So here’s a bit of a twofer today. The first will be of great help if you’re already worried about how on earth you might find the subject matter for posts on an ongoing basis. Don’t get me wrong- it isn’t a silver bullet. Bloggers much more experienced than I are often heard to talk about how difficult it is to not repeat themselves over time.

That’s a whole other issue though! (And the short answer is: Don’t worry about it.)

No, this is an issue that can come up much sooner than that! And one answer can be to:

Bounce Off Other People

Blogging isn’t something generally done in a vacuum. It’s more akin to a team sport, in many respects. If you’ve joined via Blaugust, you might already have an inkling of the community this hobby establishes around itself. And it isn’t the only one, another I quite enjoy is The Support Role initially set up by Kim of Later Levels.

One of the ways you can use the team is to gain inspiration for posts from the other posts you’ve read.

  • You might want to respond directly to the post you’ve read.
    And sometimes these responses can warrant an entire post of their own, rather than just a comment! (Or perhaps even both!)
  • You might have a different take on the same subject / theme.
    A recent example of this spawned from Aywren’s take on the importance of (high quality) story in MMOs. It spawned quite the discussion, not only in the comments, but also here, here, here and also over here. At least. There may have been others I’ve now forgotten in my haste (apologies if so)! But the point here is less about the specific posts and more about the fact one post can spawn several others, and its great — even if in my own take I did perhaps cause a little contention with at least one commentor in this case. :(
  • You might gain inspiration for an entirely different subject.
    Frostilyte recently wrote a review on Enter the Gungeon. The review and the following discussion led almost directly to write about… Well, this. A post about the challenges of extracting value from games whe- SQUIRREL! … Right. Also? The very base idea of extracting value from games? Well- on my blog that originates here, but that post in turn bounced off both Paeroka and Krikket.

So! Use your team! :D There is a balance to be struck, for sure. As I mentioned yesterday, there is always going to be more content than you can reasonably hope to consume. Don’t let that get you down, or sway the balance of effort into an area that’s no longer fun for you.

I find I go through cycles of reading a lot of posts, to needing to skim, to missing things entirely if work or life (or sometimes even a game) really comes in and takes over for a bit. But then the cycle starts over again as normalcy is found, and this works for me.

The Blogroll

If you’re wondering the correlation between these topics… That’s simple. The idea came reading from Roger’s post on Blogrolls this morning. He covers the social dynamics, the networking aspect, and more. None of which are the theme of my coverage of the blogroll here, so definitely take a look at his. :)

I’d like to cover a different style of blogroll than Roger talks to. Namely, Roger speaks to a more static style of blogroll that is a list of links to other blogs you are aware of or enjoy (as your policy dictates). Whereas if you look at how blogrolls are done on Blogger hosted sites or here, you might notice it’s a bit more dynamic with the ordering based on the most recent post date and time.

Bhagpuss has the most glorious blogroll. It is truly an asset to everyone and I frequently refer to it myself. Bhagpuss has blogs spanning far and wide, some that haven’t posted in >9 years. Keeping blogs this dated flies in the face of Roger’s advice — but here’s the thing, he’s not wrong. And neither is Bhagpuss.

If you’re keeping a static list of links, where a reader cannot gain context to the blog without clicking through — you probably should be a little more diligent in pruning inactive blogs. That doesn’t mean you need to cull them entirely though. Isey of I HAS PC maintains a separate list of blogs that he enjoyed but no longer update.

With a more dynamic list that sorts on activity, the same user issues don’t really exist. You can clearly see without a click just how long ago it was since a post happened.

This is functionality I value very highly and rely on it as my main feed for posts to read.

However, you might’ve noticed I said I still use Bhagpuss’ blogroll, even though I have this capability here too…

Dynamic Blogrolls on WordPress

Unlike Blogger, this isn’t a native feature of WordPress. Blogger has the advantage here of being hosted by Google and using their massive compute power to keep such a list updated for all blogs known to humankind and then passing the subset of this as requested to any blog on their platform.

On WordPress, there are a number of ways to do this — but the best way I’ve found is via the WP RSS Aggregator plugin. The base version of the plugin itself is free, but you’re going to need to either be self-hosted or on a WordPress.com plan high enough to allow plugins to make use of it.1

The issue I run into with this plugin is the compute power needed to run it. For each blog you want to keep on your list, you need to scan its RSS feed and pull through the latest content, compare that to what you have, and decide whether to update it or not. Regularly.

