Best-Of Advice

On the methods to my madness

Ugh coke, what happened to you? you used to be witty and funny in your cynicism. now you just sound like a jaded old dried out cunt whose lost her thunder.

I was never a cynic, fucknuts. There just happened to be a moment when you and I disliked the same things, and during that time you thought my writing was witty and funny.

Now that we don’t dislike the same things anymore — or more likely, we happen to disagree on one particular issue — I’m suddenly a “jaded old dried out cunt whose [sic] lost her thunder.” How convenient. (Keep reaching for those clichés, by the way.)

Over the past five years, I’ve grown very in tune with the cyclical nature of both building and maintaining a large base of readers. Most people think growing an audience is a steady upward climb. It’s not. The metrics are far more fascinating than that. What actually happens is that you gain readers in discrete bursts and you lose readers in discrete bursts. It’s an elaborate wave function.

Folks who pay attention to this stuff are usually satisfied to gain as many readers as they can during a positive burst and lose as few readers as they can during a negative burst, thus ensuring the maximum readership over time.

This type of behavior consists of two basic public relations postures that are fairly easy to spot. During positive bursts, the posture is one of relentless self-promotion followed by repetition of whatever gained popularity (otherwise known as “publicity.”) During negative bursts, the posture is one of apologetic self-flagellation followed by relative silence (otherwise known as “damage control.”)

So yeah, aside from the consistent output of quality content, the only trick to engaging your largest possible audience is knowing when to say, “Look at me!” and when to say, “I’m sorry.” (I’m not going to discuss deliberate attempts to gain readers in discrete bursts. That’s called marketing, and paying for it is called advertising. Either way, it’s artificial growth, and people can tell when you’re doing it.)

Now, I bring all this up, because while most people who do this kind of thing are interested in building the largest possible readership, that’s not always the goal. It’s certainly not why I do what I do here. Sure, I love having a large audience, but large is not the same thing as wide. I’m much more interested in keeping the right readers over time than I am in keeping the most readers over time.

The trick to doing this is in my ability to spot the negative bursts as they happen and then use them to my advantage. Case in point: Yesterday, I dashed off an angry response that ended with, “You should kill yourself.”

Despite the fact that I was being sarcastic in the face of outrageous misogyny, I immediately felt the initial rumblings of a negative burst. (So be it. You can’t control when these things happen, but I do find it hilarious that no one seems to remember that I ran an entire side-blog called “Just Kill Yourself” back in the Dear Coke Talk days.)

If my goal had been to maintain maximum readership, I simply would have replaced the, “You should kill yourself” line with, “I hope you die in a fire.” (This in itself would have been a subtle dig at the silly whims of political correctness, because while it may be fashionable to scold people for joking about suicide, no one gives a shit about the delicate sensibilities of burn victims.)

I abhor political correctness, and tumblr is awash in hashtag activists and social justice warriors who take immense delight in their duties as semiprofessional finger waggers. Those are exactly the kind of people I don’t want hanging around, so later that afternoon, I loaded the top three answers of a fun-sized advice with incendiary language to provoke a deliberate response. Right on cue, my inbox fills up with whiny self-righteousness. I picked the submission that best represented a certain type of person, and then crafted an ad hominem attack specifically designed to personally offend that certain type of person.

It worked. It always works. (If you’ve read this far, you’re probably a regular reader, and you can remember any number of occasions when I left my ring on during a bitch slap.) Point is, I’d much rather have a say in the type of readers I lose when it inevitably comes time to lose them. I lost a couple hundred followers with that last post, and probably pissed off a thousand more. That’s fine with me. I’m glad they’re gone.

This isn’t something I do because I disagree with a particular point of view. It’s something I do because every once in a while, it’s good to clear the echo chamber of all the whiners. It becomes so much easier to hear the relevant conversations when they’re not around.


2 thoughts on “On the methods to my madness

  1. Kristen M Lee says:

    As per usual stressful day I am reading a bunch of back posts searching for my misplaced sanity that has been gone for 20 years. I love this! The tune of your own brand of ethics and integrity keep me pumped! PS I am a true loyal fan,I always wondered what happen to the kill yourself blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *