NO ACCIDENT

Photograph by Seth Werkheiser

Thinking a lot about the old web, and world building. Our blogs used to be an extension of who we were, and how we operated. Then we gave everything over to “social media profiles,” where we uploaded the perfect photo for our avatar, wrote a cute / informative / snarky bio, and then fed the machine one or two sentences at a time.

Now we’re writing 400 words again, or more. Sometimes on Substack, or uploading a video to YouTube. We’re going offline, spending less time on our phones, craving a little more that consuming 10 hours of video every day in 15 second clips.

I say this, and try to live it, and yet I keep thinking of the “yeah, but” people. The folks who will say, “well that’s good for you, but what about…” and then list 100 different reasons why we need a new platform to inhabit. That somehow we’ll all agree on the next website to set up shop, and we’ll hand ourselves over again, like a cult.

I know some people will say that’s Substack, and that I’ve really drank the Kool-Aid, but my friends, the work I’ve put in there since October 2021 is an email list that I can export and use elsewhere. The investment had a payoff, unlike so many other social media platforms that have popped up (and gone away in short order).

All that to say, I can’t worry too much about people who want to say on an app, who want to consume and subsist on what an algorithm deems worthy of their attention.

This blog is on a magazine rack the size of Nebraska, and if you’ve found it, rad. If you’ve come back, or every typed my name into a search engine, I appreciate it.

But I think that’s it.

I don’t want an algorithm to determine my listening habits. I’m gonna trust my gut and my intuition and listen to what I want to listen to.

Oh, but Seth, how will you find new music?

Have you heard of… friends? They have great taste in music, and they know me much better than any computer algorithm, so when they suggest something, it’s worth something.

I’m an adult. I can find the things I want to find, and read the things I want to read.

But it’s all made better when it’s on the free and open web.

NO QUICK FIX

Photograph by Seth Werkheiser

Social media sold us on the idea that we can just post and lots of people would see it. 

This was true for a moment, but it was a house of cards. As more and more people post more often 24/7, there are only so many people who can see everything that is posted.

The “reach” was a lie. It helped lots of people, yes, until it didn’t. So now, as we enter a post-social media world, we’re left searching for NEW apps and algorithms, but it’s just more of the same, and it will likely end the same way.

Resist the quick fix, the shortcut. One subscriber to your email list is worth the work, the struggle, the grind.

SEARCHING

Photo by Seth Werkheiser

Love this from Mehret Biruk:

“I’m not searching for gmail.com, I’m searching for something, something of the past. That feeling. When I first learned to want and be wanted in a specific way; differently. All of it happened over the internet, the devices, the notifications. And what can I do about it now? Except hope that with enough time, enough effort, I will learn to forget the notifications. I will learn to want and be wanted in other ways; differently. Offline.”

From ‘Angry and curious

I do the same with email. Let me check one more time. Before a run. After a run. When I get home. As dinner is heating up. During dinner.

I’m searching for something. That email from someone that will sweep me off my feet. The job offer. The opportunity that gift wrapped from the universe just for me.

As Mehret says, time to deflect this feeling into something in the offline world, without a screen. I feel I get this more and more just by being outside. Finding myself stepping away from the computer more often. Going for walks. Long runs. Using my camera more often.

The search online never ends, but time on earth sure does.

HARD ART

Photo by Seth Werkheiser

Lots of people are making great art. And now AI is coming in to make things more tricky. Sure, Fiverr. All that.

The “great art” part is easy for consumers – they know it when they see it. They might not even care if you made it or a computer made it. They know what they like, and they buy it (or just save it to their desktop).

What I’m saying then is your art isn’t for those people. Your work isn’t for “I’ll take whatever is cheapest / easiest.”

Your work is for people who want to go deeper, who care, who think the person behind the art matters just as much as the art.

Those are your people, and if you’re lucky, they may someday become customers.

The text above was part of my reply to someone talking about the never-ending conundrum of “getting the word out” about what someone makes as an artist, or a painter, or a photographer. How we need social media, how everything is stacked against the independent creative person.

They had two posts on their Substack, so I mentioned this, too:

I read two of your posts – one about ADHD, and one about the atrocities of the war-ravaged world we live in. I already know you care, that you think about others, that you live with ADHD (something I know very little about)… but now I know a bit about you. You’ve already made it clear “this isn’t just about making pretty pictures.” You’ve put on full display, “This is me, this is what you get.” For what it’s worth, I’m going to subscribe – not (just) because of your art, but because of who you’ve shown yourself to be, which is how all this works.

I’ve channeled a lot of Seth Godin energy in this reply, but seriously… there’s a lot of great artwork out there. There’s no shortage of that. But there’s a shortage of people who care, who show up like you do. Keep doing that.

BYE, LINKEDIN

We did it. After countless years of absolute random ding-dongs asking to connect, and then just “wishing” me a happy birthday once a year, I’m out. Aside from the two gigs I ever got from this service, the distraction, the inane 9000 word articles from the thought leaders was just not for me.

