Dealing with Absences

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Yesterday was crazy.  It was one of those days when moments after checking my phone I realized things had gone south with the patch cycle from the night before.  I tried remoting into things from home and had no luck, so I hurriedly shower, dressed and drove into work to see if I could raise anyone to get the matter resolved.  I left so rapidly that I freaked my poor wife out who was out on a walk…  and she came home to my vehicle being missing from the drive way.  The other bad thing is that I didn’t actually get breakfast meaning I was probably more grumpy than intended during the entire day.  The problem with running on adrenaline is that there is an inevitable crash…  which came about noonish.  All of this said…  I didn’t get to do a morning blog post yesterday and I was not in the proper frame of mind when I got home to do one either.

As a result this morning I am going to use this incident as a teaching moment.  There will be times when you just cannot force a blog post out of yourself…  and that is okay.  When I was doing my “Grand Experiment” that involved posting every single day I managed to make it 1121 days without missing a post or a little over three years.  That streak sorta developed a life of its own as time went on, but I knew sooner or later I would need to break it for my own sanity.  Knowing that regardless of the day that you had to get up and write something was fairly oppressive.  I would literally day dream about stopping cold turkey, and then ultimately talk myself back down off that ledge.  Ultimately when the time came I made a compromise and switched the blog for the last couple of years over to week days only, that way I could have the weekends to myself to leisurely do whatever comes along.

The truth is…  I would have probably been a lot happier with my streak of posts if I had allowed myself to have the occasional day off.  The thing with posting is that you need to be doing it regularly to gain reader traction, which for me at least translated into forcing myself to post something regardless of circumstances every day.  The truth however is that you simply need not to allow yourself to fall completely off the wagon.  It is fine to take a few days off here or there but for me at least the most important aspect is to get back to posting as soon as you feel able to.  The early days of my blog were a tale of a flurry of posts with massive gaps in between…  some of them months long.  The longer I was away the harder it seemed to create a post worth the justification of how long I was gone.  It was as though I needed to come up with some epic reason why I just wasn’t feeling up to writing about myself or the games I was playing.

In my experience however you just need to post something…  anything…  to get yourself over the hump after an absence.   You could post about what you had for breakfast…  or in my case yesterday the lack thereof.  You talk about whatever stressers caused you to need to duck your head back into your shell and turtle for awhile.  You could write about something on the horizon that you are looking forward to, or about something that you just accomplished that you are still thinking about.  The point is just to write something to get yourself over that initial gap in content and back into the habit of regularly posting again.

One of the things that I like about my current schedule is I feel like it gives me the room for these gaps.  Is it an extended weekend that includes a few days of vacatrion?  Then I have the option of writing on those days or just saying screw it and taking the entire time off from the blog.  Is there a time when life has just become too much and I cannot fit proper writing in?  Then a gap in the middle of the week is honestly no worse than a gap at the end of it.  Basically the schedule that allows for absences and not holding myself to some nonsense like those 1121 posts in a row…  makes the blogging experience far more livable.

I think ultimately that is why I have shifted things around this year for Blaugust is that I realized over time I was trying to get people to sign up for something that was largely unrealistic.  After that first Blaugust I noticed that the majority of “winners” that managed to get in all 31 posts in a month…  also wound up taking a full month off as a result.  A not insignificant number of those blogs simply ceased to exist afterwards…  or maybe had a few false starts at getting back at posting without ever really returning.  Basically Blaugust and that schedule had killed blogs…  which was the exact opposite of what I was hoping would happen.  I kept shifting around the format until in 2016 I simply couldn’t handle taking anything else on that year…  as was apparently the case with all of the events in our community.  So now as Blaugust has returned…  my hope has been that the focus be on just posting more regularly and also participating in the community…  rather than trying to run some race.

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I am not entirely certain if this post will help anyone, but I thought it was worth talking about the mindset I now take towards dealing with absences.  I hope you are having an awesome day and I highly suggest getting out and checking some of the other blogs participating in Blaugust.  Here are some resources to help you get started…

There is still plenty of time left in the month to participate.  If you are interested check out some of these links.

Side note:  The images don’t mean much of anything but I played some Monster Hunter World on PC last night and am getting tired of just posting the Blaugust logo over and over on these.

 

Jason Jessee Board

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This week was originally designated as “Get to Know Each Other Week” in my master scheme but I feel like that is well under way in part thanks to the existence of the Blaugust Discord.  If you have not joined the discord I highly suggest doing so, also if you have not signed up for the event then there is still plenty of time to get involved.  For as generally open as I am with my readers about a lot of things… I still find it fairly hard to actually talk about myself in any sort of directed way.  Sure while I am in the middle of writing about a topic there are a bunch of real life details that end up getting thrown into the mix for flavor, but to sit down and write a specific topic about me as a person…  that is a whole other challenge.

I was born in 1976 on the wane of the seventies and the cusp of the eighties…  then spent my high school and college years in the nineties giving me a really odd blend of cultural experiences.  Each of those decades left its own indelible mark on my psyche.  Another piece of the puzzle is the fact that I was the only child of a machinist by day and occasionally professional photographer by night and weekend…  and a home economics teacher.  I grew up in Rural Americana in the middle of the part of Oklahoma aptly referred to as “Green Country” in a town with a population of around 2000 give or take a few.  We lived just far enough outside of the city limits to prevent us from getting cable…  or me having many kids to play with.

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That means a good deal of my life was spent entertaining myself through copious amounts of imagination and a strong dash of public television.  I’ve talked a bit about my attachment to Mister Roger’s Neighborhood but I was equally attracted to adult programs like Nova.  For the first several years of my life I spent the majority of my time with my grandmother and grandfather who served as a babysitter while my folks worked.  My grandmother also doubled as my companion on so many adventures from learning how to cook, to roaming around in the pasture…  to playing rousing games of candyland.  There were many times come Friday night when my folks came to pick me up, that I would announce that I was staying the weekend.

As time passed and I aged those weekends with my grandparents were replaced with staying over at friends houses.  There was a circle of two other close friends that I had and it seemed like every single weekend we were gathered together at one of the houses.  I always enjoyed the act of getting out of my own family and melding into another one for the weekend.  In late middle school one of the trio moved away and we were left with a duo.  By the time high school rolled around things started to get a little strained, since my partner in crime was largely forced into sports by his father who wanted him to follow in his own footsteps…  and I didn’t really have the equivalent pressure pushing me in that direction.

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We all saw each other pretty often because around about this time skateboarding was a massive thing.  My first “real” deck that I planned for and bought on my own was the Jason Jessee Neptune deck, and I wish I still had it if for no reason other than to hang it on the wall.  I’ve contemplated buying one of the modern reproductions to do that, but its an awful pricey expense for a piece of kitch.  Skating lead its way to other drift compatible activities…  like playing in a band that ultimately formed around the nexus of a few of us that hung out frequently.  I played the drums, the friend from middle school played the bass and patterned himself after Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and the other friend with seemingly unlimited means bought a sweet telecaster and played lead guitar.  We never really coalesced on a proper band name… we were FSU for awhile which we thought was edgy because it stood for Fucking Shut Up.  Later we performed under the name Jive Daddies… which I always thought was kinda dumb but was overridden by the other two.

