Making Connections

Making Connections

You’ve figured out why you should blog.

You worked hard on naming conventions for your blog.

You learned the nuances when writing for the internet.

You’ve mastered Writer’s block.

And you learned to… just get off your ass and write.

But despite applying all the technical and promotional techniques that you learned, you’re still not quite getting the comments you’re looking for. The traffic isn’t reflecting the effort and work you’re putting in. No facebook likes, Google +1’s, and no retweets. In fact, you’re gradually contemplating throwing in the towel.

What gives?

It’s because you’re missing a crucial element. A few weeks ago, I signed up for a Webinar from John Morrow, associated editor from Copyblogger.com. It was a free, 2 hour session discussing elements of traffic and community building. I figured I’d share the notes I took.

What we’re taught

Content: Write awesome content. The logic is if you keep writing amazing and helpful stuff, you’ll get noticed and your viewership will start skyrocketing.
Promotion: At the same time, you need to promote your posts. Ask for links, retweets, shares, etc. If people don’t know you exist, they’re not going to read your or share your stuff. So you have to do what you can to get known.

You get jillions of readers if you can combine them effectively.

The equation

Content + Promotion = Readers

But, this equation is missing something.

It’s off slightly. Content and promotion are both important, but there’s a missing component of the formula. You can still write smashing hits and you can still get those mentions, but it might only work for the short term and it doesn’t help your overall strategy of your blog.

It’s about the Connections

This is what the actual equation is.

Content + Promotion + Connections = Readers in the bajillions

Jon used best selling authors as an example.

The easiest way to write a best seller is to already be a best selling author. Guys like Seth Godin and Stephen King don’t need to ask for agents, or be booked to TV shows. People just already know who they are. The reasons why new authors struggle is no one knows who you are. You have to fight to get an agent, a publisher, an interview and so forth. This works the same way for bloggers.

“If you deleted my blog and all my subscribers (I’d be sad for one), but it’s not the end of the world. Because over the past few years, I’ve built relationships with all the popular bloggers in the world. I could still do in a flash.”
-John

The real key to blogging isn’t who you know. The key to blogging is who knows you. No matter how good your content, or how awesome it is or how hard you work, it’s not going to matter.

If you don’t have any influential connections, it’s not going to matter.

Popular bloggers ignore you because they don’t know you. If you email a blogger asking for a link to your site, you’ll most likely be ignored.

If you think about it, we do the same thing.

You scan through your emails and look for the senders you recognize. Anyone you don’t know, you end up ignoring or skipping over. Popular bloggers get on average 100+ emails (some go to 500+) per day. The reality is, most bloggers don’t often respond via email (at least, not right away). We respond to people we know. You have to get lucky with them opening your email to help you out. That’s not a situation you really want to be in which is why why link building won’t work.

If they don’t know who you are, it’s impossible. They have to know you first in order to get you links.

Let’s talk about twitter

What’s supposed to happen is you share your link with your friends. They share it with their friends and then it goes viral and snowballs it.

Wrong. That’s not actually how it works.

The posts don’t start with people with few friends. It’s not actually consistent. It’s like winning the lottery online. The way viral posts usually happen is they go top down. They get other people with big followings on twitter to share it with their followers and to their friends on twitter. And then their followers. It starts with the top people and works down.

The 3 C’s

Your goal must be done in these 3 steps in this order.

Step 1 — Connections with list owners

Connections means that those bloggers know your name. They’ve read your work. They’ve had a conversation with you. They think you’re smart and they like you.

No, this doesn’t mean a connection on LinkedIn.

Now list owners means people who have a huge twitter following, high RSS counts, a large emailing list, etc. They’re all different types of lists. You need to get THOSE people to like you because they can help spread your content to their followers and readers.

Step 2 — Content creation

Create awesome content targeted specifically at their audience, point out how it’s relevant to their audience, and ask them to promote it. You can’t just write great content and “hope” someone stumbles upon it. You need to have a connection in mind.

Step 3 –  Convert visitors

Ideally, you’d be able to offer your readers something of value. Blogs in other niches hook up readers with like an EBook, a report, or something but unless you’re really intense about it, I wouldn’t stress about that.

When it comes to subscriptions, Jon advises that email is way better than RSS. The engagement level and retention of email over RSS is about 20 times more valuable.

But, you should offer both types anyway. Make sure they’re full feeds.

This is the wrong order

  1. Content
  2. Connections
  3. Convert

Instead, the actual order should be:

  1. Connections
  2. Content
  3. Convert

The problem is you start as nobody. How do you become a somebody?

The answer to this is guest blogging!

Jon discovered that this is the only strategy that consistently works for every topic, every blogger, every niche. Some strategies work for certain topics and bloggers, but guest blogging is good for everything. If you guest on a big blog, and you write a mindblowingly amazing post, readers are going to say that post is awesome and they want to read more.

Here’s another analogy he used.

Think of it like an opening act for a major concert.

You’re performing on stage for someone like The Rolling Stones and you’re the first act.

The act of writing a guest post for a popular blog, those bloggers will love you. These posts get you introduced to other popular bloggers and influencers as well. This does NOT mean commenting. This means an actual article to give away to big popular blogs. We’re talking like 1500+ words. You write a popular post for one of these blogs and they edit it for you and give you feedback.

As an aside, if you ever get a chance, take your original version and put it side by side by the edited version. Ask yourself what changed and why.
The smartest thing you can do is link directly to your page (If possible, link directly to a page that offers something cool, like a webinar, or a report, etc).

Make connections

I want to re-emphasize one more thing.

Network the hell out of everything.

Make friends.

Get contacts.

Know people.

Connect.

It is the universal skill of all universal skills. So many opportunities will be available to you. This is one of the lessons my dad instilled in me when I was younger (actually, this was second after knowing my 12 x 12 multiplication tables). While you’re never going to be best friends with everyone you meet, it doesn’t hurt to be on relatively good terms with everyone.

This isn’t even about blogging. Things like academic openings or even job postings? Amazes me how much of that stuff is behind closed doors. Who you know can make a way bigger impact on your life than what you know. You never know when a blogger’s brother’s wife is looking to hire someone for a specific position that happens to coincide with your goals.

You never know what doors will open from that one blogger who takes you under their wing, or from that one guy who retweets your post.

