An Internet Cynic
I was asked the other day if I’m an internet optimist. My first reaction was to say, yes. After all, I make a lot of my living online. But on reflection I knew it was more complicated than that.
Over the years, I’m not ashamed to say, I’ve become something of an internet cynic. By cynic I don’t mean opponent, just wary of its claims, rushes to judgement and general enthusiasms.
I’ve found you can enjoy the internet better — and profit from it more — if you know its strengths and weaknesses, while always erring on the downside.
The upside of the internet is surprisingly slim, though occasionally explosive. Prudent people factor out the explosive aspect because it rarely happens.
So what are we left with? Quite a lot as it happens.
Unlike Dick Whittington’s London Town which was said to be paved with gold — an unlikely story — the internet is paved with slime. Were it a game of snakes and ladders, it would be 95 percent snake. The key to success is distinguishing the very few ladders from the endless serpentine slopes.
There are some things on the net that work, and many more that don’t. For example, although the main niches for content and advertising are crammed full of competition, they still work their magic — if you can get ahead of the crowd.
The so-called long tail — which gladdens the hearts of sentimental neo-Marxists — is a myth which only the likes of Amazon can make pay. Whipping a dead donkey delivers more than operating in some micro-niches.
I’ve learned never to heed the words of enthusiasts who don’t care about financial returns. If that sounds cynical, just put yourself in the place of someone looking to make an income online. “Try knitting or quilting,” they’re urged, “historic trains or Victorian ballads. There’s a huge audience out there.”
“Out There” is about as useful as “Tham Thar Hills” where the gold was supposed to be.
This is not really cynicism, but stoicism. Cultivating the art of effectiveness by cutting away all that wastes time and doesn’t work. Why expend effort on that which drains.
Syntagma’s advice? Get into the mainstream, but be different. Compete on quality, but be distinctive. Don’t listen to anyone without practical online experience. And, above all, filter out the white noise and the useless information.
It’s not difficult. It just takes a stoical outlook — and a little bit of cynicism.
So what’s new?