Regular Features as a Form of Content

Whether new to the scene or an old hand, from time to time it can feel like your post ideas have dried up. There’s no handy news to respond to. Your games have become a series of dailies with all the engagement of a wet paper bag. Well shiz. What to do?

Sorry. This post probably won’t help with that directly. Roger Edwards has just written something which might though. Instead, Regular Features can help by giving you some reliable content to ensure the gaps between posts never get too large. That you don’t get yourself into a position of feeling like you can’t come back now.1

Regular features can help. But there are some pitfalls watch out for too.

You can make a feature out of essentially anything.

A round up of your favourite posts from around the community perhaps. Or a look at your month in review — what games you played or projects you worked on. Although you could just as easily pick a different cadence. Weekly, fortnightly, quarterly and/or even a mega wrap-up yearly.

You might even set yourself some gaming goals for the period ahead and discuss how you did at the end. Aywren does a great series of this kind. So does Syp. Although this is far too structured for me. I can’t even guarantee any given game will carry on being played one month to the next. ;)

Got a massive backlog? Endgame Viable for Blaugust is posting every day after running through a title for about an hour. It’s not a review, just impressions generated during that dedicated chunk of time. You could adapt this idea to into a weekly or fortnightly feature, perhaps.

Or maybe you’re just looking to supplement your regular posts with something a little lower in effort, but still nice for your readers. Possibly as a weekend cover piece. The Nerdy Bookahs have this covered with Screenshot Saturdays.

Myself, I run two features at the moment. Maybe two and a half if we’re being generous. The core two being the monthly Journal and another on the Humble Monthly inclusions.2 Unfortunately for me, these both land at fairly similar times which is one of the potential issues you may need to watch out for.

Namely, not overloading yourself with too much at any one point in time. Or even just overall.

But if that does happen? If you’re starting to feel too pressured by the number of features you’ve got setup, or if you feel that you’re now posting nothing but these things — let your least favourite ones go.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It isn’t a failure. If they’ve stopped being fun to do as an overall experience then something has to give.

Don’t let it be your entire blog.

Blaugust Day #4 — Stop Letting Jetpack Post to Twitter For You

Important Note: The original post remains below unedited — but Belghast has run the same experiment (with a much larger userbase, likely to be more representative of Twitter at large) and found engagement levels dropped when using the below method.

As noted down in the comments, he found that while what I’ve posted looks great to Twitter.com users — users with a third party app will not have the image pulled through. So they end up with a plain text tweet with zero image of any kind.

So! While it might be worth some experimentation for a few days to see how this works for you, in general? Might just be best off trusting it to WordPress and Jetpack attaching an image for you after all, rather than relying on a meta data pull.

The Jetpack plugin — core to your site if using WordPress.com — has a number of helpful Social Media connection options. And as it turns out, perhaps one that is less than helpful. The general idea of these connectors being that when you publish a post, you write a small written blurb to go along with a link to your post. Then that, along with your featured (or first used) image will be published to any or all of Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or LinkedIn.

The Jetpack plugin — core to your site if using WordPress.com — has a number of helpful Social Media connection options. And as it turns out, perhaps one that is less than helpful. The general idea of these connectors being that when you publish a post, you write a small written blurb to go along with a link to your post. Then that, along with your featured (or first used) image will be published to any or all of Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or LinkedIn.

While I’ve not tried LinkedIn — this isn’t the sort of blog where I’d like to share content there — for the most part this auto publish functionality is excellent.

But steer clear of the Twitter one! Don’t use it if you can help it!1

Why? What’s Wrong with the Publish to Twitter Connector?

The tweet on the left was posted manually. The one on the right came from the Jetpack plugin.

The difference at first glance is subtle but it can cost you in post clickthroughs.

I’m not talking about any difference in tag or text content of the Tweet’s either. Although those are important too and Syp has some great general tips for game blogging which can help here.

The problem is how difficult the Jetpack plugin makes it for readers to actually get to your post via Twitter.

The highlights show clickable area that will take someone to your post.

With Jetpack powered tweets, I found a high degree of ‘Media engagements’ — or clicks on the images. But Jetpack is uploading these images as attachments, so clicks on the images will not bring anyone through to your post.

If you publish a tweet manually however — and don’t upload an image attachment — Twitter will convert your link to what you see on the left. The text-only link disappears and your featured image will be pulled and used automatically as part of the clickable area that will take people to your post.

The difference now is anyone clicking the image, or any of the text below it, will be brought through to your post. Much easier for them.

In my limited experimentation so far I’ve seen very positive results by manually tweeting over using Jetpack for Twitter. To the order of 250-400% increase in Link clicks over what was typical previously.

