It’s been a few days now, and I wanted to take the time to make some acknowledgments and also answer a few questions (most of which I made up). No need for a bunch of fluff.
Here’s the big one. I owe a great deal to my friend Katherine Proctor who read two drafts of my essay and helped me reshape it from a bloated mess into the relatively svelte four-part series you got to read. In the end it’s still a bit of a mess, but that’s only because it came out of my head and not because of her spot-on edits and feedback. She was also patient while I sat on my hands for weeks without so much as looking at it, and then was somehow understanding enough when I asked her to rush through some line-editing. Katherine is the best and I only wish she had some sort of social media presence so I could embarrass her with further praise.
I also want to thank my friend Spencer who took a look at the first draft and shared some invaluable thoughts on style.
How’s the response been?
Quite positive overall. I haven’t spoken to anyone who was less than thrilled for me, and everyone seems to have enjoyed what they read, so for that I’m grateful. The caveat to that is not very many people have actually read the essay. More on that in a second.
Foreshadowing, mostly, but I also quite like that song and feel it doesn’t get enough praise, sandwiched as it is among so many other great tracks on that album.
Also, there are a number of hidden tracks embedded in parts one through three. Just in case you need an excuse to reread.
Is there any new music I should be listening to?
Steven Wilson put out a new album in February. You should give that a try.
What is your Twitter header image?
During my third year at Chapel Hill I took a stylistics course called Prose Imitation. It was a class about reading lots of different authors, identifying aspects of their voice that we liked, and stealing those styles for assimilation into our own voices.
It was one of my favorite classes, and it was taught by Daniel Wallace. He wrote Big Fish, among other things.
Wallace likes to draw, and often when we were going over someone’s story, he would stand up and just start diagramming the basic plot elements while explaining what he thought the student needed to do in order to fix it. His scribbles were mostly incomprehensible, especially without context, but they could be rather amusing.
The next semester, I took Gram-o-rama, which was taught by Marianne Gingher. Several weeks into the semester I walked into our classroom and noticed this funny bubble chart on the board.
I knew there was only one professor that could have drawn a chart like that, and I confirmed as much when I caught Wallace leaving the classroom several days later. He was teaching another class in there during the timeslot before ours.
Anyway, I snapped a picture of that particular diagram and used it as my Twitter image from then until now.
I think it’s hit its expiration date, though, so I’m in the market for a new one.
How did you make this website?
If you scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll see this is just a basic WordPress blog, powered by wordpress.com. It’s really easy to setup and the charge for the domain name was reasonable. (I registered it way back in January, so you can see how badly I procrastinated with the essay.)
Note that there’s a difference between creating a site via wordpress.com and wordpress.org. If you use .com they take care of all the hosting for you. Everything is really simplified and basic, and they try to make you pay for all these extra features that aren’t really important if you just want to blog.
If you go through .org, they let you download the WordPress software and set it up on your own server. This is what you want to do if it’s really important that you’re able to customize the code and add plugins and all that stuff.
I’m mostly satisfied with how I have it set up for now, and no one has said anything to suggest it’s hard to read as is. That’s really all I care about.
What is metagaming?
I put a definition of this word into the excerpt, but it’s highly possible people could have missed that as it doesn’t show up once you click through to my blog. The definition I used for metagaming is “decisions made based on factors or information external to the game itself.”
People talk about metagaming a lot when playing tabletop RPGs. It’s sort of seen as cheating there, where you’re using outside knowledge to influence your character’s decisions rather than role-playing and thinking as they would.
Discussion of the metagame also comes up a lot in high-level Smash commentary. Studying the meta is a hallmark of top players, those who can use matchup knowledge and an understanding of their opponent to influence the outcome of a game. My favorite player, PPMD, is notorious for studying those he’s likely to face and analyzing their play. He dominates just as much on the mental playing field as he does through technical skill.
“Metagame” will also be the subtitle of The Smash Brothers sequel. I feel like I’m small-time enough to avoid stepping on Samox’s toes, though.
I used the word in reference to these other things, but also to symbolize I had finally figured out the maze metaphor. You know, with the minotaur and all that. Yeah.
Why is this a postmortem? Is the blog over already?
No no. I just have a bad habit of starting with a word that isn’t quite right and then figuring out a reason to go with it anyway.
But I do want to address the main shortcoming of my essay, which is that not many people have read it.
As of now, the essay has received an average of 40 views across all four parts. The most visitors my site got was 41 on Friday. Each part was posted to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, with some parts getting double-posted to try and bring in more readers. That said I expected most of my engagement to come from Facebook, and I was right, but I underestimated the degree to which Facebook sucks at showing stuff to my friends. Considering I do this for a living (sort of), I should have known better.
The problem is organic reach on Facebook is all but dead. I talk about “reach” as a measure of how many people saw my blog posts in their newsfeed. Basically, Facebook hasn’t been showing you everything that every one of your friends posts for a while, at least as long as they’ve been doing the whole “Top Stories” bullshit. Instead it relies on an algorithm to show you what it thinks you want to see based on a frightening amount of data Facebook has on you, data you agree to provide in the user agreement you checked when signing up.
So organic reach is dead, which is to say unpaid reach is dead. Facebook makes big bucks off of business paying to put their posts and content onto your newsfeed, and they can even target you specifically, again based on your metadata. This is clearly a bigger deal for businesses and people who are running any kind of Facebook page, but it’s true for the average user, too.
I have more than five hundred friends on Facebook, yet my blog series peaked last week at 13 likes on Part Four. Based on the data I can see, I’m not convinced more than thirty people have read “Subjunctivitis” yet. Of that handful, almost all of them already knew what was in the pot at the end of the rainbow.
Of course I don’t entirely blame Facebook. My strategy of posting around lunch time didn’t pay off in spite of what I thought I knew about social media habits. There are also risks in this day and age when counting on anyone to read anything. It took me nine-thousand words to say two important ones, but a big part of the scheme relied on word of mouth to carry those two words farther than all the rest.
And just posting a basic Facebook status saying “I’m gay” wouldn’t have worked either. My generation invented the whole thing where you screw with someone who left their Facebook open and unattended. Simple declarations don’t have as much credibility as they used to.
In sum I certainly don’t regret taking the time to write out such a big essay. I had a lot more to say than maybe I’ve just suggested, and I think that shows in the words. I guess my point is sharing is caring. If I haven’t heard from you yet, I would love to.
Guess this ended up pretty fluffy anyway.