Behind the Blogging Scenes Interview: Rohan

It’s been quite a long time since I last featured a blogger from the community. My fault though as I’ve been wrapped up in so many projects and works. But I do plan on getting back to these when I can especially now that my schedule has cleared up a bit. The blogger we’re looking at today is Rohan of Blessing of Kings

 So who exactly are you and what do you do?

My name is Rohan, and I’m a software developer in Vancouver, Canada. I work on financial software, usually in Java. It’s pretty dry and boring, really. Rounding numbers is the bane of my existence.

MMO-wise, I’m a PvE raider, currently playing a Holy Paladin in WoW, and an Imperial Agent Sniper in The Old Republic.

What do you feel are your strongest post types as a blogger?

Probably the posts that try to examine “why” we do what we do in games. This is the part of MMOs that most interests me, how human behavior reacts to the rules of the game. And then how the rules of game get modified in reaction to that behavior.

Where can we find your work?

My writing is on my site, Blessing of Kings.

Productivity

 How much time do you spend on a weekly basis just reading and researching for blog posts?

I write mainly opinion pieces, so there’s not a whole lot of research involved, other than just reading what all the internet news is and what other people are writing. And also thinking through posts in my head. Probably an average of an hour a day or so.

 How do you prepare yourself before blogging?

I mainly just sit down and start writing. I’ll have the general idea of a post in my head, usually because it has been percolating for a few days.

I do try to maintain a list of ideas for posts, but inevitably I find reasons to ignore the remaining ideas on the list.

How would you advise a blogger to beat procrastination?

Heh, this is something I’m not very good at. I’m a terrible procrastinator. The key I’ve found is just to start writing, and try to get into a routine. I tend to write steadily for a stretch, then “fall off the wagon” for a week or two.

Also, don’t try to perfect the idea in your head. The moment you start writing the idea changes. The thoughts in your head always change when they hit the paper.

When is the best time of day for you to blog?

I generally write posts at about 9pm or so. That’s really just when I have the block of free time available. Plus it’s nice and quiet, and you get the post up in time for the next day when everyone comes into work and checks the internet.

The downside of this is that the post never gets edited properly. I always notice tons of mistakes when I go to check it the next morning.

How many hours a week do you spend actually blogging? How many days a week?

Ideally, I would write a post each day. In reality, I probably average 3 posts a week. Each post takes about half an hour, so 1.5 hours a week. I would like to get it up to 3.5 hours or so.

Who are your favorite inspirations and authors?

Blogging-wise, I am a fan of Megan McArdle. She writes about a wide variety of subjects in a fairly dispassionate way that is unusual for writers who touch on politics. In particular, I find she is one of the few mainstream writers who is willing to outline the trade-offs inherent in every question.

That “dispassion” and attention to trade-offs is something that I aspire to in my writing.

As for authors, my favorite is probably Lois McMaster Bujold. I adore her books, and she has a knack for writing pithy quotes that just seem to sum up and contain a great amount of wisdom.

What quote best defines you?

Lately, I have been strongly influenced by the following quote from G. K. Chesterton’s The Thing:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious.

John F. Kennedy summarized it as:

“Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.”

What type of music do you like to listen to when you write (or none at all)?

I don’t listen to music while writing. I’m not very good at multi-tasking. I find that when I’m focused on writing I end up tuning out any music that is playing. So I don’t really bother with music.

Are there any areas you’re looking to expand into as a blogger?

I am thinking about starting a blog about real-life topics. But I don’t really like to make really controversial posts about topics that matter (as opposed to videogames), so I don’t think anything is going to happen with that.

I would like to be able to make graphs and simple illustrations more easily. Walls of text are all very well, but a good illustration is very useful. Unfortunately, my attempts at illustrations seem to take an inordinate amount of time. I am very envious of those people who can dash up quick sketches.

How do you crush writer’s block (if you believe in it)?

Just sit down and write something trivial. You never know where an idea is going to take you once you start writing it down. Also, don’t underestimate “trivial” posts. They’re often the posts that the audience relates to the most.

Where do you go when you’re drawing a blank on ideas?

My favorite technique is to go down my blogroll and read the latest posts. When I find a post that I’d like to comment on, instead of commenting on that site, I write up the comment as a post on my site, linking to the original post.

Not only does this provide an easy post, but the other blogger will like it, as getting linked by someone else is always nice. In some ways, it helps build the community.

Are you a risk taker or do you play it safe when it comes to broaching potentially controversial topics?

I’m a total coward when it comes to real-life controversial topics. (In-game controversies are another matter.)

On blogging

How would you define a truly great blogger?

Someone who writes fairly often, and writes posts which are interesting to read. I read primarily for new ideas, so I like people who introduce new ideas or new ways of looking at things.

What platform do you blog on?

I use Blogger, which is Google’s free platform. It’s simple and easy to use. It doesn’t allow you as much control as some of the other options. However, I feel that you get the best results from writing more, rather than tinkering with your site.

Which blogs do you try to keep up with the most and why?

Kurn and Liore, definitely. I do try to keep up with pretty much everyone on my blogroll.

