Gamer Social Media


Love for Anook


So anyone who follows me probably knows of my love of twitter.  Over the years it has become the only major social media network that I really interact with on a regular basis.  Technically I have Facebook, and G+ and essentially an account on every single social media network because I am always curious about the next big thing…. but rarely do they actually make an impact.  What has happened instead is that I seem to have become more and more entrenched in niche social media.  Firstly I have to talk about my love of Anook.  When this site first launched it confused the hell out of me.  In fact I was shooting off my mouth like I often do on twitter, complaining about me not really understanding its purpose….  when the Anook account started messaging me trying to explain it.  My attachment to this network is entirely thanks to one man, Lonrem the social and community manager for the site.  The site itself does a lot of things…  but it also has so far to go before it “grows up” into the site that it could be.

I have a long list of things that I would love to see on it, but I continue to use it as it is in the hope that someday the rest of the world will realize just how special this network really is.  It is built on a strange dynamic of forcing actual interaction with the site, rather than allowing folks to just auto post content.  This is cool because it means that folks are actually there and posting and commenting… but the negative is for content providers like myself it is frustrating to have to do extra work just to support them.  Each week when I publish AggroChat I go out and manually syndicate the content to our AggroChat Nook.  The first change I would love to see is for them to integrate with RSS feeds the same way they do with YouTube and auto format a post in a way as to showcase blog content.  The other big one for me is that their system only allows you to tag one game per post… and you all know I cannot seem to make single game posts like ever unless it is an impressions piece. In any case…. the community on Anook is amazing because Lonrem works his ass off to keep it that way.  Spammers, Bots and Trolls do not last long because the network is curated by hand.  I just hope that they get the funding to expand features and integrate with more things.

Slack: Private IRC Thingy


The next social thing that has taken me even further away from traditional social media… is Slack.  It is kinda hard to explain just what Slack is, but I tend to think of it as a private social network.  On one hand it is almost like having a private IRC server, and on other hands it is like having a private version of google drive or dropbox.  I was originally introduced to the tool through the staff who uses it for coordination of articles and such.  I then started using it at work with my own development team, and we have pretty much switched to communicating exclusively through it so that if someone tags into a discussion late they can use the channel backlog to catch up on what is going on.  Finally I convinced the AggroChat crew to start using it to discuss and coordinate things during the week, and from there it kinda grew into me being in a huge number of private slack groups each of them with their own dedicated focus.  The end result is that I use other media less and tend to use slack as my key focus.  It has a bunch of benefits, like the fact that this site is largely used for business purposes around the world, and as such happily passes though most corporate web filters.

What slack does extremely well is text chat, and while they can integrate with a dozen other things and are even starting to move down the voice chat path…  they are the king of text allowing you more options than pretty much any other service.  For programmers this is amazing because it allows you to post snippets of code and then have it formatted and color coded for the language you posted it as.  This is huge when collaborating on development, and we even end up using this from time to time among the AggroChat crew.  You can also see in the above image that we have it integrated with twitter so that anytime someone sends a message directed at our AggroChat account it shows up in a specific channel.  The feature we have really gotten addicted to is the custom emoticons and I am not sure what I will do without my Vault Boy Thumbs Up icon to use as a reaction.  The piece of the equation that most people don’t know is that the team behind Slack… is Tiny Speck the company that built the amazing 2D MMO Glitch.  They essentially took the robust chat infrastructure behind that game… and turned it into a business product that honestly makes me feel a little good inside to be using.

Discord: New Voice Contender


Over the years we have shifted back and forth between the three major voice providers for gaming purposes:  Teamspeak, Ventrilo, and Mumble.  Each of them has their own positives and negatives.  They all share a big negative however in that it requires you to either find someone willing to host a server for you, or pony up for server hosting costs.  For years during World of Warcraft raiding, I just ate the cost of a voice server because it was something like $45 a quarter.  However that still adds up over time, so when we were offered the Alliance of Awesome Teamspeak server I jumped at the chance to jump to no longer having to pay this fee.  That server has been awesome and we record AggroChat from it every Saturday night.  However deep down inside… I know that someone out there is having to foot the bill for our fun… and it kinda bothers me.  Recently a new app called Discord has somewhat taken the gaming world by storm.  In so many ways Slack and Discord seem to spawn from the same desire… to have server less communication for their users.  Slack went in the direction of replacing IRC, Instant Messenger and Email…. and Discord went down the path of trying to replace Teamspeak, Ventrilo and Mumble.  There is a huge bit of overlap between the two technologies but for the most part Slack is my daytime network, and Discord is rapidly becoming my night time network.

