Won’t You Be My Neighbour

I would be remiss to mention yesterday’s sad news of the passing of Christopher “River” Cavelle, who ran High Latency Life.  There’s a condolences page you can also view.  There are quite a few posts out there about the event as well, which is fairly indicative of the social fabric that seems to tie the blogging world together.  It’s a sad day indeed.

My wife, ever the astute, had noticed that that I was playing Wildstar with a smile on my face and with the odd interjection.  Normally, I don’t smile when I game unless I see something rather neat.  Then she asks about it, I show here and we move on.  It’s not often that I smile for long periods of time.  But for some reason, Wildstar does that and part and parcel is the guild structure.  I had a rather decent guild many a year ago in WoW, then a solid run through Rift.  But since then, ehhh.  They always had people I knew in the RL too.  Wildstar, not so much.  Instead it’s made up of other bloggers (Evindra – Exile – Cats in Space).

Wilhelm uses the term neighbours and Wildstar does the same with their housing system.  The analogy works, in that there is a giant neighbourhood of bloggers that we all interact with on a regular basis.  Some of them you see every day, others you see once a month, some you just pass through.  I live in an older suburb, with an established community.  If the houses were empty, it would not be the same area so even though I might never talk to the neighbor 5 blocks down, they make the area what it is.  The core difference, and this is really important, is that I can see these people.

I cannot see the other bloggers.  I can rarely even hear them.  But I can read what they write.  I know more about Murf than I do my wife’s aunt, who I’ve met a dozen times now.  Each and every one of them adds a little something to the internet.  The NBI does a great job of giving a platform to new members of the neighbourhood but I don’t know that it really reflects what they are getting into.  You just don’t know until you step in and read the words.  Until you share ideas with another.  Until you come to some realization that your original idea needs a bit of work.  That there are dozens of people out there already, waiting for more to come along.

I think one of the largest advantages that blogging has above other more recent platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Vine, etc…) is that the format allows for more of the person to show through.  Outside of a podcast/stream, you rarely get to spend more than 200 characters or 8 seconds with someone.  Since it’s longer, people have to put in a bit more effort into the message as well, so they come out more thoughtful.  They are also quite a bit more likely to respond to you.  And it’s often times much less confrontational.  Blogging, or rather long-form communication, acts as a giant virtual network for the community.  Each one of us has a house people can visit.  There’s plenty of stuff there to check out too and if you take the time, you can make a new friend.

NBI 2014 – Get Blogging

The Newbie Blogger Initiative for 2014 has begun.  This annual event is a chance for new blood to mix with the old and to help strengthen the blogging community. I wrote about last year’s event and it’s nice to have another repeat.  There’s a fair chunk of advice in that post as well.

In this day and age of Twitter and Instagram, typing more than 150 characters might seem like a chore but it is of my opinion that blogging is the framework on which all the other tools depends.  That tweet you posted or that link you put on Facebook – it’s likely that the idea was from a blog.

I read a ton of blogs.  I really should make a larger effort to link to them in posts, cross-seeding as it were.  I have the ones I frequent most on the right side of the screen but for those reading on mobile devices or RSS readers, you might not see them.  There are some real smart and funny people out there.  Who knows, you might be one of them and you haven’t even blogged yet.

The neat thing about blogging is that it’s a zero cost investment, other than the time it takes to write.  You don’t have to do it every day, though that’s certainly a good habit.  It doesn’t have to be targeted to an audience because in reality, blogging is about writing for yourself.  If you’re a perfectionist, you’re likely not going to be a having fun blogging.  I know I rarely review my text except to fix spelling mistakes.  I just get better at writing from doing it and reading other people.  Practice makes prefect right?  heh.

Give it a shot.  Get a blog from Blogger or WordPress (or something similar) and just start writing.  Link to some other blogs.  Follow other blogs.  Comment away.  In no time at all, you’ll find out that there’s an entire world of people waiting to say hello.

Newbie Blogger Initiative

If you’ve ever wondered to yourself “hey, blogging looks easy and cool”, then I want to burst your bubble.  Blogging is super easy and mega cool.

The Newbie Blogger Initiative is in year 2 (of two) to help aspiring writers debase themselves in the blogging world.  Syp started it last year and it was a decent enough success.  I think there were more than a handful that made it to 12 months.  Those that quit are quitters and we’ll never talk about them again.

