Blaugust – Topics and Brainstorming

I’ve been trying to come up with a “topic brainstorming week” type of topic since the middle of last week, and while I have, it certainly feels counterintuitive. I’ve mentioned previously my written topic list, but it’s important to remember that I don’t generally sit around trying to come up with those ideas, I just write them down when they occur to me.

That’s really the underlying problem I’m having, I don’t do a lot of sitting around trying to “think of” post topics. If I have a lack of ideas in the moment, I simply go look at the list. If I’m really at a loss, I generally just go about my business in the expectation that something will eventually strike me. Failing that I can simply write about feeling uninspired and why I think that is.

Anything I would consider brainstorming that might occur would be after I’ve chosen a topic, as I’m putting my thoughts in order before I write it. This is usually a matter of not being in a position to write at that exact moment, so I think it through instead.

In fact, many posts get stuck at the “thinking about it” stage. It took me quite some time to discuss some of the FFXIV lore because I had a hard time nailing down a good approach to the specific topic I wanted to address. This post itself is a direct result of me trying to outline a weekly topic-related post of some sort. Not that I think of myself as particularly qualified to provide advice, but opinions and perspective are the name of the game.

This leaves me with the conclusion that I do use brainstorming in the process of writing about a specific topic, though not so much about the topics themselves. I also feel the intent may have been to provide a starting point for others to use in their own writing, and I’m not sure I’ve done that either.

Ultimately, I think that blogging is itself a sort of brainstorming activity for me. Many of the things I write about I choose because I’m actively thinking about that topic and I feel like I have something to say about it. At the same time, I’m also exploring and refining those thoughts. It’s one thing to hold an idea in your head, but the process of trying to commit it to “words on paper” requires me to refine it into a communicable idea.

Think that’s it for today folks. Y’all take care.


BlaugustBOnlylogoIn case you haven’t heard, we’re in the middle of an event called Blaugust. The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

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Blaugust – Writing Ahead

I’ve talked about topic planning and making time, but something that’s really saved my bacon is writing ahead. If nothing else, it’s nice to have a post or two sitting around ready to go for days when inspiration and/or time run short. Of course, you have to spend the time to write ahead which isn’t always easy.

When I finish a post a little early within my designated “writing time” and I feel adequately motivated, I go ahead and start on the next one, if I know what it is. I’m a little more cautious about this if I’m already a day ahead, though, because I occasionally like to talk about current events or news and like to do so in a timely manner. I wrote several days ahead last Blaugust and I felt like my posts were a little stale by the time they went live. I didn’t feel like I was writing about the present anymore and if I wanted to that meant I’d have to push a post out even further. I settled on one day for myself because I don’t mind delaying one post by one day in order to be more timely about a specific topic. I’m sure that balance is different for everyone.

timetable

It’s a little different with posts like this one. I have a vague timeline/schedule that I’m following and can write ahead and/or move these around as I please, within reason. For example, I’m actually writing this on Monday, or starting it at least, and if it was posted on Thursday then all is right in my world.

Notice, though, that I left gaps between those. That was done on purpose, to give me a chance to write about other things. I do this during events like Blaugust so that my topic ideas, which are on the opposite page, have a home. Even if I don’t write them until a day or so ahead of time, I know I’m going to be I spend some time thinking about what I want to say, gathering up some screenshots, images, and/or links to put in. Though I guess that’s more planning ahead than writing ahead.

A good example of using these gaps is that my post on the 31st about Drakore games was not the original intended and scheduled post for that morning, but I felt like writing about it while it was still timely. I had originally intended to do a commentary on the most recent FFXIV patch and even wrote about half of it, but decided I didn’t have a lot to add to what’s already been said, so I reverted it to draft status and haven’t gone back to it.

It’s not for everyone either. I thrive on consistency and planning, but I’m me and you’re you. My way of doing things certainly isn’t the only way, or even the best way, but it’s my way and I like it.

With this being my first post in August proper, I’m glad to have y’all here. I hope you enjoy and appreciate your time, as well as the time of all the other participants and contributors.

Good luck, take care, and stay safe. Let’s start this shit up.


BlaugustBOnlylogoIn case you haven’t heard, we’re in the middle of an event called Blaugust. The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Blaugust – How I Found and/or Made Time

Last year, one of the things I really didn’t have a handle on was my schedule. My weekday schedule is pretty consistent, and I have really become attached to that consistency. I also don’t like being watched or observed in the process of writing.

What I ended up doing, knowing this, is looking for the times at which I wasn’t particularly busy, like vaguely reading reddit or skimming the news and matched those up with times when I was generally unbothered.

The most obvious of these was in the morning after everything is started up and running but before anything had a chance to get busy and go pear-shaped. In fact, a lot of my writing in the week still happens during that time. It naturally worked out to be a good time. This is also why most of my posts get scheduled for 10 AM. If I feel like it’s “done” then I go ahead and schedule it. If not, I’ll leave it for review that evening or the next morning.

It does occasionally happen that I don’t get an opportunity to write or finish a post during that time, which is fine. Life happens. In those circumstances, I work on it shortly after I get home. I get the essentials out of the way, dinner and all that, let my brother know that I’ve got a post to work on before I can play and get to it.

The willingness to make time for it has really been the biggest part of it. Making it a priority over the things I would normally do during that time in order to see it through. There is a bit of a problem here, though, and that’s resentment.

Now, there are certainly times where I’m less than thrilled about the prospect of working on a post instead of whatever else I was going to do. I typically still choose to do it anyway because if I abandoned everything the moment I didn’t want to do it anymore, I wouldn’t get anything done. That and the whole idea behind my participation was to prove to myself that I could do it. You should never find yourself resenting the effort, especially not every day. I think the difference is an internal one. “I’m making this sacrifice for X reason and I’m okay with that” vs. “Why am I doing this again?” It’s really easy to overstep the first one though and find that you sacrificed more than you like. That’s a normal part of the learning process and simply means you got priorities a little backward. Once you realize that you can correct it when it comes up in the future.

That said, you cannot do it to the exclusion of all else. While I am immensely glad I took some classes during the Summer semester, I grossly underestimated the load it would place on my schedule. They involved a lot of writing and not the loose informal style I use here, but proper MLA essay writing. I ultimately had to choose to write the classwork instead of the blog posts in order to keep up. I do not regret those choices because I understand that my blog is writing for pleasure, really, and the classwork has a measurable impact on my future and my family’s future. I will not have my time and taxpayers’ money spent in vain.

I’m dearly hoping that this coming Autumn semester will be at least a little less intense. Enough to at least allow me to continue writing blog posts, amongst everything else.

Hopefully this helps. Y’all stay safe, and watch out for burnout. It’s a sneaky bugger.

It’s Been Like, Six Months, Scoob

Suddenly occurs to me this morning that Blaugust started over six months ago. That means I’ve been doing this about ten times longer than my typical project. A nice victory, to be sure. In my revelation I took the time to go through some of my older posts, particularly the more meta ones where I was talking about the blog itself. I’ve pulled out a few quotes out that I found interesting.

Maybe it’s some form of guilt. I look at all my past endeavors and see a long string of abandoned and/or forgotten projects. In a way I think I fear this will join that list, ultimately. – Pre-Project Jitters

Yep, long standing problem, but between the blog and a few other random I have sufficient evidence to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. Some thing stick, some things don’t, and some come and go like tides. Among the things I talked about in the earlier days that I haven’t brought up in a while are Warframe, cause I haven’t played it and haven’t seen much I wanted to comment on, and Elite: Dangerous, which actually does have some interesting things going on, including a massive player expedition to the far reaches of the galaxy. I’ve just been hanging back seeing how it goes for me. Last I read they were having some issues, but they weren’t catastrophic.

