Routine Maintenance and Upkeep
I have not done as much upkeep as I would have liked this month. I did clean out the morgues. The blame for most of it is on a heavy workload at the day job and the holidays. I just spent less time fiddling online. However, I have not neglected my commitment to good links, and the entire site has been run through and checked for dead or broken links. Everything is up to date and functioning. Though I have some not-computer-based personal projects for winter, hopefully, I can use some of that overwintering time to get some of the projects here complete. For instance, yesterday I noticed the Groups Billboard is one of the most popular and frequently navigated parts of the website, followed by the tutorials page. Both of those pages are incomplete in some way based on standards I have set for myself. The tutorials deserve more elaboration on what you can expect to find at each link, in the way I have a synopsis listed for each of the books I recommend or an indication of the inventory for each entry in my merchant and artisan rolls. Likewise, not all the groups included on the billboard have pictures and details as they should. You deserve it, and I will continue to work on it.
The End of 2020
I am going to switch up the format of this particular newsletter and look both at not just December, but all of 2020. Yesterday I posted a 2020 in review article, but it was intentionally superficial. It was meant to be an overview of the year from a statistical standpoint, using metrics such as likes, views, and comments. In this, the last newsletter of 2020, I am instead going to look back through the year and reminisce on, and give some personal thoughts on, the highlights of each month from the last year.
January – The Birth of a Podcast
It is strange to think it is less than a week away from the one year mark for the How Two Medieval podcast. While I dabble in podcasting, this was the first concerted effort in doing a podcast separate, if tangential, to the work I do elsewhere for The Turnip Of Terror. And it’s a bit of a roller coaster, too. Working with a partner, maintaining (or failing to maintain) a schedule, interacting with the public in an unfamiliar medium, etc. Talking through subjects on the podcast is refreshing, as the format is both less frenetic than video and less rigid than print. When I write, even if I’m just some hobbyist with a keyboard, I try to adhere to the highest and most rigorous standards. While I am not submitting articles for publication or academic peer review, my goal is for my work to at least attempt to achieve a similar level of quality. And video making has a strong incentive to be quick, fascinating, captivating, and keep the viewer’s attention which makes it harder to just spew a languid stream of consciousness into the camera lens. But the podcast, while still requiring structure to not being a rambling mess, has breathing room to allow a conversation to transpire in a way nothing else I produce has.
February – What’s in a (Domain) Name?
In February I took a big leap and bought the domain name http://www.theturnipofterror.com, whereas before I was using the free option through WordPress with the “wordpress.com” part on the end. My reasoning at the time was to take this entire project to a more professional level and it serves such a purpose to have a more professional looking internet presence. It also meant a financial investment in the project, not just in supplies and outfits for my impression, but the costs of maintaining the website are my responsibility now even if no one ever chipped in to help. It has always been important to me people get the full extent and utility of these resources without any cost to them. People should only contribute money to support the project and join on Patreon because they want to because I have added enough value to their medieval experience they choose to contribute (not because they’re required to.) This also means I should provide the value first. Choosing to buy the domain name may be a small and trivial thing, but to me, it was a profound outward indication of my commitment.
March – Pilgrim Progress Challenge!
It was March, when covid came to the shores of Neep Manor so to speak, that I learned to love collaboration. Lockdowns were starting, my daughter was home from school, and events were canceling everywhere. Amid all of this Matt and I put together the Pilgrim Progress Challenge and I learned to love the medieval community even more than I already did, and I learned the value and joy of collaborating with other medievalists. Though it went all the way through April, it all started up in March. Organizing the event with Matt and getting the feedback and participation from the community was profoundly satisfying. I can’t wait to do it again next year.
April – A Milestone
While this project is about supporting the community first and not addressing my ego with popularity metrics, there is a distinct satisfaction in seeing something you put hours, days, years of work into achieving some measure of success. Serendipitously, and on my birthday no less, the Facebook page made and exceeded 1,000 likes!
May – Videos!
My forays into video picked up here in May. I finished and released two videos on both ends of the spectrum, a highly academically minded video on Medieval Country Society (which also happened to be another collaborative enterprise with Popula Uranum) as well as a very silly but entertaining medieval-themed “Don’t Rush” video. The former video was a long video essay, which certainly played to what I was used to by writing an article and effectively narrating it into the camera. But it also was structured in such a way to mirror a video being released simultaneously on Andrew’s channel. It was a fun challenge. The Don’t Rush video was a bunch of entertaining chaos as I herded cats among the living history community getting their video clips received and organized. It also cannot go without mentioning, May is when I proposed to Karley.
June – A Patreon Exclusive
And here is where my monthly “In Review” posts were released as a “newsletter” for the first time. This was also the first month I released a Patreon exclusive event, a concept I wrestle with. Exclusive content is one of the hallmarks of Patreon, but not one I feel fits the purpose of The Turnip of Terror. For a long time I struggled with trying to find a way to provide something exclusive, without restricting access to content (seems mutually exclusive, I know.) Instead, I opted to make elements of community influence exclusive, while the content remains accessible to everyone. In this case, I ran a Q&A where the answers (accessing the content) were released in the newsletter so everyone could benefit from it regardless of their financial support, however the opportunity to ask the questions (influence the content) was limited to members of Neep Manor. It may not be the most promotional way to run a Patreon, but it fits my comfort level.
