Friday, February 13, 2015

It's All Right to Be Little-Bitty

Gentle Readers, you are rare and special people. I was reminded of this today by using an older, clunkier computer that went through a Google search for this blog's address rather than just opening the blog. Somebody out there is keeping track of the traffic for all the web sites in this world, and although I often discover web sites that reflect lower traffic than this one, reportedly the number of web sites that get more action than this one gets is well into eight figures.

That this is partly due to the fact that other web sites have better content than this one, I'm well aware, and why else do you think I'm offering to pay for guest posts? Oh, right, granted, I do think writers deserve decent payment even for e-writing. Other writers as well as me. But I'm already offering to buy one or two guest posts for five e-dollars each (yes, the money's there), even though nobody's paying me that much...oh, well, a few sponsors have paid a real day's wages for a few very specialized posts, but nobody's offering me five dollars for any old thing any more. Why would I do that? Because I think some of you might write more interesting posts than I do.

Another reason why this web site is small is, frankly, discrimination. Features Blogger/Blogspot supposedly offer are designed not to work with public-access computers. Well, today I'm using a friend's laptop actually. And I still have my own laptop, and a place to store it; in theory, any day now, a sponsor might replace the defective cable so I could post from it. But I want my site to work with public-access computers.

Then there's always the fact that no matter who you are, or what you say, some people are going to hate you for saying it. Google also reported that--one of the possibilities I've suspected, in view of the number of lurking readers we've had in Russia from the Day One--somebody in Russia has created some sort of game or program that makes some reference to this site. I didn't want to download whatever it was to this computer, but let's just say it was not described as "A Nice Game of Nice Nature Walks for Aunts and Their Nieces and Nephews." It sounded like your basic violent video game, actually. I'm content to wonder who've been cast as my allies and adversaries, or how I got picked when so many people in cyberspace are so much more militant about their political views.

(I would like to notify the video game community: I was not consulted about whatever it is, received no payment for whatever use has been made of my screen name and published work, and suspect that I wouldn't have liked it if I'd seen it. If I ever did endorse a video game, it would be "A Nice Game of Nice Nature Walks for Aunts and Their Nieces and Nephews"...or, if it were something like "Total War Between Christian Writers and Muslim Mullahs, With Nuclear Bombs, Kickboxing, and Axe-Throwing Body Mutilations," at least I would have collected a lot of money for it. I don't know--for a couple hundred thousand dollars I probably would endorse a game with a cartoon of me mud-wrestling a cartoon of Nancy Pelosi; make it half a million and the cartoon figures could be naked. But I've not collected Penny One.)

Nevertheless. Although I'd like this site's traffic to increase this year. Although I'd like to put some nice, modest, unobtrusive ads on this site--little buttons that link to sites that sell products mentioned in posts, or advertorials, or similar harmless boosts for sponsors. Although I'd like to receive guest posts from writers who don't hold or seek elective office, once in a while. Although all these things are true...I do notice something about higher-traffic web pages.

There are splendid shining exceptions, like the high-traffic but always clean and safe Ozarque blog (http://ozarque.livejournal.com) and the less active but still widely read Making Light blog. I don't even know who maintain those sites, but dang, they're good.

By and large, however, the higher a web site's editor's profile is--the more talented, the more popular, the more famous, whatever--the harder it seems to be for the person to maintain a decent web site. From time to time I see news reports that the search term most likely to attract evil things to your computer is the name of some popular, probably computer-illiterate, young actor or musician--lots of people out there are searching for content about the "star," so the lousy creeps pin the bad stuff to content by or about the "star."

Then there are the things that aren't evil, but are certainly annoying, that pop up when some deservedly rich and famous person of good will--Glenn Beck and Arianna Huffington are outstanding examples--is actually in a position to do good by offering friends a good, lucrative writing site that offers decent payments for decent content. Swamped with new e-friends and reasonably decent content, how can they say no to the offer of more money that would allow them to get more of it edited and published, to do more good to more deserving writers, by jamming their sites with pop-ups and spyware and cookies and obtrusive ads? Much of the actual content at The Blaze and The Huffington Post has been fine work that could be collected and published in a book, but good luck even being able to read it on an older computer, because the ad garbage will crash your browser. I find myself apologizing for linking to it if I even read it myself...even though it's good writing, nice pictures, fresh and insightful news stories, and even if it's written by dear e-friends. And for some site editors who aren't quite famous yet, but probably have enough talent that they could become famous, the problem is even worse. Townhall attracts excellent writers but it's still a disgusting web site, because of all the clutter. National Review Online? New York Times Online? Urgh...even though the printed New York Times was a fine paper that made many a writer's reputation.

Then there are the nasty kind of hackers who imagine that their lame-brained business will grow if they can shove it in front of people who are looking for something different. The most common way they try to operate is by spamming the comments sections on other people's web sites, but some of them figure out nastier tactics. Yesterday I tried to open a web site friends built, years ago, to support a valuable reference book, and found that it had been hacked by a lot of Chinese trolls trying to sell a lot of irrelevant garbage. It could be worse--a few years ago somebody apparently trying to hijack a name associated with the ideas of health and morality started spewing out pornographic spam that appeared to come from Grandma Bonnie Peters. Nobody's amused by this kind of thing, hackers. The people who will buy porn videos or hand lotion are, duh, looking for porn videos or hand lotion.

And of course, documented on this site even longer ago, there were the confused people who tried to borrow my name in order to send money to a politician I do happen to like, possibly even thinking they were doing me or him a favor. Said it before and I'll say it again: foreign readers, people who discuss U.S. news and politics do like you, and there are things you can do to show your support, but trying to cheat your way into our game is not one of them. You have your own political issues in your own countries. Work on those.

Even small, humble web sites do occasionally attract these kinds of sabotage...but every time I open an e-friend's page that's even smaller and lower-traffic than mine, and notice how much more functional than Townhall or Grassroots it is, I find myself singing "It's all right to be little-bitty."

It's all right to have a web site where the slowest-loading thing is a large and detailed, but innocent, JPG photo.

It's all right to have a web site that never messes up readers' computers.

It's all right to have a web site that honestly endorses all the ads it carries, and hasn't had to lower its standards either for ads or for content in order to get enough advertising to meet its financial commitments to its contributors.

It's better to have been able to offer readers content only from oneself and a few personal friends, who then fail to contribute any, than to have promised them the war memoirs of Hedy Lamarr and then end up delivering a site that's 95% obnoxious ads.

It's better to be able to post only a paragraph about walking the dog or going to the grocery store than to promise the blog of a best-selling author and then deliver only the best-selling author's Twitters (because, if the best-selling author is even working on another book, that means s/he barely has time to Retweet his/her best friend's Twitters).

There are worse things than knowing that approximately a quarter-million other people are doing more on the Internet than I am--and that some of my faithful e-friends are doing less. At least we're not doing ourselves or our causes as much harm as some of those web sites that may be hot, hot, hot, but are leaving readers feeling burned.