On the other hand, if there’s nothing wrong with burning bridges as long as it’s done for the right reasons. Alas, that’s beyond the scope of this post.

“More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.”
- Peter Drucker

Accountability Starts at the Top

This is a guest post by Arkom.

If you’re a guild or raid leader, you have certain expectations for your guild or team members. You establish rules and policies, you set up strategies, and you assign people to handle certain jobs. These aren’t hollow gestures and you want people to follow what they’re told to do. I mean, you do all of these things for very specific reasons. And when someone doesn’t follow along in the spirit of things? You hold them accountable for their actions, right? But what does that mean for you? How do you figure into the grand scheme of things, since you are at the top of whichever chain of command? What should you do when you make a mistake? Have you ever really thought about it?

The View from the Top

When you are in a position of leadership, it’s easy to miss things. You end up being responsible for so many things in your guild or your raid team that some of them will naturally slip by. This is unfortunate, but it happens because we are human and we’re dealing with other humans. We are not infallible. But in this sense, we get a broader view of what’s going on. To paint a mental picture, you can imagine you’re on a balcony, looking down at a crowd on the street. You see the group as a whole, moving to and fro, busily doing the things that they do in their day. Things may appear to be normal and perfect on the surface. However, there may be someone in that crowd who just stole someone’s wallet and no one is the wiser because there are too many people and all of them have their own things going on.

The View Looking Up

The people on your raid team or in your guild, however, have precisely the opposite vantage. In their picture, they may all be standing in that crowd on the street, looking up at you on the balcony. That is to say, as a leader, you are under constant scrutiny. Where you may not see the mistakes of an individual in the whole group every single time, you can bet your dear Aunt Mavis that more than one person in that crowd will see the mistakes you make. That’s sometimes an uncomfortable position to be in, but that’s why you get paid the big bucks. It may also be the reason you pop Extra Strength Tylenol like they were candy.

R. E. S. P. E. C. T. Find Out What it Means to Me

Now that I have you feeling like you’re you’re trying to use the bathroom in a house with glass walls, what DO you do when your human side (not the one referenced in the bathroom bit) shows and you make a mistake? Well, that really depends entirely on what you’re comfortable with. What should be obvious, I think, is that the best course to take in this situation is to fess up to falling short. Admit your error, apologize if that’s necessary, and do your best to not have a repeat performance. The tricky part of this scenario is that not everyone is comfortable with these things. To those people I say, “You’re in the wrong position.” One of the greatest tools a leader has at his or her disposal is the ability to honestly account for their failings. If you just glaze over the issue, ignore it completely, or offer up an empty apology to your team or guild, you’ve severely injured your reputation, your credibility, and the respect that those people have for you.

There’s a common notion that leadership is a position of servitude. Perhaps it isn’t correct in its every facet, but it certainly is true that we are, to some degree, beholden to those that we lead. We have a responsibility for them, which we have taken on of our own free (and sometimes I think, insane) will. After all, those who lead but have no followers have often been referred to by such colorful terms as, “crazy,” “eccentric,” and things that Matticus probably wouldn’t like me to put in his blog. So let’s just say that without people to lead, you aren’t a leader at all. When you damage their respect for
you, when you hurt your credibility, when you tarnish your reputation, you give those people a reason to leave. The more reasons you give them – and believe me, these reasons compound faster than you would think – the harder it will be to get others to join and stay in their place. So if you do have problems with saying things like, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake there and I will do my best not to let it happen again,” you should probably work on that or consider a future in playing games like Solitaire.

Over-stating the Obvious

Am I? I wish I was. Oh, by Ghostcrawler’s chitinous shell, I wish that I was. I sometimes find it hard to believe the number of times I’ve found myself in situations where the leadership’s reply never came at all, or if it did it was completely empty (and that’s much, much worse than not saying anything at all) or something about how their mistake wasn’t a mistake at all, because they’re the leadership and what they say goes. It happens. Perhaps you’ve been in a situation like that, from either the side where the leaders were saying it to you, or being part of the leader group that was saying it. If you have ever been subjected to those things, I’m guessing they didn’t endear you to those who were supposed to be leading you. World of Warcraft is a game and it’s something we play to have fun and unwind. That doesn’t seem to add up with the part where you have this whole crazy responsibility thing to worry about, but it’s true regardless. So when you find yourself at one of those points in your life as a leader when you’ve just boned it in front of a group, my advice is to take a moment to consider what you would expect of one of the other people in that situation. Would you want an explanation? Would you want an apology? Would you want to make them cry by bawling them out loudly and publicly and then yell at them more for crying like the More DoTs!!! guy? Well, for all of those but the last option, I suggest you do the same yourself. Apologize. Explain the mistake. But stand up and admit you were wrong. For that last one? Anger management. Seriously.

When you lead a raid or you lead a guild, the people who run with you or who are members of your guild are putting a trust in you to be an example of what you expect in them. You are in a position that allows you to directly influence the experience they have in this game, for better or for worse. That’s a huge responsibility and it should be taken seriously. If you can’t admit when you’re wrong, you aren’t just making things bad for yourself, you’re making things bad for them, too. Remember, it all starts with you and it all ends with you. And let’s face it, when you do have to take the heat, it kinda sucks, but when you know that you’ve played an important part in making other people’s time in World of Warcraft better, more fun, more exciting, and more entertaining? That’s a pretty great feeling. That’s the feeling that makes it all worthwhile.

Dual Unto Others

In a perfect world, we would all be fortunate enough to run with only our guildmates in Heroics and find that perfect unison of one tank, three DPS and one healer that could create that magic and that would ensure those hours of farming gear and Justice Points are nothing short of a blissful experience.

In reality, some have an easier go of it than others. Depending on who is online and who is already spoken for, you may find yourself being one of those stragglers who is forced to throw your lot in with the Dungeon Finder to get what you need. As DPS, the queue times can be unbearable. Not to mention the fact that PuG Heroics already have such a small chance of success that just downing the first boss can be seen as a huge victory.

Some enterprising DPS have decided to use their dual specs to become something that would allow them a much easier time of finding random groups to farm Heroics with – those of tanks and healers. Unfortunately, if not done correctly, this can create an even more painful experience for all involved. So, without further ado, here are my tips on how to use your dual spec to the fullest while trying to do Heroics.

