Not gonna lie, that felt like the longest season of all time.
I’ll preface this by saying that this post will have very little to do with RD2L itself; if you’re here for RD2L content, it’s not the entry for you. This will purely be me talking about creating that content; the process, the ups and downs, the stats and a whole host of other random things that come to mind. It’s essentially a glorified and unstructured venting session, but just in case you’re still reading, I’ll start with what I’m assuming is the only bit people might find interesting.
This one’s a doozy; I’ve started the count with the May 25th piece about the IHL’s revival in the offseason, and concluded it with the Revelations piece on August 24th. Over the course of that 91 day period:
- I’ve written and published 42 articles. 16 of them were Power Rankings and updates to said rankings, 7 were weekly match Rundowns, 13 fall under the category of other season 20 related content (Interviews, Playoff Predictions, Storylines, etc), and 6 pieces related to RD2L, but not strictly to season 20 (Nations Cup, ABCs, Most Wanted, etc). This comes out to about half a content piece every day for three months. For context, I’ve published a total of 77 posts on this Medium account, so more than half of all articles on this account were published in this 3 month period.
- These 42 pieces garnered a combined total of 7026 views —a number funnily enough still shy of the viewcount for my Razor guide. This comes out to an average of roughly 167 views per article, though in truth I’d say most posts — especially towards the tail end of the season — didn’t quite reach that mark, and the average is a bit inflated by the more successful pieces.
- Despite 7026 views, the actual read ratio (ie, fully scrolling through the article, as far as I know) sits at about 57.37%, with the number of reads being somewhere around 4031.
- The 5 most successful (in terms of viewcount) pieces were:
- RD2L EU S20 Player Rankings, with 355 views;
- CET-WED S20 Power Rankings / Team Reviews, with 325 views;
- CET-SUN S20 Power Rankings / Team Reviews, with 246 views;
- RD2L EU S20: Week 1 Rundown, Week 2 Predictions, with 215 views;
- The Theoretical Best Nations Cup, with 215 views.
- The 5 worst performing pieces were:
- Playoff Storylines — SUN Edition, with 71 views
- CET-SUN Playoff Predictions: Round 1, with 83 views
- Prestige Possibilities II, with 85 views
- Playoff Round 1 Prediction Results, Round 2 Predictions, with 99 views
- Playoff Series MVP — WED Round 1, with 111 views
- The monthly breakdown comes out to 4 pieces in 6 days in May (0.66 articles a day), 14 pieces in 30 days in June (0.47 articles a day), a highly regrettable 20 pieces in 31 days in July (0.65 articles a day) and 4 in 24 days of August (0.17 articles a day). If I exclude August, since I’d already essentially stopped writing then, it comes out to 38 pieces in 67 days, which brings the production to more than half a piece a day for over two months.
- The 42 articles total up to 84142 words and 459592 characters written, though I’d say a solid 5% of that can be shaved off due to the way in which I got those counts. If we take the real number to be closer to about 80k, this comes out to a rough average of 1900 words per article, which is admittedly again inflated by the longer articles (then again, also deflated by image-only posts). This is, according to Google, the rough length of a 300+ page book.
- This total word count would, at an online content mill paying $0.01 per word, netted me about $800. Both interesting and slightly depressing, go figure.
- The longest article (by a fair margin at that) was the pre-season Power Rankings for SUN, at about 4900 words. I am many things, but concise is not one of them.
- In planning pieces, I’d very often take handwritten notes in a small notebook, of which I’ve filled 98 pages with notes.
- I have a folder of Dota loading screens and splash art to use as headers that I got from here; the folder contains a total of 777 images. I’ve used a total of 58 and have dragged 304 into the “Bad” folder, leaving me with 415 unused images for future content. The selection is mostly just random; I’ll scroll through the folder until I find something I like in the moment.
