Writing Comments vs. Posts

A line in Bhagpuss’ recent post on the subject of when to comment vs. when to turn it into a post and balancing the two, finally pushed me over the edge to sitting down and writing this out. Bhagpuss had noted in passing an observation that had been building in potential significance as a potential source of deeper insight into writing and my approach to writing.

In fact, in my experiment with writing this post — an undiscussed element of what I was looking at was how to capture some of the comment writing experience. Namely, as Bhagpuss said, “It takes me about five per cent of the time to write even a lengthy comment than it would to put a full post together.”

Writing a comment tends to just flow. Even long ones pour forth from thought to virtual-page. There is no second-guessing or rewriting of whole sections. They just… go.

Nyoooom. The speed of comment writing visualised.

Contrast this with writing posts, where rewrites occur haphazardly on the fly. I can jump at random back to the opening paragraph to touch it up five paragraphs into the work. Whole sentences will be wiped and rewritten in an attempt to make them ‘better’.

Best of all is when changing the structure of a sentence and then leaving artefacts of the previous structure behind. While not the source of 100% of the grammatical issues you’ll see in my posts — it’s probably right up there at 70-80% or more. I’m making a rather conscious effort with this post not to do any of the things I’m talking about while writing it, I should add. And it’s certainly speeding up the process, but it doesn’t quite feel natural yet.

And in fact, after the completion of that paragraph? I just noticed myself pausing to read back through what I had as a whole so far. This is very likely the cause of my editing and jumping around a post on the fly, actually. ;)

Another reason — and I just did this one now too, hah — is I’m very distraction prone. A comment in Discord, a random thought to google. You name it and I can break the flow, then necessitating finding my place again.

In any case. Back on track. I wonder how one might capture some of the efficiency and speed in comment writing. I think the difference in expectations between the two is a factor. Certainly in my mind, during the act of writing a comment it seems far more transient and throwaway — even though there have been times where what I’ve liked what I’ve put into a comment more than some posts!

Something that comes to mind here is a comment from Jeromai, about appreciating the ‘rawness’ of his writing. That over-preparation can end up diminishing his overall regard for a piece of his work.

Although really — it all comes back to the same conclusion as before. I need to get better at writing out complete first drafts before worrying about anything else. Just boom. Write. Turn the editor off. Tap some keys. Make some words. Maybe allow for some critical assessment at the end.

Comment writing proves to me this is possible. It’s just a matter of putting it into practice in a different, higher pressure context.

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! :)

Final Fantasy XIV Main Story Complete!

Final Fantasy XIV’s original (well, ‘A Realm Reborn’ original) main story quest is complete. What amazes me most is the quick turnaround I had from acknowledging the procrastination problem and just getting on and pushing through. By close of the same day I posted that, I was most of the way there. The day after (yesterday), I was done.

Since then I’ve been tottering around doing what I assume to be quests relevant when level 50 was the cap. Before the patches started dropping more MSQ to do. I’ve unlocked a half dozen or so hard mode or level 50 only dungeons. I think I might be working on attuning myself to one of the raids, even.

I’ve even done a mild (veerrry mild) farm of Allagan Tomestone of Poetics in order to get myself some of that sweet, sweet, ilvl 120 Ironworks Gear. I very much doubt I have to do this. But there is a slight fear in the back of my mind about the possibility of being gear gated on my way through the patch content toward accessing Heavensward. I haven’t gone hunting out any detail on this though, the most I’ve done is had a quick peek at the list of quests. And… Oh my. That is… quite a list indeed. A hundred of them it would seem. I mean — I haven’t counted. That’s just what the wiki says at the top.

And to think — then there is Heavensward. Then the Heavensward patches. Then Stormblood. Stormblood patches. Then, finally, will be able to play Shadowbringers. Content incidentally that was sort of foreshadowed in the closing chapter of the ARR MSQ. That’s some decent planning right there.

Getting Invested!

Despite just how far away getting to the current endgame is, I’ve started to change how I’m thinking about the game too. A change in how invested I am in mastery of my class. As a lowbie, I’m more than happy to muddle through on my own and make my own discoveries on how a class works.

It isn’t until closing in on the endgame that I typically want to get deep into the theorycrafting of it all. Really dive into the nitty gritty and answer questions like: Is DoT Snapshotting a thing? (Yes it is.) Am I right to prioritise Mage’s Ballad over Army’s Paeon? (Yes, but when I get my next song stance, that will become the new priority.) How does DoT refreshing work? (Full overwrite, any time remaining when you refresh is wiped — the damage is not added to the new DoT instance.) Should I use Raging Strikes before my DoTs to buff them, or after my DoTs to get more Direct Damage in? (Don’t know! I suspect the GCD requirements on getting both dots into the buff window might be too high, but! This could change when I get the ‘Iron Jaws’ shot which refreshes both dots and also refreshes the damage state. Also I’ll need to test this to be sure anyway, as I could be wrong fullstop — DoT damage is a reasonable portion of Bard damage after all.)

