On Content

It is coming up to the three year anniversary of this website. Back when it began, it was a weird and great gift from a friend who didn’t have alot of money. I can’t remember if I was still doing my degree or was into my Masters by then but it was a different Zoomtard writing. Now I am married, I work for a church (!) and I have quite a few grey hairs making me look awfully dignified. Reading back on that first entry it is interesting (to me at least) that Mimi Smartypants had played such a role in my starting to write.

Mimi is usually off being a mom or tending to her career or engaged in more worthwhile activities like doodling imaginary subway systems on napkins as she watches paint dry these days and so she doesn’t write as often but when she does, it is always a treat. Neuro and I used to debate about whether she made things up because the stories she told were so damn funny. But as I have enjoyed her site over the last few years I have seen clearly why it is so enjoyable. The stories are good but there are two key elements:

    Her exceptional writing style
    Her approach to what goes on the site.

For me, anyway, these two things make Smartypants the Queen of the Internet. That is just a ceremonial title. Like if you call a Bishop a Prince of the Church or if you call the Intel employee at your party the Nerdbag. It doesn’t confer any actual authority on her and she can’t boss us around or demand that we put her face on our cash or that we should build her palaces. She doesn’t even get a crown. The way she can slip Focault into a story on the chaos of a creche makes me deeply envious of her learning and her light touch. But then sometimes her paragraphs unravel into self-questioning meditations on why she is writing this down and sharing and she always comes back to the same conclusion. Which is:

If there is one place where she can write whatever she likes it is her personal journal.

So I wanted Zoomtard to be a place where I would write whatever I liked and didn’t have to worry too much about its worth and maybe just maybe in years to come I would happen across an idea I had had or thoughts about a particular book and it would be helpful to have written it somewhere. Looking back on posts I made last year or even last week I often am shocked at the bad writing or the sloppy thought. I have lots of regrets hidden in these pages.

But something I didn’t dare hope has happened through Zoomtard. People who aren’t me, my wife or my best friends actually come and read. They enjoy it. Well, they enjoy some of it and chew through the monster episodes. I have made contacts with Mongolian monks, kept up with Ukrainian colleagues and bounced ideas against Canada-bound mentor types. Its actually been very useful. When the site was initially started back in the day (this is what it looked like) I was careful to protect my identity. Zoomtard was a deliberate alter-ego. As the months have gone by that has slipped so now if you know my name you’ll find Zoomtard. (It isn’t so bad yet that if you know Zoomtard you can find my name!) But as it has slipped and the content has become more transparent, I have had more and more feedback from people.

Smartypants is right, as usual. The private website is a very public, yet entirely personal communication device. I decide what goes up here. I decide whats get edited here. This is a patch of territory over which I am the autocrat. If I want to turn this site into a typical blog where I tell you what I did today then I can do that. If I want to turn it into a movie review site, then I can do that. If I want to turn it into a site where I just talk about how beautiful Hilary Swank is then… wait! Now that’s an idea!

But what I have realised over the last couple of months as more people have commented on how they have been helped/stretched/encouraged/bored by my theological sketchpad is that the stuff I can write on my little space counts out in the real world. If I can help people through the stuff on Zoomtard then it follows that being an asshole will hurt people. I know that I have hurt people in the past with off-the-cuff comments I have made. If I am in complete control of what is written here than I am completely responsible for the impact my words might have- positive or negative.

I don’t think I am writing the most interesting Zoomtard ever, but you know something, who cares?! Well maybe you do right now but studies have shown that you have already clicked away. In fact, if you haven’t clicked away, maybe you need to address the vast quantities of free time you have in your life. The internet finds work for idle hands.

The reality which I guess I am trying to avoid here is that I can’t really write anything here if I wasn’t willing to say it. The interface gives the illusion of security where I sometimes dream of unleashing a scathing attack on something but I’ve never had a real go at the fundie Baptist minister I disagree with or mocked the sillyness of a prominent Dublin church. I wouldn’t be willing to drop my crap on them in person, or in the pages of a PCI publication so I can’t really get away with acting like an arse and then just saying “its just a website”. If I did that I’d have to tell people who I respect like Stephen and Bob and the much missed Planet Potato that “its just a website” when they find something good in what I write.

So I think what I am saying is content matters. Over the next few weeks I’ll be experimenting with shorter, more regular content and see what happens.

Your Correspondent, Can’t help but thinking you have something to teach him

One Response to “On Content”

  1. Steven says:

    Happy Anniversary!

    Hope to see you tending your little patch of cyberspace much longer into the future.

    SteVen 🙂