My content creation process is a fairly stable one, for the most part. I hold a couple of beliefs about working on creative endeavors (if one can describe writing content for RD2L as such); most of them are common and established ideas that I’d just found also work well for me, but obviously every individual’s mileage may vary. I’ll go over a couple of the ones that explicitly come to mind in no particular order:
- It’s imperative to find an environment removed from the place you spend most of your time in. For me, this more often than not meant getting out of the house and finding a nice café. There are a couple of reasons why I personally think this is effective. First, you remove many of your usual distractions — if I’m out in public (and am limited by my laptop’s battery), I’m more likely to just focus on the content at hand, rather than watching a Youtube video or playing a quick game of Dota or, ooh, I could play some Pokemon Showdown randoms and the- you get the gist. Second, just the act of stepping out, taking a walk to the café and getting some fresh air on the way tends to (or at least seems to) help me refocus, gets the blood flowing or whatever, who the fuck knows — I don’t know how it works (or if it genuinely objectively does), I just know that it makes me feel better about writing. Third, as I mentioned previously, it’s puts just the tiniest bit of pressure on me to finish up whatever I’m doing. I don’t wanna be the guy sat in the coffee shop for hours at my laptop, and my slowly depreciating laptop battery doesn’t allow me to, either. Usually, one laptop charge is enough to finish a piece I’ve prepped and thought about while also allowing me to shitpost on Discord when I’m taking a small break. Sometimes this doesn’t work out perfectly, and the laptop will die on me before I finish, so I’ll go through the strenuous process of completing a piece on mobile, which I guess works out as a punishment. Sometimes I won’t exactly be near completion, and I’ll just take that as a sign that I should just call it a day and pick the piece back up the next day.
- Planning is massively important, especially when you’re trying to fit both regular, weekly series and individual one-offs into the schedule. I use both the aforementioned notebook to draw out more complex things and write out a daily schedule for the particularly content-intensive weeks, and I have scores of random Notepad text files with overviews of in-progress articles. For longer projects or content series, I made templates that I could just straight up copy-paste and fill in at the start of the season, which took a lot of the boring formatting work out of the equation and made me dread writing something a lot less. I’ve got about a dozen or so Google Sheets that help me track and plan content as well, some of which I’ll share later on in this post.
- A routine helps. For a big part of this three-month stretch, depending on my given sleep schedule that week, I’d wake up (at like 4am), make some breakfast, maybe play a game of Dota, and go grab a coffee somewhere at 7am. Other times, I was waking up at 6pm, but the common trend was that I’d always grab some food and wake up a bit then head out. Having this routine meant that writing was just another intrinsic part of my day, rather than something I’d need to make a conscious effort to do. I’d do this pretty much every day, and I’d say for at least late May to late July I was writing content or prepping it every single day, even if I didn’t publish something each day. Some projects took a lot longer than just 2–3 days’ work, but those were usually worth it. Others required no planning — mostly in terms of regular weekly projects that I already had a comfortable rhythm for.
- You have to know when it’s worth to scrap something. Throughout season 20 I’d estimate I’ve scrapped about 6–7 ideas/pieces/projects; usually these were things that would depend massively on working other people into my own inconsistent schedule, or just generally projects that would take entirely too much time to be worth it. Sometimes it was as simple as realizing that something isn’t as interesting as it seemed at first.
I’m sure there are a couple other things that I’m forgetting here, but I doubt many people are super super interested in this as a whole. These ideas might help the next content creator of RD2L, but things that work for me might not work for the next guy/girl/non-binary pal.
Ups and Downs
I’ll do my utmost best to keep this section short, since it’s one that could easily get out of hand, considering that it’s just me venting — but I’d wager it’ll still end up fairly long.
(Note during proofreading: Yep.)
I’ll start with the pros of this whole adventure. I’m a fairly formulaic, routine-oriented person. This meant that writing content gave me something to do every day, and it’d get me out of the house, bring me in tune with the league and the community, and (mostly for the first half of it all) gave me something to look forward to. Early on, this did a lot of good for my mental health, with the whole apocalypse going on and whatnot.
I think it’s an incredibly cool feeling to be the one crafting and shining a light on the storylines and players in the league. At the risk of sounding immodest (even though this applies to all content, not just mine — it just so happens that I’m responsible for most of the content), I feel like content elevates the experience of playing in a league like this. There’s something really fulfilling for players to feel like someone’s looking at what they’re doing and what’s happening in their experience in the league, and then sharing that to a wider audience. It’s not exactly something you’ll get anywhere else; no one will report on how you’re doing at your dayjob or at school, but a random dog might write something about how your RD2L team is doing and a hundred others will read about it. Even if you’re not mentioned by name, you’re still part of something that people are looking at and are interested in, and that’s just, like, kinda cool. A massive part of that is also just the inquisitive nature of all humans — everyone cares, if just the slightest bit, about what others think about them. I think this is also why season reviews are a big thing.
