Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Newbie Blogger Initiative: Survival and Identity

The 2013 Newbie Blogger Initiative starts today, to promote new gaming blogs. More specifically the mission statement is:
  • Find, visit, and promote new game bloggers.
  • Create a friendly network of support.
  • Increase survival of new bloggers.
I must admit at first I was chuckling at the last one, because it is quite funny if you take it literally. Survival of blogs might be a problem, but to the best of my knowledge there isn't a death spree among bloggers. Blogs die because their authors give up on them, not because their authors die. But then the phrase got me thinking: If I stopped blogging, would "Tobold" be dead? While gaming blogs are written by real people, they usually appear on their blogs and in the community as a virtual persona with an assumed pen name. And if that identity is not maintained, it could well be said to die off. And that might actually be a good thing, because it gives a blogger the opportunity to shed a skin in case of a failed effort and start something new under a new name.

If any new bloggers read this, my virtual name is Tobold, and I have been blogging about gaming for over 10 years. So, whatever else you might think of me or my blogging, I do have a rather solid claim on being good at this survival thing. There aren't many gaming blogs older than mine still active, even if mine is now less active than it was. So I was asked to support the Newbie Blogger Initiative and agreed to do so. I would like to dedicate a number of posts this month to tips for new bloggers, based on my long experience with gaming blogging. As always, these are my personal opinions and I don't claim them to be universal truths. And as I started this post with a consideration of virtual identity, here is my first advice for new bloggers:

Don't write under your own name, create a virtual identity for blogging.

The internet has a long memory, I can still find stuff I wrote 20 years ago. And I have not only written about games. I am a scientist, and I have written publications in scientific journals as well as a bunch of patents. Now imagine somebody is doing a Google search on my real name for some professional reason: Obviously I do want him to find the stuff I have written professionally. But Google sorts search results by popularity, and games are a lot more popular than hard science. So if I had written my blog under my real name, my professional identity would have been buried in the search results. It is much better that I wrote my gaming blog as "Tobold", and thus created a separate identity for a different part of my life. Now you might not be a scientist, but there are lots of other scenarios where somebody might search Google for your real name, for example a job application. And we still don't live in a society where being passionate about games is something people put on their CV. Human resources departments *do* search the internet for background information about candidates, and being labeled as somebody who "wastes a lot of time on games" can potentially be as deadly for you application as public photos on Facebook showing you drunk and half-naked.

Creating a virtual identity also has another advantage: You probably aren't totally sure at the start how this blogging thing is going to work out. It is totally possible that you experience some sort of stage fright, and are worried that people will react badly to your writing. But if you have a virtual identity, your blogging isn't connected to your real identity, but to your virtual one. Which, if everything goes catastrophically bad, can be easily discarded. You could even imagine having several subsequent attempts at blogging, each under a different identity. Blogging under a pen name is "safe", you can experiment without worry.

So here is a tip on creating a virtual identity: Choose your name wisely. You do want your blog to be the first search result if somebody searches for your pen name. Which means that "Legolas" probably isn't a good option. If you have problems coming up with a good name, there are a lot of fantasy name generators or similar applications on the internet or downloadable as app for your mobile device. Try to find one that isn't too hard to spell, and then do a Google search on it: Ideally you don't get any hits at all, or at least only a few obscure hits with nobody using that name already as his identity. And then you're off to a new (virtual) life.

This is good advice Tobold even though it won't make you popular with Google or Facebook or other advocates of "Real Names" on the internet.

Note the difference between posting on a blog and posting on Facebook / Google+ : Facebook and Google let you determine who can read what you write, so you can write private stuff and only people invited to do so can read it. A blog is public and open to everybody, including search engines. It is much harder to hide stuff you wrote on a blog under your real name than hiding stuff you wrote on Facebook.
Very good advice.

I have quite a common name so I'd get the worst of both worlds - people who wanted to trace the real me online could if I blogged on my real name but I also wouldn't be top - there's at least two professional actors with the same name.
I guess the main problem of blogging is that it takes a lot of time. If you aren't a skilled writer, preparing a decent piece of text can take some time (unless it's very short, without pics, graphics or anything else). Also, being a non-English mothertongue will make it even harder.

I've been toying with my own blog about Diablo III for a while, actually more than one year. Unfortunately... Diablo III was huge (personal) delusion, so I just stopped writing and closed the blog. I loved it, even if proofing the text and fixing stuff could take some time... But at the end of the day I've found that I was talking to complete strangers who occasinally loved to be assholes in the comments. And all of this for... free, while I could spend that time for more productive (in terms of fun/entertainment) stuff.

If you take blogging as a nice diversive, a hobby, something to fill your free time... that's fun and worth it.

If you enter the blogging scene to "make money"... you're too late.
I completely agree with this advice. I've thought a lot about my virtual identity. It came from my main at the time I started blogging, but since then has really developed outwardly into a true full virtual persona.

The drawback is that I've developed an unnatural attachment to that toon. Unfairly, he commands a lot of nostalgia, even though he's not my most played toon - not by a longshot. This of course is a very small drawback in a single game, but it makes me smirk a little at my own emotionality.

Great post,
Thank you for illustrating great reasons for using what I call noms de blog. It's no secret at my job that I play MMOs and blog about it. But that doesn't mean I need to or want to use my real name. Like Stubborn, my blogging identity has grown from a single character. Even though I no longer even play that game, it's hard to imagine using any other persona.
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