Better Hobby Blogging

A lot of hobby blogs exist most aren’t really worth reading on a regular basis and a lot of it comes down to laziness and lack of quality control.


I’ve been spending too much time online. This isn’t news, but what I’ve been doing a lot of lately is scouring the Internet for RSS and Atom feeds to pass into the miniature painting news aggregator I made. I could mention again how I think Blogger is inferior to WordPress or how not all feeds are created equal and not all behave as you’d expect them to, but what I really thought I’d write about is how a lot of hobby blogs don’t produce very consistent or high quality content. Revised miniature painting news aggregator

Ron is relaunching the From the Warp blogger group, but he is still using the exact same technology that ultimately let him down. He’s trying to be more selective as to which blogs he includes. There are a lot of these ‘blog networks’ now. Many bloggers seem to be a member of them all and rely on them to send readers there way. I’ve been reading the headlines and opening paragraphs of a lot of blogs both on FtW but also from the TGN Blogging Network and I’ve noticed a lot of poorly named blogs, poorly chosen post tiles, and a lot of low quality content.

I never set out to make a miniature painting news aggregator. I never set out to write PHP, but I have time on my hands so I try to do something with my education. I never wanted to curate yet more miniature painting information, but I’m disappointed with a few sites and the technology they use. I tried to find technology that would help me find quality content and feeds. I really don’t want to scrape content, so sites without valid feeds or an API will just not be part of what I continue to build, but for those hobbyists that do want more readers/followers there is a lot of things they could be doing that doesn’t involve switching from Blogger to WordPress.

First of all I understand people have limited time to devote to the hobby or to painting miniatures and people have their own favourite websites or forums that they frequent. My miniatures and paints are all in boxes in storage and I haven’t played a game of Warhammer 40,000 or anything that uses miniatures in about a year. However if you have time to blog, you have time to blog better. If you have time to post pictures to the Internet you have time to ensure those pictures are sorted, titled, and tagged intelligently. If you have time to comment on multiple blogs and forums and social networks, you have time to do something intelligent and useful with all that content and energy.

Cool Mini Or Not supposedly has the largest collection of painted miniatures online, but there is no way to subscribe to feeds of say the top minis submitted that week. There also is a lot unpainted or poorly painted miniatures so I don’t always find the coolest stuff by looking at random images on CMoN. I’m also interested in how things are done, not just seeing a high resolution picture of the final model. CMoN is definitely an online store now and I don’t find their site the best use of my limited hobby time. Dakka Dakka and Warseer both have galleries, Dakka Dakka had an RSS feed I thought would give me pictures of new and cool miniatures but it has proved erratic and disappointing. Warseer is not a personal favourite of mine, I’d prefer more hobbyists posted their completed miniatures to Flickr. I’ve also discovered that aggregation isn’t enough, a certain amount of curation and quality control is necessary to produce the best results.

Tumblr was a big disappointment as far as finding cool miniature painting content. Facebook is a mostly closed network, so Twitter particularly #miniaturemonday has proven much more useful. I’ve even decided to join Pinterest to see if I can use that site to build a better curated collection of cool minis. I asked several people for suggestions as to what feeds to include and basically no one could be bothered to make any useful suggestions so more and more of my own personal preferences and biases are being reflected in the miniature painting news aggregator. Other news aggregators of course exist, PopURLs is mentioned by Ryan, but I’m more familiar with AllTop due to being something of a Guy Kawasaki fan. There is an AllTop for board games and RPGs but not for wargaming or miniature painting.

Maybe my efforts will be all for not, but given the increasing emphasis on curation and all the time and effort I’ve invested into the hobby over the years and finding quality hobby content online I don’t think it is the easiest problem to solve, there isn’t one site right now that has all the coolest miniature painting stuff in one place, I guess I’m that is what I’m building.

I tend to write long rambling posts with lots of information and links. However I am capable of writing high quality content that performs well in search engines or in social media. I started this blog so I could join the FtW blog network or just to de-complicate my original blog. Musk’s Miniatures definitely isn’t perfect or the best example of a high quality blog, however given that some people try to earn a living or augment their income from the hobby, I just know I’m going to get whiny emails someday asking why their blog isn’t included or featured, the short answer is “your blog sucks” or perhaps more eloquently your content just isn’t unique or interesting to me. Since I’m building and curating the website it definitely reflects my preferences but it is also incorporates algorithms and social media so other people’s preferences have influence. How Alltop works, is how my miniature painting news aggregator works.

