Our Own Convention

Noble Aspirations

This is potentially going to be one of the stranger morning blog posts I have made in awhile.  Yesterday during the midst of another conversation entirely I planted a seed, and got a significantly more favorable response than I had expected.  Essentially I have thought for awhile how awesome it would be to have some event that let all of the great people I know through gaming or blogging to meet up, hang out, and cause mischief.  This year it was my hope to be able to make Pax Prime since there are a significant number of people in the Seatle area now.  The problem being by the time I even knew the tickets had gone on sale, they were already completely sold out.  Our backup plan was to try and get AggroChat qualified for press passes, but we were summarily rejected without much notice as to why.  Every major convention has this same issue, with having way more demand than there are tickets available for folks to attend.  So this sent me down an alternate line of thinking…  maybe we just need to create our own convention.  I know that sounds crazy at first glance but bear with me for awhile.

My wife is heavily involved in the twitter math community, and five years ago they were lamenting how every single professional development workshop they have been to was essentially a waste of time.  One discussion lead to another, and the idea was mentioned that what they really needed was a way to get together so that they could share ideas.  From there they organized the very first Twitter Math Camp in St Louis, and it was a huge success.  That first year only around fifty teachers attended, but each additional year it has grown to this year in Los Angeles there were over 200 teachers.  So seeing this go from someones vague idea to fruition maybe gives me a different perspective than the average person when it comes to the thought of forming our own convention.  I mean ultimately that is how most gathering start, with a basic idea and then just branching out from there.

Our Own Convention



I loved Pax South, but not really because the convention itself was this magical place.  The floor was busy, and there were so many people wandering around that it became hell to find a quiet spot to yourself to think.  What made the convention awesome was getting to hang out with people that I had only ever talked to online.  When I realized this… I realized that I didn’t actually need a convention to have fun, but in truth could potentially have more fun if I just somehow managed to gather up a bunch of people in one place and time.  Even if we quite literally did nothing but hang out and play board games and talk about life, it would still end up being an amazing experience.  That said I do think we could convince enough people to show up to make it an interesting experience for all of us.  Think about the sort of things we go through with the Newbie Blogger Initiative each year, and ultimately how much we learn from one another.  It would be easy enough to throw together a series of panels discussing the finer points of various blogging skills that we have.  I mean it would be pretty awesome to record an impromptu live Podcast for example, or a technical discussion in how to get the most out of WordPress.  There are real things we could talk about, and with that many game bloggers in one spot we might even be able to talk some game companies into showing up as well.  Maybe I am brutally naive… but I think it is a thing that might be doable.

Location, Location, Location

I literally have thought about this for awhile now, and those thought processes were just made more concrete after returning from Pax.  I’ve long thought that the best place for a meetup would be in a central state.  Conventions have this problem of being super convenient for people living on one particular coast, but damned near impossible for anyone else to attend.  So after a lot of thinking basically I came up with two potential locations.

  • St Louis, Missouri
  • Chicago, Illinois

Both locations have strengths and weaknesses, but both are also fairly centrally located making it not too horrible from pretty much anywhere in the United States, and potentially even doable for Canadians.  St Louis is significantly easier for me personally… because I know the town decently well and have several friends in the area that I could potentially recruit to help.  Chicago on the other hand… other than flying through O’Hare I know nothing about it, and I really have zero support structure to help out with the planning and the details.  Its biggest strength however is O’Hare airport, because essentially it is a straight flight from any major airport cutting down the overall travel costs.  That said St Louis hotels, venue rentals, and pretty much everything else would be significantly cheaper which might offset the travel costs.  All of this said… they both have strengths and weaknesses, but as I said my personal leanings are towards St Louis simply for the familiarity point.

I guess the ultimate question is…  would some sort of convention/meetup be something that our community would even be interested in?  We would have to set a date well into the future and begin planning now to make it work, but before any of that… I need to know if people would actually come.  I think it could be a really awesome experience, and if nothing else let a whole bunch of people that have only ever communicated online hang out and get to know each other.  I also think there is a lot of cool stuff we could learn from each other, so I feel like it could be more than just a “gathering”.  Over the last several years we have gone from being a vague connection of island states, to being a serious and formidable community constantly welcoming new people.  Blaugust while stressful, is an amazing event and just one in a long line of events that we do each year.  While I jokingly referred to this as BlaugustCon… it is more than just that.  I think we could build something amazing in the real world in addition to all of what we are doing in the virtual world.  Like I said.. the real question is do people even want this?  I don’t often ask for feedback, but in this situation I absolutely need it.  Leave me a line and let me know your thoughts.