During my junior year however I got really sick.  I started having these black outs and managed to park my car perfectly in a ditch down from my house once.  It was ultimately sorted out that I had a pinched blood vessel in my neck, that was the side effect of getting rear ended in a car wreck and developing a minor case of whiplash.  However it took awhile to sort that out and during this time I sorta drifted away from that circle of friends and built a new one.  One of the truths of small time life is the lack of things to do… leads kids towards copious amounts of alcohol and drug abuse.  My original duo of friends found their way into more serious paths leading towards hard drugs, and that was not a journey I was willing to follow them on.  So really my illness became a convenient excuse to simply stop participating and extract myself from that situation.

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Another thing that happened around this time is that my family finally got a computer.  It was a 386SX 16 MHz without a math co-processor with 2 meg of ram and a 90 MB hard drive that at the time seemed like all the space I would ever need.  It had no sound card because those simply did not come with computers standard at that point and was largely designed for business products running Windows 3.0 originally…. and later upgraded to the revolutionary 3.1.  I learned computers through necessity, because I kept doing something to jack the machine up and then needing to figure out how to fix it before my dad got home.  Largely these interludes involved me trying to sort out how to get more than 16 colors in windows paint…  it was simpler time.

The new circle of friends and I vacillated between two activities…  pen and paper gaming and pouring over whatever bootleg games we managed to get from someone that had a relative in college and would ship us home boxes of pirated games.  Getting anything new was pretty much out of the question because at this point we had no access to stores that sold anything even vaguely related to PC gaming.  At some point I stumbled upon a bookstore that happened to have 5.25 inch floppies with shareware on them and got my first copy of Wolfenstein 3D and an editor that someone made for it.  We obsessed over building levels to the game and the result was usually one person building a level and another person trying to run through it.

I feel like at this point I have already typed too much information about myself, so I am going to cut things off at this point.  We are now circa 1992 and on the cusp of Magic the Gathering being a thing.  I’ve recently gotten back in touch with one of the members of the little crew that I played table top games with, so I fully expect him to respond here at some point.  I do miss those days when things were so much simpler and it seemed like we had all of the time in the world to hang out and do stuff together.  Time moves so much faster as you get older, and busier, and have your attention fragmented by dozens of things at the same time.  I might pick up tomorrow with some more details that I maybe glazed over, but like I said…  getting any sort of coherent narrative out of me about myself is a challenge.

 

Mining The Past

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This week was at least in part supposed to primarily be about generating topics for your blog that you can sustain yourself on for the rest of the sprint.  Unfortunately only one of my posts has actually accomplished this.  I brain stormed together a list of topics on August first and never really revisited it because I was ultimately dealing with some of my own things.  However one of the general pieces of advice I can offer you is to be willing to mine your own experience for topics.  Each of us tends to think our own experiences are banal and not actually worth writing about.  The thing is…  those experiences are unique to you and tell the reader an awful lot about your own feelings on a subject.

This is where I break into a story to illustrate this point.  I started leading guilds with the launch of World of Warcraft in 2004 and since then have been the helm of many offshoots be they connected to House Stalwart or later Greysky Armada.  In addition to that there has been an awful lot of experience leading various communities from the Argent Dawn Exiles that I started when the Blizzard mods made the official server forums completely unpalatable to the things like BelEffect that I largely started as a joke but developed a life of its own.  Every single bit of that experience, while I didn’t necessarily know it at the time was relevant to what I would ultimately do for a living later.

While I have never listed it on my resume, that solid decade and some change has been a hardcore training ground for management in the real world.  I first had my taste for managing others at my first job back in 1999-2000 and I did not like it at all.  The whole setting the vision for the group was fun, but what ultimately broke me was a situation that happened with one of my employees.  I had been placed in a position of power because I was the one with the answers…  not with none of the training to actual manage others.  I had a boss at that time for whom the most important thing you could do was be sitting at your desk at 8 am.  I didn’t believe this and still don’t for that matter…  and was put in the awkward position of having to discipline an employee for an infraction that I didn’t myself believe in.

This bad taste made me actively avoid taking on the mantle of supervisor or manager for a significant time.  However in the gaming space I found myself pushed into that role because no one was willing to take it upon themselves to create the sort of gaming environment I wanted to play in.  So out of necessity I became the Guild Leader and set forth the build the best possible guild I could…  and immediately stumbled about six months into the game.  However I learned how to deal with different personalities and outlooks on the game play experience and about a year and a half into World of Warcraft we picked ourselves back up and rebuilt House Stalwart.

Throughout Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King we forged the guild and the raid associated with it into a strong community.  So strong that when my account got hacked while raiding Ulduar and said hackers disbanded the guild and moved my main off server…  we immediately picked back up the pieces that night.  The community had the guild up and running before I managed to get my account restored, and then handed back over the crown willingly.  The hack itself is a story that is buried somewhere in the annals of this blog, but I had somehow managed to forge something strong enough and loyal enough to keep on going without me even being in the picture.

So much so that all these years later without me really at the helm since Cataclysm…  the guild continues on through a succession of leaders from Elnore, Rylacus and now Kylana keeping things alive and actually in a constant state of growth.  I admit it was a bit of a hit to my ego at first to see that the guild was doing well without me.  However over time I came to appreciate the fact that I built that organization and it managed to survive succession which is a truly rare occurrence in either the gaming world or the business world.  While I spend significantly less time playing Alliance right now, I am still happy each time I hear about them downing some new boss or getting some new achievement.  I am proud of what that guild and community became.

When my boss moved up from Manager to Director, I was presented with another challenge.  Did I stay in the comfortable development lead role I had carved out for myself, or did I step up to management not quite knowing if I would be able to make it work.  The truth is it was the years of experience I had leading other people in situations where I often times had no actual power of authority to use as a crutch…  that gave me the confidence that maybe i could do this thing.  If you can convince forty strangers to work towards a singular goal, then you have a significant bit of work experience there leading people and understanding how to adapt your message so that others will be able to consume it.

So this morning I had sat down and mined a bit of my own experience to convert it into a blog post.  Each of us has deep reserves of information just sitting there waiting to be harvested, talking about past experiences in games or how they have effected you in the real world.  The challenge however is being willing to open up and talk about your past and present it with a new perspective.  I would say most of what I write about draws deeply upon all of the decisions that I made to get me to where I am today.  Often times when I write about things I omit details here and there to clarify the narrative that would otherwise muddy the presentation, but the core of the experience is still effectively what happened.

With time you develop your own personal methodology for which things to talk about and which things to skip over because it won’t translate into words that well.  However the only way to really sort this out is to start trying to adapt your own life story.  Our experiences also change over time…  because how you view something at age 20 is going to be different than how you view an experience at age 40.  In all of my time working there has only been one boss that did not like me.  While I was going through those experiences it was a very dark time for me…  but after exiting that shroud I have come to realize that even that horrible experience was a blessing in disguise.  Effectively it gave me the piece of experience that I was missing…  how not to lead others.  I had a use case of the exact wrong way to do leadership and I have been able to mine it as well to make sure I was not following in his footsteps.

