and Web Publishing

by Mike Shea on 10 April 2009

Merlin Mann and Jonathan Gruber gave a talk at SXSW that inspired me into action. They said some things that I'd been kicking around in the cobwebs of my brain for some time about web publishing. These ideas boiled down by me into the following:

First, people don't really give a damn about what I say. They give a damn about what I SAY. It isn't the author that's important, its the topic. Most blogs are based on a person, the TOPIC is the person. Thus, a weblog on Mike Shea will end up appealing only to those interested in Mike Shea like some friends and family. That means I'm not likely to ever get many regular readers. Instead, certain articles might end up getting some readers when I happen onto a topic so obscure that it pops up high on some google queries. Fountain pen reviews, for example, or even more deep, fountain pen reviews of Pilot Vanishing Point fountain pens.

This isn't satisfying. It was different for me when I wrote for Mobhunter because the topic was Everquest, not just me. Even then, though, I focused on articles based on my point of view as the "casual gamer" which was mostly a load of crap. I just didn't think the top .0001% of the game's population should get 60% of the resources spent on the game.

Merlin made a statement I really liked in that talk. He said something like "Don't make a website about Star Wars or even about Jawas, but what about that ONE Jawa in that one scene! Become the go-to guy on that Jawa."

There are probably a million reviews of Battlestar Galactica on the web and I probably had about four people read mine. They could have read any of them and probably got what they wanted. That's not really useful.

So I started a new project. I wanted to build a focused site on a topic I'm really passionate about. I wanted it really focused so that there were maybe only ten other websites that did something similar to me. I wanted to brand it right and clearly define the goals of the site for myself and the readers.

What I came up with was, a weblog with a single goal: Building the better Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Dungeon Master. There are a lot of other game-master sites out there and a lot of RPG blogs that talk about 4th edition, but this one will really refine it down. I'll post a new article every Monday morning (so I can waste boss-time instead of reader time) and each article will be designed to make a 4th edition dungeon master's game better.

I also finally found a good use for Twitter. Sure, I've been posting tweets for about three years now but, like many, they had little value to people's lives. Sure, it might be good if you're interested in the life of Mike Shea (hi mom!) but that's a pretty narrow field.

Instead I started a new twitter account with a likewise limited scope and topic: "D&D 4th Edition DM Tips Twice Daily". Now I have a reason to tweet. Thanks to the RPG Blogger's Network, I found a nice wide circle of fellow gamers on the web and on Twitter - friends I hope to meet in person at Gencon this year.

For both the website and the twitter feed, I made some general rules I hoped to follow. First, be consistent. Two, be brief. Three, be useful. I plan to avoid the politics and business discussions of D&D (yep, there are politics - see PDFGate) instead focusing on the game itself. Unlike Everquest, each DM has control over their own game. This new site would focus on making those games better.

So I'm pretty excited about the whole thing. I went from 15 hits to 100 hits a day in the first week, found fifty great people to follow on Twitter, joined the RPG Blogger's Network thanks to the fellow son-of-an-author, The Game, and have so far kept up with one article a week and two useful Tweets a day!

My only problem seems to be keeping up with the Twitter chatter. There are a whole pile of tweets every day and keeping up with them is quite daunting. I hear that "dipping into the stream" is better than trying to guzzle from the firehose, but if I expect anyone to read any of my little nuggets, I have to be reading the rest. Anyway, figuring out Twitter is still a challenge.

So if you've reached the end of this post and you're one of the folks who came to this blog for your fix of D&D talk, please check out and and make your game better.