What is extremely awesome about this is that each game community seems to be adopting Discord, and I now have large communities in Destiny, ESO, Rift, and The Division that are focused that one game.  We recently shifted to using this as a World of Warcraft raid for the Stalwart casual Wednesday night raid and it works wonderfully.  The stability of Teamspeak has been a little questionable of late, and we went through a night where everyone sounded like robots.  This lead us to fire up a discord, and in a few minutes we were all able to chat happily with little to no lag.  There are some caveats here that I feel like I should talk about.  The web client is awesome for text based chat, but if you intend to use it long… I highly suggest downloading the client for your desktop or mobile platform.  The web client push to talk only works if you have focus on the web page…. meaning as soon as you alt tab into your game you can no longer speak.  A side note… if you are not using push to talk…  please god use push to talk.  I raided for years with folks who didn’t and really… we can hear every sneeze, fart, and kid yelling in the background.  I would absolutely jump from Teamspeak to Discord entirely… but as of right now there is no good means of recording a channel.  I’ve bumped the feature up on the request list, so hopefully maybe someday someone will see fit to do that.  Mostly I hate Skype with a passion and would love for Discord to really take over the podcast recording world.

Other Stuff

The thing is… these are the three services that I have now become extremely comfortable with and have integrated into my life.  There are so many others out there like that I have yet to really see the personal benefit of.  Then of course there are all of the services like Steam that we all use… but don’t really use like social networks.  Recently I have somewhat been forced to use Band because it is what my Destiny Clan switched to using.  It seems to have really great scheduling options, but pretty shitty chat or at least it is shitty if you are not using a mobile client.  I try and do everything I can through desktop or web based clients because nothing makes me a sad panda like typing on my phone. I am horrible at responding to non-critical text messages because I really hate the process of typing even with swype on a mobile device.  I know my wife uses the Google speech to text functionality a lot, but nothing makes me feel more of an idiot than talking to my phone.  So in the end… I put off responding to as much as I can until I am sitting back down at a keyboard again.  So I’ve showed you mine… what services do you now use that you cannot give up?  I am curious how these niche media sites are reshaping the way we interact with social media in general.



Bel Propaganda

Guild Infrastructure

greysky It has been an insane ride with our free company.  It is like the floodgates have opened and folks are now recruiting themselves.  More truthfully it seems that when someone gets a foothold in our free company, they tend to recruit their friends to join it as well.  As a result some strange stuff is happening, like last night it was pointed out that apparently we are now ranked 15th on our realm and climbing as far as activity goes.  That is apparently up from 70th on our realm…  which is absolutely insane, needless to say we are a guild on the move apparently.  What is awesome about this is just how damned friendly everyone is.  Each time a new infusion of people join the guild there is so much happiness in guild chat, with everyone welcoming the new players.  My biggest hope is that we can keep this general sense of joy going forward.  What is even more awesome is just how many of the new people are perfectly comfortable hanging out with us on voice chat each night.  We are now contemplating the very real possibility of being able to field multiple serious 8 man groups at the same time, which a few months ago would have seemed crazy.

As a result of all of this…  Tam and I had a discussion yesterday in which we released we were getting far too large to not have any guild infrastructure.  When it was just a handful of us that were in constant communication… it worked more or less to not have any semblance of a guild website.  However now that we have all of these new people we are having to create something resembling a modern guild.  When we came back in July I stubbed out a site on Anook but we never really populated it with anything.  As of yesterday this is changing, and I hope that we can get the rest of our guild to sign up and join in the fun there.  Largely I am choosing Anook, because a lot of people already have accounts there… and dealing with running a forum is a pain in the ass.  Forum software is often one of the largest attack vectors on any site, and if you do not keep a rigorous schedule of constant updates…  it is liable to get compromised.  I simply don’t want that sort of liability any more, and since Anook offers a fairly robust forum, shared image galleries, an event calendar, and a nifty way to link guild streams together…  it seemed like a really nice fit.  Not to mention that Lonrem is amazing and has been willing to support damned near any hair brained scheme I have come up with.  Folks have already started populating the shared image album, which is awesome.