Turns out there’s going to be something called Blaugust. A month long event encouraging anyone to blog. One post, thirty posts, whatever.

So they’re talking about the YouTube, podcasts, and blogs. I’m thinking about the various ventures I’ve started and left incomplete and figure “screw it, what I got to lose?” So I signed up, and here I am.

Let’s do this. – Everything must have a beginning – My first post

I’ve been taking this stance more and more often as the blog has gone on. In fact, I believe I’ve said the same thing about this statement before. Thing over there I want to check out? What have I got to lose? Of course, where money is concerned, it’s a little different, but I’ve been getting slightly bolder over time. To the extent that I actually submitted a college application this morning. I mean, worse case scenario I get denied and I’m out the application fee. It’s really a small cost compared to getting accepted.

Once I’ve done that, I go back through and start placing some images throughout the post. It just doesn’t feel right to post this giant wall of text. I honestly don’t think anybody cares or wants to read about it to begin with and that it evokes a sort of “omg, I am not reading all that” sort of reaction. – My Blogging Process

vanhelsing
My approximate reaction to reading that one. Image from Hotel Transylvania 3.

Hehe, man I totally didn’t stick to that. My current schedule simply doesn’t allow me to easily throw pictures into everything. All my good editing software is on my PC at home and that’s where the least of my writing occurs at the moment. This was not the case earlier on when I had the 10AM post schedule, but that’s because I was writing them the evening before. I could probably try a little harder though.

I’m going to leave you guys with a quote today. I linked to this in one of my posts back in August and wanted to include it here as well. It wasn’t directed specifically at me, but it was relevant then and now. Y’all take care.

Because, really, it is. The fact that you decided to blog (or stream, or just be a content creator in any sense), whether it was yesterday, or ten years ago, is a huge accomplishment. It may seem like it’s something that everybody does, but I think that’s because we’re in the thick of it.

So remember as Blaugust continues, regardless of what you accomplish compared to your own goals (or what you think they should be), you are successful, you are deserving of being a part of this community, and you’re not the only one who feels this way. – Chestnut – Impostor Syndrome and Your Blog

 

Willingness to Communicate

So I mentioned at some point that maybe I need to set social media as a whole aside. I’m not sure what’s changed, exactly, but whatever prevented me from engaging with others has weakened significantly.

I think blogging is part of it. I’ve become accustomed to expressing my opinion publicly. Obviously I’m not exactly a very notable individual, in the grand scheme of things, but I get on the internet and ramble on about something for around five hundred words. I dunno, it’s created this idea that I’m not only allowed to speak, but in some cases feel obligated.

Unfortunately, boldness is not the same as correctness. Overall most of my experiences engaging with people have been positive. My goal, typically, is to engage with someone from a point that understands their position, even if I disagree with it. Respectful discourse and all that.

The problem is that I’m increasingly unwilling to pass something by without comment, especially when I disagree with it. This is becoming a fairly severe problem within the current political climate of the US. I personally tend towards the liberal/democrat end of the spectrum. My coworker tends toward the more conservative/republican side of things. Yet we both sit in awe of the people on both sides who’s argument seems to boil down to “that’s wrong because the other side supports it.”

It’s mildly amusing to know my coworker has been having the same issue with social media as well. A little bit worse in his case because facebook and family are involved. I don’t associate with most of mine anymore, on either count.

There’s a different kind of boldness there too. I’ve become much more willing, when I have a question with no clear answer, to just tweet at or email the company/person with said question. I figure the worst that can happen is they ignore me right? That’s usually what happens. I think I’ve only had three responses, ever, and those were via email. A super short and rather belated one from Gabe Newell. At least he was polite.

“Thanks, Steve.” – Gabe

A slightly longer but more dismissive one from someone who gave a seminar at work, and a rather incomprehensible one from a music artist. I was trying to determine if they intended to do any more live streams on their gaming channel.

