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Dialing Down Our Expectations
July 2012 by Somebody

Well, we have dodged a bullet here at Somebody's Webpage. Shortly before I finished writing this column, my computer was taken over by a malicious virus that prevented me from using the machine at all. It displayed a screen which informed me that the computer was locked, and brazenly suggested that I could unlock it by visiting a local store, purchasing a money order for $100, and then returning to punch in the code. Of course, I wasn't foolish enough to fall for this ploy. I only gave them $20. Then I got the same virus screen asking me for money again.

After regaining consciousness, I consulted with Somebody Else about the problem, who suggested I take the machine to a computer specialist. I followed his advice and the machine is now virus-free. The good news was that I didn't have to reformat the computer and reinstall all my programs and files. That would have been pretty demoralizing, to say the least. The computer was down for several days, which meant that nothing new got posted to the website for about a week, but now we're back in business.

The Somebody's Webpage command center is
back online and ready for Internet greatness.

On to other subjects. You may have read Thurston Thornton's latest piece in which Thurston recounts his dinner discussion with our enigmatic contributor General Strangeness. One part of their discussion caught my attention, in which the general describes my pie-in-the-sky aspirations for the website:

"The general went on and on about how Somebody is a great visionary and a veritable website wizard who is leading us to the promised land of Internet fame and riches. He proclaimed that Somebody's Webpage would leave Facebook behind in the dust, and would have an initial public offering that would make Facebook's look like mere child's play... I disagreed, and said that at its current rate of development, Somebody's Webpage would earn about twenty dollars in annual advertising revenue after about ten thousand years."

You can always rely on old Thurston to tell it like it is, that's for sure. I must admit that I'm partially to blame for putting those ideas into the impressionable mind of General Strangeness. One reason for my delusional prognosticating in recent months was my certainty that the website promotional strategy I had conceived would pay off big time in the form of a tidal wave of web traffic. The strategy, which involved posting links to the site on various social bookmarking sites and blogs, not only failed to send our traffic into the stratosphere as expected, it has barely raised it to 30 feet above sea level.

I'm starting to wake up to the fact that the rags-to-riches Cinderella story I've been subscribing to might be a fairy tale. There are undoubtedly millions of people out there just like me chasing the internet pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Only a tiny fraction of internet startups ever rise to the level of Facebook, Google, or Amazon. But I was never looking for that kind of success -- I would be satisfied with one tenth of the traffic that The Onion gets.

In light of the lukewarm promotional results, I'm having to accept the possibility that Somebody's Webpage may never become profitable, and will remain merely a hobby for me and the handful of contributors who generously supply our site with content. I'll obviously have to keep depending on my bowling alley job for income, along with some freelance web design work. Maybe if the stock market starts going up again I can make some money that way too. Luckily, money is not a big issue for me at this point in my life. I have no kids, no debt, and my living expenses are low.

The possibility has also occurred to me that I'm just expecting too much too soon. After all, I'm not even through developing the site yet. There are numerous sections that need to be designed, and improvements that need to be made to existing pages. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to forget about the promotional aspect altogether and devote my full attention to web design (along with the occasional writing).

So, maybe the fact that we haven't gone massively viral is actually a blessing in disguise. I have always been an advocate of keeping artistic pursuits separate from financial interests, and believe that you shouldn't try to turn what you love into a cash cow. But somehow, the seductive influence of the almighty dollar caused me to abandon this philosophy in the case of my own website. I had fooled myself into thinking that popular approval and artistic expression could go hand-in-hand like a cup and saucer.

The big advantage of not being a money-driven website would be that we could continue to enjoy our creative freedom. We don't have to worry about whether mainstream America thinks our site is cool or lame, and so we don't have to start second guessing our own artistic instincts. For instance, I could have a webpage that's solid black, with nothing on it except for a little picture of a fish or an old car or something. Then, you could scroll down the page for about half a mile and there would be nothing except black screen with a couple of other little graphics here and there, and then maybe down toward the bottom some words would say something like "Beware of sea serpents. Breakfast available next to the invisible juke box. Please leave a flower." I would love to do something like that, and since I don't depend on advertising revenue to pay my bills, there's nothing stopping me. But as soon as money enters the picture, everything changes.

As you can see, our ongoing lack of traffic has led me to question what I really want to achieve with this website. For now I have decided I'm going to put the business side of things on the backburner and concentrate on what's really important, which is the creative side.

On a lighter note, I went to a garage sale yesterday and found a cool retro-looking briefcase. It's made of brown leather and has lots of zippers and compartments in it. I don't really need a briefcase, but I liked this one so much I decided I would buy it and find a use for it. I can see myself hanging out with it in a mall food court, sipping a cup of coffee, shuffling through papers, and looking important. I'm also trying to think of things I can put in it. Here's a list of what I thought of so far:

  • Notebook
  • Pens
  • Art projects
  • Radio
  • Neck tie
  • An old newspaper
  • Binoculars
  • Calculator
  • Motivational book
  • Chewing gum
  • Playing cards
  • Rainbow clown wig

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