Bel Propaganda


Another thing to come out of yesterday is something of a recruitment piece.  Over the last several weeks I have been giving essentially the same talk to everyone that joins the free company.  Not that I mind having this conversations, but I felt like I was spending a lot of time repeating myself just getting the most basic information out there.  I got to thinking… if I could condense this talk into a single page I could create something easy to link to new people.  It is by no way an attempt to stop questions, but more to give players that are new to our group a quick info dump about who we are and what we are like.  After creating this I realized… that I also created a tool to let people entice their friends.  So as such I thought I would offer up the link here this morning for any of my Free Company mates that might be reading.  You can now go to and get a quick dump of a bunch of information about our free company and our basic guidelines.  So when your buddies ask you about your free company, you now have a quick thing you can link them to explain further.  I used it yesterday afternoon and so far people seem to dig it.

While on the topic of propaganda… I had to include the above photo that Rae sent me.  She was feeling out of sorts on Monday night, and while the bulk of us were raiding Turn 9… it seems she was up to shenanigans in our housing zone.  I am really not sure how this happened but apparently an impromptu pony parade occurred where everyone broke out their favorite pony mounts and rode around our housing zone.  I absolutely love that this sort of thing happens.  A large number of us idle in the housing zone when not doing anything, and we have developed this awesome community of players that do the same.  The night we bought our house, we were welcomed by a bunch of neighbors from the houses around us and over time we have gotten to know several of them.  It is awesome logging in and running to the market board, only to get /hugged several times along the way.  Cactuar is a truly amazing place, and I am so happy that we apparently chose correctly when we rolled there over a year ago.

Heroic Hans and Franz

WoWScrnShot_032415_202250 Trying to mix things up a bit, and get our folks upgrades… my Raid has been working on some of the Heroic encounters in Blackrock Foundry.  Last week we made significant progress on the Hans and Franz encounter, and had some lessons learned that we took into this week.  Namely two things really lead us to this victory.  Firstly better awareness of who was getting the body slam attack, and for them to move out of the raid making sure the tank did not take the debuff.  Secondly better self awareness in trying really hard not to get pinned down by the crushers as they came through.  Last night we had some of the worst possible luck as far as RNG goes and the patterns we could potentially get.  There is this one pattern that was killing me damned near every time because the boss would be in the center of the room… and the only free space on the far left edge.  On the last few tries, including the one when we managed to down them… I started prioritizing my own survival to damage time spent on the boss and I feel like the rest of the raid did essentially the same thing.

We managed to pull out a fairly narrow victory, but I have a feeling that since we now believe we can do this fight…  future attempts will be much smoother.  From there we moved to work on Beastlord Darmac, and had a few heartbreaking attempts getting him within 2% on our best.  That fight… is just madness on heroic with so much shit in the room being on fire during the later phases.  There are several things we need to work on, but I feel like we CAN improve and potentially down them next week.  Largely the spear maintenance needed to be better, both in folks moving so they do not get pinned and folks breaking out individuals who did get pinned.  The amount of time you have is really tight, and this needs to be an all raid effort when someone is gets stuck.  Secondly I feel like during the last phases we needed to move the boss more often, because the amount of flame surrounding him made it damned near impossible for melee to dps.  If nothing else we made solid progress and I feel like with a bit of polish we can knock this one out as well.

Of Social Networks

A New Challenger Awaits

Yesterday morning I rather easily allowed myself to get  talked into a brand new social network account.  Over the last few days there has apparently be inordinate amounts of buzz surrounding the self proclaimed “Anti-Facebook” known as  The folks behind it posted a rather lengthy manifesto talking about their high minded ideals.

Your social network is owned by advertisers.

Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.

You are not a product.

Yesterday evening it got me thinking… do we really need another social network?  I am a sucker for all things new and more than anything I accepted the invite as a way to go ahead and sign up and claim @Belghast like I have done so many times in the off chance that I want to use it.  This morning I thought I would talk about the various social networks that I use and what they mean to me.

