My philosophy on blogging (and why I won’t stop doing posts about gaming).

I recently got a comment on one of my gaming posts from Denis Robert:

I like you JT, but these gamer posts are getting really tiresome. Can’t you start a specific gamer blog for these things? I mean, it’s real inside baseball stuff that is of no interest to most of your readers. I’m sure you’ll find enough fanboyz to give the illusion of mass interest, but really this does not belong on a blog about atheism.

I’m glad you like me, Denis.  I also appreciate the honest criticism.  Grateful though I am, I’m not going to stop doing gaming posts and I’ll explain why.

I was recently asked to give a talk at the SSA East conference about blogging.  I looked up tips for blogging on google and I was astonished to find nothing but sites all saying the opposite of what I was planning to say: write what people want to read, put pictures in every post because it increases traffic, give stuff away because it increases traffic, etc.  Each and every one of these sites treated acquiring traffic as if that is the ultimate goal of writing a blog.

It’s ironic because, although I make a living off my traffic, that’s not how I view writing (and how I urged students at my talk to avoid viewing it).  The simple fact is that if your goal as a blogger is to get lots of readers and to make money, you have a better chance at becoming a professional athlete (and that is far more profitable than blogging for the select few who do make it).  What’s more, it takes a long time to build up to having a decent audience even if you are one of the lucky few to get there (and I won’t deny that I am very, very lucky).  If blogger fame is your goal, you will burn out writing about what other people want chasing fame and appeasing others (it should be noted that no matter what or how you write you will never appease everybody).  That, and it’s not very effective.  If you want fans, leak a sex tape, don’t start a blog.

The solution to avoiding the burnout of always trying to please others, I think, is to be true to yourself; to dance as if nobody was watching (because, to extend the metaphor, it’s likely that nobody but your family and friends will be watching).  If you write about what interests you, to sort out your own thoughts and to entertain yourself, you will have fun whether you have two readers or two million.  And when you’re having fun, you write better and those around you wind up having more fun as well.

I don’t write about atheism to please my readers (whom I love, but I won’t lie to you and tell you that I write to please you).  I write about atheism because it’s on my mind.  Up until meeting Michaelyn, it was the biggest part of my life, and so I write about it constantly.  But I also studied music, and so I write about that from time to time.  I also am afflicted with mental illness, so I write about that from time to time.  Hell, sometimes I help Michaelyn bake an owl cake, so I write about that.

In the same vein, Greta Christina writes about fashion as well as atheism.  PZ Myers writes about feminism as well as atheism.  These other subjects help to keep us sane and helps to keep us attached to the work we do rather than looking at it as a chore.  I don’t want to conform my writing to an audience – I’d rather be myself as honestly and plainly as I can be and have an audience that likes that.  On the surface that may make it seem as though I’m resigning myself to never having the traffic of a blogger who actively pursues an audience as the primary goal, but that’s not correct.  I know most of the most popular bloggers around the atheist blogosphere (of which I am one in terms of traffic) and can assure you that almost all of them write with this motivation in mind.  It’s how they’ve blogged long enough to be big and how they keep their quality up.

Gaming is a part of what I am.  It’s what I do for fun when I’m not reading about religion, giving talks, or hanging out with Michaelyn.  So I’m going to keep writing about gaming when it suits me.  Will everybody find it appealing?  Of course not, but that isn’t the goal.  If anybody finds it so tiresome that they want to go read another blog instead, more power to them.  Of course, I’d love it if they could see a gaming post and think “Oh, I guess I won’t read that one” and then keep reading my atheism work.  That’d be cool too.  :)

  • Zinc Avenger

    THIS IS AN OUTRAGE.

  • unbound55

    When I read the comment about the owl cake, I couldn’t help but think of The Addams Family.

    Girl Scout: Is this made from real lemons?

    Wednesday: Yes.

    Girl Scout: I only like all-natural foods and beverages, organically grown, with no preservatives. Are you sure they’re real lemons?

    Pugsley: Yes.

    Girl Scout: Well, I’ll tell you what. I’ll buy a cup if you buy a box of my delicious Girl Scout cookies. Do we have a deal?

    Wednesday: Are they made from real Girl Scouts?

    • Daniel Schealler

      Gary: [to the Campers] Lifesaving! Now I know we’re all top-notch, little swimmers, but now we get to show our stuff and earn those certificates! Hey, how about our first little pair of lifesaving buddies? Amanda, Wednesday?

      Amanda: Is that your bathing suit?

      Wednesday: Is that your overbite?

      Gary: Now, one of you will be the drowning victim and the other one gets to be our lifesaver.

      Amanda: I’ll be the victim!

      Wednesday: All your life.

      —————-

      [btvs reference]

      I just checked out some Wednesday moments on YouTube, and my jaw hit the floor.

      Girl-scout/Amanda is totally Harmony!

      Not just that it’s Mercedes McNab, but the two characters are pretty much the same too.

      Cannot be unseen. ^_^

      [/btvs reference]

  • RhubarbTheBear

    Yay, I don’t have to feel guilty about skipping the gamer posts. :)

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    I rarely give even half a fuck about your gaming posts, but I don’t have to read them so I don’t mind them here and there.

    • baal

      No! You must read every post and keep a journal of how your felt while reading each one and then take pics of yourself enjoying the blog posts and post them up on line.

      Oh wait, it’s ok to skip posts and not get all stream-of-conscious stalkery*.