Basically mining your past experiences allows you to dust them off and view them from a different perspective, which is helpful for you to grow personally…  but also can be exploited to make something relate-able for your readers.  Like I have said before… there comes a point where the readers stop caring about the subject matter you are writing about and start caring about you as a human being.  These are the posts that effectively set that process in motion.  When you share of yourself… it makes others more willing to share of themselves.  I realize this has probably turned into a really contorted esoteric topic, but I still feel like it is useful information.  So often we look outside for assistance when occasionally the answers we need are buried deep down inside of our own experiences.

Thanks Folks

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Yesterday I made a blog post with one intended purpose, but it wound up being interpreted in a completely different way.  I thought I might talk a little bit about this because as a blogger this is going to happen.  We all view our posts through the lens of our experiences.  No one can actually be inside your head or completely understand what it was that you meant by something.  This is in part why I spend a lot of time retracing things I have already talked about in my blog posts because in my head…  no one actually reads my content.  The corollary of that however is that I feel like I need to write something that would make sense to someone who is hitting my blog for the first time.  I do a lot of things like “for the uninitiated” call outs where I back track and explain why a thing is important to this topic.  Granted this ends up increasing the length of my posts, but the hope is to keep someone from needing to furiously crawl through my back log of now over 1800 posts.

Ultimately for me personally, when something is so widely interpreted in a way I stop to think…  is that ultimately the post I wrote without intending to.  There are so many times that once fingers get started on the keyboard that posts sort of develop a mind of their own.  I know there are writers out there that carefully choose every word and sentence to build a strong discussion about the topic they are referencing.  Then there are others like me that get started and let the post develop as they go.  The problem with that method however is that things can veer off in unintended directions.  My intent in yesterdays post was to be some sort of a positive post about “these are my demons that I deal with but I still manage to get up and write every single day”.  The idea was to share my personal struggle so the folks out there who are going through the same thing can know that they are absolutely not alone.

However I feel like maybe a little too much of those demons were on display, and the post maybe came out a little true to life.  The hard truth is that I do not see in myself the person you all see in me.  I find it as impossible to reconcile that as it is to develop the internal infrastructure to accept a compliment.  That said… there were many times yesterday where I was almost brought to tears as the comments came in throughout the day.  I had every intent to sit down and respond to each and every one of them…  but I am still to this very moment a little too overcome with emotion to try tackling that task.  I didn’t write a post with the intent of getting reinforcement from my community, but that was ultimately the result.  I got a virtual war-cry from my friends to the equivalent of “we got your back!” and I appreciate it greatly…  even though I am not entirely certain how to process it.

There is no real hyperbole intended in yesterdays post, because I sorta accidentally opened the door a little too wide to the self doubts that I hear inside of my head every single morning.  That said I still hold my breath and hit that publish button.  I am glad that there are people out there however that apparently believe in me so much more than I believe in myself.  So many of the things that I have done in my life I did only because I felt like there was no one else out there to do them.  I lead my first guild because I was concerned about what the future might bring for me if I didn’t step up and do that.  I moved into a leadership role at work, because no one else was and the challenges that we were dealing with required more management than a bunch of independent developers.  I stepped up to my current management position only because I was afraid for what might happen to the unity of our team if someone else took the reigns.  A lot of the decisions I make are not out of a faith in my own abilities, but a fear in what might happen if I don’t do the thing that appears to need doing.

I was afraid that if I waited much longer that whatever was left of our community what fade away.  It was my hope that it was not yet too late and by the fact that we have now tied our best year in participation it seems like I might have accidentally picked the right time to do this.  The last couple of years have been extremely rough on this community, and my ultimately hope was that we could get back some of what we lost.  There are blogs that are gone and likely never coming back, but we are bolstering those holes in our wall with brand new bloggers that will hopefully infuse us all with a level of excitement.  I think it is impressive how far we have come in so short of a time.  Each year the initiative has picked up steam as the process has gone on and the flood of topics pulls people out of the woodwork.  Here are the numbers of past years…

  • 2014 – 52 Participants
  • 2015 – 88 Participants
  • 2016 – 62 Participants
  • 2017 – 0 (I failed to get it organized)
  • 2018 – 88 Participants (so far, it is not too late to join in)

Also impressive at this point is we have 92 members active on the Discord with a large number of people who have just joined to participate in the conversations even though they may not be officially participating in the event.  I do believe…  we may have a community again and an extremely active one.  Ultimately that was the thing I was missing the most, being part of something much larger than myself.  There have always been some of us that spun topics off one another, because quite honestly we refused to accept the pronouncement that blogging was a dead art.  It is my hope however that this version of Blaugust will be more forgiving when it comes to the after effects on the community.  There are a lot of bloggers that in the crush to get their 31 posts in…  have burned themselves out in the process only to close up shop shortly after the event ended.  My hope with this year is that we are providing folks the tools to run the marathon, not the sprint and keep going for the rest of the year.

There are so many mornings that I feel like a little kid pretending to make a newspaper or sitting in a hollowed out cardboard box pretending to be on a television show.  The truth is however that people are out there reading this and I am thankful of the kind words that you have shared with me.  I will do my best to try and figure out how to accept them.  I have more of a support structure than I deserve, and I am extremely thankful to everyone who has joined me in this madness.  We are on a really interesting journey together and I don’t quite know where it is going…  but I feel like it is going somewhere very special.  So in so many words… thank you so much for the help and love and support and random hugs.  Thanks for having my back.  Lets go do awesome things together!

Talentless Hack

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The other day Chestnut did an excellent post about Impostor Syndrome that you should check out if you have not.  The fact that it is a real thing, doesn’t actually help me personally get over being mired in it at times.  Right now I am fighting it massively as yesterday was the official first day of August and as such the beginning the periods where the posts start counting towards the totals.  The problem is I am personally feeling overwhelmed with doubt.  I am questioning who the hell I was to be thinking I should bring back Blaugust and at the same time try and cherry-pick aspects of the Newbie Blogger Initiative and other blogging community events.  What gave me the right to be the one to do all of this?

Even more so…  I question who I am to be giving advice to anyone.  Most of the time I feel like a talentless hack that somehow mastered the ability to get up in the morning and spew nonsense into blog form.  My claim to fame has always been longevity…  not actually being good at anything.  Who am I to even suggest anything out to another human being out there that is quite honestly probably already better at this than I am?  My experiences are not unique and my gaming interactions aren’t particularly interesting…  so why would I think that I should be documenting it and pushing it out there into the world.  To make matters worse…  I am not even good at life in general and I spent my days waiting for my workplace to catch on to the fact that I don’t actually know half of the things they think I do.

Ultimately…  this is what my brain sounds like every moment of every day.  There are times where it is really hard to push aside those little voices and keep moving forward.  The thing is though…  that I know I am not alone in this.  Almost every friend of mine that I get to know, has their own version of this cadence playing in their head telling them that they are not good enough or strong enough to do something.  It is very easy to let the voices win and slink back into the comfortable shadows trying to keep anyone from noticing you disappeared.  The early days of my blog is filled with periods of time where the voices won, and silenced me.

