Editorial: The Joys of Blogging

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

I first started messing around with blogging software like Movable Type and Blogger as far back as February of 2002. Nothing I created I stuck with for very long, although I did document the three years I spent in the nascent virtual world of Cloud Party (and my first adventures in avatar clothing design) in a blog I rather cleverly called Cloud Party Bugle. So this is not my first rodeo; I know the ropes.

As I have said before, I had never tried to get into the world (or “blogosphere”, as some call it) of Second Life blogging. It just seemed to me that bloggers like Strawberry Singh and Wagner James Au were already so well established, that I could never “break in” to that market and expect any success. I now realize that when you start your blog is not nearly as important as how often you blog, what you choose to blog about (finding your niche), and how you approach blogging (with enthusiasm and a unique perspective). If you have those things, readers will naturally come to your blog over time. My blog traffic is now twice what it was a year ago at this time. You might be surprised to know that, according to my WordPress statistics, Second Life users form the biggest group of visitors to my blog.

And I do take a certain amount of pride in my new role as the Freebie Queen of Second Life 😉 blogging about steals, deals, and freebies on the grid! In fact, my most popular blogpost of all time, a constantly-updated post about where to find free and inexpensive mesh heads and bodies for female Second Life avatars, now has 10,193 views as of today. There are a thousand bloggers covering fashion in Second Life, but few catering to freebie fashionistas! Even though I visit and write about many different social VR platforms and virtual worlds, one of my most enjoyable pastimes, still, is pulling together a well-put-together Second Life avatar look for next to nothing. If I could make money as a SL freebie fashion consultant, I would (but you really can’t make serious money at Second Life unless you are a successful content creator or a land baron).

I now find my email interactions with Google AdSense policy violations to be amusing rather than irritating. The latest one, ironically, was a blogpost about censorship flagged for having a Modigliani nude. And a few days later, as suddenly as the violation appeared in my Google AdSense account notices, it disappeared. I have no idea what happened, and I have given up trying to figure out the mysteries of Google AdSense policy application, and whether they are driven by computer algorithm or human intervention.

I’ve been alternately fascinated and appalled by the advertising inserted in my blogposts, both by WordPress WordAds and Goodle AdSense. The latest advertising scams making the rounds seem to prey on ketogenic dieters and older women obsessed with reducing wrinkles. Here’s a couple of examples of particularly ridiculous ads delivered via WordAds that popped up on my blog today:

When you click on these ads, it takes you to a website for a beauty product called the Essence of Argan. A little determined Google searching uncovered a detailed trip down the rabbit hole of a scam, and numerous consumer complaints of unauthorized credit card charges. Buyer beware!

The Essence of Argan website: Buyer beware!

As for scams around ketogenic dieting, Dr. Ryan Lowery has posted a good YouTube video on the whole Shark Tank keto diet pill scam:

I have some moral qualms about the WordAds advertising for these sorts of scams that I am seeing a little more often recently on my blog, and I may decide to pull my WordAds advertising altogether if the situation doesn’t improve (I make more money with Google AdSense anyways). I just hate the feeling that I may be inadvertently directing my blog readers to a scam artist, even though I know that I can’t assume responsibility for gullible people who click on misleading ads.

Between my Patreon patron page (thank you to all my wonderful patrons!) and my blog advertising via WordAds and AdSense, I am getting closer to the point where I can cover the costs my blog hosting plan on WordPress (I currently have their Business plan at CAD$33 a month, billed annually). But I am not too concerned about making money at this point. For me, it is more of a creative outlet. I didn’t get into this to make money; I did it because I love to blog!

But one of the most amazing things about my blogging is how it has changed my circumstances, and especially how people perceive me. Theanine said yesterday on the official Sansar Discord server:

Ryan is one of the most prominent social VR bloggers. His words have power…

And I immediately replied:

Oh God please do NOT put me on a pedestal. I will fall off and I will make a large crash when I do.

But the fact remains that I have, not by design and almost by accident, gone from writing a tiny blog exclusively about Sansar to a fairly popular blog covering any and all aspects of social VR, virtual worlds, and the evolving metaverse. And that means that I have a bit of clout. For example, I was among the first 200 people invited into the closed beta test of Decentraland, something I very much doubt would have happened if I weren’t blogging about this project since the very beginning.

