Mission Statement

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I’ve been alive for half a century, which has seen change at a rate which, for some, is frankly staggering. I’ve lived through massive political and social upheaval, watched history play out around me and though all of this have relied on written media to inform and educate where personal experience was lacking. Newspapers, magazines, television providers, radio stations and all forms of educative sources… my entire life has been moulded by the words I’ve read, heard and seen. Since that British bloke ‘invented’ the Internet in 1989 words have begun a transformation: no longer do you have to wait for news to be reported, or hope you can find an objective or relevant viewpoint. Now, more often than not, history happens around you and is immediately available to dissect. The way everybody both perceives and absorbs information is altering, often at a speed that some find confusing and concerning.

This is why the Internet of Words had to happen now.

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Once upon a time, when there were no words, one assumes that communication could be quite fraught. Yet now, with the wealth of information available, so many myriad forms of conveying a message, people still misinterpret what they are given. I watch it happen every day, across all forms of media. The faster your delivery method, as a rule, the more a chance exists for misinterpretation (often followed shortly by some kind of altercation.) Once upon a time it could take weeks for news to reach across the planet: now, it can take seconds. It is no wonder that so many people are confused and often unable to cope with the sheer weight of data presented to them. As delivery systems become increasingly more sophisticated, the average brain is struggling to cope with keeping up. That’s why I’m beginning this journey, and in the months that follow hope to use the Internet of Words as my platform for investigation and (hopefully) enlightenment.

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From http://www.i-scoop.eu

I’ve been inspired for this project by the Internet of Things: the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. On the Web right now, and all across the Globe, I see and sense an emerging Internet of Words: if I had to define what this project is about, it seems like a good idea to use that definition but with the scope of language and communication as its heart:

INTERNET OF WORDS: The interconnection via the Internet of thoughts, ideas and writing styles embedded in social media, blogs, mobile apps and web pages, enabling new forms of communication.

Of course, one could argue this is already restrictive, that there is an Internet of Images
that might be considered more important, but I’m smart enough to know you learn to walk properly before running anywhere. Therefore, we will begin our journey with the tools that form a vital part of my everyday existence, that have saved me from myself on too many opportunities to recall and (most importantly) present the means by which ideas can be communicated and discussed.

I took a University degree back in the 1980’s that many of my peers considered something of a joke: Radio, Film Television Studies and English. It has taken thirty years for me to realise that this was probably the best preparation I’d ever have for living in the Internet Age: words are not just carriers of understanding, but can be weapons and symbols. The power of information is not simply understanding what you are given, but grasping how that shapes the existence around you. Learning how to see, hear and read with an objective eye is a life skill that I am staggered remains lacking in so many people, regardless of age, social status or circumstance. This is not a Millennial failing, or a CIS Male issue, it is everybody’s problem to solve, regardless. Comprehension and understanding matter more now than they have at any point in humanity’s existence as the dominant species.

Every day is a School day, after all.

The Internet of Words is a project that will include my own fictional take on the changing world we live in, essays on the issues I see as being important as we proceed into the 21st Century, plus observations on how words themselves are changing and evolving, often at a speed that some of us can find hard to keep up with. There will be spaces in our Internet for the ‘visual’ words too, and how language is used for vastly differing ends, plus how as individuals we can try and understand the more objective side of discourse and response. Thanks to the unique way the Internet now functions I will be asking people to help self fund this endeavour, via the medium of Patreon.

If you wish to become part of the Internet of Words with me when the project formally launches in June, please

on Twitter or subscribe to this WordPress site, where all future announcements around the project will be made.

Blogging For Noobs :: Look Up

Blogging for NoobsPart Three of our Ten Point Blogging Guide deals with presentation, and the fact that it matters just as much about HOW you offer readers content as the words themselves. You would think by now that people grasp how important it is for your webpage to be legible, especially when you consider how many people now read on a screen the size of a tea mug. This is something to really keep in mind as a blogger, a fact that newspapers and publications continue to just not grasp. I don’t care how many bells and whistles you think need to be included on your Webpage, if the text is illegible or there’s too many images to load, you’re out of luck.

