Sunday, 8 April 2012

Sunday Sermon: time to mix things up!

Mmmmmm... chocolate.

This week I wrote an article about my guide to writing a successful Blog. Well according to the comments and the hit's tracker that in and of itself has already become pretty successful, although I accept it's a little bit on the long side. However, in that Blog I talked about the fact that my own Blog wasn't perhaps quite as awesome as I'd like it to be, I always open to suggestions and criticism. The plan for me was pretty much always to take year 1 as a recon mission. Go out into the big wide world, get behind enemy lines and gather as much intelligence as I could. Project Frontline Gamer was a long-term endeavour and certainly wasn't just short-term. Hell, I even have a 5 year plan! Something the USA and UK should have had before invading Afghanistan and Iraq... but I digress.

I always planned for instance to have a very basic layout at first, and just concentrate on the content and not the look of the damn Blog. I wanted to purely focus on what I wrote, I wanted my early readers to come here not because it had awesome gadgets, but because what I wrote pulled them here. I think it worked rather well if I say so myself! I honestly thought that 'operation put myself out there' would take longer than it did, but Phase 2: Make it look prettier, started long before I thought it would. So last October I tarted the place up a bit with a banner an a few more useful gadgets like my Blog roll, and my system files (although those need a revamp now along with much of what I do on here). In short it's meant to have been a slow methodical process of building things up, learning and finding my way steadily... and it has gone a little bit faster than I would have liked it too if I'm honest.

Phase 3, was supposed to commence around the 24 months into Blogging in my original plan. But, as things seem to be going so well I decided I'd start phase 3: content control and tweaking, around the first year anniversary mark. That went out of the window too, after asking readers to get in touch with me I've had a bit of momentum behind me, and as I race towards 11 months of Blogging I find myself wanting to get started on phase 3 a little bit earlier. So I'll be starting to mix things up a bit. The first thing you'll hopefully notice is that I'll be putting some 'pages' up that will hopefully make this Blog a little bit more personable and useful to those who stumble across it for the first time. I also have a few ideas about a certain page, which hopefully veterans of the site and newcomers alike might find useful, or at the very least an interesting experiment. I'll tell you more when it is up and running, but I'll no doubt need support on this one from you lot to make it work. The first thing I've added though is the Google Website Translator Gadget. I hope it proves useful to some of you, although I know its implementation is far from perfect.

So you'll probably see a few things changing here and there as the Blog gets updated and me and Dr Brainiac fiddle about with the HTML code of the template as best we can, to I get things looking just how I want them to. Well no actually, to get things looking as best I can on Bloggers limited platform... That's phase 5 by the way, migrate this across to being its own website fully controlled by me! But for now, I'm sticking with Blogger and my experiments in Blogging. I'll also probably split my Blog roll into 2 or possibly 3 depending on how I'm feeling. This is to make sure that everyone get's their moment in the sun so to speak on my Blog. There will be far more to phase 3 than just putting some pages up and more gadgets and dohikeys around the place... but... I'm not quite yet ready to reveal what those things are just now. So you'll just have to wait to see what those things are. So I'm asking you to bear with me while I mess around with the Blog and see how much of it is editable, as I'm probably not going to be on my normal schedule for a short while longer.

Why else would we do it?

However, here's the reason I'm telling you all this... I think it's important to mix things up from time to time. Do things a bit differently if you can, take a chance or a risk or two. Take stock and review what you're doing and see if you can improve things. What better time to do this than around springtime? So go on have a bit of a Blog spring clean, take a look around the place. Does that Blog banner need replacing with something swankier? Could you do with putting a Blog roll up? What about the layout and articles you produce? Just take stock of what you're doing and decide what you want to do. You might just sit back in your chair and have a look around while allowing a smug grin to spread across your face as you realise how awesome your Blog is and how utterly perfect you are... if you do, well sod you Mr or Mrs Perfect! You can go off and stuff yourself with all that Easter chocolate you've got.

But, sometimes we can rest on our laurels can't we? We think we're doing fine so why rock the boat? Normally I'm not one for change for changes sake, but I'm also not a fan of stagnation either! Now I know in my hints and tips I told everyone to try and get into a routine, and I still think that's sound advice, but on the flip side you don't want to get into a rut either do you? so every now and then it pays out to shake things up a bit, and try doing some different things. A change is as good as a break and all that, so why don't you all try to do one thing differently with your Blog over the next week or two? See how it goes, you never know you might enjoy mixing things up a bit and it could take you somewhere new and exciting. Besides you're going to run out of Easter chocolate eventually and then you'll need something else to occupy your time. Peace out!


  1. May I inquire what platforms you are looking at once you leave Blogger? (If you saw Wordpress I will quit you, I will!)

    Also, have you thought about putting the pages up to see if one topic seems to draw over the other?

