Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Power of the Proper [Noun]

"The only thing about Googling yourself to be ashamed about is doing it badly."  -- Freud

Blogspot just changed up some features that make the blog stats accessible with a single click.  Maybe they were there all along, or maybe I would've just add to paste in some code, but either way I never had anything that tracked readership here other than the turnstile-thingy at the bottom of the screen.

Anyway, once I saw that I could access stats about pageviews, curiosity led to me to see which entries had the most.  It wasn't even close.

The runaway winners were summaries of candidate nights at which either prospective City Council or School Committee members all spoke.  There was nothing particularly interesting or even relatively profound contained therein.

What those entries had, though, was a lot of proper nouns.  As in, people's names.  If it's true that social media is just a giant cocktail party in which everyone is talking and no one is listening, this definitely feeds that idea.  It allows everyone to do what used to be called "The Washington Read" (by 'reading' a particular book it really just means you went into Politics & Prose, scanned the index for your own name, read all the pages you were on, and then put it back on the shelf).  Today, we Google ourselves - but with the fan turned on to mask the noise, of course.

But what about the soul-baring entries about not-so-secret hopes and fears?  Attempts to turn social conventions on their head, like insisting that when your friends come to visit you, you should be the one thanking them and not vice versa?  References to the only remotely original thing I've ever said -- that the world needs better talkers, not better listeners?  Barely noticed by comparison.  

The bright side, though, is that this confirms something I've said before about blogging -- insignificant though it may be at the time, it can fill an important historical niche, thanks to the Internet's long memory. If I'm the only person blogging about the Taunton River Meteorological Knitting Society (yup, the guys with that edgy slogan 'Knitter Please!') it's possible that virtually no one is reading my summaries of the meetings.

But if someday, someone were ever going to try to understand that group, the blogger who covered those meetings would have not just the rough draft, or the first draft, of its history, but perhaps the only draft.  And unlike some old leafy or microfiche treasure buried down in the basement on 12 Pleasant Street in the Silver City, it's right there on people's computers, phones, or their iPads to be easily found.

Another bright side is that if you're blogging something that you're trying to get factored into the debate,  throw the right proper noun in the headline and in the entry, and you can help steer the discussion.  Even though no one immediately around me might've cared, the entry I did about my former platoon leader who is running for State Senate in Maine is one of the most viewed, ever -- not because of anything particularly profound or well-written contained therein, but simply because it has his whether it's his campaign, his opponents, or curious undecided voters, it's out there to be found.  Of course, that only really works because his name isn't already prominent on many other web pages.

There are lots of directions blog entries can take.  I have (literally) become a poster-and-promotional material guy for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, all because of a blog entry I wrote that contained the full name of the place.  Someone Googled, then wrote, then we connected, and now I can actually give something back to a place with a claim to a very special piece of real estate inside my rib cage.

In real life, the best advice I could ever give anyone is to become a better talker.  That's not about volume, or inflection, speed, or oscillation frequency, but about finding conversational flow and only saying things that are interesting to those in earshot.

On the Internet, however, don't hold back.  If you're trying to write something that could make its way into the unofficial *historical register* of whatever you do, keep it flowing.  And drop names.  Drop them early, and drop them often.  


C R Krieger said...

Oh, that was just underlining at the end, Greg Page.  I hope Jack Mitchell and Kad Barma stop by here outside of a web-crawler search (I use Bing, so can't be Googling, can I?).

Just back from the DC area and liked the reference to checking the index.  I have heard that before.  Such an incestuous city.

Regards  —  Cliff

Progressive Veterans said...

Once, at band camp, I used the phrase, "Incest is best," to describe a local phenomenon of parochial preference. Often, I call it the "Townie Turnstyle."

I don't know how to check blog stats on LiL, but there was a ruckus.

Someone by the handle "Evelyn" chastised me. When "Evelyn" started to sound too much like a local appointed official with a chip on his shoulder, things settled down.

Meaning, you don't always have to drop a name to drop a bomb.

- Jack

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