Seven Years

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Interesting Journey

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It feels so immensely strange to be sitting down to write this post.  As of this morning it marks the seventh year of Tales of the Aggronaut.  I am not exactly sure why but seven years seems like a significantly more auspicious number than five or six or even eight.  Culturally we place a strange importance on the number seven as either lucky or magical, and I have to admit that I fall for this same trap myself.  As a web developer by trade, I started this blog with a purpose and had all of the trappings of a proper website.  One of those is of course Google Analytics integration, and I spent some time this morning going over the numbers before sitting down to write this post.  In the Seven years I have published 1260 posts, and they have been read a grand total of 235,304 times at the moment of pulling the stats.  Over the course of this blogs lifespan I’ve had 110,359 unique readers from 182 countries, and roughly 40% of them are return readers.  What I found shocking was that there are a little over 4000 of you out there that have read my blog more than 200 times.  As far as my readers go it seems that the bulk from from the United States as one would expect, but the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Australia also make up large chunks and round out the top five countries with France coming in a not too distant sixth.  The web developer in me was also curious to find out that the vast majority of my readers are using Google Chrome (go them!) with the next highest batch using Firefox (also good choice)…  and then unfortunately a large block are still using Internet Explorer and I was shocked that it actually beat out Safari.

The thing is…  these numbers are utterly meaningless because at the end of the day it still very much feels like I am a little kid pretending to make a newspaper or sitting in a cardboard box pretending to tell the news.  Every day I get up and make my post, and mentally I feel like I am talking to myself.  I have a hard time reconciling that there are people out there reading each and every day without fail.  I know there are mentally, because when I am late getting a post up… folks will come out of the woodwork to check on me.  However emotionally I cannot quite comprehend that I have people that are that interested in the boring things that I do each and every day.  I am not a terribly interesting person, and most of my life is spent going to work, trying to be a good husband, juggling family and friends… and attempting to get in as much game time as humanly possible.  The truth is I share a lot of my life with you my readers, and if I didn’t feel like I was talking to myself…  I am not sure if I would have the courage to say some of the things I have said.  I’ve shared my high points and my low points… and attempted to be honest with my struggles and frustrations.  The result has been more support from my friends and readers than I ever thought possible.  When am feeling down, you all reach out to me and lift me back up… and in truth you are a huge part of why I keep going each and every morning.

Evolution of the Aggronaut

I still look back on the early days of this blog and wonder what exactly caused me to start it in the first place.  I guess in truth I was always a blogger, I just didn’t realize it.  I was one of those folks that haunted game forums, and was prone to writing huge wall of text posts about this subject or that.  As to what prompted me to make the switch from forum goer to blogger, that one is a bit harder to nail down.  I know I was ultimately prompted to start thinking about it by WoW Insider and their focus on a single blog called The Wordy Warrior.  Since I was a Warrior trying to lead a raid, I felt a certain kinship with this blogger and that lead me to start my own “warrior blog”.  Aggronaut itself has gone through so many changes over the years.  It was originally a Warrior Tanking blog, and then shifted to a general warrior blog… to a raid leadership blog…  to a general World of Warcraft blog…  to a Rift blog…  until finally it was rebooted in its current form which is MY blog.  For so long I kept trying to make it into something more than just an open discussion I was having with my readers about whatever happened to be on my mind.  I was told that in order to be “successful” you had to find a niche and then exploit the shit out of that niche… and that never really did feel amazing.  The end result after all of this back and forth is that Tales of the Aggronaut is a blog about me and whatever the hell I happen to be doing.  If you are going to read me for long at all, you have to be interested in me as a person because I am not always going to be all that interesting.

The strangest thing to get used to over these years is that once you have made a post it often times develops a life of its own.  There have been many times I have written something and then someone came along behind me and got some other meaning from my post that I never intended or even thought about.  Sometimes this is good… and other times it just serves as fodder for someone else’s rant blog.  The one harsh reality is that the posts that become popular, are never the ones you actually thought were worth reading.  Looking back through my analytics…  here are the top five posts in the seven years of Aggronaut.  At least one of them completely makes me cringe these days.