The Revenge of Blaugust

What is Blaugust?

A few years ago I started down this path of madness that I have referred to as my Grand Experiment, where I started blogging every single day.  It has been a grueling experience at times, but also something I would not trade for the world.  I learned a lot of things about myself because when you are writing that many posts… something interesting happens.  At some point in the process you break down the walls you are holding up between you and your readers and start being completely and often brutally honest with them.  I sit down at the keyboard each morning and share a chunk of myself, and this bond I have developed with my readers is something pretty special.  Last year I wanted to channel just a little bit of this with the rest of the blogosphere and started the Blaugust challenge.  The idea is simple… during the month of August blog something every single day.  If you succeed in thirty one days of posts… you are a Blaugust winner.

I had this idea that the only folks that would participate were seasoned bloggers.  You know folks like me with years of blogging under their belts.  The reality however is that a lot of new bloggers took up this banner as their own and produced some amazing stuff as a part of it.  As such Blaugust has become this strange event that allows a lot of folks to essentially rededicate themselves to the craft of writing.  After last year I was uncertain if I would be doing another one of these, but I was not so subtly urged by my readers that they were expecting it to happen once more.  Last year we had 28 Challenge Winners that managed to make it through the month without missing a post, and another 21 Challenge Survivors that participated in the contest.  I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of participation… but in the tradition of all internet things…  lets make this year even bigger.

The Topic

First off let me get this out of the way.  This contest is all about longevity and frequency and not necessarily about what you are writing.  The idea is to get folks in the habit of regular posting, so that after a month of posting every single day… they can settle into a more reasonable schedule after August and do regular posts a few times a week.  So as far as your blog goes… you can tell us whatever you feel like.  These can be game posts, post about some other hobby you are really interested in, or just posts about your life.  Somewhere along my path to madness I reached a point where I am essentially immune to writers block when it comes to Tales of the Aggronaut.  I can sit down at the keyboard and start writing without any preparation and within a paragraph a theme starts to form and I am up and running with a new blog post.  Inspiration is a fickle thing, and essentially I brute forced my way around it.  The plan is to make you realize that you don’t need some magical muse to crank out interesting posts.  Everything you say is already interesting so long as it is genuine and comes from your personality, and the rest is just simply taking notes.

The Guidelines

Last year… the month of August was a blur for me, and it was honestly hell for me to go through.  When you had as many people blogging as we did, a good chunk of my morning was spent tabulating who blogged and who didn’t.  Then when you factor in the international nature of this competition it was extremely hard to actually determine what day a given post was supposed to represent.  As such this year I am going to be quite a bit more strict on the guidelines, because I would really like to exit the month of August with at least some bit of my sanity intact.  I love you guys dearly… but I really need your help on this.

  1. Write a new blog post of no less than ten sentences in length.  This is essentially two large paragraphs and is a good solid minimum size.  If you are doing a screenshot/photo blog just make sure your description explaining what the image is all about fits this constraint.
  2. Include a link back to the 2015 Blaugust Initiative Page.  My hope is that this will allow other people to join in the challenge and play catch up.
  3. Advertise the post on the Blaugust Nook.  When you join the nook I will be elevating everyone to “Blogger” access to do this.  This is extremely key this year, because this is going to be how I log all posts, and if you do not do this you are not going to get proper credit.
  4. Either in the title of your post or the first heading inside of your actual post.. please denote which day this post is for.  Something like “Blaugust Day 21” just to make sure that I am giving everyone credit for the correct day, and this should help to stop the oddities of folks in vastly different time zones getting dumped into the wrong slot.
  5. If you advertise the post on social media, please include the #Blaugust hashtag.  Again we are trying to help spread the word and get folks to join in process… and at very least get folks reading the posts.
  6. Over the course of the month, write 31 posts.
  7. ????
  8. Profit!

The Vlogger Clause

Since this contest is far more about longevity and doing things on a schedule… I thought I would open it up to a slightly different audience this year.  Blogging is awesome, and I love it dearly… but Vlogging is also awesome.  Being willing to put yourself out there, and on camera…  on a regular basis is quite the daunting task.  As such I wanted to open this up to folks who are vlogging, and essentially allow them to count a daily vlog as a valid post for the month.  As such I am going to throw some loose requirements around it.

