Monday, October 14, 2013

Keeping The Flame : NBI

Writing a blog can feel like building a fire. Slow at first, little sign of life for all your careful work, blossoming into something quick and thrilling, fascinating and compulsive. Only later with the flames crackling high do you begin to realize. Though the embers may be hot, the glow steady, without constant feeding a fire will die.

As you begin to find an audience you'll observe brief bursts of attention flying up like sparks each time you post, the bright flare whenever some blogger with more traffic links to you, maybe once in a sweet long while a plume of flame when a post or quote of yours features in the official Twitter feed or forum of some game or other.

As has been observed (although I can't quite remember where) few posts draw more readers back to your fireside over a prolonged period than good, useful how-to guides. A back catalog of those will lie beneath your blog like a bed of coals keeping the page view pot simmering as long as interest in that content or that game remains.

Analyses, even simple reports, of stories and topics in the news are the good, dry logs that you pile on from time to time. Some new branch will fall most days, tinder-dry and ready to blaze. Most MMOs generate controversy among their own players like a dog generates fleas and even if your own MMO of choice is currently moribund the dilemmas of others can usually be turned to cast a mirrored light. A rules change here, a new payment model there, the inevitable, unquenchable rumor mill.

There's always tinder and there's always flint. Strike them well and send a column of smoke to draw the curious from afar to comment on what they find and spread the word.

Still, no matter how hard you work, how well you bank your coals, how ardently you feed the flames, in the end your fire will burn out or you will. Blogs are ephemeral. If you're writing for posterity this isn't your medium. Blogs don't burn with the unquenchable volcanic heat or smoldering peat-fires of novels. Once written they don't sit there, burning, for years, decades, centuries, attracting readers by the generation to bask in the reflected glow of their critical reputation.

Nor are blogs newspapers or 24 hour rolling news channels, an endless series of three-alarm fires and conflagrations running out of control.  Dedicated, professional (well, commercial) news sites fill that role, more or less efficiently, already. They're the places you crib your "news" from if you aren't cribbing it from another blogger who cribbed it there already. That's how we make a zeitgeist, after all.

No, at best you might aspire to become the Blogger of Record for your personal interests within the medium, a role magnificently defined and exemplified by Wilhelm at The Ancient Gaming Noob, used as a reliable and well-categorized source for data-mining by bloggers yet-to-be, a beacon of fact standing bright against a darkening night of unsubstantiated imagination and poor memory.

Over time, if you keep this thing up, you'll see your audience flare and fade according to factors both apparent and unseen. Pile on the fuel of new or popular games or trends and watch your page views rise on the updraft, your comment threads flare and burn. Use the green, unseasoned logs of MMOs few others play or topics about which no-one but you seems to care and see your blog, damped down, smolder, sputter, smoke.

Long after all your news stories have gone to ash, the controversies they feverishly analyzed, the very games that contained them all but forgotten, when your once-popular guides barely register a page-flick, referring as they do to content long-lost beneath the geological time of MMO expansions, there's one reader and only one who you can always count on to retain an interest.


Yes, for all the extended metaphor as inexorable and deadly as a pyroclastic flow it turns out I'm here with the same advice as (almost) everyone else: write for yourself.

Oh, write amusingly, entertainingly, instructively, attractively, coherently, even wisely by all means. Attract the attention of an audience, make them welcome, draw them in, involve them if you will. Just remember that even if they stick with you (and if you make it worth their while they may well turn out to be more eager to stay the course than you are) in the end you're building this fire first and foremost to keep yourself warm.

Build it well and it will keep you warm on many a dark night of the soul.

Plus you can bake potatoes.


  1. .......Delicious potatoes to be shared in great company :)

  2. Potatoes? I wanted a cake! *harrumph!* :(

  3. Ok despite the lack of cake I concede it's a good post. Probably for the better anyway since I don't know anything about making cakes. :P

  4. This post kind of got away from me and now the comment thread is going the same way...

    It's not so much advice as a cautionary tale.


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