I would accidentally find myself falling behind in posting because life happens, and then it became this massive barrier to get past to start again.  I kept thinking that in order to make a post… it had to be good enough to make up for the amount of time I was gone from the blog.  So if I was gone a month…  then when I started posting again I needed something truly epic to talk about in a time when nothing in my life felt epic at all.  Even to this day I never really understood what prompted me to start the experiment of getting up every single morning and writing anything that came to my mind.  But the repetition and routine allowed me to push past that barrier and just start up again and the track record of doing it for so long…  gave me empirical proof that I could in fact pull a post out of the ether every single day.

I am not a good writer.  There are people who are participating in Blaugust that absolutely are, and take their craft extremely seriously.  My blog is not one of those.  I have come to accept that fact and instead focus on sharing my story with you the reader.  I occasionally have nuggets of wisdom to pass along, or an interesting life experience…  but more often than not it is the simple act of getting up and sharing something real with you every single morning that keeps this process going.  It is a weird protracted one sided conversation that I am having with you, serialized a single day at a time and largely that is the method of communication that feels the most comfortable at times.

I can imagine that I have no readers at all and that I am just chronicling my ideas for my own purposes.  I can imagine that I have a large audience out there when I want to feel more important.  The act of creating something and thrusting it out into the world can be extremely therapeutic at times.  I will admit however there is not a single morning that goes by that I don’t have to sort of hold my breath and push the publish button without thinking about it too much.  This is why I don’t really edit my posts and you get them in their natural raw state…  typos, word swaps and all.  If I were to think about what I was just about to throw out into the world I would mire myself in the all too familiar cycle of analysis paralysis and self recrimination.

There are members of this initiative that talk about how they carefully edit each post to pair down the number of words, and that is brilliant advice if you are in fact the type of writer that can take it.  For me personally…  this blog is more compulsion than willful act at this point.  The more I think through the process the more likely said process is to fail.  The more I examine something the more I get caught in a loop of inaction because sitting in that silent place where I am forever weighing the outcomes occasionally feels good.  The inertia of analysis is a pleasant thing.  Every single morning is a struggle and to make up for my own failings…  it is like I have tricked myself into hitting that publish button when I am still very much half asleep.

Over the last several years I have built up a level of honesty with my readers and part of that is sharing my own failings.  I am not good at this and I have no right to be kick-starting the return of Blaugust.  I did it however for the purely selfish reason of wanting to see more people out there doing the sort of thing that I do on a daily basis.  I want more windows into other worlds where I am can sit down and partake of these elongated one-sided stories myself.  I missed having a thick blogroll full of tales to experience any time I needed that to escape from my own frustrations and troubles into someone else’s world.  I have no right at all to give advice but I will continue to share my experiences, because it seems to be the thing that I need to do each day to feel normal.

Syndication and Social Media

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blaugustrebornlogo2018

This morning I have struggled a bit to get off the ground and coalesce into writing something that might be valuable to someone else.  One of the things you see a lot with my blog is me attempting to be honest with my readers.  This isn’t really the point of this mornings post but i would say if you are struggling with something…  let them in on it.  I’ve said before that blogging is therapeutic and at the same time lowering your guard a bit is too.  Now I am not saying that I recommend this practice for everyone, because it does in fact give trolls an attack vector.

The thing I wanted to talk to this morning is the interwoven relationship between blogging and social media.  I can say without hyperbole that almost every one of my social media accounts exists because of this blog as I sussed it out as another possible syndication venue for my content.  It is not a coincidence that both my twitter account and my blog both started in April of 2009, because twitter has long been the vehicle that bloggers get together to talk to one another.  This is why I asked for twitter handle as part of the sign up instead of other social media options.

I think the reason for this is that twitter is better than any platform at the quick distribution of a blog link.  You have enough characters to provide a quick summary, a link and an image enticing your readers to click through and visit your post.  The retweet culture allows someone to pass your information on… without passing too much of themselves in the process and I think that simply leads to more folks passing more information around than on other platforms.  Granted in the era of the quoted retweet that changed a bit, but I still feel like that platform is the best place to quickly distribute content.

The thing is…  I don’t just think this I know this from the statistics.  I’ve been running google analytics since day one and that has given me a lot of information about what works and what doesn’t work for the purpose of spreading my blog.  If I had utilized this more fluently rather than the generally lazy way that I do… I could be a hell of a lot more popular than I actually am.  However it does tell me things about which platforms work and which do not.  Let’s talk for a moment about the content I share and where it gets consumed.

Direct Traffic and RSS

First off one of the things you need to know is that the majority of your readers are probably still to this day going to be consuming your content through an RSS Feed Reader.  Before sitting down to write my post I ran some numbers for the past year of usage and only 14% of my traffic comes from any referral source.  This means the majority of my readers are either coming in directly or through an RSS feed reader.  There are some other statistics that I have through WordPress that tell me that the majority of my readers are in fact coming in through RSS.

I don’t want to necessarily talk about the numbers because I have a larger audience than some folks and a much smaller audience than others.  I use analytics for the purpose of learning about the data not necessarily as creating a benchmark to judge my success on and I highly suggest if you decide to go down that road you adopt a similar stance.  The big thing I want as a takeaway however is that RSS is in fact not dead and you are going to see a large number of your users that are not accessing your content  directly.  As a result I highly suggest you check your own blog out in a news reader and make sure it looks like you want it to look.  Since I am not trying to drive ad venue I syndicate my entire blog out over RSS instead of snippets…  your mileage may vary here.

Social Media

In the above bit I mentioned that only 14% of my readers come as referrals from any other source and that also includes social media.  As it stands right now I syndicate my content in the places that are built into WordPress, so that when I hit publish it also sends my content out there as well.  Here is a rundown of where all said content goes…

  • Twitter – This is my primary social network
  • Facebook – At some point along the line I created a Facebook account just for the blog.  I don’t use this network much.
  • Google Plus – Hold out from that era when we thought Google Plus would rule the world and a lot of us bloggers started hanging out here.
  • GPlus “Page” – Similar hold out where I thought it was a good idea to create a Tales of the Aggronaut page.
  • Tumblr – I don’t even know why I do this, but it was an option in WordPress so might as well.

These are effectively the places that I can push to each day when I hit publish without further interaction.  The only publish option that I am not utilizing is Path…  which if I am being completely honest I  don’t know what the hell it actually is.  It’s seems to be an iPhone thing and since I am not an iDevice user I have never actually encountered it.  Now since only 14% of my traffic comes in through referrals…  I could make an argument that syndication doesn’t actually matter.  However I feel like putting your stuff in front of as many eyeballs as possible is always going to be a generally good idea.

Let’s talk a bit about where that referral content is coming from.

