Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Get Your Blog On

Over a year ago, I gave the (few) readers a homework assignment to find LARPing resources. It seems that every damn thing on the internet has a million blogs and a hundred wikis dedicated to the subject. But not LARP. In fact, I bet there are more webpages and blogs dedicated to fu--ies than there is to LARPing (something that I never plan on confirming).

So here we are, a year later, and community has improved. Even still, several blogs have come and gone on the topic of LARP, and only a few survive.

So what's the deal?

Well, truth is, blogging is a difficult and grueling process. This isn't actually my first attempt at a blog. I had a blog before this one that was originally intended to be a resource for Champions Online (but was eventually changed to gaming in general when Champions proved to suck hard.) Around 100 posts I grew tired and weary about the project and started writing for Alltern8.com, where I expected I would be showered with hits and, more importantly, cash. Not quite, but it did help me decide to use my powers for good and start another blog with Tim's help.

Ramble Ramble Ramble.

Anyways, this post isn't necessarily about LARPing. It's about blogging. I want more resources out there, helping people everywhere fly their nerd flag. Or sports. Whateves. If you're not interested in that, here's Nyan cat.

If you are interested in blogging, beware of the incoming wall of text.

1. Blog Early, Blog Often.

This is the biggest problem with Blogging. You have to post regularly if you want a following. I'm not saying every day. But you will need to do at least once a week. Pick a day or days you're going to post and stick with it.

If you are posting regularly, it will become part of a reader's routine. Without that, you'll have spontaneous readership whenever they remember that your blog exists. And you want your blog to be on the top of someone's RSS feed regularly, if they're hip enough to even know what that is.

Finally, try and schedule your posts for the same time every day. I find early morning is best for me (I try and have it up at 8:00). That means that it can easily be worked into either a breakfast routine (like reading the paper) or something that someone does on break at work. Posting at 6:00 PM is going to miss a large part of the gaming crowd, as they read about gaming at work and, surprise, game when they get home. You're going to have a hard time competing with that.

2. Light Posts are Better Than No Post.

A big problem that people run into when starting a blog is that they run out of content after about a dozen posts. They often think that they need to be insightful and scholarly in every post, but that's not that important. Your job is to either entertain your readership or to make them think. You can do that with a picture and a few words, a question, or a story. Frequency and consistency of posting is more important than the content in any one post!

Obviously though, you should have keystone posts every now and again, or else the blog becomes drivel. Nobody wants that.

3. Don't be Fooled. It's Work.

Yes, I enjoy the blog for the most part. But the truth is that it's work. Part of the reason Tim and I started this blog together is that there are days when we just don't want to post. Sometimes I can beg Tim into posting because I'm just not feeling it.

Yes, I occasionally let it slip (particularly when I'm on intense travel for work), but that is a rarity. And guess what? The blog takes hits in it's stats when I don't post. So I try and tough it out when appropriate.

Finally, you have to want to write. If you think you're a guy with some good ideas but hate to write, don't blog. Post treatises on forums, podcast, guest post, and vBlog instead. A large amount of your work is going to go without instant gratification. You have to be happy with what you've produced to get by in this game.

4. Don't Beg for Hand Holding.

No, this isn't the Elitist Jerks forum. I see a lot of new blogs out there asking for help or submissions for content. You made your bed and now you have to sleep in it. If you post too many posts asking for help or whining that your life is so hard, you are going to lose credibility as an expert and people are going to lose interest.

If you really want reader feedback, posit questions at the end of the post. But don't get bent out of shape when you don't get comments.

Now, once you get established, it's ok to ask every now and again. This is mostly due to the fact that some of your readership are sure to have a voice with no microphone to the masses. But you've got to have readers before you can do that.

5. Don't get Discouraged by Hits.

Niches like LARP are extremely discouraging. My last blog was a relatively inconsistent blog about a subject that everyone talked about (WoW). This made me a very minor player in the community, and even still, I got more hits than I got on my LARP blog for the first few months, despite it's high posting consistency.