The Network I Care About

During the launch of many of the social networks I dabbled in them, but the first one I found myself using on a daily basis was Twitter.  When I entered the world of games blogging it became my front doorstep allowing me to communicate and collaborate with other bloggers.  It doesn’t hurt that the WoW Blogosphere has such a tremendous twitter presence, but even after fading out of those circles I stuck around and found new cornerstones of the non-Warcraft landscape.  Over the years twitter has been a source of much enjoyment and much frustration, but at the end of the day it still remains one of my primary means of conversation with a lot of people that I care about deeply.  Ironically I would not likely be as connected to twitter today, were it not for the fact that my wife found such deep and meaningful connections there before me.

There is something genius about the sheer brevity of the 140 character limit.  It is just big enough to express a thought, but too small to go into much detail about it.  I’ve found the more I blog, the more I need my social interaction to be in small bite sized chunks.  So right now Twitter fits me perfectly.  There was a time when I was not blogging when I craved something more.  Ultimately if it is going to be a long discourse I end up posting it here, and simply echoing it to all of my networks for the sake of stirring up discussion either in the comments here or in the threads I post them  there.  The biggest problem I have with twitter is the fact that it is a very closed community to anyone who did not get in on it early.  It also frustrates me that I have friends who cannot get the name they want because someone who doesn’t use twitter at all and never has, camped it years ago.

The Network I Had Hope For

When Google Plus rode into the social network scene I latched onto it with both hands.  It was telling me everything I ever wanted to hear and more.  I shuffled into that network during a period of time when I was not blogging at all.  I’ve always found that I craved dumping my thoughts to the page, and need it as some sort of mental reset button.  Google Plus became this reset valve for me and I essentially started blogging regularly through the network.  The early days were pretty great when the only people that were on Plus were the people who cared enough to be on  it.  There were some really valuable networks of gamers and geeks to be found there, and it reached a critical mass around the launch of Star Wars the Old Republic.  Folks used it as a way to find other guilds and collaborate with them for events bigger than themselves.

Then Google opened the flood gates, and the awesome people got diluted by a sea of all the frustrating parts of the internet.  I watched awesome women go from being able to start genuine conversations about things… to having to constantly fend off the sexual advances of men making inappropriate comments in their threads.  I watched the people I cared about on the network slowly taper off their usage or retract into private circles.  Something happened for me at the same time… I started blogging again and more regularly, and my need to dump out my thoughts onto social media changed.  I started to favor brevity again, and as such retreated back into Twitter.  I still poke my head into Google Plus a few times a day because there are people I do care about that use it as their primary network, but I just don’t feel nearly as engaged as I once did.

The Network I Wish More People Used

When Anook launched it was yet another website that I signed up for but had no real use for.  I simply didn’t get it.  I expected it to be Raptr, but I saw none of the automatic games tracking hooks that I had come to expect.  In a moment of frustration I exclaimed to Twitter that I didn’t understand what was so great about this network, and why various people were using it.  At that moment as if by magic one of the hardest working community managers I have ever met appeared to explain.  The fact that he dealt with my frustration and quite frankly abrasive commentary… and stuck around to try and explain the mission statement in earnest says a lot about his character.  Lonrem explained that what they were wanting to create was not a new Raptr but almost a Facebook for Gamers for lack of a better description.  I made it my mission to start trying to use the site, and I have really enjoyed the interactions I have had there.

In fact I use Anook often enough that I have started to fear that people might think I was somehow being paid by them.  Truth is…  no one is getting paid, not even the amazingly hard working community manager.  This is very much a grass roots by gamers for gamers network, and that is why I have latched onto it so hard.  The problem is that right now it is inconvenient, and simply doesn’t play nicely with other things.  I can’t automagically syndicate my blog posts each morning to it, and there is no mobile client which for most of us is the real killer.  The thing is… I believe in its mission and I want to see it grow so I keep trying to force feed it to people.  I just wish it was a more active community, at least more active by the corner of the internet that I really care about.  The biggest feature for me is the Nooks themselves, because it allows you to carve up little communities related to the games you play but still all be in the same broad network.  I would really love it if more of you became active participants in what could really be an amazing community for gamers.

