Friday, 10 January 2020

Rant No 2: Wargame blogging

Typical life and death of a new post.
Some blog posts enjoy long-term interest. In the main, however, I find that interest in new posts peaks and dies within three days or less.

I’m guessing that we wargame bloggers enjoy a lot of our traffic from each other’s blog rolls. My blog roll is quite long but defaults to the first 25, the most that Blogger allows me to show. I’ve just checked my blog roll as I write. The 25th item is two days old and the other 24 are only one day old. Anything older does not appear unless you elect to ‘Show All’.

I remember a time when posts shown were much older, but as new interests have arisen I've added new blogs, thus increasing competition between them. Now they fight for daylight before falling off the bottom of the list. That  presumes that visitors even get to the bottom of the list. In so far as fellow bloggers enjoy traffic diverted from this blog, they only enjoy it for 24 hours and I guess this is largely reciprocated.

This begs questions about the ideal frequency of publication. Every 3 days? Every day? Every hour? That is a slippery slope leading to obsession and is to be resisted. Unless I have something pressing to say, I'm now inclined to revert to a roughly weekly frequency.
All time favourites.

Some posts achieve longevity. Google moves in mysterious ways, but in so far as you can explain the popularity of a post it's probably because it's a relatively rare source of reference or it offers something of ongoing practical use.

In contrast to other forms of social media like Twitter or Facebook, blog posts are typically long and considered, can take considerable time to write and compare very favourably with articles in printed media. This is certainly exemplified by blogs like Norm’s Battlefields and Warriors  or Steven Thomas’s Balagan. My own posts are much more economical/superficial but they still take quite a long time to write, illustrate and arrange. It just seems a pity that so much effort results in something which generally enjoys only a very ephemeral life.

I guess most wargame bloggers are pretty ‘old school’ and take pride in a process which is little different to traditional print media publishing. But I also know that I'm not the only blogger to entertain doubts.

I don't personally do Facebook but I know people who do. Post an interesting or appealing photo straight from your smartphone and you immediately receive a barage of 'Likes' and pithy comments. I fear that I'm beginning to sound narcissistic but I do know that this sort of response provides validation and is psychologically much more rewarding than the feeling that you are publishing into a void.

Where is all this leading? Well, I'm not planning to give up just yet or to make any radical changes, but I am seriously wondering whether from an objective point of view an essentially print-media process with a large overhead in time and effort is a good match for a contemporary Internet audience.

I have some more rants to make. Otherwise I will try to create posts which have more content of lasting value.
Audience growth since inception. January
2020 is incomplete, hence the cliff-face dip.

All of this begs the question of why we blog at all. If I have a few daytime hours at home without fear of interruption, I'm more likely to spend my time painting. Blog posts usually start life on my smartphone (a Galaxy Note with stylus) during train journeys, in any waiting situation, or in any other odd pocket of time, and are finished on a PC mostly during sleepless nights (as now).

Blogger is theoretically straightforward but positioning pictures and controlling formatting can be annoyingly tricky. Fortunately I have a background in web creation and can get under the bonnet to adjust the HTML. No such problems with Facebook.

Given this working practice, it doesn't really compete with other activities, but if I didn't do the blog I could be using the time to study wargame rules or to pursue other interests.

But I still haven't explained why I do it. Generally it's to remain connected with something that fascinates me and would engage my thoughts in any event. In particular I get the most reward from feedback about ideas I'm floating, e.g. what basing to adopt for a particular game or how to paint something.


  1. An interesting post. The most popular post (by a mile) on my blog is a beginners guide to 17th century swear words, despite numerous battle reports etc. I think you raise many important questions about how and why we blog. Initially for me the affirmation aspect became quite important, but over time it’s become more about swapping ideas and a bit of arms length friendly banter. Blogger has a million faults - but I’ve grown used to them. Facebook is probably the future...but that has issues of its own and it won’t be for me.