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The problem, of course, is that the Snapchat generation is used to a level of mobile presentation that any smaller blogger will struggle to either emulate or repeat. In these cases you’re stuck with making your words matter, and doing all the fancy stuff to sell them. That means your first point of business after establishing a Blog needs to be the means by which you sell that: we’ll talk about the Social media ‘dance’ in more detail in a few weeks, but for now you should be considering at least some of the following:

  • Twitter account in the same name as your Blog
  • Facebook page (see above)
  • Instagram Page (you get the idea by now)
  • Snapchat account

… and the list goes on, especially if you’re working in a niche market that might benefit from (lets say) a Pinterest account. You want to do this now, early on, so that as you prepare for the new wave of interest in your work, everybody gets to see what you’re writing straight away. You’ll also be amazed at how tolerant people will be of a fairly simplistic website if it a) doesn’t crash their phone and b) doesn’t cost them a fortune in download charges. If you want to be fancy with presentation, concentrate on separate platforms that promote that and keep your blog clean, simple and most importantly easy to read.

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Next up (and this will matter if things really take off) is how you format posts. One long, huge wall of text will switch people off. You can write thousands of words, sure, but if you do, break them up into small, easily-manageable chunks. Use pictures or line breaks whenever possible: you don’t need to be clever with the GIFs and the fancy graphics, but if you know that’s what your audience likes, then go right ahead. Most importantly of all, please make sure your spelling and grammar are up to standard, because there’ll be some bright spark out there ready to abuse you for being illiterate if you don’t.

Most blogging tools (like WordPress I’m using now) have a spell check service, as do most browsers. There really is no excuse for mucking it up, but if English is not your first language you can go right ahead and write in the format you feel most comfortable using, and let Google Translate do the rest (if you use Chrome as a browser.) I read a number of French language gaming blogs in this way with no issues at all. The reminder here is to pick the form of words you feel most comfortable using, and allow that format to guide your actions. It’s a global marketplace after all, something many American and English bloggers often conveniently choose to forget.

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In the end, what matters just as much as the words you write is the way they’re subsequently presented. Both Blogger and WordPress have the ability to preview sites so you’ll see how they look on both tablets and phones, and the best thing you can ever do long term for your reach is ensure that the Web is the last place you check is looking fine before you commit to a layout. We’ll go back and work out your Social media policy in a few weeks, but for now I want to get you in the habit of making the most of all this hard work you’ve now put into presentation. That means, yet again, pulling out a pencil and paper or a spreadsheet and starting to foster a regular routine of posting.

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On the window to my left is stuck this schedule, and every week at this time I’ll sit down and plan the upcoming week’s work. Next time I’ll ask you to consider when you’d like your content to be posted, and how you go about building a consistent schedule to ensure that is what happens. For now, go ahead and keep fiddling with that web template but remember to ask someone else if they can read it as well as you can, or if it works in low light or on an older iPhone.

This stuff matters far more than you realise for establishing an audience.

GSME #8 :: Your Cheating Heart

Last week, if you were paying attention, was fairly significant for this site. That means that after today things won’t look the same, but this Guide will remain plugging away at improving the reach and interest in what is about to become a fully fledged ‘brand.’ In fact, if all goes to plan, I will be updating WordPress on this account to a Business Plan. That means that SEO is going to become rather an important part of what goes on around this parish in the months that follow, but for now I’ll simply mention it in passing. For now, we have Twitter analytics to look at and some more foundation work for the months that follow.

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The peak on the Engagements graph last week was my resignation as @MMOGames’ Warcraft columnist (in anticipation of the Patreon in June) and because of illness, the effort to engage has, I’ll admit, not been as full on as in previous weeks. However, I’m definitely feeling more awake, aware and willing to go this morning: I managed to CoPromote enough posts to get me to 44k Reach, but I’ll wait for my purchased 500k’s worth to hit the account before I use it on summat worthwhile. However, my 28 day stats are looking distinctly encouraging:

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What is happening is the constant drip of what I know are genuine followers and not either a) robots or b) people with their own promotion to highlight. It helped at the weekend that a post I wrote on the Warcraft site appears to have been ‘shared’ somewhere that’s not on my radar. This normally means Reddit but as my WordPress analytics simply list the hits as from ‘search engines’ it is just as likely someone used me to mask traffic for summat nefarious. However, the number of relevant follows that could be as a result means I’ll take whatever, without complaint.

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As you can see, my Warcraft site generates only a handful of hits on any given day. Ironically, the post in question is a less than glowing review of current content, and isn’t something I intend to repeat on a regular basis. However, it gives me an interesting blip on the stats to write about, so you take your anomalies wherever you can find them.