Lesson #1:  Do Your Homework

If you’re planning on playing the part of a tank, healer or even DPS, when that’s not your natural role, you need to at least make sure that you can at least perform said role at an adequate level for the content that you are about to do. You won’t get very far if you can’t generate or hold aggro, if you can’t keep 4 other people and yourself alive or if you are not putting out the DPS to kill things fast enough.

Take a look at what others of your desired class/spec are doing, in terms of talents and rotations. Understand the mechanics and what the abilities associated with that spec are used for. I would put in just as much time learning your dual spec as you would put into your main spec, for something like this. If you’re not going to do it well enough to help your group succeed, then you’re basically doing all of this for nothing and that’s not good!

Lesson #2:  Look The Part

Once you have gotten into the right mindset to really understand the role that you’re trying to become, you then need to make sure that you are just as convincing on the outside as you are on the inside.

If you’re planning on becoming a temporary tank, make sure you have pieces that are fitting for a tank and that you have a generous amount of health and other attributes (like dodge and parry) to be able to take some hits.

If you’re aiming to become a healer, make sure you have pieces that a healer would wear. Anything with Spirit on it is going to be assumed as something that a healer would want, so make sure you have plenty of that on you. Make sure you’re not wearing any trinkets or using any meta gems that would be terribly obvious as DPS caster only.

If you’re in the rare bind of being a tank or healer attempting to DPS, possibly due to too many others like yourself in the guild needing upgrades and not enough runs to support them, make sure you are hit capped or as close to it as possible. If you play a class with CC capabilities, get comfortable using those abilities and become familiar with the symbol assigned to you for marking purposes. Watch your aggro and focus fire the correct mobs down, when it’s time to do that.

Lastly, make sure your gems and enchants go with the role that you are trying to perform, too.

Lesson #3:  Stick to the Script

It can be mighty tempting to want to fall back into your normal mindset in a group. You see that death knight made some strange talent choices or that the feral druid is letting his bleeds fall off too soon. You have experience. You know these things!

Except you’re there to tank. A little advice or a friendly suggestion is fine. Getting into blow by blow explanations and possibly even arguing with them over how things are done is purely bad form.

This rule seems exceptionally true for healers that place themselves into a DPS role. It can be tempting when you see life bars going down to stop what you’re doing and throw heals in rapid succession to save the day. That’s not why you’re there, though. Granted, if the run is on the unmistakable path to a wipe and you feel that you can possibly help save the day, by all means. I would expect any DPS to do the same thing. That should be a rare occurance and not a habit.  However, if you can cleanse something (such as a curse, poison or disease) that your healer cannot cleanse, then by all means, cleanse away!

Things not dying fast enough means the fights go on longer than they need to, which taxes the healing and can cause other problems. In short, do what you came to do, unless the situation absolutely calls for it.

Lesson #4:  Come Clean

There are some professions where you’re not immediately panicked by seeing someone wearing a trainee tag. The cashier at the grocery store. The busboy at a restaurant. That kind of thing.

Then there are those where you really don’t want to know that this is somebody’s first time doing a particular task. The person drawing your blood at the doctor’s office. The pilot flying the airplane you are on. The minute you discover they may not have that much experience is exactly when you start to doubt you’re in good hands.

With that in mind, feel free to state that this may not be your primary spec, but that you do feel confident enough to play it and don’t be afraid to ask for pointers.  This will go over a lot better than people assuming that you are a main spec tank, healer or DPS when you clearly are not.

Lesson #5:  Don’t Quit Your Day Job

At the end of the day, you’re doing this because you have to. You may enjoy what you’re doing, out of necessity or because it started to grow on you. But, remember why you’re really there. You’re there to get a shot at some gear that nobody else can use or to farm the Justice Points you need to buy better gear, so you can be ready to raid that much faster.

Do not get so attached to your dual spec that you start insisting on doing it in your actual raids. Do not think that because you made the most of your dual spec to get through a difficult time that you automatically know more about that class/spec than those that have been doing it since a previous expansion.

In closing, the journey towards becoming the best you can be so that you’re ready to raid should be an enjoyable one. You should be looking forward to watching your stats grow and your abilities hit harder or heal for more and it shouldn’t be something that you dread doing.

Slipping into a role that you don’t normally perform is not for everyone. Some people would rather deal with longer queue times than put themselves in a situation they’re not entirely comfortable with. Listen to your gut. If you know deep down that you don’t feel confident in the idea of tanking or healing (or even DPSing) or you know you don’t have the desire to put in the work to really give it your best shot, don’t do it.

Stick to what you know and what you enjoy. If you can still do that, while ensuring you are on the right path to being the best you can be, then you’re doing the right thing and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Thanks for reading and happy hunting!

Preparing for Absences

Things get a little frantic on my end during events where I’m cut off from both my guild and my blog. Everything needs to be planned out to make sure there’s enough stuff to do.

Tomorrow, I’ll be driving down to Laguna Seca in California for work and to check out these motorcycle races.

Remind me to bring ear protectors as we’ll be next to the track. I’m also going to need stuff to do on the way down. Anyone have any suggestions? I’m bringing a few books and I’ll have my Macbook with me. I’m not going to get much in the way of internet. I suppose I could collect some Sudoku or crossword puzzles from newspapers.

From the guild side of things

Knowing when you’re leaving and how long you’ll be gone for is a big plus. It’s good to take stock of the roster during the 6-8 weeks before leaving to see what sort of gaps need to be filled. Knowing that my guild will be down a healer, it’s smart to have an idea of who can step in to fill that position temporarily. I recruited a couple of extra players (who can play multiple roles adequately) so that the raids will continue unaffected.

For my raiding guild, the bottom line for me has always been that the raid must go on.

The next thing to do is to delegate any extra responsibilities you have to other people who both can do it and want to do it.

I usually direct the healers. Someone will need to liaise between the healers and the officers. I picked one of my Priests to do that as he’s done the job before.

Lastly, you also need someone that can cover your position and roles in raids. When the opportunity presents itself, I’ll try to rotate and shuffle healers around. I might put a Resto Druid on Infest healing or a Shaman on tank healing. I’ve placed my number 2 Disc Priest on Infests while I went Holy and raid healed. The goal of the exercise is to give everyone one or two shots doing something that they otherwise normally wouldn’t be doing so that in the event they have to, they won’t be confused.