  2. As TJBM says, this is an interesting post and one I ponder frequently. From my own experience, three days between postings seems to be an optimal frequency. While I get hits on older posts regular, mainly from Google searches, the decay on the latest post typically exhibits an exponential distribution. After three or four days, hits on that post drop off quickly. I have not tried a weekly posting approach but my guess is that hits would continue dropping rapidly until the next post.

    The primary question to answer is why YOU blog. Once you answer that question, you will have the information to determine if it is worth the effort.

    For me, the enjoyment I derive from blogging is, thus far, worth the effort.

  3. Thanks for the blog mention. I think a few things are going on at the same time, which brings us to where we are.

    There is simply a huge amount of daily free content online and the average consumer is dashing from one post to another to just try and get through it all.

    This by its nature results in the browser not having the time or inclination to engage with long posts. Snatch reading with a few words and a couple of pictures (each being worth 1000 words I believe) seems to be enough to enjoy the flavour of the post and then move on.

    Even video can’t keep up with this sort of consuming, because while you can park your brain in neutral to watch it, the precious minutes still tick by and ‘channel hopping’ happens.

    While it is true that nothing in life is really free, an ethos around the internet has grown that everything is free and so it is consumed with little regard for the work / effort etc behind the post and even long posts, which according to my statistics are being clicked on in good numbers, invariably do not get many comments of thanks etc.

    I like what I write about and a lot of effort goes into it and there is a genuine desire on my part to share - but if I disappeared from sight tomorrow, I doubt that in reality the absence would be barely noticed, there is just so much other stuff to read.

    I don’t say this with any annoyance, it is simply an observation and we are where we are. Someone once said to me that one should blog for their own satisfaction regardless of approval, popularity, gratitude etc and that seems wise advice.

    By nature, by own posts (as this does this reply :-) ) get wordy and not everyone has time for that, but even I have lost some enthusiasm and this year have decided to cut some of my post length down, possibly a slippery slope, but I can better invest time in painting and planning and I might even start doing a bit of magazine writing as a creative outlet. I have already cut my internet world by 30 - 40 minutes a day and use that time more productively and that is a force for good.

    I sometimes check my own reasoning for blogging and ask myself does anyone really care enough to be interested in what I am doing and why should they, is it over self indulgence to think they should.

    The fact that I have reached this point of thinking is probably the fall-out of years of spending too many hours at the keyboard versus little feedback / inter-action, other than by a tight group of kind people who regularly comment on the blog and for which I am grateful.

    I run a separate paid for website and The option is there to retreat to it and just put up articles that interest me and people can either pop in or not, without me knowing or needing to know.

    Your Tilly, painting, 6mm project posts have been really interesting and I think these are the sort of things that can be posted about to universal benefit, they are visited, they are valued, but our society does not work in a way that has people say so.

    I don’t do FB and have no interest in going there.

  4. Tried FB and Twitter to give the blog a "boost". Both were a Waste of time.
    The 3 day drop off after Posting, seems to be a common Thing.
    Why does the audience grow? I reckon, Some, better said, most of the hits are from bots etc. In the Blogging "world" We are a smallish community so won´t get many hits from actual "wargame/model making" Bloggers and we´d probably be better off, in Terms of hit Count/stats by baking cakes or buying brand clothing and blogging About that.
    One Thing, give a post a titel in the direction of something rude and the hits Keep on coming months after. The word Bod on my blog, at the start it got tons of hits from porn sites. Something to do with Bod being near enough to Body?
    I visit most Blogs on my blog rolls, not regularily but I do my best.
    TBH, I wouldn´t overthink it too much. Bit of online fun.

