Blogging In A World That Hates Blogs

I usually prefer to post nothing instead of a post about blogging*, but since Roger brought it up, and I just said two posts ago that there’s nothing to blog about, let’s talk about blogging!

Rather than write something that stands on its own, I’m just going to respond to the parts of Roger’s post that jumped out at me, as if it were a Usenet post.

The Nature of the Beast

“I’ve written several pieces that I’m proud of. However, they never got the traffic I hoped for. That’s the nature of the beast, I guess”

I’ve always been of the mindset that there is blogging, and then there is blogging for success, and the two are totally different disciplines. There is a fairly well-established body of resources and theory on how to attract attention to your site. It falls under a category loosely known as “copywriting.” One of the blogs I follow off-and-on is called Copyblogger. If you go to that site, you’ll know instantly that it’s a blog about blogging for revenue (aka. views), because it has that “generic corporate” look and feel.

If one wants to get traffic, one needs to follow certain rules that involve SEO, keywords, readability, images, links, and many other things like that. None of those rules have anything to do with creative writing, which is what I’m more interested in. I have a WordPress plugin called “Yoast SEO” that regularly yells at me because my posts invariably fail to live up to their potential.

Oh, everyone says that the best way to get attention is to write good content, and to a certain extent that’s true. But if that’s all you do, then you have to rely on lucky breaks. Like when I posted about the Dark Tower movie at the exact time that everyone on the Interwebs was searching to find out how the Good vs. Evil Edition differed from the theatrical release. If one wanted to chase traffic, you need only watch what people search for every day and write daily blog posts that answer their questions. (See: Every for-profit web site in the world.)

My Dark Tower blogging bump
Guess when I published that Dark Tower post.

See what I did up there? According to Yoast SEO, self-referential or “internal” links are good for business. I also changed the “focus keyword” for this post to “blogging” and I suddenly got a lot of green dots, which I assume is a good thing.

Early SEO analysis of this post, the "work" of blogging

The point I’m trying to make here is this: You won’t know which posts will “hit” or “miss” but there are things you can proactively do to stack the odds in your favor. This is also known as “SEO” or, as I like to call it, “work.” I’m generally unwilling to do a lot of work on something that doesn’t pay out anything in return, and I’m generally happy with where my blog is at the moment, so I don’t do much SEO work except for testing or curiosity. The biggest return I get for writing this blog is an occasional mention in MassivelyOP’s Global Chat column, which is pretty cool and I’m grateful for it, but unfortunately it doesn’t contribute anything toward paying the mortgage.

That’s why new writers should never start blogging because they want fame and fortune. You won’t get it. (Unless you happen to know someone who is already famous.)

So why blog at all? Great question, which is hard to answer. I would say the two most compelling reasons for me to keep blogging are, firstly, that I like to write and it’s a great way to practice writing, and secondly, it’s the main avenue for me to express my weird thoughts and opinions to the world. Nobody I know in real life would ever listen to me talk about what I write in this blog for more than about five seconds. :)

Audience Participation

Therefore, an audience, comments and feedback are important. Our writing is an invitation to friendly interaction and an exchange of ideas…

Number and frequency of comments is one of the most universally-accepted measures of a blog’s success. Unfortunately for me, I’m the dictionary definition of a “reclusive writer” and it takes a lot of mental energy for me to monitor and respond to comments. In my personal opinion, it’s one of my biggest barriers to greater success here and generally in life overall. If I had an intern here at Endgame Viable Headquarters, they would very likely be tasked with responding to comments and “building the community.”

For myself, every time I see a new comment has arrived (anywhere on any platform), I have to go through a whole process of, “What wrong thing did I write this time?” “What did I leave out that utterly destroys the entire argument I was trying to make?” “WHAT IF I MISSPELLED SOMETHING?” “What if they don’t like my writing and by extension me as a person??” “How can I bear the shame of even showing my face on the Internet after I read this comment???”

It’s gotten a lot better over time, but that’s the standard thought process of me interacting with audience feedback for any creative endeavor. I have to mentally construct a brick wall around my “artist self” aka. “helpless small child” before I start looking at comments.

