Webmasters Lose Internet Innocence
In my twenties I really enjoyed reading. Especially fiction. One of my favorite activities was going to the book store and spending half a day there. Browsing through the fiction section. Looking at covers and skimming the back. After a few hours of drinking my coffee and flipping through 20 books, I would pick one. Pay the cashier and head home.
The next couple weeks were spent in a new world. Early in the morning, before work, I would stop at the local coffee shop, order a large coffee and read. An hour later, coffee gone, and 20 pages later my body and mind are ready for the day. I could not imagine starting a day any other way. Each chapter ends wanting more, and each chapter begins with promise of more to come. I would wake up anticipating what will happen next, and then spend the day thinking about what had happened.
Everything was going great until I made a terrible mistake. One that can never be undone. An misstep that changed me forever. I decided that I would try to write a story. At first this does not seem like something horrible – what is the harm in trying?
The problem was not that I wanted to write a story, or that I tried. The problem is that I purchased a book about how to write a book. After reading the ‘how to book’ a bit of beauty left my soul forever. I felt like a small kid who peeks around a dark corner in Disneyland and sees Micky Mouse without his mouse head. Instead he sees a man with the head of the costume dangling from his hand and smoking a cigarette. Mickey mouse will never be the same.
The ‘how to write’ book reduced fiction writing into a science. It turned the author into somebody who’s job is to entertain me. He has to create a story that I want to read. Make strange and wacky characters, create unusual situations, build suspense. Do what ever he can to interest the reader.
I use to think that an author was somebody who had a special connection to another world. A world that only he has access to. A world that he shows me with words. I felt like I was peering at a privileged place. I was not able to figure out why I enjoyed reading so much – I just assumed that it was magic.
But then the truth was revealed. I was being played for a fool. The author does not have a special connection to the universe. He simply knows my weakness. My need to be entertained. The story does not come out of him through some special medium – he simple thinks to himself, “what can I do to make this character different, what can I do to surprise the reader.”
So now when I read a fictional book the magic is gone. When I come across some character with a odd trait I simply think, ‘great job Mr. Author at conjuring that up’, or when something unexpected happens in the story I think, ‘you must be really proud of your self for coming up with that twist’. I use to think of an author as somebody who, late at night sits in his candle lit den, a quill in hand, putting to paper words sent to him from above. Now I see him as a guy in a sweaty business suit, sitting in an office behind a computer, under florescent lighting, thinking, ‘what twist should I throw in now to keep the idiot reading.’ I had to stop reading fiction because it made me bitter.
Warning To New Webmasters
Before I became a webmaster I was the innocent kid at Disneyland. Mickey was a mouse that stood on two legs, magic mountain a place where the king and queen live.
The Internet was a place where people exchanged ideas freely. If someone had something to say they would create a website and tell the world. Their only intent was to share. To exchange ideas.
But now I know better. Most websites are created to sell things. Sites are optimized to get Google to notice them. Words are chosen not because they tell the best story, or give the most accurate information, but because they bring the most visitors to the websites. And the more visitors to the website, the more money is made. Webmasters are spending a lot of their time figuring out where to place ads, how to best deceive the reader into clicking them. They are constantly checking their stats, what page generates the most money, which page is under performing, what can be done to increase revenue. Mickey Mouse is not baking chocolate chip cookies for Minnie Mouse – he is thinking about how the hell he is going to make next month’s rent.
Now when I arrive at a website, the first thing I notice is how it is being monetized. Where are the ads? What are they selling? Why do they want me to click on that? Are they telling me this because its true or because they are using keywords for Google’s sake? I notice that a specific word is being used over and over again. It is hard to read, but I know why they are doing it. They want that page to be at the top of Google search results.
Members on forums are not simply being friendly by answering your questions and giving you advise. They are hoping that you click on their signature link – visit their website – and buy whatever they are selling. Like the guy who rings on your door, comes in and begins to vacuum your carpet. He is not doing it because he wants you to have a dirt free floor, he is doing it hoping that you buy the vacuum.
The Internet has turned from a place of wonder and mystery, into just another place to sell things. So this is a word of warning to anybody wanting to become a webmaster. Be prepared to loose your Internet innocence. Be prepared to loose something that you will never get back. Like my ability to sit in my favorite chair, sip on hot chocolate, and be taken away by a good tale.