  5. My blogging is purely motivated by the need to share amongst the like minded - pretty sure I'm following everyone who has commented so far. It's spurned some very helpful feedback over the years - not to mention encouragement. Somehow for me it's become the last stage of every hobby activity now - if I make something I seem to always find something I have to say on how it went.
    I like to write and my blogs give me the window to write on what I love most. I also like to read what you are all up to. I most likely don't comment enough on all of your posts and I'm trying to get better at that as well as replying to your comments on my blogs. I find myself wondering why people don't comment on my posts more - because they are like me and don't always have something to say?
    I concur with the three day fall off rate and the curiosity of what posts sustain the greatest interest. For years my most popular post was painting table - go figure. I only post uniform guides for units I had to research so they are random and not so many - but they seem popular.
    Blogging has also spawned my macro-photography which is a bit of a hobby in itself.
    I can really relate to Paul's comments and I have gone through minor periods of focusing too much on growing my audience I think. You Doctor P seem to have the same size following as I do but I find myself wondering about those few I follow with 600+ followers and wonder at how they are attracting such an audience - but it doesn't really matter. I'm not some teenager or youth aspiring to label myself an internet or social media 'influencer'. At this time I have 115 fellow wargamers who I share a wonderful hobby world-wide and I don't think it gets better than that. You all provide me with my magazine substitute - I binned my long ignored Wargames Illustrated collections (more like accumulations) because I see what we are all doing together as being the cutting edge of the hobby as we inspire each another.
    I have also started using my blogs as a catalogue and record for my own reference to go back to.

  6. Interesting subject and I wonder what it is like for bloggers with different hobbies and interests to ours.

    I blog for a number of reasons, but one is to record games and my miniatures. I find that multiplies the pleasure of a game that otherwise is an ephemeral pursuit and, for miniatures, it is nice to have the photos as most of my figures end up in drawers and boxes.

    My main hope is that Blogger will still be here in decades to come so I can review/relive my wargame endeavours in my autumn years. My figure might not be able to accompany me to the waiting room, but hopefully it will have Internet access.

    I average about one post every three days which matches my activity.

  7. Interesting discussion. I think the sort of casual ‘what I painted yesterday’ type post is now something for FB and Twitter due to its transitory nature, but AARs, reviews, tutorials and rules discussion seem to be more the direction for blogs because social media sites just don’t suit this type of content. I think we are seeing the evolution of blogging not the decline of it.

  8. Thanks for these many words of wisdom. These opinion pieces seem to provoke more reaction than posts about wargaming or modelling! I've called them 'rants'. Perhaps some will be rants, but most are probably going to be rather more speculative.

    I don't have a lot to add. I light the blue touch paper and withdraw. The rest is up to you. It's your views and reactions I'm interested to hear. So herewith just a few points in response...

    I used to promote the blog when I was active on TMP but these days it largely chugs along under its own steam. Stats are very dubious. Hits go up over time but that may just represent accumulation of 'back catalogue' rather than any real growth in audience.

    Time is my greatest enemy. It's so difficult to find time for painting and gaming. Blogging is partly a substitute for these hands-on activities. It's something I can fit into my life more easily. Given the fact I don't get much time to visit and comment on other blogs, I'm very grateful for the responses others make here.

  9. Two things to consider if you want to increase traffic. The first for extending initial views, the second for increasing longevity.
    First:of Time of posting. Post at the time your audience is online. In my experience posts that go out early evening during the week or early morning at the weekend get more traffic than posts at other times. To be expected as that's when I do a bunch of surfing other blogs and I expect most others are the same (and my stats seem to back this up). I use the schedule tool to post around 7.20pm during the week. Experiment, or look back at the times of successful posts to see what works.
    Secondly the dark art of Search Engine Optimisation. At a simple level (which is all we're talking about here) it means including the words that people will actually search for in your copy and titles. So if your post is, for example, a Warhammer AAR then include Warhammer AAR in the title and make sure you mention it in the text, and other synonyms people might use (WFB, battle report etc.)
    All too often we'll use terrible puns or similar in the title, which is obviously good fun, but does mean no one will ever find it by searching. For example if I'm looking for an article about painting 6mm models I'll type "painting 6mm models" in to Google not "Fiddling with the little chaps" Again have a look back at successful posts, you may find they have clear titles or obviously be useful content with ongoing interest and value.

    One other suggestion is to use Facebook (and message boards) to promote your post. Join a relevant group and add links to your content - if it's relevant and interesting people will click through.

    1. "Fiddling with little chaps" made me laugh and wondered what referral hits you got from that one. It may have increased hit count but for the wrong reason.