  • 25% – Twitter – this is my primary platform for engagement so it probably isn’t shocking that the vast majority of my click-through’s come from it.  It probably says way more about my willingness to engage with it than the actual power of the platform.  My tweets don’t really go viral so it isn’t like I am getting a crushing number of hits this way.
  • 12% – Bhagpuss.blogspot.com – That is right… my appearance in the Inventory Full blog roll is quite literally beating every social media platform but twitter.  Thanks Bhagpuss!
  • 9% – Facebook – this shows up as a few different addresses but combined together it equates to a little less than 10% of the referral traffic.
  • 2.5% – Google Plus – There are still folks actively using this platform in spite of the fact that I am not.  At one point I had a nonsense number of people following me so there may be some residuals from that?
  • 1.3% – Reddit – Not something I actively engage with but a handful of my blog posts have made their way to Reddit where they got significant action.  Getting anything on Reddit means you are going to have a constant trickle of users from there clicking on the links as people search.
  • .32% – Tumblr – I mean it makes a lot of sense given that my posts are not exactly formatted in the Tumblr way and I don’t spend any time engaged with that platform other than occasionally going on a reblog bender reposting cool comic book art.

Now as an academic experiment I extended out my timeframe and looked at all traffic I have ever gotten to my blog.  At that point a bunch of data points change… namely my referral rate goes up to 26% of my traffic and the influence of twitter drops to only 11% of that…  with WoW.com coming in second at a little over 8% showing the sheer influence of being part of the World of Warcraft blogging community used to be.  To round out the top five… you have Google Plus at number three, Facebook at number four, and Reddit at number five.  It is funny how things change over time.

Engagement

Ultimately my take away from all of this is that social media syndication is worth it… but only if you plan to engage with those communities.  I feel like my numbers don’t really point out that Twitter is the most superior platform but instead that it is the only platform I am willing to actively engage with.  It is the place where people know my name and respond to the things I say… and on the other platforms I am just a weird guy that refuses to use his real name or picture.  Granted my real name is pretty freaking easy to find and I have tweeted out my picture a few times… so it is a personal choice thing not like a witness protection program thing.  Ultimately I feel like you get out of social media what you put into it as far as blogging goes.  I still feel like it is my favorite way to link up with other bloggers, but especially now that we have the discord and how active it has been…  maybe that could shift into being that primary vehicle of communication for the community.

Regardless don’t feel like you have to do social media if you are not comfortable doing it.  My engagement brings me in some hits but in the grand scheme of things it accounts for a very small percentage of my total users.  The effect that is impossible to capture however is where people found out about my site in the first place.  I have a sneaking suspicion that if you somehow managed to factor that into the equation… then social media would have far more weight in the equation that it appears to have.  I choose to put my stuff out there and over time have built a community of regular readers, and if you do the same you will build your own circle of readers as well.

 

 

 

Choosing a Platform

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Yesterday I talked a bit about the name of your blog and why I felt like it was probably the single most important decision you made starting out.  Today I am going to talk about a very close second…  which is what platform you are going to be doing your blogging on.  There are a bunch of competing software packages and hosting scenarios out there, but I am going to attempt to do my best to work through them with you this morning…  or at least the major options.  For the sake of transparency I myself use WordPress in a hosted environment and have for a very long time.  There are pluses and negatives with that kind of set up, but a lot of the other options I have played with at one point or another.

Hosting vs SaaS

Ultimately your first real decision point is going to be…  are you going to be using a cloud/software as a service (SaaS) model for your site or are you going to procure your own hosting environment and maintain the site yourself.  This really is a question of how technical do you feel comfortable being?  Sure most hosting providers give you the option of installing something like WordPress or Drupal from the web based back end with the click of a few buttons.  However there will come a time at some point when you need to get your hands dirty in the innards of your software.  So ultimately you need to ask yourself if you are comfortable having to do that.

Ultimately the big thing that hosting the software does is give you the freedom to be able to try out any new plugins or themes that come out, because you can effectively re-roll your site as often as you like because you have the tools to do so.  Traditionally in a more SaaS model you are paying them to maintain the software where they give you a few configuration options but greatly limit your ability to install custom code.  For example if I were not as lazy as I am…  I could create a wordpress plugin to maintain all of the nonsense that we end up keeping track of with Blaugust.  When we were utilizing Anook quite a bit within the blogging community there was one of the folks that created a custom integration that would allow you to have an auto updating version of your Anook feed in your blog sidebar.

In a SaaS model that sort of thing really isn’t possible because the software company is maintaining the risk of hosting your content.  That means they need to make sure nothing that is happening on your blog will potentially negatively impact the other people on that platform.  What this means is generally speaking you will not have to worry quite so much about attack vectors and making sure things are patched to the latest versions, and in truth are probably going to have a much more stress free blogging experience.  However if you like to tinker with things…  you will similarly likely never be happy with the constraints placed upon you by a blog provider.

Self Hosting

So when you decide to host your own blog you are going to need two things…  a hosting provider and some blogging software.  The first part of that I don’t have a lot of advice with.  The service that I used to recommend hands down has gotten significantly less grand as time has gone on.  The service that I contemplated moving to…  is no longer open to new customers because it seems like it is ramping down.  So you are left with a minefield of options…  many of which I have heard both positive and negative things about.  InMotion I have some decent experience with in the past and they offer a WordPress hosting option for $8.99 a month (that goes down if you pay for multiple months in a row) that offers some hack/malware protection software along with the package.  Please note though I am not actively using them myself so I can’t really give it a full fledged thumbs up endorsement.

Once you have trudged through the hinterlands and decided where you are going to host your site, you need to pick a software package.  This is also a deluge of choice because as many people as there are out there… there seem to be options for blog software.  Some of the more common options are WordPress, Ghost, Jekyll and Movable Type.  If you want more than just a blog you can look at things like Drupal or Joomla…  but having had plenty of bad work experience with both I am not super fond of either.  That said there are a ton of folks who love them and swear by them, so your mileage may vary.  I would suggest that you look at pretty much all of the options, but in reality you are more than likely going to end up using WordPress.  The reason being that there is simply more support from that community for blog-centric needs…  and if you can think of it, there is likely already a plugin written to do the thing you want to do.

Once you have chosen something…  you need to install it…  which again is going to vary wildly based on the package that you choose.  I said before that more than likely a few of these options are going to show up in the auto configuration tools that your web host will likely have.  That said… automated WordPress installs in my experience often have issues.  My preference is to just use the normal web based installer process in setting it up that involves you creating your own MySQL database (also through a web based tool your provider will give you like PHPMySQL) and then feeding that information into the web GUI to set everything up.  If this sounds frustrating to you, then maybe the self hosting route is not your jam.  Granted there are a bunch of us in the Blaugust community that are going to be more than happy to help you sort these sort of things out.

SaaS / Cloud Platforms

If you checked the hell out of the last sequence of paragraphs then maybe your best option is to go with a feature-lite but also stress-lite blogging platform.  Here you have a wealth of options that are at your disposal.  I have my preferences but I am going to talk about a long list of options that range from completely free, to “freemium”, to paid only.  Quite honestly you can in theory blog with social media like Facebook or Google Plus…  but that is very much not my jam.  There is just too much platform rivalry and for every person like me that hates Facebook with a passion, there is someone else out there that hates some other platform with similar fury.  One of the options I am talking about is in the more social space, but it makes for a pretty reasonable blog option as well.  Essentially I am going to talk through some of these options as I view them.  Take anything I say with a grain of salt.