Consequently, I rarely write a blog post to begin a conversation. I typically write posts that try to explain my thoughts on a subject, with hopefully a clear beginning, middle, and end. I write them as if I’m writing an article for a magazine someone would read in a waiting room. (Success varies wildly from post to post.) I usually don’t feel any need to continue a conversation beyond what I’ve already written.

That’s not to say I don’t like conversation-starting blogs. I’m just not very good at it myself. Others are quite good. Incidentally, you can always tell the bloggers that want to start conversations because they typically end their posts with a question, to gently lead people into posting a comment. “What do you think about all this, dear reader?” In copywriting parlance it’s a “call to action.” In a way, it’s what Roger did with his post on blogging. :)

Blogging as Therapy

although such concepts are becoming increasingly alien in the current binary climate. This last point paradoxically offers another reason to write. I use my blog as a means to marshal my thoughts and to try and understand what is happening in the world.

I agree with this completely. I write therapeutically about “the current binary climate” on a different blog, though. There is very little audience in the world right now for critical views of both “them” and “us,” certainly not in gaming. (Honestly, there never has been an audience for that in politics.)

Words versus Videos

Being a fan of the written word, I always prefer to read someone’s thoughts than watch a live stream or a video.

I have also observed that the Venn diagram of blog audience and video audience does not overlap very much. My efforts here and on Twitter to gesture nonchalantly at my YouTube channel go completely unrewarded. :)

I will offer this as for why people might go to streaming or videos from blogging, though: It’s generally more time-consuming for me to write a blog post than to record a video. While I don’t know this for a fact, I have a feeling that the pool of video viewers is larger than the pool of blog readers. So going back to the principle of not doing work without remuneration, it makes much more logical sense to concentrate on making low-effort videos than writing high-effort blog posts.

Fortunately, I still like writing. In fact, sometimes I record videos of a new game I’m trying out, and transcribe what I said to make a blog post. (Most of my Snap Judgment posts follow this formula.)

I also have another completely selfish reason for making videos: I’ve never been good at speaking out loud so every video I make is a little bit more practice. I very rarely get opportunities in real life to speak uninterrupted for any length of time.

So what do you think about all this, dear reader? Uh, write a blog post about it! :)

* There’s an old, unspoken adage that if you blog about blogging, you are not really creating content. I’ve heard the same for podcasting about podcasting and I would assume, now, streaming about streaming.

P. S. Regarding time investment, it took me over three hours to write and edit this post. Yoast is yelling at me now because it’s too long.

P. P. S. If only I could count this text for NaNoWriMo!

The Thirteenth Doctor

Here are just a few thoughts about the announcement of The Thirteenth Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, because I wanted to schedule a post for today, my first day back at work (yuck), and this was the only text I had available.

I don’t have a problem with a female The Doctor. Whittaker was very good in Broadchurch.

And that’s about the extent of my thoughts about the announcement.

I’ve never looked up to The Doctor as a male role model, and can’t even conceive of anyone who has, or what it might be like to be a man who believes they’ve lost their favorite male sci-fi role model.

(Although I have to admit that I vividly remember the Season 4 episode Midnight with the Tenth Doctor where someone suspiciously questioned how The Doctor knew things and he shouted back, “Because I’m clever!” and I was like, yeah, I can totally identify with that, he’s my hero, he’s just like me, except I don’t really consider that a gender-specific sort of hero worship.)

I’m reasonably confident that there are no men who actually look up to Doctor Who as a male role model, and 95% of the people complaining are just part of the outrage industry (that industry being made up of people who somehow profit from righteous fury but don’t actually give a damn one way or another).

For myself, I haven’t watched the show much since the Twelfth Doctor took over. I didn’t much care for the Eleventh Doctor either, but I still watched most of those episodes (more because of Amy and Rory to be honest). My personal favorite is still the Ninth Doctor, with the Tenth a close second. (I didn’t watch the “old” Doctors.) I am also very fond of the Doctor Who music composed by David Murray.

