Sunday, 31 July 2016

To Blog Or Not To Blog

I posted my first blog in March 2009, it was this Napoleonic Wargaming blog and my aim was to keep a record of my wargaming activities.   I had very little interest in blogging before then, and my only contact would be when there was a link on one of the wargame forums I read.

I have always kept a diary and after a family holiday compiled a scrap book with photographs and a summary of the holiday.   I suppose I have that sort of tidy mind which likes to organise memories.   So it is perhaps a little strange that I had not started a blog sooner.

We retired to Spain in March 2006 and had developed a lot of new interests and hobbies, not least organising our wargaming.   By March 2009 we were well into our new routine, and I found I had more time on my hands.   Hence starting the blog.

From the start I wanted to be able to index my blog entries, because I wanted them to be a permanent record.   I quickly found that this is not particularly easy with blogging, which by its nature tends to be short lived.   I asked for advice on TMP and fortunately made contact with Bob Cordery of Wargame Developments and Wargaming Miscellany fame.   Bob gave me some very useful suggestions, which helped me to make a good start.

My intention was to run one blog and to post once a week about my current interest or activity.   I would use the labels as an index.   However it soon became obvious that one blog would not be sufficient.

Most of my early blog entries were about my 1813 solo campaign.   But there was too much going on to restrict my entries to one a week.   So in April 2009 I started my first campaign diary blog.   I posted an entry each day and a battle report when we fought a wargame.   At the end of each campaign phase I started a new blog, to make it easier to maintain the index.   I am currently on my 14th campaign diary blog.   I have no idea how many posts, but I do know that there are 217 battle reports and 48,000 visits.

Also in April 2009 I decided to post a series of blogs on our experience of visiting Napoleonic battlefields.   We both enjoy walking holidays, and over the years have spent quite a few holidays exploring battlefields in Portugal, Spain, Germany and Italy.   I had a scrap book of each holiday, so producing each blog would not be difficult.   There are a total of 9 blogs, one for each holiday.  Each blog has an entry for each battlefield visit.   There are a total of 90 entries, each one a day spent walking a battlefield.   I don’t know how many visits each blog has had, but I do know that the index blog has had 55,000 visits.

In May 2009 I decided that I would start a series of blogs about our second major interest, which is hill walking.   We choose to live in a small village in the Jalon Valley because it is well known as an excellent walking centre.   The aim of the blog was to let friends and relatives see what it was like to live in Spain.  It has turned into a diary of our walking activities.   We have friends who run commercial walking holidays in the valley, and they tell us that many of their customers have read our blogs.  I start a new blog each year, to make it easier to index the walks.  At the start of each year I transfer the total of hits from the previous year to the new blog.   So far 8 blogs and 21,000 visits.

In addition I have posted a series of “one off” blogs.  For example Wellington’s Battles, which is a series of wargames based on the great man’s battles.   Then there is the Napoleonic Wargame rules blog, and the campaign rule blog.

I now find that I spent an hour or so each day typing up one of the three main blogs, which are Napoleonic Wargaming, Jan and Paul in Spain or the Campaign Diary.

I do all of this for my own entertainment and satisfaction.   It is pleasing that so many visitors take the trouble to read my rambling.   Of the 7 blogs I record visits there has been a total of 312,406 visits.   Obviously a lot of those will be repeat visits, and many will check out more than one blog when they visit.   But I still find it hard to believe that my efforts could produce so much interest.

My only regret is that more visitors do not leave a message.   According to the stats there have been less than 1,000 comments, and half of them would be my reply.   I think this is pretty common.   I now visit about 20 blogs regularly, and I note that few of them receive many comments.    The exception is my good friend (at least online) Bob Cordery.   He regularly gets 10 or more comments on his posts.  I did ask him why, and he told me that he always answers each comment.  But I am sure that there is more to it than that.   No doubt his style of writing prompts readers to comment.  

Blogging is now as much a part of my life as wargaming and walking, and probably takes up more time than either of them.   I would not say that it brings as much enjoyment as either of the other two.   But there is a certain satisfaction in posting two or three blogs each day, and even more when there is a response.

Thanks to all of you for following the blogs.   I would post them anyway, but perhaps not for long if I did not see the daily log of visits.


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

I'm here, I'm reading.. but I only comment when I feel I have something to say! :o)

Robert (Bob) Cordery said...

Don't be too disheartened by the lack of comments on your blog. They are not a reflection on what you are writing but more on the fact that the people who are regular readers don't always feel the need or inclination to make a comment.

