I just discovered Kat Blaque’s YouTube channel the other day and I’ve been slowly browsing through her videos because she seems to have a lot of calm and rational, well thought out things to say that I really admire, but this one in particular really hit home for me today because it’s been a particular frustration of mine as of late and honestly I’ve had other people tell me bits and pieces of this advice – all of which that are really worth taking to heart if you’re trying to make a career out of creating content online.

Here are some of the highlights…

  • “Comment sections tend to be a massive time suck that often result in fighting with total strangers and resolving absolutely nothing!”
  • “You are not required to comment, respond to a comment, or even see the comment section.”
  • “Sometimes I think that we believe that the only thing that’s missing from this piece of content is our voice.”

I think my favorite point, though, is where she talks about constructive arguments in comments that would make for great standalone videos (or blog posts, or whatever) because this is a perspective that I’m trying to subscribe to myself that I first picked up from some random blog long ago that unfortunately I can’t remember. The author had turned comments off on his site, but also included a section below each post that specifically said something like – “If you have comments or opinions as a result of reading my post, I invite you to expand on them by making a blog post of your own.”

I love this just because while he’s not dismissing reader opinions as not mattering, he also made it clear that he wasn’t giving the option for each reader to leave them front and center on his doorstep and he also encouraged that more productive, thought out debate that we’d all like to see by saying, “Go put some of your own effort into it and make a proper rebuttal like I did!”

Comments are not content, and I’m looking forward to watching what else Kat Blaque has to say because it seems like she actually puts some real time and effort into the things that she posts online. 🙂

A Reason for Garbage Comments

July 9, 2016 5:28pm
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I have a theory about why social media sites like Facebook garner such terrible discussion in their comment sections based on something that I’ve observed from some of my own writing that I’ve published recently.

I’d love to see some actual statistics on how many users actually click through links on Facebook vs how many leave comments because when I compare the pageviews that I’m seeing on some of my more “lively” posts, the numbers aren’t even close! I suppose it doesn’t really surprise me, though it’s disappointing in a way to think that so much of social media commentary is reactions and agendas pushed solely on reading the headlines and not actually delving into the content that myself or another writer took the time to put down on the page…

It’s a relatively new phenomena with digital media because it’s not like print or television or radio really give their viewers the opportunity to only consume the lead without also hearing the actual story. I mean, you could turn the TV off or only read the front page headlines and then walk away to go about your typical, everyday rants, but social media is really the first platform to give that live commenting option where readers have an up front venue where they can speak his mind without actually considering his source material whatsoever.

Does that need to change?

I eluded to some of my greater concerns about Internet comments in my Thing-a-Day post yesterday with why I specifically don’t allow comments on many of my own websites, but what if sites like Facebook took an extra step to lock down the comment box until a user at least clicked on the link that the comments referred to?

It wouldn’t be a perfect solution because you could easily get around it by instinctively clicking the link and then immediately closing it, but the majority of users probably aren’t likely to do that anyways.

Then again, you’d have to look at the stats to see if it’s even the majority of users who comment without reading or if it’s really just an issue with that increasingly vocal minority that’s likely to cause headaches no matter what type of restrictions you opt to put in place.

Death of a Newspaper

May 3, 2016 6:29pm
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It was a little sad, but honestly not at all surprising to read today that one of our two local papers – The Tampa Tribune – is closing up shop, as it was just acquired by its competition.

I’d link to the video by their CEO “announcing” this exciting change, but even ironically it’s a painfully stale video to watch … one of those pieces of evidence that will surface 50 years from now and make people think, “Wow, so your print journalism was still alive back when this guy was somehow a part of it?!”