To be honest I’m more excited about Moffat leaving than the announcement of a woman Doctor. Moffat lately seemed to have a knack for giving The Doctor weird unexplained superpowers and plaguing every episode with a completely incomrehensible plot where the solution to every problem was some form of magic.

So I’ll be interested to see what they do with a reboot. It’s the only television show I can think of where regular reboots are expected.

That being said, I do think there is plenty of room for them to get into trouble with a female lead. There will be writing challenges. In the past, The Doctor quite often had to be “rescued” by his companions. How is that going to go over with a female lead?

Another fairly prominent characteristic of The Doctor is his rather humongous ego, his propensity for declaring himself to be the smartest person in the room. (See episode Midnight referenced above.) He typically has the kind of know-it-all personality that most people find abhorant, except he gets away with it because he’s earned it. (Somewhat like Sherlock Holmes.) How is that going to play with a female lead?

I’m not saying it won’t work. But those are traits that we generally don’t associate with strong female characters. (I think there is an unspoken law that every female character has to be a “strong” female character now.) It will be interesting to see how they deal with those kinds of issues. Will they simply overlay those traits on a female Doctor (which would make narrative sense) or will they try to change those traits so that the show is more “acceptable” (which would make business sense)?

I’ll also be curious to see just how often they’re going to go to the well for “oh hey I’m a woman now” jokes. If they do that too often, it will be a disaster. But if they don’t at least acknowledge it, at least in the first episode, it will be unrealistic, because it would certainly be something he/she would comment on.

I’m trying to think of other female characters that might fit the general mold of The Doctor’s personality. Over-confident, brilliant, quirky, theatric, childish, vulnerable. Abby from NCIS? Not quite right. And that’s all I can think of.

FFXIV – Stormblood Story Summary

I’m going to make an attempt here to summarize the FFXIV Stormblood story for my own future reference. There are going to be spoilers ahead if you haven’t played, although I’ll try to keep it fairly high-level and leave out every detail of how everything turns out. (That means I’m not going to tell you who lives and who dies, muhahaha.)

(You can consult any of a wide variety of Wikis if you really need all the details, and may I also suggest the 58 video series I uploaded to YouTube if you get really bored and need to see all the spoilers? I just may.)

I’ve broken the story down into four parts as I perceived them.

For those that don’t know anything about FFXIV, your character is known as the “Warrior of Light,” a hero with special powers and whatnot. By the time of Stormblood, you’ve already saved the world a number of times, and these days you hang out with your long-time friends in the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, a sort of Justice League for Eorzea and beyond. (I have to train myself to think of “Eorzea” as a smaller part of the game world now.)

Part 1 – Gyr Abania (to level 63)

Fighting at Baelsar’s Wall, from Heavensward.

Our story begins with the events at the end of Heavensward: For reasons that are too complex to get into, and which are a little bit fuzzy in my mind anyway, The Alliance finds itself battling the Garlean Empire at Baelsar’s Wall.

The Alliance wins at The Wall, but balks at the prospect of marching north to liberate Gyr Abania from the Empire without the consent of her people. (A thinly-veiled reference to the Iraq War I suppose.) The Alliance requests Lyse–a native of Ala Mhigo with contacts in the resistance–and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn to negotiate on behalf of The Alliance.

Lyse leads the way into her homeland.

We do some errands for the locals in Gyr Abania to gain their trust and their consent to fight the Garlean Empire. But just as The Alliance, led by the Flame General Raubahn, plans to take the Garlean stronghold of Velodyna, the Empire attacks the resistance base at Rhalgr’s Reach and delivers a resounding defeat to the good guys. Even the vaunted Warrior of Light is no match for the powerful Garlean leader Zenos.

Part 2 – The Ruby Sea (to level 65)

Arriving in Kugane after an eventful voyage across the sea.

While the locals in Gyr Abania lick their wounds, Lyse and company sail far to the East to gain support from Doma and open up a second front in the fight against the Garlean Empire. On arriving in the city of Kugane, we discover that we can’t reach Doman territory until we dislodge the Empire from a little town called Isari.