  1. Vlog must be at least five minutes in length.
  2. Include a link back to the 2015 Blaugust Initiative Page in your videos “dooblidoo” and mention the Blaugust initiative at least once during the video.
  3. Advertise the vlog post on the Blaugust Nook.  When you join the nook I will be elevating everyone to “Blogger” access to do this.  This is extremely key this year, because this is going to be how I log all posts, and if you do not do this you are not going to get proper credit.
  4. Inside the “dooblidoo” mention what day you are posting for.  Something like “Blaugust Day 21” just to make sure that I am giving everyone credit for the correct day, and this should help to stop the oddities of folks in vastly different time zones getting dumped into the wrong slot.
  5. If you advertise the post on social media, please include the #Blaugust hashtag.  Again we are trying to help spread the word and get folks to join in process… and at very least get folks reading the posts.
  6. Over the course of the month, write 31 posts.
  7. ????
  8. Profit!

Some Revisions

Last year I did some madness that I won’t be doing this year.  Essentially the deck was stacked against anyone who was not ready to go on day one.  Inevitably there were folks that started one or two days late, that got knocked out of the running for the big prize for not being there from day one.  I didn’t really feel like this was fair, because ultimately they put the same amount of effort in during the course of the event, it was just that they had to play catch up a bit.  As such I basically have three categories that I am going to be dividing people up into.

  • Challenge Winners – Anyone who makes thirty one blog posts during the month of August.  I will be tallying the Results on September 2nd as to allow for all possible time zone strangeness.
  • Challenge Survivors – Anyone who makes at least  fifteen blog posts during the month of August is going to be considered a “survivor”.
  • Challenge Participant – Anyone who did not quite make it to fifteen is still awesome in my book and deserves some recognition for showing up and joining in the fun.

The Rewards

As with last year I will be keeping track of these things in my big spreadsheet of blaugust, and at the end of the month on September 2nd I will be tabulating the results.  From the contest winners I will be doing a drawing for several prize packages.  I hope you enjoy games, and want to acquire more of them…  because that is what we are going to do.  Last year someone summed up the contest as “write awesome stuff and get games!”.  Over the course of the years I have acquired a bunch of spare game download keys, so I will be dipping into this grab bag of awesome to get some prizes for folks.  I will be using a secure dice roller to determine one Grand Prize winner and three additional prize winners from the pool of Contest winners.

  • Grand Prize!

    I hope you follow me on Steam, because I will be picking a game off of your Steam Wishlist and purchasing it for you.   Nice and simple.  If there is something you have been craving like a special store mount or something of the sort from your favorite MMO, we can probably work that in instead.

  • Three Also-Awesomes

    Additionally to a grand prize winner I will be picking three other individuals to get to choose something from the grab bag of awesome.  May the odds ever be in your favor… because once again I will be relying on the dice roller to determine who gets first picking order from the grab bag.

  • All Participants

    All participants are going to get sidebar badges to denote that they participated in Blaugust 2015 with special versions for the Survivors and Winners.

If there are any companies that would like to sweeten this pot, contact me because I would most certainly love to give everyone who participates in this contest something for doing this challenge.

The Sign-Up

In order to participate you need a few things.  Firstly you need go over to the forums on the Blaugust nook and post your intention to participate in this handy forum thread I have created.  This is going to help me prepare to start reading your posts during the month (if you are not already in my blog reader).  Then as the month goes on post your new entries to the Blaugust Nook so that you get proper credit for them.  The nook also serves as a jumping off place for the Blaugust community that builds up around this event.  Share your struggles and your victories, and lean on each other for ideas.  We are all in this together, and the hope is that at the end of the month each of us is stronger for the participation.  As always if you have any questions feel free to pop me a line on any of the many avenues that I leave available for folks to contact me.  Lets have an awesome August and a truly phenomenal Blaugust!

More Than Pixels

The People Who Get You

Yesterday was an exceptionally strange day on twitter, in that an extremely length discussion started from something that @AlternativeChat said, and then spawned a side conversation including myself, @Jaedia, @BraxWolf and @GGChestnut regarding the nature of twitter and online connections.  The later conversation seemed to rope in at least half of my friends at one time or another.  Ultimately it started with the tweets above, and then grew a life of its own.  I come from a very small town.  To illustrate my point, I graduated from a class of roughly sixty students.  When you live in an environment like that, you ultimately develop friendships based around what was actually available.  So while I had many friends growing up, I also had the constant feeling that very few people actually “got me” on any real fundamental level.

