake of one, I love the Practice Bakes Perfect challenges.  I almost entered the fondant one but was just too busy with holiday stuff.

I’ve learned a lot from everything posted on Cookie Connection so I’ll just say keep it up!  All the hard work you do in the cookie world is greatly appreciated by all of us.  Thank you!

Stevie

Being brand new to cookie decorating I sincerely appreciate the Challenges as they allow me to see different levels of experience for the same techniques. The advice from the guest judge on “flaws” is extremely helpful. The positive comments direct attention to the artist’s focus on detail.  The Challenges inspire me to keep working on developing my skills and inspire me to make an entry one day!! Thank you from a Newbie.

I fully understand the concern that Julia and Christine have about the further challenges.
But I also think that it is neither because of the nature of the challenges, nor the topic, and certainly not because of Christine herself that so little is being posted about the challenges at the moment.
Basically, I am of the same opinion as Petra. It's a hell of a hard time we all have to go through.
Maybe someone has a great idea? It would be too nice!

@Kris B posted:

I love looking at the entries.  This is a silly question but where do you find the information to enter a challenge?

Kris B, the rules, tips and any further information about the challenges are contained in the posts published by Christine @Sweet Prodigy every time she "launches" the Challenges themselves 😊

Considering the fact that I joined this wonderful community only 2 years ago, I really enjoyed the challenges I have taken part in. I think that they are a great occasion to learn and face with several themes and techniques every time. I just want to say thank you to Julia and Christine for the time and effort they put in to organize these challenges and I'm looking forward to discovering the next one ❤️❤️

@Jean Eberts posted:

I am not advanced enough to feel comfortable in entering challenges.  I do love seeing others work but mine is not up to the standards of others.

Jean, Almost everyone doing the challenges started them as a beginner, and many still doing them are beginners. The challenges were never intended to be a competition with others (in fact, the prize is given completely at random to encourage everyone to participate). They were created to give every member, no matter his/her skill level, some fodder to challenge him/herself to try something new and to stretch skills. They are a low risk way to take a chance, in other words, and to share with others what you learned as you went through the challenge! I hope this explanation will make you more comfortable with joining the fun! There's nothing but upside, really!

@perry93536 posted:

I so enjoy the entries of the challenges as much as the posts from all the cookiers. I am  just an old lady that makes cookies for family and friends, not for sell. I am not good enough to enter the challenges and would hate to see them end. I do understand how time consuming such projects are to organize and judge, however.

Thanks for your input, Perry! Though there's no such thing as "not being good enough" to enter these challenges. They are about challenging and stretching yourself personally; no comparisons to others are made, and the prize is given totally at random to encourage all to participate. You'll notice many beginners taking part in them and learning a lot; plus, some of the more advanced decorators doing them started out in the challenges as beginners!

It's a challenge for ourselfs. I love it becouse we learn a lot also due the process ,don't forget you have every time guidance and tip links where to find tutorials how  and most of time I tried for a first time so the point is to not affraid try to do something absolutely new❤️ Take it  like a chance to learn ,to join it to have a fun and  maybe to win wonderful prices❤️

Agree completely - the challenges were designed to be personal challenges with no competition and no comparisons. The focus is supposed to be on what you learn personally as you go through each challenge. If we're not being successful in doing that, then I'd be interested in what others think we should do to make them less intimidating and competitive.

@Kris B posted:

I love looking at the entries.  This is a silly question but where do you find the information to enter a challenge?

Kris, all of the challenge rules get posted in the "Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge" category of the blog (https://cookieconnection.julia...s-perfect-challenges), which is where the recaps also get posted. And if you go to the home page, you'll find a button that says "Challenge Now Open" (when it's open); that button will take you directly to the post in the blog with the current challenge's rules. Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions, as we'd love to have you participate!

I really love participating in these challenges. Every challenge I entered has been a time to learn and develop new techniques. I do not see anything needs to be changed. Its a fun challenge, non competitive and a chance to always get help and positive feedback.

I believe the low entry is because of the pandemic. People are getting sick and many losing hope. I started entering these challenges about two years ago at the onset of the pandemic. It gave me so much of fulfilment and something to focus my energy on. I think as things get better, we will see more entries.

Thank you to Christine @Sweet Prodigy and Julia @Julia M. Usher and all the judges for all their time and effort.

This site is valuable and one of a kind.

But you are looking for helpful insights not just compliments.  Here is my input:

1. Do not underestimate the effect of Covid.  This is a world pandemic. We are trapped in our homes.  We know people who have died.  Supply chains are disrupted.  I just got my order of resealable bags weeks after Xmas.  Other items would not even allow me to order them.  So really, in the global context, to ask why aren't you people making cookies...? Because we're shellshocked maybe.  Because we are demoralised.