Always build redundancies.

I think the greatest fear of every guild leader when they need to step away for a while is that they return to a smoking ruin with a pillaged bank and the guild in complete disarray with half the roster size.

And for crying out loud, designate a de facto number 2. Make sure you have witnesses. Tell them something like “This guy’s in charge while I’m gone. Treat the words coming out of his mouth as if they were mine. He’s got my full support and I trust him to do the right things for the group.”

Guildmasters, what’s on your to do list when you know you’ll be gone from the guild for a while?

From the blog side of things

I’ve pre-written a bunch of stuff. I think I’ve written more in the past few days then I’ve had in the past month or so. With more beta information released, there’s been more ideas and stuff to discuss.

I also updated our About page (finally) to include the new guys to the team as well as add some interesting facts and tidbits about ourselves. You might actually find it interesting! 

If you’re interested in being a part of the team (whether permanently or just want to contribute a guest post), check out my guidelines, and then contact me. I love guest posts. And I’d certainly love to feature some over the next week and a half.

The Hybrid Pedigree

This is a guest post by Mimetir, an oversized owl of a raid leader on The Venture Co (EU). You can find her twitter feed at http://twitter.com/juddr.

I understood little about the game back when I was a young whippersnapper of a hammer-wielding paladin but I did know that those rather unfriendly zombies were hitting my party real hard now and I’d better cast that flashy light spell because no-one else did anything similar. Nowadays my boomkin suspects her claws are actually roots given the amount of times she’s dropped out of form to heal at a critical point. On the rare occasions my guild’s feral gets to DPS, he often finds himself bearing up and growling things off of the clothies. Even so, I regularly hear players bemoan that the hybrid classes are forgetting their utility and simply focusing on their single, chosen role. These comments usually come after an unsuccessful event or fight; a little help in healing from the paladin might have given the edge, or if the cat had just engaged bear’s-behind mode to help the overwhelmed tank out for a few seconds… A hybrid forgetting their flexibility just like a warlock forgetting to soulstone a healer. It’s something so integral to their class that they should do it automatically.

Hybrid classes allow a player to perform any and all of the three roles a group may require. Need a tank, DPS or healer? I can do all of those, says your paladin, druid or shaman. Admittedly the shaman can only tank under certain circumstances such as pre-60 instances, but this flexibility is something which makes these classes very popular choices for groups and also for players. Data shows that many players choose the paladin class, second only to the death knight – no surprise given the surge of DK mains when WotLK hit.

ConfusedKin

Still, some players are not able or willing to play a class to its full hybrid potential. I think there are three types of hybrid players:

  • Those who are able to play different roles or specs for a sustained length of time – these are more common since the availability of dual spec
  • Those who are able to respond to a situation by switching into another playstyle and back out at the drop of a hat
  • Those who cannot or refuse to do either of these things and focus on one task.

I’ve said that a hybrid should know their class’ utility backwards – but should they? If hybrid players are a minority now this suggests that they are a dying breed. WoW is a lot easier to play than its previous incarnations, quibble as you like over the finer points. Perhaps gameplay no longer requires sharp hybrids with an eye always on utilizing their out-of-spec abilities. Mayhap the game has made facerolling, overpowered roles the hero of the day and has sidelined hybrid utility as a luxury addition to a raid. That would certainly explain why there seem to be less active hybrid players out there: Look, we are indeed all just DPS. Do you, as a raid leader or officer, notice more if your hybrid classes or your top DPS dies early on?

Raid setup is a lot more flexible nowadays and most encounters can be downed by any combination of characters. I have heard that level 60 raid setup required a lot more thought and arguably a different approach from the player to what they could contribute with their class. I often wonder whether a willingness to change roles at the drop of a hat is a long-term satisfying playstyle for hybrid classes. The cons spring to mind immediately. Two healers just went down; you the boomkin needs to heal, while the feral waits for an opportune moment to combat resurrect the tree. There goes your rotation. There goes your proc and DPS concentration. There goes the raid’s moonkin aura; the new order of the day is the stress of switching mental gears and trying to find your healing spells in order to keep the raid up. Your place on the DPS meter – sixth of ten. Yet again. Nevermind.

That shouldn’t matter of course – you have just saved the raid from a potential wipe: congrats, have a pat on the feathery back. Now get back to eclipsing.

Having a pivotal role in averting a wipe can be hugely satisfying. I would bet, though, that many hybrids find it wearisome to keep doing so. Speccing into a particular role means that you enjoy doing that and intend to do your best at it. A player constantly carrying the hybrid "millstone" may find that they don’t meet their own spec specific targets or feel that they are achieving their best. It can also be argued that WoW is a more competitive place than it used to be and many players no longer look deeper at performance than your DPS done during a fight, no mind that you spent half of it healing. That, too, can lead to friction in a group and for some players a disinclination to perform hybrid tasks or play that character at all – these are things which should be watched by both the player themselves and a prudent raid leader.

That said I believe that successful hybrids are still prized raid members. if you can perform whatever is needed without a moment’s notice then you may get a reputation as reliable and a quick thinker – attributes likely to get you a spot in the raid as much as the top DPSer of your guild. And wearisome though the millstone may be, it’s there as a reminder that you’re playing one of the most situationally flexible classes in WoW and that there are always new tricks to learn for a jack of all trades. What do you think? Do hybrid players play their classes as well as they could? Do you as a hybrid enjoy being pulled from pillar to post? Do your hybrid raiders matter more as flexible players or solid DPSers?

Symbiotic Altoholism

This is a guest post by Saunder, a Holy Paladin from Non-squishy Heals.

Before I start I guess I should say a bit about myself. I have 2 level 80 Holy/Ret dual-specced Pallys (instance as holy, solo as ret), a 73 hunter and a 58 druid. Well I have lots more, but they are the important ones.

Most of you will be familiar with the idea of Symbiotic relationships. One definition of such relationships is that it occurs where both organisms benefit. I see alts as exactly this sort of relationship.