I started off trying to run several blogs, but in the end I switched over to almost exclusively using my WARGAMING MISCELLANY blog. By covering a wide variety of wargaming and non-wargaming topics I have tried to interest more than a small group. Mine is more of a scatter-gun approach than yours, which probably means that I 'hit' a lot more people who have a general interest in wargames rather than having a specific field or aspect of wargaming that they wish to pursue.

I try to write on my blog every day if I can for a variety of reasons:

Firstly it helps me to channel any ideas I have. By writing them down, I have not quite set them in stone, but I have at least recorded them.

Secondly I enjoy the process of writing. I actually try quite hard to write cogently, and will often re-draft a blog entry several times before publishing it.

Thirdly it is a record that I can revisit, especially when I hit the wargaming doldrums ... something that I think happens to all of us at times.

Finally it has become part of my daily routine, which is vitally important when you retire. One of the things that I have found is that without a routine it is very easy to slip into a situation where you just sit about all day, watching TV, eating, and sleeping, punctuated by the occasional trip to the shops. Now by a routine I don't mean that I get up at the same time every day, eat my breakfast and other meals at a specific time each day etc. By routine I mean that I have certain things that I try to do each day or each week if circumstances allow. These include blogging and answering my emails regularly.

Keep blogging for as long as you enjoy it. I certainly will, and I hope that I can continue to 'entertain and inform' for some time to come.

All the best,


thistlebarrow said...

Hi Bob

Thanks for your comments.

I did not mean to sound disheartened, nor to sound like I am touting for comments. It is a strange fact that despite so many visits, there are relatively few comments. And indeed why should anyone comments unless they have something to say.

There is a lot to be said for having just one blog, and I think your comment about a scatter-gun approach appealing to more readers is quite true. But I felt that each of my three blogs appeal to a completely different group of readers.

This one is similar to your approach. I post anything and everything wargame related, including references to the campaign.

However the campaign is so complicated that I felt it was better to keep it separate. This was particularly important when I was running the PBEM campaign.

Our Jan and Paul in Spain blogs are aimed at family and friends and in particular our local walking group. Most are unaware that we are interested in wargaming, and most would have very little interest if they were aware.

I completely agree that you need a routine in retirement. I would add that you need a varied routine. Wargaming and the blog plays a large part, but we also try to keep busy outside the house.

Nice to hear from you again

Best regards


thistlebarrow said...

Hi Steve

Thanks for your comment.

l appreciate that you are a regular visitor to the blog, and also that you have commented when you had something to say.

I did not mean to complain about comments, or lack of. I was just remarking that it seems a general comment from bloggers. I guess most bloggers like to feel that they are making contact with their online readers.

I suspect that it is a little like forum readers. I read two or three each day, but very rarely bother to comment unless there is something of particular interest. Even on the more popular forums it would appear that only a handful of members do post, despite the much larger readership.

Personally I am grateful that "the silent majority" continue to return to the blog, and long may you all do so



JWH said...


I think that a clue behind the reason for more comments on Bob Cordery's blog is in the name of it: his is a wargaming miscellany and thus covers a very, very wide range of subjects. He also starts a wider range of projects and invites comments and questions upon them. By contrast, you (hobby-wise) know your own mind, focus intensely on well-defined projects and ask often quite difficult questions about quite niche parts of the hobby. I think both blogs are incredibly interesting and very inspirational, but are wildly different; and those differences partly explain the different level of comments.

All the best


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


Sue and I do try to vary our routine by trying to go somewhere interesting each week. In the past seven days we have visited Greenwich Park and the National Maritime Museum, and today we went to the site of the old Woolwich Arsenal to spend some time by the River Thames watching the ships sailing past.

Since retiring I have also 'discovered' the joys of certain aspects of gardening ... especially if it involves trimming our trees and bushes and using our 'chomper' to turn the cuttings into pellets. Great fun!

All the best,


thistlebarrow said...

Hi John

Thanks for your comment, which goes a long way to explaining the different response to Wargaming Miscellany and my own. I had not realised that my blogs might be niche, but I do think you may well be right. I often notice on forum that the subjects which prompt the most replies are often of a very general nature. For example “what do you think of x rules”.

I appreciate you taking the trouble to point this out



thistlebarrow said...