      *celery (and celerity for that matter) ftw.

      • Zinc Avenger

        The emotions I experience when reading JT’s blog I shall visit upon him tenfold when I finally catch him.

        • baal

          EEEEK! (oh the so many hugs)

  • Crow

    Pretty harsh on the video game crowd there, Denis. Good thing there’s enough atheist fanboyz to keep this blog alive.

    Also, “illusion of mass interest”? If a bunch of people are interested in something, isn’t that just “mass interest”?

    • viddy_well

      If 10,000 people read this blog and it’s just the same 200 people reading and commenting on those posts, it’s not “mass interest”. That said, I have no problem skipping over them.

      • Crow

        You’re right. JT probably has no clue what his actual readership is interested in. Damn those vocal gamers drowning out the silent atheist community!

        • Daniel Schealler

          DEEP RIFTS!

  • Sean Sherman

    Actually going to try LoL b/c of the gaming posts as I need a new game. It looks just right. The meme that atheists should always talk/be about atheism only is too robotic.

  • B-Lar

    It appeals to me enough for everyone.
    Game on brother, and may the way of the hero lead to the triforce.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/amilliongods Avicenna

    I find that gaming posts don’t garner as much interest, but I do mark mine specifically when I blog so people can avoid them. It’s still fun for the handful who want to read it.

    And besides. You didn’t get popular through making pictures about kittens in cute outfits. No. You won’t ever sink to that level will you?

    • Baby_Raptor

      Watch, he’s going to post a picture of a cat in a dress now just because you said that.

  • ganner

    This is just another case of people feeling entitled to dictate others’ behavior. I don’t get it, but you come across it everywhere. People telling other people what to write, what to talk about, what to think about, what to care about. People get upset and offended that they have to casually see or overhear other people caring about different things than they do. Your blog, write what you want. When there is a post that doesn’t interest me – and sometimes there is one – I skip it! And I read the other 90% that I find interesting.

  • Loqi

    I won’t lie to you and tell you that I write to please you

    B-but…but…I…
    *cries*

    • Zinc Avenger

      Don’t worry. When he’s in The Crate, he will, or he’ll get the hose.

  • invivoMark

    And Jerry Coyne blogs about boots, and Larry Moran blogs about travel, etc. A blog isn’t a news column, and it shouldn’t try to be.

    I for one appreciate your gaming posts. Even if I don’t play the same games. You’re sharing your hobby with us. You’re letting us know that there’s a real person behind the blog. And in some cases, such as with Guild Wars 2 and LoL, you’re allowing a social community to form. These are all worthwhile things to do, so to hell with anyone who gets annoyed by your gaming posts.

    • Loqi

      Definitely doing some community building. I see plenty of people on LoL and GW2 who don’t comment. I’d never even know those people exist if not for the gaming posts.

      • invivoMark

        I had a blast playing GW2! And I’d never have played it in the first place without a community like this to enjoy it with.

        • John-Henry Eric Beck

          Same here.

  • otrame

    So, Denis, I am not especially interested in the gaming posts–mostly because I play Guild Wars 2. So You know what I do? I DON’T READ THEM. It’s so simple and it solves your problem. Give it a try. Trust me, it works.

    • http://www.secularview.com/ Dirty_Nerdy

      I was about to say the exact same thing.

  • Carina De Almeida

    This is exactly the reason I do read your blog JT. As a reader I like to see that the author is a human being with interests, problems, worries, love, smiles and lots of compassion. It makes you a well rounded individual which in turn makes you “normal” and not some demigod type who we can never be no matter how hard we try.

    Thank you for being someone who inspires whether it be as an activist, family chap or a gamer

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/ Ani J. Sharmin

    I like that you write about a variety of topics. I don’t play video games, so I tend to either skip or skim those particular posts, but like others said, I like that you share your thoughts about stuff you enjoy. Plus, it can be impractical to start a whole new blog for a different topic, especially when you are associated with your main site by readers. About the online blogging advice, personally, I found Greta Christina and Adam Lee’s advice informative and more focused on content rather than just advertising one’s blog.

  • The_Schwa

    I like the gaming posts OK, I’d just prefer if we played the same games.
    JT, have you tried Path of Exile?

  • GCBill

    I demand that you completely compartmentalize your writing based on no authority whatsoever!

  • Ray

    Like others here I have little or no interest in your gaming. I don’t want you to stop but I would appreciate anything you can do to help identify the gaming posts so I can quickly move on.

  • ArachneS

    PLS don’t stop blogging about League! I’m too much of a fan myself and I enjoy other peoples random anecdotes about the game.

  • sparkyb

    I personally have no interest in most of the gaming posts, but as long as most of the posts are about things I do care about, skipping one every now and then isn’t a big deal.

    There was one thing Denis said I did agree with a bit. He made a good point that your LoL posts are very “inside baseball”. I don’t know a ton about music but I love your music posts (and you should do more) because you write to a general audience and write things in a way that I can understand, even if they relate to technical aspects I wouldn’t normally be exposed to. When you write about LoL you’re speaking a whole other language that any non-LoL player (I am a gamer, I just don’t play those types of games) has no hope of understanding or caring about. Not saying you should change, but just some feedback I thought you might want to think about.

  • Baby_Raptor

    If a post’s topic doesn’t interest you, don’t read it. It’s really that simple. JT is good about making the titles of the posts clear RE the topic.

    Don’t whine if he posts things that you aren’t necessarily into. It’s his blog.


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