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A Little Cigar Box Guitar Rockabilly From Ron
The rules are different on the Internet . . . which is why I take great pleasure in wholly ignoring them.
I was rudely awakened at 5:30 a.m. by a Jack Russell terrier who believed the universe would collapse if he didn’t receive a large bowl of Pedigree within three minutes. Should the aforementioned kibble not arrive within the allotted time it is certain that fire would fall from the sky. Rubber balls would lose the power of squeak. The particularly odious type of fashion-show cat that wears an Easter bonnet and frilly, crinoline gown would assume control of the federal government and micromanage every aspect of your life (hmmmm . . . that one might have already happened).
Jack looked me dead in the eye (while standing on my chest) and said “Sudan? You think they’re hungry in the Sudan? What about me . . . dammit? I’ve not eaten for AT LEAST six hours. Where’s George Clooney when I need him?”
You’d have to live with a Jack to really understand the veracity of this comment. Jacks are, how shall we say, just a smidgen egocentric. Hugo, my other pup was not nearly as concerned with hunger pangs. However, since he is in awe of Jack (though over twice his size) he decided to join the party by doing some sort of Fred Astaire routine on my stomach.
At any rate, since I’m enamored by every dog that has ever walked or barked (and this goes double for the one known at Lil’ Jack E. Paper) I hustled up and provided the morning feast. All was well with the world until I sat down in front of this dangfool box and began reading an article on “How To Write Effectively For The Web.” After finishing this bunch of rot, which nearly burned my eyeballs plum from my head, it is a foregone conclusion that such ”effectiveness” is not and will never be within my repertoire.
It’s like this. Most writing on the Internet is not really about writing. It’s purpose revolves around selling you crap, whether you know it or not. It’s about getting hits, about getting people to click on the inevitable slew of ads (ads, I might add, that are almost always added by the Google monopoly) that accompany every piece on “How To Tie Your Shoes With Dental Floss.” You are probably aware of this type of story; the vast majority are provided by a company called eHow, which in turn is owned by an outfit known as Demand Media (founded by the same joker who gave us Myspace . . . remember Myspace?).
For several years the Demand folks were slapping up (I’m not making this up) over 5,000 articles per day on the net. Most of these were on topics about which no one cares, were largely nonsense and often provided incorrect advice. It’s almost inevitable that an eHow article explaining “How To” perform any given task will succeed only in demonstrating “How To” write 500 words without explaining anything.
As full disclosure is warranted, I must admit that I once edited and wrote for Demand Media. For this I am surely bound for hell. Luckily, it appears that the company could go down the tubes any day now (company stock has dropped about 70 percent in the past year). Alas, the damage is already done. Once something appears on the net it is there for eternity (it’s a bit like Hell in that way).
At any rate, now that I’ve admitted my sins and cleansed my soul, let me tell you about this article on “effective” communication. It told me that the virtually every study out there shows that the written word is nearing extinction on the web. Instead of words, the companies that provide content (that serve no purpose but to keep the ads for Viagra, real estate and diet plans from bumping together) are opting to slap up videos.
This is just super. You can now watch a poorly made video that provides an audio/video tutorial on how to tie your shoes with dental floss. No longer do you have to exhaust yourself by reading all those damned words. The story further informed me that the rules for writing on the web are as follows.
• Write compelling but clear headlines and don’t try and be cute, witty or amusing. Don’t be sarcastic . . . as if I would ever dare stray in the world of mocking and criticizing.
• Write in the active voice. This means you should only use direct, fact-based sentences and get to the point immediately. None of this screwing around and talking about your dogs.
• Write visually. I’ve no idea what that means, and I think it might be discriminatory against folks who read via Braille. Still, according to the web guru who penned this piece (and you have to wonder why he didn’t just make a video) long paragraphs turn off readers and should be avoided at all costs. Include only one idea per sentence, avoid lots of commas, multiple clauses (including Santa) parenthesis (like this one and the one before and the one before that) and information that is not pertinent to a single, simple, specific point; you should also avoid semi-colons.
• Make sure every sentence has a fact. I guess I can live with that, and thus I’d like to inform you that the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu probably lived in either the 4th or 5th century BC . . . rather than the 6th century as has often been suggested.
• Oh . . . and web writers are advised to use bold print and bullet points . . . lots of lots of bold print and • bullet points • .
Other advice explained that a writer should never exceed 500 words, and I’m pretty sure there was something in there about driving a hybrid car, becoming a believer in global warming, and never eating meat or fried foods. The point of the information found in that article basically boiled down to this:
• Be as boring as humanly possible. Write simply and treat readers as if they are idiots. Patronize them. Do not use any words or concept that they might have to think about. Remember that writing is not about words or thoughts; it’s about selling huge piles of useless junk and pointless services.
All this said, it is obvious I will never be an effective Internet writer. Writing is supposed to be about painting pictures with words. It is not supposed to be about helping Google up its revenue or sell you a cure for baldness. It is supposed to be thoughtful, wise, soulful, stupid, funny . . . or if you’re in the news biz . . . informative.
I’m sorry, but I simply can’t buy into such garbage. I’m too fond of words. Writing for the web – as the experts would have you do it – is a little like playing guitar on a video game rather than acquiring the gumption to actually play a guitar. It’s all virtual, all filler and all irritating as hell.
Hmmmmm . . . I might have just defined our current culture there. Time to go back and fool with the dogs.