People, eh? Aren’t they just so bloody tiresome? I’m finding it increasingly difficult to be bothered to communicate with most of the bastards. Particularly when they’re using the web as a means of communication. The other day I saw from my web stats that someone had repeatedly been trying to find the site’s e-mail address. That’s one of the advantages of the new design – the location of the e-mail address isn’t obvious. It’s there, just not in the obvious places. Actually, this particular visitor did, at one point, land on the right page, but clearly still failed to find the address, as I still haven’t received any e-mails from nutters. Because, tou see, that’s the problem. When you run a web site, you quickly learn that the only people who send you e-mails are nutters and weirdos. I’m not talking about fellow site-owners, who generally contact you for perfectly legitimate reasons, like requests for link exchanges, but rather the general web-surfing public. You know who I mean, the sort of crazies who think that their whacked-out ‘opinions’ are worth sharing. Quite why they think that I might be interested in their demented ramblings, I really don’t know. More often than not, they assume that because I run a site called The Sleaze I’m going to be interested in all manner of smut and filth. Either that, or they’ve looked at the ‘Weird’ section and think that I’m genuinely interested in the supernatural, UFOs or conspiracy theories. For the record, I’m not – I’m taking the piss.
Then there are the complainers. Oh God, save me from the complainers! The main thrust of their complaints always seems to be that the stories on the site aren’t true – well, no shit Sherlock! Mind you, when you point out to them that the stories on the site are obviously fabricated, that, in fact, the site tells them it is all untrue from the outset, they get even more annoyed. Suddenly, I’m the one with no sense of humour and who can’t take criticism. So, you can imagine how my heart sank the other day when the stats showed someone searching within the site for ‘editorial policy’, worse still, said visitor had originally landed on the story about Oliver Letwin (or his evil double) taking a dump in a public park. Jesus, I thought, another disgruntled Tory voter outraged by the very notion of satire, (unless applied to Labour politicians). Well, on the off chance that you are reading this, my friend, my editorial policy is very simple: to offend as many people as possible and, in doing so, to shock them out of their middle class complacency.
Still, it could be worse, I could allow comments on The Sleaze. It’s a well established fact that there are only two types of commenters on web sites: spammers and morons. To be honest, I think I prefer the barely coherent comments of the former, with their links to dubious sites, to the later, with their demented ramblings. Now, I’m well aware that there’s a school of thought amongst many site owners that allowing comments is an essential part of creating a ‘community’ around a site, allowing readers to feel involved. Frankly, I think that they’re talking bollocks. If I’d ever read a vaguely relevant comment made on a story, I’d agree. But the fact is that the overwhelming number of comments are, at best demented drivel, written by people with only the shakiest grasp of linguistics, and, at worst, bigoted bile posted by right-wing nutters. Just look at the kind of comments you find on news sites, if you don’t believe me. At least the spammers aren’t spouting race hate and ignorant crap. Besides, why should readers feel ‘involved’? The reality is that they aren’t. Not beyond the act of actually reading a story, anyway. The creative process – as far as The Sleaze is concerned, at least, isn’t a group activity. I’m really not interested in their opinions and critiques. If, indeed, any of their deluded and illiterate ramblings can be classified as such.
The fact is that most people using comments to ‘critique’ a story haven’t actually read it in full, or have misread it, and are really more interested in making what they think is some witty smart arsed comment. I had one such experience on Twitter recently. I tweeted a link to the story ‘Wild in The Streets’ with the tag line “Were Britain’s Riots Instigated by Polar Bear Attack on north London Youths?” A reasonable summary of its content. I then had some cretin tweeting me with the supposed witticism “No, they were both white”. Well, fuck my hat I never knew that. Now, if this joker, (I use that word advisedly), had bothered to follow the link on my tweet and had actually read the story, (which they hadn’t, according to my web logs), they’d know that the bear’s colour was, in part, the point of the gag. But hell, why let that fact get in the way of making a smart-arsed comment to a complete stranger, (and end up looking a complete cock in the process)? I know that you probably think I’m being unduly harsh toward these people but trust me, hating them on first sight simply saves time in the long run.
Personally, I blame the celebrities and the marketers for this dumbing down of the web. I remember the good old days when you wouldn’t find either on line. The web was this great new place where ordinary people could put their creative work out on equal terms with the professionals – and you know what, a lot of it was pretty bloody good. It was also, in those days, a place where it was possible to build communities, where people had sensible discussions, where you didn’t spam other people’s forums or comments. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but not on the scale you see it now. But then the marketers sniffed an opportunity to make money, and the spamming started getting out of hand. Then they started telling everyone how they could get rich by ‘monetizing’ their sites with adverts and affiliate programs. And so we end up with the current situation of pages that take forever to load – freezing your browser for what seems an eternity – because they are smothered in adverts, more ads, in fact, than actual content. Then the celebrities started arriving, deciding that if ‘ordinary’ people could make a mark here, then the web was the ideal place for them to find new ways of having their egos stroked. So it came to pass that no site that wasn’t celebrity-connected was thought to be worth visiting, at least as far as the traditional mass media were concerned. Finally, to cap it all, Google, having achieved a near monopoly on search, decided that it wanted a piece of the action, and started boosting big brand names and celebrities in its results, as these were the kind of sites that Google itself could most easily make money out of, and, in the process squeezing out all those great smaller, non-profit sites, that used to thrive on line.
With idiocy ruling the search results, is it any surprise that it also rules the behaviour of web surfers these days? What’s the solution? I don’t know. Stop encouraging celebrities by following them on Facebook and Twitter perhaps? If they stop getting the ‘love’, maybe they’ll all bugger off and leave us alone. Try not to use Google products (not easy, I admit). Boycott sites with excessive ads on them, (I’m earnestly trying to do this). Most of all, don’t join the idiots. Avoid making moronic comments on sites and social media. Join the silent majority instead. Look, if you visit us and don’t like The Sleaze, fine. Just don’t bother coming back, resist the urge to share your outrage (or otherwise) with the site with me. I don’t care. If, on the other hand, you like us, then juist keep coming back – and tell your friends. Word of mouth is still one of the best (not to mention cheapest) forms of building traffic. So, until next time, keep it sleazy, (unless you don’t like us, in which case just bugger off)!