I’ve written a lot of blog postings trying to pass on my experience and knowledge, here is advice on how to improve your hobby blog:

Others have written often conflicting advice to mine, but the goal is the same, if you want people to read what you write, whether it is about a hobby or some other interest, you have to work at it and you have to make a commitment to Quality. There are too many blogs and websites competing for our time and attention. Too many of them do not maintain a respectable wheat to chaff ratio. I’d rather read one awesome post a month, than 3 or 4 crappy posts a week. If you adopt the latter publishing strategy, I’m unlikely to subscribe to your RSS feed, I’m definitely not including your blog in my blog roll or the miniature painting news aggregator I just built, you won’t see many comments or hits, and long term your inferior content will not perform well in search engines or in social media. 100s of people a day still read hobby content I put online ten plus years ago, but I’ve also written content that no one reads, probably less than one person in a hundred days. Which do you think was a better investment of my time, which do you think was of higher quality as judged by search engines, my peers, and random websurfers?

Astro Smash

I’ve been busy. One of the things I’ve been working on is running an Astro Smash, a Red Shirt Smash to be precise at the 2011 Trumpeters Salute Gaming Convention. The convention is still going or just ended. Me and my back had had enough after two days. I spent most of the morning and part of the afternoon in bed catching up on sleep and hoping my back would stop hurting. I should really take more drugs…

Astro Smash set up and awainting players
Astro Smash set up and awainting players

Anyway, despite planning ahead I still had to photograph 100 pieces of paper and finish my prize ship and create asteroids the day or two before. I barely made it. The paint was still wet on the asteroids and they’ll need yet more black paint and some dry brushing to be truly done. I also should make 4 or 5 more, maybe even a full 10 more as that is how many little styrofoam balls come in a back. I’d wanted to use lava rock, but didn’t expel much energy looking for it. I just used balls which I melted with some liquid plastic glue I’ve had for ages.

Making asteroids
Making asteroids

This was probably toxic and a bit dangerous, so open a window and move anything important like your prize ship well away from your work service.

Friday night at Trumpeters Salute was a bit weird as it seemed like more games were being run than there were players. And even after I managed to get 4 players they kept wondering off to talk to people and look at stuff. They seemed surprised my game moved so fast and their turn was literally up in a minute. Then to top it all off they wanted me to run it again on Sunday.

Prize ship after several coats of red
Prize ship after several coats of red

No way, I knew my back and life would need readjusting. Plus I had to almost beg to get my first two players. Next year I’ll do it bigger and better and likely on Sunday. Astro Smash and Silent Death are really beginner friendly and there were a lot more people there on Saturday and more kids. Kids like to blow stuff up quickly, they don’t care about historical accuracy. Astro Smash has zero historical accuracy and even sacrifices some physics and such for fun.

Fun over physics especially in outer space.

In the end someone I knew won the prize ship and quite enjoyed the game, so I may run Silent Death if not an Astro Smash at some future Trumpeters Game Night. It really is a good game even right out of the box, it just never had the big corporate gaming clout behind it, it never was a company’s number one game, and now it is basically really hard to find, but all the books and miniatures are in print and can be bought online at Iron Crown Enterprises, err I mean Ral Partha, err I mean Iron Wind Metals, err even they don’t know who owns and supports this game anymore…

The prize ship is a Glaive, official prize ships are no longer in production and I didn’t feel like giving any of mine away. So I painted up a Glaive. I thought it would look cool in flaming red from black right up to near white and really glossy like a hot rod or chopper. In the end I went for just the lava effect. It was a bit rushed but 20+ coats of thin paint, plus washes and glazes went into the effect. Then I just painted some brass, about 5 blues on the cockpit and then 3 or 4 purples on the thrusters…

2011 Trumpeters Salute Price Ship

Video Tour of my Painted Miniature Collection

This is an idea I’ve had for a while. I was going to do it over the holidays when I was testing the new camera I got my mom for Christmas, but I never got around to it. I ended up just using my iPhone. It is about a 5 minute video but it took a lot longer to upload it to YouTube than that. The video was converted from a Quicktime friendly format to likely FLV which is what YouTube likes. This downgraded it a bit, but oh well.

