Posts Tagged ‘WordPress’

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?

I was doing better today/tonight at sleeping, but then I got up to do or check something and now I’m updating this blog.  I haven’t updated since, early, early in the morning which is suboptimal if you want to generate traffic.  You should probably update between 9-10 Eastern until about 1-2 Easter Standard Time.

This blog isn’t that popular, but it is new and I’ve put a lot of effort into it already.  Google will reward that eventually as will the rest of the Blogosphere.  I joined the From the Warp blog network, you can see their logo on my sidebar.  These networks are a big deal to some, I had to start this dedicated blog in order to qualify.  I may join one or two more, it depends on how stringent the requirements and who my peers will be.

Looking at my web traffic statistics, something I perhaps do too much, but old habits die hard, I notice where traffic comes from and where traffic goes to.  In my Blogroll, most of the traffic goes to the alphabetically first blogs which is good for the guy who called his blog A 40K Hobby Blog and good for Malcolm who called his blog A Canadian in Space, but it is bad for say Zac…

So after finding another miniature painter with a blog in Vancouver I went to bed.  I did add him to my Blogroll as he apparently goes to the same store as me.  But then I couldn’t sleep so I decided to create a category for just Vancouver miniature painters and bloggers.  Vancouver is one of the Social Media capitals of the world.  We have large networks on Facebook, LinkedIn, and PlentyOfFish, in fact PlentyOfFish. com is a local company, Flickr and Now Public were also started here.  You see a lot of iPhones and MacBooks now in Vancouver, when as a long time Mac user, I used to be ridiculed, even in programmer/ComSci circles.  Now let’s just say some of us were way ahead of the game.

Anyway now there is a Vancouver or Van City Bloggers category in my links.  Blogroll was still appearing first so I had to create five Links widgets and order them how I wanted to get the sidebar to behave how I wanted it.  This shows the power of WordPress even the dot com version.  One of the things I’m amazed at is people trying to run really elaborate blogs off of Blogger.com when they should just get a WordPress account or better yet a domain.  They’ve built up cachet or Google Juice for a domain they don’t own, which is always a no-no in web design/internet branding.  Can you even export your data from Blogger easily?  Of course I went with the free WordPress.com account myself rather than self host another blog.  I just wanted to try out the features of WordPress.com that aren’t available to self hosted blogs, there are one or two still…

So if you’re a gamer in Vancouver, you should pop by VancouverGamers.com or Strategies on Sundays and if you have a blog, a good blog, not some crappy thing you threw up back in the day and never update, but a good blog with pictures and tutorials on miniature painting and you’re in Vancouver, let Zac or I know.  Zac is big on building up the local gaming community, I just try to do my bit to help.

Today didn’t start up well, I stayed up way too late, or more accurately couldn’t sleep so I kept getting up to look up things online or in the Big Red Book.  So as a result I slept in or just lay in bed for hours…

The first thing I did when I got up besides check my email and this blog’s stats was to start updating the index page at nurgle.muschamp.ca.  I’m committed to this blog and painting more non-Nurgle stuff, I just had to drop back into Nurgle mode to get 1500 points of demons on the table by Sunday, but after tomorrow I’m going to be working on some non-Nurgle Chaos Space Marine stuff and then back to terrain, Van Doos, Servants of Decay, and zombies.  Mmm Zombies…

I’ve been putting my newly painted models on Flickr, but now I think I may put up a pile of old pictures of older but still well painted models or just use my new photo set up and the almighty iPhone to take some fresh snaps.  I like my old Flickr integration in iPhone as I could add all the tags before uploading, hopefully Apple fixes that as they put the third party app makers out of business.  Anyway now one random miniature photo, from Flickr, appears on my Nurgle homepage.

Much more work was getting the RSS feeds to display. The age of static HTML has come to a close, the fact I still have 100s of static HTML pages online is a testament to my stubbornness as much as anything.  I could move all the content into a CMS such as WordPress.  I’m not even hosting this blog myself or paying to have it hosted, why bother, the few plugins and tricks I can’t do on WordPress.com don’t really take anything away form the blog.  Before I was more of an IT guy, now I’m just over-educated and unemployed.

We’ll see if these small changes result in more traffic to my Flickr photos and this blog.  Nurgle.muschamp.ca was a lot of work over a long, long, period and even though it doesn’t have much PageRank it still does fairly well in Google.

Beasts Of Nurgle

The Beasts are basically done, the Plaguebearers are still ranked up on the shelf where I photographed them.  I think I’m going to have to put them in a miniature case, probably the biggest one I own, not because the army has such a high model count, it doesn’t, because the beasts and Demon Prince are odd shaped and fragile and fitting them and 40 Plaguebearers in a small case would require custom foam I don’t have the time to do…

Slim finds a new home

Slim finds a new home

I’ve got a number of cases but I think someday I’ll buy another as Battlefoam is making some really useful custom foam inserts.  I think if you put a lot of time into your army and you want to play anywhere but your house you’ll eventually want to invest in the best case you can.  I used to make custom ones myself, but now there is so much foam out there from pluck and pull to these custom cut ones.

Well time to get going, I’ve been at home too long, we’ll just make room to photograph the Beasts and Slim and I’m outta here.

There turned out to be enough room in Sabol Designs pluck and pull tray that I’d fitted into a Charon Skirmishpack to carry two tanks for what turned out to be West Coast Mayhem.  That is the case I’m using to transport my Daemons as I bought some vehicle and bike/cavalry foam too for it, but it also holds a hundred plus man-sized or even bigger based daemon-sized models which is doubly important when your model is all metal.  Only about four of the models are multiple pieces though, most are solid.

