Aperio radix, pro bono publico. (Open source, for the public good.)

My Own Musings On Content Creation For The Web

Date/Time Permalink: 11/20/12 04:32:01 pm
Category: Geek Culture

...because that's just what the web needs is more navel-gazing!

I don't normally become such a squeeing fantard over another author's work, but The Oatmeal (hereby legitimized as True Art by my writing its name in 'em' tags) put up a strip called "Some thoughts and musings about making things for the web". And it spoke to me! It touched me! It touched me in places that I'll have to show my therapist on the dolly later! He read my soul!

Despite the fact that Matthew Inman can't draw for sour owl poop and normally doesn't rise above Dave-Barry-esque fart humor (*), he's produced what may some day arrive as a classic definitive description of what it's like being an online content producer.

(*) I kid, I kid!

I've just gotta give back! So I'll riff on the theme by adding my own corollary observations here:

#1. I never run out of ideas.

I have friggin' gigabytes of ideas scribbled into Emacs textfiles just waiting to be nurtured into brilliant content. I can't stop the ideas. If a squirrel farts next to me while I'm walking in the Wilderness of Inspiration (where I go to get away from the Internet and meditate like a Tolkien elf), it gives me an idea. The trouble is coming up with a good idea.

Corollary to the corollary: Ideas suck. It's the execution that makes all the difference. Take Stephen King (the horror author, you illiterate bagheads), he writes stories about werewolves and vampires and haunted hotels. That's it, that's his big ideas. In anybody else's hands, they'd be the most yawning, boring cliche stories ever written. But it's his writing style, his pacing, his inventive techniques, and his dedication to just writing the most entertaining yarns possible, that makes him a best-seller. Ideas suck. With an idea, all you have is a story about a lost little girl. It's the execution that makes a Wizard of Oz.

#2. The web is the rottenest possible audience.

There is a gap between good ideas, and ideas that the Internet likes. Seriously, you guys have shit tastes. Sure enough, if I croak out something so gawdawful that I'm trembling with self-loathing as I click the 'post' button, you guys eat it up like Christmas mornin'. If I concentrate on one idea for months and months and craft it with every fiber of resolve dwelling in my breast, revising and rewriting and laboring mightily with creative passion, slaying the dragon of indifference and mediocrity with my sparkling polished lance of inspiration, where the hell was I, I post my completed masterpiece and not a single one of you likes it, you don't even care enough to yawn at it. But those retarded ideas I twiddle out in ten minutes on the potty? Rave reviews, two thumbs way up, Reddit front-page, reposted and retweeted and retumblered and pinterested to the moon and back.

True story: Just to blow off dumb ideas, I made my "Penguin Pete's Daily Funny" Tumblr, which I actually call my "daily stupid". It's all image memes and lowbrow 4chan humor. To this day, it is still ahead of my webcomic (where I make Twue Art) in raw page views.

The most popular joke on the daily stupid so far is this one, lowbrow toilet humor. 1,767 likes and reblogs and the total can only go up now that I'm linking to it. But when I came up with this post, witty political humor framed in the device of Weird-Al'ing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", chock fulla currently relevant memes, and predicting the outcome to the election five days in advance, I might add, and its score is currently...

--> 2 <--

That's what I get for being psychic just for your entertainment.

#3. There's always good old pandering...

The one guaranteed road to Internet success is to pander to a niche. After all, this is Penguin Pete's, home to geek-in-blackface nerdy-minstrel STEMmer-feel-goodyness that started years before The Big Bang Theory ever wrote its pilot. Remember "How To Totally Fake Being A Geek" and "One for the ladies: How to date a geek guy?". Pander, pander, pander. Hugely popular, still StumbledUpon in the hundreds of hits per day, Digg front page - back when that meant anything, hyuk hyuk!

So if I post jokes about Minecraft on my daily stupid, they always get a tiny little bit of niche appreciation out of the Minecraft audience. Post an
Inkscape tutorial
, and that's guaranteed interest from somebody. I'll bet The Oatmeal fans are still reading this far. It's like those "aggressive yield" stock portfolios: The percentage is tiny, but it's a sure bet. I pander to the females on Pinterest, to the futurists and science geeks on Mind--Blown, and to the sysadmins and hackers and general geeks on Doomed to Obscurity.

So, yeah, pander = success on the webs.

#4. Pandering stunts your creativity.

Man alive, how is a body supposed to break new ground if they have to stay stuck in the same rut? I don't have to explain that to you, it's a very old story. TV Tropes has huge chunks devoted to cataloging the tropes of fanbase-conservatism, including "Why Fandom Can't Have Nice Things", "They Changed It, Now It Sucks", "Serious Business", "Ruined FOREVER", and "Fan Myopia".

Yeah, I could go on doing the Same Formula That We Know The Internet Likes. God knows, clients ask for that by the ton. It pays the bills. But on my own sites, I'm getting less and less interested in what pays the bills and more and more interested in shaking things up, trying new things, and exploring new horizons. You know, for the Internet, the greatest enabler of spontaneous creativity ever invented, its potential sure isn't explored very much. The same old crap gets reposted again and again and again.

The Internet is changing culture. I can turn off the Internet and turn on the TV, the radio, or a magazine (yes, I read magazines by turning them on, so there), and there's the Internet anyway. Twitter polls on TV, websites quoted in magazine articles, radio DJs cackling over something going around on Facebook. All media is all just one big Internet now.

The Internet is changing art. But it's changing it by putting it in Annie Wilkes' bedroom with a wheelchair and leg casts, making it rewrite the same book over and over and over...

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