The Network I Actively Despise

Once upon a time there was this fledgling social network called Facebook.  At the request of some friends I signed up for it, and I somewhat enjoyed the interactions there.  There were these cool apps that let you do interesting things like draw pictures with other users, or make interesting buttons and post them on a virtual bulletin board.  It was a fun place full of light hearted interaction.  Then something changed… the world found out about it.  Over  a series of months it found like everyone that I really didn’t care about knowing still existed found me.  There is a weird social pressure to accept an invite from people you don’t even like.  I unfortunately did this over and over until my Facebook was full of things that frustrated me.  Essentially it became all too much like High School all over again, as the majority of the people who tracked me down were folks that I went to school with.  I decided I did not need that negativity in my life, and went through the overly difficult process of actually deleting your facebook account not just cancelling it.

The problem is in this world… not having a Facebook account can be a severe detriment.  There are lots of things that can only be reached THROUGH Facebook.  There were various contests and product giveaways that I wanted to participate in, and they all required that I have access to that network.  As such I started a new Facebook account connected to my blog, with the express purpose of only ever friending other bloggers or gamers.  It is pretty much a broadcast only medium for me, and I use it to syndicate my blog posts for the people who use Facebook as their social network of choice.  It is an account I really wish I didn’t feel like I needed to have, but until companies stop focusing so heavily on Facebook…  it will remain there.  You can follow me and I will likely follow back, but just realize that everything you are seeing is an echo of either Twitter or my Blog, and I don’t actually log in and interact there.

The Network Of Lofty Ideals

Now it brings us full circle to the network that started this present discussion.  Right now I have not made up my mind what I think of Ello.  There is a lot of what they are saying in their manifesto that I really do like.  The problem is the realist in me also thinks there will be a significant degradation of those ideals over time.  Google Plus started out this awesome place to interact with other like minded individuals… but mutated into a frustrating mess that is for some reason integrated with the world possible place on the earth for discussion…  Youtube.  At some point they have to stop being a boutique network and think about becoming a business… and I simply don’t see that their feature focused approach is going to bring them enough operating capital to stay afloat.  Granted the premium thing might work, especially for a niche site like Anook.  I would totally pay money to unlock more automated functionality to make my life easier.

For the time being I am using it… because to be truthful it is the new trendy toy.  I have a very small group of friends there, and for now it is a cool place.  The problem is that there are literally no privacy settings of note.  You either have a fully public account or a fully private account.  As such I think that everyone is posting very censored bits of information until they figure out how things like that will work.  Basically I would not post anything there that I would not also post on twitter or publically on Google Plus.  The design ethic pisses me the hell off to be truthful.  There is minimalism… and then there is crippling minimalism…  and Ello tends to be the later.  I’ve learned over the years that I am really just not a fan of minimalist design at all.  Give me lots of buttons and gadgets that let me configure things until my heart is happy.  For the time being I am somewhat rationing my own invites to the network until I see just how limited they end up being.  It feels very much like those early years of Gmail, when you had to know someone in the know to get access…  which has its positive and negatives.  Folks seem to be broadcasting, but not that many people seem to be actually interacting.

Shores of Oblivion

Mornings Are Hard

This one in particular is extremely difficult for some reason.  I guess it could be the fact that I fell asleep at the keyboard last night, and as a result ended up getting to the actual bed far later than I had intended to.  Now as I attempt to jump start my brain with caffeine I am realizing how frustrating the act of a morning can be.  More than anything I am finding myself extremely easily distracted.  Of late several of us have been slowly migrating to as a social site.  Primarily this is for the fact that it is ideally suited for a multi-guild meet-up site like the Alliance of Awesome.  At this point I am wondering if I could simply transplant my folks from the House Stalwart forums to the site as well making the whole experience more fluid.

For those who don’t remember… or were not reading my blog at the time, the Alliance of Awesome is a weird experiment that we have been running.  With the launch of Landmark alpha, several of us realized just how many different overlapping groups we were a part of.  So we proposed a grand alliance, and since then many of us have been laboring to make those efforts successful.  Right now the AofA as we call it, is a combination of Combat Wombat, Dark Religion, Mercy Gaming, Multiplaying and House Stalwart.  Elder Scrolls Online was the first game we really went into as a large amalgam guild and so far it seems to have worked extremely well.  I have been shocked at just how little drama has been involved, but I guess that is to be expected when most of us are “thirty somethings”.

