Blog Milestone: our 100th post!

Yes, we’ve reached our first big blogging milestone here on AddAltMode, post number 100. Let’s celebrate!

100 posts

Ultra Magnus can’t entirely deal with this celebration business right now, but he’s making an effort for us.

We started this blog at the beginning of this year, January, that month of good intentions so many of which quickly morph into failed resolutions. AddAltMode could easily have been another abandoned project on that list, but instead 8 months on, here we are, still blogging, massively enjoying doing so, making friends and slowly growing the site. Thank you to everyone who has read, followed, liked or commented so far. Beyond doubt the most rewarding aspect of blogging on WordPress has to be the sense of community here and though we are still a very tiny site and will probably always remain that way we’ve met some great people as a result of writing here and enjoyed some really good discussion, both here on AddAltMode and on some of the other blogs we follow.

100 posts in seems like a good time to pause and reflect on some of the things we’ve done, what has worked, what hasn’t and what we’ve learned as a result…

We launched AddAltMode because we thought it would be a fun joint project to stake out our own little corner of the internet. My background is in English Literature and I’d run a book reviews blog in the past which was starting to be quite successful but I gave it up as I was finding it too much and not enjoyable to manage alone. We thought the geek husband and wife thing – while hardly unique – was quite a nice angle: blogging as a duo would allow us to post more frequently, and that it would give me a place to carry on sharing reviews while also providing an outlet for the increasing amounts of cosplay and 3D-printed toy customisations we seemed to be producing.

It’s always satisfying to see a spike in views on our blog stats and I do think we can expand our readership more yet: it is slowly growing, and July was our best month so far hitting 1,000 views for the first time (which I know is nothing, but it felt good for us!). But realistically we see blogging as a fun little creative hobby and have no illusions of fame or fortune as a result of musing online about plastic robots and related geekery. The main impetus to expand is to meet more people and hopefully continue to establish a sense of community here. I think we’ve got ourselves a nice niche with AddAltMode but that it is a pretty niche niche: we’re probably a little too Transformers-centric to pitch ourselves as a generic geek blog, but on the other hand we haven’t gone full Cyberton either so those who come here for Optimus etc may not want to stick around for the book reviews or music posts (well, they might stay for the Stan Bush!) I think that’s OK. Our tagline ”Expect Robots” probably sums things up pretty well: it’s not all robots all the time but the chance of robots in these parts is certainly high. For now we want to keep on leaning towards the ‘Bots while also trying to cover a variety of wider geeky themes here. We seem to have stabilised our post schedule at 3 per week (regular enough to challenge us to keep writing and thinking up new posts, while also being achievable alongside busy, full-time jobs) so I hope we’re managing to achieve the right kind of balance when it comes to post themes.

100 posts is enough content now that we’re starting to see a few trends emerge when it comes to our different post categories:

Cosplay:

This is our most viewed category overall – although a lot of this comes from a single massive view spike on my first Arcee post after Sumalee Montano (Arcee’s voice actor in Prime) picked up on it and tweeted the link. Cosplay is a very accessible theme as you don’t necessarily need to be that familiar with a character to enjoy seeing a costume come together or to relate to the problems and frustrations involved in a build. Like Timlah at GeekOut Southwest, I really enjoy being a “cosblogger” and sharing the whole process – problems, disappointments and successes – rather than just the end results. This is a big reason why AddAltMode is a blog and not just a Facebook gallery.

In terms of search result hits, Arcee attracts more visitors for us than Slipstream. Even though Slipstream is probably a better costume, Arcee is just  a much more popular character. But when people come here to look at project Arcee they do tend to stay to look at the Slipstream posts too. Balancing that, I’ve been more active in person out and about in the Slipstream costume than I have with Arcee so we’ve had more visits to our site coming by way of Facebook as links from the event pages I’ve attended in Decepticon mode. I could do an awful lot more than I do to promote the blog via my cosplay but I have to admit I don’t always feel comfortable on cosplay sharing sites. In person, the cosplay community has been nothing but supportive, but online a lot of cosplay link sites seem to focus so much more on the body of the (usually female) cosplayer and whether they’re “hot” than on the clothes and props they’ve made. That’s probably a wider internet problem but it’s part of why I’m happy for our blog to stay small and keep a feeling of personal connection.

The Borderlands costume stuff we’re working on now is less unique than the Transformer costumes but Borderlands is a very popular franchise with an active cosplay scene. We haven’t made enough progress yet to judge how our work will go down – time will tell!

Transformers: 

If Cosplay attracts our best statistical spikes then our Transformers posts are our regular deliveries. My review of Combiner Wars Optimus is our second most viewed post on the site (after the Arcee cosplay post) and most of this traffic comes from search results rather than links. Unsurprisingly, we’ve noticed our Transformers posts with the most contemporary relevance are the most popular in terms of views: so that’s primarily reviews of figures from the current Combiner Wars line and posts on the new Robots in Disguise TV show. We’ve had some great discussion on the new cartoon and we’ll be reviewing more episodes of that soon now that it’s moving into season 2 (and dare I say, finally getting good). But cartoon chatter aside, I’ve noticed that people who visit for Transformers content tend not to like or comment so much, just view. I’m guessing this is because there isn’t a huge TF community on WordPress so AddAltMode tends to be seen more like a website than a blog by those who come for this particular content. I think its nice that the blog format with optional comments allows us to cater to both viewers and participants.

Sadly we just don’t have the money or the shelf space to buy too many toys from the current line although there are definitely some forthcoming figures that we want – so there will be some reviews of new figures coming in the future. By contrast, our reviews of older, more obscure TFs like the Arms Micron line tend to attract less overall views but more engagement from those who do read the posts. I have another – very special – Arms Micron figure review coming out here soon, oh ho ho don’t I just?

