“Content” feels sort of arms-length to the actual stuff I wrote in the last month, but as Blaugust enters the wind-down week, I wanted to break my lessons learned into a few different pieces. First up is this post, analyzing the actual content of my 35 Blaugust 2021 posts by topic and breaking down what I found interesting about the posts and the topical makeup of my blog for the month. I’ll have one with metrics and discuss the effect of the Blaugust “bump” that my blog has gotten in both Blaugust events I’ve participated in. Finally, I’ll have a more psycho-analytical post to close out this series, discussing the general vibe, feeling, and mood of blogging in 2021, how I find myself fitting into it (or not), and what comes next for my blog, as the vibe you may have gotten is that I’ll be more present here overall (albeit not as much as 35 posts in 31 days, because I’m very tired.).
So, of the 35 posts I wrote, what’s the topical breakdown?
Blaugust Theme Posts: 9
World of Warcraft-Centered Posts: 10
Final Fantasy XIV Centered Posts: 10
Wrestling Centered Posts: 3
Sidenote (My Technology Series) Posts: 2
Meta Concepts/Self-Indulgence: 1
Immediately, a surprise – given that I spent most of Blaugust unsubscribed from WoW, the fact that I matched post count with FFXIV was fascinating to me. In fact, given that about 3 of the FFXIV-counted posts also discuss WoW, it could still be said that I maintained a WoW blog for the month. Knowing myself, it isn’t a huge surprise – I’ve played WoW for 2x longer than FFXIV, so I just have a stronger connection to WoW, especially since I’ve actively played at endgame in each expansion cycle, while in FFXIV, I only really was caught up to endgame content from Stormblood forward, and while that doesn’t matter as much in FFXIV as it would in WoW, it does mean that I approach the game a little differently.
Another surprise is that wrestling posts both outnumbered Sidenotes, but also were not as prominent as I thought they would have been. August was a huge month in pro wrestling with massive touring in the US (wise or not) and massive rumors that, in some cases, turned reality, like the return of CM Punk to active wrestling. Sidenotes were naturally down because gaming tech is kind of in a rut at the moment – the biggest actual release the whole month was the very-meh Radeon RX 6600 XT, whose pricing even at MSRP is godawful for what the card is intended to do.
I definitely feel like I did more Blaugust theme posts this year than in 2019. With more time to write on my hands this year, my average post length through Blaugust was far higher in 2021 than in 2019, but it also meant that I explored much more per post and that led to me running low on new things to actually say about WoW or FFXIV. I certainly also used the Blaugust theme posts as a means of giving new readers a sort of Cliff’s Notes on my personality and writing voice, which I think of as useful because in my head, at least, it’s distinct enough to be a feature of the blog and it’s either endearing or repellent! My favorites of these were probably tied between documenting my office displays or my music post, both of which were chances to show a bit more personality that even long-term readers of mine might not be as familiar with!
To revisit the MMO posts for a moment, I think it was an interesting window in time this year to be writing specifically about both WoW and FFXIV – one in clear decline with a playerbase in open revolt and turmoil, one in ascendancy with a smattering of new players with WoW as their reference point jumping in. I counted ATVI lawsuit posts as “WoW” posts, but I didn’t write many specifically lawsuit-oriented ones for Blaugust – just one, and the rest of the references were included in other posts about WoW. FFXIV posts were huge and semi-regular for the first time in a while, and that was an interesting experiment with both good and bad sides. I think the good is that I believe I have a role I can play with my reach to help people who are mostly WoW players with better understanding FFXIV as they make a switch over or add it to the rotation, while I can also speak to why WoW players sometimes approach FFXIV the way they do for an FFXIV audience. To be clear, my metrics are still largely dominated by WoW or meta-analysis, but several FFXIV posts did pretty well – usually the controversial ones, so “well” is metrically true but also tongue-in-cheek.
Lastly, my one meta-experiment for this year was my 666th blog post on this site, which I commemorated with analysis of some of my favorite villains. It was purely self-indulgent and a fun riff I wanted to do when I realized the milestone was approaching, and it did decent enough numbers for a post that isn’t MMO news, guides, or analysis.
So, how’d it feel this year? I’m of two minds about Blaugust as an activity – I find it a fun challenge and the act of simply writing every day is a good exercise for what I actually plan to do to live going forward – both here but also for other written content that I’ll be sharing over the next month, but at the same time, Blaugust is never going to be my normal process.
For me, blogging is a thing I do after a long day, thinking about the experiences I’ve had lately or even just that day, the news stories I’ve read, filtered through my lens after a lot of thought. I am a terribly noisy and attention-diverting person, so my normal day is playing an MMO with a YouTube video on another monitor or a podcast, reading Twitter or other sites on my phone, and sometimes doing all of this while also discussing something with my wife. Blogging is one time of day where I have nothing on – no music, no videos, just the whir of my computer fans and water pump as I write, mechanical keyboard clacking in response. I often spend hours writing a single post – my longest post ever I think I started at like 11 PM and didn’t finish writing or editing until 4 AM. My average post takes around 3-4 hours to fully finish, and I usually have to start and finish in a single sitting, give or take any momentary distractions.
