Our first interview this week is with Matt Low, better known to the WoW community as Matticus. He’s been a longtime WoW blogger over at the group site World of Matticus, which is also where Rebecca, who founded the Melting Pot, got her start.
Subsequently, Matt joined the WoW Insider team, where he writes the “Raid RX” column, as well as working with the rest of the team on general raiding and healing subjects. He’s also the Community Manager for Enjin.com, which he’ll tell us more about in the interview!
Hugh Hi, Matt, and thanks very much for agreeing to be grilled here today! So, obviously your highest-profile gig is probably working for WoW Insider. What’s it like working with such a huge blog, and how does it differ from working on a personal project?
Matt A much, much higher reader base. That’s one of the bigger differences. Contributing to WoW Insider is considered a paid gig so there is that as well. The freedom to write is a little diminished.
On my own blog, I can write about practically anything I’d like because I’m my own boss and there’s no restrictions. On WoW Insider, I don’t have that luxury largely because my areas of expertise are limited (namely to healing or raiding). I wouldn’t be the best choice to write about commentary for mages or tanks.
Then there’s the accountability factor: If I screw up on my own blog, I can easily resolve that. If I screw up a fact or something on WoW Insider, I’m usually alerted early on prior to the post being published. If it’s missed, I’ll get a barrage of emails and tweets from people with pitchforks screaming how I misspelled Circle of Haeling. I try my best to minimize those though. I love my colleagues on WoW Insider and they’re great people to work with and bounce ideas off of.
Hugh So you guys think of yourselves very much as a single blog, rather than a blog collective? I ask because obviously there’s such a huge range of styles and expertises over there.
Matt Since we all live in different places and we’re able to telecommute, we do coordinate news or articles idea with each other to ensure there’s no double shifting of posts.
And yes, WoW Insider is a single blog with multiple contributors. Sometimes our expertise will cross with each other. It’s always a thrill getting into internal lore debates or discussing mechanics (or watching others go at it /popcorn style).
Hugh Yeah, that sounds very cool. Does that happen over Twitter, or email, or are you guys all on some kind of IM thing?
Matt We coordinate with each other using our own software.
Hugh Do you ever have a situation where multiple people want to cover the same topic, and how do you resolve that?
Matt Yes actually. If the angles are different enough, sometimes both of them might go through and work collaboratively on the same post. other times, depending on the breadth of the topic, it could just be split up into 2 posts covering different sides.
Hugh Overall, it sounds like you enjoy writing for WI a lot – we’ve talked about the challenges, but what are the best bits?
Matt Sounds really cheesy, but it’s always a thrill working with and meeting the team once a year annually at BlizzCon.
You also get to interact with the readers and the community. Just a whole bunch of exposure and people (less the trolls of course ^^).
Hugh Ah, the trolls. Where would we be without them? Less stressed.
Last WI question – obviously, you’re owned by AOL, and there have been a few reports on the Internet about writing for AOL sites being basically a giant content-farm treadmill, where you get handed article titles and have to write them in tiny amounts of time. I take it that the WI experience is very different – why do you think that is?
Matt Probably because our editors are just that damned awesome. I can’t comment on other AOL sites (I’ve never contributed to the others). Not to mention since our main topic is about WoW, theres’ always something new to see, something fresh to analyze and some question to ponder.
Ideas come to us basically.
Hugh That makes sense. I find the same on the Pot – if you’re short of viable article ideas, something’s gone badly wrong
Hugh Do you ever see the Hand of AOL at work in WI, or is all that dealt with at editorial level?
Matt Not really, I’d like to think we’re pretty autonomous.
We’re still a business, we still need revenue streams and all that. So as long as our results are there, we can still do what we do.
Hugh So, obviously your other gig is Community Manager for Enjin. Is that a full-time thing, part time, or more of a consultancy deal?
Matt My work at Enjin keeps me busy. Definitely full time.
Hugh Cool. So, there are quite a few guild hosting solutions out there, some a lot more entrenched than Enjin, plus of course there’s always the “just run WordPress/PHPBB” option that a lot of guilds take – so what was it about Enjin that attracted you to work with them? What’s the secret sauce?