Being part of a crafted narrative also often leads to having extra motivation. You can beat some team that looked better than you and no one will bat an eye, but if aforementioned random dog called you garbage and said you’ll get blown out by a team, the stakes are raised for almost everyone involved — you get extra motivation that didn’t previously exist, the favorites start to feel pressure that wasn’t there, and if you do pull off the upset, you get the vindication you never would’ve otherwise gotten to experience.
This leads me into the cons. “Almost everyone involved.” The fact of the matter is that the person who predicted the result has two potential outcomes; they’ll either be right and no one will care, or they’ll be wrong and face ridicule. Vindication doesn’t come without someone to direct it at. That person is ye olden content writer.
For what it’s worth, though, I think that’s perfectly normal and natural. What’s also perfectly natural, though, is the imbalance in how we all perceive good things versus how we perceive bad things. You’ll appreciate a compliment, but it’ll be a fleeting memory compared to every criticism, all of which are much likelier to stick with you and actually impact you. You won’t remember the 10 times you got called beautiful, you’ll remember the time you got called ugly. You won’t be nearly as invested into any Dota win as you’ll care about a loss. It’s a very cruel thing that we do to ourselves. The point of this philosophical tangent is that for any outpour of kind words and support (all of which I do genuinely appreciate, and all of which makes my day better, even if I don’t always show it), every bit of harassment and criticism (warranted or not) will have ten times the impact. This, again, is a logical thing, and an expected one, but depending on the person, one might be better or worse equipped to deal with it.
I am very much not the kind of person who is equipped to deal with it. I suffer entirely too much from a desire to be liked, and am therefore highly likely to take criticism or targeting far too personally. These are all things I’m conscious of, but there’s just a disconnect somewhere between my objective perception and understanding of things and my emotional ability to process them in a rational manner, and I think that’s sort of the bottom line of what I’m getting at; my chimp brain can’t reconcile with getting a bit shat on, even if it’s warranted, so I’m starting to realize that while setting up the aforementioned narratives is super cool, I can’t actually handle being the one whom the feeling of vindication is pointed at. I can’t blame anyone who wouldn’t believe me when I say it, but I put in an often silly amount of time and effort into writing content, and the perceived (!) imbalance in the response to it doesn’t justify either the time or effort. I can’t stress enough that this is exclusively my own issue, and not something specifically caused by others, because I’m not trying to fish for sympathy or blame anyone for anything. It just is what it is. I don’t exactly know what the point of writing it all out is; I guess I wanted to highlight other things in this post as a whole and saw an opportunity to vent.
With all of that said, it’s time to return to slightly more fun things, starting with…
A lot of conversations I had with friends about my writing would inevitably lead to talk of actually making money off it. While it’s something that pops in and out of my mind fairly often, I’d realized I’m neither motivated nor good enough to actually make anything happen from it; starting with no experience or knowledge about it is pretty dang hard, my opportunities are fairly limited (in large part due to living in the taint of the world, so many platforms aren’t even something I can make an attempt at), and my expertise is very limited, so past shitposting about RD2L, I don’t really have that much to write about — at least not to the extent that it’d be worth reading. At some point, though, people would tell me that I don’t necessarily have to ‘expand’ to make some change, and got the suggestion to stick a donation link on my RD2L content.
I struggled with the idea for a while. It felt wrong for a multitude of reasons: I don’t really do anything special that someone else in the community couldn’t, and it’s not like I’m the only person to create content, so what gives me the right to make money that others don’t? Still, I got a helpful push here and there, and ended up making a tip jar on ko-fi.com.
I’ll be honest in saying I genuinely wasn’t expecting anything; my initial thought was, hey, if someone does shoot over a couple bucks, it’d pay for the occasional coffee I’d grab while writing. While living in aforementioned taint of world has endless negatives, there’s also some nice parts — namely, everything’s cheap; so cheap, in fact, that the price of a coffee is lower than the minimum tip amount I can set on ko-fi.
