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Studying Video Essays

I’m a great proponent of the internet as a tool for delivering easy to digest learning materials, and yes, YouTube is awash with exactly the kind of tools I’m talking about.

Movies especially have an abundance of video essayists who talk at length about films and the film industry, taking wildly different approaches to the art form. Nerdwriter is a current favourite, whose short discussions that may dissect a single scene in a film, deeply explore a particular technique, or occasionally delve into a different topic. Lindsay Ellis does extensive studies that delve deep into the industry, historical relevance of certain creative choices, or shed light on some behind the scenes processes you might not have heard about before. The Closer Look, Every Frame a Painting, Lessons from the Screenplay, there are many of incredible students of film out to share their thoughts and insights.

For academia in general, Kurzgesagt, CGP Gray, some of the extra vlogbrothers content like SciShow; for literature Tale Foundry, and to an extent Terrible Writing Advice; for tabletop RP, Monarchs Factory, Matt Colville; these are the talking heads, the voices of people who have learned enough to want to share and impart what wisdom they can. Though most of it is heavily slanted by the perspective of the author/essayist/YouTuber in question, most strive for an objective approach and back their opinions with research or extensive experience.

I have been spending vast portions of every day studying the talking-head genre, because some time before the end of this month I’m hoping to put my own videos out there. Not something you’d think I’d consider too difficult, I’ve written 500-2000 word articles twice a week, almost every week, plus Top 10 entries, and most of those have been released on time (here, the author coughs by way of acknowledgement that this does not include today’s piece). I also like talking, especially to an audience, be it a half dozen gamers sat at a table, or a hundred or so gamers who are fool enough to want to listen to my opinions.

So where’s the hang-up?

First of all, a moment of gaming the algorithms on YouTube, what I need to produce has to last for ten minutes. After some experimentation playing around with an autocue generator, I’m estimating a minimum of 2000 words, and I – unfortunately – have a tendency to write concisely, too concisely. So it has been a lesson in padding and drawing out subjects without making it dull listening. This also presumes a script, which I’ll come to momentarily.

Second… talking to a microphone is a world apart from talking to an audience. I invested in a moderate quality microphone, poor audio quality is a killer for videos like this and frankly my webcam was proving inadequate. But here this thing sits… glaring at me, unresponsive. As someone who – by necessity – feeds off the reactions of the audience to inform the content, a microphone is a maddeningly passive audience.

Do I improvise, or do I script in full? I know there are plenty of talking-heads who do one, the other, or both. In my early attempts I tried to strike a balance, writing my script as if it were a D&D game plan, a few notes on talking points, a rough idea what I want to talk about and when, enough to structure without being restrictive, but I learned afterwards that I have a maddening idiosyncrasy that makes editing that style of essay impossible: when I’m thinking, I draw out syllables so that the space in between is almost non-existent. So effort two reads straight from a script, and, while better, I find I stumble over the words that I have written. I entered into the idea thinking it would be the perfect for someone who enjoys talking as much as I do, and here I find I’m learning to talk all over again.

When I put down my keyboard I’ll be trying again, and again, to get this right, possibly trying a few other approaches. I write purely to vent, this is a topic on which there are a thousand answers, none of which right for everyone, it falls within the category of “practice making perfect” and “finding what is right for you”.

I’ll be back when I have a right answer.

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GeekOut UK – Front Page Updates and More

Hey all – From time to time, it’s nice to talk about some of the changes that are being made on the website and the reasons behind them. The astute amongst you may have noticed our front page banner has been updated; it now finally says GeekOut UK. But along with that, if you’re a regular visitor to the website, you’ll have likely seen a couple of changes – Not just to the front page. If you’re not a regular visitor and wondering what changes have been made, then look no further. Today I’m going to talk about some of the behind-the-scenes and what changes we’ve made and why.

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Retail Rant: The Magic Brother-In-Law

I recently handed in my notice to go full time in the professional Dungeon Master-y gig; it’s going well. And with my new found freedom, there is a rant I have been meaning to share with you.  A simple formula of words that will guarantee your friendly electrical retailer will immediately hate you, with a passion.

My [relative] works in [pertinent field], he/she will [perform service].

For example:

My Brother-In-Law works with computers, he’ll sort it out for me.

Allow me to tell you why you are wrong, and also a bad person. (more…)


What Is WooCommerce?

WordPress users will likely have heard of WooCommerce, but may not be fully aware as to what it is. WooCommerce is a way to set up eCommerce on a WordPress.com, or a WordPress.org website. This is a powerful platform for anyone looking to make some sales and to have ultimate control over their content, such as how their products are displayed or even the types of methods used for getting paid for their products. If you’re a small business and wanting your own shop, this may be a great route for you to go down. Here’s a bit of info on the platform:

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Advice for Creatives – Buy A Good Notebook

Sounds pretty dumb, right?

