Daily Archives: October 24, 2006

The Speedway-based track to non-obscurity

I have said many times that to blog is to labor in obscurity, an obscurity of near total hopelessness given the millions of fellow bloggers out there also laboring in their own obscurity. If current trends continue it’s only a matter of time until the entire world will be blogging and there will be no one left to read any of them. [1]

But I may have found the way out, the track from obscurity to non-obscurity, a track I plan to use while there are some readers left.

My most views in a single day so far were the 279 hits I got last week when I made an ill-advised post on a licensing issue that I later withdrew.

However, yesterday the blog got 246 total views, 164 of which were for the “Start my engine” post.

Thanks to my own dashboard, the Word Press “dashboard,” I can see the referrer links to my blog, how folks reached my monument to obscurity. For example, I just noted

http://trackforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=82858

and chased it down.

And it turns out Trackforum is a site devoted to motor sports, including the Indy 500.

Now if you had told me a month ago when I began my latest spurt as “blogger dave” that I would be the subject of a post in a forum about the Indy 500 then I would have said, in the Shields family tradition, “Bust my buttons!” or “This is a Jikes moment.”

I find it extraordinary that only hours after I file a post about the Indy 500 my blog was discovered by a group of racing fans riding search engines across the internet, at the speed of a light, a speed much faster than the 220+ miles/hour of the best Indy racers.

I also realize that what I have termed the “Tom Friedman effect” is not just due to Tom Friedman. It is but one instance of a more general phenomenon.

The internet has grown so vast that if you write about almost any topic known to more than a handful of people then you will learn there is a community interested in that topic who will find you, and if they find your post on that topic interesting then they will write about your post, and so set you on another, faster lap in the race from obscurity to non-obscurity.

So it’s not just the “Tom Friedman effect,” it’s the “blog until you find a group” effect. For example, I recall a great story about someone who had taken French in college but remembered only one phrase, a phrase he spent the rest of his life trying to work into a conversation. The phrase was, “The inkeeper has just been struck by lightning, what do I do?” And now I’ll soon learn if there is an active group of the survivors of the innkeepers who have been struck by lightning, a group that has probably been waiting since the dawn of internet search engines for the first hit on this, their favorite topic. [2]

But I also realize this is just one instance of a more general phenomenon. There are watchers — and witnesses — almost everywhere. For example, I saw a story on TV ten or more years ago about how an explosives factory in the middle of a very remote desert in Nevada had blown up shortly after noon, and the explosion was captured by a tourist ten or so miles away who happened to be filming the plant.

Which means now I’ll learn if there is a large enough group of folks who film explosives plants in the Nevada desert during the middle of the day.

Which equally obscure group do you belong to? Let me know and I’ll start flogging my blog on your behalf.

Notes.
1. This would be a great topic for a Ray Bradbury story, about there being only one non-blogger left on the planet. That would be a person of immense power, as the blog they chose to read would instantly become the most important blog on the planet. As it happens I was a great fan of Ray Bradbury as a teenager, and once heard him speak when I was an undergraduate at Caltech. One of his stories, indeed one he may have talked about that day, was about a pedestrian being pulled over simply because he was a pedestrian in a time when almost everyone rode around in cars. That was not fiction then, and is probably not fiction now. Caltech is bordered on one side by San Marino, a very wealthy, exclusive community. I recall being told that to walk in San Marino was to risk being stopped by the police. (San Marino is also the home of the Huntington Hotel, known to most as the site of the trysts recorded in “The Graduate,” the film that made Dustin Hoffman’s reputation. A previous rabbi of my temple officiated at Hoffman’s first wedding soon after the movie came out.)

2. I made my first or four visits to Russia in the early 70’s. My proudest moment came when I was not too far from the Kremlin and was asked, ‘Which bus goes to Red Square?” I replied, “Bus Number 24.” At which point the interrogator said in a loud voice, “You are Bulgarian!” To which I proudly replied, “No, I am an American.” I then realized I had inadvertently absorbed part of the accent of my high-school Russian teacher, as she happened be have grown up in Serbo-Croatia. I found Russians quite comfortable with hearing Russian spoken badly. After all, at that time Russian was an imperial language, as was undoubtedly the case of Latin in Rome two thousand years ago.[3] It you are running an empire, hearing your language spoken poorly is a small price to pay — it is a sign that you are a member of the group with real power, the group that dictates which language people must speak.

3. I took four years of Latin in high school, the last simply because the Latin teacher was such a nice guy and a great teacher. The great unknown of Latin is that no one knows what it sounded like. Was it spoken with a drawl? A twang? Did they use TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms)?

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