on Aug 22, 2006
I just found Criminally Weird yesterday, even though his blog has been around since 2004. I hunt for blogs like this all the time, but I usually only find them by accident or a chance link. I like geek blogs, but I like personal geek blogs. I like hobby operations run out of love much more than big things like Joystiq. The problem with smaller geek blogs is that they are danged hard to find and get lost in the noise of the major blog subjects like politics / movies / pop music / celeb gossip / teen angst. Blogs about anime or (even worse) videogames have a really, really extreme long-tail effect, so that most sites are miniscule or monolithic.
But now it occurs to me that many of the blogs I read might not be “small”. I really have no idea how big they are. If a site has forums and lots of ads and looks like they are running a business, I think “big”. If it looks like this blog, with no ads, no forums, and just a few comments (or no comments), I think “small”. But ads are not a proper measure of site size. For all I know Chizumatic has the same readership as Joystiq. How would I know? The only clues I have are how easy the blog is to find using Google or Technorati, both of which are terrible at finding the sorts of blogs I like. (Which is, I guess, why I think of them as small.) How would you do a Google search for sites like Augury, Haibane.info, The Rampant Coyote, Houblog, or Machine Overlords. I’m not sure you can, unless you want to dig for a long time. I found almost all of the above when they linked to me. (Which brings up the question of how they found me. Maybe everyone else knows some tricks that I don’t for culling these searches and cutting right to the good stuff.)
So, I started thinking about why I like the blogs I do. Videogame blogs are kind of scarce, so why am I so darn picky? What makes me like a particular blog? I’d never really given it much thought until now. I sat down and enumerated things that make me like a blog aside from good writing and interesting subject matter. (Which should go without saying, except, of course, that I just said it.)
- Informal, conversational style. I like when the author is blunt and honest. Website “articles”, written like a magazine product review, sound too clinical and leave me cold.
- I like people who use their real names more than those who use pseudonyms, and I like pseudonyms better than pure anonymity. (The difference between the last two being mostly how long they’ve been using their pseudonym.) I’m unlikely to read something from a never-seen-before pseudonym. Nothing wrong with that. Some people are private. Just not for me.
- No ads. Banner ads are better today than they were seven years ago. During the dot-com boom, the internet was lousy with blinking eyesores and faux-dialog box traps. Those are still around, but anyone serious about holding an audience usually goes with something a bit more subtle. Having said that, even diminutive Blogads bug me. So, I tend to gravitate towards the ad-free sites.
- I prefer dark lettering on light backgrounds. This didn’t used to be a problem, but as I decay into toothless old codgerdom I find white-on-black harder and harder to read. When I look away I see the horizontal bars burned onto my vision for a while afterwards, and that just can’t be good.
- I prefer to read what adults have to say, and I’m not talking about age here. I’ve found quite a few videogame blogs that are a wasteland of juvenile flames and trash talk. Yeah kid, your guild 0wnz me. Good for you. Be sure to put that on your resumé.
- I like one-author blogs better than group blogs, but only because I like to know who I’m reading. I’ve never seen it done, but I would actually enjoy a group blog if each author had a little icon or something at the top of the post, similar to what I do with categories. I really can’t stand blogs where I have to look to the end of a post to know who I’m reading, since that’s the first thing I want to know.
- I like some info about the author. I don’t need an autobiography, but I at least like to have some idea of the age and gender of the author. I hate hunting around for clues like oblique references to their spouse and children (or absence thereof) and trying to extrapolate who the author is from that.
This is more important than most people realize. If I see a 40 year old guy who thinks DOOM was the first 3d videogame I’m going to write him off as someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. If an 18 year old expresses the same opionion I’m a lot more likely to cut him some slack. At the same time, a grandma who can beat Quake ][ in 55 minutes is a lot more interesting to me than a college kid who can do it in 30. Context matters.
None of these rules are set in stone. Aside from #1, I have exceptions to every one of these in my regular reading list. Most of these are just matters of personal preference, and all of them are trumped by solid writing. But more importantly, you can’t search for blogs with these criteria. If I do a search, I can’t narrow it down based on their color scheme, posting style, author disclosure, and ad density. All you can do is search by subject, and the results will be sorted according to “popularity” as calculated by inbound links. This is not a bad system, but it doesn’t tell me what I want to know.
What else am I missing? If you have a geek blog – anime, videogames, tabletop games, or anything else cool, if you have a blog yourself and I’ve never linked you, if there is a site you love or at least visit often, please put a link in the comments or link me from the blog. Don’t worry if it meets my own nitpicky list above: anything cool that you think I may have overlooked would be great.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.