Internet has changed the hobby in many ways.With Internet, came the ability to share ideas, opinions and knowledge with people from all over the world. Previously, these are things one would have had to buy a book, receive training or talk to the people at your local store. That right there is important - the community. Not just learning and sharing but also giving back to those who've helped you and to strangers just because you have something that others can use.
It's really easy to jump right into some of these communities - forums, galleries and less often chat rooms; Just sign up and start posting. Galleries don't make for great tutorial sites, but even just posting your art can help to inspire. Forums can be excellent communities due to the large user base, however it's often difficult to have meaningful conversations as every forum landscape (and section of the forums) will have a wide range of people, many of which who excel at derailing topics or beating subjects to death. Forums also lack any meaningful way of sorting information (to be fair, so do most blogs I see) and avoiding repetition of information. If a website is like your local gaming store, a blog like a newsletter or paper, a gallery is self explanatory then a forum is like a giant swap meet. Nobody's really in control and everyone has their own opinion of how things should be done with constant background chatter. (That's an N++ original analogy there folks, quote me on it)
Thanks to services like Blogger, it's now just as easy to create your own little space on the internet to connect with people and build your own presence. You can make your blog into whatever you want, fill it with whatever you like and you don't need any technical ability to do so! Once you have some content of note, it's perfectly appropriate to contact a few of the people you read, blog networks or drop a line in some forums and say "Hey there, I'd like to contribute to Internet" and get a plug or two. If you build it, they will come. (slowly)
|Just sticking with the theme - and yes, I have these on 5.25" floppy|
- First ask yourself “Why” do you want to start a blog? Having a purpose behind your writing will not only keep you interested in what you're writing about, but that extra passion will come out in your posts and hold your readers interest. Are you trying to create a chronicle of your exploits? Do you just need an outlet for the ideas swimming in your head? Trying to share ideas with others or to teach? Wanting to find a community you can be a part of? Ask yourself what it is that's motivating you to enter the blogosphere.
- This leads closely to the next question, “What” do you want to blog about? Having a concise idea of what you want to write about also means your topics will be stronger since they'll have some direction. (With miniatures, this could be tactics, list building, painting, terrain, etc) Additionally, are you going to talk about many different topics or just focus on a few things in detail? (Jack of all, master of none – or, the master?) Once you have this decided, will you give yourself lenience? (For example, this is a hobby blog - I won't ever talk about tactics, lists, battle reports, etc - I don't have anything against them, they're just not my bag)
- You'll also have to ask yourself “Who” is your audience? (Perhaps even before you decide the "What") If your articles target a specific group of people, they'll probably end up more concise and clear with readers who have more interest in what you have to say. Writing about a broad range of topics may gather more readers, (from a numbers-stats perspective) however they won't necessarily follow you as much. Focusing on a sub-group of the hobby has a higher chance of getting less readers, but odds are they'll follow you more closely. It's harder for you to stray from your audience, than it is your topics. (A blog strictly about painting would have more readers ask "What's he doing?" if it suddenly talked about tactics, than if it suddenly talked about something else it's audience was interested in)
An example of the "What's" and the "Who's" could be this: Maybe you target the competitive gamer - do you focus your articles strictly to list building and get known as "The List Blog" or do you broaden out a little and cover lists, tactics, sportsmanship, painting shortcuts, etc? If I had to categorize Wargaming Tradecraft by these standards, I'd say I target hobbiers over a broad number of topics.
- Blogging takes time - “How” much, is up to you, but nobody wants to read rushed articles. Be aware that it takes time commitment not just to write the articles, but to put the content for articles together. (Building army lists, taking pictures and resizing/cropping them, etc) This is also a question of how often you intend to post. Once a week is a good minimum target, more is great, less is not so. Less is perfectly fine if you just want a casual space on Internet of course, but people will be less likely to follow you if you don't update as often.
- You'll also need to decide “Where” are you going to setup your blog and its sections? There are plenty of free services out there, with slightly different features. In addition, you can modify these services and run comments, RSS, etc through other sites. Blogger, Wordpress and TypePad are a few examples of blog services.
- TypePad is a paid service, which near as I can tell has all the same features as the free ones, though less space.
- Wordpress, as I understand it, is free and very customizable - however you need to find hosting yourself. If you're techie AND want to spend the time, this will let you build a more powerful blog that plugs into an existing website, file host, etc.
- [update] There's some disagreement in the comments as to how much money is involved with WordPress - the definite thing is you need at least your own host, which will cost money unless you get it free or already have one. Then there's extra setup to get it all uploaded and running.
- Even as a highly techie guy myself, I learned a while ago that after a long day of being techie at work, the last thing I want is to have to fix things at home too, which is why I use Blogger.
- Blogger is from Google and is basically the full service shop AND free. You just sign up on their website and get access to their easy to setup system and you can get blogging almost right away. You can choose a template then modify it quite heavily. Google services all tie in together - meaning you don't have to keep logging in all over the place. Blogs, Picture hosting, Reader, Document hosting, email, etc, etc, etc. You get unlimited space for your posts, 1gb for pictures (thats a lot) and if you need more, it's $5 /year for 20 more gigs.
I'm hosted with Google Blogger and honestly don't have a single complaint. I know that when I hit my image limit, I won't have a problem spending five bucks for more space.
- Another option, is a site like Blood of Kittens from TastyTaste. Not only has he developed a blogging network, but he's created a space where people can approach him and host their blogs in his domain. That's some good exposure for a new blog right off the bat and a community to boot.
- If you don't want to go to all the trouble of creating your own blog, sites are sometimes after guest writers like Rob is seeking over at Warhammer 39,999. Again, great exposure and community right away, as well as awesome publicity if you end up deciding you want to expand into a blog of your own. (I'll talk more about the benefits of guest bloggers later)