The hunter was my original toon. I leveled him in the blissful ignorance that comes from not reading about game mechanics, and running instances in the totally blithe knowledge that the tank will *always* have aggro, and the healer will *always* keep you alive. After all, a hunter is DPS so all that matters is how much damage he or she can do, yes?

I then rolled a Pally, and enjoyed it. I liked healing and now my Pallys are unquestionably my mains … Can you have multiple ‘main’s? Anyway … And I found out some rather nasty truths. The first one was that Hunters who don’t manage their own aggro, even at the expense of their DPS are very very unpleasant group mates to have for healers at times. I have come to realise that my play as the hunter has been immeasurably improved by playing a healer. You may ask why – well, now I know that DPS isn’t everything. You need to find ways to put out the best DPS *without* pulling more threat than the tank and, if that isn’t enough, sometimes there is no better thing for the group and the run as a whole than for the DPS to fall on their sword and protect the healer, even at the expense of their own life and repair bill. It’s not what you signed up for, but it *is* the hard reality. Not only have these observations led to much improved play as the hunter, I hope that the number of pug members swearing at me behind my back has decreased markedly. I firmly believe that to be a really effective DPS, you need to play a healer, most likely to a high enough level to run some reasonable instances with pugs and learn some of the mistakes that will keep you on your main, and your group mates, alive and happy longer.

The second truth I found was that of healing priorities. In an instance, your first and foremost role as a healer is to stay alive. That may be a very selfish view, but seriously, how much healing can you do dead? The best tank and group in the world will need heals at some point (ok, with a couple of Blood DK’s or a hybrid class that can step in that may not be an absolute, but you know what I mean) and that means you the healer need to be alive and kicking so that you can provide those heals. (It’s also a pain in the behind to have to keep running back from a graveyard if you are the only one who can res but that is secondary). The next priority is the tank. Obviously anyone who is going to keep the attention of the instance denizens away from you and the rest of the group is a good person to look after. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, healers tend to be high up there on the threat table. Second on a threat table is a bad place to be if the first on the table dies, usually leading to the situation above where you can’t heal the rest of the group as you are dead!

So there it is, Healing Priorities in a nutshell. Now, now, now, before I hear all you DPS baying at the moon for my blood (do feral Druids in kitty form still bay? *grin*), I don’t mean that I don’t heal the DPS, far from it. I will heal anyone in a party or raid, players, pets, mind controlled mobs or whoever but I will heal them after I heal myself and the tank. In a perfect world no-one will die in an instance run, but, with the exceptions of DPS-races where the boss enrage-wipes, the death of a DPS is merely an inconvenience. The death of a tank or healer is often disastrous. DPS need to understand that there are times, and that is particularly true if they do something crazy, that death is inevitable. Live with it, and know that we your healers try to keep it to a minimum.

Then there is the very uncomfortable truth that there are players out there who just don’t seem to ‘get’ it. You can tell them that unloading the full barrage of their uber talents and abilities before the tank has established threat is a bad idea until you are blue in the face and they will not change their ways. Surprising how fast they learn when you let them die as a result of their actions. Explain to them the pain they are causing, then if they don’t learn, just practice tough love. They will, and the group as a whole will thank you for it in the long term.

So on the one hand, playing a healer alt really is a good thing for the DPS classes out there, and as a side effect, obviously, some percentage of you will find that you like healing, thus helping with the perpetual healer shortage. Excellent. I can live with that! :D On the other hand, it is just as valuable for a healing class to play the DPS role. Why you ask? As a healer, you need to know as much as possible that will make your runs more successful. After all, rightly or wrongly, the finger of blame is often pointed at the healer when there are problems. That means knowing the mistakes the other classes are likely to make. It can be a general knowledge such as the hunter example above, or it could be something much more specific. When that particular glow comes from the mage’s hands, for example, a LOT of AOE damage is about to happen, and that, in turn, leads to a LOT of threat. So have the big heal part way throughcasting so that if the mage *does* get aggro you might save them from being one-shotted. For those classes where you have emergency buttons, bubbling a mage in those sort of circumstance is not a bad idea. How cool is it to hear the anguished sounds that the clothies make on vent when they get aggro only to find they are still alive! You get to sit back and bask in the adulation of your peers. Ok, they mostly just grunt at you and expect it, but that’s the life of a healer

Really look at the benefits of the different instance roles. Playing a different role is a big way to get fresh enjoyment and experiences. It will keep it interesting at the very least, and you never know, you might actually learn something and make life easier for everyone around you.

For more great rants (and commentary), do visit Non-Squishy Heals and be sure to subscribe!

Get Rich or Heal Trying: How to Make Money via Dailies

Get Rich or Heal Trying: How to Make Money via Dailies

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This is a guest post by Sientina discussing earning gold in WoW as a healer.

I’m Sientina, and I heal things to death. You see that warrior over there? He’s been trying to kill me for the last 4 minutes and I’m healing away all his damage, waiting for help to arrive.  Sure, I could probably kill him… eventually, but I rolled a healing class for a reason. I don’t kill things. I don’t grind elementals for eternals. The thing is, raiding takes its toll. I have reagents to buy, armor to repair, and hair to cut when my old style isn’t working for me anymore. What’s a girl to do when she has money issues and no sugar daddy?

I could just heal the daily heroic for cash but if I don’t want to commit to a full heroic run, I can do a few dailies instead and still have the gold for the raid tonight. Besides, have you seen those dungeons? They need to fire their cleaning staff. I end up with more cobwebs in my hair then hair products, and I use a lot of hair products. For a style this good, there needs to be money rolling in. These dailies keep my hair free of cobwebs and my gear free of blood and gore.

Icecrown

Stop by your respective airships and pick these quests up.