My sample size in both tweets and followers is small though — so I’d be curious to find whether ‘bigger bloggers’ can replicate these results.

Time to Loot Journal: July 2019

Looking back over the past month I’m left wondering… What happened? Where did the time go and what did I do? It seems like a lifetime ago that the health scare raised its head, and yet it was only a handful of weeks. The endoscopy is the end of this week and all going well will put this concern to rest.

Other unrelated sickness in the household has meant I’ve spent a week working from home, which I think lent itself to time blurring with the removal of a regular cadence of work and back, work and back to mark out the days.

Oh! Blaugust is coming though! Over the latter part of July I’ve been in a sort of warm-up exercise mode for it, posting if not every day then every other. It isn’t too late to sign up and jump into the Discord though. :)

Blog this Month

Published 18 posts this month. Up 8 from last. Second most posts in a month since I started Time to Loot (with first place going to February). My Blaugust goal is to hit a post all 31 days though.

I think I can do it — but we’ll see.

Life often has a way of sneaking up and inappropriately pinching your behind when you’re not looking after all. Someone should tell Life it’s 2019 and we don’t stand for that sort of carry on any more.

As for totals? This will make for 98 published posts. Almost broke 100 a month ahead of prediction! I have to say, quite chuffed with getting this far.

Most Viewed Posts

  1. Transport Fever: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started
  2. Heart of Rage: Tips for The Monitor
  3. Blaugust 2019 is Coming!
  4. Starting The Horrible Hundred
  5. Humble Monthly: July 2019

I was right! The Heart of Rage post at last falls out of top spot. That was a pretty impressive run for it though I suppose. But now the Transport Fever starter guide has taken over with almost 4x the views this month than HoR.

Games this Month

RankGameHours% Gaming TimeChange
1Final Fantasy XIV29.938.5%↑2
2Lost Ark29.838.3%New
3Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey4.55.8%Returning
4Stellaris4.15.3%New
5Warframe2.83.6%New
6Astroneer2.53.2%New
7Devil May Cry 51.82.3%Returning
8Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice0.91.1%New
9Celeste0.81.1%New
10Parkasaurus0.70.9%New

July saw a total of 77.7 gaming hours, down 2.9 hours from June.

And in an almost complete flip from last month where the total active hours were way down from watching shows on devices other than the main desktop, this month saw an unprecedented high of 317.2 total active hours. This is up 141.1 hours over last month.

Much of the increase to total active hours comes from spending a little over a week working from home, plus some return to this device as a TV/Movie watching device.

For July, this means gaming made up 24.4% of the active hours, down 21.2% from last month.

Final Fantasy XIV

Talk about juuuuust eking it out for top spot. Less than 6 minutes difference between it and Lost Ark.

Final Fantasy will certainly still hold strong next month. But whether it will be #1 or #2 is anyone’s guess at this stage.

I’m still looking down the barrel of the vast majority of The Horrible Hundred to complete. But I’ll get there. I’ve just been horribly distracted by Lost Ark, and it’s all Mailvaltar’s fault. Don’t look at me like that, it is! ;)

Lost Ark

Perhaps rather cruelly, I first found out about Lost Ark some 4 or 5 years ago.

I’ve finally got a chance to dive in and try most of the base classes. And Oh my God, where has this game been my entire life?

The blend of MMORPG and ARPG is just so perfect. I’ve leveled two of the Warrior classes — Berserker and Warlord to nearly 30, and with a friend just joining decided to take a look at Bard alongside them.

Easy contender for top spot next month, but as I called out in the sneak peek — it’s by no means certain. Technically you cannot play this outside of Korea, so my account could be terminated at any point. It is going to be difficult in the extreme though to keep my mindset as one of testing and experimenting rather than dedicated though.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

The last episode of the Fate of Atlantis DLC dropped this month, spurring me back into AC’s rendition of Greece where the myths are real.

I’ve started my way into chapter 2 of the First Blade DLC.

I’ve almost finished annihilating the Order of the Storm — Chapter 2’s addition to the Persian Cult — but I’m endeavouring to hunt a few final clues before the final engagement of the chapter. It is my hope that I can save this person rather than slaughter them. I don’t know if it’s possible, but it has been elsewhere in the story. So… Here’s to hoping!

The Others

Quite a hodgepodge here, as is my way. :)

Stellaris made a bit of a surprise return visit in the form of a 4 player game set in a small galaxy size, so that we could test out the recently released Ancient Relics Story pack which added archaeological dig sites that you could have your scientists work on.