It's going to take a while to develop the hits. Just keep posting. Eventually, something will bring someone to your blog. But to get repeat readers, you have to have an strong archive. So even if no one is reading now, stick with it and keep writing.

Think about the last web comic you read. When you found that you liked it, you went back and read all the archives. What if there wasn't any? You'd probably say "This is funny," and move on.

I would suggest you have at least 20 ideas for posts (or already written posts) before starting a blog. Then tell yourself you're going to get through those 20 and then decide if you want to stick it out.

6. Control Your Posts.

Blog posts are like presents. When you get a really good one, you want to give it to the person as soon as possible so they can see how awesome it is. Don't. Wait till Christmas.

Ration your content like you would water in a desert. Just because you came upon a cache of resources doesn't mean you'll use them right away. You will have dry spells, and you'll want to make sure you have enough content to get through them. If you absolutely have to write it now, schedule it for your next post.

Now, obviously this isn't as true if you're dealing with extremely topical information, like press releases or big changes. Get those out as soon as possible.

7. Network.

Now, the best way for you to get a readership is to network with other bloggers/players in your topic. We started this blog without any of that, but things changed after a vitriolic post of mine got posted in the NERO national forums (which I have since seen the light and redacted my stance on the issue). I learned many lessons from that post, the hard way.

Ironically enough, the person who made the rules decision I was railing against has become one of the more supportive readers of the blog, fellow host of LARPcast, and a pretty decent friend of mine.

Anyways, that post gave me visibility, and helped spread the word of the blog. And by working with Kevin at LARP Source and Dan at Nerology, I helped expand our readership (and hopefully increased their readership as well).

So, as it turns out, that post was simultaneously the high and low point of this blog. Weird, huh?

Also, should there be a lively community of blogs in the topic you're writing in, you should engage in the comment trade. If you make a meaningful comment on one of their posts, there's a good chance that they'll start dropping comments on your blog as well. That's how we roll.

8. Get Emotional Without Flaming.

This is one of the lessons I learned the hard way. I have a hard time with this when I think someone is wrong, as I'll often get super intense about it, and a lot of that appears as anger in script. Very few blogs make it by flaming people. In addition, it could cause some serious legal issues depending on who you're talking about and what you say.

On the other hand, playing it safe isn't great for hits. Play on the edge. Say the things that people are afraid to say. Get people excited. But don't do so by flaming others.

9. It Will be Worth It

I know a lot of this is fear tactics of what not to do. I probably make it seem that blogging is some kind of awful minefield that only maso**ists engage in. But if you stick with it, it will be worth it.

Eventually, you'll hear about your blog by word of mouth by people who you don't even know. This has happened twice in recent history.

At the Wastelands/Exiles game in May, one of the players was talking about the fact that Wastelands made it big because it was advertised on this one blog. He wasn't aware at the time that I was the person who wrote it.

In one of the recent posts at Nerology, Liam (Rasputin) gave us a shoutout, noting that he used some of the techniques that we mentioned on the blog to keep players IG.

Hearing stuff like that makes the countless hours spent on this blog completely worth it. And those are the reasons why I keep pushing on.

If you made it through this mess of crap, then you're probably a blogger or someone who would like to become a blogger. So now it's your turn for, as MLC calls it, Shameless Self-promotion of your blog.

I don't care if it's about underwater basket weaving. If you post it in the comments, I'll read your blog.

I'll even put it in my RSS feed (whatever the hell that is.)

-- stands for rr
** stands for ch

I felt that I really didn't need either of those words hitting google's keyword searches. Then I'd draw in the wrong roleplaying crowd.


  1. "Finally, you have to want to write. If you think you're a guy with some good ideas but hate to write, don't blog. Post treatises on forums, podcast, guest post, and vBlog instead."

    Heh, so so true. I know it's why I went the podcast route instead of blogging.

  2. Bill,
    Excellent post. I've been kicking around an idea that I want to go over with you. We'll talk later.

  3. It isn't a blog, but I've got a Facebook Group started for discussion of LARPs and LARPing in Central Indiana (think, GenCon land). Here's the link: CILS: Central Indiana LARP Scene.