I didn’t like the things I was supposed to like, and didn’t react the way to stimulus that I was supposed to react.  But in that situation you make the best friends you have available to yourself and make due.  It was not really until I stepped foot onto the internet and moved to college that I started to meet people I felt a deeper connection with.  There were in fact people out there whose life did not revolve around the football game, and did not think the pinnacle of their existence was getting drunk at a broken down picnic area beside a creek imaginatively referred to as “tables”.  I’ve lived much of my life with this sense that the world wanted me to play a role that didn’t quite fit.  When I leave the house, it is as though I am putting on my “man suit” and trying to be the person that the world just assumes that I am.  I like video games, if I watch television I am generally watching cartoons, and I deeply care about what is going on in the world of Lego this season.  I am not “normal”.

More Than Pixels

Since I did not exactly have a lot of examples of people that I could relate to in the flesh, I cherished the few individuals that I did find a connection with.  So when I interact with someone, I try and approach it as though I could be meeting a brand new life long friend.  I got into a discussion during the day with Brax about how he feels that physical relationships are just different than digital ones.  Ultimately I feel like it is only different if you are making it different.  I guess maybe I come from a different place on this than most people.  I would not know my very awesome wife were it not for the fact that we were both IRC junkies back during the dawn of the internet.  We became friends when we were introduced by a mutual friend living in Belgium, and later found out we grew up thirty minutes apart.  So when I think about my own beginnings, I find it impossible not to think about the person behind the screen when I interact with anyone.

I realize that just because I feel this way about the people I surround myself with, that it isn’t automatically a two way street.  For many of the people that follow me on Twitter, read my blog or listen to my podcasts…  I am in fact just a collection of pixels assembled on their screen that they happen to find appealing.  There is nothing that I can do or will ever be able to do to bridge that gap.  However I do find that there are people out there that I make a real and genuine connection with, and ultimately cherish them for their willingness to care about individuals that in the strictest sense they have no obligation to.  I’ve often said it is the way you treat the people you don’t have to be nice to, that is what reflects your personal character the most.  When you interact with someone online, you are seeing the real person… the one that is buried deep inside.   We are all either inherently the villain trying to cause strife, or the hero attempting to right it.

Sharing Myself

One of the conscious decisions I made a few years ago was that I would be open to my readers.  For the first several years of my blog I didn’t really talk about myself at all.  I would keep my posts limited to strictly the facts about the game I happened to be playing, but ultimately I am more than just the games I play.  I knew if I was going to manage to blog on a daily basis, I had to allow myself to talk about all of the things that were important to me.  So each morning I open my door and invite strangers into my world.  I walk this fine line however because I still cling to the relative anonymity of a “handle”.  My goal is to tell real stories, but just leave out the names, places and finest levels of details.  As a result I think you end up with a greater truth than had I said everything, because I have boiled whatever I happen to be talking about to the essentials that matter, leaving out the strictest minutiae.  To quote Dragnet “Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent”.

Brax asked me if I found keeping up this personal aspect difficult as I continue to widen this circle of people I interact with.  On some level I would say that yeah, it becomes much harder to keep your finger on everything that is going on.  That said I have developed a realization that I will never be able to read every tweet or blog post or keep tabs on every person in my life.  The interaction aspect isn’t that hard because each day I am just being me.  Once upon a time my guildies used to refer to a persona I would adopt as “Rockstar Bel”, in that I would wear this mask of a person that amplified all the characteristics that I wished I was.  Over time, and developing a certain level of confidence I have started to actually be this amped up version of myself.  Which goes back to the statement I made earlier…  when you encounter someone online, you get the see the person they really are, the person they have a potential in becoming.  I think slowly, bit by bit I am becoming that person that I always wished I was, the one that actually believed I could accomplish interesting things.  Maybe some day I will get there, but in the mean time I am going to keep sharing the ride with anyone who is willing to join me.

Sponsors Unite

Class of 2013


Yesterday the 2013 Newbie Blogger Initiative officially kicked off and the new blogs are starting to trickle into the forum.  Yesterday I updated my blogroll to include the five blogs that had signed up to date, and over the night another two have joined the fray.  Here is hoping that the effort will continue to grow throughout the month.  Last time we ended up with I believe 110 new blogs starting the process, so we have a long ways to go before we see those numbers.