STOP DISTRIBUTING CONTENT

LinkedIn is awful, and for some reason I’m still on there, and they keep sending me emails. One today asked this, and I’ll answer it here, and not distribute it anywhere, thank you very much.

Q. How can you distribute content effectively across multiple platforms?

A. Don’t. Stop distributing content. Go for a walk instead. Talk to your neighbor. Read a fucking book. Take a picture. Knit a scarf. Learn karate. Ride a bike.

Everyone is distributing content. It’s all the same. We’re all taught to believe that if we just write enough “content,” and distribute it enough places, then we’ll be like Justin Beiber and someone will discover us and hire us and we’ll be rich.

I’m not saying it never happens, but come on – if everyone is doing this thing, and obviously it’s very easy to “distribute our content,” then why aren’t more people killing it?

If we’re all so smart, and all our friends are smart, then why aren’t we all over employed and speaking at big conferences?

There are only so many podcasts to appear on, to share our leading-edge thinking.

Do we think the people in positions to hire us are hanging out on LinkedIn all day? That they have the time to read everyone’s 500+ word posts about productivity and how AI will help the music industry?

Get outta here.

CHOKE UPON THE BILE

Back in the early internet, I remember how visiting a message board was exciting because there was always going to be something new there. Some new comment, or new thread.

Then I discovered blogs, and was like, woah, the message board is THE FRONT PAGE. Only it’s curated by a single person, or a small group of people (this is how my first music blog came about).

See, there was just soooo much music out there on the internet, and us “bloggers” (for lack of a better term for someone who sets up a site, manages the domain name, edits posts, schedules posts, trys to sell ads, etc) highlighted the best bits. Sort of like when Yahoo had actual people managing the directories… search algorithms weren’t up to snuff yet, so humans did some of the best sorting, but the problem was… money.

Ya gotta pay people! And wow, companies really don’t like doing that – not at the expense of giving the execs a few more million in bonuses!

But that blog thing was a cultural movement. Sites like Pitchfork and Stereogum and Engadget and Gawker were fun to read, and made an impact.

Until they didn’t.

Bloated, promoted in an ode to pomp and style
Moistening the feed while we choke upon the bile

‘Motherfucker’ by Faith No More

This song came out almost ten years ago, and we’re still choking on the bile of the internet.

“But Seth,” they say, “no one visits websites anymore.”

No, no one visits your website.

Social platforms convinced everyone to dump all their writing, art, photos, and various “content” onto their websites, where we all believed “Everyone” could find it, and like it.

No one visits your website, but they visit a few websites that aggregate everyone’s website content and sell ads against it. We call that the internet now.

No thanks.

THE INTERNET ISN’T A DESTINATION

I love this bit from Jaime Derringer, who created Design Milk 18 years ago:

The Internet may no longer be a place I want to frequent.”

Back in the 90s, I remember riding my BMX bike and looking forward to getting on mIRC later to catch up with some friends on #pasxe (if you know, you know).

The point wasn’t to be in a chat room all night; it was to find out what shows were coming up or if we were meeting at a diner later that night.

The internet was a tool, not a destination.

SPEND TIME ON GOOD THINGS AND GOOD PEOPLE

Today I wrote how 33 minutes a day on social media equals 200 hours, and that’s the amount of time it took me to run 1,105 miles in 2020.

I then suggest we do a bunch of things that “only” require 33 minutes a day, such as devoting 33 minutes a day to connecting and talking and reaching out to the good people in your life.

“Consider that we don’t think twice about uploading our original photos and text to a platform that sells advertising around our unpaid labor while limiting the number of our friends (or potential clients) who will ever see it, thus incentivizing us to either spend more of our time (a finite resource) on the platform “engaging,” or spending actual money to “boost” our posts so more people might see it.”

While 33 minutes sounds like a lot, we toss that time out the window every single day scrolling through dumb videos and memes.

Read it here: Spend time on good things and good people

CPM HELL

Thanks Itay Dreyfus for bringing this to my attention:

“The internet makes me blind to the scale of things. If I write a blog post that is read by 2000 people that feels like crickets (these days). But last night we had 200 people come to the opening of a new exhibition at the gallery. It was overwhelming.”

Henrik Karlsson

Let’s not forget why 2,000 people on the internet don’t feel like a lot: cost per thousand ad impressions (Cost per mile [CPM]—mille is Latin for thousand).

As that CPM rate went down, more ads went on the page. Two display ads. Three. A pop-under.

It wasn’t that 2,000 people reading your work was bad. The CPM rate was “bad,” so something that got read by 20,000 people was considered “good.” After all, we have to keep the lights on!

The problem was, as more corporate interests crept in, we didn’t just need to keep the lights on. We had to pay the salaries of lots of dude bros in sports jackets and the electric bill for keeping 27 LED TVs running day and night in the office.