Matt Because Enjin is clearly the best hosting solution for guilds and clans /cheesymarketingvoiceguy
Hugh Does it leverage your dynamic synergy toward a win-win solution?
Matt Hahah! Catering to the casuals!
Now I’m a gamer at heart. I’m not limited to just MMOs. I like shooters, I like RTS games and all that. Some of the other hosting solutions limit their services to guilds OR clans. Enjin was one of the few that offered support for guilds AND clans. Last I checked, almost 5000 games could be supported. That diversity greatly appealed to me.
Hugh So how did you end up hooking up with the Enjin guys in the first place? Was it blogging-related?
Matt Absolutely yes. They initially approached me due to my work on WoW Insider, my blog and so forth. After trying out their system, I made a few requests and offered them some feedback from a GM Perspective (Why this tool is good, this widget feels weird/clunky, I think you should try this approach, etc). They listened politely and introduced a few changes. I’d just continue to keep offering them feedback in general.
I’d introduce them to other contacts of mine I’ve developed within the community and across other games and… then I got signed!
Hugh Pretty cool. So I guess that’s basically a classic “where your blog can take you” story? Or do you think you’d have ended up doing something similar even without WoM and WI?
Matt Yeah, it’s the standard, academy award winning “Work hard at blog, watch what happens story”. But don’t get me wrong. It takes a RIDICULOUS amount of work and time investment. Remember I only started my blog 4 years ago. I got picked up by WoW Insider about a year after that and started at Enjin recently last year. So it takes a lot of time, perseverance and drive. You have to be driven and motivated. If you’re not, then don’t expect to see many results. I’ve sacrificed much to get where I am. At the end of the day, I’m satisfied with the choices but there are times where I think about what could have been.
Without the support from WoM and WI, I doubt I would’ve been able to get to this position. Influence does matter and it certainly helps. People are skeptical about you and your skills unless you have something tangible to back it up with. “Why should we hire you?” is a question that’s always going to come up in the mind of the company. Saying you contribute to one of the largest WoW blogs and are an active writer with multiple years of blogging under your belt is an excellent card to lay down.
World of Matticus
Hugh No kidding! So, yeah, let’s talk about WoM. For an independent blog, you grew it to be pretty darn massive. What did you do and how did you work to get it that large?
Matt Simple. I wrote. A lot. There were nights I stayed up to 2 or 3 in the morning hammering out posts, getting my Photoshop in and all that. Lately that’s gone down a bit but that’s just due to my increasing responsibilities. One of the basic “strats” I use is to just comment on other blogs. Have something interesting and appealing to say. Don’t underestimate what kind of traffic you can pull just for being the first person to write something helpful or beneficial. People DO read comments.
I see a lot of well written thoughts and posts from other bloggers. But there are two things: One, they typically stop writing after 60 days and just give up on blogging or something happens where they’re not able to do it anymore. Maybe they lose interest, I don’t know. Two, no one knows about their blog. Again, tons of great writers but they’re not the best at marketing their blog or raising exposure which is often difficult. It’s a simple concept. If no one knows about your blog, you’re not going to be read. So go out and comment on other blogs. Email other blogging colleagues and ask them to check out your stuff.
Hugh Was WoM your first blog? I’m guessing you learned a fair bit whilst running it – are there any resources you used that you’d recommend to other bloggers wanting to learn how to do something similar?
Matt Yup, WoM was my first blog. I learned much about publishing and site administration during high school. I actually managed my high school’s website for 3 years while I was there. Things like design, copywriting, content management and all that experience came in handy for the blog. One of the challenges I faced then was how to make the site both appealing for my peers and appropriate for the parents and teachers.
For resources, I’d highly recommend both problogger.net and copyblogger.com. Problogger is great for different blog related techniques. things like new widgets, new tech, how to get traffic and that sort of thing. Copyblogger was great because it helps you become a better writer. I don’t mean technically. I mean writing for the web and for people. Not writing for academics (which is what I was doing before before I slowly shifted my style).
