The search for intelligent life in cyberspace
A few weeks ago, a chance warp in the cyberspace-time continuum offered me a learning opportunity. Freshly Pressed, the WordPress platform’s daily so-called “Best of” list, featured a silly blog post of mine. I’d hurriedly posted a photo of Otis the Cat lying across my laptop, morning sunlight playing ever so gently on her silken fur. I titled the post, “All Cats Are Sociopaths.” Which, of course, they are.
The post got more than 8,000 hits.
Before that day, the blog had received 11,000 total hits in 2 years.
Of course, I obsessively monitored stats and comments for about 3 days before settling down and reminding myself, “It’s not you. It’s Otis.”
What was the lesson..if any…of all that unearned clicking? I mean, besides that fact that Otis is a potential gold mine? Why do we blog? I asked myself. I wasn’t sure. So I turned to the blogosphere for answers. A dangerous move.
flashback music: I still remember the first time I glimpsed the Internet universe through my little computer-screen wormhole. A window into infinite possibility! I thought. The first thing I found, on my very first online journey, was a page of Bill Bixby haiku. I actually remember one of the more evocative verses:
Cherry blossoms fall.
Bill Bixby is lost to us.
God is such a wank.
And this is the second thing I found. (Warning: not appropriate for the workplace! Or anyplace else!)
You can just imagine my trembling excitement about the Future! A freewheeling exchange of ideas, out there in the ether, for all to see! Unfortunately, not all ideas are worth exchanging.
This one is an exception:
flashback ends: So I was, naturally, a bit skeptical about (brace for extended metaphor) launching my little craft into the churning seas of cyberspace once again, hoping to encounter some of those Big Ideas floating around amidst the giant trash flotilla. Imagine my delight upon discovering this:
I started reading Rosie Says a few days after the Otis Incident. It was a revelation. At last! A do-it-yourself blog with 1. Wit, 2. Intelligence, 3. Entertainment Value, and 4. Ideas Worth Pondering.
The young woman who writes this blog not only posts every day; she posts something smart, funny, and well-written every day. She’s got a niche, but it’s one with lots of wiggle room: she writes about women, sexuality, and media; and the posts that combine all three topics are, to my mind, her most inspired. Like this thoughtful musing on the “slutwalk” movement.
And this letter to her brother, titled “You can get laid without being a jerk,” is a freaking masterpiece.
I love this blog because it makes me think, and not merely react. The young woman behind Rosie Says is a feminist who constructs arguments with her thinking mind, not her pissed-off mind. She sees nuance, and she finds the words to describe it. There’s not a lot of jerk in those knees, and I love her surgical skill with a turn of phrase. See, for example, her commentary on the recent Elizabeth Warren/Scott Brown dustup. Didn’t see that one coming. But she makes a point that needs making. See for yourself.
Blogs like Rosie Says give me hope: that there’s an audience for great ideas and great writing in the world—yes, even on the Internet. So what lessons did the Otis Conundrum teach? Maybe that popularity and quality are separate issues; sometimes they coincide, sometimes not. Sometimes you have to decide which one you’re shooting for, and sacrifice the other.
Which leaves us with the question, Why do we blog? It’s an open one. To connect with the like-minded? To practice honing ideas and getting them on the page? To feed our narcissism? Or simply to send out an electronic message in a bottle, a tiny voice crying out, “Here I am,” (oh god, not another maritime metaphor) only to be carried away by the sea and wind?
And if that voice gets zero page hits, did it ever make a sound?
Semi-related post: Storytelling genius via the @MayorEmanuel Twitter feed