Warframe saw a little bit of a revisit too after Tennocon. I still have much to do here, as even in this return I didn’t set foot onto Venus/Fortuna. I think I’m holding out for The New War and Empyrean to download into our hot little waiting hands.

Although I did discover today that there has been a little more added to the story of space mother (aka Natah)! It came alongside the Jupiter / Gas City revamp, and it is apparently quite telling of things to come in the New War story. I may not be able to resist doing that soon.

The rest on the list also make some degree of sense for me I suppose, but if you quirked a brow at Parkasaurus… Well. It’s a tycoon game for a start. I do also love those after all. But mostly, I have an 8-year old boy who still adores Dinosaurs. So this thing was about the best thing ever. For… *looks* …A bit under an hour. ;D

Finding your Motivation to Blog

Blaugust 2019 is almost upon us! The Annual Blogging event to welcome brand new blogger blood into the fold and revitalise the old with a month of focused posting. You can still sign-up to participate and jump into the Blaugust Discord!

If you’re considering starting a blog — and you want it to last more than the average of 100 days — then I think it important to discover your motivation. Not because there are necessarily any right or wrong answers. But rather so that when the going gets tough you have something a little more concrete to pull out and examine — and hopefully — see you through the other side.

It’s OK to start on a whim and discover your motivation though. Or to start with one motivation and discover another.

That’s essentially what I did with Time to Loot. I thought I’d returned for the reason of covering a singular title that had somehow busted through my armor of jaded cynicism and turned my hype dial to 11.

Anthem: It’s a bit over 6 months on now. Maybe time for a re-review? … Nah. Let’s give it a year.

I’d initially registered a very Anthem specific domain. But even if we had found Anthem to be everything we hoped for — going with such a specific name would have been a mistake. And also? Anthem would have been my ‘what’, and not a longer term motivation or ‘why’.

Incidentally, Belghast has a whole post on finding a blog name and blog purpose (from a content type perspective) now. But that is a bit of a different discussion from the one I want to follow.

Namely:

The Content You Cover Isn’t Your Motivation

Or at least, for most of us it won’t be. If you’re blogging about environmental issues or for political activism, then it might be. But for those of us covering gaming, general geekery or even writing and the like — the content we cover is just a vehicle.

Our ‘why’ might be to improve our own writing. Or to document a learning journey. Or in the cases of social issues and similar — perhaps the ‘why’ is to inform and affect change.

My own motivation I didn’t discover until I’d been back at blogging for a month or so.

First — the elephant in the room: I’d be a giant pants on fire liar if for a moment I tried to claim I didn’t want to build a readership. Of course I do. But I feel pretty strongly that this needs to be a background reason and not the primary driver.

For me discovering my motivation was akin to an epiphany. I’ve been on the internet a long time, and have been playing games for the vast majority of it. I have memories of amazing events going back to Asheron’s Call, or heck — even perhaps playing as a clan in QuakeWorld: Team Fortress.

But that history is nebulous and undocumented.

There are people I have lost touch with that I valued a great deal but are now lost forever to me.

I don’t want to look back in 10, 15, 20 years from now and feel the same pain, having made the same mistakes as I have over the last 20 or so. That’s my motivation. That, I think, is the key difference between this blogging effort and my past efforts.

I can’t predict the games or content I will cover, but I can be confident in my motivation and desire to keep a record of it to live on throughout.

So that’s mine. It might be yours as well. It might not be. There’s nothing wrong with having a dream of one day being able to monetise your blog and have it supplement or even replace your income. There’s nothing wrong with simply wanting to become internet-famous, either. But will that see you through the tough times of getting started when it feels like such goals are a million miles away?

If there’s one takeaway from this:

Your motivation for doing this crazy blogging thing is a ‘Why’ not your ‘What’.

Your content can change. You should pretty much count on it changing.

Ask any long term blogger and most of them will tell you their blog has been repurposed or reimagined to some extent over the years it has been alive.

This isn’t to say your ‘Why’ can or never will change, over the long term we tend to shift and change as people after all. But they’re not the same and understanding your why, is something I firmly believe to be required to create a blog that lasts.

Procrastination by ‘Research’

Blaugust 2019 is almost upon us! The Annual Blogging event to welcome brand new blogger blood into the fold and revitalise the old with a month of focused posting. You can still sign-up to participate and jump into the Blaugust Discord!

And so Blaugust Preparation week begins.1 Over this week the Mentors will be offering advice and tips for the official kick-off, August 1st. Now, I am not a mentor but I might still throw in the odd tidbit from the perspective one who has recently gotten started themselves.

First, a story.