Hi Bob

I guess that we are both very lucky to have partners who share our general interests and enjoy similar experiences. When we first retired we seemed to have so much free time that it seemed we could never fill it all. Now every day seems full. It is partly that we also make an effort to get out at least every other day. But its also that we have adjusted to the more relaxed Spanish style of living. We often wonder how we ever found the time to go to work each day. When we spend time with our son and his family we are amazed at how much they both fit into their busy, busy lives. Mind I suppose we were the same 30 years ago?



James Fisher said...

I think that your general sentiments would be echoed by most bloggers.

The initial draw is to have a record of what you have done and to be able to share it with the wargaming 'community'. Then, a few people make friendly and encouraging comments and it spurs one on to blog further—even turns it to more of an 'obligation'! You then find yourself looking more closely at the stats to see how many 'hits' the most recent post attracted!

Of course, but a small percentage of those who look actually read a post in its entirety and fewer still feel the compulsion to comment. Most of us seem to have a core of e-friends who regularly make comments. This may be a handful, in my case, or tens or twenties in the case of other blogs that have the wider appeal that Rob is referring to.

More power to you Paul. Long may you keep blogging!


thistlebarrow said...

Hi James

Thanks for your comment

There is a lot of truth in what you say. Particularly your summary of why people take up blogging.

I must admit I had not thought too deeply about who looks at what and why. It just struck me as strange that there were so many hits and so few comments. But now that you have given your thoughts I can see that you are probably correct.

I am one of those sad people who used to record solo campaigns and battle reports long before I discovered the internet and blogging. When we relied on hard copy magazines I always turned to the letters page first. Now we really are spoiled for choice with the various forum. But unfortunately they seem to be dominated by a small number of very stroppy individuals who have little patience with anyone who does not agree with them.

Despite the above I get a lot of satisfaction with my blogging. It imposes a discipline on my wargaming activities and allows me to express my opinions and views without opening myself to verbal attack on a public forum. There may not be many comments, but those who do post are always supportive.

Best regards


Sun of York said...

Hi, Bob, James pointed your post out to me in connection to a go I had at him for not commenting on some of his figures that he gave me that I had finally got around to painting.

In reading your post I am sure I read it the first time and even think I had meant to comment (something must have distracted me). It might be that I have commented on a similar post by you or someone else. But whatever. "Why we blog" would be a good title for a TV episode :-)

I agree with the high ratio of visits compared to low number of comments. In looking at my own blog I have some posts that get a lot of visits/comments and some just the average. I know one cause is when I cross link posts (to rules forums or to the Facebook Napoleonic group for example). Increased traffic is to be expected, but rarely do I get any increase in comments. In part that might be because people are outside the Google space (they have come from a forum, Yahoo group or Facebook) and don't have a Google identity and don't want one or don't realise that they can post anonymously. James would relate to that.

Another benefit of blogging is that you get to meet people and it was through our blogs that I met James. Once we'd worked out that the Avon and York in our respective identifiers weren't in the UK but just 100km apart in Western Australia.

My original idea was to keep a record of my gaming activities (and to record my collection) to share with my fellow gamers I had left when I moved to Perth. As far as I can tell none of my followers are the guys I used to game with. So it goes.

I do like blogging and it has become almost an extra adjunct to the hobby (collecting, researching, painting, organising, gaming across history and multitude of scales not being enough).

Regardless of comments, Blog On!

I am sure our posts will be of immense value to some future PhD student doing a doctorate on the leisure activities of (predominantly) old (or rather mature) white (and sometimes well tanned) men (mostly) in the early 21st century.



thistlebarrow said...

Hi Mark

Thanks for your comments.

I realise that it is pretty common, but it just struck me as odd. Perhaps it’s something to do with the internet. The same thing happens with online forums, where there can be hundreds of views, but only a handful of comments. And those are usually from the same members time after time.

It is more understandable on a forum, where you might open yourself to heated comments in return. I have suffered from this myself, and though I tried hard to rise above it and not comment, it is very easy to get caught up in the moment.

Like you I have also made contact with many wargamers online, but mostly through my PBEM campaign. Hardly any through this blog.

I am pretty sure that we all do it for our own satisfaction really, and that any comments are a bonus.



Sun of York said...

My apologies Paul, James has just pointed out to me that I called you Bob. Normally I don't do the personal touch, but felt that it was the right think to do given the nature of the post and my comment. Clearly my unfamiliarity with the person lead me to make a horrible mistake.

Sadly I can't see a way to edit the post except by deleting and reposting which would be a mess.