I went to look at a couple of my favorite blogs just a few minutes ago. The first one had a photo early on, because successful writers know how important it is to give us pretty pictures before they bombard us with the wordy things. There was some sort of ad which popped up on the image, but I ignored it, since I was already starting to read.
When I started reading the second one, also with an early photo, I noticed the same ad popping up on the image. This blogger, who writes wickedly funny posts, had gone to great lengths to find the perfect picture to lure us in. Unbeknownst to her, the bottom third of the image was covered by an ad.
I looked at the ad this time, just to rule out it wasn’t some cool funny thing that people were putting over their blog illustrations.
In order to keep the WordPress Gods happy, I won’t discuss the actual name of the company, but I can’t help but describe the service it provides, because it’s quite possibly a harbinger of the end of days. The ad is for an app which allows pet owners to watch their pets from anywhere, presumably with smart phones, tablets or pc’s and even dispense treats from afar. Personally, I think this is ridiculous (However, if they come up with an app that picks up dog dookie from the back yard, they’ll have my attention).
Like many people, I sit around wishing I could come up with “the next big thing”. I long to escape from beneath the giant thumbs of my work oppressors and bask in the glow of my creative genius. Somehow though, the incredible breakthrough ideas never come. Then again, if the notion of inventing a remote spy-cam for Labradoodles complete with liver-based treat dispenser ever popped into my head, I would have dismissed it immediately and vowed to give up spicy food before bed.
Maybe I’m just not the entrepreneurial sort.
I am, however, the creative sort. I write these blogs and occasionally illustrate them. I can’t begin to tell you how furious I’m going to be if the drawing I put in the beginning of this is partially obscured by an ad catering to people who are too busy to own pets. I can only imagine how outraged Andy Warhol would have been if some website put an ad for Campbell’s Soup over the top of one of his masterpieces.
Please be good readers and let me know if there’s an ad over (part of) my original artwork. Don’t lie and say there is even if there isn’t just to get me all riled up – it’ll take more than a crunchy meat flavored treat to turn that around.
I got an email on January 17th letting me know that one of the many bloggers I follow had posted something. This one was by Le Clown. Notifications that Le Clown had posted yet again on his blog could mean only thing; the prolific bastard had published yet another insightful, painful and/or amusing post.
For those of you who didn’t follow him, let’s leave it at this – Le Clown’s blog was what yours (or mine) would be if you (or I) were incredibly talented, wildly creative and highly motivated. Over the life of his blog, “A Clown On Fire”, he added other blog sites, including “The Outlier Collective” and “Black Box Warnings”.
You may have noticed that I am writing about Le Clown in the past tense – how very observant of you. The reason for this is simple; in the January 17th post, Le Clown said goodbye. He ended all of his blogs and bid us all adieu. He thanked everyone for participating and issued a blanket apology to anyone he managed to offend.
I was fortunate to have discovered Le Clown, though truthfully he was hard to miss. I was tickled when he eventually read some of my posts. From my perspective, his blogs were tremendously popular and critically acclaimed. At one point, he asked me to write a post for The Outlier Collective. I was honored and more than a little apprehensive. It’s one thing to read someone’s work and be impressed, it’s an entirely different experience to post your own work on their blog. I wrote a post called “Killing Me Softly With Your Ad” about a tragically stupid and insensitive television ad which Hyundai had briefly aired abroad. As it happened, the post I had written was well received by Le Clown’s vast audience and got a respectable number of hits and comments. This would be a great place to put a link to the post, but upon looking for it, I discovered that like everything else Le Clown had a hand in creating on WordPress, it was gone.
Upon realizing that my post had vanished, I was upset. After thinking about it a little though, I’ve accepted its disappearance. In this mercurial virtual landscape there is no permanence. Everything in the world can flash on your screen for one moment and then be gone the next. Nothing is really forever here, not even Le Clown.
I have to admit that, for the most part, I enjoy WordPress.