Capture More Dispatches / Keeping the Alliance Blind – shoot down 6 scouts just west of Aldur’thar.
That’s Abominable! / That’s Abominable! – Kill an abom in the broken front for his guts and use your newly made Frankenstein creation to blow the undead to pieces.
The Solution Solution / Volatility – Loot some helms, armor, and bones and blow a Frostbrood Skytalon sky-high.
If you’ve unlocked enough quests to have the tabard of the Knights of the Ebon Blade, head to the Shadow Vault for 2 more dailies.
Vile Like Fire! – Grab a proto-drake and burn 8 buildings.  You can re-burn something already on fire, so it doesn’t matter how many others are around.
Shoot ‘Em Up – There are two buildings with harpoon launchers on the balcony. Pick a weapon and kill 15 drakes.  Make sure to grab group with anyone else at a harpoon, you’ll both be done sooner.
Both Alliance and Horde have their own assault point in Ymirhiem.  Join them to help their cause in a non-killing sort of fashion.  Horde, you’ll report to the northern edge while Alliance will be on the eastern side.
Assault by Air / Assault by Air – Grab the transport and hit the spear guns with the blinding shot to stay alive til all four of your infiltrators are dropped.
King of the Mountain / King of the Mountain – Jump up the mountain and plant the flag.  You can click for your next jump before you land so you can scale vertical walls with ease.

Sholazar Basin

For those Honored with Oracles:

Appeasing the Great Rain Stone – Hop around with your little green friend and look for sparklies on the ground.  After he digs them up, loot them.
Song of Fecundity – Go west to the Maker’s shelf and blow the horn around 8 piles of dirt.
Song of Reflection – Go to the top of each Pillar and use the digeridoo at each crystal.
For those Honored with Frenzyheart…
Chicken Party! – Click on 12 chickens or net big groups of them.  You don’t have to dismount to net or gather the chickens up, so catch them rodeo style.

Storm Peaks

You will have to unlock the Sons of Hodir quests to get these. Part of them are Sons of Hodir Dailies, and will give you rep towards your shoulder enchants.  Others are from Brunnhildar. Talk to Gretta the Arbiter to start them.

Thrusting Hodir’s Spear – Only available at Honored. Find a wyrm and slay him using the special cast bar.  Once you get the hang of killing the wyrm, it’ll take you about 5 minutes tops for 16 gold and 500 rep.
Everfrost – This isn’t a daily, but when you’re out and about and you see an everfrost chip, loot it.  Its a free 13 gold and then 7 gold for repeats.  You can do this as many times as you find chips and sometimes someone in general chat will be willing to pay you for the location of one.  If not… more rep for you.
Back to the Pit – Grab a warbear and beat 6 other bear-back riders in combat.
Maintaining Discipline – Beating slaves couldn’t be easier.  If they choose to fight back, you might have to kill one or two.

Grizzly Hills

The Alliance and Horde fight over the Blue Sky Logging Grounds.  Thankfully we can assist.

Pieces Parts / Making Repairs – Loot gears and springs off the ground.  The opposite factions npc’s won’t attack you, but enemy players might.
Life or Death / Overwhelmed! – Bandage 15 of your forces.
Shredder Repair / Shred the Alliance – Shredder time! Use the speed boost and get your machine out of there.  As a note, the keys you get from the quest reward will let you use shredders down in Venture Bay.

Dragonblight

Defending Wyrmrest Temple – Fly to the shrine, disable it and kill all opposing dragonflight in your way.  Simple? Yes… but you can up the ante by trying to complete Rapid Defense as well.

With dailies to keep this girl independent and her hair the best in Dalaran, I’m as carefree as bird. If you’re needing a break from that dreary old dungeon crawl, try a different way to get the gold you need.  Unless the main tank is cute and available. That’s a different situation.

The Price of Popularity (or Healer, Heal Thyself)

The Price of Popularity (or Healer, Heal Thyself)

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This is a guest post by Sylly Syll who writes about the cons of being a sought after healer.

Certainly, negatives might not immediately leap to mind for a healer who has a lot of friends, is generally considered to be talented and capable, and is offered seemingly endless opportunities to do runs for which other classes have to sell their soul to get a spot. (WTB Healer PST). However, for me there have been some definite downsides to this situation since WOLK hit. Specifically, being constantly whispered by friends, guildies, and strangers to heal. “Please, please, PLEASE heal this run for me so Ican get the much coveted Epic Boots of Awesomeness”, I hear, leading to me running more instances than I’d ever dream of initiating on my own, which leaves me struggling often with the following three issues:

1. Poverty: Repair bills, raid and instance pots, buff foods, enchants, gems vs. no time to raise gold to offset costs leaves me perpetually scrounging for cash.  And, of course, even when I find the time to quest or farm, healers are faced with the daunting task of boring mobs to death.  No lightning-fast, face-ripping pew pew for us. Alas and alack, none at all.  Over the holidays I blew through well over 1000 gold sending toys and purely frivolous fun things to dozens of people who make me smile on my server.  It was without contest the best time I’ve ever had spending gold in WOW.  It lit me up like a Christmas tree.   And as great as that was, a couple of weeks ago when I was scraping by to get pots for a Naxx raid, I almost regretted spending that gold.  Best gold I ever spent, and I almost lamented having spent it.  That’s pretty gristly food for thought.

2. Healing burnout: On occasion I just want to sit on a mountaintop and take in the amazing art of the game, or putz around Dalaran checking out all the vendor goodies, or doing some other innocuous, ultimately unproductive activity.  Sometimes I just want to quest all by my lonesome, where the only death I could possibly be responsible for is my own.  From time to time I just feel like parking my carcass in a quiet corner of the world and carrying on a long conversation (typed or otherwise) with one of the friends I treasure in the game.  Because of the healer shortage, finding time for these things can be hard, which can leave me a little grouchy, a little snarky, a little closer to trading bark for feathers and doing the Chris Farley bop.

3. Guilt: When I log on and my guild message of the day is replaced instantaneously by a sea of purple text with friends saying "omg now we can run!" "SYLL! come heal x for us!!!" "Have you done the daily?" etc. etc. ad infinitum, I feel instantly guilty, whether I tell one or none of them yes, because ultimately I have to turn someone that I like down.

Of course, all three of these issues could be solved very easily and with finality in a number of ways.  I could give up the wait for dual specs, jump into a feathery owl suit, and leave it to others to heal me. Or maybe I could come up with a list of runs that I either needed or really enjoyed, and categorically refuse to run anything else.   I could turn off WOW and go clean my house.  No, not really.  That third one was just silly. But I’ve come up with a couple of solutions that are not so drastic as these to keep this tree blooming and happy, willing to spread the leafy goodness around.  They are not perfect or complete solutions, but for me they seem to be doing the trick.  Even though I’m resto, this druid needed some balance in her life. 

Here’s some places I found it.

1. Loosening up the bank vault:  I’m a terrific hoarder of mats. Leatherworking mats, enchanting mats, gear for 3 specs (even though the moon will fall out of the sky before I use my druid to tank), all KINDS of goodies find their way into my bank, or my bank toon’s bank, never again to see the light of day.  I’ve recently started to let these things make their way to the auction house or the vendor.  Sure, some guildie might need me to make something for them and I won’t have the mats immediately on hand.  This is a possibility.  But then he can farm the mats.  Or I can.  Or we can together.  Surely the world will not end if I auction some of the goods I’ve leveled a profession to make, right?

2. Providing the hook up:  To assuage some of my guilt over saying no to healing a run, I’ve been trying to hook up friends or guildies who might not have otherwise run together. So when someone asks me to heal heroic Old Kingdom, I might say to them, “You know that run is almost impossible with a resto druid in the group, right?  Let me see if my holy pally friend is busy.  Maybe he can go with you.”  Even if the hookup doesn’t happen, I still feel better for having actively tried to help, rather than just saying “no, kthxbye”.

3. One hand washes the other: I’ve recently, when asked to heal a run, let some of my friends know that I need to get some work of my own done, and asked them if they would mind helping to speed me through some dailies if I help to heal their instance.  This is definitely a win-win arrangement for all involved.

4. Where’s Syll?: I confess; I hide on alts.  DPS alts.  This doesn’t cut out on all of my invitations to heal, as many of my friends know who my alts are, but it does reduce the number of invites when I just don’t feel like being a productive member of society.

5. Offpeak hours: I have a pretty strange sleeping schedule, and often am wide awake at 4:00 a.m. 4:00 a.m. is a wonderful time in WOW. Nothing is camped. Quest mobs abound. Quiet scenery is there for me to soak up at will. I get a lot done at 4:00 a.m.

Although these strategies are not perfect, they’ve made me a much happier healer.  I have a comfortable amount of gold in my bank, I’m quite a bit happier to run the instances I do run, and I have a clear conscience about how I’m spending my time in WOW.  No one wants their game to become their work.  I know I don’t.  It is my disposition to be most happy in the support role that healers inhabit.  As a rule, I adore healing raids and instances.  But WOW is a huge game that offers opportunities for me to indulge many other aspects of my personality, as well.  I can be social or introspect, helpful or greedy, ambitious or a big lazy sloth.  It’s a relief to work out these balances.  It makes my healing stronger.

Image courtesy of barunpatro

Loot Council and You: One Player’s Take On Loot Council and Casual Raiding

Loot Council and You: One Player’s Take On Loot Council and Casual Raiding

froggy

This is a guest post from @katagirl, Matt’s fellow guildie and a WoW Twitterati

Since this blog has its fair share of priests and druid posters – I thought it was high time for a Paladin to step up and give her two cents. There’s been a lot of discussion about the way the Loot Council structure is set up, and I wanted to share my take on it.

My story

My name is Kata, and I’ve been playing WoW for about two and a half years. I’m currently in Conquest, being known as “Queen Pally” or “hey, you’re on Rez Duty…” depending on the day.

Up until WotLK came out, I was part of a few very casual raiding guilds. It was first come, first serve to raid signups, very relaxed hours and atmospheres and don’t even get me started on Ventrilo during raids on Lurker. You’d need pain meds just to log in. I popped around a bit, even launched my own guild for a while that never got to raiding (that’s another saga completely). When Matticus started pitching Conquest, I chimed in pretty quick with ideas and feedback through Twitter and got a good dialogue going. I transferred in and the rest is history.

Anyways, back to loot distribution. I’ve raided with guilds that both use the standard /roll with a Master Looter, and with some version of DKP/ EPGP. Conquest was my first experience with a Loot Council, and to be honest I was a bit hesitant. I was spending money to transfer servers to put myself at the mercy of leadership that mostly knew each other. There was nothing keeping them from looting everything to each other based on their friendships in times previous.

I transferred and began the arduous grind to 80. The first official week’s raid schedule I sat out on, gearing up and watching all these strangers get boss loot. I’ve now been raiding with Conquest for a full month.

I really don’t write this kind of thing, so forgive me if I tend to wax narrative.

My verdict: Our Loot Council works. I’m in a unique position as a plate-wearing healer to be able to pick up any gear. At the beginning, even cloth pieces were upgrades for me. I had interest on a lot of pieces. There were many times my major +healing upgrade would be passed over for a minor upgrade for a priest/lock/druid. But just as many times as I sat at the end of a boss fight without gear, I was rewarded with major improvements over the first few weeks. Other players occasionally even withdrew their interest if they saw it’d gear me up – and that is impressive.

Not once have I felt that there has been a partiality in the distribution of loots by the loot council. Sometimes it did take longer to distribute loot at the end of a boss fight, but it was almost always accompanied by an explanation of the decision.

One thing I expected with a loot council system would be the likelihood of raid members to complain or protest decisions. From time to time, there’s the occasional light-hearted bickering – but I have yet to experience someone throw a fit because they did not get a piece of gear. As I mentioned before, I’ve seen players pass on upgrades for others. That was always a rarity when I raided with a DKP model. The Loot Council approach seems to shift the focus from a “me, me!” attitude to a “we, together” attitude. And it seems to be working. At last research, warcrafter.net had Conquest listed as one of the top geared progression guilds on our server, and top 500 out of over 40,000 guilds in US/North America. (not to brag, or anything!)

How can the loot council work in your guild?

Matt’s posted some great guidelines that he’s used for setting up our loot council. From where I sit, the most important things are being approachable and working towards a team mentality. I know that any of our officers are willing to hear me out if I have an issue or complaint. My opinions are valued, which then in turn makes me respect my leaders. As I’ve seen in Conquest, when the focus is on the team first and individual second things work out smoothly.

Other curious raiding notes

  • Naxx music is creepy if you’re the first one in the instance and you have your speakers turned up.
  • Toy Trains need to be patched so that they cannot be dropped in an instance.
  • Of all the bosses in Naxx, Matt has the hardest time with the Frogger boss. Ask me how I got my position…

Just because I have this public forum, I thought I ought to thank two amazing Paladins that guided me on my experience – Alyeska and Xonelith, who both popped around various servers with me. Without them – I wouldn’t be raiding today. (again with the fiction-type writing with a dedication… but I couldn’t help myself). And to all the players I’ve had the honor to work with… except the few that drop toy trains in raids. YOU know who you are.