For Blaugust, at first, I always try to maintain the same posts and the same length and process I would have otherwise, but for daily publishing, that’s fucking rough. By the mid-point, I gladly took the theme posts as a “get out of jail free” card because they were so often easier for me to flesh out and get to a complete status in under 2 hours, with a word count around half of my normal posts. That isn’t to say I’m not proud of Blaugust posts – quite the opposite, actually – but that 8,000-word epics are never going to happen during a blogging event, not from me, at least.
And actually, something I’ll really analyze in post 3 of this series is this – I’ve often tried and failed at YouTube, podcasts, and the like because I think I have to be a lot more “on” for them. When I do videos, I have facecam, I setup my full lighting, get things set just right, and really try to turn on a ton of personality for it, and that’s tough. Audio is simpler, but harder at the same time – setting noise gates, working out microphone settings, and again, turning that personality on and up. It’s a lot easier for me to present how I want to in writing, where I can spend time thinking, I don’t have to look or feel good for the output to be good, and I have a chance to comb through after the fact and look to make sure my meaning and core message survived the rough draft. That’s why I think that blogs and written word still has a lot of value in 2021 – there’s an aspect of performance to it that is much easier for introverts, socially awkward individuals, and those who just generally need that time to really marinate on the message – and depending on how I’m feeling on a given day, I am all 3 of those.
But I enjoy Blaugust because it encourages me to go out on a limb. Would I have done a 666th commemorative post were it not Blaugust? Maybe – but the odds are lower, certainly. Would I have written 3 wrestling posts? Almost certainly not – I love writing them, but under my normal lower quantity of posts, it would have been hard to find value in 3 whole posts on it, overlapping though they were (I was/am a huge CM Punk fan, so yeah), so one highly-consolidated post after the debut on Rampage would have probably been it. Would I have done a music post? Definitely not. In the name of daily posting, everything was on the table, and more things were on the table than would otherwise have been, and I think that makes it enjoyable for me to do in general. A lot of my dead drafts start strong, then I go “this is stupid and my readers will think so too” and I dump it in the drafts folder to die a slow, agonizing death. During Blaugust, I take more chances on content that doesn’t get that reaction by word 1,000. Honestly, if I write a 1,300 word post (haha, as-if) and you make it 1,000 words in thinking it’s great only for the last 300 words to be a slow descent into madness, that’s probably still a net-win to publish and put out there.
The nature of super-frequent posting also means that you tend to be less filtered. My authorial voice is true to self, but I nearly always use layers of filtering to blunt some things. I only really set myself a few boundaries – deeply personal stories I won’t tell on what is still a gaming blog, that I will never fully share my political beliefs on this site using uncoded language (if you read some theory, you’ll recognize my general alignment pretty easily through some tell-phrases I do allow for), and I filter for the worst of my real-life speech patterns, which tend towards a lot of unfiltered profanity (I don’t have any puritanical stance on the right number of “fucks” and “shits” for a blog or in general, but I respect that they can be unpleasant to read hyper-frequently and it means they also lack punch if overused). My posts during Blaugust get less of this – not completely gone, but it is something I note mentally needs to be stripped down to be useful without pushing posts out too far.
So with that – my favorite, most surprising, and least favorite posts of this Blaugust (judged by me, metrics not used to analyze):
Writing about how WoW’s writing sucks in modern times is starting to enter genre trope territory, but there are easily understandable core issues to analyze in that which are, frankly, flabbergasting misses from the WoW team. This one was fun to write because it was a breaking point moment in the community – with the full 9.1 story out and the big unveils all bombing, it was a rich source for content.
Firstly, a personal trope – super long post title? Check!
Secondly, this post surprised me because it was interesting how much my perception of having a watercooled PC has changed over the first 6 months, going from “this is the best thing I’ve ever done and so amazing” to “it’s still really cool but what’s next?” I knew that would be the case, but documenting it kind of surprised me. And what’s next in watercooling has a lot of answers – a hard-tube build would be a simply-identified next target, I still need to do my first flush and refill at some point in the near future (within around 5 months), doing a larger case build with more radiator capacity is something I’m interested in (not anytime soon, but like next build, at least 2-3 years out), but also because the original post about watercooling my now-current PC was a turning point for the site – it’s when I finally broke away from the wordpress.com domain shackle, got ads enabled, and found a viable path forward in writing as a potential career. All that because I wanted to embed the video of my leak test!
Least Favorite: What If: Could Endwalker Have A Mediocre Transitional Storyline?
I liked this post well-enough in theory, but in execution, I feel like it fell a bit short of what I wanted it to be. I found the idea interesting – Endwalker is a transitional tale as a whole expansion + patch cycle, and A Realm Reborn was also a transitional story, so what if Endwalker’s story is like ARRs and thus, meets with a sort of lack of enthusiasm? In practice, it was just hard to communicate what was so interesting about that topic in a way that got it out of my head correctly. In a normal month, I think I would have scrapped the draft, but in Blaugust, this one was a misfire that I found okay enough during editing that I let it out, and it is the poster child in my head for what I mentioned above in a post that starts out okay, then turns by the end.
Overall at this point, I’m 5 years deep into the blogging game in a real, substantive way, not counting MySpace, LiveJournal, or the like, and even still, I find myself learning and growing more with each passing year. Blaugust is a great opportunity to stretch your process and see where it breaks (or if it even does, because I’m certainly not on a Wilhelm-style 521 day in a row streak). It is a challenge every time, but one of those challenges I appreciate and enjoy specifically because I learn from how it leaves me broken every time.