One thing I love about baseball is the stats. You can look at a sheet of numbers next to a bunch of names, arranged as a box score, and quickly learn virtually everything about the game these people played. Few stats are as straightforward as the numbers in a box score, though, of course, a blooper that falls in and rolls is indistinguishable from a shot that caroms off the wall at 120 mph. “That will look like a line drive in the boxscore,” says the announcer of the dribbler that stops halfway to the hot corner as the runner reaches first and gets a perfectly valid base hit. Most stats can be manipulated any number of ways, like words, moods, standardized test scores, economic numbers, people who want to please, fearful souls, etc.
WordPress offers stats, along with your free blahg. Stats let you know how much traffic your site is getting, how well your little on-line journal is doing as far as readership. You can see, for example, how many visitors you have on any given day, week, month, year. You can see the numbers of likes, comments, views. I look at these from time to time and nod, observing what an obscure little corner of cyberspace the gratuitousblahg occupies. Rearranging the stats like the entrails a sooth sayer in the time of Caesar studied for omens of the future, I see this smiling augury.
Not a bad trend, I think, coyly trimming off the tell-tale column to the right that shows the actual numbers. But look at the trend, if you will; it is the trend I am getting at here with this chart. I have reason to feel slightly encouraged by the steady uptick in annual visitors, do I not? In ten years time, at the present rate of increase, I will have as many visitors in a year as the average porn site gets in a few hours. Progress, by any measure, I’m sure we all agree.
Stirring the entrails with my stick to divine further trends I notice an odd contradiction in the stats. Although I’ve stopped complaining about it, as much as I am able to, long time readers of these posts will know I’ve often sung sad songs about the difficulty of getting any feedback on anything. The echoes from my adversarial childhood make me more susceptible than some to the sting of silence by way of response, though I think anyone who expresses herself does so with some hope of a response. (Note the sensitivity of my gender choice there, gentle reader. I was encouraged to do this in law school, of all places. Funny, I know.)
The most dependable form of response in real-time, something that, sadly, cannot be heard in cyberspace, is a laugh. A laugh is also gratifying because it’s usually honest, spontaneous and an instant of blessed relief for everyone involved. Not so with a response to other kinds of expression– they require both thought and action, even if each might take only a few seconds.
Much non-response is simply the result of most people being too busy to read, hear or watch something they thought was pretty good and then take even more time to type “nice”. “Nice” seems insufficient, so after a moment of searching in vain for a better four letter word they sensibly move on to the next thing.
On top of the fast pace of modern life, it also doesn’t even occur to most people that a person who spends time creating something would be gratified by the encouragement, even as they applaud even a mediocre live performance (writing isn’t a performance, read it publicly, then we’ll clap) and most people remember to compliment the chef at dinner when a new dish is served (hey, nobody asked you to serve me this crap, bub). Social behaviors change when people are anonymous, which is whey they created the “like” button, although the chart for gratuitousblahg likes is too ambiguous a little mountain range to be of any use to us here.
There is pleasure and satisfaction to be had from doing a thing as well as you can. These excellent things are not to be sneezed at. Recognition that the thing is well-done, interesting, has provoked a thought or feeling, welcome as the validation might be, well… no one can hear you shake your head in cyberspace Anyway, have a look and quick ponder at the next telltale graph, comments on the blahg since its ‘launch’ in August of 2012. And, please, no comments, this one’s on me.