The Confederacy to the rescue!

After some trials and tribulations under the sea, we enlist the help of the Kojin of the Blue (good ninja turtles) and the Confederacy (pirates) and liberate Isari.

Part 3 – Doma (to level 67)

The Empire rounds up conscripts from Namai.

Finally arriving in the Doman territory of Yanxia (pronounced with a two syllable YAN-SHEEUH for those as ignorant of Asian pronunciation as I), we find the people in no mood to fight, having suffered under 25 years of oppression from the Garlean Empire. We seek out Lord Hein (pronounced HEE-IN), the rightful ruler of Doma, to inspire the people.

The Naadham on the Azim Steppe.

Hein lives in hiding in the Azim Steppe, a place populated by three warring tribes. By fighting in a ritual Naadham battle, Hein and our merry band build even more allies for the fight to free Doma from the Garlean Empire. Hein returns to Yanxia with his new coalition of the willing to reclaim Doma Castle and his rightful rulership of Doma.

Part 4 – Ala Mhigo (to level 70)

Conrad leads the resistance to victory in Gyr Abania.

Finished in the East, Lyse and the Scions return to Gyr Abania, stronger than ever, ready to tackle the Garlean Empire once more. We find Raubahn and The Alliance and the resistance pressing the assault into Ala Mhigo territory, and rack up victory after victory against the enemy.

Where does the Garlean Empire get these wonderful toys?

In the end we storm the Ala Mhigo castle and face off in an epic battle against our old nemesis Zenos, who has harnessed the power of a primal dragon.

Criticisms

I enjoyed the first three parts of the story, but I felt like the last part when we returned to Gyr Abania and went on to The Lochs slowed down and lost its momentum. Possibly some MMORPG weariness was setting in, but I think it was more because there were fairly significant gates at 68, 69, and 70 that required you to level up before you could proceed with the story. There were also some diversions that ultimately didn’t matter to the main story (Emanation and the Lupin fight).

Yotsuyu, who must have studied under Cruella de Vil.

Another reason I liked the first three parts is that I felt they established more personal connections for Yotsuyu, the main antagonist in the East, than they did with Zenos in the West. I never liked Yotsuyu, but I understood her character. I never felt like I “understood” Zenos. I think they could have done more with Fordola, too (another adversary). Supposedly she was fighting for the same freedom as Lyse, but I didn’t quite follow her logic. I hope they explore that more in the patches because I feel like there could be a good story there somewhere.

Overall I don’t think they did enough to sell me on Lyse’s connection with her homeland, either. I would have liked to see more backstory with her father. It actually would have made more sense to me for M’naago to be following the arc that Lyse did. I understood her relationship with Conrad and the resistance more than I did Lyse’s. I liked Lyse as a character, and I liked her tentative steps toward becoming a leader, but it just didn’t seem like she was all that important to the story.

Still, a great expansion. Well worth it.

FFXIV – Dun Scaith

It was a big weekend for me in FFXIV, as I managed to finish up the Heavensward Main Scenario Quest, so I stand ready to begin Stormblood this week (just in time for everyone else to be finishing it :). However, since there is usually a two or three day lag between my gaming events and posts about them, let’s continue with last week’s adventures…

Normally I try to stay semi-focused on meaningful progress when I’m in an MMORPG, but I had a bit of time to kill Thursday so I started wondering if I could pick up two more points of item level so I could check out Dun Scaith, the final alliance raid in Heavensward. It would do little or nothing for me at this point, but I had a couple of quests in my journal that required it, and I just wanted to see it.

Kitty saves the day!

I went over to Idyllshire to check out the vendors, and I was surprised to find out that I had a stack of over a thousand Tomestones of Poetics. I’m not sure where they came from–I guess a combination of leftovers from before Stormblood and the various post-Stormblood activities that give out Poetics like candy.

The poetics allowed me to buy a 270-ilevel ring, bracelet, necklace, and earrings, and that was plenty to get me over the threshold.