Finally there’s our Transformers Universe stuff, which is an odd beast. The game is defunct but there is still quite a passionate following among those who were involved in the beta (especially in Russia it seems). Google the game and a lot of AddAltMode content comes up early in the search results, especially B’s Mismatch custom. This is never going to be a big slice of the statistical pie but it does feel like one of our special niches, and Mismatch is looking fantastic now he’s fully painted with a mark 2 head all printed up. We can’t wait to show you!

Film:

After a very strong start with a robot movie review a month I seem to have lost my cinema-going mojo recently. We haven’t even made it along to see Ant Man yet, much as we wanted to. Film reviews are big on WordPress and I’ve enjoyed reading and commenting on other people’s. I like writing movie reviews as a way to clarify my own thoughts and record my reactions after a trip to the cinema but I don’t go to the cinema enough for films to be anything other than an occasional feature here and I don’t review every film I see. I didn’t write up Age of Ultron because it was so hyped for so long that I felt every possible thing had been said about it already. And I didn’t review Mad Max: Fury Road because I loved it so much that I would’ve been incapable of writing anything more coherent than “WITNESS! WOW WOW WOW… etc. ” The most viewed film review we’ve done so far here has been my review of Chappie, which was a good one to dissect because I really enjoyed it but at the same time it’s hard to ignore the film’s many flaws.  It might be fun to do a few more “Tasteometer” type posts and discuss several older films in the same entry.

Analysing the statistics is of course a key skill for any gamer. Screenshot from Borders The Pre-Sequel.

Analysing the statistics is of course a key skill for any gamer. Screenshot from Borders The Pre-Sequel.

Books:

This is an interesting one. Our book reviews are some of the least viewed posts overall, but those people who do view tend to be quite active in commenting and liking. We usually also pick up a few new followers (hello!) and incoming traffic via Twitter after a Robo Reads update.  I think this is because – in contrast to our experience of the Transformers content – book reviews are massive on WordPress and on social media as a whole and there’s a huge community of very active readers here. I often wonder if the people who follow us on the back of a book review are then turned off by the toy reviews etc although I don’t think we’ve seen any unfollows yet. I actually read very widely, including a lot of classics and literary fiction but I tend to focus my reviews on sci-fi, fantasy and dystopian fiction as these are the types of genres that fit best with the tone and interests of this blog. I find these posts the hardest and most time-consuming to write so one book review every few weeks is probably going to remain the norm. If you have any Robo Reads suggestions for me I’ve love to hear them!

Music:

These posts are a bit of a wildcard, I haven’t been able to discern much of a pattern in terms of statistics and reception at all yet; possibly because the musical topics we’ve covered have been too diverse: chiptune, black metal, low-fi, we like to keep our aural options open. CUGIBs ended up as a bit of a non feature as I’ve still yet to cover more than one band (although I do have other candidates in mind) but Chiptune Tuesday has proven quite fun. We won’t be running a Chiptune feature every single Tuesday but it will probably continue to pop up every few weeks, and we really ought to make a Spotify playlist to accompany it. At the end of the day, geekery is about passion and music is something we’re both passionate about so we enjoy writing these and would like to continue to include music related content here. But we do tend to put them out on weekdays when the blog is typically quieter, saving more “prime” content (which in our case is often means Prime content) for the busier weekend days.

Geek Life:

This category covers our “Let’s Talk About” posts and other slightly more individual / personal content. I guess you could say it’s the “bloggiest” stuff we do. I’m always wary of putting too much of myself out on a public site but on the other hand people like to feel a connection with the bloggers they follow (this is important to me as a reader too) and I’ve generally found the more honest and open these posts have been the better reception they’ve had, I’m particularly thinking of my confessions about Geekdom and Introversion (probably the post I’m most proud of) and about struggling with cosplay motivation both of which generated quite a few shares and comments (Professor Elemental sharing the latter link certainly helped too!) We want to get the balance right with these and not turn the site purely into a diary (although there are some wonderfully written diary type blogs out there) but it does seem that continuing with a few geek-themed insights of a more personal nature is definitely the way to go if we want to generate more shares and interactions. There’s a lot we can learn from other bloggers in this respect too. One blog I particularly admire is a fellow geek-couple site, Comparative Geeks. David and Holly seem to get the balance spot on between personal observations and things like reviews and character studies so do check out their blog if you haven’t done so already.

Gaming: 

Our most popular gaming posts to date are B’s reviews of The Binding of Isaac and Double Dragon Neon and my review of Choice of Robots. From this we can learn, um, not much since these are all completely different genres and types of games! The trouble with game reviews is that we only have limited free time and playing Borderlands games often takes up all the time we could spend writing about games. Do you have to finish a game to have experienced enough of it to offer a fair review?  I find interactive fiction quite a rewarding game genre to cover because these kinds of games tend to be fairly short and have a very clear end point with a few different routes to get there, so I always reach a point where I feel, “yes, I’m ready to write about this now.” Another way to go here is to continue including gaming related content that isn’t straight up reviews, for example, B’s joke piece on Goat Simulator or our recent feature on Borderlands 2 side quests. What do you think? What kinds of game related content would you like to see on AddAltMode?

One thing’s for sure, however we decide to play this category in future, we are certainly not short of games to review, especially since I was recently lucky enough to the win the entirety of the huge  Bandai Namco Humble Bundle in the recent  GeekOut South West Competition – gaming overload!

So that’s it, a bit of blog-based introspection to mark our big 100. Thanks for reading! We hope you’ve enjoyed the stuff we’ve written and shared here so far. Here’s to the next 100 posts, and please do let us know what you’d like to see more of on this site during that time.

‘Til All are One!

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