  • WordPress.com – This is the fully hosted version of WordPress and lives in a halfway state between free and paid.  Essentially you can roll a site within moments for free and have a something.wordpress.com address to send your readers to.  They also offer a few premium features that you can pay for that get you closer to the WordPress.org self hosted experience, but you will never quite get that level of freedom.  This is going to be the best option if you want to start out small but at some point down the line want to move to hosting your own blog, because it is trivial to move content from a wordpress.com install to a wordpress.org self hosted scenario. There is a really good mobile client for WordPress and for both self hosted and SaaS you can get in and write very solid posts with full picture and theme support from a phone/tablet without needing to rely on the web interface.
  • Blogger.com – This is the other big popular option for a quick and free blog.  I’ve used this in the past at length and my very first blog existed here…  and no I will never link it ever ever because it is embarrassing as hell.  In many ways Blogger feels like it at some point got locked in the dotcom boom look and feel and never really evolved out of it.  It still today feels very much as it did when it was competing with Live Journal and Xanga, and never really grew out of that era.  There are folks however that completely swear by it.. and it has hands down the very best implementation of a blogroll out there.  It also has very easy integration with google advertising if you plan on making money with your postings.  The biggest issue is…  every few years it feels like Google is about ready to kick it to the curb since they would really love you to use Google Plus as your blogging platform.
  • SquareSpace.com – This is a platform I have never used but have heard a lot of great things about especially in the customer service and site uptime departments.  The reason why I have never used it is because there is no free option.  This is paid software and you are essentially given two tiers of access… Personal for $16 a month or Business for $26 a month…  with obvious price breaks for paying a year at a time.  I hear they have a lot of really cool toys behind the scenes and a library full of resources to build your site out in a web based drag and drop editor.  That said once again I have no personal experience with this and as a result can’t give a proper endorsement.
  • Tumblr.com – This one lives in a weird space between social media and blogging platform, and what you end up with instead is an option that is really good at relatively short posts with lots of media file support.  There are folks who love Tumblr as a community, but I have never been super impressed with its often times hyperbolic nature.  That said I syndicate out to Tumblr and often get readers that come in from it so there is at least some traction there…  giving me a shocking number of followers on a platform I never really engage with.  What Tumblr really has going for it is that it is extremely simple to use, has a great mobile friendly web client and is one of your more hands off options.  You can do some pretty basic styling of a Tumblr blog but you will never really be able to do anything super crazy with it.  I appreciate it for its simplicity and the fact that it lends itself to relatively short posts that I can quickly consume.  Image Meme Tumblr is a thing and you are going to run into a lot of blogs that are nothing but reposts from fandoms…  similarly NEVER EVER EVER EVER search for something on Tumblr that you love without the safe search filters on.

Many Important Decisions

The long and short of this is that you are going to be asked to make a lot of decisions that you may or may not know the full ramifications of at this point.  I would suggest that you lead on the Blaugust community for support here because we each have our blogging platform of choice and some very valid reasons why we ended up that way.  I am going to largely push folks towards WordPress because it gives you more options, however I am sure there is someone out there that just hates it and would send you off a completely different path.  Ultimately there are ways to move content between providers, some of which are easier than others…  but what I am telling you is that you are not necessarily locked into a decision right now that you will use for the rest of your life.  I know my long time friend Calamity Jess has re-rolled her blog three or four times since our days in the WoW Blogging Community… and that is okay.  The readers that really matter will follow you wherever you happen to be hanging your hat, and ultimately you have to make the decisions that make you happy.

 

 

 

 

Blaugust Prep Week

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Welcome to Blaugust!!!

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This week begins what I am referring to as “Prep Week” the idea is to start things a little early and give time for folks in the community to give advice on how exactly to get started.  This might be technical advice in how to get that blog up and running, or more soft skills sort of advise like how to find your niche.  The whole idea being that we can help prepare bloggers to be ready to hit the ground running as soon as August 1st rolls around.  I have to say this initiative has already out lived any expectations that I might have had for it…  and up until today we had yet to actually start properly.

After allowing Blaugust to fall by the wayside I was not really sure what sort of response I would get from the community.  The truth is that last year of Blaugust was fairly anemic as well with me not doing much support of my own thing.  I was not sure if people still cared or still wanted to band together into a larger gathering of minds…  but the answer is apparently yes.  As of posting this the official spreadsheet where I am keeping track of participants has 54 blogs signed up.  It is my hope as the first Blaugust posts start rolling in that the number is going to keep incrementing upwards.

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At this point I have been plugging away at this nonsense for going on nine years… which to some makes me a veteran and to the eldest of our number…  a babe in the woods.  One of the things you are going to see with my blog is a lot of artwork by the amazing Ammo, and back at the seven year mark I commissioned her to do the above image of a bunch of my “Belghasts” from different games.  On the far side you have my Human Warrior in World of Warcraft, moving right my Blades/Shotgun character in The Secret World, next on the bottom my Bahmi Warrior from Rift and stacked on top of him my Exo Titan from Destiny, beside that my Imperial Dragon Knight from Elder Scrolls Online, and finally my Lalafell Warrior in Final Fantasy XIV aka Lalabel.  I’ve played a lot of characters over the years but none of them have been named “Aggronaut” which to some extent means that I failed at least a little bit in naming this blog, since I have been referred to as “Mr Aggronaut” more times than I can count when this blog is quoted.

The name of your blog is probably the single most important thing that you need to stick the landing on, because it becomes increasingly difficult to change once your site gets out in circulation.  I named this blog Tales of the Aggronaut because at the time my intent was for it to be a very niche blog…  World of Warcraft Warrior Tanking and Raiding blog.  The name Aggronaut being a play on Argonaut…  or in my mind one who navigates the Aggro… aka the number one role a tank performs in a party.  I am not sure however if anyone actually picked up on that, and instead expected a way more aggressive and angry blogging style than I have.  I wonder how many people I have turned off completely with them thinking the experience they would be getting was a rant blog.  In fact what I consider to be “me ranting” is apparently super tame in the global internet sense so I have a very ill fitting name for myself.

To make matters worse I carried this sin forward when we started our podcast…  not really knowing what to call it and instead just referring to it as AggroChat until it stuck.  Again there is the problem that if you hear a name like that, you expect it to be an aggressive podcast which it very much is not.  In fact there has been a few times when people have commented upon how very rarely do we actually say anything resembling a curse word.  Generally speaking “bullshit” is the worst thing we say and even then its only when describing some particularly egregious stuff and not actually that common place.  Basically all I am trying to say here is that I failed miserably in properly branding my blog and that you should probably not follow my example.  The cuter and more precious the name… the more likely its meaning is going to be completely lost on the bulk of your readership…  at least until someone points it out to them.