I jumped into the Duty Finder without even researching the raid. Past experience has taught me that there is so much to think about in these raids that I can’t absorb even a fraction of it just from a video. (If you watch MTQ’s videos on Dun Scaith, it is literally wall-to-wall explanation in a near monotone from start to finish–hard to digest.) I have to experience it firsthand, then review it later to find out what I did wrong.

Past experience has also taught me that the community is probably overgeared for the raid by now, so one little DPS that doesn’t know anything probably won’t hurt that much. Or so I hoped.

Staring down the last boss in Dun Scaith.

I was expecting it to take all day to get into the raid, what with everyone doing Stormblood stuff, but it only took about 10 minutes. (Later I learned I must have been extremely lucky, as it was the only time I could get in.)

On par with every other alliance raid, it took about 45 minutes to complete. I died a lot. But there were no wipes, so it was a smooth run. I even got some new boots. I wasn’t expecting to get new gear from it, but now that I know there’s a new set of gear to acquire, I feel like I have to get it. :) I tried to queue a couple more times but they never popped, so I should probably give up on it. New Stormblood gear is just around the corner anyway.

I ended up with enough excess Poetics to buy the ilevel 270 Shire Conservator’s chest piece. It’s kind of a grayish meh, though. Not terribly appealing. But I got my ilevel up to a nice, round 250.

Bye, bye sky pirates and weird misshapen cat!

One other thing I did was try to find out what to spend Wolf Marks on. You get these from PvP. I have over 12,000 of them now and there’s a 20,000 cap and I have no idea what to spend them on. The vendors at the Wolf’s Den Pier have plenty of gear but it’s all for level 50 and 60 characters, which doesn’t help me much. I wanted to buy stuff for my Dark Knight job, which is now up to 36. I thought about getting some White Mage gear but the highest-level gear I saw was only ilevel 110 and I’m already wearing ilevel 115. Anyway it seems a bit pointless to buy PvP gear at all since everyone gets the same stats inside the arenas. I suppose it’s all meant for glamours.

I’m in a similar boat with Company Seals, too. I’m at the 50,000 seal cap and I have no idea what to buy with them. Nothing at the Grand Company vendor looks useful to me.

Pictured here: Dancing man in underwear, Inspector Hildebrandt with his head stuck in the ground, Gilgamesh (who knows *what* he is), and a chicken. Add in cheesy sound effects and you have a pretty good sense of the Hildebrandt questlines.

Oh one last thing I worked on between everything else was the long-neglected Hildebrandt quests. I just got the Manderville dance and unlocked the “Battle on the Big Bridge” trial–that should give you some indication of how far behind I am. That questline is … well, let’s just say it’s bizarre.

FFXIV – Heavensward, What Happened?

Still bumping around doing miscellaneous tasks of little import in Stormblood. But lately I’ve been thinking about Heavensward, the previous FFXIV expansion. I pre-ordered it early and was in there on early access launch day, but looking back on it two years later, I didn’t play it very much at all. (Yet for some weird reason, I remained subscribed the whole time.)

In FFXIV ARR (2.x), I leveled all of the following jobs to 50: Bard, White Mage, Dragoon, Black Mage, Miner, Botanist, Carpenter, Weaver, Alchemist, and Leatherworker. I had no jobs below level 15, and most jobs at least 25.

Heavensward provided plenty of great screenshots, if nothing else.

In Heavensward (3.x), I only did one thing, and that was level my Bard in fits and starts from 50 to 60, the vast majority of it happening late in the cycle. I tried the new jobs and unlocked Machinist, Astrologian, and Dark Knight, but never went beyond the initial level 30.

So what went wrong?

What Aywren wrote about the Bard is exactly true. It went from a joy to play in ARR to a chore in Heavensward. Other games make a habit of drastic class changes with every patch (*cough* WoW *cough*) but in FFXIV it was a real shock to the system.

This is one of my favorite screenshots from Heavensward.