2.  The challenges as such are exactly that.  The string art one was awesome because it used available material while developing a skill.  Alot of the challenges require using different materials for exploring different effects.  Again with Covid, now variant omicron, it is not the time to lollygag in stores to peruse fondant and its tools, edible papers, etc.  I am reluctant to buy a bunch of materials that may not prove useful to me.  Time, money, storage.   Keep those as challenges but know that it may not necessarily be an incentive.

3.  So what would I suggest? Something fun.  Fun! Sometimes challenges feel like being assigned homework.

Soooo....Netflix.  People are connecting on sites, blogs and facebook, call it crazy, over Netflix.  Who's watching what, how much one binged, what was the favourite.  Strangers in stores speak through their masks and laugh about an overheard comment re a shared episode.  How about cookieing a series from your favourite character or zeitgeist of a show done in .... all black (different techniques, diff hues,), or as a triptych, or whatever.  But something currently lived that connects us.  And can change based on show or technique.  Why that film? We could guess which one.  Just fun themes that are the vehicle for technique, not the other way round.

4.  Competition vs. challenge.  Unstated and unintended as it is, the visuals themselves create a comparison and thereby a sense of competition, in my opinion.  Plus really, based on the business-like names beside the submissions, some of these are professionals.  Side by side with a pro, an amateur submission will most likely appear not 'good enough'.  Should there be a different category for professionals? 

Sorry for the long answer.  You do have a great site.

Sylvianne

@Sylvianne posted:

This site is valuable and one of a kind.

But you are looking for helpful insights not just compliments.  Here is my input:

1. Do not underestimate the effect of Covid.  This is a world pandemic. We are trapped in our homes.  We know people who have died.  Supply chains are disrupted.  I just got my order of resealable bags weeks after Xmas.  Other items would not even allow me to order them.  So really, in the global context, to ask why aren't you people making cookies...? Because we're shellshocked maybe.  Because we are demoralised.

2.  The challenges as such are exactly that.  The string art one was awesome because it used available material while developing a skill. Alot of the challenges require using different materials for exploring different effects.  Again with Covid, now variant omicron, it is not the time to lollygag in stores to peruse fondant and its tools, edible papers, etc.  I am reluctant to buy a bunch of materials that may not prove useful to me.  Time, money, storage.   Keep those as challenges but know that it may not necessarily be an incentive.

3.  So what would I suggest? Something fun.  Fun! Sometimes challenges feel like being assigned homework.

Soooo....Netflix.  People are connecting on sites, blogs and facebook, call it crazy, over Netflix.  Who's watching what, how much one binged, what was the favourite.  Strangers in stores speak through their masks and laugh about an overheard comment re a shared episode.  How about cookieing a series from your favourite character or zeitgeist of a show done in .... all black (different techniques, diff hues,), or as a triptych, or whatever.  But something currently lived that connects us.  And can change based on show or technique.  Why that film? We could guess which one.  Just fun themes that are the vehicle for technique, not the other way round.

4.  Competition vs. challenge.  Unstated and unintended as it is, the visuals themselves create a comparison and thereby a sense of competition, in my opinion.  Plus really, based on the business-like names beside the submissions, some of these are professionals.  Side by side with a pro, an amateur submission will most likely appear not 'good enough'.  Should there be a different category for professionals?

Sorry for the long answer.  You do have a great site.

Sylvianne

Very thoughtful input - thank you! I do think much of participation has to do with the traumatic environment we're all in, which, BTW, also makes it harder for me and other organizers to create content, especially free content. We're all struggling.

I’m sad to read that some of the cookiers don’t feel good enough to participate.
We need to lift each other up. I have gotten so much affirmation and encouragement from this group it has been invaluable to my growth. We all started from the very beginning and these challenges really helped me grow.
I really think all that is missing is more networking  of the challenges.
Get more of us to share the challenges in groups on FB and IG.  Get the word out!

I can’t think of any other way to improve them. It’s obvious the time that goes into creating them!  

I’m sad to read that some of the cookiers don’t feel good enough to participate.
We need to lift each other up. I have gotten so much affirmation and encouragement from this group it has been invaluable to my growth. We all started from the very beginning and these challenges really helped me grow.
I really think all that is missing is more networking  of the challenges.
Get more of us to share the challenges in groups on FB and IG.  Get the word out!

I can’t think of any other way to improve them. It’s obvious the time that goes into creating them!  