And people are beginning to take notice: they are following me on Twitter (only 490 followers so far, but it’s gone up quite a bit this past year); they are welcoming me into their Discord servers (like the Educators in VR Discord, a community I first heard about via the entrepreneur who approached me about expanding and monetizing my list of social VR and virtual worlds); and they are coming to me with news tips and stories (for example, High Fidelity moving out of their expensive San Francisco headquarters). In one instance, two of the members of the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, Michael Zhang and Jin, pulled together and analyzed all the data and produced bar charts which I used in a recent blogpost about which social VR platforms have raised the most money!

(By the way, I have decided not to monetize my list of social VR/virtual worlds. Instead, I will try to work something up for publication in a research journal instead. Working for a university, I tend to have more of an academic than an entrepreneurial bent anyways. Then I could add it to my résumé for the next time I apply for a promotion at work, assuming I do so before I decide to retire at the age of 60, which is the current plan. I might decide instead to create some sort of digital product and distribute it, perhaps via a newsletter mailing list, such as the one set up and operated by Tony, the Italian blogger behind the VR blog The Ghost Howls.)

I have rather ruthlessly pruned who I follow on Twitter to focus on virtual worlds and virtual reality in general, and social VR in particular. And I discover a lot of ideas for blogposts from perusing my Twitter feed regularly. I much prefer Twitter and Reddit over Facebook (which, as many of you already know, I left as my New Year’s resolution at the end of last year, along with Instagram).

On Twitter, I can block tweets from irritating people like Donald Trump and his supporters, using tools such the Twitter Block Chain extension for the Chrome web browser, which will automatically block all users on a following/followers page. Here’s more information about Twitter Block Chain from the Boing Boing blog. (A shout-out to Jessamyn West, the librarian’s librarian, for telling me about Twitter Block Chain. It’s a Godsend. You should follow her on Twitter. Seriously, she’s my librarian superhero.)

Here’s another pro Twitter tip: how to automatically filter out neo-Nazi content from your Twitter stream, from the Lifehacker blog (another blog you should be following):

Twitter…is legally required to hide Nazi content and symbols in Germany and France. You can take advantage of this without moving to Germany. Twitter user Christa Peterson discovered that you can just tell Twitter you’re in Germany, and it will try to hide Nazi accounts and tweets.

Reddit has proven to be another good source for stories for the blog, including one of my most popular blogposts of all time, which actually got picked up by Google News and racked up over 10,000 views. (I didn’t even know that I could get a blogpost picked up by Google News! That just blew my mind when it happened.) Here’s a list of my favourite subReddits.

Among the useful resources I have discovered on my blogging journey are websites which offer free stock photos for blogs. You do not need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on pricey stock images! Most of the images you see on this blog are from my two main go-to sites, Unsplash and Pixabay, but there are literally dozens of websites out there which offer beautiful, high quality, royalty-free images.

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Another great find was the online graphic design program Canva. They do offer a premium subscription, but the free version is very powerful. I was able to use Canva to quickly and easily create professional-looking infographics, like this one, used in a January 2018 blogpost comparing Sansar and High Fidelity:

So, where does my blog go from here? Well, I certainly think I have found my niche, where I am very well-positioned to be able to respond to news and events in social VR and virtual worlds as they happen. For example, it doesn’t really matter whether or not the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland blows up in popularity, or becomes an epic crypto dumpster fire. Either way, it’s news and I will blog about it.

And yes, I was surprised when my recent blogpost about the first casino in Decentraland went viral, with almost 1,500 views in less than a week:

There is an amazing network effect in the crypto/blockchain community, especially if people think they can make money at something. Speaking of money, don’t forget to register for the upcoming Decentraland Game Jam, with some seriously sweet prizes, including a first place prize worth approximately US$21,000. You don’t need to own land to take part in the contest, and they’re even offering training sessions all next week (online via Twitch and at various real-world locations) on how to use the Decentraland SDK to create contest entries. Seriously, how can you lose?

So who knows what directions this blog will take in future, but I doubt I will stray far from my current formula: providing, as my blog tagline states, “News and Views on Social VR, Virtual Worlds, and the Metaverse”. Thank you all so much for accompanying me on this journey!

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