I made the tip jar in late May, and since then have gotten 92 coffee’s worth (ie, Euros, lol) of tips, which is still something I’m a bit shocked by, to be completely honest. The idea that anyone would specifically go out of their way to show their support for what I do — in a way that takes something away from them — kind of confounds me, and I have a bit of a hard time processing it. It’s not the money itself, really — though it does go a LONG way to making the content creation process self-sustaining, which is really nice, and has also allowed me in part to make purchases I’d have needed to think about twice otherwise (most of which in some shape or form do contribute to further content creation); it’s more about, like, hey, what the fuck, why would anyone do this?
And on that end, while it’s still something that surprises me months on, I have to make a point of saying that I genuinely do appreciate it massively, and it helped enormously with my motivation when starting to face the inevitable burnout. I guess to some extent it also provided me with a feeling of obligation to keep going, but I didn’t particularly mind that: as I mentioned before, I actually kind of enjoyed having some pressure to actually work on things and finish them. So, yeah, a massive, heartfelt thank you to anyone who looked at what I’m doing and decided to go out of their way to support it.
This was the first time I did weekly updates, specifically for ranking updates for both divisions, as well as the match rundown. As I worked on these projects, I collated all the changes and the results of my predictions in a big ol’ spreadsheet. I won’t talk too much about it, but I feel like people might enjoy looking over it, so here you go.
One of the things that definitely contributed to my feelings of frustration about writing content this season was that, due to the sheer amount of content I was putting out, a couple of things happened:
- People would just care less about individual articles. There’d be far, far less public discussion, and it became more of a routine where people would open pieces, read them, optionally ping me to complain about something, and move on. Engagement also went down significantly.
- As engagement went down, and due to the overall saturation of content, pieces that I was really proud of and felt like I did a great job on got less attention than they perhaps otherwise would’ve, and that was pretty disheartening. To that end, I’ll share some of my favorite pieces that I put out over the course of the season and if you missed them and feel like going back, you might enjoy them:
SUN Preseason Power Rankings — I recall being really proud of the writeups here, moreso than for any power rankings/team reviews before or after this one; while it’s a bit funny to look back on considering the results, I think a fair few of the reads I had on teams here ended up being fairly accurate, and in general I had a lot to say here, but it didn’t really get similar traction to the WED equivalent.
Midseason Stats — While the content itself here isn’t revolutionary or amazing (and it’s also riddled with errors coming from Dotabuff’s tracking issues), I think the presentation here was really nice and refreshing, and the idea was fairly creative — especially considering this was just a filler to fix schedule issues.
Player Rankings — This piece got plenty of attention, but I think the actual content itself was overshadowed by a lot of shitposting and memes (expectedly so, I guess), which was a bit disappointing considering the collective effort that went into it.
The ABCs of RD2L — Probably one of my favorite things I’ve written personally; I think a lot of it was just really funny and I thoroughly enjoyed coming up with things and writing the piece.
Playoff Storylines WED and Playoff Storylines SUN — I’d say that these two pieces were, purely in terms of quality, some of my best pieces, and by a fair margin. Personally I felt like this was a massive step above a lot of other things I’d ever put out for RD2L, but the viewcounts and overall engagement around the pieces — especially for the SUN piece — were a lot lower than they might’ve been without, like, 25 power ranking and rundown posts.
I think that’s most of what I have to say. It felt really nice to just talk about random things that were on my mind, so while it might not be the most interesting post to many, I’m still happy to put it out. I wanted to go back and make the whiny bit a hint less whiny, because I’m genuinely not trying to fish for sympathy or change anything, and just wanted to get my thoughts out on that part of the experience, but I’ve spent a fair bit of time on the fun bits of this already and don’t feel like going back and filtering what was a fairly genuine venting sessions anyway.
This is usually the bit where I’d copy paste the whole spiel about writing and how you can support me by buying me a coffee (what? I didn’t say I would do it this time, boy’s gotta get that caffeine!), and about how I’ll keep writing, but that’s not really super true right now. There’s a small chance that I’d do some content for the mini if I were to magically muster up all the motivation I currently lack, but as is, I’m just happy to play and enjoy the content other people create.
Thanks for reading — not just this, but everything I put out over the season. People reading the content is the only real reason I did it, so, uh, yeah. Cheers everyone.