I also should have done a series of videos, maybe even, one per shelf, as then I could try and do close ups and 360 panarama type shots of individual models. Oh well, something to work on in the future. I’d still benefit from a better camera and some post production. This is the raw video from iPhone, to iPhoto, to Quicktime, to YouTube with minimal clicks.

You can read all about the Diseased Sons on their own website. Well back to trying to be productive.

Painted More Miniatures

But I can’t show them to you.  Them’s the rules in the Lead Painters League.  If I don’t watch it, I’ll turn into one of those miniature painting blogs, where they don’t actually paint any miniatures.  They show pictures of models they own or in often cases don’t own, they complain about the prices, the rules, how much time it takes to paint, how hard it is, how they’re no good at painting, how they can’t find a recipe or a tutorial, or a decent brush or whatever.

My advice to them remains:

Shut up and paint!

They have a word in the dictionary for people like that, hypocritical. They have another word too, lazy. If you’re too busy to paint, surely you’re too busy to blog about not painting. Blogging about not painting is like dancing about politics, it makes no damn sense and is just a waste of time.

Just scroll back to previous posts and imagine the unpainted miniatures painted. That must be what those other bloggers want you to do too… …except I really will show them painted when I’m able to in a few weeks, or you can just follow the Lead Painters League over at the Lead Adventure Forum.Random Miniatures

Next up for me is some more Khorne Bezerkers. I took a picture of what the models look like lying around on the shelf above my painting table. I’m going to convert and base them, then I’m going to paint them. Then they’ll look rather like these ones, which I painted.

Someone took a photo of my bezerkers and put it on their blog and basically said, if they were going to paint some Bezerkers, you know if they had time, and determination, they’d want them to look something like these ones.

The three Khorne models I've painted in dark red armor
The three Khorne models I've painted in dark red armor

Of course they didn’t credit me with painting the models or link to my website. It was a picture of just the two bezerkers, not sure where I posted that, maybe on the Bolter and Chainsword, it isn’t on Flickr…

Old Stuff Day

Someone decided today was the day old bloggers, post old stuff, about old minis or something.  I’m not sure.  I finished painting my naked chicks, but I can’t show anyone a photo for fear of offending Zee Germans.  They are however old models that I got in a trade in I think 1996.  Remember 1996?  That was Warhammer 40,000 2nd Edition.  Also known as the big one, as that was the edition that had the first box with models and rules.  I still have unpainted models from that box… Old Stuff Day Logo

I’m known online and in Vancouver for painting old out of print models.  I’m also known for still working on my old armies, rather than start a shiny new army, so old stuff day is a bit redundant for me.  This blog is only a little over a year old, but I’ve been blogging for over five years and posting pictures of my minis to the Internet for even longer…  So lets see what old stuff should I recommend to Malcolm, oh wait Malcolm can’t be bothered to read this blog, as he thought my naked chicks were in fact Daemonettes…

Here is a few years old post showing some of the top painted Chaos Space Marine models in my collection.

In 2006 I went to see my friend Thor in Nanaimo and took a few photos of his minis.  He was working at GW Burnaby last time I saw him.

Every few years I try to paint some Goblins in the hopes of getting a painted Goblin army on the table.  The new book is out and one has my name on it at the LGS, so here is the command group from one of my big blocks of Night Goblins that I painted back in 2006.

I’ve painted a few models that have become famous and people have talked about them in foreign languages on boards you’ve never heard of.  I know this because I look at web analytics and do Google Image searches and such.  Blastmarker Billy is one of those famous models.

If you want to go really old school, here is an army list, and the surviving members of the army I took to CanGames in 1997, when I won my only Warhammer 40,000 tournament.

I should still take more pictures of my old models, people ask me to on forums, but I don’t have the really fancy camera and I just would rather work on adding to my painted miniature collection rather than documenting every model I’ve ever painted.  None the less a lot of photos have been posted to my vanity domain over the years, but the best of them are on Flickr now too.   I guess I’ll throw in a few inline images from there and call this post done.  ;-)

Goblin Command

Beasts Of Nurgle

The oldest plastic GW ork

Shuttle and escorts for Silent Death

Painting Naked Chicks

Once you start painting naked chicks you’re a true “artiste“.

