Companion Tumblr to dirtyfeed.org. “Written” by John Hoare.
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I would love to write an article bemoaning how media fragmentation - and the accompanying reduction in audiences and budget - has made a lot of stuff I used to like far less good.
But it’s difficult to do that when you’re writing online… and so you’re very much a contributing factor to that exact same media fragmentation.
No, I’m not linking to this because of the Phil Fish video, great thought it is. I’m presuming you’ve seen it by now. (If not, I highly recommend you watch it.)
The bit I’m interested in is the commentary by Jason Kottke. Specifically:
"Many moons ago, I was "subculturally important" in the small pond of web designers, personal publishers, and bloggers that rose from the ashes of the dot com bust, and I was nodding along vigorously with what Danskin, Persson, and Kissane had to say. Luckily for me, I realized fairly early on that me and the Jason Kottke who published online were actually two separate people…or to use Danskin’s formulation, they were a person and a concept. (When you try to explain this to people, BTW, they think you’re a fucking narcissistic crazy person for talking about yourself in the third person. But you’re not actually talking about yourself…you’re talking about a concept the audience has created. Those who think of you as a concept particularly hate this sort of behavior.)
The person-as-concept idea is a powerful one. People ascribe all sorts of crazy stuff to you without knowing anything about the context of your actual life. I even lost real-life friends because my online actions as a person were viewed through a conceptual lens; basically: “you shouldn’t have acted in that way because of what it means for the community” or some crap like that. Eventually (and mostly unconsciously), I distanced myself from my conceptual counterpart and became much less of a presence online. I mean, I still post stuff here, on Twitter, on Instagram, and so on, but very little of it is actually personal and almost none of it is opinionated in any noteworthy way. Unlike Persson or Fish, I didn’t quit. I just got boring. Which I guess isn’t so good for business, but neither is quitting.”
"I just got boring", of course, doesn’t just mean "I just got boring" - I love reading kottke.org and get loads out of it. Still, it’s clear what he means. He’s stripped his writing of some of the more interesting stuff for sheer self-protection.
And it got me thinking about my own writing. Writing that, of course, a lot of people find immensely boring, because they’re not remotely interested in the topics I talk about. That’s absolutely fine. But the people who do find me vaguely interesting probably find me interesting because I’m opinionated and personal. Strip that away from my writing, and you haven’t really got very much.
Of course, I’m lucky. The stuff I write about isn’t likely to get me well-known or famous, and I’m absolutely fine with that. I’d like my stuff to be more widely read - who wouldn’t? - but I have no ambitions to be famous even amongst certain subcultures. But the main reason I’m lucky is that I don’t think I could adapt. I couldn’t actually live on the internet the way Jason does. I don’t think any of my writing or Twitter nonsense works without being deeply personal. Even if it’s about making topics such as 25p v. 50i shooting formats A VERY PERSONAL THING.
Maybe, whenever a blog post disappears into the ether and doesn’t reach the people I hoped it would… I should just be glad that I have no chance of being internet famous. I’d have no way to adapt my presence online to deal with it.