Shores of Oblivion


Last night was an odd sequence of events.  Firstly I was supposed to be doing a pen and paper thing with several of my friends.  However I did not want to get into anything too deep because I knew I would need to go do things with my wife when she got home.  As a result I ended up piddling around in Elder Scrolls Online while waiting in a holding pattern.  As the evening went on, the time of her arriving home kept slipping backwards, so in grand total I ended up playing and streaming my gameplay for a few hours.  The mission of last night as always was to finish up Bangkorai.  I have finally reached a point where I think there are just two objective areas left in the map.  However completely by accident I seem to have moved past the zone and into Coldharbor by following the storyline.

Watch live video from Belghast on TwitchTV
At some point soon.. or at least as soon as I can find a wayshrine in Coldharbor I will be venturing back to Bangkorai to finish up the last few things on my map.  I find it almost impossible in this game to “skip” content.  It drives me absolutely insane that there is still a black skull on my Alik’r map from a world boss that was bugged out.  I feel like I have to explore every corner of the map before I finally and reluctantly move on to the next area.  At this point I am just a stones throw away from 47, so I figure that I will ding 50 well before I even come close to finishing Coldharbor.  That zone looks equally huge as compared to Bangkorai.  When I posted the above picture on Anook, someone commented about the Mudcrab.  That is “Butter” my faithful companion that has been with me the entire journey.  I am not sure why I bonded with the brown mudcrab pet over the Monkey, Bantam Guar or Red Mudcrab… but I did and he has been at my side throughout all of this.

Crush the Resistance

swtor 2014-05-05 21-28-00-26 I love the Elder Scrolls Online with every fiber of my being, but the game requires a lot of focus.  This past weekend and the last few days I have struggled a bit in trying to maintain that focus.  Wandering around the world requires you to be constantly aware of your surroundings, because an afk in the wrong area can end up with a hefty repair bill.  As such I need a game that doesn’t quite matter so much.  For a long while this has been landmark, but I have reached a point of builder burnout there for the moment.  On a whim this weekend I decided to fire back up SWTOR and I have been piddling around on my Caithar Sith Juggernaut.  I never really got to see the Sith side of things, so overall it is pretty enjoyable.  I opted to go Light Side Sith, which seems to be far more my style anyways.  I am this island of honor and nobility in a seething mass of evil.

swtor 2014-05-06 23-32-23-94 To be truthful… this specifically is the reason why I logged in over the weekend.  On “May the Fourth” they gave everyone that happened to log in an adorable astromech droid pet.  I could not pass this up, because of my friends… I am the only one who ever seems to be nostalgic enough to re-up a game subscription and revisit games the guild has moved on past.  So while it started out as “get this thing while it was available”, I am actually finding myself enjoying the game again.  It is no real competition for ESO, but it scratches the itch that most everyone seems to be satiating with Wildstar beta weekends.  Additionally… after all this time I finally have a machine that will run SWTOR on maximum everything.  This client is so poorly optimized that even on my laptop with dual video cards… it runs like complete shit.  No clue how long I will piddle around with SWTOR, but I might even stream some of my adventures.

From the Desk of Doctor Hannah

Another good friend of mine decided to enter the Newbie Blogger Initiative fray.  Dallian, otherwise known as Doctor Hannah from twitter… has had a blog for ages, but for the most part it had lived in a dormant state.  I think both the blog and the twitter account started as a joke reference to the now infamous Tabletop episode where Felicia Day creates this massive backstory of Doctor Hannah while playing Last Night on Earth.  So while the blog started off as a joke, at some point during its life it morphed into being Dallian’s personal space.  With the NBI he is taking the step of rededicating himself to blogging more regularly, and about his gaming side as well.  In this post on the forums he mentions wanting to do at least a post a week, but so far he has made like four posts this month.  I will do whatever I can to help support this effort, but in the meantime you should totally pop over to his blog and check it out.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #SWTOR #DoctorHannah #NBI2014