We all do it, at least all writers I know have notebooks at home that never get written in because dammit they’re just too damn pretty. Despite the acres of prime note-taking real estate on £30+ leather bound acid-free paper, instead we swamp our desks with post-its, cast off receipts and torn out pages from notebooks that cost a quid for a shrink wrapped pack of five. Oddly specific? Well there’s also heaps of dice, magic cards, and an empty chocolate raisin wrapper if you must know.

Here’s the perverse logic I realised a while back that has an oddly profound effect on confidence in one’s own work. All those disposable pieces of paper with your thoughts are too easy to throw away, and we apply the same disposability to the ideas we’ve written down.

And yet here are these pristine and beautiful notebooks that we spent money on and now keep on shelves, unwritten in because we don’t want to spoil them with our thoughts. Does that make sense? Would we put greater value on our notes if we wrote them on better paper that’s harder to throw away? Would our doodles and scribbles have greater importance if we actually put them between prettier pages?

From experience, let me tell you, yes to all of the above. Writing now for six years, starting my own business, and slowly but surely coming to value my own work enough to put an actual price tag on it has all taught me better and more productive habits. I’ve probably tried too many at this point, but among those I can say actually work, highest on the list are: writing to a regular schedule, and actually valuing your own work, holding yourself to a standard*, and part of that is actually putting your work into something you care about, like a good notebook.

Most of you have that notebook, and let me clarify that the notebook needn’t be a notebook, it could be a sketchbook, a particular folder, maybe it’s music that you’ve only ever written and heard via synthesised but you never actually play and record it on a real instrument. Maybe you’re surrounded by scribbles but you’ve never put those images to canvas… I’m spitballing here, I’m out of my format, I don’t know how the same hangups apply to other creatives, you tell me.

I am encouraging you all to apply greater value to yourselves than you may have done before. No, not all of you, some of you are already out there, putting yourselves out into the world and aspiring for something new, some of you don’t need to hear it. Some of you may be staring at your desk quietly nodding to yourselves and wondering what to write. Here’s the next part, stop wondering, and just start writing something about your current project, or resurrecting one that you loved once and haven’t touched in far too long.


*Not a high standard, not even a good one particularly, just set a certain expectation like word count, or upholding certain values like adhering to certain rules.


Quick Website Update

Hey all, without lying about it, I had nothing planned for today as I’ve been out with our friends at Later Levels this weekend. Was awesome catching up with them all, so this post is literally just going to be a very short update on the website, what sort of directions we’re heading in and over to you. Basically, this is just a short catch up post, so I can also catch up with sorting other bits of the website out.

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The Addams Family (2019)

They’re kooky and they’re spooky, but will this latest adventure of The Addams Family be at all memorable? An animated story, which presents itself in a great old-school way, but will modern audiences connect with it? Furthermore, will they get the characters right? A huge proponent to the 90’s films and before was how every character had a role within the family; so will this still be the case, or will this now be washed down? I’ve gone ahead and watched the trailers, seen the promo’s out there and I have to say, this is a bit of a mixed bag for me. Here’re my reasons why – And let’s see how much you agree (or disagree) with.

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SummerSlam 2019’s Greatest Moment

SummerSlam 2019 has now come and gone. It was a night filled with very few title changes, although a major one changed. We also saw a couple of non-title feuds, which I’m honestly a big fan of. Sometimes, I prefer to watch an angle between people who just want to get to one another; take the current storyline between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon for instance. Great stuff… But there is one story that I think will have people talking for arguably years to come.

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Making A Private Wiki

Making a wiki has never been easier in this day and age; all you have to do is start to write a new wiki on a website such as Wikia (now known as Fandom). Great. But wait, when you make a Wikia page, it has to be public. I first made this mistake, as I was looking to make myself a private wiki. I’m sure you may be wondering why anyone would make a private wiki; isn’t the point of them to share information with others? To have other people help moderate and update information as it comes in? Whilst you’re right, you may want a private wiki to keep track of your stories, your adventures, your games, you name it… And just because it’s private doesn’t mean it has to be a one-person wiki.

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The History of Monopoly

Many geeks groan at the board game Monopoly; it’s a friendship killer, it’s a poorly designed game, you name it. I’ve heard people say all sorts about it, but that doesn’t stop the fact it’s been around the block. Over the years, Monopoly went from the de facto board game for families to one that doesn’t get any recognition at all. However the history of Monopoly is pretty interesting, especially considering it was designed to be educational in its own weird way. So how did the property buying game come to be and let’s also have a look at some of the variants out there.

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