I will update my blogroll accordingly later today… but currently this years crop looks a little something like this…

Check them out and give them some link love.

Sponsors Unite

Similarly, yesterday kicked off quite a number of “advice” posts from the sponsors.  Like always these varied in topic greatly covering general tips, where to find inspiration, and various technical tidbits.  I am sure in the coming days we will be seeing a lot more of these posts but so far here is the run down of topics that were posted as of this morning.

I am sure as the month rolls on, we will see quite a few more sponsor posts as well.  I think for the first day, the program was pretty well represented.  My goal is to do a short daily synopsis of what all has been happening on the days I am not posting an advice article myself.

Heroic Characters

EverQuest2 2013-10-02 06-22-05-44

A few days ago I had posted about the fact that October 1st was the beginning of the ability to create a free Heroic Character in Everquest 2.  Most of us initially thought this was for subscribers only… or in EQ2 nomenclature “Gold Members”.  However yesterday Stargrace of MMO Quests pointed out that ANYONE can log in and create a free level 85 character during the October 1st – October 15th period.  Additionally they have once again tightened the reins of the free to play restrictions.  Previously it was extremely frustrating to play a free to play character, because you could not equip Legendary or higher items…  which meant that essentially you could not equip anything that came from a dungeon or most world drops.

With the introduction of Heroic Characters, all of these item locks are gone… as are the various items that were sold on the store to unlock the ability to equip them.  Additionally as of yesterdays patch… much like they did in the past with other expansions… Destiny of Velious is now included for free.  This gives you access to content up to level 95, and covers all of the newer zones added into the game.  They have also broken up the Age of Discovery features into bite sized chunks that allow you to gobble up only the pieces you want, for example you can buy access to mercenaries only, or just the beastlord class.  Since they are removing some of the appeal for remaining a gold member, they have added in a permanent +15% coin loot bonus and +10% mount speed bonus to all existing gold members.  They have also mentioned they will be adding more perks into the equation to keep maintaining gold level a valuable thing.

The Swash and Berserker

EverQuest2 2013-10-02 06-37-39-56

Wanting to take advantage of the free promotion, I logged in both of my accounts last night and created and or upsized characters on each.  For some time I had been trying to level a dps character on my main account, and had created Belgrifter a Ratonga Swashbuckler.  Namely the Swash is a very high survival dps, and I was having a decent time leveling him.  Ultimately I ran into the same roadblock I ran into with all of my characters however.  Once you have had flight in EQ2, you simply do not want to level a character without it.  So essentially I was stuck with a decision… either grind up tradeskills or grind up levels.  I managed to push him up to 55 before something shiny caught my eye and I abandoned the effort.

Since I could not really see myself returning to playing him until I had flight… I decided to go ahead and use that accounts token to super size my Ratonga.  The gear that they give you is extremely nice… far nicer than the gear I have ever started velious content in before.  I seriously doubt if I will replace any of it during the Othimir quests, it seems to be on par with that level of item.  The weapon choices were a little wonky, giving me a sword and a mace… but I can live with that.  The big problem is I have NEVER used a mace on my rat… but they auto leveled all of my weapon skills for me… so that really is not a problem.

If you look at the image from the above paragraph you will see Belglaive my new 85 Iksar Bezerker.  On my second account I mostly had support classes, as I used to regularly dual box before the release of Mercenaries.  As a result I really did not have anything “tanky” on that account.  If I ever wanted to dual box again, I figure it would end up extremely handy to have access to a tank, and Bezerker is the one I have never really played to high levels.  I have a very small dwarven one on my main account, but I think he is somewhere in the 30s.  The best thing is… the changes give me full access again to my Dark Elf Warden, since I had stopped playing him due to the item restrictions and not wanting to maintain a second subscription.

Wrapping Up

The ability to create a free level 85 character is an extremely amazing offer.  If you have ever considered playing EQ2, I highly suggest you make an account during the 1-15 period and create a level 85 even if you do not intend to play it right now.  You can do a lot of cool stuff with an 85, and even use it to feed lower level characters items.  I have always loved EQ2, and I will admit the prospect of fresh high level characters has gotten me pumped about playing it some again.  Just not sure how often I will do so… given my current addiction to Final Fantasy XIV.  If you do end up rolling characters, I highly suggest Antonia Bayle the Roleplaying server.  It has probably the best community I have seen in any game… other than potentially Landroval in LOTRO.