Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thoughts on Blogging and the OSR Community

Although my time blogging here on BHD has been rather short, I've been around the internet long enough to have learned a thing or two here or there along the way.  In light of some recent events in the OSRsphere, I thought this post appropriate.  The following are simply my own observations on blogging and the OSR "community."

While James Raggi's advice may seem cynical to some, and perhaps it is, it bears repeating because cynical or not, there is much truth in it.  First and foremost, understand that, as Raggi has pointed out before, you are not among friends.  While we all enjoy reading one anothers' work on the blogs, most of us don't know one another outside of reading each others' blogs, and responding to comments.  This "community," if it can even really be called that, is a very small and niche one, and the one thing we all share in common is our love for the style of older RPGs.  In most cases, that's where the similarities end.  We all come from different backgrounds, have different values, and often have our own ideas on how "the games should be played."  If your main interaction with someone else in the OSRsphere is seeing a comment once in a while with a little profile pic attached to it, that doesn't make that person your friend.  It makes he/she someone who, for one reason or another, reads your blog on occasion.

In truth, while many of us use stat counters to track our hits and visits to our blogs, we can never really know who exactly is reading our posts.  We have an idea, but never a full understanding of just how many people may be reading.  Some are reading more than others, as evidenced by the volume of comments on otherwise mundane posts on the popular blogs that probably wouldn't get a second glance were they posted on a less popular blog.  But even the smaller blogs out there are being read, sometimes by hundreds of people daily.  With that said, and the understanding that the people reading aren't your "friends" take into consideration what you post, and how you respond to critics.  What you post on your blog, in some way or another, is a reflection of you as a person.  People are reading, and if their only method of knowing you is by reading your posts, then be careful of what you post, and how you post.  Your actions and words on your blog are going to be the sole manner in which you are judged by the "community."  Everyone gets frustrated from time to time, some moreso than others, and some more often than not.  To those people I simply ask, why continue blogging? 

Ultimately, we blog because we have opinions and ideas that we think are great, and we want to share with the world.  Note I said with the world, and not with our friends.  What you put out on your blog, unless you have it set to a private readership, goes out there for the entire world to see.  As such, there are bound to be those who disagree with you, and might not even like you based upon what you post.  While others dismiss it, the truth is, if you're going to open yourself up and put your thoughts and opinions out there for all to see, you need to have skin thick enough to deal with the criticism, because not all of it will be constructive.  Some of it will be downright abusive, in fact.

Don't expect people who read your blog to interact with you in the same manner they would face-to-face.  The internet provides people the ability to use words to be completely and utterly honest without fear of physical reprisal.  Yes, I say physical reprisal, because the fact is, most of the people who use personal scathing attacks, wouldn't dare do so in that manner to a person face-to-face.  The internet provides them with a wall, and it doesn't even have to be anonymity.  Being "anonymous" on the internet anymore is a farce, but that doesn't stop people from posting nasty things about you, because they don't have to deal with you face-to-face.  The internet is a different environment socially, and if you're going to blog and share your thoughts, you need to fully understand that aspect.

Blogging should be a fun exercise. Whatever the reason you blog, be it to discuss your thoughts in general, or to share your creative endeavors, the number one thing this should be first and foremost is fun.  When it stops being fun, perhaps it's time to take a break and step back.  You can do so simply enough, and no one is going to fault you or look down upon you as long as you handle it in a reasonable manner.  Never make a statement or blog post when emotions are high.  Cool off, come back, and approach the subject reasonably.  Anger is not a primary emotion, and many words and actions expressed in anger are often regretted later. 

My last piece of advice would be simply to put things in perspective.  Yes, we all love our hobby.  We all love to blog about it, and read about it, but ultimately it is simply a hobby.  Most of us have truly important things that should occupy the "stresses" in life like work, family, bills, etc.  There's enough to worry about in our real day-to-day lives, than getting worked up too much about what is said about us on a blog or a forum post.  Take things with a grain of salt, and never take yourself, or your blog too seriously in the context of the OSR "community."  Most importantly, have fun, because that's what this is all about.