Blogging has given me a forum for my thoughts and has fueled my delusions of someday actually making money writing. One of the cool things about it has been the ability to leave comments on the posts of writers whose work makes mine look pathetic, and then being tickled when they actually respond.
I’ve never actually sat down and written fan mail to David Sedaris, Pete Hamill, or any of the other authors whose work I’ve enjoyed. Maybe they would have written me back, but I tend to think they’d be too busy living in mansions and working on their next incredible book.
Anyway, back to WordPress. They’ve recently upgraded their website and making comments now has strings attached. I would always get an email telling me if an author had replied to one of my comments. I also received notification anytime anyone commented on one of my posts, which I loved. The other day, after the latest alterations to the site, that all changed. Now, if I have commented on someone’s post, I started getting emails anytimeanyone commented on that post.
This may seem like a minor change in how the site works, but consider this; some of the people whose work I admire can easily get 60 or 70 comments to a post. If I read the posts early in their published state, and write a witty comment, my email box will blow up with the torrent of comments from other readers still to come. If I commented on 4 or 5 author’s pieces, my incoming email grows exponentially by the end of the day. Between those comment emails, ads for low cost E.D. pills, and great new recipe ideas for family-fun dinners from the Food Network, I barely have time to sift through my emails for electronic coupons from the Liquor and Wine SuperStore.
I decided to click the box on the bottom of the email to manage my subscriptions. It was a simple process; to avoid having my email box over-flow with other people’s comments about my favorite authors, I just needed to hit the “delete” icon below the author’s name. “Delete”?!! These are writers who I have “followed”. I’ve “liked” their work on numerous occasions. Would hitting “delete” be anything less than an obvious betrayal of my loyalty? These hard-working, creative geniuses had earned my love and admiration. Was I expected to delete them just because of my whiney complaints of having a full email box?
I mean it’s really inconvenient to check my not-so-smart phone all day for emails, only to find that OkeydokeyDonkey220 has written a typo-riddled comment about The Byronic Man’s latest masterpiece. I gritted my teeth and hit the dreaded delete button. Almost immediately, the incessant chirping of my phone slowed to the pace of a poorly made metronome. I closed my email then raced back to WordPress. I wanted to hurry and refollow Byronic before he discovered what I’d done. I was already cooking up lame excuses in my head to explain to him how I had accidentally hit the button in a tequila-addled state. Perhaps I’d go with having my dog excitedly jump onto my lap upon hearing my laughter and hitting the key with her paw (Byronic doesn’t have know the cold truth about my dog’s disability). Maybe I would blame it on the DEA, and tie it in with Byronic’s recent funny post – no Dave – don’t try to ride the coat-tails of someone else’s creativity – you’re (slightly) better than that.
I got to WordPress and clicked on Blogs I Follow. There he was, still high on my list. I didn’t understand, I’d hit delete. My computer dictionary says that “delete” and “unfollow” are two different things, but my inner voice tells me otherwise. I hit refresh a couple of times just to be sure. The Byronic Man was still there, right where I’d left him.
Apparently, the people who run WordPress, a blogging site for literary wannabees with varying levels of talent, chose to use the word “delete” when perhaps a different word may have been more apropos. Was it too much to expect that the people at a website dedicated to the expression of the written word could have chosen a more suitable phrase or single word for us to click to keep from getting emails? They could have chosen any number of alternates. Some of the candidates which come to mind are:
“You deserve better than me”
“We’ve grown apart”
or my personal favorite,
“discontinue receiving comments on this post via email”
Obviously, WordPress has the same problem as almost every other business in the world. They have idea guys, worker bees, and somewhere, in a room with a special key and way cooler office chairs than everyone else, they have the I.T. department: those tech savvy guys and gals with the names you may or may not have trouble pronouncing. Like most I.T. departments, they feel the need to run massive, complicated upgrades to the site every so often. The sleek new look of the site and “increased fluidity of the browser-main frame interface” will accomplish two significant things:
1) It will frustrate the daily users of the site, who’ve become accustomed to finding their way around without being stranded or hopelessly lost
2) It will give the I.T. staff plenty to do developing the next site upgrade/facelift
Luckily, bloggers like me can feel free to write any kind of criticism we care to about the I.T. types as they don’t generally bother spending much time on the actual content of the site, preferring to stand behind the curtain of the Great and Imperial Oz. These tech-heads just wreck it for the rest of us, making life difficult while creating work for themselves to feed off the corporate teat a little longer. I’m not afraid of some I.T. dopes. What are they going to do to me?