And plenty more besides. I am concerned though, that despite FFXIV being so well regarded at the moment? That there won’t be the same degree of theorycrafting done by community as I’m used to from WoW. That some questions I have I won’t be able to answer on my own due to lack of sim tools, etc.

Clearly people are making do and successfully clearing content. But it’s entirely possible not knowing these things will slowly but surely drive me craaaaaazzzyyyy. Crazy I tell you!

…Still, those are problems for another day. Procrastination by way of researching a thing as opposed to getting on and doing said thing is something I’m very skilled at. So I’m going to try my best to keep these questions at bay until such time the answers actually matter.

Changing the Approach to Writing Posts

I alluded to making this post in my June Journal entry. About how I run things here. Specifically for this post — how I run through the act of constructing a post. I feel that there are some improvements I can make in this area, and I hoped to also get some input on this from you all.

How I do it at the Moment

Getting Started…

What does this have to do with the post? Nothing. I just really like itAlli did an awesome job. :D

Ideas can come from anywhere. Random thoughts. News pieces. Game happenings. Other bloggers, via conversation or their blog posts I’d like to comment on or otherwise respond to at length.

When I can, I’ll construct a draft post — generally containing just a title to prompt memory of the idea later. Very rarely I might include some bullet points of things I want to cover in the post.

Sometime after the initial ideation, magic happens. But — and this is important — the magic can only happen while I’m not at a computer. While driving, say. The post will fully form, crystalise even, in my mind — a near masterwork of engaging writing and compelling argument.

Later, back at the computer with time to write the post — I’ll start tapping away, hacking together a far lesser version of itself. Not the best post in the world, merely a tribute. ;)

Putting the Post Together

During the process of failing to translate what once seemed a perfectly clear and constructed post in my mind to actual written word, I’m prone to distractions in all forms. I don’t think that’s the cause of the translation issue, but it certainly doesn’t help either.

The main distraction comes in the form of working on the post layout while writing the first draft. By which I mean I will insert images, format them, and if I need to jump into a game to get the screenshot I want — I’ll even do that.

I’ll eventually wind up with a completed post, which I’ve put together piecemeal. Editing as I go. A final review (often far more cursory than it probably should be) and then an instant publish.

I’m not very good with being patient and scheduling posts. Once done — it needs to go right then!

The Next Experiment

What I feel I should do instead — and will be experimenting with — is getting out a full, complete draft before doing any of that. Consider that first go in the same vein as a NaNoWriMo writing sprint. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a NaNo writing sprint — basically you write at speed for a set period of time. You completely shut down the inner-editor for the duration. Corrections of anything beyond a typo should be considered forbidden.

After the sprint is over you may consider your review process. Be that a rewrite or some intensive editing.

At first I thought my success metric was around time taken to write a post. This experiment was initially about reducing context switching between writing and formatting.

I actually don’t know that this approach is going to save me any time but perhaps it’ll result in a better quality of post with a rewrite/intensive edit phase put in. A harder metric to track meaningfully perhaps, so I’ll have to use my own satisfaction with a post when ‘done’ as a proxy.

But already I can tell making this change is going to take some very sustained and conscious effort. Cos uh… I’ll start with the next post? I did this one my ‘normal’ way. Hmm.

Anywho — as I said at the start, super curious how other bloggers out there go about constructing their own posts, and if there are any things that seem to work for you, or anything that you might consider changing. :)

Missing Connections

He’s absolutely right about the modern approach to MMORPG gaming on PC. Compared to the original experience, what we enjoy today is adulterated, fractured, incomplete.

Bhagpuss (2019), There Is No Mystery Left (Inventory Full)

This was said in response to Pete’s post on the topic of finding a happy balance between computer and console gaming. How he is able to achieve a better degree of immersion on console by power of the fact that there isn’t the same ready access to a second monitor, filled with social media ticking by, ready at a moment’s notice to be flicked through.

I know what Pete is talking about, as I’m exactly the same. My second monitor will have some mix of Discord, Twitter and general browsing pages up. Sometimes even a TV show. I find these ‘distractions’ to be a welcome part of the PC gaming experience, though. So I don’t find this breaking of immersion as problematic.

But it did start my mind down another track entirely.

Changes to Social Interaction in MMOs in the Absence of Social Media

I’ve talked about changes in social interaction before, but then I was tackling a perceived shift in my priorities and loss of even openness to forming relationships in MMOs or games fullstop. I attributed this in part to the shifting nature of the games themselves, without much of a look at the external factors.