Of those the only one I am actually proud of in any fashion is my GroupCraft series of posts.  The Keyboard Turning one I am actually actively embarrassed by largely because I don’t even recognize the “me” that wrote that post because I guess I have mellowed out significantly since I first started this blog.  However I feel like it would be dishonest to remove posts from the annals of time, so I leave them…  even the ones that make me cringe.  If nothing else this blog charts my evolution as a player and a decent human being.  However I admit that a lot of that evolution didn’t really start until I began my mad mission of blogging every single day.  In a few weeks it will mark the third anniversary of blogging every single day, and it is funny how I have gone from being one of the least prolific bloggers to being among the most.  In the first four years of my blog I made 148 posts…  in the last three years I made 1112 posts, so a huge difference.

Faces of Bel

Like I said in the start of this very long and probably self aggrandizing post…  seven feels like a special number.  For years I have joked that I really only play one character, and then try and recreate that character in every single game that I play.  I’ve even posted pictures of my various characters to drill home that point.  This got me thinking, and since I am really good friends with the amazing artist @Ammosart I decided I would try and commission her to create a special graphic to commemorate this occasion.  The idea was to have an image that showed off several of the “Faces of Bel” and I have to say I was completely blown away when I saw the end result.  She went above and beyond anything I could have hoped for, and now I will have to be tempted to have her create something for every anniversary…  if I can afford that.  I absolutely wanted this on a shirt, so at my suggestion she has throw it up on her t-shirt store.  I wanted every last penny of the proceeds to go to her, so instead of me creating a “Tales of the Aggronaut” store this seemed like the better option.  For I believe the first 72 hours it is only $14 and then after that they go up to the normal price of $20 and $22 for bigger sizes.  Once I finish writing this post I plan on ordering one for myself because I am so floored at just how well this turned out.  I am super thankful to have awesome friends like Ammo, that I can pester to do little side projects like this.

I feel like I need to wrap things up, because this post has gone on quite a bit longer than I thought it would.  I am very thankful to have all of you out there reading my words, and without you I am not sure I would have the strength to get up every single morning and commit text to page before I have finished my cup of coffee.  Through this blog and the awesome community of folks that I have met through the various social media accounts connected to it… I have forged a family that I will take with me for the rest of my life.  It doesn’t matter if we have only interacted one time…  you’ve left an impression on me and given me the will to keep going.  Sure there are mornings where I question myself why the hell I keep doing this, but all of you out there that ping me over twitter or slack or countess other methods…  give me that drive to keep moving forward.  I realize this post has sounded a little bit like a farewell at times, and I haven’t meant it to.  Seven is a magical and special number, but so is Thirteen…  so as I top the hill of this goal I set my sights on the next one.  Thank you for joining me in this journey, and hopefully we will have a lot more of them before I decide to call it quits.  Also side note… please take some time to tell @Ammosart just how damned amazing this image is!  I’ve had it for about a month now… and it has been pure hell to keep it under wraps because from the moment I got it I wanted to share it with the world!

Five Year Blogoversary

Something Profound

fivecake I feel like this morning I should post something deeply profound since as of this morning it means I have been doing this blog thing for five years.  Technically my first post was on the 17th, but it was really just a test to make sure the site was functional.  My very first “real” post was on April 21st 2009 contemplating the ramifications of what “dual spec” would do to our raid.  I have changed a lot in these five years, and while I wish I had posted more regularly early on, I do like the fact that you can see this evolution in game play and attitude over the years.  The original intent of this blog was to be a World of Warcraft Warrior Tanking blog hence the title.

But looking back that idea didn’t seem to last more than a few posts before it started to morph into a blog about my adventures in raiding.  At that point I was in my “wannabe hardcore” mode, and in this fashion being plugged into the blog scene was probably more of a detriment to my enjoyment than a boon to my happiness.  I saw people doing really awesome things, and our little rag tag mostly casual raid just couldn’t keep up.  I am not super proud of some of the angry posts I made to that effect as we struggled to clear content in Wrath of the Lich King.  There are many times I wish I could just jettison the first couple of years worth of posts, because I really don’t know that version of me any more.