What’s In A Name

So ultimately what is the ideal name for a blog you might ask?  The truth is I don’t have a perfect answer because it is going to vary wildly between people.  In my experience the best blogs have short catchy names, that vaguely remind you of something…  but are also not so specific that they cannot be super malleable if the writer needs or wants to shift subjects.  The majority of us are going to be writing gaming blogs, and there will be an extreme tendency for us to name them based on some bit of a game we love…  or at least a gaming concept.  This can be a double edged sword but I thought I would spend some time picking on names of my fellow bloggers.  In truth I am not going to be saying anything bad, just talking about decisions that were made.

  • Levelcapped.com – This is the site that Scopique runs and I have to say I am super jealous of the title and domain associated with it.  Capping your level is a fairly generic construct at this point, but it is also universally understood especially now that even first person shooters generally have some sort of a leveling mechanic with its requisite end game.  It conveys a notion without limiting options for taking the blog in different directions.  He could for example decide to reboot it completely away from gaming and turn it into a personal blog in his quest to “level up” or something of the sort.
  • MMOQuests.com – This one is easy to pick on given that Stargrace no longer blogs using it and has instead adopted nomadicgamerseh.com as her new home.  First off… it is a great name…  if all you want to do is write about MMO Quests for the rest of your blogging career.  I have to feel like this is probably exactly why she made the jump to a more general blog title… in fact she says as much in a post.
  • Bio Break – I have always loved the title of this blog even though for years I rammed the two words together and Syp can be mildly particular about doing that.  The need to take a bio break… whatever that means to you and walk away from the screen is something universal in gaming be in an MMO where the verbiage was popularized or in a console game when you just need to hit pause and do something else for a moment.  Every game groks this concept and as a result it is insanely sticky branding and has the benefit of rolling off the tongue well.
  • Blessing of Kings – I’ve read this blog since my first days in the World of Warcraft blogging community and love it.  However the name is very specific to that game and will never really be seen as anything else than a World of Warcraft blog, and more particularly a Paladin blog.   Now I don’t think Rohan has any intent to blog about anything else, but I am just pointing out that the blog is pointed into a very specific corner and doesn’t have much of a way out of it.
  • Inventory Full – Another great blog that I read almost daily and another great title that is instantly relate-able to anyone who looks at it and has ever played a game with an inventory management system.  While very much an “MMO Blog” it doesn’t have to be by the title and scope.  It could in theory shift to be any sort of gaming blog or even a personal blog talking about a busy life where it feels like your “inventory” is always full.
  • MMO Gamer Chick – An amazing blog that has sadly gone silent over the years apart from re-syndicating the Battle Bards podcast.  The name tells you a very specific story that you should expect MMO Gaming Posts from a female perspective, and it is that first part that once again limits the longevity of options for the blog.  In the crush of the 2000s… MMO Gaming was the new hotness that we never thought would go into repose…  but alas the age exciting new MMOs has eclipsed making a title like this rough to keep interested in as a writer.
  • DragonChasers.com – Again another excellent title that works in a bunch of different ways.  You could take it literally and interpret as a raiding blog where the person talks about taking down bosses or “slaying internet dragons” in common parlance.  You could also interpret as a metaphor or any number of topics that are difficult to tackle, or simply turn it into a more personal blog.  The name gives you enough room to shift it as your own interests have shifted.

Ultimately I gave myself a short enough name that I have been able to change things up as needed and folks don’t generally remember the actual name of the blog, they just remember Aggronaut.com.  I am saying all of this because if you stick with this for any length of time, your interests are going to shift.  I started my life as a World of Warcraft Tanking and Raiding blog… and shifted into a Raiding and Guild Management blog, then eventually into a more general World of Warcraft blog.

From there I moved into Rift and lost most of my readers over night when I made the change, because being part of a very specific community often means the folks who are reading you…  are only interested in that very specific community.  Sure I got an influx of new readers from the Rift community, but it was a pretty traumatic shift for me personally to go through.  From there I shifted into a general MMO blog and now when the whole “blogging every day” thing happened shifted into a blog about me and my adventures both in game and in the real world with zero pretense of trying to have a higher purpose.

Effectively Tales of the Aggronaut has become an extremely obtusely named personal blog when something like Belghast.com that I do in fact own probably would have been better to use.  However at this point it feels like it is too late in the game to make a major shift like that given the search engine traction that I have after blogging for going on ten years with the same website.  So again I go back to the statement I made at the beginning of this lengthy diatribe…  your name is quite possibly the most decision you can make when it comes to a blog and it will for good or bad ultimately dictate what sort of blog it becomes.

Protecting Sanctuary

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Tomorrow is the official launch of Blaugust and I am pretty freaking excited about it.  I think last I checked we had something in the vicinity of 52 blogs signed up and I am hoping once the first topics start rolling in that number will keep incrementing upwards.  July 25th through July 31st I have dubbed the Blaugust Prep Week, and what you can see from me and hopefully the other mentors is a series of posts talking about how to get started.  These may range from technical discussions of WordPress vs Blogger vs Tumblr to more general discussions of picking a format for your blog or coming up with a name you won’t immediately outgrow.  For the participants however, they should view this as a time to stretch their legs a bit and prepare for the month ahead.  Get some of those early posts in so that you can sort out your own personal blogging rhythms.

Since we had a few more folks sign up I figure I should link their stuff here as well.

New Participants

Once again if you have not taken the time to sign up, please do so.  Considering we have all been there before deciding if we should be blogging at all…  I promise you can do this thing.  When you have signed up make sure you pop by the discord and come hang out as we chat about bloggery things.

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One of the weird disconnects thematically that I have in Elder Scrolls games has always been the Dark Brotherhood.  For the uninitiated, the Dark Brotherhood is a group of assassins that answer the call of the Night Mother.  Around the game world individuals perform a ritual known as the Black Sacrament that calls on the Night Mother with a very specific prayer “Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear.”  This prayer is heard by the Night Mother and relayed to the Listener of a specific sanctuary which then goes and seals the contract.  We as players traditionally carry out these contracts that involve taking the life of someone who has generally speaking wronged someone else.

So you would expect that from within the Dark Brotherhood everyone would effectively be blood thirsty assassins ready to kill at a moments notice.  While the last bit is true…  the Sanctuary has a very different feel on the inside.  The Dark Brotherhood represents some of the most weirdly sweet content in an Elder Scrolls game.  The members all take care of each other like a family, and when you return home the various other assassins are generally happy to see you.  There is something almost weirdly wholesome about the whole situation, and ultimately I think that is what makes the experience all the more unsettling.

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Ultimately every tale of the Dark Brotherhood tends to end in the same manner, and I am wondering if the tale told in Elder Scrolls Online will be the same.  There are several characters that I genuinely like…  like the Nord who sheltered a scared werewolf girl and adopted her as his sister.  Every game seems to have some characters that you just feel protective over…  in spite of the fact that they are legitimately cold blooded killers.  It is a bizarre juxtaposition that makes me completely uncertain how to feel about any of it…  but it is also one of those guilds that I always look forward to seeing the storyline.  It is progressing much slower than the Thieves Guild did, and I can’t say I am any better at getting a kill in without being noticed.  That said it doesn’t really seem to matter much in the grand scheme of things as I can simply hide out until the heat and my bounty clears.  The thieves guild and dark brotherhood skill lines are amazingly complimentary…  and my only complaint so far is that I cannot assassinate folks during the thieves guild dailies without triggering “being seen” and reducing my timer.

