If there is one offer I have heard repeatedly over the soon-to-be-seven years I have been blogging, it is the one where I am asked to join a community. The offer inevitably requests that I make this community my blogging platform, that I give up my independence.
Sometimes the offers are heartfelt and genuine from members of what I would consider my own “block” in the MMO blogesphere, for lack of a better analogy. Certainly GAX Online, despite how it turned out, was an honest effort to try and bring some MMO people closer together. Gary and Ryan invested a lot of time and effort in something that never quite got a life of its own.
Sometimes things have been more ad hoc, like Beau Hindman’s MMO gamer/blogger group on Ning, which likewise became more of a burden as time went along until he had to let it go.
There was a big push at one point in the name of “gamer social networking,” a concept that was never quite clear to me. GAX Online was part of that, but there were certainly other groups out there. Xfire and Raptr both aspire to take their game tracking and IM service into that realm. I would be interested to know what percentage of their active users on either service ever posts or comments on their main sites.
And sometimes the offers are crass attempts to find people to create free content to drive ad revenue. Not that I think such sites should be run as charities.
Certainly I never had a problem with services like Blog Top Sites and their business model, though I took down their tracker and stopped using the site eventually more out of a desire to clean up my side bar than anything else. And I genuinely miss Massive Blips nearly three years later. But they never asked for the serious buy-in of giving up my independence.
But a good chunk of the personal appeals are from site that want to be your blogging platform. They always spell out the ill-defined benefit of greater exposure for your writing (my nothing blog usually has a better PageRank and Alexa numbers) while neglecting the fact that your writing will be placed outside of your control on an ad infested hell-hole of a site that likely to fold up the moment the kid running it figures out that it isn’t a path to easy money.
And all this time, I have never jumped in, not for the genuine nor the crass.
This has been in large part because of stubborn desire to maintain my independence. And that has been mostly a desire to preserve my ability to post about whatever I feel like, to not feel constrained because I am on a site that is just about a single game or genre or whatever. I want to be able to post about Pokemon events or dead cats or Memorial Day or whatever hell I feel like on a given day. And I am not keen to give up control to somebody else who can lock me out or take down my work. Granted, to be on the internet you are always at somebody’s mercy. But I trust more in WordPress.com than most; more than I do in Google at this juncture, and certainly more than I do when it comes to some stranger cold calling me about their new community and platform.
However, that is not the only reason.
The other main reason is that I have never felt a lack of community.
Now, to a certain extent, I have been fortunate. I wandered onto the scene at just the moment when Brent at VirginWorlds was coming into his MMO podcasting prime, was swept up in that moment of MMO enthusiasm, and became one of the blogs in orbit of his site. Michael Zenke even put me in his “MMO blogs” addendum to the “Blogepelago” in the XKCD Online Communities cartoon from 2007.
Looking at the original cartoon, that was a long time ago in internet years. But those bloggers and quite a few more were my community, my peers, my betters, my co-conspirators, my friends, my enemies, and quite a few states in between. We commented on each others posts, or took offense and wrote scathing responses on our own blogs. We appeared on podcasts together. We played the occasional game together. A few of us even met up in person now and again. I have photographic proof from GDC 2010, GDC 2009, and GDC 2008 (which also shows my full range of facial hair options).
Things have ebbed somewhat from the high point of the blogs clustered around VirginWorlds. People have moved on. Blogs have stopped being updated or have disappeared altogether. Podcasts have faded. And we have all grown a few years older and probably a couple pounds heavier.
Furthermore, there are more distractions and more options for community. That XKCD cartoon from 2007 was redone in 2010. During the intervening years we saw the rise of Facebook and Twitter. They were barely things at all when I started blogging. Tumblr has come along for a different style of blogging, while Google+ showed up to try and grab some of Facebook’s domination of frustrating interface design. And I don’t even know what to say about live streaming, except to say that I do not get it. Why would I want to watch you play a game rather than just playing it myself? Sure, sometimes there is a big event worth watching… or Jita Cam (which is down… damn… will Freebooted idle cam suffice?)… but most of the time it strikes me as a “so what?” sort of venture. But then I consistently write summaries of what I did in game. Why would you read that rather than playing?
And all of this new stuff has drawn off people that seven years ago might have been reading or writing blogs.
