Monday, January 5, 2009

Year One: Reflections

Yesterday, January 4, represented the first anniversary of 60x50. I made my first post one year ago yesterday. As of yesterday, I have posted 222 entries on this blog, which averages out to about one post every forty hours over the past year. Not bad—considering that during that time I also completed an extensive essay on Ingmar Bergman’s THE SERPENT’S EGG (1977) for a forthcoming book on European horror films, continued to write reviews for VIDEO WATCHDOG (although the number was down from previous years, which doesn’t please me at all, as Tim and Donna Lucas are my friends as well as editors), completed two book proposals (one of which I mentioned on this blog just a few entries ago), presented one conference paper, and directed two plays for my University Theatre: Eugene Ionesco’s THE LESSON this past spring and Mary Chase’s classic comedy, HARVEY, this fall. Directing those two plays was a wonderful experience for me, as well as a privilege, and in that sense 2008 was a great and productive year. And I continue to work on POE PICTURES, to be published by Tomahawk Press (UK). I anticipate completing that book this summer, and I thank Bruce Sachs very much for his patience with me given my other commitments this past year—one of which has been this blog.

The task I set for myself with 60x50 (you can read the full explanation on the right)—to find a process that will bring about new things I would not have thought of if I had not started to say them—has, for the most part, been successful. I discovered things by writing for this blog, things I would not have learned had I not imposed this writing requirement upon myself. I cannot say that there weren’t some duds among my posts of the past year: if Sturgeon’s Law is correct, then 96% of them were duds—which means only about 4% (i.e., about nine of them) were any good. Some achieved more success than others: my interpretations of pop songs such as “Judy In Disguise (With Glasses),” “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon,” and “Crimson and Clover” consistently garner hits through web searches, and certain posts—such as the one on Bob Dylan and existential cool—did extremely well, as did my “pop aphorisms” series (a series I promise to return to very soon). My discussion of the relationship between psychedelia and bubblegum has also done very well. Are those the nine posts of quality that verify Sturgeon’s Law? A few kind souls, Tim Lucas and Bent Sørensen among them, have been generous enough to serve as blog rollers for me (providing a link to my blog on their respective blog sites), and all in all the experience has been a positive one.

There is, however, a downside, and it is the amount of work this blog requires given the number of page views it receives. I checked the page views a moment ago; subtracting those that have visited since midnight last night, I calculate a grand total of 24,119 views over the past year. (Just think if my friends weren’t blog rolling for me.) I’m quite sure there are sites that receive that number every day, other sites that receive that number every week, and others that receive that number every month. Subtract from this grand total the hits that can be attributed to roving web bots and such, then it becomes an even more paltry number. Foolishly, I neglected to attach a site meter until the end of February last year, meaning the figure above really reflects about a week plus ten months, but the fact is, the amount of work this blog has required hardly seems worth it given the number of visitors. Given that the first month’s visitors would have been negligible because I had just started up the blog, the total number above is reasonably accurate, I think. Make no mistake—I appreciate each and every visitor I have had over the past year, and I appreciate those who return to my blog on a regular basis. I am grateful for all the visits I’ve had over the past year. But as a wise old mentor of mine used to say, “Sam, always ask yourself whether the increment is worth the excrement.” If I were to apply that sage piece of advice to the question of whether to maintain this blog, then the answer would be very simple: NO.

My blog has a number of problems. For one thing, to employ the language of cyberspace, my site is “sticky”—it doesn’t consist of “news,” where readers come for current or up-to-date information, then move on. In other words, readers have to make a dedicated effort to get here (by web searches, mostly), and to get out. Moreover, it’s focus is not entirely clear. It has gravitated toward popular music (primarily the Sixties, as the blog title would suggest), but not the current scene (although I would hope that most if not all of the insights I’ve made are applicable in theory to the “current” music scene nonetheless—the pop aphorisms, for instance). Additionally, my posts are for the most part unusual in that they read more like essays than blog entries. I am not claiming that this is bad, since it’s a form I prefer. The topics I write about I have set as assignments or tasks for myself, in order to teach myself something. So when I look up information, and track down information, I pass those sources of information on to others, but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t read like an academic essay—a form many readers, I’m sure, dislike. Lecturing for most people often is, as it is for myself, counter-productive. I think this is why my posts such as the pop aphorisms have been so successful, because they fit the sound bite form preferred in the cyberspace environment—the technology drives the form, in other words (nothing new there).

So, in reflecting upon the past year, I’ve concluded that 60x50, while not an utter failure, isn’t a success, either. It exists in that liminal space somewhere between (mediocrity?), which, rather like a visit to the “twilight zone,” isn’t an ideal place to be. I’m not quite ready to give it up, as I still have hopes for it (although don’t ask me to enumerate precisely what they are), but I don’t see myself continuing on at the rate I have—posting over two hundred times during the next year, for example. The research component for many posts is extensive, and while I hope readers have found my research valuable, I have done it for free. I will continue to assess this weblog’s personal importance to me as well (I have many other proverbial “irons in the fire” to which I can dedicate my time), and set out to determine the answer to that fundamental problem, a problem I’m quite sure other bloggers struggle with as well: whether the increment is worth the excrement.


Tim Lucas said...

Happy anniversary, Sam! And I, for one, definitely think your work here is worthwhile. As some of our favorite movies have shown, it's not always about the opening weekend gross, but about legs.

Speaking of which, you could always do what other bloggers do to excite attendance: pad your essays with sexy pictures. ; )

Bent said...

I second Tim's sentiment that we need sticky sites (no, I don't mean the ones with sexy pictures...). There is already too much of the loose and fast stuff in the blogosphere.

The way I think about blogging (and mind you my stats are a lot lower than yours) is that it relates to research writing in a way analogous to the relationship between teaching and research. Most of my successful research is 'teaching-based' in the sense that my analyses of texts are usually developed 'live' in class, in discussion, taking in feedback. After that the ideas mature and I can use them in research articles. Similarly blogging is a way to open new topics and interests and to think about and try out new ways to communicate them. After I have blogged a cultural phenomenon or text, I often find ideas from the blogging process, also hopefully sometimes feedback-based, find their way into my 'serious' research...