For those of you not a part of the usual points of aggregation who are wondering just what Dick Cheney is actually looking at in that photo on whitehouse.gov, I'd like to share the solution. If you've not yet seen the picture, you ought to click over and check it out. And then make sure it's really whitehouse.gov, because you can't believe such a picture would be on the real whitehouse.gov.
Neat huh? Funny how your brain jumped away from the obvious to the COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL, isn't it? (I thought it was interesting, anyway. I've dubbed this phenomenon "the Dick Cheney Rorschach test," because it very clearly illustrates the inner perv in each and every one of us.)
Several years ago someone discovered that if one removes all the speech bubbles from the comic strip Garfield, it becomes oddly surreal and much more interesting than originally intended. Garfield shows little emotion, behaving exactly as a real cat would. Without Garfield's verbal provocation to justify it, Jon's harried interactions with him become somewhat disturbing, oftentimes even depressing. This, to me at least, is a huge improvement over the original concept of the strip. You can see a bunch of examples of this treatment here.
More recently, someone has taken it a step further and removed Garfield from the strips altogether. This modification moves Jon from the role of the more traditional "cat owner," walking around talking to his pets as if they understand him, to that of a somewhat disturbed individual struggling with loneliness and desperation. In the prior modification, Jon's unprovoked pessimism seems out of place because Garfield is standing there smiling all the time; without Garfield being present at all, however, it ramps up to new levels of disturbnicity, bordering on schizophrenic. This is a significant step forward, making the strip into something I actually look forward to seeing, despite the blatant copyright violations involved in it being presented to me. You can view and subscribe to them here.
These two modifications got me thinking...
Since the removal of speech bubbles improved the strip so much, and the subsequent removal of Garfield even more so, I feel it's up to me to take the strip to the pinnacle of interestingness:
There you have it: confirmation that the removal of elements results in a better Garfield experience. The more elements you remove, the better it gets. I'm not sure of the logic behind this, but I suspect that it comes down to the fact that Garfield really sucks.
You guys! I just had the GRRRRREATEST idea. It's kind of hard to explain, but I'll try.
See, you just find pictures of cats in funny poses on the internet, then you use an Impact font to make the cat seem to be saying funny things. But here's the vital part: Cats have really terrible grammar! And they desire completely irrational things like cheeseburgers and psychiatric evaluations.
You create things because you want people to see them. Rather than expending energy trying to prevent some people from using the things you create in some way you don't like, just look at it as it really is: people are seeing your work. Whether they're hotlinking your images, stealing your post content, or sharing clips from your tv show on YouTube, eyes are seeing your work. Isn't that the entire point?
Encourage people to use your work. Creative Commons licensing anything you create is the best and most-effective way to get large amounts of people to see it. If you're a photographer, consider licensing your images such that bloggers, painters, filmmakers, artists, etc can use them without having to jump through hoops.
Don't sweat the numbers. Many of the blogs I read have lately been almost completely devoted to talking about how great their Technorati score or their Google PageRank or whatever is. Why does this matter to you, and why do you think it would matter to anyone reading your post? Sure, it's good having a high-profile site, but if all anyone can ever find on it is stuff about how high-profile it is, nobody wins.
Ads (almost always) make you focus your content on getting more readers and/or selling more ads. If you want to create things and get people to see them, then great... that's what blogging is for. Sure, you might be able to make alittle cash by adding advertising, but I submit that pretty much every blog I've subscribed to that has added advertising has turned into a blog about how to get more readers to read, how to get more backlinks, how to get higher in search rankings, etc. In short: making money with your blog (almost always) turns your blog into a blog about making money with blogs about making money with blogs... I was interested in what you had to say before, but you're losing me with all this making money stuff.
Every so often, tell people about it when you like what they're doing. A few years back I got an email from someone I really looked up to telling me really nice things, and it really meant the world to me. When you get an email or a comment or something from someone who has been inspiring you, it can really make a difference in someone's life. That sounds really sappy and silly, but when the person in question spends a bunch of time on a blog or something, it's obviously important to them. I'd consider that part of their life.
Don't participate in memes. You just end up with posts like this one.
Success is a hard thing to measure; many people who blog seem to be under the impression that having high rankings and making more money is the important metric for how successful they are at what they're doing. Me? I don't have a lot of readers, I've never done anything with the intention of increasing any rankings, I post almost entirely stupid things -- yet I get feedback from people all over the world, have forged quite a number of internet friendships as a result, and am consistently blown away at the number of people out there that I'm reaching (I don't even really know how many it is, but I do know it's a heck of a lot more than I ever expected it would be).
So yeah, I'd call that successful. Those 6 "secrets" are the most important ones to getting me to where I am, so I hope this is what Matthew was looking for.