How to Make a (Basic) Ground Lizard Chili (Blogs in the Social Media Epoch)

lizard photo

Image by Frank Winkler, via Pixabay

(Some quick notes on OT and social media, based on an email responding to another editor’s comments, on the subject of whether OT should be seeking to get more visitors via social media than via more “traditional” blogging methods.) I don’t want to say anything that could be taken to discourage “social sharing”: I feel strongly that the site – the site itself, the authors, editors, and users – all should improve their social games, but (I know you know this, but I think it has to be emphasized) OT is completely not Buzzfeed, even if at some point it might expand some Buzzfeedish features. I think we’d do better cultivating a we-are-most-definitely-not-Buzzfeed identity, even if we occasionally played with “clickbait” just for the sport of it. So, I disagree with a simple “more prominence on social media would be huge” conclusion. More prominence or more eyeballs doesn’t necessarily, or in the vast majority of cases even likely, mean anything for what we want OT to be. To condense a long discussion into a single example that may initially seem a little off: As most or all of you know, Sam’ Wilkinson’s 2012 chili recipe post is the single most “popular” post in the history of the site – mostly if not entirely because it has a very high Search Engine Optimized title: “How to Make a (Basic) Ground Beef Chili.” On any given day Sam’s post will be near the top views-visitors-wise, right after the home page and whatever new or newish posts, and ahead of any site feature or old post. I have nothing against Sam’s post. I think it’s a great post. I even tried out making a chili based on it, and I may soon do so again.1 I don’t see anything wrong with its SEO-friendly title (containing key words repeated in the body of the post, etc.).2 In short, it’s a model post for this site: Entertaining, informative, thoughtful, well-researched even, All the same, it doesn’t really do much for the site, or as much as its superficially measurable popularity might seem to suggest. It may very well be that not a single one of the ca. 100 daily chili-curious, nor a single one of the other over 100,000 chili-curious visitors to the post since its 2012 debut became a regular League/OT reader: It’s not like the site has regularly and prominently featured recipes, or regularly features chili, or has ever made a play for lowest common denominator person on the internet (like Buzzfeed). So there’s no follow-through or exploitability for us. We could delete the text of the post, or re-direct visitors to the New York Times crossword puzzle or a dog rescue or a Japanese avant-garde music of the ’00s site3, and it would have approximately zero net difference for the life of the site, while probably maintaining (at least for a while) about the same number of hits. If we ran advertising, and our advertisers could feed chili-related ads, then we might get a chili ad clickthrough or two, maybe even collect a small percentage on occasional purchases of chili-cooking equipment via an Amazon context ad, but that would be about it. It’s also possible that someday Sam will get offered a position as chili-ist at some recipe site, and will from that position be able to channel visitors back to OT… The last might seem unlikely, but it actually gets closer in concept to how prominence-measured-by-eyeballs might indirectly benefit the site or its users – yet it still does suggest any significant impact on the site – except for the potential loss of Sam. What rules in the social mediatized landscape, or in eyeball-counting or retweet-counting or other measures of popularity, does not seem to matter much to OT, and arguably should not. The real issue is the character of the site, what it is and what we want it to be: I think that, for the most part, OT’s users are the kind of people who prefer blogs to new social media and the people who seek to dominate it. OGs may still prefer a whole paragraph, or even several, to 140-character back and forth. and most still have the independent, don’t-tread-on-me blogger spirit that makes them prefer a blog/discussion site over a too-big general interest site or a narrow professional-scholarly single-subject site. In sum, OT is to a large extent a creature of the previous internet era, seeking a new niche in a transformed environment. That’s OK. You don’t have to be Snapchat or the next, even shallower and even more disposable Snapchat, to have a reason to exist. It’s OK to be a lizard in an age dominated by insects: All living creatures are equally evolved. So, OT can learn to eat insects in the way its dinosaur ancestors didn’t need to, but it’s still going to be a lizard, and so it should be as good a lizard as it can be. If it tries to go about things like an insect or some other type of beast, things won’t go well. Higher up the chain in the lizard kingdom, even if the lizard kingdom isn’t where millions of teenage consumers are heading NOW NOW NOW, would still be pretty huge. In practical terms, I think that means doing what lizards do, but better, while also adding new insects to our menu.


  1. …probably has something to do with why I labor to convert Sam to my side whenever we differ, as we almost always differ, on matters-other-than-chili []
  2. Another post – or title – that does well is “What Is Politics?” []
  3. []

Home Page  Public Email  Twitter  Facebook  YouTube  Github   

Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution.

Commenter Ignore Button by CK's Plug-Ins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

Comment →

Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

Comment →

[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

Comment →
CK's WP Plugins


Extraordinary Comments

CK's WP Plugins