And to clarify, in this context perhaps actually I less mean ‘Social Media’ as it is understood today and more mean a lack of any ubiquitous communication platform upon which you could aggregate your social contacts.

The effect of this being, as Bhagpuss also said, “…turn-of-the-century MMORPGs were the social media of their day.”

Certainly in my experience, this meant that the relationships you formed — even the close ones — remained exclusively in the confines of the MMO itself, for me this being Asheron’s Call. There didn’t seem to be any real extension of communication to email, or any of the Instant Messenger clients which were starting to pop up in that era.

I looked it up to confirm when writing my comment on Bhagpuss’ post, ICQ came out in November ’96 — so even if not by ’98 when I started into the beta of Asheron’s Call, then certainly by the release late ’99 or shortly after I would have been using it.

So WHY Did I Not Save Those Connections?

I struggle with this question, looking back on things with hindsight. There were friends made, relationships established, that at the time meant a great deal to me. I would now give a great deal to have a do-over in which I didn’t let those contacts slide.

But I don’t recall ever making the effort to ensure the communication could exist standalone from Asheron’s Call itself.

One theory I have is, as I alluded to above, a lack of a ubiquitous platform on which to actually achieve this. I was using ICQ, but this was not common place. Instant Messenger had not taken off as a mainstream concept yet. Then when it later did, there was AIM, ICQ, MSN and any number of others.

Another is that I was simply young and foolish. I was 16 in ’99 when Asheron’s Call entered Retail. I very likely didn’t even give any thought to the possibility of a need to secure channels of communication outside of the game. Asheron’s Call was forever. For me. For you. For everyone.

But some people did drift from the game. People could pass first to days without being /seen, to weeks, to months. There was no Facebook, so those remaining could only speculate on what might have occurred. Sometimes I was the one who would take days, weeks or even months away.

Especially after the transition from Beta to Retail where I had two groups of my friends split and make different decisions on server to play on. My core group decided on Darktide (the PvP server) whereas quite a number of my other friends were going to stay on a PvE server.

I had good intentions of splitting my playtime, but ultimately Darktide won out and my visitation on Morningthaw became more and more sporadic, with less and less of my friend’s list around each time.

Some of those losses are actively painful, and I wonder whether that might also have been at least a tiny contributing factor to my stance on social interaction in MMOs today?

In any case — I am curious, for anyone else who might’ve played back during the EQ / AC / UO era of MMOs, was this your experience too? Or did you make more of an effort to secure communication channels separate from the games? Or was this simply not a concern?


Transition from Social to Solo

I promise! After this one, I shall give break from looking at the changes we (or at least, I) see over time as a gamer, or the types of change we may strive for. But after this one — which leans more toward the former type.

Potentially the start of my interest in blogging?

From the time I had my first dial-up modem — a 14.4k V.32 device — and learnt the borders of my computer went beyond the boundaries of my home I was enthralled by the social potential. There was FidoNet and BlueWave which fulfilled much of it, but even within the realm of gaming the time spent simply sitting and chatting rivaled the time spent actively playing.

This continued being true when making the jump into the realm of MMO’s with Asheron’s Call beta somewhere in ’98, ahead of it’s ’99 release.

The social element, the weaving of multiple tell streams, guild chat and fellowship (party) chat in amongst actively playing and contributing XP to the group I was in was the strongest part of the game and kept me going for years.

Meeting new people was not only something I was open to, it was cherished. I don’t know that ‘PUG’ even existed as a term then and if it did, it certainly didn’t carry the same negative connotations that it does today.

Start of the Shift

This openness and attitude carried on beyond my time with Asheron’s Call, I know that much, but it seemed more difficult to pinpoint where it started to fade.

Image source: Engadget

My first thought was that it was with the introduction of the Dungeon Finder in WoW, but I actually don’t think so.

Thinking about it, I can see there was a step before that — where ironically finding what I perhaps thought I wanted led to closing down on other people. You see, I found a static guild that persisted from game to game.

We were open to recruiting new members and bringing people into the fold, but without a doubt it was a start of becoming more insular in nature. An impression of ‘not needing’ people outside the guild.

Global / Regional channels were turned off or at least put into secondary tabs and the ratio of time spent between playing and talking swung hugely to the playing side.

Technology through to Today

That isn’t to say that Dungeon Finder and other technology changes didn’t play a role, as they most certainly did.

Cross-realm play was great from a queue-time perspective, but it further distanced me from any sense of wider-game community. The chance of running into someone again was near enough nil that investing in whatever group you wound up with didn’t seem to hold any value.

Which I suppose more or less carries through to today. The guild is (mostly) gone, but there are a small set of friends that form my core group of people to play with. When we raid, we find a group to join as a group.

Outside of this, though? If we’re not in the same game at the same time?

