Thursday, March 3, 2011

On Not Being a "Blog of Note"

Are the folks at Blogger watching VWP? Not likely!
When I began this blog it was a logical way of keeping track of the mental and emotional ups and downs of my project of avoiding the news. I went into it mostly ignorant of the larger world of blogging.

At the same time I was excited by the opportunity to write in perhaps a new way in a medium that allowed me to combine pictures and words. As I saw it, I would be publishing my own digital magazine articles reflecting my life and my sensibilities.

Because this "blog-zine" is solipsistic at heart, i.e., about me, I initially never expected very many people to come to it, much less read it. Hugh Hefner has Playboy, Oprah has O, and I have VWP. Come on. There's no comparison! I do not have what one might call a "competitive lifestyle" that will attract avid, loyal readers.

But early on there was a surprise.

Blogger allows one to peer behind the scenes using the almost magical "Stats" tab. I could see how often people were coming to my site hour by hour. At first traffic was slow, but I never found myself staring at an insultingly flat line.

This is where I was tempted to become grandiose. My favorite writers seem to prove over and over that if you write well enough you can make almost anything interesting. And if it's interesting, people will find it and read it. That became my goal. I would write so well that I would magnetically attract more people.

I spent hours polishing my prose. Upwards of eight hours per post. And I began dreaming of becoming a Blogger "Blog of Note". If I achieved such an honor, perhaps my pageviews would spike in an Everest-like fashion.

At that point somebody needed to slap me. I was out of my mind.

The growth in the blog phenomenon is stunning. According to the people who have the electronic means to achieve a rough count, in  2001 there were 2 million blogs. By 2005 we were up to 50 million. In 2009, according to BlogPulse, there were126 million blogs.

Take all the bloggers in the world...
try to fit them into the UK. Ugh!
This is more than three times the entire population of the United Kingdom.

Since the Van Winkle Project has placed me more squarely on the Web than ever before, I've become aware of just how widespread blogging is. There are blogs for everyone, including companies and corporations. When I tell people about my blog, they usually mention they started one, too. If I go to their blog and click on their "About Me", I often find that they're being modest: they've started multiple blogs to reflect different interests and audiences they want to address. 

So out of this rising number of blogs that has become an ocean of language and imagery, each week the wise, innovative, and very nice folks at Blogger (no, I'm not sucking up) choose a handful to join their "Blogs of Note" and  they post the links on Blogger In Draft.

If as a blogger you seek pageviews, becoming a "Blog of Note" is the equivalent of winning the lottery or lining up five cherries on the slot machine. When it happens, your pageviews and followers will jump as if a 9.0 earthquake has rocked the sensitive needle on the graph.

As I continued to fantasize about the Van Winkle Project becoming a "Blog of Note" (because no one had yet slapped me) I saw cause for hope. My Blogger data showed where my pageviews were coming from. What was this? Slovenia? India? Singapore? Columbia? New Zealand? Wow! Van Winkle had gone global!

Blogger's helpful visual about where people who have visited this blog are located.

The wheels began to spin in my mind. If I became a B.O.N., I could put it on my curriculum vita (this is the name the university world gives a "resume"). I could tell my friends! In the midst of his own newsless project, Van Winkle would have fabricated his own news!

After a while I began to realize how out of reach the entire fantasy was. Blogs that are truly "of note" get as many pageviews in a day as I've accumulated in six months. Why movie critic Roger Ebert had 104 million pageviews in 2010! How many per day is that? Never mind; you do the math...

This is when I thought of Tantalus. He was the son of Zeus who was given special dining privileges and could eat nectar with the gods.

But one day he offended the gods (the accounts vary as to why). Because of this, Tantalus was perpetually punished in a most devious fashion.

He was placed in a locale where every time he tried to bend down and drink from a pool of water it receded. If he reached up to a tree to pick fruit, the wind blew the luscious, juicy orbs beyond his grasp.

He would always be close but never quite able to satisfy his basic desires.

From the tragedy of Tantalus we get the verb "to tantalize." It's a verb that applies to me. Every time I think of being a "Blog of Note" I am tantalized. It's a crazy way to live.

Rather than live a life of being constant, unfulfilled craving, I've decided I do not wish to attract mass followers by becoming a Blogger "Blog of Note." Should you blog from time to time and feel inclined to follow in Van Winkle's nearly invisible footsteps, here are four sound tips on how to achieve this kind of ideal non-recognition.

1 - Simply exist.
That's right. As soon as you create your blog you virtually guarantee that no one of significance, including Blogger, will get around to visiting you. There are way too many blogs out there.

2 - Have a laissez-faire attitude about graphic images.
Every time I upload an image to a post, Blogger gives me a message that some images are copyrighted blah, blah and I should take this into account. For that reason I prefer using my own photos, but frankly that's not always possible. If I violate anyone's intellectual property rights, I will cheerfully remove the image when they request. But this is the Web. Images are strewn like confetti in a wide city street. Who can resist picked up a few pieces? So my blog is not "pure." Can I still be a "Blog of Note"? Does Miss America have to be a virgin?

3 - Write posts that are more than a few hundred words in length.
This is a great way to guarantee that even if someone lands on your blog they won't read it. When they see that it will take more than a few seconds to find out what's there, they're on to the next website. I've decided because I'm a writer, what I have to do is write. I'm not going to write more than is necessary, but I'm not going to ration my words or truncate my thoughts any more than a composer would try to alter a twenty-minute sonata for piano forte to conform to the length and format of a cell phone ring tone.

4 - Start a year-long project.
Come on., Van Winkle. This has been done! No one likely cares about a year-long project unless one's life hangs in the balance. If a person wants to attract notice, he or she is better off blogging about popular niche subjects: music, movies, food, travel, crafts, hobbies, politics, pets, and pole dancing.

At the Van Winkle Project I blog because I gotta blog. Each time I post I think of it as being like building a sand castle at the beach.

As I look up and down the beach I notice nearly everyone is building their own castles. But this is not about them or the rare visitor who strolls along and compares our sand castles and says one is "of note" and, by implication, the others are not. In the great scheme of things the incoming tide of time rolls over each person's castle and he or she must build/post a new one as soon as the tide goes out again.

So why do this? Because those ephemeral castles are are a result of one's best thoughts and creativity. Within the sandy digital walls I erect, I place the essence of my hands, breath and heartbeat and I communicate, "I'm alive. I was here." - V.W.

Get yours at
and start digging...


  1. Uh Al, the reason why your blog is not a blog of note is because everyone is reading the news. Not sure how that one got past you. But you know, 14,000 page views is probably better than Laurence Sterne ever got. Twenty seconds of Samantha Brown in a bikini gets 2 million views on YouTube, so in a relative sideways inverse way you are doing just fine sorta.

  2. Great thoughts on blogging (with a good dose of humor). I've definitely pondered the "why" a lot, as mine has existed for three and a half years now. Even if one person feels like the world is a little more beautiful by visiting it -- if they feel a human connection in my voice, perhaps -- then I've left a mark that I admire and am grateful to have received from many bloggers (from internationally recognized ones to the most obscure).