Community Feature – Newbie Blogger Initiative

Justin Olivetti

Justin and his favourite cut-out. Didn't say who's who though.

If you are a frequent patron of the MMO blogoshpere you might have noticed a peculiar abundance of tips for new bloggers lately. For the full month of May bloggers shared their experiences about starting a blog and how to find your own voice. This deluge of info was no accident.

In stead it was the result of the “Newbie Blogger Initiative” (NBI for short), and the man behind that initiative was Justin “Syp” Olivetti, Senior Contributing Editor at Massively and keeper of the blog Bio Break. It has been a while since we did a community feature here at GWOnline, so when the Newbie Blogger Initiative came along we knew it was just the right topic to get the series going again! Luckily Justin was happy to answer a few questions.

GWOnline: How did you first come up with the idea of NBI and how did you go about getting the ball rolling?

Justin: The NBI is a pseudo-sequel to a similar community event we did with Warhammer Online blogs back in 2009. Both times, it was born out of a desire to encourage new bloggers to enter the scene and make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Starting up a new blog can be a formidable experience: You have to get into the habit of writing constantly while finding your voice and an audience. The NBI’s goal was to make this less formidable by doing two things: providing sage advice from long-time bloggers and throwing lots of traffic to these new blogs so that they could find their footing.

I thought of doing the NBI in April, and began to contact many of the bloggers that I read. It took me a few days, but I sent out around 70 or so emails outlining the project, and most everyone agreed. From there, I set up a forum to use as the NBI headquarters and watering hole, tried to structure the duties of all the sponsor blogs as best I could, and then told everyone to go nuts on May 1st. And go nuts they did.

GWOnline: Sounds like you got a lot of support, how many participants did you end up with?

Justin: Oof. We started out with 60 sponsor blogs, and that snowballed into the mid-80s by the month’s end (lots of people heard about it and wanted to jump on board). As for newbie blogs — and here we’re including both brand-new blogs and struggling bloggers that wanted a little bit of a boost — I think we got 112.

GWOnline: Did the amount of support surprise you?

Justin: Oh absolutely. When we did this with WAR, we had maybe 30 sponsor blogs and got a dozen or so new blogs from it. This was way bigger and way better received than I anticipated. If it was just a Syp thing, I don’t think it would’ve been as big, but because it was quickly embraced and empowered by the MMO blogging community, it snowballed into a greater and grander thing. And that’s just fine with me.

GWOnline: Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background in MMO gaming?

Justin: Sure! I’m a married father of three who primarily works as a youth pastor for a small church in Detroit. I’ve also been blogging since 2008 on various sites, including WAAAGH!, Bio Break, and Massively. As for my MMO resume, my very first title was Anarchy Online during launch month, which was enough to scare me away from those games until 2004, when City of Heroes and World of Warcraft pulled me in. Since then, I’ve been happily sampling most of what’s out there, including Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online, RIFT, Warhammer Online, Guild Wars, Fallen Earth, EverQuest II, and Star Trek Online.

GWOnline: What is the most eye-opening advice for new bloggers that you have seen come out of NBI?

Justin: Be yourself, write yourself, and write to please yourself. That was echoed by many, many advice posts, and I’ll give that my support too. Blogs that try to write to please others or to make money and get big hits almost invariably die — because they’re not interesting or honest. The best blogs are the ones that people write because they are so enthusiastic about games that they just want to get it out there. If you write the sorts of articles that make you happy, chances are people will pick up on that and like them more in return.

GWOnline: There sure is a lot of advice for new bloggers within the NBI, but could you share your personal top tip for a fledgling blogger?

Justin: I posted about one new tip a day for the entire month, so I’m almost tapped out in this regard :) Apart from the above, I’d say that it’s important to make your posts readable (both in formatting and spelling/grammar), try to stay out of flame wars and trolling with commenters and other blogs, and develop a unique voice or angle that sets your blog apart from the rest. The last part is actually quite easy, since everyone already is unique — you just have to emphasize that.

Newbie Blogger Initiative

The Guild Wars 2 dragon's "Newbier" cousin.

GWOnline: The 1-month-campaign now being over, what are your plans for the future? Do you see the NBI staying active?

One month felt about right for this initiative. It’s better to end things before wearing out your welcome, and if new bloggers weren’t going to get inspired by this during May, chances are they weren’t going to in June anyway. That said, the NBI as a forum is still very much alive. We’re leaving it open for people to check out the links and advice, as well as to chat with each other and answer questions. One of the coolest parts of the NBI is how many newer and older bloggers collaborated on projects and started “challenges” for each other to complete. I hope that continues, and I know that many of us will be staying more in touch with each other from now on.

GWOnline: Finally, how much are you looking forward to Guild Wars 2?

Justin: Oh, very much so. While I played Guild Wars 1 and liked it to an extent, it has a specific gameplay style that’s always put me off a little bit. Guild Wars 2, from what I can tell in both reading about it and playing the beta, has overcome this to make a widely accessible MMO that’s just terrific fun all over the place. I like how GW2 really embraced its sequel status to show how the world’s changed in 250 years, and I like the ease of grouping and the many, many goals that can be pursued by players. Plus, it’s just gorgeous to behold. My only problem is figuring out what will be my first character: a Norn necromancer or an Asura engineer.

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We want to again thank Justin for his time, and also offer him a belated Happy Birthday, which happened to fall on the last of May, the finale of the Newbie Blogger Initiative!