Blogging and ambition

When I started blogging in 2007, I had ambitions of being popular blogger with a certain amount of authority. Those ambitions burnt out within a year or two, as I realized I did not actually want to be a famous blogger, and would rather satisfy my own preferences in blogging. Why did I have such ambitions, and why did they burn out? More broadly, how do other creators experience ambition, and are there differences from my own experience?

Okay, so 2007. Towards the end of the Bush administration, when Bush reached peak disapproval. New atheism was just getting rolling, and blogs held a particularly important place in the conversation, much like lefttube or twitter hold an important place today. I was an undergrad, and had been reading blogs myself, starting with Phil Plait, Hemant Mehta, PZ Myers, and branching off into many smaller ones.

My ambition was to become as well-known as the big names, or perhaps at least one of the smaller ones. It’s hard to remember why I had this mentality, especially since I now see it as irrational. I suppose I had a lot of opinions to share, and believed my opinions were the Good Ones that would transform how we thought about stuff and resolve all the issues that bloggers argued about. I have always been very modest, and though nobody throughout my education would ever let me forget that I am “smart”, I have never felt that my opinions are super valuable just because they are my opinions. Nonetheless, in my experience reading blogs, there were countless places where I thought bloggers and other readers were missing something important, and I felt I could supply that something if only people would hear me.

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Creators and their brands

Back in 2018, I invented the idea of content granularity, which is a measure of how large each chunk of content is when a creator produces a stream of content. I observed that creators usually try to be consistent in their granularity, and discussed the “coarse-graining death spiral” where creators feel the need to put more and more effort into each chunk until it is unsustainable.

Today I’d like to talk about other ways that creators enforce consistency in their content streams. For example, a creator may produce content focusing on a particular topic. Or perhaps they have a gimmick, which may be applied to one or multiple topics. Or maybe the one thing that is most persistent about their content, is their personality (either genuine or performed). Whatever it is that provides consistency, I will refer to as the creator’s brand.

As I write about this, I am totally thinking about that satirical music video by Brian David Gilbert, advising creators on establishing a brand.

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On randos

In the distant pre-pandemic past, I used to take public transit. Public transit is a fascinating place where you meet people from many different walks of life. Just kidding, nobody talks to each other. This possibly varies from culture to culture, but in my experience people mostly want to mind their own business on public transit.

When strangers do talk to me, that’s alright with me, but my expectations start super low. The most common kind of comment I get, is basically homophobia. Another kind of comment is people saying that my husband and I are a cute couple–innocent enough but vaguely objectifying. Then there are the comments that I just don’t understand. I have auditory processing issues, and it can take a while to acclimate myself to someone’s voice before understanding them. But it’s hard to explain that to a stranger, and it’s not like I wanted to talk to them in the first place.

There’s a similar interaction that happens online: getting comments from randos. By “rando” I’m referring to people that for whatever reason, come across my internet writing–often via internet search. Typically they only read one article, months or years after its publication, and probably not even the whole thing. Comments from randos can be better than comments from strangers on a bus, but they usually are not. Randos systematically produce the worst comments I get.

Basically every blogger has the same experience, so I’m just explaining this for the benefit of people who don’t blog or haven’t blogged enough to attract randos.

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I dislike holidays

Special days (or weeks or months) make me feel burdened with the expectation that I can feel some sort of way on command. You tell me to celebrate, what I feel is bad. You tell me to feel grateful, what I feel is resentful. You tell me to be respectful, I am respectful enough to keep quiet about how I feel no different from before.

If I were to organize holidays into tiers, the top tier would consist of the major holidays: Thanksgiving and Christmas. While these holidays nominally are about feeling some particular way, they are more importantly, about doing something. They are designated times for family gatherings. Family gatherings are something we want to do anyway, but we can’t do it every day, thus the holiday serves a practical purpose.

The second tier is national holidays when we get off work. A work holiday is something you do, not something you feel. You can’t take work holidays every day, there’s some value in everyone taking off work on the same day, thus the holidays serve some practical purpose. Unfortunately, many of these holidays also ask us to feel respect or reverence for something, be it veterans or labor activists, Colombus or MLK, and that doesn’t really work on me.

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How my free time disappeared

This article was written for the Carnival of Aces, which this month had the theme of “quarantine”.

Back in February, I got a new job. I like my job, but my main complaint was the long commute–over an hour and a half in each direction. My husband had an even longer commute, so we were in the process of looking for a new apartment in a better location.

In March, my company told everyone to work from home. My husband’s company did the same. Suddenly we had all this extra free time, multiple hours every day that we would have spent commuting. But all that extra free time–and more–got immediately slurped up.

Although it could be said we’re all in this together, I’ve noticed some stark contrasts in the way that COVID-19 has impacted our personal lives. There are those who lost their jobs or were sent home from school, and there are those who kept their jobs and now have to take care of their kids at the same time.

In the ace community, you might expect that since few people have kids, people gain free time rather than losing it. But as someone who keeps track of ace community activity (for linkspam purposes), I’ve observed a precipitous decline in activity in March and April, followed by a slow recovery in May. Other people have noticed it too. I’d like to offer my own experience as a case study of why this might have happened.

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Word count

As someone with a number of idiosyncratic opinions, and as someone who has extensively elaborated on my opinions, I think a great deal about length. If I take 2000 words to explain why X is wrong, then: A) how can I realistically expect anyone to read it? and B) how can I realistically expect anyone to go through the same thought process themselves, and end in the same place?

Realistically, I can’t expect any individual to read any of my writing. Most people don’t, you know. I have site statistics, I have the population of the world. I know a lot of people prefer different kinds of media… videos, memes, IRL conversations, collections of one-liners… I don’t judge. Or maybe they just don’t give a shit about whatever mother of all niches I have chosen to write about today.

And independent of whether people read what I say, it’s unrealistic to expect them to follow the same path. I’ve been blogging for long time, I know that not even I come to the same conclusions each time I address the same subject. I also like to think I put some sort of work and cleverness into forming my opinions. Well, if I’m so clever, how can I judge others for being less clever? Aren’t I kind of a high bar?

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Explain at various lengths

One sentence

This article explains itself at various lengths to demonstrate a common communication technique.

Two sentences

There’s a tradeoff between the accessibility of short explanations and detail of long explanations. Essays can get the best of both worlds by doing it both ways, and this essay is an explicit example.

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