Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Blog And The Blogger

My blog is worth $ 9,597.18. Want to know the value of yours? Scroll down, and at the bottom of the sidebar you will find a button. Click on it and enter your URL. You will get a figure, which could even be zero. The value of 'Journalism', the blog where I bung in stuff that I write for my paper, is $ 0.00. Clearly, it is the translation of the traffic on your website into money.

So the buggers have turned even your thought process into a commodity. A thought crosses your mind, you write it down, people read it and comment, and now suddenly, the process is being measured in virtual money. Virtual friends, virtual girlfriend, virtual sex, and now virtual money. So I have nearly 9,597.18 dollars in the virtual bank. That is about Rs 4.5 lakh! What will that get me?

Ah, a lot. A virtual holiday in Paris. A virtual collection of Mont Blanc fountain pens. A virtual car. In other words I will be in Paris but still won't be in Paris. I will be writing with a Mont Blanc but nothing to show on the paper. I will be driving a car but holding only an imaginary steering and sitting on an imaginary seat -- in which case I would fall on my butt and get real. Yes, fuck virtual. Get real.

And the reality is the ugliness of consumerism, which stands on the principle that everything can be sold as long as you market it well. Personally, I have no objection to this principle as long as it is confined to things material -- such as food and clothes and household stuff. You can sell Pepsi or Coke: if people like the drink, they will drink it. You can sell underwear: if people find them to be durable and not find holes in them within weeks, they will buy it. If they find holes, they will discard your product, no matter how sexy the model who peddles it.

In other words, if you want to sell something, you need to have not only quality but also a face that can sell it. But this principle does not apply to writing, particularly blogs, even more particularly, personal blogs. Personal thoughts, and the way they are expressed in writing, are subjective -- someone might find the writing breathtaking, others might find it to be crap. So who decides what is good, what is bad? The traffic on your blog?

I don't think so. The traffic is hardly an indicator of the quality, though it might be an indicator of how active you are as a blogger, which means 1. You write a post, 2. You get comments, 3. You dutifully reply to those comments, thanking them and all, 4. Having read those comments, you go to the commentators' blogs and leave comments on their latest post -- if not out of appreciation, but at least out of obligation, in return for their favour, 5. Go to the blogs of people who have already commented on the recent posts of your commentators and leave a comment their latest posts -- if not in genuine appreciation, at least in the hope of attracting them to your blog.

If you follow this five-step acitvity on a daily basis for a few weeks, chances are you may end up having 30 to 40 comments for everything you write. Even if crap. It is a different matter that if you continue writing crap, the number of comments would eventually dwindle to say, 15 or 16. The figure is unlikely to dip further because there are a lot of people who comment on crap. Ample evidence of that is available in the blogworld: silly post, but 20 commentators -- all finding the post to be "heartfelt".

But the truly heartfelt posts usually have -- sadly, but very often -- "0 comments". The blogger -- be it man or a woman -- pours his or her heart out, but he or she is totally unaware of those five steps to achieving the celebrity status in blogdom. Maybe he or she is aware, but does not want to go through it. For people like them, the blog is an utterly personal space not meant to be sold: if readers come, fine; but they are not going to go out of their way to attract commentators. I can, off-hand, name at least half-a-dozen bloggers who write mind-blowing stuff but who have never bothered about who reads them or who comments.

I was like one of them when I started blogging in October 2005. I wrote a lot of verse which, in the assessment of a professional poet, might not be perfect poetry. But I was pleased with what I wrote. But the number of comments? Zero! Only one woman, an ex-flame, read and commented, which boosted my morale. That was the time when, soon after creating my blog, I had gone on a vacation to Kanpur, my hometown. There, I would often wake with a dream that that I have gone to the nearest cyber cafe and I find my post attracting "35 comments". But in reality, I saw only "0 comments" or "1 comment": all I did in the cyber cafe was to transform my latest poem from long-hand into the typed-word.

But soon I learned the rules of the game. I followed the five-point something. Moreover, the journalist inside me told me: "You always write for the reader. So write well, and write in a manner they understand." It began to work. And then I decided to go the whole hog. I registered with Indian Bloggers and Blogstreet and a few others (whose buttons I lost because of the template change). I take Indian Bloggers rather seriously: till recently, it ranked me among the top 15. Today, if you scroll down, you will notice my position is no. 31. (It could be 32, or no. 30, depending on the unique hits on my blog). Nothing wrong in the ranking as long as you take it playfully, but when it becomes inversely proportional to your blood pressure levels, it is a cause for alarm.