Some years ago I had it in my head to give writing an honest to God, full-fledged fantasy novel a shot. Still riding the high of a successful NaNoWriMo with a bit over 50k words already in the bag. I had even adjusted my sleep schedule to allow for dedicated time in the morning before work. I was pretty serious about it.

So serious, that I had to know everything about it. E v e r y t h i n g. I followed numerous writing blogs. Podcasts. I had a particular penchant for blogs by publishing agents too actually, now that I think about it.

Even gaming time fell off a cliff, as every waking moment was doing some form of research on the art and craft of writing and getting published.

But you know what I wasn’t doing?

Writing.

Not a single word. Blog form, novel form, editing? Not a jot.

Over the years I’ve had the odd similar experience although nothing quite that extreme. Recently I wanted to learn how to digitally paint. Having Alli do some work for me had inspired me to dust off the ol’ Wacom again. I spent a day or two looking through Youtube tutorials before recognising the pattern of procrastination in the name of ‘research’ emerging again.

Research is a valuable tool, but don’t beat your passion to death with it.

Which is to say, looking into your subject and learning from those who have gone before can be a valuable use of time. But it needs to be balanced with actual doing. Don’t allow yourself to get caught in a state of inaction.

The desire to get it ‘right’ out of the gate is understandable, but also debilitating.

Blogger or WordPress? WordPress.com or .org? What about Medium? Here’s a truth for you. It doesn’t matter. There are many hugely successful blogs on all blog platforms, free and paid.

Just go to WordPress.com and get started!

You don’t need to be perfect out of the gate. You don’t need to know everything before you start. Tags vs. Categories? Who cares. There’s nothing here that you can’t fix later when you know better. And don’t even get started on SEO.

Just write. Write how you want, about what you want. Do.

Nothing else matters if you don’t. And I think that’s the most important thing to remember. Use research as a means to improve what you’re doing, not as a way to avoid doing it.

There is nothing to be gained in understanding how to write the perfect agent query letter if you have nothing to query. There is nothing to be gained in knowing how to optimise for SEO like a boss if you don’t have a blog with single post yet.

Worse yet, carry it on for too long and you could kill your passion before you even give it a chance to breathe.

Poll Results Split the Internet

Well, one does. The other is near universal. Also, I haven’t seen so much as a raised voice yet. Also also, the sample size here is extremely small. Take with a large helping of salt accordingly. So generally? Hyperbole all around in that headline.

Moving on. Let’s start with the easy one first.

Infinite Scroll vs. Pagination

If you’re unfamiliar with Infinite Scroll — think Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Google Image search. When you are scrolling through posts or items, you never have to hit ‘next page’. As you near the end of the currently loaded items, it will automatically load another set for you to continue with.

Pagination on the other hand you must actively click to progress to a new set of items.

There are instances of some news sites using ‘Infinite Scroll’ to load entire new articles as you reach the end of whatever article you’re currently reading. The intent being to increase a user’s time on site. Many find it irritating though, and God forbid you ever actually want to come back to an article loaded this way at some point in the future.

This poll though was specifically in the context of a blog’s main post index, or archive. Not while already reading a specific post.

The sample size was small (n=14) but the responses fairly one-sided within that. The main audience of respondents are themselves bloggers but were asked to answer from the perspective of consumers of content on other blogs.

Sampled primarily in MMO/Gaming blogger community Jul 2019. (n=14)

So what can we tell from this? Mainly that within this particular niche of the game blogging landscape, most do not appreciate the Infinite Scroll feature. But equally, no-one is going to call you a dunderhead or stop reading your blog over it if you want to enable it.

Also? Potentially fewer people use an off-site mechanism for reading blog posts than I suspected!

Full Posts vs. Excerpts

This one was much closer, as you’ll see. The poll again asked respondents to consider things from the perspective of a blog reader and whether or not they liked to see full posts on the main archive/index.

The argument for excerpts runs that by seeing multiple posts easily, it’s more likely that something will grab their attention to read. That it makes it easier as someone new to a blog to quickly get a feel for the type of content and how much it might interest them. Others noted a changing preference based on typical post length. Longer posts leaning them toward preferring excerpts, while a shorter typical post length was OK to display in full.

This poll had a sample size of n=16 through marginally larger reach. Excerpts had an early and strong lead, but in the end?

Sampled primarily in MMO/Gaming blogger community Jul 2019. (n=16)
(Note: If you were following along with the original strawpoll for this and wondering about the shift here — I had incorrectly voted for ‘Full posts’ rather than ‘Excerpts’.)

Amongst respondents who actually use a blog’s website for consumption of the content? Dead tie.

Do as you will! Decide for yourself! Although having said that, if your posts tend toward the lengthy end of things — perhaps give excerpts a stronger consideration.