Anyways, I was just thinking about how when I first moved to Florida … or technically even before I moved here, I was an avid reader of The Tampa Tribune. As soon as I got here, I signed up for a full subscriber to kind of soak in the locality as much as possible, but I think a good year prior to that I actually would get their Sunday editions mailed to me at home up in Michigan! They would arrive about a week late and I would use them mostly for scoping out jobs and apartments, but also just in general to sort of fantasize about this far off land that I dreamed of moving to eventually one day…

Hell, I think I actually even applied for a few jobs with the Tribune over the years, but clearly those never got too far! 😯

I guess I stopped reading the Tribune probably 5-6 years ago when it became more common to have a stack of papers sitting in the corner that I had to make a conscious effort to flip through before throwing them in the recycling bin. Slowly there became less and less that they had to say that I hadn’t already read in one form or another online, plus computers have always had this nice way of not turning your thumbs black while you’re reading them, and so eventually I just canceled my subscription altogether and really just never looked back.

The state of journalism itself these days kind of has me torn because although some publishers have done ok or better at embracing digital media, most of the big guys like the Tribune and the Times have not and as a result it’s left a bit of a hole in the news that needs to be filled one way or another. In some cases we’re seeing TV stations and even radio branch onto online to snag in those readers, but they still ultimately have the same issues that print ran into – finding a way to financially support their efforts without either selling out to special interests or else just putting entertainment first and making it hard to take them seriously when it comes down to real news.

And of course, the web and social media have made it easier than ever for groups and organizations themselves to share their own news, so I suppose that some of the playing field left behind is still covered by them, but then there’s always the conundrum of honesty vs. being self-serving, too…

Personally I’d think what I’d like to see is some new local news organizations popping up to take the place of these corporate behemoths who can no longer seem to make a profit in the space. The Internet being a super cheap replacement for the classic printing press and technology in general continuing to rival that which goes into professional productions, there’s no reason that a small team of passionate journalists couldn’t get together and create their own local media company to cover the same types of things that these newspapers used to cover. Unless their plan is to strictly target senior citizen communities, newspapers aren’t going to make a comeback – at least not with any generation who can operate an iPad without having to call their grandkids for tech support – so the barriers for entry in this new age world of journalism are really lower than ever.

Because we need local coverage in our daily lives to talk about the things that didn’t happen around the country in New York or Los Angeles. And a media company for a mid-sized metropolitan area like the Tampa Bay region may not be able to support the 250+ employees that the Tribune was said to have had prior to today’s announcement, but 20-30% of that including a decent, local sales team? It seems like it should be very doable, and it would be a great asset to a community that continues to grow despite its conglomerate-owned media giants flailing for relevancy because they simply don’t know how to do business in a world where most readers don’t care about print and won’t pay for an online subscription.

Mind you, *I* certainly have no desire to take on that challenge myself, but for our local journalists who are really passionate about the thing that they do – you’ve probably got better odds trying your own thing than you do vying for a spot at the paper.

Over the weekend I’ve spent some time rethinking productivity and trying to reassess the different things that I want to be writing because truth be told, I’m really not writing as much as I would like to be right now.

And while it’s too soon to say for certain, the hunch that I’m riding on at the moment is that realistically I could be getting a lot more done by curbing the procrastination and a good chunk of the time that I waste griping about things on social media because if you were to really take me to task over how I’d like to be able to look back at my time, which do you honestly think that I’d rather be able to boast – a portfolio of great writing over all of these subjects that I’m passionate about, or having posted some really great zingers arguing with my Republican friends (and even complete strangers) on social media?!

I really want to try to refocus on creating and leave the petty bitching for those other people online who don’t create.

So going back over my repertoire, I’ve already tried to post a thing or two this weekend on Just Laugh, and eventually my rarely weekly humor column should stumble back into that fold, too.

I’ve also got this really swell Thing-a-Day project that I haven’t blogged about here or linked to just yet, but I’ve really been enjoying that because it sort of forces me to write at least something every single day!

So the question from here is … what else???

Though I’ve had fun with the editorials that I’ve been occasionally writing, I really want to keep them a limited engagement for topics that I find myself motivated to write more serious and in depth about, as opposed to it becoming a regular feature where I have to actively hunt for stuff to comment on every single week.