A cause for alarm for who? For me, of course -- the stupid fellow who takes such illusory things seriously. I won't get drowned in the gutter if Indian Bloggers does not show my rank as no. 10 or no. 11, but then, the journalist inside me argues: "You write for your readers, and you belong to them. If you have no readers, your blog is a waste of time." So I would rather fight my way up from position 31 to position 13 -- I have dirtied my hands after all. And since I have dirtied my hand, I have no shame in flaunting that my blog is worth $ 9,597.18.


ravi said...

Hey bish u forgot to mention one thing n that is virtual cheque book. Surely the introductory lines of ur blog do suggest a lot of things " When stray thoughts assume the permanence of the written word" n thou a lot can be discussed abt it but its always better to leave certain things unanswered coz it does disturb the senstivity of some friends n bish i have a confession to make too coz oflate i do feel that ur blog have become some sort of battle field where unintentionally i have come accross the firing line. Some comments of me might have offened u too as it did look that way. But personally i did feel that some of ur thot processes had the narration of those events thru which i went n that included my confessions too. Perhaps these all r incidentals n yes these can be summedup as " May Be" or " I dont remember". So Bish coz of these similarities if i have offended ur feeling knowingly or unknowingly i do offer my apologies to u publically n wish u the best of everything.
On the lighter side bish u tend to take ppl down in the memory lane n i do like to share a small incident with u when i was living in janakpuri delhi all alone n that was in 84. I had a friend there who was very fond of girls n had given some specific names to describe his wonderlusts. One day he made a call to me n said " ravi i have got a new file n have to open it so keep the paper ready n i will come with the pen n will sign on the dotted lines..." So what kind of kaam was this. Was it kaam or kama...By the way paper was refered as my room....

Rim said...

Bish... i have only $564.54 in my account! - ur thoughts from kerala were good. Why dont u write a review/ur thoughts abt Rang De Basanti?

Visithra said...

ah the whims of blogging ;) some posts you right for ur readers some for yourself ;) at least thats what i do - i do like comments no change that to love ;)

Anonymous said...

Very strange Bishy! If you call blog a personal space, then why do you bother about the rankings? It is something like getting happy or upset when your neighbours comment on your style of living or the position of your writing table in your bedroom. Had I been at your place, I would have asked the neighbours to take care of their homes first before commenting on mine. On the other hand, you say that you write for your readers. The moment you acknowledge that you write for your readers, your blog ceases to be a personal space; it becomes a commodity. And in that case, you will have to abide the rules of market: survival of the fittest. Your readers become free to put their comments or choose not to put their comments. In that case, the readers take full control on your writing and they can very well call your masterpiece a crap.
You cannot make your blog a personal space and a commodity at the same time. Choose, Bishy!
BTW, a nice post to be read on Monday morning. :)
Visithra: I agree with you on this. I think you are making the fine balance. :)

Sharmishta said...

hm! interesting. but i do find u being very contradictory. I agree with some of the comments, its either personal or not. if it was for u alone, there wouldnt be button at the bottom of the page that tells u what ur blog is worth. and do not take this the wrong way, u r a journalist, u write to sell. its written all over ur writng style.

and going with ur five steps, u r now obligated to leave a comment on my blog :D no compulsion though :)

Visithra said...

i have to disagree with anon - u can balance passion with popular demand - you don't have to compromise and choose to stick with only one - just you must know the trick of placing them in the right place at the right time - marketing and ad world plot

end of the day its still a personal place - as you choose what to write - how much to share - how much not to disclose ;)

ps anon - a reader of mine?

Anonymous said...

added the indian bloggers button, coz firt time i saw it, i thot it was cool, and wanted to flaunt my national pride. soon enough, to my horror, discovered it was some numbers game. when the number (70 to 100) started popping, found that it was sort of addictive. sad, but true.

the real eye-opener, when i started following the comments back was the discovery that many, many, people are much smarter and astounding writers than i gave them credit for. in fact, some are simply amazing. don't know about others, but i think i'm pretty sincere when i leave comments.

btw, i like yours too. ;)

The dream undone said...

And here is to applying the five point rule.....lets see if it works!