But I’d like to specifically call out Gevlon at Greedy Goblin. He gets a lot of flak in the blogosphere, but there are three reasons I enjoy reading his posts:

  1. I really admire how fearless he is about writing about controversial topics. As I’ve noted above, I shy away from controversial topics. I rather wish I could be more like Gevlon and not care about the prevailing orthodoxies.

  2. He has genuinely new ideas and ways of looking at things. I don’t always agree with his perspective, but it is a unique perspective on things, at least among the bloggers.

  3. I find that I usually agree with Gevlon at the start of a post, but by the end of the post I  disagree with him. I am never quite sure if this is because Gevlon took a wrong turn somewhere, or because I am unwilling to follow the argument to the logical conclusion.

Is there a specific program you use for blogging?

No, I just use the editor with Blogger. I am technically inclined, so I have no issues with dropping down into HTML, which does make some things a little easier.

Other than using a focus macro, how do you stay focused on your task?

I don’t multi-task well, so I tend to tune out any distractions until my task is finished. My problem is procrastination, and not starting the task at all.

What challenges or problems have you run into when blogging?

The biggest problem I have is that I will get “stuck” on a post. I’ll have an idea for a post, but it isn’t fully fledged, or is more controversial than I am comfortable with posting. So I’ll try and write about something else, but my mind stays stuck on that post, and it’s all I can think about.

Have any strategies on staying organized?

Not really. Try to keep things simple. Juggling many things is a lot harder than only needing to worry about a couple things. Making lists is always useful.

How do you unwind after your day is over?

I play video games, specifically Massively Multiplayer Online games. I also read a fair bit, mostly science fiction, fantasy, and older regency novels.

For fun

What is your biggest annoyance right now (blogging or otherwise)?

Twitter. I hate trying to trace Twitter “t.co/HASH” links to my site back to the original tweet.

Actually, I’m growing somewhat disenchanted with the way the web is closing off as a whole into walled gardens. I can see people linking to my site from Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, but it’s really hard to see the specific reaction. In contrast, I can follow a link back to a normal site, see their discussion of my ideas, and respond. It’s all about feedback. I can use the feedback from the “normal” web to refine my ideas, but Facebook, et al, are just black boxes.

Do you have a slogan that you adhere to?

No.

What has been your proudest achievement?

I don’t really know.

Choose a celebrity (alive or dead) that you would like to have dinner with.

I’m always thrown for loop by these types of questions. I can’t help but think about the celebrity’s reaction to having dinner with me.

Albert Einstein: I developed the theory of Special and General Relavity, and won a Nobel Prize.

Me: I write blog posts about elves.

Seems very unequal, and probably an awkward dinner for the both of us.

My attitude towards celebrities is the same as my attitude towards bears. I will leave the bears alone, and the bears will leave me alone.

What do you wish to do more of (or get started doing) this year?

I’d like to get out more, maybe leave my city more often. I’d also like to program a bit more, do some simple side projects in some of the newer languages like Erlang or Go.

You travel back in time to meet your younger self when you started blogging. What piece of advice would you offer?

Get fixed in the habit of writing one post every day. Buy Apple stock. Don’t take the job with the mobile gaming company or the real estate company.

Also, pay more attention to the high end raiders, and don’t try to fight against theorycraft results. You won’t truly learn to raid effectively until you’ve raided with the high end, and so you should aim to join them as soon as possible, because you’ll really enjoy efficient, competent raiding.

Where can readers find you online?

Mostly at my blog, Blessing of Kings.

What else would you like readers to know?

I’m really not very good with these wide-open questions. My mind simply blanks out.

Thanks to Rohan for taking the time out of his day to help offer a behind the scenes look at his blogging process and methods! Don’t forget to visit his blog at Blessing of Kings!

Behind the Blogging Scenes Interview: Liore

Behind the Blogging Scenes Interview: Liore

Today we talk to MMO veteran Liore. She’s been around the block when it comes to MMOs (WoW, SWTOR, Guild Wars 2, Rift, you name it). Her blog has been around for a long time and she’s still going strong (Since at least 2009?). She has since started contributing to Rift Junkies and WildStar Junkies.

So who exactly are you and what do you do?

I’m Liore! By day I write user manuals and banner ads, and by night I make stuff for the internet about video games.

What do you feel are your strongest post types as a blogger?

I mostly write opinion pieces. I have a lot of opinions.

Where can we find your work?

The blog and podcast are at my site, Herding Cats. I’m also a Staff Writer for RIFT Junkies and WildStar Junkies.

Art of Productivity

How much time do you spend on a weekly basis just reading and researching for blog posts?

I don’t do a lot of research specifically for posts although I do read a lot. I listen to podcasts on my work commute, and watch Let’s Plays instead of television. My Twitter feed is full of game stuff, and I hang out on IRC all day with smart people who are also gamers. I guess you could say it’s kind of an organic research process.

How do you prepare yourself before blogging?

My mantra is basically, “Why am I writing this?” and if I can’t answer that in a sentence then I know the post needs to roll around in my head more.

How would you advise a blogger to beat procrastination?

Routine! Try to set a realistic routine, and accept that writing X times a week is just what you do now.