The one that I keep circling back to is Disney World, although at this point I admittedly have conflicting thoughts about it…

  • Pros:
    • love Walt Disney World.
    • I always find myself overwhelmed with things I could write about whenever I’m there.
  • Cons:
    • It’s a great place to unwind for me and I’d hate to interfere with that by adding deadlines, scheduling, etc…
    • I’ve tried a few different ideas in the past and none have really caught on … humor, reviews, general commentary.
    • There’s always the possibility of hurting my other projects by further segmenting my time instead of really focusing on one or two things.

But then again, it could just be that I haven’t found my beat with regards to writing about Disney World yet and I really do feel like there’s a project in there somewhere that could be a whole lot of fun, so maybe I just need to put a little more time into it and really think about some of the things I’d like to read about that I can address in a unique way, and also don’t require twice-weekly, rigorous trips to the World and/or reposting the same park updates and press releases that a lot of other WDW bloggers already do today!

Who knows – maybe it even involves dumping MyTimeWithTheMouse.com and trying an entirely different approach using a nice, simple (and already done!) WordPress theme that I don’t have to spend a year custom coding to get exactly the way I want, only to later become horrendously outdated until I just want to scrap the whole thing and try something else a few years later!

This is clearly going to require some thought, so in the meantime – here are a few fun pics from recent trips this year that will hopefully serve to motivate me, and I guess you can feel free to enjoy ’em if you’d like, too… 😉

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Motivation

February 23, 2016 5:36pm
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How do I want to make my impact???

November 19, 2015 10:36pm
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I guess you could say that I’ve kind of been having a mini crisis of faith over the last couple of weeks where I’ve found myself second-guessing what I want to do with life from the perspective of being a writer.

I wrote about it a little here last week, but in light of the attacks in Paris that literally happened a day later and the tremendous backlash that’s surged since regarding the refugees from Syria, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and last night I believe I finally came to my answer…

Politics and reporting the news are important, and I can certainly see plenty of room for improvement, however that said I don’t know if it’s the right fit for me, I don’t think that it necessarily plays to my strengths, and most importantly, I think it would drive me absolutely insane trying to keep up with it after a while!

I had an idea that I was briefly entertaining last night about a new project that would essentially serve as a Snopes or a Politifact, but exclusively stick to factually correcting details shared around social media. On the surface it seemed like a worthwhile idea and it’s no doubt something that’s sorely needed … but the more I stewed about it, I came to the conclusion that it would end up being an extraordinarily negative pool to wade through because it would basically consist of purposely seeking out the most popular misinformed posts on Facebook and then doing the research to correct them.

A noble cause, no doubt … but is that really how I want to spend the limited amount of time that I have to dedicate to my craft???

Not really.

And so that brought me back to humor and sort of shined a new light on the art form that I think I’ve somewhat taken for granted. Simply put, the intent of humor first and foremost is to make people laugh. It can certainly also serve to educate or enlighten or even ridicule its subject matter in the process, but all of those things are secondary to entertainment.

It’s an argument that I remember Jon Stewart making time and time again about The Daily Show when various news programs would compare themselves to his program and he’d have to insist, “You think that we’re the same, but we’re not. The lead-in to my show is literally puppets making crank phone calls!”

A lot of pundits gave Stewart crap about not being on the same playing field as they were – primarily because his job mostly consisted of lobbing fireballs at them for 30 minutes every single night – but that’s kind of the beauty of being a humorist. You can write hard-hitting, political humor that serves to cut through the bullshit and highlight the ridiculousness that our politicians spout on a daily basis, but you can also write about other things, too.

If I were to take on that social media fact checker project that I described earlier, sure, there would be a potential to “make an impact” by providing facts to (hopefully) displace the BS, but what would the other part involve for that job? I fear that much like trying to be a hard-hitting journalist, it would be nothing but one ugly shouting match after another where even if you change minds with your latest battle, you’ve still got another ugly shouting match ahead of you and ten more lined up after that.

