I Saw the Light

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I spend a lot of time hanging around artists. It has become something of a cause célèbre for me: however, if there was less time admiring others’ work and more time perfecting my own, shit would get done far faster. Right now, however, inspiration is lacking just about everywhere: art provides that fix, vicariously reminding that passion can be seen and felt in pixels and pen strokes. Encouraging others is, like it or not, a greater source of satisfaction than staring at my own inadequate efforts and finding the means to become better. This is, I now realise, a writing slump. Non fiction fortunately does not seem to be suffering from the same malaise, and when critical thinking is applied to the reason, an answer as to why isn’t far behind.

Fictional worlds currently are not required as ‘escape.’

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Time for some brutal honesty: those imaginary spaces were created in my youth, more often than not, to run from from the less than happy domestic situation I found myself within. Only when my kids were born did circumstances dictate that imagination could be used just as it was: the work I have stretching from 2000 until now does, in nearly all cases, exhibit the same basic qualities. There are great ideas but never the ability to complete on them because the confidence in my work simply did not exist. Last year, I found the means to move forward with the help of Ian Fleming. The temptation would have been at this point to go full on fiction projects but in my heart the words now exist in two places where before only one mattered.

I’ve really started to gain pleasure in objective writing away from fiction.

That’s why this new project was born: it allows me to effectively continue therapy for myself using the written word. Where that leaves fiction however is both nebulous and uncertain. Last night after a family row I began and subsequently made worse, I sat alone in the bedroom and grasped that sometimes, there is a reason why everything needs to happen in a certain way. My desire to write has at no point diminished, in fact it grows greater with every passing day. However, what is written has become as significant as my favourite colour or most essential piece of music for relaxation. All the fictional ideas remain part of what I am, but with the practical skills learnt through non-fiction work there is now the means to re-invent each one as something better.

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The best way I can find to describe this is what I would imagine the process an artist goes through when learning the fundamentals of their craft. Learning to ‘see’ and draw people realistically might seem a waste of time to the Anime nut, but that basic grasp of anatomy and proportion, when learnt, allows you to think outside the constraints of accepted norms. Once you learn how to do something so well it can happen in your sleep, then comes the ability to step outside the restraints set upon a mind that looks simply at one thing alone. This, it is becoming apparent, is where I am now.

There was other stuff last night that surfaced, things as yet there is discomfort thinking about or even writing down. I want to mark yesterday as a watershed, moment when the reality of what sits in my head was finally reconciled with how I act when things happen that are out of my control. Words have give the chance to explain feelings, but until there’s clarity on exactly what those are, all that remains is silence. Some days, a lot of money would be offered to find the means for every feeling and emotion not to happen simultaneously, yet that’s where I am. Once everything can be sorted, then there’ll be the means to explain, but not today.

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I still need writing as therapy, but not in the same way this journey began. As I move forward, the desires have altered, needs sublimating into something more complicated than I’d first grasped. This isn’t just about telling stories any more: I am the story.

There is a lot more here to be considered.

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 during massive political and social upheaval, watched history play out around me and through 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.

GSME #9 :: Talk to Me

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This week, it must be said, has the potential to be a game-changer.

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My numbers are down overall for the week, which is due to one thing alone: I didn’t do the work. Instead there’s been a phenomenal amount of back end work, which will continue I fancy for the next four weeks, as I organise and put in place all the parts of the disparate puzzle that will become the Internet of Words. I’ve made the decision to have a separate Twitter account for that ‘brand’, away from what is being done here, because the subject matters are so very different: it is only where the two worlds meet here that the overlap will be noticeable. I’m looking at separate tools for that account’s potential growth, but for now we’ll focus on what happens here in the ext seven days. As you can see, I’ve quietly tipped into another multiple of 100 this morning. What I’m more interested in is the 6% increase in mentions, and the fact I’ve got some idea now of what is effectively doable in terms of long-term engagement.

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The plan therefore this week is to stay above 2% engagement and to try and work towards 3%. Next week I plan to make my own graph of how engagement has panned out in the last ten weeks, as that’s a reasonable time frame to show how effort relates to result. The way to keep that number high is to lay off the unscheduled ranting (which I’m getting progressively better at, it must be said) and focus on content people like: pictures, useful articles, insights on my life. I successfully scheduled from WordPress this morning, and have reactivated Hootsuite after an absence.

I’m paying for it, so I may as well use it, and it is proving already quite useful for showing up the holes in my social media ‘strategy.’ That means that this week’s maintenance task, like it or not, is to go redesign a bunch of effectively dilapidated Google+ pages to make sure that niche is covered come Patreon launch. I also have a Post-It note with ‘Pinterest’ on it for my art projects, plus the visual side of the project which is also going to be featured via Instagram and Flickr.

Needless to say, this morning my brain hurts.

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If I can get all this right, I’m hitting large areas of effectively undiscovered audience with a concerted effort. My CoPromote 500k reach is sitting freshly delivered for April too, and that means that tomorrow there’ll be a post here with some mission goals and a Call to Action, which I hope to repeat on the Facebook page. I’ll consider it a success that I get one person to be interested at present, especially when there’s effectively nothing to promote until June 1st. The key, of course, is to build interest in an engaging and attractive manner.

If I can get everything to mesh together effectively, who knows what I might be capable of achieving.

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.

All Change

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As was promised on Monday, you’ll now see a major change to the site’s layout. This is, for the main cosmetic at present, and is being facilitated early to allow me to stealthily bolt on space for the new content whilst not interrupting what already takes place. That will all happen at the IW Portal (see menu above) which will remain steadfastly under wraps until my Patreon officially launches on June 1st.

A number of you have already arrived at the Twitter portion of proceedings, and will be treated to the ‘Beta’ version of what will pass for daily curated content on Social media going forward. That will include content permed from the literary and scientific communities, with my own observations and comments intermingled. I’m not following anyone at present, but that will change once everything goes live.

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There will be other portals too, but for now we’re just going to stick with one thing at a time before it all gets incredibly confusing and I combust in a brain-fuelled implosion. Needless to say, if you want to know what’s happening and you want to get the low down on things before they happen live here, following the Twitter account is a good first start. I’ve intentionally divorced all of this from my main account for a good reason, which will become clear as time goes on.

I’m incredibly excited for what IW will mean going forward, and I hope you’ll be joining me on the journey.

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.