Circle of Heartbreak: Proposed Fixes

Circle of Heartbreak: Proposed Fixes

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This a guest post by Jason who examines other ways that Circle of Healing can be “fixed” other than using a cooldown.

Within my guild I’m referred to as the “Pre-Nerf Priest,” lovingly, I’m sure.  However, I’ve recently started getting in-game whispers asking me to heal some heroic “before the nerf hits.”  It’s one thing for gentle ribbing from your guild, those you live, die, and progress with.  It’s a different matter entirely when strangers are bringing it up in the first line of dialogue they’ve ever had with you.  It’s the latter scenario that has really opened my eyes to just how big this coming change is.  Not only are the Priests concerned, but also it appears that every class is painfully aware of what’s to come.

Of course I’m referring to the proposed Circle of Healing nerf coming in patch 3.0.8.  For the uninitiated, Circle of Healing is the spell responsible for life on this planet, grants Chuck Norris-like invincibility allowing all DPS to AoE at will with no ill consequences whatsoever, and (rumor has it) Circle of Healing has beaten WoW.

Twice.

Alright, so maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration. Circle of Healing (CoH) is actually one of four AoE healing spells available to Holy Priests, and the only one requiring a specific talent build as it’s the 41-point talent in the Holy tree. CoH heals five targets in the party or raid within 15 yards of the target. It is one of two spells that can effect targets in the entire raid, and it and Wild Growth (Druid specific ability) are the only instant-cast AoE heal in the game with no cool down timer. In that last part we find our problem.

Blizzard has expressed concern with the over-use of CoH by holy Priests. I’ve personally witnessed usage up to 50-60%. Blizz reports that there are individuals out there who are using it 70% of the time or more. Understandably, they feel that if we’re leaning on the spell this heavily, it’s overpowered.

The proposed nerf is a 6-second cool down to be applied to the spell.  To me this means the spell isn’t healing for too much, it’s an issue with the raw number of times it’s being cast in a raid/dungeon. Their developers and designers put a lot of hard work into those other spells, and dang-it, you need to use them more!

For me, CoH has always been that emergency spell I can pull out of my pocket when things are out of hand or when the boss mechanic calls for it.  Those accidental patrol pulls with vicious AoE, Loatheb’s 4-second window to heal, Malygos’s Vortex ability are all examples of situations where CoH is a godsend and can save a raid.  This is the true value of the spell: the utility of it.  Yes, the 6-second cool down would indeed lower the number of times a Priest can use CoH in an encounter, but it also removes all the previously mentioned utility and, to me, removes all purpose and uniqueness from the spell. 

Further, how creative is a 6-second cool down?  Come on Blizz, you can do better.  However, since you seem set on your solution, let me propose a few of my own.  The idea here is to create a limitation on the use of CoH by giving the players a choice with consequences, as well as retain the core purpose of the spell. 

Think of healing as a water balloon fight. Throwing a water balloon at a single target is relatively easy.  You have one balloon, one target, and two hands (in most cases).  You’re clearly well equipped for this task.  Now take 5 water balloons (6 if you have a special piece of paper stuffed into a book) and hit the 5 driest targets at the same time.  Not so easy is it?  Not only do you have to aim these 5 harbingers of the soak, but it also takes 5 times the effort to throw them.

Yes, you could alleviate the additional strain by waiting 6 seconds between tosses to make up for the additional strain.  However, the purpose of all these water balloons is to make a lot of people wet, fast, in the case of a heat wave.  What do you do?  You have two choices.  Toss progressively smaller and lighter water balloons until you are no longer able to do so, or continue to strain with the same size balloons, throwing slower and slower until your arms give out.  At that point you rest, recover your strength, and are able to resume barraging your victims… err… targets. 

So let’s apply this to CoH with some game-specific mechanics.  While there are several ways to do this, I’m going to mention the two that makes the most sense to me:

Holy Exertion
– Casting CoH causes the debuff “Holy Exertion” to appear on the caster.  The debuff lasts for 6 seconds and can stack up to X number of times, with each cast of CoH refreshing the debuff timer.  Each additional debuff lowers the effectiveness of CoH by a set amount in one of three ways (not all three, just pick one):

  • With each use of CoH within the 6 second window, one less target receives the heal until it reaches 0.
  • Each cast heals for Y% less healing until the amount healed reaches 0.  So if Y is 25%, then after four CoH casts within a 6-second window, you have 6             seconds before casting it will generate heals again.
  • Increased mana usage.  Each cast within the debuff window requires 50% more mana, for example. 

Holy Exhaustion – Similar to the above mechanic with a 6 second timer on a “Holy Exhaustion” debuff, however, there is a more severe penalty for over-using CoH.  In this case, all of your healing spells would be impacted by your decision to use, or not use CoH.  See the following two possibilities:

  • Every time you cast CoH while the debuff is active, you become exhausted.  Each cast causes some percentage decline in your haste rating.  For example, you cast CoH once, the debuff becomes active, no haste penalty.  You cast it again within that 6-second window, and you take a 5% haste penalty.  Again and it’s 10%, then 15%, and so on and so forth.  Sure, this won’t impact CoH as it’s an instant heal, but 6 seconds with a flash or greater heal that takes 50% longer to cast could be fatal to a tank or dps player.
  • The other option is that once the debuff reaches a specific number, you are exhausted and can no longer cast any spells for 6 seconds.

So why are these better solutions to the problem than just slapping on a 6-second cool down?  These allow the spell to remain true to its design and purpose while adding a degree of penalty if over-used.  Now instead of spamming CoH, or under the proposed solution, hitting it and counting to 6, we have to analyze the fight on the fly.  Is it worth taking a possible haste reduction or losing all my heals for 6 seconds to get off this one last CoH? 

Blizzard has said they want to make healing “more fun” and move away from the whack-a-mole model we currently have.  I think they have a great opportunity to start moving in that direction with the CoH change.  Let the players know the risks and weigh the consequences.  Give us something with substance to it, not just another bland spell we’ll tap every 6 seconds.

Image courtesy of woodsy