Personal Growth

Every so often through the back log of posts I stumble upon one that I had forgotten about and that I really am still proud to have written.  The biggest takeaway for me over these five years is that I have become much more comfortable in my own skin.  When I started writing for my blog, I tried to be this thing that I thought everyone wanted me to be.  The flawless leader, the archetype, the figurehead that did no wrong and always had the right words to say to fix the problems.  The longer it ran the more I realized I was not that person.  I was just as full of self doubt and confusion as the next player, and that they didn’t follow me because I knew all the answers…  they followed me because I cared enough to try.

So now I can look back at the first four years of my blog as me trying to “find my voice”, but I don’t really think I found it until I embarked upon my “Grand Experiment”.  There is something about having to write a post each and every morning that forces you to open up and be honest.  There comes a point where you just run out of spackle and polish to keep up your persona.  I would like to hope that by the time I entered into the idea, the “persona” of me was dwindling and I was left with just the real version…  but I can even see that over the course of this last year of daily posts I became far more honest with my public.  I still enter into each posting expecting no one to actually read it, and in that there is a comfort level that allows me to say some things that I might not say otherwise.

So while today is pretty cool that the blog itself has been around for five years now, I feel like the upcoming anniversary of the grand experiment is far more important.  That was really the moment when I decided a true direction for my blog, and in the last year I feel so blessed in the connections I have made during it.  The funny thing is… even after five years of doing this, I feel like I don’t really “know” anything about this trade.  I tend to just push forward with what seems to work, and figure out the rest of the details as I go.  As I enter into my third year of the Newbie Blogger Initiative… I really don’t feel like I am worthy of the title of “Mentor”, because I am still very much figuring things out for myself.

Breaching the Spotlight

I’ve always been one of those people who has preferred to be behind the scenes, and while I like knowing that people are actually reading what I write, I’ve tried to avoid stepping out into the spotlight.  Part of this comes from the whole “not really comfortable in my own skin” aspect of things.  I’m a big guy, and I probably always will be, but over the last year my wife and I have embarked upon a personal journey that has lead to both of us losing well over seventy pounds.  So while I am not going to be taking any “selfies” any time soon, I am feeling a lot more confident about myself as a result.  As such I am forcing myself to do things that I would have avoided before.

This started with my game streaming over on Twitch, and while I choose not to display my webcam on the stream… it is a start.  While streaming I started joining mumble and letting anyone pop in to chat, and I realized that I might have something interesting on my hands.  In listening to the old streams it really started to sound like a sort of impromptu podcast.  Out of this I talked to a few of my friends that I have talked with nightly in twitch for years, and we started a podcast.  Sunday we recorded our second episode and I am pretty happy with how things are turning out.  I made an attempt to go on camera with the Gamer Hangout vidcast but honestly the “in front of the camera” thing was just a bit too much for my anxiety.

Yesterday I got the opportunity to branch out from my comfort zone again, and while I was extremely nervous going into it… and likely drove my wife insane starting an hour or so before it was supposed to happen… it seemed to go off without a hitch.  I was invited to guest host MMORPG.com Game On podcast with Liore and Syeric.  The episode we recorded last night will not be posted until this coming Wednesday, but I am excited and scared to see how it turned out.  The multiplaying podcast did not happen this week, but I may end up getting rescheduled on this weeks show.  While it may not seem like a big leap for me to go from doing my own podcast, to joining in on others… it really is.  What has made Aggrochat so easy for me is we are just recording the same kinds of conversations we have had for years.

Aggrochat Chibis

belghast_shieldhat Rae is probably going to kill me for posting this, but meh she will get over it.  It feels fitting to show this off today, since five years ago she made the Belghast in Zul’Aman gear chibi that I still use for everything.  Right now everything we have for AggroChat is very much in a placeholder state.  We wanted to get podcasting before we lost our nerve, and did not want to wait for all the infrastructure to be in place.  One of the things she has been working on are Chibis for each of the podcasters so we can have a nifty chibi-fied logo version of ourselves.  Over the weekend she sent me what looks to be a final or near final version of my chibi.  I am absolutely in love with it, and can’t wait to see what the final version of all of them looks like put together.  Once she is finished with everything I am probably going to be updating the masthead to include this guy as well.  I want to thank all of you who have read my blog during the last five years.  You’ve made this a very interesting journey, and I can only hope I have to “oomph” to make it another five years.