But there was more to it than that for me. I burned myself out with my late-ARR push to complete the 2.x MSQ in time for Heavensward. When Heavensward launched, I was already worn out.

Not only that, but from re-reading my old blog posts, I was still playing The Witcher 3 at the time Heavensward came out, and that surely dampened my enthusiasm for playing Heavensward early on.

I think another problem with Heavensward for me was the sudden change from being an “expert” to being a beginner again. From all the jobs I mentioned leveling above, you can probably guess that I had spent quite a lot of time accumulating knowledge and experience playing my character through all the different trials and tribulations of ARR. Then suddenly I was in the first zones of Heavensward struggling to get through plain old story quests. It was a big mental adjustment.

Getting ready for the masquerade ball! (Not really.)

Combat was fairly difficult in those first days, as I recall. The first Heavensward zone (Western Coerthas) looked bleak. It’s entirely appropriate for the story, but it wasn’t a friendly way to welcome players to the expansion. The second zone (or maybe it was third–Dravanian Forelands) was huge and it was a real chore to run from place to place until you unlocked flying. I remember grumbling about that quite a lot, actually. I basically gave up on the game in 2015 at level 53.

So I fell behind early, and once you’re behind in an MMORPG, it’s easy to find excuses not to play. (I’ve seen a lot of those same reasons from people who aren’t buying Stormblood, actually.) I didn’t start to make progress again until late 2016.

Farewell to Heavensward. Except I’m not technically finished with it yet. :)

So what have we learned from all this? What lessons can we take from the Heavensward years so we don’t stall out again in Stormblood? (By “we” I mean “me.”)

First and foremost and probably most importantly, it pays to keep up with the Main Scenario Quest. Trying to push through it all at once isn’t fun. It’s better to play it in smaller pieces on a regular basis, and that’s what I’m going to try to do for Stormblood. I’m going to make an effort to level something to 70 before the first patch (4.1 I assume).

Another thing is if you’re not having fun with a job, switch to something else immediately, even if it’s at lower level. Don’t try to push ahead with something you’re not enjoying. (That advice applies to every MMORPG, actually.) I’m liking the Bard a lot better than I did in Heavensward, but we’ll see how it goes once I get into the Stormblood zones.

Note on Comment Approval

I apologize, but at some point in the last couple of weeks, WordPress decided that I needed to approve every single comment regardless of who it came from, so you may see some delays with comments showing up.

I have no idea why it’s doing this. I can only assume some random thing changed with WordPress or Akismet or Jetpack recently. I’ve fiddled with some settings again tonight to see if it helps.

Accountant, Bourne, 10 Cloverfield Lane

Last weekend I rented The Accountant on Verizon VOD. It was decent, but not quite good. I felt a pretty strong connection to Ben Afleck’s character because I can identify with many of the symptoms he reeled off about “high functioning autism.” I’ve never been diagnosed but I’ve always assumed I’m on the Asperger’s spectrum somewhere, enough to be recognizable, but not enough to be debilitating. The plot that went on around him, though, wasn’t all that interesting to me (corporate accounting woohoo). Still, there were good performances all around.

Saturday night I watched Jason Bourne on HBO. I didn’t care for it. With the exception of a 10 minute car chase near the end, it was rather boring for an action movie. I’m not a diehard fan of the Bourne movies, but I at least enjoyed the first three. This one was a whole lot of “meh.” It seemed to re-tread the exact same ground as previous movies (“Bourne is looking for something, but we need to stop him before he finds it.”) Most of the movie consisted of shots of people looking at computer screens. I think they were ultimately trying to make a movie about personal data privacy versus government law enforcement, but jammed Bourne into the middle of it.

Sunday evening I watched 10 Cloverfield Lane on Amazon Prime. It was good. Far better than I expected it to be. I had the vague impression that it hadn’t been received very well when it was released, but I thought it was a very tense psychological thriller with some really good, believable performances and more than a few surprises (and not the ones you might think, if you’ve seen it). I don’t remember Cloverfield very well but I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it. I think I would rate this one better. (The two movies are unrelated, though.)