I also considered this week promoting a post using Twitter’s own boost feature. However, when I tried to work out roughly how much this would cost, I could find nowhere where pricing was listed, except from 2012. A quick look at Twitter’s knowledge base revealed why:

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If I have to hand in my credit card details before I am even charged for the service, I’m really not interested. I appreciate this may be standard practice for other services, but as I’m not a massive company but a single person with the most limited of budgets? Nope. Yet again, Twitter are a complete waste of time and CoPromote continues to look like the best move I could possibly have made in order to extend my reach into a completely new and unknown audience. It is odd how these things work out: I’d thought the service would be a complete waste of time, but for what I’m paying (set amount, easily budgetable for) it knocks spots off the ‘professional’ alternative.

Sometimes, the biggest provider is not necessarily the best choice.

Blogging For Noobs :: Think

You have a ton of posts all ready to go after the last portion of our Guide, and now you want to publish them all in one hit. This is where I put up the single finger in a kind yet firm manner and say NO, do not do this with your work. The temptation in the early blush of creativity is to share everything immediately. This is perfectly normal and I see it happen all the time: the problem then comes a month later when you’re struggling for stuff to fill your space and creativity appears to have evaporated. That’s why this time around, I’m going to ask you to wait, and start planning ahead. Remember that blank calender I left you with last time? Here’s where the fun of Learning to Organise begins.

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I’m going to be rebranding this site next month as the Internet of Words (for those of you paying attention) and that means that I need to do a couple of things before that happens. Once I’ve followed my own previous step and worked out what will qualify as content, I’ll need a week to make sure that I have graphics for everything made and ready, and there are spaces in the web design to accommodate what I’m doing. That’s the 14th to the 19th for me, which is my Pre-Planning and ‘Back End’ phase. In that time I can also write posts in anticipation of my launch (June 1st) but not publish them until I know my redesign is working properly. In your case, it could just be getting yourself comfortable with blogging to begin with, and you have a week of playing with layout and posting until you’re comfortable with both.

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I’ve then scheduled a Testing Week, which will basically act as my migration period for all the old content, deleting the stuff I don’t want to keep, and getting everything ready to roll. As you can see, after my launch date I’ve got a load of +1 and +2’s marked: the latter indicate days when I’ll introduce a facet of the site, the others marking down that for the first month, I want to generate a post a day. To do that will require me to organise in advance, to have ideas ready to roll, and once I obtain that early impetus it will be important to ensure I have a plan. That’s why I’m writing on Post It notes, scribbling in a notebook wherever possible, and keeping track of things I think are important or interesting going forward. It is why this weekend will be devoted to thrashing out many of those scribbled notes into fully-formed topics to form part of my site.

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The key, of course, is to have a lot of content to go, but there are days when I undoubtedly do my best work from a cold start. Today was a case in point: I didn’t expect to create a logo or start a Twitter account for the redesign but both of those happened. I’d simply planned to day to explore the possibilities of both, but you’ll learn in time how inspiration strikes, and when to make the most of it. This is where organisation truly becomes invaluable, because in those creative-rich days, if you can get words down they can be kept and scheduled for days when you’re out of ideas. It also means you are never totally beholden to your site either, and can take holidays or time off without it appearing you lost interest in the project.

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You will find, as time goes on, that if you set aside a set time each day to write, this will also aid enormously with productivity and creativity. For me, I do my best work on non-fiction before lunchtime, whilst fiction always works better in the evening. That means I’ll be able to balance my time effectively around other stuff and still aim for a set result at the end of each week. You may wish to plan ahead on a spreadsheet programme, and there are plenty of time management tools/apps that can help you out, but for me I am at my best with a Moleskine Diary, pen, pencil and ruler. In fact I’d be utterly lost without them now. My planning for the week is either done Sunday night or Monday morning, and this dictates the entire workflow for the next seven days. Find the system that works for you, and don’t be afraid to mix and match until you’re comfortable with the result.

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The biggest trick however is not to panic when you’re out of ideas. That’s why you have a notebook, its why you plan in advance… and its where Social media can save the day. Current events, personal interests, what other people are talking about, the latest complaint/beef in your friends circle… all of these are potential topics to start a blog post. For me, I have a ton of projects in various states of completion to consider, a vast array of topics on the Internet of Words that all have a potential place in my planning: but the trick is not to obsess too much about all the possibilities. I’ll be picking a couple of the best ideas to work with at the start, and we’ll go from there. Once the framework is established and has run for a while, I can look at analytics to see where the interest lies, and work from there.