Then I tend to go solo in most games. There is an odd mix of feelings of anxiousness over not wanting to risk being a burden to someone else but equally as strong, not wanting to risk someone else being a burden to me. I value going at my own pace — be that fast or slow — over the social element I once enjoyed so much.

Outside the gaming space this is far less true. I mean, Hi. Case in point. But also quite happy to jump on a Discord or Twitter or whatever else and talk.

I suspect it also has something to do with gaming time coming at a premium these days and feeling a need to maximise value from it — whatever the definition of ‘value’ might happen to be moment to moment.

I’m unsure how much I can — or possibly even want — to change this. Anthem was a nice departure from this norm though, where playing as a public group didn’t threaten either side of my worries. Still — there was a lack of meaningful interaction and that meant the other people there were just incidental.

Is this just what gaming is now? Does anyone still play with the openness I (we?) once had to new people?

Learning to Love the Journey

There is one thing in particular I’m not good at when it comes to MMO gaming — that is being able to slow down and enjoy the process of levelling. That particular journey is one I rail against, one I view simply as a necessary evil, an obstacle to be overcome in a mad dash to ‘where the game begins’ — the end game.

Elder Scrolls Online: A character and their stats page, showing they are level 15.
“You want me to do how many more levels??”

In apparent contradiction, however, if you offered me an MMO that forwent the levelling experience, one that said, ‘Bing! You are max level from day dot — go forth and raid’ I probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy that either.

It’s possible this contradiction arises from one of the inner-shifts as a gamer I’ve gone through over the years, where the value judgement I make against the components of an MMO hasn’t kept up with what I might actually enjoy.

I think the reason I wouldn’t accept (at first?) an MMO where you could go do everything from the moment you logged in is that it would feel undeserved. Unearned. Cheapened by not having ‘suffered’ to get there. That means I believe at some level that access to raiding and the end-game gear experience is something that must be earned in the first place.

Wait, do I Believe That?

When I take it out into the light and say it plain like that, I’m not sure that IS something I believe. Or at least, it isn’t a standard I would enforce on anyone else. But does that then follow that I also believe I’m on some other level — higher or lower — than my fellow players?

Final Fantasy XIV: Treants menace the player, one close in the foreground with more behind.
“To reach the end game, you must pass through US! Oh, and then a hundred or so more quests.”

I don’t think so… Not now at least. Not consciously. I do wonder if there is an implicit bias1 at play. Something that may have roots back to when I was more firmly entrenched in the PvP player base.

While I never bought into the hate that existed between the PvP and PvE groups, it was pervasive. It was impossible not to feel immersed in it, the feelings ranging from pity for the poor lambs who didn’t understand, to disdain, to outright and open hostility.

I generally took the tack of trying to convince and sell people on the benefits (as I saw them) of the PvP way of life. I simply exited any conversation it was clear this simply was not going to happen (aka, most of them).

There were a number of motivations for the tack I took, many altruistic, but some as a matter of preservation. I think a large part of the hostility that existed between the two groups stemmed from a vocal outcry against implementation of any kind of meaningful PvP in new MMOs from the PvE sphere. It felt like being under near constant attack and having to defend the style of play we enjoyed best.

More than likely that was a belief shaping experience.

My Recent Experimentation

Enter The Elder Scrolls Online and more recently, Final Fantasy XIV.

A dungeon entrance with a rune above an archway in the game Elder Scrolls Online.
“Yiss! A dungeon!” (My compatriots sped ahead while I took this screenshot, but not to worry, I found them.)

A lot of what I just wrote for the prior section I thought through as I wrote it. But even before, without that level of introspection, I had a vague desire to try ‘learn’ how to better enjoy an MMO more completely. To enjoy the experience in the early- to mid-game as well as the end.

What ESO and FFXIV have in common which made them good candidates in my mind, was a stronger focus on story than most of their competitors. While I’m far and away from being in a position to judge their overall quality in this regard, I’m enjoying what I’ve seen of both so far.

FFXIV previously allowed itself to get too bogged down in requirements to do some fairly bog-standard MMO fetch and kill side-quests. Now the XP-tuning so far seems to allow you to bee-line the MSQ (Main Story Quest) which makes it much more likely I’ll manage to get through it.

Part of the mindset shift I’m attempting is to mentally treat these two titles as the co-op/multiplayer Elder Scrolls/Final Fantasy titles I always wanted and simply put aside the fact that they’re MMOs — and all the baggage those come with.

While it’s still fairly early on in the experiment, it seems to be working. I haven’t even been tempted to look into what the raid-metas might look like, the health of the end-game scene in general or anything else of that nature for either title.

No doubt I’ll engage in the endgame if and when I get there, but that will come after I’ve stopped to smell the roses along the way.