At least if I stick to entertainment writing, I can follow-up a critical, but also silly post about the Syrian refugees with a comic strip about the joys of unpacking cardboard boxes! What are my alternatives if I dedicate the bulk of my time to dispelling conservative politics or trying to make a dent in the status quo through serious debate??? Those ridiculous cat stuck in the tree or how did she wear it-stories that always make me groan when I see actual news sources taking a break with them?!

People can still take serious cues from humor, but it’s a lot more fun to read … not to mention to write, now that I think about it. So maybe I need to get back to writing humor and stop worrying about finding an unnatural way for me to move the needle.

This was a good talk. Thanks, Internet! 😉

Journalism and Me

November 13, 2015 2:13am
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Occasionally I wonder why I never got into proper journalism, and even if it’d be too late for me to do so. I mean, I like the writing that I do and you certainly don’t have to sell me on the value of entertainment and humor in society, but there’s still a part of me that wonders if I could be doing more if I had chosen to pursue a role in the media, as it were…

I think a lot of this comes about because I see so many flaws around us today that are based on misinformation, even though I’m honestly not sure if I could do it any better or if I would even know how to do so. Kind of piggybacking off of my post earlier this evening about overcoming divides, it’s clear that a lot of people align themselves with either conservative media or liberal media … and I guess the tricky part is that the devil on my shoulder isn’t sure that even if people had a better choice down the middle for their information, if they’d really be interested in that in the world which we live in today.

When I used to watch the Aaron Sorkin show The Newsroom over the last couple of years, to me it was a great fictional depiction of what the news ought to be – professionals passionate about getting the story right and not just pursuing leads for sensationalism, standing up for integrity in the fourth estate and particularly pushing back when it came to politicians not giving actual answers and trying to pull the wool over on people’s eyes.

And of course, I’m sure it might be said that I enjoyed that show because I’m a liberal and the whole show was created to make conservative newscasters look stupid, though my simple rebuttal would be that conservative newscasters make themselves look stupid by the ways that they distort and sensationalize the things that they broadcast. The truth is really that both sides exhibit the same problem in different areas, yet in a society today where it’s so easy to pick the news source that makes you feel good by reinforcing the chanting already going on inside your own head, would anybody even pay attention to that alternative news option???

One that I think is actually doing a really good job at producing this type of non-partisan, honest news that I’m talking about right now is VICE. You kind of have to sift through their website to find the really good stories from the same kind of weird clickbait that you find on Salon and Buzzfeed and HuffPost, but their big stories via VICE News – and particularly the ones that go into their series on HBO – feature some pretty nice investigative reporting that exposes issues on a larger scale that are impacting real people all over the world.

For instance, last night I stayed up way too late watching a special feature they did about America’s prison system that included some interviews that President Obama did with inmates at a federal penitentiary. It particularly focused on The War on Drugs and the consequences that have resulted from putting so many people in prison for non-violent offenses – it definitely made you take a second look at a complicated problem in that thirty years ago the edict was simply “Drugs are bad – we can’t be hard enough on criminals!” to now we’re really seeing the effects of those programs decades later and people like Bill Clinton, who played a big role in cracking down on drug offenders, is now admitting that he was wrong and he helped to create an entirely new set of problems that we now have to solve instead.

That’s the kind of journalism that I like to see – not 30-45 second sound bites that grab your attention and flare up the political base, but hands on, gritty research that peels back the layers and gives people a different way of looking at a problem. I’d like to see that same kind of technique applied to other areas – I think the political sphere is ripe for fact-checking because politicians and BS go hand in hand … I just don’t know how it would be received.

Still, there’s a great quote from The Newsroom that rings a certain truth in this regard:

“People will want the news if you give it to them with integrity. Not everybody, not even a lot of people – 5%. And 5% more of anything is what makes the difference in this country…”

You know what they say – any day that you launch a new website is a good day… 😉

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This is one that I actually started kicking ideas around for earlier this year, but didn’t really have the time/content/procrastination for another project at the time to drive me there. I had a very brief mockup of what you see above running on a test site, but apparently today was the day that I actually mustered up the effort to both write the first post about the recent presidential debate as well as work out the kinks for the site design itself.

