For reasons that I cannot explain, a moderately successful blog post published a long time ago started getting a lot of views today. This kind of thing happens sometime and when it does, I look at the statistics in amazement, wondering what might be going on.
It happened today to a post that I published almost two years ago. In a few hours it racked up 650 views, but then the view count stopped after it pushed the view count for the day over one thousand. I see on my WordPress dashboard that all of the views came from people who were typing on Google different variations of the key words “(two, three) types of translators”, but I have no idea why hundreds of people started putting these words into Google search today within the span of 3 or 4 hours, and then stopped.
Like most bloggers, I am very interested in the reasons why some of my posts become popular, while nobody seems to be interested in other posts. I can never tell which one will be a hit, relatively speaking, and which one will be forgotten. Probably like most bloggers, every time when I finish a new post, I am convinced that what I just wrote is by far the best thing that I ever wrote in all of the five years that I have been venting and ranting on my silly blog.
Usually, if a post does not become popular right away, it is likely to languish in obscurity among other posts on my blog where it will be visited by viewers only occasionally. That is, unless it is resuscitated for reasons unknown to me and then continues to live on and hopefully makes people think for a few more years.
Bloggers don’t write for money. Some probably write to become famous, but blogging fame is fleeting and almost always limited only to a smallish, clannish crowd. And in some countries, the rewards of fame are such that bloggers get flogging for blogging if they do become famous.
In more civilized countries, flogging is meted out only figuratively, for example by a pack of irate, sarcastic commenters on Facebook.
I once saw on French TV a short news segment about a young French daredevil who posts on YouTube videos of his incredibly dangerous feats, such as riding high up on the steel structure of a high-span bridge somewhere in France on his motorcycle. That is all he does, defying death for a living to get YouTube views is his métier. At the end of each video clip he is always running from cops, which to me is the most interesting part. He found out that something like this pays much better than a regular job – but only if you have a lot of views. One could call people like that modern gladiators of their own free will in the video-, sex- and gore-obsessed twenty first century.
He too follows closely his statistics of the YouTube counts because unlike bloggers whose labor is mostly a labor of love and who do what they do because they have something to say, or think they have something to say, he gets paid by sponsors who advertise on his videos depending on the view count. He was showing in the TV segment how statistics of the views always spike during the first few days and then there may be a few more bursts of activity, but the view count will inevitably flatline after a while.
One day, if he falls from the top of a very high bridge somewhere in France, or maybe from the top of Golden Gate Bridge, his video will have hundreds of millions of YouTube views.
Infotainment channels, also called News Channels, will be showing it non-stop all over the world (the video would be shorter than the commercials before and after the video segment, which would be very good for the bottom line of the TV station), and it will take weeks, or maybe months before the view count finally flatlines.
But I know that I will not become famous, in life or in death, so that I could then more or less comfortably live off my newly acquired fame for the rest of my life (if I am still alive), sort of like Monica Lewinsky or Sarah Palin. And since I am not getting paid for the views either, why do people like me waste their time writing their silly posts?
Ah, that is indeed a most interesting question, and there are many possible answers to this question. A short historical comparison of how human concepts and ideals changed with passage of time may lead us to one possible answer to this intriguing question.
Five hundred years ago, the ideal of a Renaissance man was a person who knew as much as possible about as many subjects as possible, from mathematics and geometry, to music, languages, history and art. Leonardo da Vinci was such a Renaissance man.
The present idea of what an ideal man, or woman, should be at the beginning of our young century is very different. Steve Jobs, the man who turned Apple into “the most valuable technology company” (because it charges an arm and a leg for its products and gets away with it) is frequently idealized and since his untimely death, he is sometime referred to as St. Jobs.
Mark Zuckerberg, one of the richest men on this planet (and if I am not mistaken, they are all men), is the new media darling. He is officially idolized because he “invented” Facebook, but as far as I can tell, Facebook is not really an invention.
Or if it is, so is sliced bread.
Five hundred years ago, the ideal human of our backward civilization was a person who would be able to learn as much as possible about a million different subjects. Five hundred years later, the ideal pushed by our advanced civilization is a person who would be able to invent a perfect mouse trap, so perfect that it will make it possible for a single person to make more than what a million people who work for a regular paycheck would make in five hundred years.
We can’t all be like Leonardo da Vinci, or Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg. But perhaps our version of civilization does have some redeeming qualities because thanks to technology, just about anybody can blog.
Those of us who do blog know how frustrating it is when something that we wrote simply flatlines and then disappears after a few days into a black hole in the infinity of the Internet. But we also know how exciting and gratifying it is when people keep coming back to a post that might have been written years ago.
The purpose of modern political and economic structure of our advanced civilization is to turn people into almost completely powerless automatons who vote as they are told to vote in TV commercials, buy stuff they are told to buy in the next TV commercials, and work and pay taxes without complaining about it, ideally without knowing how much they are paying in taxes and what they are used for.
Except, when you have a blog and a few ideas that you are interested in sharing with people, and people seem to want to read about your ideas, you are no longer an obedient automaton who is completely powerless against the forces shaping his or her life.
You might even have an influence on other people, which is something that the movers and shakers of our world would really prefer to keep only for themselves.
And that is why I am doing what I am doing. I don’t want to be a predictable automaton who can be easily controlled. Not to be completely powerless is the main reason why I keep writing my silly posts, and perhaps this is in fact the main reason why so many people blog these days.