“I well know what temptations are, and that one of the greatest of them is to put it into a man’s head that he can write a book and have it printed, and thereby earn as much fame as money and as much money as fame.” — Miguel de Cervantes (Don Quixote II, prologue)
I have been haunted lately. Haunted by an idea, or set of ideas. It goes like this: I can simply write text, upload it to this thing called the World Wide Web, and anyone searching for the key terms in the text can very well find. It’s amazing, and only recently in my life have I really discovered this.
I mean, I guess I knew it was there all along, but only after learning some basic HTML and CSS code and working in content management did it occur to me just how text-based the Internet is. It still amazes me that on my brother’s old disability blog, I wrote a ranting post about Apple OS’s then-terrible on-screen keyboard, and it got disproportionally more traffic than all the other things I wrote. Basically, a bunch of people were frustrated by the same problem, searched the Internet just like I had for a solution, and, there being no solution, they were left with my rant.1 It amazes me that I write a bunch of articles every day in the summer for a retail company, and consumers find my articles and buy the stuff I’m promoting. It amazes me that anyone can post a news story online and almost overnight become a real competitor for the big newspaper corporations.
I’m not writing all this to say it’s all about traffic, “conversions” or anything necessarily related to money. For some reason or another, only now in my life have I realized how much quality and potential there is to be enjoyed on the Internet. Maybe it was going back and reading about the beginnings of the Internet, especially before the World Wide Web and the dot com bubble. The Internet started out as primarily an academic, text sharing enterprise, and I suppose it is the more serious or at least “old-fashioned” uses of the Internet that are suddenly interesting to me.
Take blogs for example. On thinking about Internet history of the past decade or two, I can remember a time when it seemed like blogs were the way people were increasingly going to express themselves, find friends, connect, write, share, sell, etc. I remember the days of Xanga and blogrolls with nostalgia. Forums also provided cool spaces for niche dialogue, even if they could be clunky. Something just seemed better, more hopeful, more sane about those days, even if it was not as — shall we say, sleek? — looking as Facebook is now. I won’t go in to a diatribe about why Facebook is terrible, because I don’t need to. We all know it. Blogs or even personal websites provided our true friends with a place to bookmark should they ever wonder what we’re up to. And it tends to be higher quality, deeper, longer information. I won’t say I don’t find my friends’ pithy photos interesting and fun, but I believe blogs and personal websites can take the same kind of information and make them even deeper and more meaningful for readers/friends. Usually, I would rather see a friends’ photo album with descriptions or funny stories that they might post on their blog every once in a while than be able to see it literally in the moment it is happening. Even the people who blog every day usually do not feel pressured to make it short, if they don’t want to, but with Facebook and Twitter, people tend to say less, ironically.
I’ve gone on too long, but this is all just to say, I think you should start blogging. Or even make your own website if you care to learn just a few programming basics. It’s not that hard, really. Of course, there are a million other things you could do. For instance, I just made the best HTML version of Don Quijote currently online with more books to come in the future. Offer a service of some sort. Set up an online storefront. Give stuff away, especially information or expertise knowledge. Publish your own books. Publish other people’s books. Find valuable sources for good reading and weed out all the useless stuff on the Internet you don’t need to read. If you concentrate and don’t get distracted, the Internet is a pretty cool place, after all.
June 10, 2015, Byram, Miss.