Please note that I am taking a vacation from the blog for the next two to three weeks, except for sponsored blogposts (with the occasional exception, like this editorial).
My goal with this blog has always been to turn it into a paying side-gig when I finally take my retirement from my full-time job with the University of Manitoba (at the moment, I am planning to retire in three and half years, when I turn 60 years old). I can think of nothing that would please me more than being able to work in social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse full time!
I do earn a small amount from my sponsored blogposts, advertising on my blog, and from my wonderful Patreon supporters (thank you so much!). Whether or not you are a patron, thank you for your continued readership and support! It means the world to me.
But every so often, I have to hit pause and ask myself: should I write about something if what I have to say is negative? This happened most recently when I wrote an unfavourable review of Forbes VR writer Charlie Fink’s latest publication, Remote Collaboration and Virtual Conferences: The Future of Work. This is a book which I feel was rushed through the proofreading process, and was filled with typesetting problems throughout. I also had problems with the selected content, notably how poorly it was organized.
After writing and publishing my negative review, I went back and reread it and thought: Damn, that’s harsh. And I asked myself: how would I feel if I had written this book and got this kind of review? Not great. So much for the Golden Rule.
So it comes down to this: do I hold back when I have negative things to say about a product (or a platform), or really tell people how I feel about it? Up until now, the answer has always been easy: tell people exactly how I feel, and why.
But, as my blog becomes more popular, and as more people begin to approach me with sponsorship and other business opportunities (or just to pick my brains), I am starting to wonder if that is indeed the wisest approach going forward. As I said, I hope to make this a more lucrative full-time job, after I retire from the library.
And a lot of that business relies on positive word of mouth. Charlie Fink is considered a heavyweight in the world of writing about VR/AR/XR, well regarded for his wide-ranging, continuing coverage of this continually-evolving marketplace, and I’m quite sure he is not happy with my book review. Should I be holding my tongue more often, and keeping my opinions to myself, now that I am starting to establish a name for myself, and to build a brand?
I have no end to the number of people and platforms who feel that I have been less than fair to their products on my blog, or who feel slighted in some why by what I have written here. (I’m not going to bother naming them; in most cases, they already know who they are, and what their complaints are with me.)
You should know that I do have an agreement with my major sponsor, Sinespace, that I can maintain my editorial independence on the RyanSchultz.com blog, while writing sponsored blogposts for Sinespace. I have criticized Sinespace in the past (yes, it has happened!), and I still reserve the right to do so in future if I think they are screwing up. (I am also currently also writing blogposts for the official Sinespace blog, filling in for someone on maternity leave. Obviously, the rules there are completely different. I make requested adjustments to those blogposts all the time. Their blog, their rules.)
Another complicating factor is my overall emotional makeup. Compared to other, calmer bloggers like Inara Pey (whom I admire a great deal), I am a pitchy blogger: sometimes I write things when I am in a bad mood, and it shows. I have sometimes wondered if I should institute a 24-hour cool-down period after any blogpost I write, just to give myself time to review it for tone and mood (and possible bias), before I hit the Publish button.
And yet another factor is that many of my readers have taken time out to tell me that they value the unfiltered, unvarnished, calling-a-spade-a-spade approach I have taken on my blog. (Of course, I hear far less often from the people who wish I was more polite, measured, and circumspect in my approach.)
This is just something that I have been pondering today, as I enjoy my continuing vacation from the blog—the first real vacation I have allowed myself in nearly three years. I still haven’t come to any firm conclusions or resolutions as to what I should do going forward, but I aware of this particular issue, and the role which I play as an increasingly popular social VR and virtual worlds blogger, and my responsibilities as a journalist.
I’ve been doing some thinking about all the crazy things that have happened this week on various social VR platforms and virtual worlds, and in the communities that spring up around them. And about how I have covered them here on this blog. Sometimes you have to take time to reflect on what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. Otherwise, you are blundering on, making the same mistakes over and over again.
Trying to find balance as a blogger is difficult. You can write something that, to your eyes, looks like it’s a balanced treatment of something, and be criticized by someone who thinks it’s unbalanced, biased, and unfair. You can quote somebody, and then be accused of spreading misinformation by someone, because that’s not how they see things!
Look, people. The best I can do is my best, and that will almost certainly fall short of somebody’s expectations. I’m only human, I have my own set of biases, and when I f*** up, I own it, I admit it, and I apologize to the person or people I have offended, and move on.
And this still holds as true today as it did when I first wrote it. So, I ask you to please bear with me as I continue to ask myself these kinds of questions, processing both the informal and formal feedback I have received to date. I plan to use this time off to reflect and make some decisions. What started off as a hobby blog almost three years ago has evolved over time, and I find that I need to evolve with it.
Thank you, as always, for your readership, your feedback, and your support.