…although admittedly it wasn’t necessarily in that order! 😛

Anyways, the intent of this site – whether I managed to do it justice with the first post or not – is to give me a place to write in more depth about editorial-type topics that would normally otherwise be ranty-type posts on my regular blog. Kind of along the lines of some of the better quality posts you might find on a Medium or something of that nature, I was originally thinking about trying to host them there, but the whole huge audience/no pay thing is a problem for me and doing it myself gives me the control that I like to maintain with publishing my writing online nonetheless.

The plan isn’t really to post super-frequently – maybe one article a month, at best – but I really don’t want to force it just for the sake of keeping a writing schedule. Instead I want Scott’s Thoughts to be a place where I can elaborate on topics in a manner that feels a bit more professional so that there’s really a focus on the content itself rather than tying in my humor and other writing that might be seen on my blog as more of a distraction.

You’ll also see that I ended up pulling in a small handful of really old, but somewhat related articles that I wrote in this same vein more than a decade ago. Back when Comedic-Genius.com was my primary writing site, I had a bunch of different columns that I was writing – one of which was an editorial piece called Against the Grain… In truth there were upwards of 50 columns in the series before I ended it, but upon further review there simply weren’t nearly as many worth preserving from ten years later as I would’ve thought!

Hopefully the new series will fare a bit better, though I would argue that maybe that’s just another factor of getting older that one simply needs to get used to… 😉

* * * * * * * * * *

In geek news, this site is also my official foray into WordPress multisite-ing!

My testing earlier this summer was pretty unsuccessful, but before I let myself delete the install altogether, I tried one last test creating a new multisite environment with this blog and the new editorial subdomain, and it actually worked so I just decided to keep it. 😀

My multisite network currently consists of 4 sites total – the two previously mentioned and then two more test sites for more ideas that I haven’t gotten off the ground yet. For simplicity’s sake, I decided to only worry about sites that are actually subdomains of scottsevener.com right now, so humor and mouse and Just Laugh will all stay where they are … I’ve heard horror stories about trying to un-co-mingle sites once you go multisite, so no sense in adding new stress there!

Still lots to learn – the only real big dumb thing I’ve come across so far is the difference between Network Activating Plugins vs Network Enabling Themes because apparently doing the first forces activation of plugins network-wide (which is a neat feature for the ones I use everywhere) but the second simply makes themes available to activate on a given site … terms are just a little too close for my comfort, really.

I’m curious to see how performance ranks in comparison to the individual installs, but for now at least I was able to drop my install count down to under 20!!! 😯

Behind the Scenes – HISHE

October 31, 2015 9:14pm
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I’ve been a fan of How It Should Have Ended for years, and I also enjoy tours to see other creative people’s working space, so this video was a lot of fun for me to watch even without the cool rollerboards considered!

FOCUS!!!!!

So I stumbled across this website called the Library of Babel last night, and it’s kind of freaky.

Essentially they’ve created an algorithm that has created every combination of letters … ever. Or at least up to 3,200 characters, for starters. But it’s all indexed, so whatever you type, there’s a page in this vast library that already says whatever you were going to say…

Like – this last paragraph that I just wrote – it can be found here:

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Or even just completely made up nonsense that’s disappointingly not actually true:

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Apparently the site is based on a short story by an author from Argentina written in 1941, well before the Internet was ever a public notion, which is kind of crazy to think of the notion prior to the architecture being available to actually make it a reality … a futurist in the true sense of the word!

Now granted, despite having a computer that can literally generate any text that could ever be conceived, it still takes the creativity of humans to bring the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings to be consumable by mankind … the crux of having everything is that you’ve got the literary classics surrounded by an almost infinite amount of garbage unless you already know what you’re searching for.

Even looking at only samples of 3,200 characters, the library currently contains 104677 books of information, whereas there are estimated to be approx. 130 million books published in modern history today … to say that the meaningful texts available represent only a fraction of a fraction of the everything that this algorithm creates…

…but it’s still kind of a neat concept from a technical perspective, nonetheless.

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