All kidding aside, I’ve been hosting my own website for way too long and posting for half that much time.  It ebbs and flows, depending on a combination of my free time and my need to put words to pen (or keyboard).  For those who do read this blog (thank you) and have a desire to give blogging a shot, here are a few tips to get going.

  1. Get a decent blogging host.  I prefer WordPress but Blogspot is cool too.  Both are free, have plenty of templates and mobile options.
  2. Figure out why you want to blog.  This should be first but just by going through the process of finding a host, you’ll figure this one out too.  Is it a personal one?  It it to comment on a particular topic?  I am fascinated by game design, so most of my stuff is about that.
  3. Keep a blog roll.  Cross post to that blog roll if you find a good topic.  There’s a saying that good authors borrow, great authors steal.  Nearly all of my posts are triggered by reading something else.  Try to always have a link or two in the post.
  4. Keep a draft bucket.  I have a dozen or so ideas that just aren’t good enough yet on that list.  Sometimes I go through it and it gives me another idea.
  5. Write every day.  This doesn’t mean post every day, simply write every day.  Blogging requires a heck of a lot of motivation to get started.  Once you do, it sort of becomes habit.  Some use schedules to rigidly block out time.  Figure out what works for you.
  6. Schedule posts.  You might have 3 great posts all written in one shot.  Don’t let them all out at once.  Try to keep a solid 12 hours between them, so you can digest the other ones.
  7. Writing conveys little emotion or context.  Keep in mind that 90% of your communication skills are non-verbal and that you might have trouble getting an idea across effectively.   Don’t worry, you’re human.  It’ll get better.

I’m glad that I blog.  It keeps me sane.  It give me links to other bloggers with amazing ideas (hence the blog roll to the right).  It gives some feedback on ideas.  It gives me the ability to look back on some topics and go “right on” or “what was I thinking?”.  It can be hard but like anything else, it’s extremely rewarding.  Give it a shot!

Reading Resolutions

I read a lot of blogs and one of my favorite streams is the Joystiq line.  The main site provides all sorts of gaming and it’s relatively neutral in terms of opinion.  I do like to read their reviews though, as they take a rather different, almost meta, approach to the process.  Quite a bit different than IGN’s game reviews, where you can practically see the dollars changing hands.

The World of Warcraft stream used to be the go-to place for information.  It’s been a few years now but I would say mmo-champion is the place for breaking news.  WoW Insider is clearly lacking in content drivers and more importantly, authors.  Other than the class columns (which I think only the  Rogue and Warrior ever have regular updates) the site is mainly a platform for Olivia (PvP) Grace and Mike (WoW-fanatic) Rossi.  It’s really too bad, as the past authors brought some needed diversity to what now reads as continual gripes about the game.  If I was Blizzard, I’d be worried that the #3 search result for WoW lacked quality and content.  Too bad, I rather enjoyed the Warlock vs Mage battles that happened on that site.

The next stream that I enjoy is Massively.  This to me seems the future of gaming, where everything is persistent multiplayer – either characters or setting.  The best part is the widely divergent views of gaming.  I think it would be hard to find more opposite gamers than Shawn, Justin and Eliot.  When you have a clearly jaded gamer, a superfan and a realist in a room, it makes for very interesting commentary.  Even Jef’s Soapbox  columns clearly are made to generate conversation.  The recent hands-on testing with Marvel Heroes with Justin and Eliot went exactly the way I thought it would.

The concept of Confirmation Bias is prevalent in many blogs.  I’m quite certain the Syncaine doesn’t read much else than Aventurine and EvE material. I read the left and the right to try and find some semblance of balance.  It’s a lot harder than it seems as there tend to be more critical bloggers (myself included) than positive ones.

Perhaps this has more to do with the genre as a whole.  Where WoW has become more familiar and therefore less news-worthy and the MMO-genre as a whole is in a rather large transition.  People have trouble with change and when you realize that your corner of the world is getting less and less relevant, it’s certainly something to talk about.  While it may not seem like it, this year was a great year for gaming in my mind.  Grimrock, XCOM, Torchlight 2, Borderlands 2, Rift and now The Secret World are all consistently putting smiles on my face.  I wish I could express that more.  It might be a bit early for it, but I’ll be trying really hard in the New Year to temper the criticism with more positive posts as well.