    1. The platform would be my own website that I'd sort out myself, because I don't like having to faff about with other peoples platforms. I've designed a number of professional websites for firms and done a fairly handy job of it. It's a long way off though as I've still got lots of things I need to sort here first. I need to get nailed down what 'this' is before I start racing off into the distance.

  2. I wait eagerly to see what the new changes will be. Well, mostly eagerly. Sort of. I'll just go back to my chocolate now.

    I am wondering if there'll be new types of articles. I don't know what yu could add and ceep it gaming related and in the same lovable style you've got. You don't seem to be the Space Marines meet Darthader fanfic type. Thankfully.

    1. Yep there will be 'newish' types of article. I guess you could say my Blog is a bit heavy on the review side and the theoretical side of the hobby. I guess I'm trying to branch out and get a bit more hands on if you will. Do some more painting tye article because some people have really liked those, and also some other hobby stuff. I'll also be looking to do some Battle reports and maybe some other more creative things... we;ll see how the next two months go!!!

  3. I still question the readability of this theme. My eyes are good, but if it bothers my eyes... You need to find someone 50 or better yet 60+ and ask them to read an article or two and see if they complain.

    As for Blogger/Blogspot and blogrolls, its overrated. Only in miniature painting hobby circles do I see so many Blogger/Blogspot blogs. I know you're allowed to make money or at least put up ads on Blogger, but if you pay for hosting you can do whatever you want. I should revisit my hosting I think I pay for a lot of bandwidth I don't use. One thing you have to worry about in self hosting is bandwidth thieves. They cost me money until I made an extremely aggressive anti-hotlinking solution.

    I of course would advocate WordPress, it has more themes, more plugins, more tutorials, and more brains working on it as it is open source. Normally I'm not so pro open source and I'm definitely not pro-PHP, but WordPress honestly works pretty well especially fresh installs. It is five or six year old installs that have been patched and tweaked extensively where I run into problems.

    One problem you will have is forwarding, you'll lose all the GoogleJuice from incoming links you've acquired when you switch to a non-blogspot domain. You'll also fall from the good graces of Google and loose access to Google Friend Connect, but that's OK, because Google would rather you use Google+. You could also do tighter integration with Facebook and Twitter as Google sees them as enemies, not sure how Google sees Pinterest, but that is now the 3rd most popular social network in North America so it will filter into the miniature painting hobby, I've already started using it and I of course built and continue to tweak my miniature painting news aggregator. I know there is a WordPress + SimplePie plugin, so maybe more people will use that in the blogroll obsessed painting circles. ;-)

    Oh and Google and other search engines no when a link is in the sidebar or the comments and it is near worthless for PageRank purposes, but real people click on them and slowly the Internet is starting to come around to real people being more important than search engine rankings. Tumblr is a mess in my opinion from a search engine optimization and quality control point of view, but it was the trendy new blogging platform for about six months, now people (and marketers) are rushing to Pinterest.


    PS Blogspot and Tumblr allow and tolerate adult material, this is an issue with big name brand advertisers, on it seems to be less an issue and Pinterest flat out forbids nudity in their usage agreement. FWIW

    1. On the theme of the Blog, it actually IS very close to the easiest scheme on peoples eyes to read. The easiest is a very dark charcoal grey, with very pale almost white text. As somebody with scotopic sensitivity, no matter how mild, I did not want to alienate anyone unnecessarily. So I did my research on that. A number of 60+ people I know read the Blog (my dads friends who helped get me into the hobby) and one or two have commented on here too. I'll ask them directly though if they find it a problem or if it's difficult on their eyes. Truth is though perception and comprehension are very individual things. For instance green text on yellow backgrounds is supposedly very hard to read... yet I actually have very little problems with text laid out in that way, it appears clearer to me than most set ups actually.

      You say Blogger and Blogrolls are overrated, and maybe they are, but I know from a number of people that they get most of their traffic from my site. That can only be via the Blogroll to the right of this Blog because I rarely do 'shout outs' to people and some of them I've not mentioned before in my own articles. So overrated or not it has value within this 'small' community you seem to like having snide digs at.

      Seriously all 3 of your comments so far on here could be read as having a pop at me personally or the wargaming community in general. I've taken your criticisms and indeed your advice at face value so far. However if you continue to make snide comments along the lines of 'blogroll obsessed painting circles' I might have to start thinking differently. You actually sound a little bit bitter if I'm honest. What about I'm not too sure, but there's certainly a hint of it that comes through in your comments.

      If that's not what you intended then I urge you to go back and have a re-read of your comments on here and think about how maybe they could come across. I've asked the other half what she thinks, and she thinks the comments contain a bit of spite, and could be coloured with a tinge of sniping. No prompting from me, she came to similar conclusions. I know that the written word can cause communication difficulties so I'm not going to read too much into it, but I'd suggest you have a look at how you come across. Because if you are genuinely trying to be helpful (and I have no reason to believe you aren't) your tone could be counter productive to some.