July – A Technical Production
The Tent Floor Plans article released in July felt like I was returning to my roots. I am a spreadsheets and technical drawings kind of guy, I like to see things laid out in front of me in a clear analytical format. The original of The Turnip of Terror as a public resource was when I was inspired to take things like my cotehardie roll call, which I originally made simply to help me make a purchasing choice and share them for the greater good. And while I feel drawn to write and film about history and the philosophy of reenactment in general, making technical drawings like this is also very “me.” It is the type of content I would, if not running this site, make entirely for my benefit, whereas there are articles I do exclusively to help others and are not things I would have otherwise produced to continue my living history journey. It felt good to put something of that nature together again.
August – Updated Iconography
It is important to understand we are all learning, a fact many people forget. It is also important to remember most of us are amateurs, and so we will make errors: not if but when. So I took great pride in being able to demonstrate and model for the community what I regard as the appropriate way to handle a conflict between existing practices and being presented new information: to gleefully and eagerly change. Through my research I stumbled upon a realization about the arms I was using for The Turnip of Terror and for my own living history: I was using a shield shape which was characteristically French despite presenting an English impression. But I use the symbol all over the place, so correcting it was a huge task to fix a “little” error. And I cannot stress enough, from my own experience, no matter how much work it takes and how minor it may seem: it is always worth the effort to correct inaccuracies and not be complacent or resistant to change.
September – A New Group
It occurred to me there were conversations I wanted to be able to have with my audience which the Facebook Page did not facilitate. The Facebook Page, though it allows for response and feedback, is pretty unidirectional: I put content up, people can comment on it. While others can tag the page, I see it, but no one else does unless they go to the community tab. So I set up a Facebook Group for the community, as a group is much more accommodating to people posting their own content. Also, though it’s a public group, it’s not an official “platform” so the culture there is a bit less formal. Something interesting to note, at the time of this writing the community group has just under 700 members, and TTOT Facebook page has just under 1,400. I am not ignorant of the fact people can like the page passively and not be engaged, or even interested, but to think nearly half of those who like the age are engaged enough to transition over to an interactive community is a great honor.
October – Halloween Fun
Throughout this year’s recap I know I have gotten a bit poetic, mentioning the profound impacts of this or that, trying to dig deep and share the personal joys and commitment I put into this work. Sometimes, however, silly stuff is just fun. The highlight of October for me was when we put up Halloween decorations and we put a toy skull decoration into the helmet of my armor which is set up on a mannequin in the living room. Sure putting a Santa Hat on him and such is also fun, but that “Who turned out the lights?” look was fantastic.
November – Expecting!
Of course, I knew for a while before the announcement, but we were waiting to share the news until we were certain we were ready to share. And I am so excited to be able to have shared this pregnancy reveal with all of you! Karley and I are adding another member to the upper house and I couldn’t be happier. She is due in May. As I said in November, keep an eye out for a fundraiser contest for the baby!
December – Podcast Rebirth
It is interesting how this year in review bookends with the How Two Medieval podcast. The beginning of the year started with the beginning of the podcast, fitting. Now we come full circle and I find one of the more notable events of the end of this year is bringing on Matt as co-host to the podcast. It was a big change, and changes such as this do not come without some amount of friction, but on the whole, it is a transition I can say with complete honesty has left no hard feelings. I am also certain there will be a whole ‘nother year of H2M content!
Looking to the Future
I have been bitten by the video bug, and I cannot put my finger on exactly what it is which has made me feel so increasingly motivated to do video content. My desire to write has not diminished, but in addition to having half a dozen written article ideas, I have dozens of video concepts bouncing around inside my head. And some of my video ideas would make great companion articles, and many of my articles are rife with material lending themselves to companion videos, so anticipate many more videos in the future. I have some reviews I want to do, tutorials I want to develop, and I also have some narrative short films and sketch comedy ideas in the medieval style.
I also have some research goals of mine which are taking a considerable amount of time. There’s a level of tediousness and meticulousness in, say, counting the number of figures in hundreds of manuscript miniatures, but I enjoy that kind of work. I can enjoy it, but it doesn’t make it go any faster. Because of the time commitment, I worry I will only get one or two of these completed, but when I do I know you will be very happy with some more accessible, in-depth, historical research.
I also want to continue to develop a living history group focusing on “micro-events” every month or so. This is a concept I have been developing in the back of my head for months, and it is going to be the topic of an upcoming podcast episode, though I may write an article organizing my thoughts on the concept as well, just so I can have the mindset explored to its fullest. Events such as these should also be glamor engines, fueling social media’s endless desire for more pretty pictures. I would also like to host at least one event in 2021, though who knows with covid.
This year has taught me the value of collaboration. I have been bringing people in to write guest articles which is fun and if you want to write one for the site just send me an email (TheTurnipOfTerror @ Gmail.com) or fill out the contact form. I want to collaborate as much as I can and bring together the great figures in the community. If the world opens up again next year I want to return to my previous goals of traveling more and interviewing more. I plan to help the online community grow, and see medieval living history thrive.
I also really need to start putting out these newsletters on the last day of the month, not the first of the next one.