An Open Letter To Thousands

Dear You-Know-Who-You-Are:

Can I tell you something? Will you promise not to hold it against me?

It's your weblog. Not your whole weblog, just a few things about it. I know mine's not perfect, either, but I just thought you should know, because I care about you. You're a nice person.

Are you sure that you're okay with this? I don't want things to get weird. You're good? Okay.

Remember that time that you walked around all day with a toothpaste drip on your shirt right where your nipple would be if you were naked? And no one told you? And you only found out when you saw it in the new staff picture they mounted in the boardroom? This is like that, only I'm going to tell you about it before it gets that bad. People who really care about you are willing to take the risk of the initial embarrassment.

You use the words rambling and musing and ranting in the description of your website. You do this. You know you do. Maybe you do ramble, muse, and rant on your website sometimes, but no one uses these words to preface anything else they produce in their lives, not if they want anyone to keep looking at them. Is it the anxiety of publishing your writing publicly? Do you feel a wee bit insecure?

If it is insecurity and not a lack of imagination (which I'm sure it isn't!) that drove you to use these descriptors, they are doing an excellent job of advertising it. These kinds of words say What I have to say does not amount to much and Don't bother reading this if you've got anything more important to do like account for all the missing office cutlery. They say I spewed out the following content without too much forethought or attention to detail.

I think it is an attempt at being quirky while hinting at modesty, but it doesn't work, not when there are thousands of people being quirky/modest and publishing the taglines to prove it. Rambling, musing, ranting, and even muttering are so bloody common that they've become meaningless when tucked into a tagline. The shapes of those words are familiar enough that people's eyes track over them without actively reading. The shapes of those words do, however, manage to transmit a particular message: I am spouting pointless drivel.

I'm not telling you that this is what you are actually spouting on your website; I'm just telling you that this is what you are telling everyone else you are spouting on your website. Your writing might be fabulous. It might be scintillating. It could very well have the ability to set the world on fire, but few if any will ever know it. Thousands of people make sure that the first thing visitors see on their weblog is a statement about how they are doing little else other than blathering pointlessly, and you know what? Thousands upon thousands more take that statement at face value and move on.

But again, it's not that I don't like you! Or your writing! This is about making things better for you! I love you! I'm just letting you know that using these most pervasive and ineffective words in your tagline or sidebar will drive people to some other site that promises more than that. I, of course, can see beyond the surface imperfections, but many people fall prey to first impressions and think I have just been hit by a pink* wall of blather! Crap! while clicking away to some other website that claims to be hip and erudite.

(Also, when you go to replace that I'm-rambling-and-musing-and-ranting statement after reading this letter, (which you will, right, because you're good enough to show it!), please don't put in a sentence that at all resembles "I write this weblog because...". That just sounds like a what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation essay circa grade six. Not even the teachers who assigned those essays were overly interested in the fact that your summer vacation revolved around basket-weaving and archery at Camp Tawannagee.)

I hope you understand that this is not to be considered a personal attack in any way. If you had food stuck in your teeth, I would tell you, and if I told you that you had spinach stuck in your gumline, you would pick that out wouldn't you? I know I would.

Yours most sincerely,


*If your website is pink, all of it, from the title image to the background to the links, that needs to stop. I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of fluff, or Pepto-Bismol, or raw chicken. Everything's essentially the same, so my eyes go nowhere in particular. They just crawl lazily in a loop around the screen. Couple over-pinkness with the promise of rambling, and there is little inspiration to move beyond, well, anything. Click.

(I tell you this because I care, and not just because pink is an atrocious colour.)

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