Otherwise, what theme do you like? What looks more aesthetically appealing to you? Are you OK with the load time that comes with full post loading?

So What Will I Do?

Infinite Scroll will be kept off and I’ll be sticking to excerpts for now.

I was using full post display prior to the recent redesign.1 My reasoning being that most readers land directly into a post anyway, where this question becomes moot and for those that don’t land straight into a post scanning for what they’re after in the archive should be quicker and easier with excerpts on.

It doesn’t hurt that the page load time according to GTMetrix has come down from just north of 5 seconds to around 3 seconds. That’s with displaying way more post entries per page, too!

Blog Redesign, Polls and even Facebook

Blog Redesign

Depending on how you typically view Time to Loot, you may or may not be aware of a rather significant change in appearance since yesterday. Not just appearance, but function too. The archives now show excerpts with thumbnails rather than entire posts. Posts have hero images. I even flirted with the idea of infinite scroll for the index, but have since turned that off again. For now.

I was running the Genesis Framework and Magazine child-theme, a pair I bought access to waaaaaay back in the day for my old blogging efforts. There is a great deal to love about the Genesis Framework, some parts I’m already missing even — but even the newly released themes seem so… outdated.

Both are screenshots the main index page. But before entire posts were displayed, now using an excerpt display.
There are some differences shown in the ‘old’ from what was actually present though. e.g., the Social icons didn’t wrap (there was one less! More on that soon), and I had a ‘Featured Posts’ carousel.

I’m possibly far from done, but I’ve setup my new theme (OceanWP if you’re wondering) enough that I’m happy with it for the time being. It has been something of a revelation how many more components and areas of configuration it adds to the WordPress ‘customiser’ compared to the old Genesis themes though. To change typographic elements before I had to find their reference in the CSS files and edit by hand. Now it’s all menu driven!

I’ve been researching Divi and Elementor rather extensively. I’m talking multiple 2-3 hour videos of tutorials to see how things are constructed and end results. Answer so far? Inconclusive. Elementor does have a free basic version which is pretty powerful for pages, but adjusting how blog archives and posts work is locked into the Pro edition.

Both of them are more aimed at complete site design rather than ‘just’ a blog, so they’re very likely overkill for what I want… But… I haven’t quite shaken the desire to grab them entirely yet. ;)

Polls! As a Blog Reader…

…Do you like ‘Infinite Scrolling‘? How about Excerpts vs. Full Posts? Or do you not care how a blog presents on the web, because you use WP Reader, Feedly or some other off-site solution?

Those are the questions I pose, and I would love your input! Click through below to add your voice to the poll.

I’ll give this a few days or so then share the results for everyone. :)

Suddenly a Wild Facebook Appears

…I don’t yet know if it will be super effective.

I’m not expecting too much though, as I don’t plan on expending a lot of effort on it. I created the page, and linked the blog to it to auto-crosspost, but that’s it.

I’m also still a little uneasy that the page belongs to my actual Facebook account, being honest. But we’ll see how it goes. Twitter will still absolutely be my preferred social communication channel, and I could stand to be more active there as it is. ;)

If you’re curious though, the Facebook page is here!1.

I’ve followed a few other blogs that I could spot with Facebook pages, but I know I’ve missed people.

Probably a great many people. So let me know! :)

Current Games of Interest: July 2019

This one’s a little odd. Usually I have another game I’m adding when I do these posts. Not so this time. But I’ve been giving my games list on the sidebar the side-eye for a while. It is very much not accurate. Beyond even the point of thinking a game there might just hold out that little longer for a return.

Nope, they’re jumping straight into the ‘removed’ bucket this time!

Changes to the Game List

Added

  • None!

Remaining

  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  • Final Fantasy XIV

Nearly Removed

  • None!

Removed

  • Nioh
  • Transport Fever

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey saw the last chapter of its second DLC release just this past week, so I’ve spent a little extra time getting acquainted again. I still have the final two chapters of the first DLC to play through too, so there is a bit of life left in this one yet! :D

Otherwise, with Final Fantasy XIV taking more of my gaming time again it isn’t too surprising that other things are dropping out. Although that is only a part reason.

In the last journal I talked about how Nioh had been put on hold earlier in the month to allow my eldest son to catch-up so we could play it together co-op. Welp; that never happened. I could carry on with it singleplayer, but the momentum has been broken.

Then all the way back in the May Journal I noted that I would likely put a premature end to the Chasing Truck Fever series. I allowed for the possibility of carrying on with it in a more typical post format. But uh, clearly that didn’t happen.

So away they go!

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