When is the best time of day for you to blog?

I do the actual writing at the office during lunch. It’s a good time for me — I’ve had coffee, I’m sitting in front of a computer, and I’ve warmed up my brain with work stuff.

How many hours a week do you spend actually blogging?

I don’t spend that much time actually writing. Maybe 20 minutes per post, with 20 minutes of editing. I spend way more time editing than writing.

How many days a week?

Ideally 3 times a week, or twice plus a podcast.

Who are your favorite inspirations and authors?

It feels silly to say my “inspirations” because, like, I write nonsense about video games, but the works of Hunter S. Thompson, Molly Ivins, and David Sedaris have strongly influenced my writing style.

What quote best defines you?

“And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” – The Beatles

What type of music do you like to listen to when you write (or none at all)?

For the most part I can’t listen to music when I write. I find the lyrics distracting. If I’m listening to anything it’s probably Daft Punk’s Tron soundtrack because there are only a few words and it’s a hell of an album.

Are there any areas you’re looking to expand into as a blogger?

I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Video. Seriously, I love the written word like crazy but I think in 10 years time we’ll all be watching videos instead of reading blogs.. which sucks because one of the best parts of blogging is that you can do it in your underwear while wearing a ridiculous hat.

How do you crush writer’s block (if you believe in it)?

Remember that not every post has to be a masterpiece. Sometimes it’s perfectly okay to just write 25 words and post a great video you found.

Follow up: Where do you go when you’re drawing a blank on ideas?

I only recommend this if you are in the direst of straits, but if I’m totally out of ideas I’ll go start reading some big MMO’s official forum. It usually doesn’t take long before I see something that irritates me so much I want to write a post about it.

Are you a risk taker or do you play it safe when it comes to broaching potentially controversial topics?

Ooooh. You know, I try to not shy away from topics because it feels intellectually dishonest to me to not talk about something that I strongly believe, and I like to think that adding my voice to controversial topics contributes in some small fashion. That being said I try to write about them in an approachable way because that’s kind of why I blog — to participate in conversations about stuff.

Art of Blogging

How would you define a truly great blogger?

Consistent, opinionated, interested, and great with a turn of phrase.

What platform do you blog on?

Self-hosted WordPress.

Which blogs do you try to keep up with the most and why?

Kurn mentioned Blessing of Kings in her interview, and I think Rohan has been hugely influential in the MMO blogging community. The Ancient Gaming Noob (tagn.wordpress.com/) is not only an interesting read but also Wilhelm posts more frequently than the rest of us put together. Right now the blog I’m most excited to see update is In An Age (inanage.com). Azuriel plays totally different games than I do for the most part, but he always has interesting things to say and I like his style.

Is there a specific program you use for blogging?

Not really. I write into Notepad++ or EditPlus and then copy it into WordPress.

Other than using a focus macro, how do you stay focused on your task?

Honestly, I don’t. Hell, I’m watching a movie and playing Candy Crush while I answer this question! I just really enjoy writing and podcasting, so somehow it gets done.

What challenges or problems have you run into when blogging?

I’m too Canadian! Seriously, I have a hard time being forceful when I want to. It feels like I’m writing, “I think it’s really stupid when games do X” and then I read it later and it’s more like, “I’m sorry, I kind of don’t like X but it’s okay if you do because games are fun yay!”

Have any strategies on staying organized?

Inbox Zero. Love it. Live it.

How do you unwind after your day is over?

Foreign reality shows on YouTube! MasterChef Australia, Project Catwalk — everyone is always so nice and I like watching talented people do their thing.

Art of fun

What is your biggest annoyance right now (blogging or otherwise)?

Under otherwise: the lack of empathy in “internet culture”.

What has been your proudest achievement?

This is more “most recent” than “proudest”, but I just got confirmed for a Media Pass at PAX Prime. Putting aside for a moment the many complaints that people have about Penny Arcade (and I wouldn’t disagree with them), getting in a position to apply for the pass took good effort and I’m proud of it. They’re letting me interview developers! How crazy is that?!

Choose a celebrity (alive or dead) that you would like to have dinner with.

Geoffrey Chaucer and Francis Bean Cobain.

What do you wish to do more of (or get started doing) this year?

I love doing the podcast, so I want to play with that some more. Also video! I have plans to do my first full-on Let’s Play in August with a partner (Saint’s Row IV, aw yiss) which should be a lot of fun.

You travel back in time to meet your younger self when you started blogging. What piece of advice would you offer?

I started my first blog in 2000, but I’d tell myself to start blogging about games sooner. I came in at the tail end of WotLK, and I’m perpetually sorry that I missed the glory days of monolithic WoW blogs.

Where can readers find you online?

Blog: http://www.lioreblog.com
Podcast: http://www.lioreblog.com/catcontextpodcast
RIFT Junkies: http://rift.junkiesnation.com/
WildStar Junkies: http://wildstar.junkiesnation.com/

What else would you like readers to know?

I once killed 24 of my guild’s finest raiders by starting the Magtheridon fight early and locking them in. And I regret nothing.

Thanks for sharing your battlestation with us, Liore!

lioredesk