Any idea how I can get others to share? I would hope people would be doing that without me asking, but . . . the traction on my challenge posts is next to nothing despite me posting a lot. Just for reference, I post into four Facebook groups/pages already (with a combined following of over 400,000) and I do this three or four times per challenge (plus I post to Instagram the same number of times).

Today is the first time I've read through this post. Many, many apologies for commenting so "late in the game" if you will. This site has been critical to my continued progress in cookie decorating! I cannot emphasize this enough. Without the GENEROUS sharing of knowledge from the pros here I never would have had the confidence to even begin. I didn't know where to begin! It's only through the encouragement of others that I kept at it and continue to do so. Cookie decorating isn't instinctual to many as it wasn't to me. For me, it's about practice and more practice. The challenges give us that opportunity!! I entered the challenges more when I first discovered Julia and Cookie Connection because of my eagerness to learn.

This is on me...I don't participate in the challenges much for 3 primary reasons. 1) I feel, sometimes, like I'm not able to devote the time I want to in order to meet my own (too high?) expectations for the finished cookie/s. 2) I sell decorated cookies and the orders often interfer with my good intentions to try my hand at a new technique. 3) I'm also very slow at cookie decorating. Methodical in preparation and execution.

I like the structure of the challenges and find most of them to be interesting and "challenging". I know there is a great deal of time spent in preparation for each challenge! Thank you Julia @Julia M. Usher and Christine @Sweet Prodigy. You both sacrifice so much of your precious time for us cookiers. This fact doesn't go unnoticed! I've also found that the cookiers on CC are incredibly kind with their comments and encouragement. That means more than I can describe to someone who is struggling to learn something new.

There have been so many wonderful comments on this thread!! Great ideas and insight. I'm glad you sent out this post, Julia. Again, please accept my apologies for the delay in reading and responding to you.  

I have only participated in one challenge but I really enjoyed it ! I can only imagine the amount of work that goes into it.
For me personally. I would like to have my cookies critiqued with advice from all the pros! I do look forward to seeing the challenges  but maybe months that you know cookie orders and family life will be hard to add a challenge in you skip …. Such as Christmas . Thank you for all your work !

Julia, as you already know, Cookie Connection changes the way as many of us do cookies .

About the challenges: they are really amazing! They give us the opportunity to think out of the box! They are really incredible! Unfortunately I didn’t participate last year do a house moving inside my country followed by another one, to another country.
I believe they should continue.

I understand they consume time for us as cookiers, but it’s a opportunity to do something really different and your dream team always shows how incredible  could be the results!!!

I believe from the other point of view, we as Cookiers those learn a lot with the tips and techniques, could share more videos (for those who have abilities to do it), doesn’t matter if it’s for a simple techniques or a complex one. (I include myself on that)

Any idea how I can get others to share? I would hope people would be doing that without me asking, but . . . the traction on my challenge posts is next to nothing despite me posting a lot. Just for reference, I post into four Facebook groups/pages already (with a combined following of over 400,000) and I do this three or four times per challenge (plus I post to Instagram the same number of times).

I believe the cookiers do not feel confident and are afraid about what to do.

this concern is not about the “marketing “. I remember the first one that I participate…. I was worried about what to post that could be creative and not be inspired at others cookies and I can tell that it was really difficult.

But after some where I participated, I was one of the top 10 and the result can’t make me more happy!!!!

But one of my suggestions is to share at our social medias when we participate, when we have a new one open (could be at our Instagram stories) and share this invitation with others!
we can do lives (alone or together with others - I’m always open about that) telling about the experience and explain how and why we define the theme!

@Dani Matos posted:

I believe the cookiers do not feel confident and are afraid about what to do.

this concern is not about the “marketing “. I remember the first one that I participate…. I was worried about what to post that could be creative and not be inspired at others cookies and I can tell that it was really difficult.

But after some where I participated, I was one of the top 10 and the result can’t make me more happy!!!!

But one of my suggestions is to share at our social medias when we participate, when we have a new one open (could be at our Instagram stories) and share this invitation with others!
we can do lives (alone or together with others - I’m always open about that) telling about the experience and explain how and why we define the theme!

Thanks. Yes, I would so appreciate if more community members shared about the challenges more often - and everything we do here: tutorials and Saturday Spotlights included. It's increasingly hard for me to get out the word alone on social media, but the more who share, the more the social media algorithms favor showing and sharing the content. And the more who see it, the more who are likely to join this community. And the more participation, the richer the experience for everyone . . . it can only be an upward spiral, but it won't work with only the current few sharing.