It appears that I’m going to have to make some technical choices here, which I HATE HATE HATE. It makes me long for the typewriter where the hardest thing to manage was the carbon paper and the “sending” was dependent on whether I could afford a stamp. (The bank in Valier used to have a pigeon-hole system for the basic utility bills to pay without stamps but they’ve gotten rid of it because they want us to have automatic debits on our computers, which means you have to have a computer or go to the library. Anyway, you can’t walk their check to most of the businesses because their billing people are contracted out to low-pay places, no longer local people. )
My first research step was going to this post which was head of the list on Google. (That means they paid to be there.)
They do not list their own “Blogger” or “Blogspot” which is what I use. It is becoming more and more problematic. I’ve been on it since 2006. The problems, among others, are poor maintenance and imposed ads. But the problem behind the scenes is that they become more avaricious and secretive all the time. It worries me that everything is consolidated, esp. when no one asked whether I wanted “circles” or “hangouts” or some other subterfuge leading to one controlling company. I don’t LIKE centralization nor the cloud nor one dominating supplier, esp. one that attracts lawsuits even if they are in foreign countries. (Maybe possible because the enforcers are not bribed -- so far.)
This list is outdated. For instance, its report on “Medium,” where I also blog (or rather did), doesn’t talk about how much the support people interfere in what you write, how much they constantly change basics so you never know what will work, how defensive they are and how greed and fame-hungry they are. Medium is imploding.
Part of the problem is that Ev Williams, who seems to be everywhere, is convinced that the key to profit is forming a “community” of people blogging to each other: Facebook fever. Tumblr and Medium have this sheepdog complex. They try to get everyone rounded up and connected. I don’t like it. Partly, it excludes everyone who is edgy, profane, daring, or otherwise atypical and interesting.
Ev Williams likes this: to him conformity is a good thing -- we know where that goes. It goes to Williams’ roots which are rows of Nebraska corn, straight lines, monoculture, industrialization. He likes highlights on posts, which he says adds value. If this is true, why are used books cheaper if someone else has already been busy with a highlighter? It just directs attention away from one’s own responses. Same with “recommend”. It’s a gold star system, if you remember your primary grades in school. I resent it as just another form of control.
I already have a Tumblr account left over from the longago. Maybe I’ll fire it up and begin to post there. The list referenced says it’s focused on community, but maybe it’s a more “out-there” and wild-ass sort of people who don’t freak out at the sight of human bodies.
Aeon.co is frankly and openly a magazine where there are editors who will “curate” before posting on the main platform (and occasionally pay, I’m told) but they have a side-event which is conversational QandA that is open. Their standards and subjects are upper-class Brit. This is not for kids, which is an advantage IMHO. I don’t mean it’s taboo but that the writing and thought is over the heads of the common denominator. Otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time looking things up. I do. Building vocabulary and grasping new concepts is what I value.
Even more sophisticated is “Uncouth Reflections” which is a group blog, reconstituted and named from when it was Blowhards. I’ve followed it from my first explorations and it truly is classy old white man high culture: architecture, art, history, education, fine writing, and other classic humanities. It’s a little bit like blundering into a cigar shop near a campus, but I like that.
I begin to see that since my values lean to “high” style and content, which frustrates some of my readers, esp. local and family; and since I’d really like to be a lot more risky that I am; since I don’t care much about politics and big numbers as a source of income; that I’ve given up on Montana as a writing community because they are so damnably “nice” and shallow, so invested in prestige; that I might be looking for something more like a subscription list. And something that will serve longer manuscripts on stranger topics. That is, something meant for literary consumption rather than business practices, which constantly frustrate me now. I HAVE established “Prairie Mary” as a brand, which is a business thing to do. But it’s too eclectic for good marketing.
Luckily, when it comes to video I have very low standards and no skills, because producing them is time-consuming and demands more than one Mac Mini on DSL, but I love to see them, even the dark and blurry ones, so that’s a plus for Tumblr. They come close to the original source of writing, which is image and metaphor. I am more moved by seeing people’s inner lives than by seeing their bodies.
The conventional “value” in all this stuff is in mailing lists which are used for pushing advertising. The assumption is that it works by percentages: get the percentage that buys the most, get the percentage of what sells the best, then smush them together. Boutique hand-selling would be the opposite, I suppose. I very occasionally correspond with a Montana writer who once had a Vietnam novel published by a rich man who only did limited editions to a very specific sort of audience that had a taste for blood-thirsty violence and smash-on bitter war strategies. I don’t suppose he published the names of his customers. I don’t know how much he “curated” his customers, but this was not a numbers game. His mojo was that he paid very well -- he valued writers.
It is a curious fact that Wikipedia started out as a springboard from a curated and protected porn business. Jimmy Wales, who fronts Wikipedia, had a partner, Larry Sanger, who did a lot of the thinking for Wikipedia but left in 2002. He left for moral reasons, but the morality was not based on porn. Rather he felt the business was misrepresented and not doing what it was supposed to do, which was getting to truer information. Instead too many people were using it to assault their enemies.
What’s even more curious is that porn is now the norm. You can see anything on the Internet, though pedophilia is still criminal. But the statistical studies reveal that the real thrills now are presenting oneself “doin’ it.” Exhibitionism. And violence. Or weirdo. And the performer pays the provider, a reversal.
Public sophistication about porn is probably about the same as public sophistication about blogging and, since a lot of people don’t understand them and have never experienced either one, they can make both seem like sorcery: something that will grab you and destroy you. Therefore, like drugs, something that is worth money to the initiated and hooked. But it is the secrecy and mysteriousness that is addictive, so as more and more people go online, write, and reveal their essential misery, both are pursuits that are less and less marketable.
Probably I have enough names to start a little subscription list -- free. I ran one among my former classmates when I was marketing the information about Alvina Krause. Taylor and Francis are a huge manuscript/journal business based in England who seem out of control, which is sort of related to this whole mess. Journals in various fields used to be the gatekeepers for scholarly reputation and promotion. Now the curation system (3 peer reviews) is broken and the very layout of disciplines is changing, causing crazy proliferation of journals, esp. online, attempting to keep up with the cross-disciplines, hybrids and breakaways. I have yet to see the journal (Stanislavski Studies) that accepted my story about Alvina Krause. When I nag them, they say they are only “several days” away from publishing.
Lots of thinking and exploring to do. If you have advice, I’d like to hear it.