Organisation really is everything if you want a professional looking site. It also doesn’t all have to happen straight away. Just because I’ll be doing a post a day means it will stay that way. We’ll see how things work, and the trick in these early stages is to listen to other people very carefully. Many will give you feedback, and if it isn’t great, you’ll need to be ready to act accordingly. Next time, we’ll talk about how you keep people interested whilst they read, because that will matter long term just as much as your content.

The Big Sky

Now I’ve said in public that I’m launching a Patreon, there is of course no going back.

What that means in the larger scope of how I write however is still in a reasonable state of flux. I have ideas, of course, or else things will have never gotten this far, but right now they don’t include serious augmentation of either my personal site or indeed the Warcraft one. Those two now run fairly autonomously of each other and that’s not about to change any time soon. Most of the evolution is going to fall here, because here is the site that has the best domain for pimping, and well… this is where I should write.

There was a thought about launching a 4th portal but really, truthfully, it isn’t needed. However, I am giving fairly serious consideration to a site redesign, mostly because I’m not 100% convinced this layout is fit for purpose going forward. Therefore, over Easter (between bouts of cleaning) there will be some poking of the back end and an attempt to find a layout that is both cleaner still than this and more multi-media friendly. It also means that this site will be the first one to be updated to a business account so I can gain access to SEO facilities: not simply to continue the Social Media Experiment, but to get the domain up the top of the search listings.

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After that, the Devil is in the details, and I’ll be keeping a lot of that under my baseball cap for the weeks that follow. There’s already one project outside the scope of new planning that I’ve pitched to someone else which looks like could fly, and I’m going to be sending some DM’s this morning on that front. Mostly, the future is very much full of possibility, I just need to get organised enough to capitalise on them all. Because this is now business I’ll be making sure to keep you fully appraised of all the details, as and when it is necessary.

Trust me, you’re going to love every minute of it.

Blogging for Noobs :: I Love You

It is time, finally, to write stuff. Are you excited?

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Number one in our Ten Things to Learn guide is, I’m afraid, NOT how to write gud. That I can try and help you with but, to be honest, you are mostly on your own. If you’ve reached this stage anyway the desire to write already very much exists (which remains half the battle on any given day) but developing a strong, individual style takes both time and effort to perfect. If, like me, you write for other people, their style will vary greatly from your own. That’s why learning to be your own Editor is great practice for when you end up having to deal with somebody else critiquing your work. There are however, certain things you really shouldn’t do, and it seems only fair to provide a list of those:

  • Take the first person out of your work. I did this and I did that is perfectly acceptable, in certain circumstances. The first person pronoun makes for a deeply personal insight, but often not for great writing. I’m going to use myself as an example of this: I think this post would be far better re-written without the excessive use of ‘I’ within it. The content’s sound, but the execution needs work. Using ‘we’ is a better idea for a lot of reasons, and it will make your whole blog resonate better with people you do not know.
  • Use a spell checker. Most blog interfaces provide one as standard anyway. Try to avoid abbreviations or excessive use of jargon/abbreviated speech. Imagine you’re talking to whoever you know personally who doesn’t have a clue about all this stuff and make it so they’d understand what’s going on. If you want people to notice your work, it isn’t just about what you write, but as much about how it is presented. 

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  • Don’t make it personal. There’s going to be a whole week on this, because there’s been some notable legal events in the last couple of months that prove if you are libellous or slanderous to people, there are consequences. I’ve notably used a blog post to stop someone stalking me, but I can attest this is not to be recommended, especially not in the current climate. If you can’t keep it civil and pleasant, don’t write it. Go shout at people on Twitter instead… no, don’t do that either. Just be nice.
  • Explain yourself properly. The point of good blogging, at least for me, is making one point per post. After that you’ll find the retention rate of your audience tends to drop dramatically. Sure, you can make long complex arguments in blog posts, but the best work is when you set yourself a question to answer in X words, or you show your reasoning for something in Y words. Don’t waffle. Learn to work out what is useful in a sentence, and what’s just repeating the same point again.typing3.gif
  • Formatting is everything. If I had a business WordPress, which may well happen by the end of the year, SEO is a thing. If you have no idea what that means, here’s a guide Google made explaining how Search Engine Optimisation works. That, coupled with using formatting for improved readability (which the business version of WordPress will also offer as an option) gives you a better chance that people stay with your article and read until the end. For now? Don’t write massive blocks of dense text. Split it up, and stick pictures in between.