May the dread father guide your blade.

Traders Row

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This weekend the Discord was super active with folks talking about their blog and various related topics.  I am traditionally super bad at following any sort of social media or chats over the weekend.  I barely respond to instant message or text either because I am generally engaged in something that takes all of my attention, either that or running around.  This weekend we went out junking for a bit which was extremely fun, and got this amazing ice cream at a “from scratch” sort of place a town over.  I had English toffee and my wife had cotton candy and both were phenomenal to eat while we roamed around looking through the various junk shops.  I mean they are all labelled as “antiques” but really…  if it isn’t a junk shop I am not terribly interested in looking at it.

We had a few more people sign up for Blaugust which is awesome.  If you have not done this and are at all considering it… please fill out the form link and join us in this madness.  Onwards to the new blogs… one of which has yet to get complete set up but we are going to mention her anyways.

  • Alli – To Be Determined…  but think the name “The Parent Trope” was chosen via the discord this weekend.
  • Void – A Green Mushroom

One of my favorite things this year is seeing us spread out.  We’ve got several sign ups that listened to either the Massively OP Podcast or Geek to Geek and then I am seeing other interesting references showing some word of mouth from folks I am not sure if I even know who they are completely yet.  The other thing I find interesting is several of the comments are written in a way as though they think maybe I don’t know who they are.  If you are a long time reader of my blog and a regular favoriter or commenter regardless of the venue…  blog, twitter, wordpress reader…  I promise I know who you are and am super happy anytime I see you pop up in my notifications.

It isn’t often that I link my podcast from the weekend in my Monday morning post but maybe that is a thing I should do more often.  This weekend it is directly related to the sort of weekend I had, namely it is a show where we largely talk about Elder Scrolls Online and our recent renaissance with that game.  At this moment myself, Ash, Tam, Kodra, Void, Neph, Thalen and Lyle are playing it more or less in various states of “active”.  I believe ToadChild and Eliyon are also playing as well but I have not really seen them online…  either that or not as a name I would recognize them as.  We have a pair Miko and Uldane14 that seem to be leveling together in Morrowind because their levels stay synchronized but never respond to guild chat so not sure who they are.

One of the things you have to realize about House Stalwart in Elder Scrolls Online… is this represents the last great guild that I tried to build.  That is not to say that I have not done my fair share of recruiting for various guilds and continue to do so to this day.  Stalwart on ESO however was my last guild building experiment where I attempted to get all of the people who know me and all of the people they know together in one room…  and over night blossom into a guild of like 150 people at the launch of the game.  We had folks that I knew from various games I had played, folks who worked on said various games…  lots of members of the blogging and content creation community including Dulfy for a bit because we had bumped into each other during the alpha.  It was a massive thing and so long as folks were willing to abide by the three tenets they were welcome.

The only problem with that is there are a large number of people in the guild that I do not remember at all.  In fact there was at least one person I kicked recently that was the ex-husband of a good friend of mine who left her under some seemingly shady conditions.  When there is a situation like that I tend to punt the spouse as a precautionary measure just so at some point in the future there isn’t a moment when they are both online and forgot that they were both in that same guild.  Anyways this is not at all what I intended to be talking about this morning, but suffice to say there are a lot of people in the guild and since you can technically be in five guilds at once… not many have left.  I have two guild slots left, and in truth one of those could be easily pruned in a pinch because I think we only used it as a private extension of the guild bank.

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The thing I actually wanted to talk about this morning is how my opinion has shifted in relation to a topic from this game.  When it first rolled out I remember myself being extremely frustrated by their version of the Auction House system.  I had gotten used to games like World of Warcraft that had overarching global Auction House systems that allowed you to within moments search everything that was available for sale.  It felt extremely efficient, but in hindsight it also has lead to practices that I am not quite so down with like the various gold making schemes that involve playing the Auction House and looking for bargains.  This isn’t my jam… because I don’t really have that day trader instinct and as a result it always just seemed to unnaturally inflate the price of things making it harder for me to get what i wanted.  I remember receiving threatening messages in game from a bag making cartel when I dared to break their agreed upon price point and sold some bags for less to move them quickly.  I told them if they didn’t like it… buy my bags and relist them but otherwise I will do whatever the hell I want.

So for the uninitiated instead of an Auction House system, Elder Scrolls Online has a series of Guild Traders that are located throughout the world and in clusters that can be found in most towns.  I tend to personally refer to these areas as Traders Row and in most cases they are fairly close to the Wayshrine making it easy to pop over and check them.  Now each Trader is bid upon by various guilds in a blind bidding scheme for a fixed bid cycle, and then that guild is charged a weekly rate to maintain the guild store.  I have no real first hand experience of this other than one of my guilds regularly has an active trader somewhere in the world.  When your guild has a trader you have the ability to sell items on the guild store to anyone who happens across your trader and decides to open the inventory and purchase something.

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This has a lot of interesting side effects… namely that all traders are not created equal.  The traders that are in higher rent districts for lack of a better term…  areas of that have higher churn from the player base tend to have much higher prices.  So I am sure over in Summerset, the brand new expansion the prices of items on those traders would be artificially inflated to account for the fact that in order to win that trader… the blind bid that guild had to put up was likely extremely significant.  Now the inverse is true as well… if you find some trader in a backwater area that isn’t even a main city…  the items you find on that vendor are likely going to be extremely cheap.  This creates a cycle of being able to find bargains…  if you are willing to go do the leg work.  There is technically a search engine for items… but it isn’t very complete and requires that people be running an addon that updates the pricing.

Instead what I did on Friday night was spent roughly two hours popping around from town to town looking for deals.  I was ultimately trying to complete the Dwemer crafting set, but in the process I also completed the outlaw weapons and the rest of my mercenary armor pieces.  This process involved taking a way shrine to what I thought I remembered as one of the main towns in a region, making my way to the traders row and searching each of the vendors looking for any of the items I currently was hunting for.  What should have been tedium…  honestly felt pretty enjoyable.  Each region has its own feel and its own group of people that prefer to frequent it.  For example like I have talked about how Shornhelm is my home in this world…  there seems to be people that feel that way about almost every city.

Over the course of several trips to various guild traders, I found myself noticing a lot of the same names hanging out around them.  It feels like a trader may anchor a guild to a location and with it gives the world a tangible destination feel that has been lacking from other games.  The world is massive, but it also feels lived in…  populated with players who happen to prefer one area to another and go there to deal with their “upkeep”.  Just like I preferred Iron Forge for years… and later the Dwarven Quarter…  you can prefer Elden Root to Daggerfall and it is perfectly okay because there is nothing that you can get in one location or other other that makes one superior.  I guess that isn’t entirely fair… given that you need to go to a faction Capitol to get your Undaunted dailies but that really isn’t that big of a deal.

In a game with instant travel…  it has been interesting to see how many things are there to keep you connected to one location over another.