Slim snug and safe

Slim snug and safe

While re-basing the Beasts I freshened up some of the guts with spare GW Blood Red and Reaper Master Series Clotted Red, along with my custom red-black ink based wash.  I’m pretty pleased the paint job on Sluggie (the green one) has held up as well as it has, the flesh is drybrushed and the paint job over 15 years old I think, one of the oldest models with the original paint job still serving in the Diseased Sons warband. Though very, very, very rarely does it see the table.  ;-)

It seemed to me that before the posts were appearing in reverse chronological order.  I’ve never seen that before, WordPress is always adding new features which is another reason I have a WordPress.com blog to expirement with, but also a self hosted blog that I can test things out on.

I dug up another photo which probably hasn’t been widely seen, instead of an Ork Nob it contains three OOP (Out of Print) Chaos Terminators.  I’ve got a lot of painted terminators that I never use, I plan to rebase them.  I have some of the Forgeworld Nurgle ones on my table which I’ll get to in a couple months, they seem to always get put off, as mainly they are just for fun figs.  Nurgle terminators are too expensive pointswise to use regularly in small scale Warhammer 40,000 games.

Out of Print Chaos Terminators

I painted them quite a while ago, I’m not even sure they’ve all hit the gaming table, but they probably have by now.

So as I mused, I’ve started a dedicated miniature painting blog for my various hobby projects.  Hopefully I’ll get off my ass in the next few days and paint something fresh for the masses.  I still need a job, so look at my resume!

I’m not going to move content over here from my personal blog, I’d rather spend my time creating new content and painting new miniatures rather than just import old text and pictures.  Plus I don’t like broken links, I remember when people cared about broken links, now people just trust in Google.

So what will be here? Everything I do hobby related basically.  Nurgle.muschamp.ca isn’t going anywhere, but it is a huge hand coded site, to an army that I’m going to use less as I paint some new stuff, I’ve ran just about every Plaguemarine squad possible.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve matured and I stay out of online pissing matches when I can, I still contribute to the odd forum, mostly the Bolter and Chainsword but occasionally the Waaagh or elsewhere.  I’ve been at this a long time, I have WIP threads that are years old, but I’m not sure if my efforts get viewed by that many people, so hopefully Google will find this stuff and it turns out to be of use to someone.

One thing I have imported by hand into WordPress.com is links.  I’ve been collecting links since 1994 or 1995, my biggest collection is pretty out of date, but more recent useful finds, were added to the sidebar for the benefit of all.

What you will also find here is some well painted miniatures and occasionally tutorials and advice on how to improve your painting.  Back when I was employed I bought a lot of paint and models, so I try stuff out, rather than stick to just GW paints and models.  That said most models I paint are for Warhammer 40,000 or 40K as it is known online.  One of the more famous things I’ve put online is the Diseased Sons homepage, so additions to that army along with the Nefarious Fire and new incarnations of Waaagh Musk will appear here.

I’ll continue using Flickr for finished models in higher res, but I’ll probably put most of my Work In Progress or WIP photos on WordPress.com, previously I used Muschamp.ca and I still may use it for somethings.  I pay for the bandwidth on Muschamp.ca about 10 bucks a month, I get about as much free from WordPress.com maybe, but they throw the odd ad around my text and pictures.  I’m happy with the theme I picked, it is new and gritty, and called Greyzed.  Thanks to the Forge Web Creations for that, apparently they are from South Africa, small world nowadays, especially online.

We’ll have to see if a more focused blog on WordPress.com rather than self hosted leads to an increase in popularity, as measured say by number of comments.  I always got traffic from the search engines, often from very strange keyword referrals, but I’d like a more social and interactive site, though that said it is just a hobby blog, if I get busy with my new job it will languish for a while.

As you may have noticed, I have a tendency to ramble, which is why Muskblog is an unfocused mess after being updated very regularly for years.  This blog will be focused on miniature painting and the hobby, if I want to rant against bad service at a restaurant it won’t appear here, neither will pictures of my sister’s dog, or any baby photos, or any thing else that will pollute the purity of Musk’s Miniatures.

I own a lot of miniatures, a lot of them are painted, but a lot of them aren’t.  Even if I never buy another model, I’ll probably never get them all done.  I’m going to have to have a liquidation sale someday.  I own a lot of older GW miniatures that I either bought back in the day, traded for, or got on say eBay.  I don’t have any immediate plans to sell anything, but at some point it is a good idea.  I’m building something of a dream table for wargaming, but it has gone slowly.  I got hundreds of dollars tied up in resin and other stuff like foam, plasticard, and balsa wood.  I kinda wish I had some of that money back right about now seeing as how I’ve been unemployed for over two months and I’ll always be paying for my MBA.

I promise this is the least focused and most off topic post that will appear here.  I need some text to test the theme further and make sure tags and categories are working well.  There are links to a lot of photos of my miniatures on the sidebar, but lets see if I can’t dig something interesting out of iTunes to see how the theme handles images.Assault on Black Reach Ork Nob

I don’t currently have access to a good digital camera, remember I’m unemployed.  I do have an iPhone 3GS which takes surprisingly good pictures of miniatures in my lightbox setup.  I also know a number of pro and semi-pro photographers, maybe I’ll con one of them into using their 1000s of dollars worth of equipment to take photos of my minis.

I also might submit this hobby blog to various specialized blog networks, that seem to be all the rage in online hobby circles.  I’m not sure how much more traffic they’ll add, but now with a focused blog and hopefully a month or two of good original content I’ll be eligible to join one or two.  In the mean time we’ll have to wait and see who’ll be the first to link to this blog and leave a comment besides me.