Hugh I’d second both of those recommendations. Copyblogger’s particularly good – I’ve been following it since it opened.
Hugh So, what’s next for WoM? I saw a mention recently that you’re in the process of doing a relaunch of sorts…
Matt Oh, that would be the Matticast. Our podcast team will be coming back together soon and offering our collective thoughts on a weekly basis for WoW, healing, raiding and all the stuff in between.
Hugh Very neat. I’m not a big podcast person (no commute) but I’l make an effort to catch an episode or two! Any plans for WoM itself, or are you on “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?
Matt Write more! I love writing but I just haven’t had the time. I’ve got the ideas and such in place, but argh I just need to make time (that goes for the rest of you bloggers). You need to MAKE time for blogging.
Hugh Seconded. It’s like any other kind of writing.
Hugh OK, so, just wrapping up, two final things.
This has been really interesting, by the way – thanks!
First thing – we’ve talked about sites talking about WoW, we’ve talked about blogging about WoW, we’ve talked about hosting guilds who play WoW. But we haven’t talked about WoW!
So – what’s most interesting/exciting/infuriating to you about World of Warcraft at the moment?
Matt Geeze, all these hard questions
Hugh Old-school interviewer
Matt We’re still working our way through hard mode 25 man Firelands content. Standing on my head healing continues to be my main interests. It’s exciting, challenging and it CAN be really infuriating. Aside from that, I’ve fallen back to blowing up stuff on my Shaman, Shadow Priest and Ret Pally. What’s infuriating for me is just being Ret and trying to react to the different abilities and when they come off of cooldown and so forth.
It’s not exactly like healing.
Hugh “standing on my head healing”? Are you saving time by combining your yoga and your raid times?
Matt Sometimes its nice to have a different perspective.
Hugh Yeah, I’ve been brewing an editorial on that, actually – it’s increasingly seeming to me that healing and the rest of WoW are diverging as game types. Writing class guides I notice this particularly – healer guides are MASSIVELY harder to write because healing is so much more individual and situational.
Matt Correct. there isnt a straight up rotation like playing a Mage or an Elemental Shaman for example. It’s more of a action-reaction type of deal.
Hugh Nods I see a lot more super-hardcore log analysis and so on out of healers than any other class – do you think that they’re actually harder to play, or just differently hard?
Not trying to trick you into annoying half the WoW-playing world here Just curious because, as a someone who doesn’t heal that often, frankly healing frequently looks scary-complicated.
Matt See, now there’s a question I should’ve asked to the Q&A about ease and accessibility for non healers
_ I don’t think they’re actually harder to play or anything. I just think that there’s so much more pressure and accountability. When things go bad in an encounter, where does the raid look first? Healers. All that hardcore log analysis is done as a method to CYA so to speak.
Hugh There’s my pullquote for the article
Hugh Other MMOs – are you tempted to go to the Dark Side? Or are you sticking with WoW for now?
Matt We’re expanding to SWTOR. Currently looking for someone to assist me with the GM side of things. So anyone out there with GMing experience looking for a strong infrastructure and support system, come to me. Love to have a chat. I’d only be a casual player in the game since I’m devoted to WoW and all that. I’d love to have a Conquest guild for SWTOR. Sith side though.
Hugh Cool – I’m not sure there’s going to be anyone left who isn’t at least dual-specced WoW and SWTOR come January
So, final thing – give us your elevator pitch! Should the guilds reading this interview consider moving over to Enjin for hosting, and if so, why?
Matt Historically, the guild website was managed by the person with the most technical expertise: Design, programming, etc. Enjin takes that equation away. Doesn’t matter what your experience level. It’s extremely easy to use and customizable as well. As a GM myself, I’ve cut down on the amount of time I had to spend managing the site because of that. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend more time playing then administrating a site.
It’s better than the elevator pitch I’ve got for the Pot
That’s been great! Thanks very much for agreeing to be grilled for the Pot!