Psychochild asked where the bloggers have gone. (A good posts that links to some other good posts on the subject.) Certainly in our little corner of the internet numbers have declined due to media fragmentation and burn out. But bloggers still exist. And new ones show up on the scene. The mortality rate is high, certainly. The New Blogger Initiative saw 110 blogs start, but only 30 were going a year later, numbers which matched up to my own survey of linking blogs from the a while back. But new blood does show up.
And there is still a community of bloggers and commentors and readers who frequent our little cluster of blogs.
All of which makes me sigh in that oh-so-very-tired way when a doomsayer crawls out of the woodwork and attempts to set the narrative with a “join or die” style pronouncement about their idea of community.
This revolves around a bit of EVE Online drama… and what is EVE Online some days but a drama generation engine masquerading as an online game… wherein Marc Scaurus, who at a past time took over the operation of the the EVE Blog Pack and evebloggers.com decided to hand over the reigns. He announced this a couple of weeks back, asking for volunteers to take over the two. His own view was that the two might be past their prime and that he might not get any interest. The EVE Blog Pack just turned five years old and evebloggers.com, a blog feed aggregation site for EVE related blogs, has likewise been around for a while, making them both children of the pre-social media blogging era.
The drama comes from a condition he set for the hand over, which was that past proprietors of either of the two services were ineligible to apply. Alexia Morgan, the previous owner of evebloggers.com, wanted to get the site back and, when denied, began to spin a conspiracy theory about Marc actually planning to kill both services to the greater glory of his work at The Mittani.com.
Par for the course in the land of EVE.
But Alexia Morgan has a plan. He has evebloggers.net (not to be confused with evebloggers.com!) which he plans to turn into an EVE Online blogging community. And you’re welcome to be a part of it, as long as you do your blogging on his site and basically hand over control of and access to your work to him.
Did I mention that he HAD evebloggers.com and gave it up?
That is not a glowing recommendation in my book and part of the reason I was personally on board with Marc’s restriction on no past owners.
But there is more, which is all laid out pretty well in an interview over at Warp Drive Active. And the key for me is Alexia Morgan’s apparent anger at and/or anxiety about independent blogs in the EVE Online community. He clearly doesn’t like them and thinks they should all just surrender control to him in the name of community. You are in or you are out. If you are in, you are pro-community, and if you are out, well you are clearly anti-community.
Key quotes and reactions that pretty much mirror my own have been posted by Nosy Gamer and Marc Scaurus. You should read both of those, along with the interview that prompted them, if this interests you.
For me, it mostly just indicates a misunderstanding of what community really is (exclusion, and telling independent bloggers to “go screw themselves,” certainly doesn’t enter into my idea of community) piled on top of my past experience with such ventures as detailed at the top of this post. I would clearly be out, were I an EVE Online blogger. (I don’t think my other blog really counts, being all pictures.)
And so it goes. This might have been something worth getting worked up about had this been my first rodeo.
But it does get us back to an ongoing discussion about the place blogs hold in the community. It is certainly true that some MMO companies, like SOE, used to pay much more attention to the blogesphere just five years back (I was even linked on EQ2Players.com a few times), though others, like Blizzard, never officially acknowledged that such a community existed outside of their control. Even some MMO news sites like Massively, which used to reach out to the blogging community now and again, have now largely turned their backs on blogs. But is that the end of things?
Where do you think blogs in general, and MMO gaming blogs in particular, are headed these days? Has progress passed them by? Are they relics of a bygone age?
Or have they just gone from being the latest “new” thing to being just part of the norm and have settled down?
And is there really a blogging community out there? Am I just making that up in my head, or do you feel like you are a part of it as well?
Addendum – Some responses, indicating that our little blog cluster is still functioning. Look, community!
Marc Scaurus: Blogging Lives On
Morphisat: MMO Blogging
Ravious: Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?
SynCaine: The Blogs Reflect the Genre
Jeromai: Blogging Cowboys of the Modern Age
Tobold: Blogging is Dying
Bhagpuss: Please Yourself
Random Waypoint: Where have I gone?
Jester’s Trek: Ancillary Conversation Booster
GamingSF: Navel Gazing
Blessing of Kings: The End of MMO Blogging
Healing the Masses: Blogging Diversity and Growth
Going Commando: MMO Blogging
T. R. Red Skies: MMO Community Trends