Having said all of that, I told you that ideas matter a great deal, and they do. A combination of information, entertainment and inspiration seems to be why people keep coming back to what I do. There’s stuff on daily events, things that matter to those playing the same games as me, and who maintain a comparable set of interests. I use the GIF as art, whenever possible, as a cheap laugh or to reinforce a bigger point. The fact I’m attempting self improvement via exercise, and that I suffer with mental health issues that I’m happy to discuss and dissect all form part of a complex landscape, that has become an online extension of my real-life self. I’m not expecting you to do all this when all you want is to help people play a game better or share your art. However, there should be a distinct part of you in every word you write. The passion is what matters most.

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The enthusiasm and passion is what keeps the desire to write moving forward, even on the days when you seemingly have nothing to offer. For me, I’ve found a way to counter my lack of enthusiasm by creating a series of weekly ‘topics’: a banner headline under which I can write about an aspect of the general subject matter. That means, that once a week (unless a more important topic supplants it) I’m writing about my time in Warcraft, chronologically, from beginning to the present day. I have the headline, under which I’ve planned several months worth of potential subjects. What this gives me is a chance to both think ahead and know I have work to do even if the game is not particularly active and I don’t have a lot to say. This is a great way to keep your enthusiasm for work moving forward, by planning a larger subject to break down in parts. In fact, this Guide itself is being written on the exact same principle: weekly parts that will form an overall whole.

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The other way that blogging is incredibly effective is if you have something in your life that you can react to/talk about. That trip to the end of the Earth, your battle with cancer, the problems starting a business, becoming a successful writer… all these things are subject matters someone will want to read about. It might be something that happened to you in childhood, or perhaps your attempts to find meaning in an increasingly complex world. If you have the time to talk to someone, you could write it down. If you find yourself spending more than three tweets in a day ranting about anything on line? That’s blog material, right there.

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Blogs can do many things, the only limit being your imagination. If you have ideas, the best thing you will ever do is not just jump in without giving them form and focus. In fact, planning may sound utterly pointless but it is more likely to keep you from just giving up and not bothering. It is, for me, the very foundation of effective blogging. You have the passion to write, and all the ideas required to do so and now it is time to give yourself a framework on which to hang them. In that notepad that you’ve been using for recalling inspiration, you now need a planner on which they can be placed

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Feel free to copy this and print it out on a sheet of A5/A4 or whatever size your notebook is. This is your first month of blogging. The launch date for your blog isn’t top left either: next week, using April 1st as our start point, I’ll show you how to prepare and plan a Blog launch in advance: from scheduling posts to engaging an audience before a word is even written. I hope, by suggesting this as a way forward, I’ll be able to keep enthusiasm going well past that first four weeks, and help you create and form good habits for years to come.

Days Go By

You and I need to have a chat about how my creativity’s effectively vanished.

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It isn’t like it has disappeared completely or anything, and there’s a distinct vein of fictional thinking going on in my head right now. The problem, such as it is, lies with the amount of work I currently consider ‘in progress’ that’s not finished. As I begin the process of sorting out everything else (and on that front, things are going remarkably well) this is the place that suffers not because I don’t want to write, far from it. I just can’t work out what to put to bed first. I have, in various states, nearly a dozen long form projects and about the same in short form. This is the problem when you get seized by an idea, commit yourself to it, and then lose confidence in the ability to complete something worthwhile.

The first step I realise in dealing with the problem is to not write anything fictional, and then realise how much you miss it.

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Using the Mindfulness ‘concept’ I’ve been learning in the last week, I write fiction for sensation and problem solving. Once the issue I had has been dealt with, that the ‘story’ in my head was created for to deal with, it is left aside. Going back to work that was written therefore with this in mind, it can sometimes prove difficult to recreate the same enthusiasm for the project I had at the time. What now has to happen, I realise, is for me to look critically at everything sitting unfinished on my hard drive, and make some tough choices on what I can and cannot complete. I also needed to write this down somewhere public too, so I can’t pretend this revelation didn’t happen. Now I’ve grasped that? Time to start sorting through the files.

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I’m going to, whilst I do this, admit defeat and take out the links to the non-fiction essay page, and my Erotica selection. Part of my issue right now is pressuring myself into things that simply aren’t happening with the timescales available, especially with the push I’m making to being truly organised elsewhere. Yes, I suspect they will happen, and when I have enough pieces of work to justify filling them, they can be re-introduced. However, what I want to do now more than anything else is write long-form, and that means re-arranging my workplace to accommodate the change.

Thank you for understanding, and for continuing to support me on this journey of discovery.