So I decided to enter the Lead Painter League, season five.  One of the hardest to win Internet painting competitions.  I’m not even sure there is a prize.  Just bragging rights is enough.  So anyway the powers that be over at Lead Adventure made one of the bonus rounds, “non-combantants”.  In fact Week One is non-combatants.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.  Despite my collection of unpainted figs, they are all ostensibly for one army or another.

Plastic Bags filled with Lead
Plastic Bags filled with Lead

Then I remembered some guy from the 40K mailing list through in with a trade some naked chicks.  What is more non-combative than naked chicks?

So I dig through my little baggies of lead for the one with the bonus figures.  Whoever it was through in a bunch of small scale models.  Scale doesn’t matter in the Lead Painter League so the smaller the better, these models were certainly smaller than the usual models I paint.  I’m not sure the scale, 20mm maybe, maybe 25mm.  I’m also making no comment on the anatomically correctness of the naked chicks.

Bonus figs thrown into trade
Bonus figs thrown into trade

After lining up the contents it appears there are some torturers and even some secumbuses  and amazons, but also a bunch of chained naked chicks.  This post is going to do wonders for my keyword referrals. I picked a team of five naked chicks in chains and after briefly considering basing them on square bases, went back to round.

My basing techniques and my resin base collections are all based on battlefields or at least sci-fi or fantasy settings.  This harem of naked chicks isn’t going to be standing in a burnt out building or an open field so I had to dig out my old green stuff and sculpt a token cobblestone base.  My greenstuff is so old and hard to work with, time to buy some more.

Miniature Naked Chicks
Miniature Naked Chicks

I think I got these models in 1996, sure enough on the bottoms of the bases is the words “Dennis Mize 95 Ral Partha”.  So I’m saying these figs were sculpted or at least caste in 1995 by Ral Partha.  I’m sure the diehards over at the Lead Adventure Forum will know more about them.

Round or Square base?
Round or Square base?

The Green Stuff is curing now and I’m enjoying a beer.  I may get around to assembling another week’s entry.  This time some space ships form the Silent Death range.  They too are small and hopefully easy to paint.  We’ll see if I have any flesh painting skills…

Due to the rules of the contest I can’t show any WIP or finished pictures until after they are used in the contest.  I think the contest runs ten weeks starting in March.  I’m not sure I’ll even try to paint ten teams, but for the next couple months I’ll try to paint models in groups of five.

Five Naked Chicks
Five Naked Chicks
Green Stuff Bases
Green Stuff Bases

Paint it Black

Yep, the most overused title in the miniature painting hobby.  This is actually really important, having made several display bases, nothing cramps your style while doing the final details like pink or white foam poking through.  So this rather large undertaking I vowed to paint it black early and paint it black often.

I’ll paint some more black on these but first I’ll probably put down the timbers inside the trenches.  After that is done I’ll do the sand.  I don’t want to sand all the flat surfaces and I can’t use as much cat liter as I did on my GT display base, it looked good but it isn’t game-able.  This table needs to game-able, that means wider than usual trenches, modularity, less than perfect fits, and lots, and lots of little pieces that can be re-arranged.

Someday I’ll get my other table’s worth of terrain here in Vancouver.  I plan to make a lip to connect the two.  I was thinking of doing a ruined village after this, something vaguely French and World War One.  I’ve also considered Spanish Adobe style buildings or even an Ork Village, but lately seeing the stuff Pardulon is producing if I ever have the money to drop on a gaming table again, plus the time and energy seeing this one is barely started, I might do a shanty town.  Maybe only a 4*4 Shanty town…

Here’s some pics.  I plan to work on just one tile at a time after this, plus I plan to work on my army for Astronomi-con Vancouver.  Note I tested the biggest GW base, the one used by Imperial Guard weapons teams, they fit in the biggest trenches.  I plan to make some machine gun nests and some of them will be big enough to accommodate these 80mm bases, but not all.  I want my table to favor lone models on a single 25 mm base.  Painting even six tiles took up my painting table, all my counter space, and my stove…

Final photo of the pink foam tiles

Painting table with tile

Counter covered with terrain tiles

Stove covered in terrain tiles