“I do still them”

I, uh, think I know what that means? Evidence so far has, however, not matched the implied meaning.

It’s cool though, I get it. All of these people are probably rather busy. I appreciate the fact that I didn’t end up in a spam folder somewhere. Each one of those three people took some time out of their day to actually respond, which is more than I ever got via more public platforms like Twitter. I’m sure the somewhat private nature of email helps.

I’ve actually considered fishing around with some interview-ish questions in order to write a blog post, but that seems awful selfish of me, to ask someone for so much time when it seems that it only really benefits me. On the other hand, what’s the worst that can happen, they ignore me?

On that note, I’m gonna go get some work done. Y’all stay safe out there.

Page Views and Steam Sales

Okay, so I loosely monitor the views and stats for the blog. It doesn’t really inform the choices I make in writing, I just find it entertaining because it always seems the most random things get the most views.

Sometimes it’s fairly easy to figure out what’s going on by looking at the referrers section. A few of my spikes were the result of being linked somewhere else on the internet. Other blogs, mostly.

One that surprised me though was my post about ES6 and the Creation Engine. That post got a fair amount of search traffic for reasons that are still a mystery to me. I wouldn’t think that my opinion was all that interesting, really. Very recently I keep getting hits on, of all things, that Big Boy appliances post.

I mean, I thought it was mildly amusing, but why?

I suppose I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. It just seems like a really odd post to have acquired so many views. A few people even watched the video. Such an odd outcome for a post about a passing curiosity.

In unrelated news, the Steam Winter Sale is now live. This means it’s time to do some voting and maybe pick up a few odds and ends for Something New posts. I’ve very briefly looked through my wishlist, though, and not much was standing out.

It’s also time to vote for the Steam awards, the same ones we did nominations for a while back. My voting now mostly follows my nominations. I mean, I wouldn’t have nominated it if I didn’t think it was a good pick.

I’ll probably go over it again anyway, as there are a few things I thought were amusing or interesting.

I’ve also noticed Steam selling VR hard, again. I’d love to use VR, if, y’know, the headsets didn’t cost $600+ apiece. I’m sure the kids would inevitably find a way to damage it anyway, and I’m not sure my PC has quite enough power to push it. I actually tried streaming Elite VR to my phone at one point, but never could get it to work quite right.

Either way, it’s off to bed with me. Tomorrow is going to be fairly busy and I’d like to get it out of the way. I could use some downtime. I’ve been quite irritable lately. Y’all take care, don’t give all your money to Valve.

Screenshot Shenanigans

Right, so I’m still messing with this while I’m playing Elite. I’ve made some tweaks to Snagit and took back to back screenshots with it and Steam. We’ll show the screenshots then I’ll discuss a few things.

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Snagit Stars

SNAG-0014

Steam Stars

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Snagit Station
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Steam Station

So, the first thing I learned when comparing these is that in a direct side by side comparison on my monitor, they are for all practical purposes identical. The effect I’m complaining about is not present. So right off the bat I can say that Snagit doesn’t immediately appear to be the issue.

When I look at my editing preview, or use the actual preview button however, the effect I’m chasing is clearly visible on the article itself. Now, there is a difference in the files themselves. I have Snagit set up to save all captures directly to a folder as an autonamed PNG file. As formats go I’ve liked PNG for quite some time as a reasonably good lossless format. The more old school JPG we used back in the day was a lossy format that’s pretty good to take a bitmap and make a smaller file size but degrades quickly if used continually.

Now, while I didn’t see much difference side by side, I can see some loss of quality in the preview for the Steam Station screenshot. I have a hypothesis that it’s how WordPress is processing the png, so we’ll try a jpg from both.

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Snagit JPG
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Steam JPG

Still seem to be losing a little bit of detail here, but I’m losing a lot of patience messing with it and running out of ideas at the moment. Maybe I’ll revisit this after I’ve had some more time to think about it. I’m also open to suggestions.