In any case, I’m glad that when they said delete, they didn’t really mean it.
This stuff is still pretty new to me. I barely have a grasp on real-time, face-to-face etiquette, there’s just no way I can be up to speed on blog-site manners yet.
When someone clicks the “like” box on one of my posts (it’s happened to me a few times – VERY gratifying), I’m notified of it, and gently urged by WordPress to return the favor and look at the blog of the “liker”. It seems genteel enough. A polite gesture which, if followed, will increase readership and broaden everyone’s blogging horizons. If someone is nice enough to follow me, I mentally applaud their impeccable taste and usually follow them in return, as it would seem likely to me that they might have something interesting to say.
More often than not, this strategy works pretty well. Many of the blog writers I follow put out consistently interesting, enjoyable work. Once in a while, it doesn’t quite work that way
As an aside, I must say that I was surprised at the home page of WordPress. It seemed that most of the blogs which are featured were photographic essays. I’m all for taking photos, and I know enough about the art form to know that I may take pictures, but I am not a photographer. Still, taking photos of the foliage of Borneo hardly compares to say, writing a humorous piece about ones wife being traumatized by early TV exposure to Vincent Price in a bald cap. I mean, let’s face it, the biggest challenge of taking those pictures is getting your ass to Borneo without forgetting to pack the camera. Still, to each his own. Since the likelihood of me getting to Borneo is pretty damn slim, I’ll enjoy the pics and let that subject go.
Anyway, the other day, yet another blogger “liked” my post. Then they decided to follow me. Not one to turn my nose up at a disciple, I returned the favor. Big mistake.
It turned out this person just cuts and pastes anything and everything they find interesting onto their blog. It may be a photo they saw online, or a piece of shiny metal they found on the sidewalk. Occasionally they post written words, which appear to have been translated to English by someone who doesn’t speak it too well. It’s kind of like walking on the beach with someone who’s never seen a bivalve before. You can’t take two steps without being stopped and shown the new cool clam shell they found. Only we’re not talking about something as limited as the thousands of genus and species of shellfish found on the Eastern Seaboard of North America, we’re talking about the entire internet and anythinganyone has ever posted ever about anything. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider this. This blogger posted more than 23 blogs in less than 24 hours. Some were single photographs, one was a memorial about Davey Jones written by someone else, still others were essentially bad, old jokes.
Since I’m notified via email when the people I follow post blogs, my email box was blowing up. At first I was excited, thinking there was feedback for things I’d written or comment give and take. Instead it was post after post after post by this person. They had seen a sports car they liked and posted a picture of it. No description, no editorial comments, just a picture of a car. The photo looked professional and was doubtless taken by an actual photographer in some exotic locale. The usual excitement I experienced when I see the little envelope on my phone quickly changed to dread.
What is it Skippy? Did you find another oyster shell?
When I got back to my laptop, I unfollowed this hyper-blogger.
I recalled a fairly traumatic unfriending episode on Facebook with a co-worker. I saw her daily, but when she annoyed me one time too many online, I unfriended her. She ignored me in person for at least a year. Not a huge loss, as she may have annoyed me in person a few times too.
I’m hopeful that this “unfollowing” doesn’t have similar repercussions. Regardless, I can’t have people sending me knock- knock jokes, it interferes with my creative process. No offense I hope.