Both last Blapril and Blaugust I received a bit of a hand-smack from my host (a gentle one, but it was what it was) for exceeding my allowed CPU time.

As a result, I’ve had to:

  • Change how the Cron jobs run for the site, from ‘whenever WP wanted’ to ‘Only on the hour’.
  • Limit how often each blog I keep on the list checks for updates — balancing the CPU load overall with what I know of the blog owners posting habits, even down to time of day to try hit a cycle for them recently after a likely post.
  • And most impactful of all — limit how many blogs I actually keep on the list.

It’s the last one that has made me consider dropping it and switching to a static blogroll like Roger speaks of. I’m sure if I did I’d find another way to keep up with posts — perhaps a heavier reliance on WP Reader or Feedreader (since the latter would play nicer with Blogger blogs as well).

I still can’t discount the possibility I might one day make that decision as it gets ever harder to maintain the balance between inclusion and permitted CPU usage, but it’s still going to be a tough decision to make. One other option I’ve considered is to take a ‘Why not both?’ approach, and maintain the dynamic blogroll on the sidebar with a more comprehensive one on the blogroll page.

Open to thoughts!

This was posted during Blaugust 2021, the annual blogging event hosted by Belghast. Blaugust is an event aiming to welcome new blogger blood into the fold and revitalise those who’ve been at it a little longer.

The Blaugust Discord is still available to join in, year-round!

Footnotes

  1. There’s a whole other post here, but the cliff-notes version would be: Self-hosting is cheaper but demands more of you technically, WP.com hosting the opposite when you start talking ability to use plugins.

Naithin

Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

7 Comments

Spot of Mummery · August 2, 2021 at 8:24 am

I dearly wish that WordPress had a built-in blogroll as cool as Blogger does. I mentioned this on another post somewhere today. I know you can use plugins, but that only works for folks that self-host their WordPress. I’m about 50-50 on my projects being self-hosted and being hosted on WordPress.com. My two “main” blogs aren’t self-hosted so no spiffy toys for them. Not having access to plugins is the one major drawback – it’s actually part of a post I plan to write later this month!

The idea of bouncing off other blog posts is an excellent tip! I actually get really excited when something that I’ve written inspires others to follow up on the topic, too!

    Naithin · August 2, 2021 at 10:26 am

    Agree! I could never use Blogger as my main blogging platform, but if I was going to, that would likely be why. xD

    As for bouncing, me too! I think some of the best blogging posts to read are those that have bounced off a few people, evolving as they go. :)

Nimgimli · August 2, 2021 at 9:43 am

It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who uses Bhagpuss’s blog as a kind of launcher. If I’m bored and my own RSS feed is empty I’ll head to Inventory Full and see what’s in that side-bar.

I used to have a dynamic blogroll but ran into the same issue you did. ISP was grumpy and sometimes it just wouldn’t load. I decided I’d just write my own. That was, oh, 5 years ago or so. I’ll get to it one of these days. [Spoiler: No I won’t LOL]

    Naithin · August 2, 2021 at 10:31 am

    Do you remember what you used to use for your old dynamic list?

    I’ve looked into Wilhelm’s solution before -https://pinboard.in/ – which outputs an RSS feed even a wp.com site can use in the sidebar without plugins. Offloads most of the processing too.

    Does come with an annual cost for that though, so, so far, I have resisted. Hehe.

Nimgimli · August 3, 2021 at 3:22 am

Sorry, I can’t recall what it was. Some wordpress plugin that was ‘self-contained’ which is probably why it was so slow. When I say self-contained I mean all the work was done on “my” server. Using a third-party service that does the harvesting off-site would make a lot of sense.

Blaugust 2021 Kick-Off – Dragons and Whimsy · August 3, 2021 at 11:33 am

[…] a little unsure on what to write, we have a baseline to go from. And if you need any more ideas, Naithin has a nice post about “bouncing ideas” around which is a really nice way to get […]

Blaugust 2021 Kick-Off ⋆ Dragons and Whimsy · August 18, 2021 at 12:43 pm

[…] a little unsure on what to write, we have a baseline to go from. And if you need any more ideas, Naithin has a nice post about “bouncing ideas” around which is a really nice way to get […]

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